Category: utensils

The dish ran away with the wooden spoon.

Back in June when I posted that DIY tea towel apron tutorial, I got a ton of great feedback. So I thought maybe I’d bring back the DIY thing with another really easy project: painted-handle wooden spoons.

I’ve seen these wooden spoons all over Etsy & Pinterest. Every time I see them I think “I can do that.” I even mentioned doing it to match the apron in that post.

So I finally did it.

Make your own painted-handle wooden spoons!

Except these aren’t dipped in rubber like most of the ones you’ll see, they’re just painted in Martha Stewart Crafts™ multi-surface acrylic craft paint. Which, it just so happens, is both “weather-resistant” & non-toxic. They also did not cost $29.00 for a set of three like those other ones for sale on the internet. Instead, it probably cost me less than $5.00 a set, maybe even less than $3.00: The glitter paint is $2.99 & the satin is $1.99 (you could paint a ton of spoons with one bottle!), and a set of the three spoons cost me $1.00.

I think it took me ten minutes to paint three of them. I did one set for myself in pink (of course) and a set for my mother in black. Once I saw how cute they came out, I started experimenting with different colors & styles. You can paint them to match your KitchenAid mixer, to match your Le Creuset, to match your kitchen color scheme or just in your favorite color. Gold/silver/metallic or pearl paints are interesting choices, too!

Here they are in pink:

DIY painted wooden spoons.“pink dahlia”

Here they are in black:

Make your own painted-handle wooden spoons.“beetle black”

Here they are in light green:

DIY painted wooden spoons!“scallion”

And finally… here they are in glittery pink:

DIY pink glitter wooden spoons. Crazy easy & cheap to make!“bubblegum pink”

Awesome, right? No wonder the dish ran away with the spoon; look at how freakin’ cute the spoons are!

This is what you’ll need:

  • Acrylic paint. Mine is useable on wood, fabric, metal & glass among other surfaces, and like I said above- it’s non-toxic. Of course, you’re not painting the part of the spoon that touches the food, but why take a chance? I actually highly recommend the Martha Stewart line; it comes in a zillion colors (the colors I used are named above). I used the satin & glitter finishes, but you can use a gloss, metallic or pearl if you prefer, it makes no difference. All of them are non-toxic & weather resistant.
  • A small paintbrush.
  • Scotch tape.
  • Wooden spoons. I got mine in a 3-pack at the dollar store, you can buy whatever ones you want, or you can freshen up old ones you already have at home (as long as they aren’t recently oiled or varnished).
  • A pint jar or drinking glass, deep enough & with a wide enough mouth to accommodate the amount of spoons you’ll be painting without having the painted parts of the handles touch each other or the glass itself.

How to make your own painted-handle wooden spoons.

This doesn’t even really need a tutorial, it’s pretty much self-explanatory, but here goes nothin’.

The first thing you’re gonna do is gently wash the spoons in hot water with mild dish soap. Let them dry thoroughly. Then, you’re going to tape them where you want the painted section to end. Very easy. I made them all even so that when the spoon parts line up, so does the paint. You can paint as far down as you like, but I’d leave a decent amount of plain wooden space above the spoon part.

How to make those adorable painted handle wooden spoons.

Okay… once they’re taped, get your glass or jar handy & get your workspace ready. Paint your spoon handles with a thin coat of paint, placing them handle side up in the jar or glass as you go. Make sure the painted parts are separate from each other as they dry. After one hour, check to see if they need a second coat (they probably do). Keep the tape on and paint a second coat. Let them dry again in the jar.

It's so easy to make your own colored-handle wooden spoons. Here's a tutorial!

After 2-3 hours you can remove the tape to check if they’re even. If not, just re-tape the spoon a little bit lower and fix your mistakes. Keep the spoons in the jar for 12 hours after they feel dry just to be sure. Let the spoons cure for 21 days (or according to your paint directions) before using or washing them again. If you screw up & get paint on a spot you don’t want it, you can sand it off with some sand paper once it dries.

The glittery ones took about 4-5 coats to look good, but if you paint a solid color underneath then paint the glitter, it’d take less.

And that’s it… you’re done!

If you want a less perfect look, you can definitely paint them without using the tape. Go freehand. Be wild.

Adorable DIY painted wooden spoons.

Adorable x 1,000. I just love them.

Another idea: before painting, drill small holes at the end of each handle in the same spot. Sand away any rough patches & then wash/dry/paint the spoons as directed above. After painting, while it’s still wet, poke a toothpick through to make sure they stay clear. When they’re dry, tie them all together with a pretty matching ribbon for a throw-in gift (or stocking stuffer).

