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April 28, 2009
Saturday night friends came to dinner and they came bearing gifts of food, the nicest gifts possible. But here was the odd thing -- they brought their homemade treats packed in canning jars, although neither gift was truly "canned". And, just to make it all a little odder, on the menu for a first course I had gravlaxed and marinated salmon and potatoes in oil, both made in canning jars and both served from them. Was it a coincidence? Culinary telepathy? The tip of a trend?
You may have heard me say this before, but I once had an editor who told me that when you see something once, it's nothing; when you see something twice, it's interesting; and when you see the same thing three times, it's a trend. Could 'canned food' be the next big thing?
It's funny, just writing that made me think of the verrine craze in Paris. Verrines are glasses and, while the mania for serving everything from soup to desserts in glasses started a while ago, it's still going strong, particularly among pastry chefs, who love the glasses because they free them from creating within the limits imposed by cakes and tarts and the need for customers to carry their pastries from shop to home safely.
I guess you could argue that the canning jars that turned up at my house Saturday provided similar safe passage, but while verrines whisper elegance, canning jars sing out comfort, and the food that was in these jars this weekend was definitely -- and happily -- comforting.
Sue Levine's Mason jar packed tight with olives was the stuff of smiles. Just seeing the jar, with its layers of olives and lemons and the grains of spices pressed against the glass, immediately put me in mind of summer lunches outdoors in Provence. As she handed me the jar, she said, "The olives are terrific, but the oil is divine." And, of course, it would be, since it was good olive oil made better by the addition of olives and spices. It's going to make great vinaigrettes and an even better drizzle over tomatoes, roasted peppers, cauliflower, oh, anything, really. Here's the recipe as Sue gave it to me:
SUZANNE LEVINE'S LEMON-MARINATED OLIVES
10 ounces brine-cured green olives, rinsed and drained
9 slices of lemon
1 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
1 cup best olive oil
"You're supposed to make three layers, using one-third of the ingredients for each layer, in a 2-cup jar, but I've never been able to make that work. [Sue said she just puts the ingredients in the jar, starting with the lemons, and hopes that she finishes with the lemons because it looks pretty when you open the jar and see them.] Marinate for at least two weeks before serving, although you can keep the olives for many months."
Carol Lewitt arrived with her jar of tightly packed pesto and announced, "It's weed pesto." Pressed for what was in the jar, Carol kept repeating that it was made from weeds. If this is what weeds taste like, then we should all let every bit of grass we've got go to weed. I'd say this was some of the best pesto I'd ever tasted, but since it tasted like no other pesto I've ever had, I'm not sure it's a legit claim. I kept tasting the pesto, looking at the dandelions that were growing between the cracks in the pathway and thinking, "Could it be dandelion pesto?" Silly me, of course not -- dandelions are way too tame for Carol. When Carol sent me the recipe, she wrote: "I decided not to garden, but to learn to forage! I brought you a garlic mustard pesto."
A Google search confirmed what Carol had told me -- garlic mustard is an invasive weed. In fact, the first reference I found called it 'noxious'. Guess the researchers never tasted Carol's pesto. Sadly for those of us in Connecticut who want to try our hand at this pesto, Carol says you need to get the first leaves and that now it's too late, since the weed is flowering. However, our trusty forager says, "The flowers are good in salads."
CAROL LEWITT'S WEED PESTO
2 cups garlic mustard leaves (pulled from pre-flowering weeds)
2 cups walnuts
1 cup basil
1 1/2 cups green olives (I don't think I ever want to make pesto without olives again - they're great in the mix -- DG)
3/4 cup parsley
1/2 cup miso (Yes, miso -- who woudda thunk? -- DG)
Carol writes, "I don't add salt, but it may need a bit. Mix with enough oil to bind. Makes a ton."
I didn't ask her if she made the pesto in a food processor or a mortar and pestle. Either would work, but if you're foraging, doesn't a mortar and pestle seem more the tool to use?
After sipping wine and nibbling on olives and dips and spreads and nuts and saucisson, when we got to the table, I pulled out my two canning jars. One jar was filled with chunks of salmon that I'd cured overnight in sugar and salt, the way you cure gravlax, rinsed and then packed in a quart-size canning jar with onions, bay leaves, thyme, coriander, pepper, carrots and olive oil. The other was packed with fingerling potatoes, which I'd boiled, skinned (unnecessary, really, but company was coming) and packed with the same herbs and spices, the same carrots and onions, the same oil, pinches of fleur de sel and some ordinary distilled white vinegar. I left both jars in the fridge for a day before serving, but they could have stayed a few days more and been fine.
