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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Swappable Spotlight - Mulled Wine Jelly and a Ball Starter Kit Giveaway!

Editor's note:  In November, we filmed a segment for CBS Sunday morning about the relevance of canning to young, urban professionals.  They say it will run eventually (we'll keep you posted on the dates), but in the meantime, the PR people at Ball generously offered a complimentary canning starter kit to give away on our blog.  Keep reading to find out how to win it and a few yummy foods you can preserve with it!

For those of you who weren't at January's food swap (you can find the recap here), the theme for the afternoon was booze preserves.  Two crafty food swappers brought alcohol based jams and jellies to exchange.  The liquor theme is appropriate at this time of year when the fresh fruits and vegetables of summer are merely a memory. 

The first jam was Rachael's creation with apricot and whiskey .  Clearly the stronger (booze-wise) of the two, its fruity side reminded me of the late summer season that is now a distant memory.  The second jam was Andrea's Mulled Wine Jelly.  This one was spicy, mellow, and full of easy-to-find winter ingredients.  To celebrate the collective brilliance of our fellow swappers, we're giving you Andrea's yummy recipe now (stay tuned for Rachael's contribution) to try and giving away a Ball Brand Home Canning Discovery Kit to one lucky novice canner.

Andrea's Mulled Wine Jam

  • 4 cups of red wine (Andrea used Shiraz, but any strong-bodied red wine will do, nothing too fancy) 
  • Peel from 1 orange
  • 10 cloves
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 cardamon pod opened
  • 3 star anise
  • Some whole allspice
  • Juice from 1 orange
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 c. apple or grape juice
  • 4T. Ball RealFruit™ Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar (more or less depending on the preferred sweetness and the dryness of the wine)
  1. Sterilize and prepare your Ball Preserving jars (if you are unsure of how to do all of the canning stuff safely, follow the instructions you find in the Home Canning Discovery Kit, the Ball Blue Book, or the instructions at the Ball website.)
  2. In a medium sized pot, add (either directly, or in a sachet that is then easy to remove) the orange peel and spices to the wine.  Bring almost to a boil. Take off of the heat. 
  3. Steep wine with the spices for two hours.  Remove the spices by taking out the sachet, or filtering the wine. 
  4. Add the juices and pectin
  5. Bring mixture to a hard boil for about a minute
  6. Add sugar to the mixture and bring to hard boil for two more minutes, stirring constantly
  7. Andrea wanted to warn us not to boil the mixture any longer than that for fear that the alcohol would boil off (we wouldn't want that!)
  8. Fill the jars with the jelly mixture 
  9. Process jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
  10. Cool and check for a good seal
  11. Serve and enjoy!
 As for your very first canning adventure (which will get you geared up for summer!)...

Here's how to enter (one chance for each of these activities for a total of four possible chances):
And a few rules:
  • Only those in the United States and Canada are eligible to win (sorry, but we're shipping the kit ourselves and learned this the hard way).
  • When commenting, please include a way to contact you for your mailing address. For instance, link your comment a website that contains your email address or include your email in your comment.
  • All tweets, likes, newsletter subscriptions, and comments must be received by Friday, February 3rd at 11:59 EST. After that, we will use Random.org to choose the winner.
  • If the winner does not respond to email requests for their address within one week, we reserve the right to choose another winner.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

World Swap Day & Edible Boston: January Swap Recap

Sunday was a day of firsts! It was our first swap of 2012, and our first magazine shoot. Edible Boston returned to take some photos for their piece on us that will run in the spring issue. We get all shaky just thinking about it! Here is Tricia posing with her pickled turnips. Our swappers were great sports about getting their "before"(what they brought) and "after" (their hauls) shots taken. It was so much fun!

In the swap world, it was a big weekend. Saturday was both the 2nd World Swap Day and the 6th National Soup Swap Day. We celebrated with lots of soup and lots of swapping!

We had lots of tasty jams, jellies, and preserves, including some unique flavors to top your toast. Clockwise from top: Mulled wine jelly and mandarin jam; concord grape jelly, mulled cider jelly, boozy apricot whiskey jam and quince candied ginger jam.

Some other cool creations included dukkah, an Egyptian spice mixture made with nuts, a S'mores kit, and steamed chestnut bread. Check out all of the photos in our Facebook album.

Thanks to all the awesome swappers who came to celebrate with us, and thanks again to Edible Boston!