You don’t have to make it solid either- you can do stripes if you’re daring (ha!). Just place the tape all the way up the handle leaving spaces in between for painting. You can do polka dots in another color once the first color is totally dry, too, using a pencil eraser to make the dots. Or you can use pinking shears to cut the tape so yours isn’t a straight line around, but a zig-zag. Tons of ideas!*

Like this “zebra” style version I did (it’s more like an Ikat pattern, really):

DIY hand-painted wooden spoons to spice up the kitchen!

So, how easy is that? Very. Go get on it. And make yourself some fancy spoons!

*Yoyo also sent me a link for this post at red-brolly.com that shows you how to cover the spoon handles in fabric or Washi tape! It’s a bit more complicated than using just the paint, but it’s worth it judging by the photos.

Canning for dummies.

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No, I don’t think you’re all dummies.

But I realize that for a lot of my readers, this is the closest they’ll get to a canning blog. Most of you are here for the cupcakes or baked goods, maybe even the macaroni & cheese or pizza, but that doesn’t mean you can’t expand your repertoire. Maybe you want to, but you just don’t know where to go to find info. Maybe you, too, were in a Williams-Sonoma store lately and saw those displays I photographed (below) and thought, “Hey… I’d really like to try it. But I don’t know how.” So I figured I’d do a kind of canning-summary post for newbies. Granted, I’m far FAR from being a pro. I am not a Master Preserver, I am not perfect and I sure as hell don’t know everything. But I’m not a professional baker, either, and that didn’t stop me from making some frosting tutorials a couple of years back. So I thought I’d do a brief outline of what you’ll need, what you’ll want, and some basics you’ll need to know before you get started with waterbath canning.*

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Canning is not hard. Canning is not something you can only do if you have a lot of chemistry knowledge. Canning is a lot of fun, and if you do it right, it can save you money too. Although I do it just for fun, if you’re serious about it, you can put up just about anything & feed your family for an entire season using it all. However… it’s serious too. If you aren’t clean enough, and your jars aren’t sanitized enough, and you don’t wash your produce or follow safety procedures, you can expose yourself and anyone who eats what you make to things like botulism, listeria, e. coli or some very nasty yeasts, to name a few. But it’s not dangerous, it’s not scary, and it’s not something that should scare you. Why should you start canning? Well, there are tons of reasons. Some people, particularly those who eat only locally or sustainably, like to create their own products from local organic produce. People who live on farms or grow their own produce do it to avoid wasting the product & to sustain their families through the winter, just like in old times. Others still do it because they like to create unique “designer” jams or jellies or pickles… like me. Sure, you can probably buy a lemon-orange whiskey marmalade somewhere, at some gourmet shop most likely, but you’ll be paying far more for one small jar than I did per 4 pints. I made an amazing version of Brooklyn Brine Co’s Hop Pickles for way less than the $15.00 a jar they sell it for. And not only that, but food made from scratch just tastes better, and canning is no exception. No preservatives, no dye, no high fructose corn syrup. Just real ingredients. And price wise, if you’re buying the fruit or vegetables from a farmer’s market when it’s in season and not paying exorbitant prices, you’re still coming out on top price-wise vs. supermarket canned goods. I did the math for mint jelly last summer, but it’s easy enough to figure out any type of canned goods when you’ve got all the prices at hand.

I’m known as sort of a baking rebel, but when it comes to canning, DO NOT BE A REBEL. You can certainly come up with your own recipes, but they have to be acidic enough to be safe. Do your research first. Don’t play around with the health & safety of yourself and others. True, you never hear of people dying from improperly home-canned items. It’s pretty rare. But do you want to be that one asshole that makes it on the nightly news because of your jam?

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Like I said above, this list of basics focuses on waterbath canning, NOT pressure canning* and not freezer jams.** Waterbath canning is the process most commonly used for high-acid foods: pickles, jams, jellies, preserves, fruit butters, conserves & marmalades. And I quote:

High acid foods are processed in a boiling-water canner. The heat is transferred to the product by the boiling water which completely surrounds the jar and two-piece cap. A temperature of 100° C (212° F) is reached and it must be maintained for the time specified. Always follow a modern recipe with proven and tested processing times.

This method is adequate to kill molds, yeasts, enzymes and some bacteria. This method never reaches the super-high temperatures needed to kill certain bacterial spores and their toxins, which can produce botulism, therefore, this method cannot be used for processing low-acid foods. See more about the Basic Steps for this method, or learn more about pressure canning and low acid foods.

Water bath canners are widely available. You can use any big pot, however, if it is deep enough for the water to cover the tops of jars by several inches. Allow 5 to 10cm (2 to 4 inches) above jar tops for brisk boiling. The canner must have a tight-fitting lid and a wire or wooden rack. The jars must be held off the bottom so the heat can penetrate properly. The jars are divided so they will not bump into each other or tip over in the boiling water during processing.