I'd give you more of a recipe, but I'm still working on it (it's going into my next book). However, I know how terrific you all are at improvising, so my money's on you that, if this interests you, you'll find a way to make it and to make it your own.
And if you're seeing canning-jar food around, or if you're making food in canning jars, let me know, please. So far we've got a trend, a few more sightings and we might have a movement!
Tags: canning jars
, Carol Lewitt
, garlic mustard
, Suzanne Levine
In and Around the House in Connecticut
In the Kitchen
Soups & Starters
| April 28, 2009 9:01 PM
One of my favorite things to make (and give) is homemade harissa in glass jars. I also find them great for storing soup to bring for lunch, so I guess I do eat from them too!
My in-laws kindly gifted us with about 30 jars of home preserved apples, cherries, and blueberries and I have found SO many uses for the clean, empty jars.
| April 28, 2009 9:13 PM
Sigh. I'm thinking of getting therapy to help me with my jar obsession. We've been on a jam making frenzy over the past 12 months and have filled several hundred glass jars - the delivery man needed a big trolley last time he was here. The jars in themselves are intrinsically beautiful, and when they're filled with different jams, they take on an almost jewel-like quality.
PS. A friend's brother bid on and won 10,000 glass jars on ebay for $100. Then he realised they were all without lids. In the end his partner forbade him from picking them up! Made me feel normal..
| April 28, 2009 9:26 PM
I love old and different jars. They just add a little something special:)
| April 28, 2009 9:27 PM
If it's not a trend/movement then it should be! I love things in jars. There's something about it that makes me smile
| April 28, 2009 9:31 PM
What fabulous ideas for canning jars!
Recently I started using 3 sizes of Mason/canning jars in my pantry - filling them with everything from spices to dried fruit and spices to various rices and flours. Since they are clear glass, they're easy to use and let me see what I have at a glance. Everything stays airtight, upright and in-sight ... especially handy when you are in the mood to bake.
On another note, thank you Dorie for the sour cream loaf cake recipe. I made it yesterday and it is already half-gone. Silence, while eating home- baking, is definitely the sound of approval with the foodies in my home.
| April 28, 2009 9:33 PM
Okay, you've already heard what I do with my canning jars, but that last sentence - I now have the lyrics to "Alice's Restaurant" running through my head. Thanks need to go to Arlo Guthrie for writing it, and you for reminding me of the awesomeness :)
| April 28, 2009 9:40 PM
I made Meyer lemon curd a couple months ago and put it in canning jars. I took one to a friend as a hostess gift. I've also made plans with some girl friends to have a "jam"... as in all gather at someone's house and make jam and can it. I'm not sure why I've felt compelled to play with jars and canning lately. Maybe there is something in the collective psyche driving us toward a movement? Or maybe we're all looking for a little bit of comfort in these turbulent times.
Whatever it is, I'm looking forward to summer fruits and a couple of jam sessions (and wish my mother still had her blueberry bushes from which she made the best blueberry jam).
| April 28, 2009 10:01 PM
I have been using canning jars for storage and presentation for years and years. They're great for airtight storage, for making vinegars and oils, and ... well, just about anything. They're inexpensive and can be sterilized and can be sealed airtight.
It amuses me to see them become trendy now.
| April 28, 2009 11:25 PM
I actually was just reading an article on canning artichokes earlier here: http://www.yumsugar.com/3090430 and have noticed several of these things popping up lately. This includes my roommate who uses them for everything around the house. I would say it is bordering on movement...
| April 29, 2009 12:01 AM
Canning jars are beautifully basic and functional and what feels better in tough times than basic and functional, especially if it's beautiful too? I think we have a trend on our hands! I put them to use for storing all kinds of things beyond canned goods.
| April 29, 2009 2:08 AM
I think it's the recession -- a trend toward things that are associated with frugality, that remind us of our Grandmas and Grandpas who actually lived through the Great Depression.
I hope I don't start hoarding bits of string!
