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Punk Domestics in Italy 2015: Preserves with Marzia

I had the great pleasure once again to bring a group to Emilia-Romagna, Italy, for a week of hands-on food craft classes, as I had done in January 2012. This trip was a wonderful balance of things familiar and new, enhanced by being in the country during arguably the best season. Autumn in Italy is truly enchanting. (Hey, we're going again this year. Want to join us? Of course you do. Click here for more info.)

I met my group in the Bologna airport. The lot of us were trickling in at different times, since folks were arriving from San Francisco, Iowa, France, and Sweden; one guest was already in Bologna, doing some exploration on his own. One by one we met at La Vecchia Bologna, an osteria in the arrivals area. Over some local wine and a few bites, our group bonded instantly. By the time our local guide met us, we were fast friends. 

On our first day, we met up with my friend Marzia Brigante. On my last trip, Marzia taught us a few preserves, including savòr, a local conserve made from quince, apples, pears, nuts, and the reduced grape juice called saba. Ths time, she mixed things up a bit, and taught us four new recipes: 

And so my industrious students got to work chopping away, and then it was into the kitchen to cook and can. 

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Beyond Canning by Autumn Giles

Beyond Canning by Autumn Giles, found on PunkDomestics.com

Disclosure: A copy of the book has been furnished for review, and another for the giveaway, by the publisher, Voyageur Press.

Sometimes I wonder whether the world needs another preserving book. And then, lo and behold, a new release comes that surprises and delights.

Like many recent releases, Beyond Canning is written by a friend and contributor to the site, Autumn Giles. I've always admired her creativity, candor, and chipper voice. All of this translates through in the book, in which she delivers a fresh approach to workaday preserving. 

Autumn lays out instructions for preserving in an approachable, affable fashion, but what sets her book apart is her unique sense of flavor combinations. Why do plain old preserved lemons when you can punch them up with zesty Korean gochugaru pepper flakes? Orange curd takes a trip to the Fertile Crescent with a dash of rosewater. And though the book is highly seasonally focused, sometimes it's okay to cross those boundaries, like rescuing some frozen spring rhubarb to preserve with winter's grapefruit. 

Recipe: Rhubarb-Grapefruit Preserves

This book is hot off the presses, and I'm participating in a virtual book tour along with other notables. This just kicked off yesterday on Food in Jars (be sure to check it out!), and the tour keeps rolling over the next few weeks on the following blogs: 

3/7: Food in Jars
3/8: Punk Domestics
3/9: CakeWalk
3/10: Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking
3/11: Snowflake Kitchen
3/14: Good. Food. Stories.
3/15: Heartbeet Kitchen
3/16: Brooklyn Supper
3/17: The Briny
3/18: The Preserved Life
3/21: Hitchhiking to Heaven
3/22: Hola Jalapeno
3/23: Cook Like a Champion
3/24:  Local Kitchen

I've got a copy to give away. You want it, don't you? Of course you do. So how do you enter to win? We've got options -- lots of options. You can do any or all of the following things:

  • Pin this post, and confirm the URL of the pin in the widget below.
  • Visit Punk Domestics on Facebook. While there, if you want to give us a like, that's swell. If you do like us, consider checking "Get Notifications" so you know when we post cool shit (cuz Facebook is shady about showing you what you really really want).
  • Click here to tweet about this giveaway (or click the tweet button in the widget) and enter the URL of your tweet in the widget below. You can do this once each day for more entries.
  • Check out our new itinerary to Italy this fall, and submit a request for more information. Last year's trip was AMAZING and I think this one will be even better.
  • Leave us a comment on this post to tell us what flavor combinations you love in pickles and preserves. We're all ears!

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Cabbage from Kraut to Kimchi and Beyond

Cabbage is your friend! Whether you're working with the Western globes in green or red, or crisp heads of napa cabbage, a little salt, time and patience can turn it into a traditional condiment with a global footprint. From tangy sauerkraut to spicy kimchi and beyond, here's a few ways to make the most of this ubiqutous veg.

Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut
Whether you start with green or red cabbage, you can whip up a batch of tangy kraut using just cabbage, salt and a mason jar, but branch out and try variations like cran-apple, jicama-apple or kicked up with Sichuan spices. (Image via Food in Jars)
Cortido
Curtido
Curtido is Central America's answer to sauerkraut: Same tangy taste, but punched up with Mexican oregano and the fiery kick of chili peppers. (Image via rcakewalk)

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Preserving the Japanese Way by Nancy Singleton Hachisu

Preserving the Japanese Way by Nancy Singleton Hachisu, found on PunkDomestics.com

Disclosure: A copy of the book has been furnished for review, and another for the giveaway, by the publisher, Andrews McMeel Publishing.