Our next swap will be on February 12, from 2pm-5pm at Space with a Soul. RSVP on the right!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Homecooked Ideas for Cold Weather

When we started the food swap last summer, many people asked if we'd swap seasonally or year round. True, New England's growing season means we don't as much variety in the winter months and who really wants to venture out into January snowstorms? But skipping swaps for part of the year never occurred to us because we like to enjoy home-prepared food year round, even if it takes a little more ingenuity when fresh produce isn't as plentiful.

Lyn has already covered winter farmer's markets, which are a great way to support local agriculture year round. Here are a few additional ways to enjoy fruits and veggies even in the winter:
  • Fire up the slow cooker. After choosing up some root vegetables and other goodies at a winter farmer's market like the one at Somerville's Arts at the Armory, plug in your slow cooker, crock pot, or whatever your preferred moniker is, and in a few hours your kitchen will smell like a steaming bowl of savory goodness. Nothing like returning home from the cold to a warm chili or stew awaiting your arrival. Of course, crockpots make huge quantities of food, so come Sunday and our January swap, I'll be sharing some of this vegetarian black bean chili.
  • Yes, you can! Lyn and Tara introduced me to the wonderful world of canning, and it's a great way to use up extra produce in the summer months so you can enjoy the freshness of tomatoes or strawberries year round. Obviously this takes some pre-planning but it's definitely something to keep in mind for next summer. In a previous post, Lyn shared how to make red sauce and marinara sauce from fresh tomatoes - yum!
  • Get your grill on. Yes, I know it's too cold to grill on the patio, but a friend recently gave me a small indoor grill which I can't wait to try. It should be a nice change from slowcooked veggies, as those can start to taste the same after awhile if you don't change up the seasonings.
Fellow swappers, so you have other suggestions on cooking your way through cold New England winters? How do you get creative with local produce this time of year? Do tell!

Image courtesy of Simon Howden / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Our Texas-sized Food Exchange

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you saw that we sent a box of Boston-themed food items to a blogger in Austin, TX as part of the Austin to Boston Food Swap in December. We received our box on Dec. 23rd, so this is our slightly late attempt to tell you what we learned about Austin from the experience.
Our box came from John Loftis at the Luvs 2 Eat blog. Having trained for my first job with four Texans, John’s box took me back to a lot of the themes I encountered with my fellow trainees. Here’s what I remembered:
We have very different animals
My training with Texans (TWT) experience included a lot of references to animals that I’ve never seen. I never understood a series of running jokes about hunting which made even the outside of my ATXBOS box funny. There was an animal on the address label that I can’t identify. And that animal was wearing a Santa hat! Any theories? Can a Texan help me here?
The art of “fixin’”
I got a lesson in fixin’ from my TWT classmates so I was tickled to find a “Fixin’ To Do” list in the box. Maybe John had a vision about my penchant for bullet points and corny jokes? It makes me smile on many levels every time I add an item to the list.
Texans are obsessed with meat
One of my most vivid memories from TWT was a steak eating contest where they all ordered 40 oz steaks and 5” high wedges of chocolate cake and gave bragging rights to the guy who ate the most without getting sick. They also cautioned me that it was unnatural to order seafood in mid-America. They were right.
The prevailing theme of the box was affection for meat. It included a bacon scented air freshener (Tara took that one as the only BFS organizer who eats it), a dry meat rub (he doesn’t know it yet but Stas from Space With a Soul will be getting this accessory for the official smoker of the BFS), a ton of meat stories/dishes in the issue of Edible Austin, and a meat-based chili kit. The kit’s instructions, incidentally, suggested that I leave out the hot pepper pack for “east coast wussies,” which I found very offensive. I’ll have you know that I plan to ADD more peppers when I make it! What makes me an “east cost wussie” is that I will likely not put meat in it. I can take the heat, just as long as the flame is pointed in the right direction. :P
I also learned some new things about Texas. They make a mean Crispix Mix called Texas White Trash (note the pretzels shaped like a cowboy boot, oil derrick, and the great state of Texas), have originated some fantastic local foods, and have a truly admirable sense of pride in their state.  We got a few locally made foods like Alamo Cookies (that Susan heartily enjoyed), Kerbey Lane Buttermilk Pancake Mix, Lammes Candies Longhorns (turtle candies), and Austinnuts.  The Texas centric items included Don't Mess With Texas signs, Keep Austin Weird bumper stickers, and a cookie cutter in the shape of the state!