Thanks for the information on garlic mustard -- here in southern Wisconsin it's just at the perfect stage for making pesto. There's one place in our yard where it comes up every year -- even though I have NEVER let any of it go to seed since we moved in 7 years ago! I wish the seeds I BUY would last that long.
Around here, people get together to go out to the local state and county parks and pull garlic mustard. Apparently it was imported by early European settlers precisely because it's such a good early "spring green" -- but now it's a pest.
| April 29, 2009 2:42 AM
I think the presentation of homemade goodies in canning jars is one of the nicest ways to gift someone. It bespeaks of home and hearth and heart. Those olives look fantastic! (Olives are one of my only weaknesses)
| April 29, 2009 5:05 AM
oh! Thanks for the recipes. I also use glass jars since it would be easier to see what's inside and its looks better too. You could see the colors making it look really delicious.
| April 29, 2009 7:40 AM
I think it is a trend. When I was growing up in Jamaica my Grandma used to make tons of homemade guava jam and my Dad made that lovely bitter seville orange marmalade. I have recently been longing for those things, so being the ridiculous illogical person I am, I planted a guava tree and some citrus, am saving my jars and collecting marmalade recipes from different blogs. At this rate I will have jam in 5 years.
| April 29, 2009 10:26 AM
Everything old is new again! I love, love, love pickled red onions. You can slip one or two in a sandwich for work and not have onion breath all afternoon. And the jars make pretty little gifts.
| April 29, 2009 10:52 AM
I grew up canning but never felt too confident doing it on my own. My husband and I got married this fall and we spent the preceeding 3 seasons preserving the bountiful harvest from our garden and neighboring farms for our wedding feast. A lot of canning was done and a lot of inspiration was born.
We canned fig chutney made from figs we picked from a neighbor's overflowing tree. We canned blueberry preserves from our bushes that ended up as filling between layers of lemon buttermilk wedding cake. We canned a strawberry/balsamic/black pepper preserve that is great on anything from ice cream to pork loin.
All I have to say is that canning is the best way to prolong the delight of any season.
I do still hold firmly to my motto: seasonal delicacies are special because you can only truly enjoy them for a short period of time each year. Preserving may help you reminise about the season but there is nothing like fresh fruit picked from the plant and eaten before ever being refrigerated.
One more thing: canned foods DO make great gifts but, I am very choosey about giving our hard work away to people who I don't think will truly appreciate the product. Plus, you lose your jars that way!!!!
| April 29, 2009 1:30 PM
I think the canning jars are part of the growing DIY movement the past couple of years. It's not surprising that, in our hyper-technological world, people are craving more homey fare. The crafts world is booming, and canning and etc.
Also, glass jars are reusable and more eco friendly than all that plastic.
I love seeing Mason jars used for flowers and candles and such in restaurantsâ€”and at a recent wedding I was at. It is homey and comforting.
Thanks for the recipesâ€”they look wonderful!
| April 29, 2009 1:52 PM
Dorie, I don't know if it's a trend, or just a return to an older way of doing thing. However, whatever it is, I'm one of the ones trying to get more people to take up the canning jar mantle.
I recently started a blog called Food in Jars, as a way to have a place where I can both feature my own excessive canning jar collection as well as help other folks get more comfortable with the idea of canning/pickling/preserving.
| April 29, 2009 5:14 PM
Every summer I can oodles and oodles: applesauce, jams, peaches, tomatoes stewed/sauced/etc, pickles, juices, etc. From my mother I've also learned to store more of my foods, leftovers and such, in glass jars as a way to avoid using so many plastics. I even freeze my homemade buttermilk, soups, meatballs in jars, filled only 3/4 full, of course, to make room for expansion and to prevent the jars from cracking.
| April 29, 2009 10:41 PM
Dorie: I went foraging with Wildman Steve Brill this weekend and I'm happy to report that there is oodles of garlic mustard growing in Central Park. There's lots more to munch on, too, which I reported in some detail on my blog. Happy hunting! Lorna
| April 30, 2009 10:21 AM
My dad who is retired likes to can vegtables in the summer. He also makes delicous tomatoe preserves. I plan to help him this summer and learn all about canning.
| April 30, 2009 11:09 AM
I've been finding canning jars at flea markets and garage sales for many years. I love the pale blue ATLAS jars with glass tops. I find the rubber rings at old fashioned hardware stores and hoard them.
