Many people enjoy receiving a bottle of a nice liqueur as a holiday gift. When it's handmade, it makes it both delicious and personal. Here's a bunch of our favorite DIY liqueurs perfect for gifting.
We've all canned a jillion jars of jam and whatnot, but where the rubber really hits the road in preserving is practicality. Once you've empowered yourself with the ability to preserve the things you really use in the everyday, you liberate yourself from the grocery store shelf. That's what I love about the new book Not Your Mama's Canning Book by Rebecca Lindamood. In the vein of Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry and others, this book strives to arm the canner with a staple of foods that either turn into easy meals, or turn the humdrum into something special. See, for example, these zesty marinated mushrooms, delicious straight from the jar or as part of an antipasto plate. The author took time out of her schedule, busy no doubt promoting the book, writing her blog Foodie with Family, and raising her kids, to talk to us.
PD: This book is wonderfully tailored to building a pantry of sensible, applicable items. Like many of us, you went through a phase of canning too much of some things, and too little of others. What is your advice to novice canners when considering what to can, and how much?
RL: It is great to can all the things, but it's a little disheartening when you put all the work into it and it languishes on the shelf. I think the best advice I have for novice canners is to can something you know you like. Are you crazy for jam? Start there. Are you a mustard nut? Make your own. As you gain confidence in your ability not to kill people with botulism, branch out. As for how much to put up? The first year you make a recipe, stick with a single batch until you know you love it, then calculate how much you think you'll eat. For example, the Smoky Roasted Salsa that is in Not Your Mama's Canning Book is one of the items we seem to have to increase every year to keep up with our ability to consume it.
PD: You live in rural Upstate New York, but your recipes pull from a global palate, including Mexico, Korea, India and more. Where do you derive your inspiration?
RL: I was an exchange student in high school and was bit hard by the travel bug. It seemed to me that my biggest human connection moments in all of my travel came when I shared food with people. Some of the global influence comes from my passion for travel, some of it comes from honouring the roots of my my multi-cultural family, some of it is just because food is good everywhere, man. I want to eat all the best the world has to offer.
PD: What preserved item do you turn to most frequently in the kitchen, either for a quick meal or to take a dish to the next level?
RL: Oooh. That's like asking which kid I like best. If I go by volume alone, I have to say we use the Smoky Roasted Salsa the most. We love it as a dip, but I also use it as the cooking liquid for roasts, and as a flavour boost for soups. Whole grain Dijon mustard comes in a close second. I put that stuff on and in everything.
No other fruit embodies the flavor of fall like cranberries. With their bracing acidity, they form the backbone of all manner of preserved foods, and have applications well beyond the Thanksgiving table. Here's a bunch of ways to use these lovely ruby orbs.
Knobby, hard and fuzzy, quince won't win any beauty contests, but their intoxicating perfume lures you in. Once you know how to conquer these rugged beasts, their heady flavor -- and substantial pectin structure -- make them a preserver's dream.
Are you pumped for pumpkin season? Think beyond the Jack-o-Lantern and put up pumpkins and winter squash. You'll be living the gourd life.
Veraison is upon us, which means the grapes are coming into season. Here's eight ways to preserve grapes, from the traditional jelly to chutney, raisins and more.
Got tomatoes? Here's a rundown of ways to put up your maters, from basic canned tomatoes to salsa, ketchup and more.
Disclosure: A copy of the book has been furnished for review, and another for the giveaway, by the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Anyone who's followed my personal blog from the early days knows I make no secret of my Italian heritage. My mother's grandparents came from various parts of the South--Abruzzo, Campania, and Calabria--and that is the culinary heritage to which I am most connected.
Preserved foods are deeply integrated into Italian culture. Fruit preserves, pickles, and of course tomatoes in their many manifestations are the backbone of many dishes. Cheeses and cured meats of course are defining elements of Italian cuisine. It's because of these things that I decided to lead culinary tours in Italy -- to help people explore the intense, vibrant flavors of this culture firsthand.
Come on, you want to go to Italy and make preserves, piadina, hand-rolled pasta and more, right? Join us in October!
So when I heard of Domenica Marchetti's book, Preserving Italy, I squealed with glee. And also envy. In short, this is the book I wish I had written.
Marchetti gets to the soul of Italian preserving, in fact boldly leading with an entire chapter on foods preserved in oil. In this method, referred to as sott'olio (under oil) in Italian, acidied food is kept submerged under a layer of oil. The oil keeps out oxygen, which can lead to spoilage. The acidification of the food staves off botulism. The oil does more than simply protect the food, however; it imparts its own flavor, and tends to give foods, especially dried vegetables, a chewier, firmer texture that's very pleasing.
(There is no current USDA recommendation for storing foods in oil; however, the UC Davis Extension has provided a method for packing dried tomatoes in oil, using the same principles.)
With regards to fruit preserves, Marchetti showcases classic Italian flavors: Apricot jam inflected with anise, peach-almond conserve spiked with Marsala, fig with orange zest, by way of example. But fruit makes sometimes surprising appearances in other categories, such as in a sweet, sour, and spicy pickled melon recipe, or for the classic mostarda, a fruit-based condiment with bold spices (most notably, mustard), something akin to an Italian version of chutney.
Though a new-world food, tomatoes merit an entire chapter, with recipes for preserving tomatoes in various states: Canned whole, puréed (passata), dried, and as tomato pages (conserva). Avid pressure canners will also dive deep into the recipes for classic meat sauce and beans in tomato sauce to put up for quick meals by and by.
Marchetti touches on a few simple cheeses, quickly made with ready ingredients. There's a ricotta, which you'd expect, but a couple variations intrigue, such as a Ligurian prescinseua, approaching a cottage cheese texture, or a proto-ricotta called primo latte, just barely set and meant to be eaten fresh as possible.
She also glances off the topic of salumi, offering a few fresh sausages, and for cured product, simple salt-cured pancetta and guanciale, acknowledging that dry-cured salumi tends to require equipment somewhat beyond the scope of the typical home cook.