We sincerely thank John and the folks at the Austin and Boston Food Blogger organizations for facilitating the exchange. We had so much fun assembling our box and we plan to have even more fun, at least for a little while, experiencing how the other half lives… and making baked goods in the shape of Texas!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Getting Cheesy on the Vermont Cheese Trail

I love cheese. Smoked, soft, stinky, aged, especially sharp — I love it all. Imagine my excitement &when Lyn promised to drive us to Vermont for a day on the cheese trail! So last weekend, Lyn and I woke up awfully early for a Saturday for a full day of driving and dairy touring in Vermont. So leaving the dawn and Boston behind, we were off to the land of cheese!

Vermont is cloyingly large, so we were only going to make it to a select few dairies on this trip. Lyn planned our route for the upper mid region of the state. 3 hours, gorgeous mountain views, skier sightings, and a scary few minutes when the tires were stuck in the snow later, we arrived at the motherland of Vermont cheese: Cabot Creamery!

Cabot makes one of my favorite cheeses in the whole world: Seriously Sharp cheddar. I'm obsessed with it and a 1lb block does not last very long in my fridge. Needless to say, I was thrilled to see how my favorite cheese is made. But first, we had a little history. Cabot is a dairy coop founded in 1919 by 94 families that has now grown to over 1,200 farms. The video showed how much pride the farmers take in their cheese — as they should; it's DELICIOUS!  We actually got to see the employees making cheese. The machine above is mixing the curds and an employee was walking the line salting them. Cool! Then we shopped. This was our first stop so we tried not to go overboard (I didn't by the 5lb box of Seriously Sharp). But we tasted all the flavors and varieties, and I took home the clothbound cheddar — hard and aged, it grates like parmesan! 

We said goodbye to Cabot and headed due west, to Shelburne Farms.

Although it's January, you could tell how beautiful Shelburne Farms is. Acres of farm, woods, walking trails, and an inn on the shores of Lake Champlain, we definitely need to take a trip back in the spring to explore properly! Instead we just popped into the Welcome Center, sampled some tasty treats, purchased some goodies, and were on our way. See you when the weather is nicer, Shelburne!

So they don't make cheese, but they do make my other favorite dairy product: ICE CREAM. Yes, I'm talking about Ben & Jerry's, the Mecca of frozen deliciousness. Cheese & ice cream? This was shaping up to be one of the best days of my life.

The factory tour was full of punny humor (lots of awesome cow jokes), we tasted Cherry Garcia, and Lyn bought a pint of her coveted Chubby Hubby. We checked out the Flavor Graveyard, where the dearly departed flavors rest. I'm sad I never got to try Holy Cannoli. 

A bit up the road from Ben & Jerry's is another Cabot store, so we thought we'd check it out. We also found Lake Champlain Chocolates, J.K. Adams Kitchen Store, and a Snow Farm Vineyards tasting! Is that not the best shopping plaza ever? Lyn & I both went home with the Snow Farms Rose Red, a very juicy, Sangria-like blend of Leon Millot, Baco Noir and Catawba. YUM!

We cannot live on dairy alone, so here are our milk-free meals of the day. Lyn stopped for gas, and this food truck was a fantastic, meaty oasis. VT BBQ is some amazing barbecue. This truck had a smoker on the back! Their homemade rubs and sauces were delicious — smoky and sweet with a little spice. Definitely check out the truck if you're ever near Randolph!

But back to the cheese trail. Our last stop was Fat Toad Farm, and we almost didn't make it. When Lyn suggested the cheese tour, Fat Toad Farm was a must-stop. I'd fallen head over heels in love with their amazing goat cheese caramel at the first Eat Boutique Local Market back in October, and that's actually where Lyn picked up the cheese trail map. Well, it was getting dark and our unexpected wine tasting stop set us out to beat the clock to Fat Toad. We had a few GPS mix-ups, and when we made it to the farm, the lights were out. Bummed, we got out to look around at least, and Lyn noticed a sign on the shop door to call to be let in. Soon, Steve & Judith popped out to let us loose in their store. In addition to tasting the famous caramel, the chèvre spreads were fantastic! Lyn & I both took home the maple and olive lovers varieties! Thanks, Fat Toad! Next time, we'll be back in daylight hours to see the goats!

Want to see our hauls?

I took home:

And Lyn:

It was a long, tiring, sun-up to sun-down, amazing, tasty, fun, & exciting day. And I can't wait to do it again!

Have you visited a dairy farm? What's your favorite cheese?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Roasted Hamburgers & Oven Fries from All About Roasting

Roasting is one of my favorite cooking techniques. It does magical things to vegetables, and when applied to large pieces of meat, you get maximum oohs and aahs for minimum effort. So naturally, when we were asked if we wanted to review Molly Stevens' All About Roasting, I jumped at the chance. I know my way around an oven, but surely I can learn something from a James Beard Award winner!