To ensure uniform processing of all jars with an electric range, the canner should be no more than four inches wider in diameter than the element on which it is heated. However for flat top stoves, canners should be no more than 2 inches wider than the diameter of the element.

- missvickie.com

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First off, you need certain supplies.  Like jars. You must use canning-safe jars- not old spaghetti sauce or applesauce jars (save those for refrigerator pickles & salsa). Ball® & Kerr® are the two most popular brands. Both are made in the U.S.A. and are fairly inexpensive. They’re both owned by Jarden Brands and the lids and bands are interchangeable. These jars are both the easiest to use and the easiest to find; you can get them at some Target stores, Ace Hardware, Walmart, and other hardware and home goods stores as well as the usual online ordering.

They come in the following shapes/sizes:

Unless you’re going to be doing some serious canning and/or you’re planning on making your own juice, or canning whole fruits, you probably won’t need a half gallon or quart jar. I have quarts for making sun tea or storing beans, grains, rice, etc. However they’re also really good for making pickles. If you eat a lot of pickles or want to make whole pickles (not sliced) then a quart jar is perfect. If you want to just make regular supermarket size jars of pickles, a pint jar will do. If you’re going to be focused more on jams or jellies, I’d recommend the 8 – or 4- ounce jars. All the jars come with lids & bands, but if you end up reusing the jars, you’ll need to buy more lids as they’re only made for one time use. The bands can be reused as long as they’re not rusted or crusty or they don’t impede with the sealing process.

(EDIT 9.7.12: Thanks to Susan Lutz at Zester Daily, there’s a new rundown of what jars are good for what products. Check it out!)

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Walmart sells other jars as well, under the Golden Harvest name, the Alltrista1 name and the Mainstays name. Having never used any of them but Golden Harvest, I can’t speak of them from experience. However I do have a few quart Golden Harvest jars and they work just fine (I used Ball® brand lids/bands, I don’t trust the lids that come with them for canning). Quattro Stagioni is yet another canning jar option. They use a one-piece lid that can only be used one time for canning. I’ve never used this brand myself, but the jars are very attractive and there is something to be said for the one-piece lid. HOWEVER, they’re a bit expensive (around $3.95 per jar at the Container Store). Another jar option is Weck. Weck is a German company that makes fancier canning jars at higher prices. They’re beautiful looking, beautifully made, come in a variety of sizes and don’t use rings or bands like the Ball®/Kerr® jars do. They instead use a rubber ring, or gasket type thing, and a glass lid. Because these jar options are a bit trickier to use and also pricier, I’d recommend starting out with Ball® or Kerr®. And frankly in comparison, they’re just made to a better standard of quality than the Golden Harvest/Alltrista1/Mainstays jars, as far as I’m concerned. The Weck jars are also made very well, but far more expensive. For example, Weck is priced at $17.75 for six 19.6-ounce jars, whereas Ball is $12.99 for twelve 24-ounce jars.

And before I continue I have to say this: DO NOT USE VINTAGE OR SECONDHAND JARS FOR CANNING. For decoration, or storage, or even fridge pickles if you must… but never for canning. Those adorable blue vintage jars you bought at the thrift store? Keep them for their looks. Use brand new (or at least ones bought fairly recently, i.e. modern) jars. The old model jars are not recommended for safe canning any more, due to numerous reasons. Also, never use a jar with any kind of chips or cracks in it. It seems obvious, but you never know.

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Second, you’ll need equipment to process the jars safely. I use a large stainless steel lobster pot and a cheapo plastic rack for processing my jars. There are tons of options here, from canning kits that include everything from the canning pot, a metal rack & jar lifter tongs to the simpler kits that just include a plastic canning rack and an instruction booklet that rely on you to get your own pot, tongs, etc. Then there’s the “elite” canning kit. I highly recommend you get a kit, regardless of what kind it is. It’s cheaper than buying things individually and there are certain things you just NEED. Like..

