Potatoes

Potato salads are a summer staple, whether I’m making them from jawbreaker-size potatoes stolen from row edges while checking the potato plants’ progress or full-grown spuds cut down to size. They go beautifully with summer’s green beans, cherry tomatoes, and sugar snaps. But we grow so many storage potatoes that it seems a shame to give up the salads just because the other fresh produce is long gone. This version uses stored veggies, making it a late-season or even midwinter go-to. The salad itself is quite basic, and a few unconventional techniques make it a snap. Inspired by traditional salads I ate regularly as I traveled in Russia and France—salad Olivier and salade niçoise, respectively—I’ve created two dressings that bring distinctly different flavors to the forefront; I sometimes alternate between the two salad dressings for several weeknight meals.
Learn to make Potato Salad with Russian and French Dressings

Botulism and Canning Safely

When I mention this blog, it rarely takes noncanners long to reveal they are afraid of making their family sick and to ask for the secret to canning safely. Their fear is of the big, scary B word: botulism. But what strikes me is their belief that they need to be let in on a secret to avoid it.

Honestly, there is no secret to safe canning. Everything you need to know is in every decent book and on every decent website that covers the topic. Canning is a process, but it’s not a mysterious one: If you can follow directions, you can get it right. Or, in the words of Kevin West, author of the fabulously informative Saving the Season, “If you can safely prepare chicken, a potential vector for food-borne pathogens such as salmonella, then you can handle home canning.”

Unfortunately, botulism has become a boogeyman, the arch villain of a cautionary tale who peers over the rim of a boiling water bath at many home canners. It doesn’t have to be that way. Read more about botulism and canning safely

Cucumbers

As a kid, I helped my mom processed dill pickles in vinegar brine and what my family called “sweet pickles,” which tasted nothing like the ones on a restaurant burger. It was years before I learned that what I considered sweet pickles were typically sold as “bread-and-butter” pickles. They fall somewhere between the tangy dills and the sugary sweets. And I could eat them by the jar.

When I started canning on my own, pickles were in my first jars. They’re easy to pack and process, the vinegar ensures food safety, and the options for spices in the standard brine are endless. My mom followed the version in the old Ball Blue Book, but Ball has since updated its recipe and other authors have inspired me to make a few tweaks to the flavorings—and to use the brine once the jar is empty. Learn to make Better Bread-and-Butter Pickles and Braised Breakfast Potatoes

Canning My Way

Canning, jarring, putting up—depending on where you live, one of these terms likely comes to mind when you hear someone talk about preserving food. Once the domain of grandmothers with giant gardens and 4-Hers learning home-ec skills, recent years have seen a shift in the people processing at home. Eugenia Bone released Well-Preserved in 2009, sharing recipes developed in her New York apartment and designed to fill two to six jars at a time. Blogger Marisa McClellan launched Food in Jars, and her success and subsequent books helped popularize small-batch canning. Articles on home canning appeared in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times and on NPR, and Slate declared at-home preserving “ridiculously trendy.” Since then, the number of books, blogs, and people canning at home have only grown.

I love that a rising interest in eating well year-round has led more people to support farmer’s markets and CSAs, make meals from scratch, and save what’s in season for later use. The appeal of small-batch processing is understandable: Take your leftover fruit or veg and seal it in a couple of jars. The argument is that it’s a quick and easy way to preserve food.

The “couple of jars” part is where I disagree. By the time I prep my canning gear and the food item, heat a kettle of water, make a brine or jam, and finally process the batch, I want to pull the maximum number of jars from that kettle. Instead of going small, I recommend going big—at least big enough to maximize your yield while minimizing your effort and sometimes spreading out the work.
Read more about canning my way