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The Sounds of Preserving

Check out this awesome video from CAA Member Brook Hurst Stephens of Learn to Preserve. Be sure to turn the volume up on your computer.

“The Sounds of Preserving” from Kabja Concepts on Vimeo.

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Save the date: Can-a-rama

For the fourth year in row, we’re putting on a party — of can-tastic proportions!

We’re thrilled to announce Can-a-Rama 2012, a weekend of putting up, preserving, pickling and canning, coast to coast, from sea to shining sea.  When a merry group of us in Seattle formed Canning Across America, we envisioned a day or series of days when home food preservationists of all levels would belly up to the canning kettle and preserve summer in a jar.  As far as we’re concerned, the more the merrier, so we’ll hope you’ll join us July 20-23, and put together your own canning party in your town.

From recipes to giveaways, we’ll be giving you all kinds of resources and tips on joining the Canvolution.

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Canning Success: An Interview With Jessica Koslow of Sqirl

Intrigued by a Daily Candy article, I purchased two jars of Sqirl confections online and tweeted the find using the tag #canvolution. Four months later, I met owner Jessica Koslow IRL (in real life) at Forage in Los Angeles to connect over good food and a love for canning.

As a trends research, creative development and marketing consultant— and former merchandising manager for a national coffee brand–I’m always amazed at the willpower, endurance, and can-do spirit of small business owners like Jessica from Sqirl. It takes a lot of time (recipe testing, production, distribution) and resources (kitchen rental, artwork design, jar procurement) to turn a love for jams into a business. And she just got into the Master Food Preservers Program.

Her rare jelly combinations like Moro Blood Orange + Campari, and her commitment to produce from family-owned farms that practice sustainable and organic methods made her a great candidate for our first interview in a new series I’m calling “Canning Success.” Here’s how this pint-size baker and former Fox Interactive Media Producer, found her calling.

Shannon Kelly: What is your background?

Jessica Koslow:  In 2005 I moved from Georgetown to Atlanta after receiving my graduate degree in Media and Theory.  My degree was about as far away from food as one could get.  During that time, however, I considered (and still do consider) Waverly Root’s book, Food, as one of my favorites.  It is in this visual history and dictionary of the foods of the world that I started finding humor in the pairing of art and culinary pleasures–Edward Hicks’ painting of the animals entering Noah’s Ark comes to mind.

Arriving in Atlanta, I decided to take a year to explore this appreciation.  I wrote an email to Annie Quatrano and Cliff Harrison and a day later I found myself working in the pastry department at the James Beard Award-winning restaurant, Bacchanalia.  Yes, it was life changing.

It was my first experience working within the confines of the seasons— farmer’s, ranchers, and foragers were part of each day’s interaction.  I felt like I was back in school.  At their other restaurant, Abattoir, the animals would come in whole and emerged as charcuterie.  I got to work there as well, making all sorts of pickles and preserves (green tomato chutney!) to go along with the plates.  My mind became consumed by the craft…and here I am.

SK: Was canning part of your childhood or was it something that you found on your own?

JK: My grandparents on my father’s side owned a grocery store in Richmond Virginia and my grandfather also ran Richfood, a Virginia-based cooperative wholesaler with a line of canned goods sold to retailers.  They are basically a generic line of canned goods which are still available in many grocery stores today.  Since it was such a part of their life on a commercial level, only when I lived in the South (I’m originally from Southern California) did I start canning personally.

SK: What was the first item you ever canned?

JK: Dilly beans!

SK: The varieties of jam that you sell are quite unique.  For example, Santa Rosa + Flowering Thyme, or the Moro Blood Orange + Tonga Vanilla Bean Marmalade. What inspired you to create these combinations?

JK: I find that I’m a bit fixated on finite moments— to me they can actually tell a larger story about place, time and perhaps even conjure emotion…or memories. When I was ten, Fridays in the summer were just the best.  An ice cream truck circled the neighborhood and Friday was the one day I was allowed to order a treat. The Creamsicle was the go-to [confection], and it still is.  The Blood Orange + Vanilla Bean Marmalade is the Sqirl version of that childhood memory. Something like Santa Rosa Plum + Flowering Thyme is another snapshot memory— a time when the plums are perfectly ripe and thyme has flowered (when thyme flowers, it’s actually more fragrant,hinting that summer is in full stride — a mid-point — and that fall is not far behind).