"Remove any outside wilted leaves and dry the cabbage quarters for 1 day under the cold winter sun on sheets of newspaper set directly on the ground."

So begins a recipe for hakusai no tsukemono fermented napa cabbage, setting the tone for the remaining recipes and projects in the book. Since falling in love with a Japanese farmer in 1988, Nancy Singleton Hachisu has immersed herself utterly in Japanese farm culture, most especially its food. 

It was only after her aging mother-in-law began to forego many of the traditional preservation techniques did Hachisu begin to undertake and understand them herself, starting with takuan, half-dried daikon pickled in rice bran, and the aforementioned hakusai

Her instructions are declarative; this is less a book about how you could take on these preservation projects than how they are done, how they've been done for centuries or even millennia. 

The book is large, and Hachisu dives deep. What she most deftly illustrates is how deeply woven preservation techniques are in Japanese food culture. Fermented foods in particular make up the backbone: Soy sauce, fish sauce, miso, koji, sake lees, and rice bran (nukadoko) are fermented items in their own right, and are utilized to alter and enhance the texture and flavor of fruits, vegetables, and fish. While many of the projects are approachable, some require a commitment of weeks, months, or even years. 

Hachisu doesn't skirt around the possibility of failure; in fact, she openly acknowledges when she has and when you might expect to do so. Long-term fermentation projects are fraught with peril, but done well, are worth the risk and time investment. 

Peppered throughout the book are vignettes of life in Japan, profiles of artisans, and other insights into the rich food culture that defines the country. Like anywhere, these practices are under threat from industrialization and convenience foods, so in that regard this book as a document is important in that it captures something possibly fleeting. 

Many of the projects in the book will fall well outside the comfort zone of most Western cooks, but for the adventurous and curious, inspiration abounds. At the least, it may get you to try your hand at making some Japanese staples you may already be purchasing, such as umeboshi

Recipe: Umeboshi, Japanese salted sour plums

You want it, don't you? Of course you do. So how do you enter to win? We've got options -- lots of options. You can do any or all of the following things:

  • Pin this post, and confirm the URL of the pin in the widget below.
  • Visit Punk Domestics on Facebook. While there, if you want to give us a like, that's swell. If you do like us, consider checking "Get Notifications" so you know when we post cool shit (cuz Facebook is shady about showing you what you really really want).
  • Click here to tweet about this giveaway (or click the tweet button in the widget) and enter the URL of your tweet in the widget below. You can do this once each day for more entries.
  • Leave us a comment on this post to tell us what Japanese preservation techniques interest you most. We're all ears!

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The Homemade Kitchen by Alana Chernila

Homemade Kitchen by Alana Chernila, found on PunkDomestics.com

Disclosure: A copy of the book has been furnished for review, and another for the giveaway, by the publisher, Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

In her debut book, The Homemade Pantry, Alana Chernila taught how to DIY store-bought staples and snacks, making them more wholesome and delicious in the process. With her follow-up book, The Homemade Kitchen, she goes further, focusing her attention on a 360-degree approach to food, family, and the most important room in the house, the kitchen.

The book is punctuated with messages Chernila keeps on her refrigerator: Start Where You Are. Be a Beginner. Do Your Best, and Then Let Go. Each is a prompt to increase mindfulness and awareness in the kitchen, to frame your purpose. In so doing, she delivers a sense of peace and familiarity that invites you into the book, and in fact into her life.

The recipes are deeply rooted in simplicity. In the Be a Beginner section, Chernila serves up a foundational collection of core recipes and techniques that enable any cook to be spontaneous and creative, things like how to make a pie crust (and subsequently, pie), how to turn fruit into jam, how to transform milk (into yogurt, kefir, and cheese), how to make a salad, and so on.

Building on the foundations, Chernila offers a wealth of ideas for approachable yet elevated dishes. Simple pastas, pizzas, quiches and more take on thoughtful, seasonal touches. The recipes are easy yet elegant, simple but never simplistic, appealing to cooks of all skill levels.

The aptly titled secion Be Active hints at getting hands-on with your food, but in fact covers another kind of activity: Fermentation. Preserved lemons, kefir, kimchi, and cultured butter take center stage as projects that in turn lend major flavor to other recipes (kimchi breakfast tata, yes please). "What makes fermentation so special isn't a recipe," she writes, "it's a relationship." And indeed, as any fermenter knows, bacteria farming is certainly not a one-way street.