Last summer, I felt the need to can. Hadn't touched a canner since teenaged summers spent with my late mother. I must have been missing, then channeling, her as I put up jams, chutneys, tomato sauce, pickles, soup, salsas, and brandied fruit.
Since my canning-insanity started, I've met others (online), shared recipes, and made many many friends happy with gifts of food.
Now, with all my collections and some empty jars lying around, I will start finding ways to use them to serve guests at dinner. (Already, they stand in as vases and drinking glasses.)
Thank you for the always wonderful ideas!
| April 30, 2009 5:00 PM
It may be time to start investing in the glass bottle industry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
| April 30, 2009 6:17 PM
Homeade olives...yumm! Also, the pesto recipe sounds fabulous...but where in the world do you get those mustard garlic greens?
| May 1, 2009 9:01 AM
definitely think that as people try to get more local and seasonal, preserving food comes with that. And since there are extra jars around, and they *do* come with such a comforting vibe in this day and age, why not use for presentation!
| May 1, 2009 1:55 PM
I love receiving homemade food goodies packed in jars!
I usually bring homemade pesto or pickled onions or roasted peppers as a hostess gift lately.
Yesterday, I met a fellow food blogger for the first time, and she rewarded me with homemade fig preserves, hot pepper jelly and a blood orange cranberry marmalade!
She is now my friend for life!
| May 1, 2009 4:22 PM
My husband and I have been using canning jars to store and tote things for years, ever since we heard about the hormone disrupters and carcinogens exuded by petrochemical plastics. Canning jars are not only leakproof, but they stack nicely, too. We've also gradually replaced our plastic food storage containers with glass (Pyrex) containers. The Pyrex containers do have plastic lids, but we avoid filling them completely so the plastic doesn't touch the food.
| May 1, 2009 8:00 PM
With the economy in the state it's in, I've seen a definite uptick in people wanted to be more self-reliant in terms of their food sources - whether it's growing or canning. I own a lot of canning jars because they're the best way to keep moths out of the foodstuffs in my pantry.
| May 2, 2009 2:38 AM
How serendipitous- just this morning I bought a case of old Ball jars at a yard sale for $2 with the notion of trying my hand at canning. Thanks for the wonderful inspiration and reminding me that jars don't have to be processed to be useful.
| May 2, 2009 9:41 AM
Your descriptions are perfect. I could not agree with your more about canned food exuding comfort. Your evening sounds lovely. I think you experienced culinary telepathy. It is truly an amazing thing! I hope canning comes back or even "faux" canning. It is a great way to present and so affordable.
Julia @ MÃ©langer
| May 3, 2009 9:08 PM
Dorie, I havenâ€™t seen whole meals in jars being served up (though I'll keep my eye out now!). Iâ€™m not surprised though because glass is very attractive. Like many of the other comments made above, I do use jars myself. Mostly to package up homemade gifts for people â€“ jams, cookies etc.
| May 3, 2009 9:32 PM
Canning jars are my "go to" vehicle for holiday gifts; I usually fill them with a homemade bread or muffin mix, include an 8 x 8 pan (from the 99 cent store, and a holiday kitchen towel. I also keep my sourdough starter in one!!!
| May 4, 2009 7:55 AM
Wow! I can't say how excited this post has made me. Dorie I say you are right on target with your suggestion that canning/canning jars are a new trend in food. I mean the comments alone can attest.
As a brand new food blogger, I understand that putting ones link on a comment is a no-no. But I am bursting at the seems and I hope that it's relevent enough to excuse my faux pas; but just this month I have started my two new blogs:
Like Mariesa above I've had the urge to share what I know about canning. I can't seem to get enough of this craft, and it goes hand in hand with the eat local & seasonal movement that is gaining wider and wider appeal.