SK: Do you personally hand-select all of the produce for your products or do you have pre-arranged farmer relationships?

JK: I do personally choose produce based on the location of the farm, the farmer, the process, and his or her produce.  Terroir is always a thought.  When I’m looking for Moro blood oranges, [for example] I’m also looking for a farm that has the best conditions for growing this variety because the flesh’s intensely red pigmentation indicates a growing region with large diurnal temperature fluctuation (hot days, cold nights).  Bill and Linda Zaiser’s farm, Rancho Del Sol, grows specialty citrus at the highest elevation around–in Jamul, California. Their Moros are blood red because the growing conditions there are [perfect].  It’s important to make these decisions at the produce level–and to pick them up at that point.

SK: What exactly is your definition of small-batch and how long does it take to produce?

JK: Small batch to me equates to what one of my jam pans can hold.  Each pan can turn out between 24 and 28 jars.  The preserves can take up to four days to produce.  The longest being the kumquats, as their rinds take several days to settle down.  The stone fruit can take up to three days–they go through a steep and a pre-cook (otherwise known as “plumping”) and a final cook.

SK: I noticed that you sell your products on your website and at select stores. Do you have wholesale representation or are you running the sales department too?

JK: I am a small operation (just me and a newly hired employee–hooray!) so I do not have wholesale representation.  Whether it’s online or in a store, I’ve been selective as to where Sqirl ends up.  It’s important for the right synergy to exist between store and product.  Sqirl was just picked up by Gilt Taste (you’ll see it soon).  Since Gilt Taste is an online arbiter of taste,  it’s just a reminder to me that I’m on the right path and that it’s ok to slowly work my way into the marketplace.

SK: What advice would you give anyone who wanted preserve professionally?

JK: Know that preserving at its finest, most detailed level is a concrete example of slow food.  It’s quite a process but that process is invaluable to the work.  So ask yourself: what does preserving mean to you?  And let that point of view come through in your craft.

SK: What is your biggest accomplishment so far with your business?

JK: The fact that Sqirl is real is an accomplishment— just having a tax ID number is amazing.  And, I just signed a lease on a kitchen in Silverlake, where Sqirl will become an education and community center dedicated to the craft of preservation.  I guess what I’m trying to get at is that it’s difficult for me to focus on one specific milestone.  The accomplishments are contingent upon the previous achievements, with the end goal being to literally preserve the craft of canning and to share it with others.

CAA Founding Member Shannon Kelly is a trend illustrator, cultural anthropologist, brand strategist, gastronomic devotee and social media enthusiast. She founded In Your Head consultancy to transform her knowledge of marketing, innovation and merchandising into strategies for retail, food & lifestyle industries. Her love of pickling and new media has earned her the title of marketing/tech guru for Canning Across America. Shannon tweets about the intersection of food, fashion and culture @trendscaping and always cans wearing stylish shoes.

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CAA in the News

Look who is getting excited about National Can-It-Forward Day, August 13th.

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Summer in a Jar

Last year putting up fruit became a mission for me. It was my second year of canning.

Using a palate of flavors to mix apricots, cherries and peaches with ginger, brandy, and nutmeg I have dutifully preserved random bags of fruit that have landed in my kitchen.

Intellectually, I feel pretty good about myself. I have not wasted food, I have taken advantage of peak of season prices, and I have a good start on holiday gifts.

Emotionally the pay-back is bigger. Nothing can compare to that first taste of blackberry jam on the tip of your tongue. It snaps you back to the very day you hand picked the fruit, fighting off the stickers while working toward the goal of changing the ping of the berries hitting the bottom of your pale into the soft plop of fruit hitting fruit. You recall the special sweetness of those berries on that hot summer day. The jam brings to mind the scent of dry grass in August and summons the feel of the warm sun on your cheeks.