  1. A canning pot – this is just a necessity. Whether you buy a dedicated “canning pot” or use a very large pasta pot or lobster pot, if you’re canning you’re going to 100% need a pot to process them in. Ideally, when filled with water, there should be 1-2″ of it over the tops of your jars. And as I quoted above: To ensure uniform processing of all jars with an electric range, the canner should be no more than four inches wider in diameter than the element on which it is heated. However for flat top stoves, canners should be no more than 2 inches wider than the diameter of the element. This pot also needs a lid that fits.
  2. A large saucepan – for cooking the jellies, jams and brines. Ideally, it should be at least three times as deep as the mixture you’re cooking, so we’re talking about a fairly large pot. This is especially important for jams and jellies which bubble up a LOT and can boil over, which is obviously dangerous. For brine, unless you’re doing very large batches, a medium (or even small) saucepan will do.
  3. A canning rack – this is another absolutely necessity. The jars that are being processed cannot touch the bottom of your pot, they must be held off of it. Now, a lot of people just use some rolled up dish towels, and some people tie together canning rings to make a little homemade rack. Still others opt for the stainless steel racks, and like I said, I have a simple, small green plastic one that processes roughly four jars at a time. Which is great for me since I do small-batch canning. Whatever works for you.
  4. Jar lifter – the first time you can, you’ll think you won’t need this. Then you’ll either burn your hands or drop a hot jar using an oven mitt and you’ll see the error of your ways. So just buy one now.
  5. Jar funnel – Not an absolutely necessity, but it certainly makes things a hell of a lot easier. A jar funnel fits perfectly in the rims of your jars, filling them with boiling hot jam/jelly or pickle brine without spilling it all over.
  6. Tea towels or linen dish towels – this is something that you’ll need for after you remove the jars from the boiling water. The hot jars shouldn’t touch a cold countertop, particularly if you have a granite or stone counter. So you fold up one or two very light, not textured linen towels for them to sit on. It absorbs the temperature and it’s soft. If the hot jars touch a cold counter, they could crack or shatter immediately. Now, I’ve never had this happen, and I’ve sometimes been a bit rushed or lazy (I hate to admit), but it can and it does… so please be aware. Don’t take the chance. I stock up on these linen towels at Ikea every time I go. For around $.79 cents each, they’re worth their weight in gold. I use them for not just canning, but for everything! When they get too grungy, I toss ‘em. (Side note: I barely use paper towels anymore!)
  7. Jelly bag – if you’re going to venture into jellies (and by that I mean fruit jellies, not things like wine jelly or tea jelly), you’re going to need a jelly bag. You can buy a jelly bag contraption, or you can rig one up using cheesecloth/jelly bags and either your faucet (if it’s a gooseneck) or something else. But you’ll definitely need it- especially if you want clear jelly.
  8. Commercial pectin or homemade apple pectin – Commercial pectin comes in many different kinds. There’s liquid pectin (ex: Certo), powdered pectin (ex: Ball Flex batch/ Small batch and Sure-Jell) and powdered pectin that uses calcium water to gel (Pomona’s). Each pectin needs a different amount of sugar & acid to set, and they are NOT interchangeable. Pomona’s Universal Pectin can be used with full sugar jams & jellies and also with low-sugar or even NO sugar. Ball also makes a low-sugar powdered pectin. All pectin is made from natural fruit pectin, so they aren’t in any way “fake” at all, but still, if you choose to go au naturel & use something homemade, there are ways of making your own pectin. I have a recipe for homemade apple pectin here. There are tons of different kinds, and they all work very well. I’ve used every single one at one point or another and I’ve never had an issue. For clear jelly, I like liquid Certo. For jams I don’t mind using a powdered one, usually Sure-Jell. But I’ve used Pomona’s too, and it wasn’t as complicated as it seemed. All in all, it’s about personal preference. Try them all & see which works for you.
  9. Candy thermometer – if you’re making jelly, this is another requirement. They can be purchased in any supermarket, Bed Bath & Beyond store, online or at any housewares store for pretty cheap. And remember, if you buy a glass one, they’re delicate and they retain the heat like crazy. I dropped mine after trying to grab it while it was still hot when I was making champagne jelly last New Year’s and ended up with no thermometer & shards of glass all over the damn floor. That is something you do NOT want to happen to you, it really ruins the mood of the jelly-making.
  10. Pickling salt – this isn’t a necessity, meaning you can still pickle with Iodized salt or un-Iodized salt. But most recipes will probably call for pickling salt. Basically, it’s just a finer grain of salt that has no Iodine mixed in it, so you can use regular un-Iodized salt if you like. It works just fine and that’s mostly what I use. Iodized salt might make your brine cloudy. It most likely won’t affect the taste or quality, but it won’t look as nice.
  11. Vinegar – the most basic and obvious of all, along with salt. You need this for pickles; be they “fridge” pickles (or quick pickles) or actual “canned” pickles. The type might vary. For starters, get a gallon of white vinegar, and a smaller bottle of apple cider vinegar, both MUST BE 5% acidity. After that, it’s basically all a matter of taste. You might want to try an Asian-inspired pickle and use rice wine vinegar. You might want a red wine vinegar pickle. Those are all just fine. But the most basic vinegars you’ll need are white and apple cider. And any recipe that is canned using a waterbath canner must use a vinegar with 5% acidity. No less. Any vinegars less than 5% can be used for fridge pickles, but not shelf-stable pickles.
  12. Lemon juice – I always have at least one bottle of lemon juice in my fridge. You need it for providing the acid in a lot of jam or jelly recipes. Some people prefer to use only fresh lemon juice, but I like to use the bottled stuff for most things. Some exceptions include lemon curd & lemon jellies.