She touches on a key issue in this day and age, food waste. Americans waste approximately 40% of their food, much of it ending up in landfills and creating greenhouse gases. True to form, Chernila chooses to see the upside to solving the problem. "Every time we use something we thought was trash, it feels like free food, like a gift," she says. (See: 10 Bits and Scraps Worth Saving.)

Most of all, her voice brings the book to life. In telling her stories, Chernila gives context and relevance, and inspires the reader to apply the themes to their own lives. The entire book is like reading a smile.

While in every way a cookbook, The Homemade Pantry delivers more than just recipes. Chernila creates a safe space for home cooks, allowing and enabling them to find joy in the act of feeding themselves and their loved ones.

You want it, don't you? Of course you do. So how do you enter to win? We've got options -- lots of options. You can do any or all of the following things:

  • Pin this post, and confirm the URL of the pin in the widget below.
  • Visit Punk Domestics on Facebook. While there, if you want to give us a like, that's swell. If you do like us, consider checking "Get Notifications" so you know when we post cool shit (cuz Facebook is shady about showing you what you really really want).
  • Click here to tweet about this giveaway (or click the tweet button in the widget) and enter the URL of your tweet in the widget below. You can do this once each day for more entries.
  • Leave us a comment on this post to tell us what brings you joy in the kitchen. We're all ears!

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15 Ways to Preserve Lemons

Lovely lemons bring a ray of sunshine during the cold, dark winter months. If you're lucky enough to have a neighbor with a tree, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the bounty. (If you don't, be sure to order some fragrant meyers from Lemon Ladies here in the Bay Area, trust.) Here's a bushel of ways to put the lemons by. 

Lemon Marmalade
Lemon Marmalade
Harness the bittersweet flavor of lemon rind and turn it into a sunny yellow marmalade, sure to brighten your morning muffin. But first, make sure you know how to slice citrus for marmalade, for the best results. (Image via Life Currents)
Lemon Jam
Lemon Jam
Lemon pairs nicely with plenty of other flavors in homemade jams: kiwi, red peppers and even onions and oregano. (Image via Autumn Makes and Does)

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Food Gift Love by Maggie Battista

Food Gift Love by Maggie Battista, found on PunkDomestics.com

Food is love, pure and simple. Whether it's cookies, granola, or a carefully crafted liqueur, the gift of a handcrafted food item is infinitely more personal and meaningful than anything you can purchase on the shelf.

Maggie Battista understands this better than most. She's the creator of Eat Boutique, Boston's curated marketplace for artisan and small-batch food makers, as well as resources for those who want to create their own lovingly crafted foods. Her new book, Food Gift Love, serves up more than 100 ideas and recipes for thoughtful food gifts, accompanied with clever and attractive wrapping concepts.

The book is broken up into categories of food gifts. The first, Fresh Gifts, contains things more along the lines of things you might bring to be consumed immediately, like cheesy mushrooms or smoky mushroom soup, or at least in the near future, like a lovely lemon curd. The Pantry section aptly contains cleer riffs on common condiments -- think flavored sugars, salts, honeys, and the like.

Things get incrementally sweeter with the Candied Gifts section, which steps outside the box of humdrum truffles and turtles. Gorgeous chocolate-dipped spoons have a life beyond their initial use, a great gift perhaps for a new student or newlyweds. And who wouldn't be excited about jam-swirled marshmallows (especially those of us with, ahem, a jar or 100 of jam in the house to use up.)

Preserved Gifts: Now we're getting to the crux of the matter. Battista takes her usual liberties to create innovative flavors for things, such as minty pickles or a complex pear-pineapple-ginger jam (get the recipe here).

Finally, the good stuff -- Spirited Gifts. Not all the recipes are truly spirited in that they do not necessarily include alcohol, but all would be delightful additions to the mixologist's atelier, like aromatic syrups, or a DIY orange cordial that you can sub in for Cointreau or Gran Marnier for a house margarita sans pareil.

Each recipe comes with suggestions on packaging, to ensure the gift gets experienced and enjoyed with the eyes as well as the palate. While all the entries in the book would be gratefully received, the DIY enthusiast in your life might just also love receiving the book under the tree.

You want it, don't you? Of course you do. So how do you enter to win? We've got options -- lots of options. You can do any or all of the following things:

  • Pin this post, and confirm the URL of the pin in the widget below.
  • Visit Punk Domestics on Facebook. While there, if you want to give us a like, that's swell. If you do like us, consider checking "Get Notifications" so you know when we post cool shit (cuz Facebook is shady about showing you what you really really want).
  • Click here to tweet about this giveaway (or click the tweet button in the widget) and enter the URL of your tweet in the widget below. You can do this once each day for more entries.
  • Leave us a comment on this post to tell us your favorite food gift to make and share. We're all ears! 