I was not disappointed. The first part of the book deals with the history, science, and techniques behind roasting. I enjoyed that each recipe is also broken down into what type of roasting technique you use, and offers wine pairings.

Speaking of wine, I was in Sonoma in December for Jason's birthday, and of course I brought home some tasty tipples from the vineyards we visited. One was the Forgotten Vines Zinfandel from DeLoach. So last week, I was flipping through All About Roasting, trying to decide what to make for a casual dinner party, and saw the wine note for the Roasted Hamburgers: "Red zinfandel and hamburgers make one of the all-time best comfort food pairings. Look for a recent vintage of old-vine Zinfandels from Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley or San Luis Obispo." Done and done!

But you can't just serve burgers, right? Fries are a must! Thankfully, Molly comes to the rescue there as well. She recommends a combination of parboiling and roasting for a crispy texture without frying. I'm a bit of a lazy cook, so when I see steps like "parboil" or "dry on clean dishtowels," I most usually skip them. But I was the student and Molly the teacher, so I did as she said. And hoo-boy, I was not disappointed! Those fries were delicious. Especially paired with the suggested garlic-chile mayo I whipped up.

One of my favorite aspects of this dinner was that since both the fries and the burgers were roasted instead of fried, there was no grease spattering! Clean and easy, and everything is done at once. My dinner companions were thrilled with the results, too, though probably more with the taste than the lack of oil sprays.

I'm looking forward to exploring more recipes in All About Roasting. Maybe a rack of lamb, or a standing rib roast, perhaps?

from All About Roasting
Serves 6

• 1.5 t kosher salt, plus more for lining the pan
• 2 lb ground beef, preferably chuck
• 1 T worcestershire sauce
• Fresh black pepper, to taste

Heat the oven to 475 degrees. Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with foil, and spread a thin layer of salt over the surface to absorb any drippings and prevent the oven from smoking (ed: I forgot to do this, and it only smoked for the last couple minutes!). Arrange a wire rack so that it sits at least 3/4 inch above the surface of the pan.

Break the beef into 1 to 2 inch lumps with your hands and drop into a mixing bowl. Season with salt, worcestershire, and black pepper. Mix gently, using your fingertips to break up the meat and incorporate the seasonings. Overhandling will make for tough, dry burgers.

Divide the meat into 6 portions and shape into disks about 3.25 inches across and 1 inch thick. Set the burgers at least 1 inch apart on the wire rack.

Roast the burgers for 10 to 16 minutes and check with an instant-read thermometer. Medium-rare is 130-135 degrees, medium is 140 degrees. If adding cheese (ed: I used sharp and medium cheddar), top the burgers with cheese when they are about 2 degrees from being done to your liking and return to the oven for 1 minute.

Serve on toasted buns, with condiments of your choice.

from All About Roasting
Serves 3-4

• 2 large russet potatoes (about 1.75 lbs total), scrubbed
• Kosher salt
• 2 T extra virgin olive oil or neutral vegetable oil

Postion a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 450 degrees. Fill a large (4 to 5 quart) pot with cold water.

Peel the potatoes and cut them lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick by 1/2-inch wide sticks. Drop the sticks into the pot of water as you go (can be done up to a day ahead. Refrigerate in the water if longer than 2 hours).

Drain and rinse the potatoes and return them to the pot with enough cold water to cover by 2 inches. Add about a teaspoon of salt to the water. Partially cover the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the potatoes until they begin to show signs of tenderness, not more than 3 minutes (starting to soften, but still firm to taste).

Drain the potatoes carefully so they fall gently into a colander to prevent breaking. Once drained, spread the potatoes out onto clean dishtowels to dry (they can sit for up to an hour).

Slide a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet onto the middle oven rack to heat it. Transfer the potatoes to a platter, add the oil, and gently toss, using your hands to coat and prevent breaking. Remove the heated sheet from the oven, and transfer the potato sticks as quickly as you can to the sheet, leaving at least 1/2 inch between them. Return to the oven and roast, turning the fries with tongs and rotating the baking sheet once after 15 minutes and then after another 10 minutes, until the fires are crisp on the outside, tender inside, and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with salt & serve immediately.

from All About Roasting
Makes 1/2 cup

• 1/2 cup mayonnaise
• 2 T adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers)
• 1 garlic clove, finely minced
• 1 T fresh lime juice
• Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

In a small bowl, stir together mayo, adobo sauce, garlic, and lime juice. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Have you cooked from All About Roasting? What's your favorite thing to roast?