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The rest of the stuff: sugar, spices, etc., is all dependent on the recipe/pectin you decide to use. And what is pectin, exactly?

Pectin is a naturally-occurring thickening agent that is most often used by adding it to jams, jellies and similar products to help them gel and thicken. Pectin creates a thick, clear set when it gels. It is a carbohydrate (a polysaccharide) found in and around the cell walls of plants, and helps to bind those cells together. All fruit has pectin in it, but the amount varies widely. Apples and oranges contain the most pectin, and the pectin from both fruits is used commercially to thicken many different types of products. Pectin generally needs a high sugar content and some acid, such as citric acid, to activate, and some commercially available pectins include citric acid as an ingredient to help ensure that consumers get their desired result when working with their products.  Pectin can be bought at the grocery store in both powder and liquid forms, and it can also be introduced to a recipe by adding fruit that has a high natural pectin content, such as apples or plums.

Gelatin and pectin both produce clear gels with a high sheen, but the products are not the same. Pectin is a water-soluble fiber, while gelatin is a protein derived from animals. Pectin is used almost exclusively in high-sugar products, like jams. Gelatin, on the other hand, is used in a much wider variety of foods, including mousses, marshmallows and frostings because gelatin sets in a cool environment and does not require that specific ingredients be included to activate it.

- Baking Bites

Like I said, what kind of pectin you use: homemade, commercial, liquid, powdered, etc., influences how much sugar (or what kind of “sweetener”) that you’ll be needing, which is in turn all dependent on either your dietary needs/wants or the recipe you’re using. Which brings me to the Three R’s.

When it comes to The Three R’s: research, resources and recipes (three very important things), you have to know where to go. There are a number of amazing canning blogs and websites out there jam-packed (pun intended) with amazing information. But how do you find them? Well, right here! These are seven of my favorite and most trusted sites when it comes to preserving (and some of them have other stuff, too, like cooking or grilling). The first is an official website for the USDA, the second one is a website that’s instructional on all the basic canning steps & info (and has information on where you can pick your own veggies & fruits) and the third is a similar site, and the fourth one is a community of canners/preservers all sharing their knowledge. However, the last four are user-friendly blogs. Bookmark them. Now.

You’ll also need a few books. Websites are great, yes, and there are tons of them that can help you with questions you have. But a book will always be there for reference. I recommend the following books: The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Judy Kingry & Lauren Devine, Better Homes & Gardens You Can Can, We Sure Can! by Sarah B. Hood, and Canning For a New Generation by Liana Krissoff. The first two are basic guides, with the most commonly used and requested recipes for jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys & more, along with detailed drawings & explanations as to why certain procedures are done, why certain things are not waterbath-canner safe, etc. The second two books are filled with such things as homemade pectin recipes and recipes for more unusual or unique jams, jellies & pickles. Altogether they’re a compact yet excellent little collection of canning books that cover everything you need to know, from the very basic to the more exotic.

In my humble opinion, pickles are the easiest to make. I’d definitely start with pickles, either pickled cucumbers or pickled green beans (“Dilly beans”; shown in the top photo) or pickled vegetables like Giardiniera. Then I’d say jams would be the next easiest, specifically blueberry, raspberry or strawberry jam. Blackberry too, but the fact that you might want to use a food mill to get rid of the seeds makes it a bit more tedious than the others (I never ever do that, by the way). None of them require much work, though, not even any added commercial pectin. Next easiest? I’d say marmalade; either orange, lemon or a combination of the two. It’s a longer process then jam but it, too, doesn’t require added pectin. Some people have a difficult time getting it to set, but I personally never have, and my whole philosophy is “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” You never know until you try, right? And then last, but not least, jelly. Jelly is the hardest because it requires added pectin, and also it requires a candy thermometer and a very specific degree that it has to be cooked at before it will set. Now, technically speaking, all jam & marmalade has to be cooked to that degree, or “setting point” as well, but it’s easier to “see” when jams/marmalades/preserves are at the setting point. Jelly is a bit harder since it stays mostly liquid until it cools. Not only that, but you need patience and even then it can be tricky. It’s not something to be scared of, but to me it’s the most difficult of all the waterbath canned products.