Indeed, homemade jam is summer in a jar.

CAA Contributor Mina Williams has written and edited articles for food and fashion trade magazines for twenty years. With her industry insider perspective, she brings a new insight to culinary topics and gives food enthusiasts a peek into the inner workings of restaurants and food retailers. A native of Shoreline, Williams has worked for publications based in New York, San Francisco and Chicago reporting on restaurants and retailers. Returning home to the Northwest she now freelances, based in Shoreline. Her passion is rooted in the farm to table movement, practicing her own skills in her home garden. The Slow Food movement has changed her outlook on food and food policy, as have her frequent exchanges with growers and producers in the United States and Italy. She is a journalism graduate of the University of Washington.

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Save the date: National Can-It-Forward Day

On August 13th, join Canning Across America, Jarden Home Brands and millions of food lovers to learn the ease of preserving fresh food as part of National Can-It-Forward Day.

Who: Anyone can join. Whether you are new to canning or a seasoned pro, canning is always more fun when shared with friends.

What: Get a group together and host your very own Can-It-Forward Home Canning Party on August 13th.  Click here to get started.

Where: Jarden Home Brands, makers of Ball® Home Canning Products, will be hosting members of Canning Across America for live canning demonstrations at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. We will announce the full schedule of events in coming weeks  so get ready to join the Can-A-Rama:

  • Online: From 11 AM – 7 PM EST/8 AM – 4 PM PST, view demonstrations from the comfort of your own home or during a Can-It-Forward Day Home Canning Party!  Ask our experts and chefs questions in our live Q&A.
  • In Seattle: If you live in or are in the Seattle area, stop by Pike Place Market and participate in person!  We’ll be celebrating with live canning demonstrations throughout the day, give-a-ways and sampling and more!

Why: Celebrate the bounty of summer through with home canning with friends and family.

Between now and August 13th, be sure to join the canning conversation on twitter or facebook. We’d love to hear your stories, view your photos and share out love of canning as we approach this momentous day!

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Garlic Scape Pickle Party

Pickled garlic scapes (left) and pickled garlic. Photo: Erin Hare.

Guest contributor Erin Hare is an at-home mom living in the central mountain area of Pennsylvania with her husband and three children. When not kid-wrangling or trying to keep the dust bunnies at bay, Erin enjoys DIY projects ranging from food preserving to home renovation construction.

At some point over the past 10 years, I was introduced to the garlic scape, a curly shoot that hard-necked garlic bulbs send up each spring. I’m guessing that Kim O’Donnel (via her former “Might Appetite” chat on washingtonpost.com) first inspired me to seek them out for use in her pesto recipe; these days, I wait for them to emerge in late May to declare that our valley in central Pennsylvania is finally warming up into early summer.

Garlic scapes. Photo: Flickr/Chiot's Run

My friend Tina Leitzel shows up at our local farmer’s market in the fall with beautiful braids of garlic, bulbs for eating, cloves for planting and all sorts of other treats from the allium family. Last year as I was purchasing garlic braids to carry me through the winter, I asked her to keep me in mind when “scape season” arrived. I was excited to receive a message from her two weeks ago asking me to meet her at the market, and she passed along two bags overflowing with curling verdant beauties. I had garlic scape pesto on my mind, as well as a new experiment: pickled garlic scapes.

I’ve been tackling preserving projects since last summer, when I’d often have too much bounty from our CSA to consume in a week. Preserving blogger Marissa McClellan introduced me to the idea of small batch canning by repurposing my asparagus steamer to turn out quarter, half and pint jars of jams, relishes and a variety of pickled vegetables. Pickling garlic scapes seemed like a no-brainer and a great way to dust off my burgeoning food preservation skills for the coming canning season. I decided on putting up one pint (I had to save enough scapes for pesto, after all) to test out texture, and found a pickled scape blog post at The Deliberate Agrarian based on the “Dilly Bean” recipe from the Ball Blue Book® Guide to Preserving. I was good to go.