Thanks for your lovely site!
| May 4, 2009 8:51 AM
It seems that Lithuanians were so trendy for such a long period of time. In my childhood (now I'm in my fourties) practically every family used to make lots and lots of canned vegetables usually grown in their own gardens or at their parents' farms in the countryside. So, I grew up eating my mother's beets pickled in natural (homemade)apple juice, different assorted vegetables, pickled carrots, pickled cucumbers, tomatoes canned in their own juice, homemade jams, preserves, apple cheese (my mother-in-law makes it even now)... It was done due to the fact that there was not big choice in the stores (Soviet times... and it is impossible for the Westerners, meanwhile even for us to understand that after 18 years of independence)... After the independence was restored in 1990, for some period of time there was the tendency to think (I thought the same as well) that there is no need to spent a lot of time on making the pickles at home or even to grow your own vegetables as you can buy it in the supermarkets... But things are changing and more and more people are doing it at home ...
Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener
| May 4, 2009 9:23 PM
What's old is new again?
Canning jars were so ... passe! and now trendy? I hope so, Dorie, and wish everybody start using them again.
I use my canning jars for food storage (pantry, fridge & freezer) as well as for canning, pickling & jam making (and has for years!), and have found out indeed that many people (including women who could be my mother) are intimidated by canning. So I am doing my part to spread the word and will be teaching canning classes in Virginia to demystify them.
T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types
| May 5, 2009 5:35 AM
I started to experiment with preserving things last summer. I still have a slight fear of canning, but I'm going to master it this summer. For the less experienced like me, the marinated olives are a great option!
| May 6, 2009 3:29 AM
Definitely a trend, one of the aspects of the green movement converging with the frugality of the recession. Not that canning couldn't happen in better times - but the handmade/homemade in general is really picking up steam.
Molly of Orangette canned pickles before her wedding and gave the jars as a favor at her wedding rehearsal.
| May 6, 2009 11:31 AM
When I was first married - back in 1981 - I kept all of my dry baking ingredients in extra large canning jars. I've moved on to big ole' plastic bins for my flours and sugar, but my confectioner's sugar is still in a canning jar. It's a great reminder of those early days of baking!
Inspired by your post, I made this week's TWD selection - tiramisu cake - as a mini in a wide mouth jelly jar:
| May 11, 2009 3:22 PM
I read this post last week and then received the new Sur La Table catalog over the weekend; to my surprise they are selling canning jars. I think they are Italian and some are not for canning purposes, but as you speak of here and others are for canning purposes. Also, there was a complete canning kit. So, trend it may be.
| May 20, 2009 1:07 AM
Yes, I think it is officially a trend. Restaurants are serving dishes in mason jars, a pastry shop is making puddings and pana cotta in mason jars, defiantly a trend. http://www.nrn.com/landingPage.aspx?coll_id=616&menu_id=1380&globalMenuTab=-1
| May 27, 2009 1:51 PM
I save the jars of all the foods we finish (e.g., jam), and I use them in place of plastic storage containers, which were all tossed a while ago. I find the small sizes are really handy for small portions of leftover food, sauces, etc. So I'm fully taking advantage of what might have been considered useless a while ago. My thinking is in terms of eco-conciousness (reuse instead of recycle), child safety (avoid touching foods with plastic), and frugality (a similar jar can be bought new for $2).
Of course, shopping at my wonderful local farmers' market in Santa Monica has recently tempted me to try canning. I'm a bit overwhelmed at the process, but having read this article, I'm becoming more and more intrigued.
Do you have any tips or reading suggestions for a novice?
| July 15, 2009 7:48 AM
Last Christmas we packaged up jars of our handmade hot cocoa mix, cranberry-apple sauce (with the tiniest amount of cinnamon and sugar: delicious), with a bag of homemade granola. A friend made us a beautiful woodblock with our name and a beautiful design on it, but couldn't wait until Christmas to give it to us in hopes that we could use it on our gifts: we did, and they were lovely. Also, pickled veggies have been a staple at our parties for the past few years.
MetaMommy is spot on with using saved jars for leftovers (or beverages, or homemade yogurt, or storing dry goods...). It's so easy, and easy to see what's inside. (Just don't use them for canning: they're often imperfect or just thinner and break with the heat.)
Jars also make great tea-light candle holders. I use them on my porch to greet guests in fall and winter, and on the picnic table in the summer.
I also went to a wedding where 100's (quite literally) of canning jars were fitted with metal around the top and creating a half circle loop, filled with a candle, then hung on a wire that went from tree to tree. It was quite magical as dusk fell and the woods surrounding us were filled with twinkling lights. I've used the same trick on my porch in winter to welcome my guests.