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Canning, like baking or cooking, is fun. But it’s also work. It’s an art and a science. It’s important, just as in baking, to understand the different chemistry that makes things work the way they do before attempting to do it. If you don’t understand why you need baking powder & salt, then you shouldn’t bake; or at least you shouldn’t consider yourself a “baker.” And if you don’t understand why you need lemon juice to make your commercial pectin work, then you shouldn’t be canning. You don’t need to be a master chemist or science major, you don’t need to have a pH kit or massive knowledge of the acidity of every fruit or vegetable on the face of the earth. All you need is curiosity, and the basic knowledge of why you have to do certain things to make it work. At the very least, you should be open to learning the reasons why things are the way they are. Once you’ve got that- you’re on your way.

The acidity level, or pH, of foods determines whether they should be processed in a boiling water canner or pressure canner. The lower the pH, the more acidic the food.

Acidic foods have pH values below 4.6. These foods include pickles, most fruits, and jams and jellies made from fruit. (In pickling, the acid level is increased by adding lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar.) Acidic foods contain enough acidity either to stop the growth of botulinum bacteria or destroy the bacteria more rapidly when heated. Acidic foods may be safely canned in a boiling water canner.

Low-acid foods include red meats, seafood, poultry, milk, all fresh vegetables and some tomatoes.  Low-acid foods have pH values higher than 4.6. They do not contain enough acid to prevent the growth of botulinum bacteria. These foods are processed at temperatures of 240 degrees F to 250 degrees F, attainable with pressure canners operated at 10 to 15 pounds per square inch (psi) of pressure. The exact time depends on the kind of food being canned, the way it is packed in jars, and the size of jars.

Although tomatoes used to be considered an acidic food, some are now known to have pH values slightly above 4.6, which means they are low acid. To safely can them as acidic foods in a boiling water canner, you must add lemon juice or citric acid.

Pressure canning is the only canning method recommended for low-acid foods like meat, poultry, seafood and vegetables.

Clostridium botulinum, the bacterium that causes botulism food poisoning, is destroyed in low-acid foods when they are processed at the correct time and temperature in pressure canners. Canning low acid foods in boiling-water canners is absolutely unsafe because the botulinum bacteria can survive this process. If Clostridium botulinum bacteria survive and grow inside a sealed jar of food, they can produce a deadly toxin. Just a tiny taste of food containing this toxin can be fatal.

- missvickie.com

Before I wrap this up, I’m going to really quickly cover refrigerator pickles. It’s not technically “canning” per se, but if you’re unsure/scared about starting the real canning process, you could try making some “quick pickles” or fridge pickles & see how you like it. The upside for most people to fridge pickles, aside from the fact that they’re super quick to make, is that it requires no canning pot, no canning jars/lids, no jar lifter, and no canning knowledge whatsoever. You can use any clean, food-safe glass jar that you want; from a clean spaghetti sauce jar, to a mayonnaise jar, to an applesauce jar, even a pickle jar. Or, a regular old canning jar! Anything. And you can “pickle” anything you want this way. You can make regular cucumber pickles, pickled green beans, pickled cauliflower, pickled okra, Vietnamese pickles, pickled carrots, pickled onions… the list goes on. The downside? Not shelf-stable, meaning they have to be stored in the fridge at all times. Also, they should be thrown out after 6 months in there, tops. Confession: I have some in my fridge for longer that are just fine, but I’m a loner Dottie… a rebel.

All you do is clean and chop or cut up your veggies, pack them into a jar, add your spices or herbs of choice, heat up some brine (usually a combination of vinegar/salt/water but sometimes there’s no vinegar, as in the Kosher Dill’s I list below) and then pour the brine over the veggies. Close the lid (not too tight!) and put them in the refrigerator. That’s all.

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Just like canned pickles, you can make fridge pickles with fresh dill and/or herbs, or you can use dill seed and/or dried herbs & seeds, as you can see above. I have a few recipes for fridge pickles up on the blog, one of which is taken from Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking‘s basic fridge pickle recipe, & I’m going to list them below. I encourage you to give it a shot, it’s very easy and it’ll give you a taste of what canning pickles is like without actually having to can them.

For preserving summer produce without canning at all, visit this page at The Kitchn. a complete list of the jams/jellies/preserves/pickles I have posted, see the recipe index. Or just search the categories, below. Either way- go forth & can! That way, little brunches & lunches like this can be an every day occurrence.

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P.S. Do you have any questions? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer them, or refer you somewhere else. And did I forget anything? Did I leave something out? Is there a book or website you think people should know about? Add it in the comments! All input, big or small, is graciously & gratefully accepted.

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*None of this references pressure canning, which is primarily used for low-acid foods (potatoes, soups, meats, etc). If you’re interested in that, please visit this page.

** For more freezer jam information, please visit this page.

Baker’s Delight.

It’s like rappers delight, without all the hippin’ and hoppin’, but with a whole lot of mixin’ & bakin.’