First up, a handful of garlic scapes required a quick rinse and I trimmed them just under the flower heads. Using a clean one pint jar, I roughly measured the length of a garlic scape that would fit inside to where the jar started to curve into the neck, about 4 ½ inches. I cut scape after scape to length (sometimes getting two lengths per scape, reserving all miscellaneous lengths for another recipe) and stuffed them inside the jar until it was full, then removed all of the trimmed scapes to sterilize the jar prior to processing. Meanwhile the stove was going, keeping a very basic vinegar and salt brine hot, and my asparagus steamer was filled and almost ready to boil. I re-stuffed the trimmed garlic scapes along with two split garlic cloves and some dried dill into the hot pint jar, and slowly filled the jar with the brine trying to remove bubbles as I went. I left a ¼-inch head space before adjusting the two-piece cap, popped the pint into my asparagus basket and lowered it into the boiling water for  10 minutes of processing.

The garlic scapes came out of the water bath slightly shriveled and a shade of army green. I’m curious what they’ll taste like in a few weeks when I plan to open them up to serve on a cold pickle-platter at a family reunion. I also hope to reserve a few to dice up into small bits to use like a caper in a cold, roasted red pepper and goat cheese salad. Or maybe they’ll be great in martinis. Or maybe I’ll just eat them right out of the jar, no accompaniment needed. Time and taste buds will tell, but I’m sure that towards the end of next May, I’m going to be eagerly waiting the call from Tina that the garlic scape season is once again upon us.

Pickled Garlic Scapes
Adapted from the “Dilly Beans” recipe from the Ball Blue Book® Guide to Preserving
Makes approximately 1 pint

Ingredients
1 bunch garlic scapes (approximately what you can wrap two hands around, shoots aligned)
2 tablespoons canning & pickling salt
1 cup vinegar (white vinegar or cider vinegar is fine, as long as the acidity is 5 percent)
1 cup water
2 cloves garlic, split
½ teaspoon dried dill

Method
Insert empty jar in a sauce pan and add water until the jar is covered by at least one inch. Remove jar, cover pan and bring up to a boil.

Clean and trim garlic scapes below flower head, cut to 4 ½-inch lengths. Use straightest parts of garlic scape as much as possible, though curved portions are also fine. Pack lengthwise into clean one-pint jar until full. Remove garlic scapes and sterilize jar.

Combine salt, vinegar and water in sauce pot and bring to a boil. Keep hot.

Add dill, split garlic and trimmed garlic scapes to hot jar.

Slowly pour hot liquid into jar, allowing small spaces to fill and air bubbles to rise, leaving ¼-inch head space. Insert a non-metallic flat-edged spatula between the food and the side of the jar to remove air bubbles.

Adjust two-piece cap. Process pint jar for 10 minutes in boiling water.

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Let’s Get Canning, America! Join us for National Can-It-Forward Day on August 13!

Jarden Home Brands, makers of iconic Ball® brand home canning products, has teamed up with Canning Across America to create the first annual National Can-It-Forward Day. Gather your family and friends to celebrate the bounty of summer through home canning. Learn the ease of preserving fresh food through a day of home canning parties, online instructional canning videos and cooking demos, local events at Seattle’s Pike Place Market and more.

Visit FreshPreserving.com to learn more.

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Canning Across America on the Seattle Channel

Hey folks! Canning Across America hits the small screen! We had the honor of being filmed for a story done by the City Stream show on the Seattle Channel. Two of our founding members, Kim O’Donnel and Jeanne Sauvage, along with Jeanne’s daughter, Eleanor, canned and chatted in Jeanne’s kitchen about what canning means to them. Also included in the video is Amy Pennington, author of the new book, Urban Pantry. Check us out!

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Canning Chat THURS 8/19

That’s Food in Jars blogger Marisa McClellan pictured above, and I’m tickled (pickled?) to have her as a guest in this week’s Culinate chat Thursday, Aug. 19 (1 ET/10a PT). Marisa always seems to have the canning kettle fired up, which is why we think she’s can-tastic. Join the conversation!

P.S. We’ll have giveaways throughout the hour.

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