Canning 101

Late last fall, I bought some concord grapes and cobbled together two little jars of freezer grape jelly (or, more accurately, jam) from a recipe in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. It was the most amazing grape jam I had ever tasted–not from anything special about the recipe, but just because it looked and tasted like…well, grape jam. And I made it. And when I pulled one of the jars out in February to make a PB&J, it tasted even better. So I told myself that this summer I would learn how to can.

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These pears in syrup brought back such clear memories of going to my grandma’s basement to get a jar of pears, pickled mixed vegetables, or tomatoes from a whole room full of beautifully preserved produce. The things we don’t appreciate at 8 years old…

And can, I have.

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The line between summer and fall

This time of year always seems like it’s in the midst of an identity crisis: it’s 80 degrees and sunny, then it’s 50 and rainy and dark; strawberries are still at the market, right next to winter squash, apples, and pears; I’m running a fan during the day and curling under a blanket at night.

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Tastes of home

I’ve talked already about some of what I’ve learned about cooking, food, and entertaining from my mom, but haven’t mentioned much about my dad. While I think a lot of my adventuresome tastes comes from my mom, I think my dad helped me appreciate the food that just says “home.”

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I recently made a recipe for eggplant slices coated in breadcrumbs and baked and was reminded nearly instantaneously of the fried zucchini my dad used to make for me and my sisters growing up. The zucchinis were almost inevitably from our garden out back, sliced in circles, breaded, and fried on the stove. They were perfectly imperfect: salty and crispy and juicy in the middle. I don’t remember what else we would eat with them, but I do remember the sunny, end-of-summer days fighting with my sisters over a plate of them at the kitchen table. Continue reading

Cure for the creeping crud

It seems inevitable that any time the season changes, I start to come down with some bug or other. You know the feeling: running normal errands suddenly feels like running a marathon, that tell-tale tickle starts in the back of your throat, your ears start to itch, and you just feel…off.
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As soon as I felt it sneaking up this weekend–this gorgeous, perfect, early fall weekend–I made my list: carrots, celery, onions, garlic, chicken. Roasted then simmered for most of the afternoon while I napped, it is the best cure for just about anything that ails you. And by freezing the broth, I’ll be sure to have some handy for the next time that little tickle starts in on my throat. Continue reading

Mulled wine ice cream, take one

I bought an ice cream maker on clearance at the beginning of the summer, and have spent the past few months experimenting with ice cream bases and flavors (observe, the challenges of my life). After a total bust with the standard cooked-egg-custard base, I discovered a process that has yet to fail me. And for that, I have to credit Jeni Briton of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream (Ohio family, she has a shop in Chagrin Falls, please tell me someone has been there! Chicago folks, you can buy some of her ice creams at a few gourmet shops around the city) and her recent cookbook.

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So far I’ve made pistachio (hard to go wrong with adding nuts to anything, in my opinion); lemon with raspberry swirl; chocolate with almond, caramel, and marshmallows; and my latest, a mulled-wine-spiced base with roasted grapes.

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