So, wow, it’s December already! ‘Tis the season to go shopping! If you’re looking for a gift for the baker (or cook) in your life, then here are some ideas to help you out. It’s just a short list this year, because I’ve been busy, and sadly haven’t been able to add all that I wanted to, but enjoy it anyway! Really, it’s just a little wishlist of my own (save for the mixer which I already have) and I just thought there might be others out there like myself who’d want the same things. So here’s my Top 10 Holiday Gifts (for the baker in your life) of 2010!

I’ll have a new recipe for you all next week, but in the meantime… take notes! Psst: these ideas apply ONLY to women (or certain types of men, I suppose) who love and live to cook or bake. I take no responsibility for you buying your wife or girlfriend a stand mixer only to have your clothes thrown out in the street because she wanted a lame Dooney & Bourke or whatever.


CATEGORY 1:

USEFUL THINGS that are pretty…

Now as far as Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa/Solstice/New Year’s/Birthday/Anniversary/etc gifts go, one of my personal all-time favorites is the Kitchen Aid stand mixer. *cue angel’s singing*

The Kitchen Aid Artisan stand mixer is an investment, built to last. If you know someone who’s been wanting one, let me tell you: it’s worth the money. You’ll get your money’s worth AND MORE. I’ve heard of people who have their parents Kitchen Aid’s, and they still work! At $299.99 (and free ground shipping), it’s an amazing holiday gift no one will forget. I showed it in Empire Red because of the holiday, but there are so many other beautiful colors (I’m partial to my pink one, she’s become such a huge part of my life she’s even all over my website!) including silver, cornflower blue, boysenberry, caviar, yellow pepper and a shitload more to match any kitchen or color scheme.

Another thing I’m in love with are these amazing Tin Woodsman/Crosby & Taylor pewter measuring cups & spoons (shown: fish handles with palm tree stand). At $179.00 (for the measuring cups, the spoons are $79.99) they’re a thing of beauty, but admittedly slightly pricier than the ones you see at Williams-Sonoma or Crate & Barrel. They’re like works of art, though, and if you know a kitchen artist, it’s a wonderful gift idea. I first saw them on Paula Deen’s show and fell in love instantly. They’re absolutely amazing and they’re sure to get a few gasps (among the right crowd).

CATEGORY 2:

PRETTY THINGS that are useful…

If it’s one thing I’m obsessed with, it’s aprons. Every brand, shape, size, color and style. So here’s a little rundown of my top Christmas aprons this year, just in case you wanna buy a little something for an equally obsessed Kitchen Witch.

The first up is this adorable apron called the “Party in Pink” apron from Carolyn’s Kitchen. 10% of the purchase price of the apron ($42.00) goes to Breast Cancer Research. Same goes for the half-apron ($36.00) and the gloves/garter ($12.00 and $22.00, respectively). Yes, matching gloves AND garter. This one is a HUGE favorite of mine, I love that it’s Christmas-y but pink… and I’m really hoping to find it under the tree this year, especially since a portion goes towards a worthy charity.

Next is yet another from Carolyn’s Kitchen. It’s the “Holiday Sparkle” apron. The prices are same as above: full apron: $42.00, half-apron: $36.00 and gloves: $12.00. No garter for this one, sorry folks. This is the cutest Christmas pattern; kitschy and super retro. The style of the trees reminds me of a tablecloth my mother made as a little girl with felt and sequins.

Now this apron is from a longtime favorite company of mine, Jessie Steele. The “Mrs. Claus” apron is red with black buttons and white trim to mimic the Claus’ outfits. At $32.95 it’s the most affordable one of the first three, and it’s totally cute. Imagine making your Christmas cookies or making Christmas dinner in that! Adorbs!

And then we have this beauty. From Etsy, a retro-inspired Christmas apron with both a peppermint stripe fabric and a vintagey Santa Claus pattern. I love (no pun intended) loverdoversclothing‘s aprons and this is no exception. They’re handmade and absolutely adorable. For $29.99 it’s a beautiful gift for the vintage-loving baker that looks like it really could be vintage.

CATEGORY 3:

PRETTY THINGS that aren’t useful at all, they’re just pretty…

So I’m a sucker for a cute necklace. And since I love to bake, I’m an even  bigger sucker for a cute necklace that’s also baking-related.

Another item I hope I find under the tree this year: a sterling silver whisk necklace by exodesign on Etsy. At $38.00, it’s a handmade piece of jewelry that can be customized (with or without twisted ring) to suit you. I think it’s just so cute and I love it to pieces. And I just love Etsy, don’t you?