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Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han

Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han, found on PunkDomestics.com

Foraging has been a burgeoning trend. While there's an ever-growing list of books designed to help identify wild edibles, not all include recipes to use said foods, and those that do tend to focus on just that -- edibles.

Along comes Emily Han, a master food preserver, herbalist, and expert forager, who combines her skills to showcase the use of wild plants in beverages. Her debut book, Wild Drinks & Cocktails, serves forth a comprehensive menu of concoctions using a kaleidoscopic array of foraged herbs, fruits, roots, flowers, and more. The book kicks off with a useful treatise on the art of crafting wild drinks, from best practices in foraging, to tips and tools, and basic techniques. From there, Han employs wild foods in escalatingly intense uses, from refreshing tisanes and lemonades through to high-octane infusions.

Within the tea section, one of the more interesting items was a technique for creating rose water. While not used much as a tea on its own, it's a popular ingredient in Persian cuisine, and makes a showing in a few of her other creations, such as a quince sharbât and a rhubarb-rose syrup. The sharbât touches on another strength of the book: It has remarkable breadth of lesser-known beverages with global roots, such as oxymels, shrubs, switchels, and the obscure Persian sekanjabin, a minted honey shrub.

Then, of course, we get to the good stuff: Infusions, liqueurs, elixirs, and other boozy projects. From workhorse items like gin (summer and winter variants) and vermouth (dry and sweet, natch), Han also offers bitters, liqueurs, and a wealth of wines, most notably two projects for the long haul: Nocino, put up in summer to enjoy in winter, and vin d'orange, put up with winter's oranges to enjoy chilled on hot summer days. (See Han's vin d'orange recipe here.)

While the book focuses on foraged ingredients, the recipes could be reproduced with purchased ingredients, albeit often specialized ones. Still, it makes a handy addition to the avid cocktailian's bookshelf.

You want it, don't you? Of course you do. So how do you enter to win? We've got options -- lots of options. You can do any or all of the following things:

  • Pin this post, and confirm the URL of the pin in the widget below.
  • Visit Punk Domestics on Facebook. While there, if you want to give us a like, that's swell. If you do like us, consider checking "Get Notifications" so you know when we post cool shit (cuz Facebook is shady about showing you what you really really want).
  • Click here to tweet about this giveaway (or click the tweet button in the widget) and enter the URL of your tweet in the widget below. You can do this once each day for more entries.
  • Leave us a comment on this post to tell us what wild ingredient you'd use in a drink or cocktail. We're all ears! 

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Happy Homesteading Holidays

Even the most hardcore DIYer needs a little assist now and then. There are tools that make our work feasible, or at least easier. Or maybe you know someone who's just getting in to the game, and you want to give them a starter kit. No matter what your reasons, this is an excellent season to stock up on the goods that we'll reach for again and again when summer's bounty bursts upon us. Best of all, our pals at FARMcurious are offering a discount to all Punk Domestics readers!

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Chestnuts Old and New

When Jack Frost comes nipping at your nose, break out the chestnuts. Here's a few ways to use them beyond simply enjoying them by the fireside.

Chestnut jam, found on PunkDomestics.com Chestnut Jam
Creamy, sweet and rich, chestnut jam harkens back to early American traditions. From Auburn Meadow Farm.

Chestnut Spread, found on PunkDomestics.com Chestnut Spread
Another rich confection made from chestnuts. This spread is a snap when you use the pressure cooker. From Hip Pressure Cooking.

Honey-Sweetened Chestnut Butter, found on PunkDomestics.com Honey-Sweetened Chestnut Butter
Silky, slightly sweet, and flecked with vanilla seeds, this chestnut butter is good for breakfast or for adding to holiday gift baskets. From Food in Jars.

Chestnut Brandy, found on PunkDomestics.com Chestnut Brandy
A fantastic present to give someone during these chilly months, you can get away with using a cheaper brandy here so don’t start reaching for that special bottle of Armagnac. From Well Hung Food.

Chestnut Infusion Chestnut Infusion
Infuse chestnuts with cranberries and cinnamon in whiskey to make a delicious base for holiday cocktails. From My Man's Belly.

How to Make Chestnut Flour, found on PunkDomestics.com How to Make Chestnut Flour
Chestnuts are super tasty and very easy to forage. Make this Chestnut flour as a brilliant present for gluten-free friends. From Well Hung Food.

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Recipes - Techniques - Tools