Another example of extreme cuteness from Etsy. This tiny little cupcake pendant on a chain is made of silver, and the pendant is just 3/8″ in diameter. How cute! It costs $28.00 and it’s by lulubugjewelry. I think this is absolutely perfect for someone who loves cupcakes (or makes ‘em), but is over the age of 16 and doesn’t want a hot pink cupcake hanging around their neck all the time. Not that there’s anything wrong with that- but there’s a time and a place. This necklace can go anyhere and be worn with anything. Perfect.

CATEGORY 4:

PRETTY THINGS that are both useful & incredibly convenient…

The thing I like BEST about making cupcakes is the fantastic liners, toppers, sprinkles & decorations that are available. Some of my favorite sites are Sweet Cuppin’ Cakes Bakery & Cupcakery Supplies, Bake It Pretty, sweet estelle’s baking supply, Sutton Gourmet Paper, and Fancy Flours. Below, I’ll give you some examples of little “sets” to buy the baker you know who’s so crazy she has plastic storage cases filled with liners & accessories *ahem* Not that I speak from experience or anything… *ah-hem*

First up is Bake It Pretty‘s “Cupcakes 101” kit. I love this idea. Whether you’re buying it for an experienced baker, or to try and encourage a newbie, it’s perfect. It includes: approx. 125 standard baking cups in assorted polka dot, striped, and solid colors, over 25 traditional toppers in assorted styles (clowns, flowers, ballerinas, etc.), 4 ounces of Rainbow Jimmy Sprinkles in resealable bag… plus, everything is packaged in a paperboard suitcase in the color of your choice (well, as long as it’s available). You also can specify whether it’s for a male or female, what colors you absolutely hate, and whether “clowns scare you.” For only $22.95, it’s a great cupcake-y gift. I have never been disappointed with Bake It Pretty, I highly recommend them.

Another adorable “kit” idea is this one from sweet estelle’s baking supply on Etsy. It’s called the “Woodland Cupcake Kit” and it has everything you need for Christmas-y cupcakes. A great hostess gift for someone who loves to bake, or a great idea for kids; get it for them to make cupcakes (or a cake) with you! At $12.00, it’s really affordable and you get a lot: 24 standard green with little dot cupcake liners, 12 small deer picks, 12 pine tree picks, 6 edible sugar snowflake decorations, 6 edible pine cone decorations & 2 ounces of green non-pareils and comes packaged in a pink bakery box with brown baker’s twine.

Well I hope you enjoyed those, and found something interesting to buy for the baker or cupcaker you love. Although I’d actually like to add just one more little thing

My dear friend Yoyo makes the cutest tissue holders, and this one is a Christmas one. So while it isn’t necessarily for a baker, it has peppermints on it and it would be mighty cute to buy and stuff in the pocket of one of those above aprons you just bought. It’s sparkly, it’s Christmas-y, it’s thoughtful, it’s only $3.00, and as if that’s not cheap enough, if you enter the code CUPCAKEREHAB you get 20% off. So click on over to Topstitch and buy one!

So go forth and buy!

More birthday!

Last night I got another early birthday gift. This time, it was my MAIN gift.. and it was from Jay. Each December (Christmas) and July (both our anniversary AND my birthday- poor guy) I harangue the man so much about what he got me it’s practically unbearable. I ask for hints, dimensions, weight, etc. until he breaks down. Which isn’t often, usually he’s a rock and won’t give an inch. He gives false hints to throw me off and holds out until the actual DAY to give it to me. But this time I got him! He gave it to me two weeks early, which is a record!! I doubt it’ll ever happen again though, so I should be grateful.

Jay got me something not only useful, but something that looks incredibly attractive in the kitchen and it’s also pink (my favorite color).

What is it, you ask? Well… its a KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer!

Yes, gaze into the beauty.. has it hypnotized you yet?

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Booyakasha! This thing is fucking crazy. Did I just say the F-word? Yes I did. I’m sure any KitchenAid mixer users will agree that its not only beautiful but powerful. Kinda like me. Wow- I’m corny.

Its the Cook for the Cure model, $50 of each purchase goes to Susan G. Komen, so it’s also a good purchase for others (in many ways- they get a donation, and my family gets more cupcakes). The pink is nicer in person than in the photos, obviously. Now I’ve got no excuse to not make bread… so I’m sure Jay will be wanting banana bread. And also  homemade mashed potatoes. I know he wants those. I think that may be the one reason he bought it for me…! Yes, Jay is wonderful, I know. Don’t say it because you’ll inflate his ego and I’ll have to deal with the consequences. I’ve decided to name her Lola.

So lets slap a Cupcake Rehab sticker on this thing and get to work!

OH! And I also wanna say congrats to April of Abby Sweets for winning the May Cupcake Hero Challenge! Your recipe looks (and I’m sure tastes) awesome. Good job! Johnny Cash would even approve, I’m sure. ;)