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  • FoodSaver V3240 Vertical Vacuum Sealer, White
    FoodSaver V3240 Vertical Vacuum Sealer, White
    I just started using a FoodSaver vacuum sealer to seal foods and I can't believe I waited so long to get one. (Check out my first project: Sweet & Sour Green Bean Freezer Pickles!)
    For example: In the past I would take the time to pick beautiful berries, then would bring them home and stick them in a zippered baggie in the freezer. My berries would have ice crystals and taste freezer burnt after just a few short months. 
    Then I had a light-bulb moment: "Air is the enemy" of freshness. 
    When vacuum-sealed my berries last 3 to 4 times longer! I have similar results with other fruits, veggies and even meats & cheeses.
    The FoodSaver has been a fantastic discovery. ~ Brook
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    • Mehu-Liisa 10 Liter Stainless Steel Steam Juicer - Made in Finland
      Mehu-Liisa 10 Liter Stainless Steel Steam Juicer - Made in Finland
      Mehu-Liisa Products

      Some day I will replace my ancient graniteware Steam Juice Extractor with this gorgeous Mehu-Liisa brand Steam Juicer. My old Steam Juicer leaks steam, meaning I have to refill the water often, and it doesn't have anywhere close to the capacity of this one from Mehu-Liisa.
      If you want to experience the magic of a Steam Juicer, check out this 10 quart Mehu-Liisa. It will last you a lifetime and save you countless hours in the kitchen, whether your juicing fruit for  Plum Jelly or Apricot Nectar, not to mention it minimizes the mess of juicing large amounts of veggies!  ~ Brook

    • Ball Quilted Jelly Canning Jar 4 Oz (Pack of 12)
      Ball Quilted Jelly Canning Jar 4 Oz (Pack of 12)
      What's the one jar size I always keep a couple extra cases of? 
      The Ball 4 ounce jar.
      It's basically 1/2 cup, and just the right size for gift-giving and for experimenting with small batches. Perfect for things like my famous Pear Honey.
      People can't help but say "That is so darn cute!" when they seem them. 
      ~ Brook

    • Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker
      Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker
      Looking for an affordable, easy-to-use pressure canner, backed up by great customer service? Look no further than the Presto 23 quart Pressure Canner/Cooker. It's the one I recommend to all my students. ~ Brook


    Dilly Pickled Onion Slices on Punk Domestics

    • Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen (Orange) Instant Read Thermometer, Perfect for Barbecue, Home and Professional Cooking
      Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen (Orange) Instant Read Thermometer, Perfect for Barbecue, Home and Professional Cooking
      Do you have a great instant-read thermometer, or are you still buying the 20 dollar ones that only last a year or two? This was one of my best kitchen purchases.
      Can't imagine cooking jam (or meat or candy) without it! 
      Take your jams to 220º and you'll have a perfect gel set every time. Also available in other colors, but why wouldn't you want orange? It's only the BEST COLOR EVER. ~ Brook


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    • The Home Preserving Bible (Living Free Guides)
      The Home Preserving Bible (Living Free Guides)
      by Carole Cancler
      If you're looking for a book that covers every preserving topic imaginable, this is the book for you. It doesn't have a flashy cover or glossy pictures, but it's full of great info. One of my very favorite resources. ~ Brook

    • OXO Good Grips Corn Stripper
      OXO Good Grips Corn Stripper

      Last August my friend Kelli asked me if I wanted some fresh corn from her grandpa's garden. I said "Sure....I'd love to make a few jars of Sweet Corn Relish!"
      She showed up 6 hours later with 158 ears. Wasn't sure if I loved her or hated her for it.
      After a long hot day spent cutting kernels off all those cobs with a small paring knife, I decided I'd never be without a Corn Stripper again. ~ Brook


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    I have attempted to share safe preserving methods however you alone are responsible for your health & safety in your own kitchen or location. Be aware of current safety recommendations. Please see "Full Disclaimer" page for suggested preserving resources.

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    « Another use for jam...put it on plain yogurt! | Main | Peach~Bourbon Jam & Peach Chipotle BBQ Sauce »

    Making pickles? Make your own Pickling Spice Blends too.

     I think most people buy their pickling spices already blended, and there's nothing wrong with doing that. Pickling spice blends are not just used for pickling recipes, such as cucumber dill pickles and pickled beets, pickled salmon & pickled herring and pickled eggs. The zesty spice blend is what gives corned beef it's unmistakeable flavor as well as other types of cured meats, like bacon. It livens up certain soups & stews, and various rice dishes and is a necessary component of a classic crab or shrimp boil.

    If you make any of the aforementioned dishes in your home, you might enjoy creating custom pickling spice blends from scratch.

    (I bet you had no idea pickling spice blends were so popular!)

    Since you are in control of exactly what goes into your own special blend, you can choose to make it according to your own tastes. For example, you can add more dried red chile flakes and make it spicier. Maybe you want to omit the whole cloves entirely. You might choose to add herbs or spices some commercial pickling spice blends don't normally contain, like  dried oregano or fennel seed, which can be especially nice in fish & seafood recipes.

    Here are some ingredients you might find in pickling spice blends:

    • whole allspice 
    • bay leaves
    • caraway seeds
    • cardamom
    • celery seed
    • crushed chile peppers
    • cinnamon sticks
    • whole cloves
    • coriander seed
    • dill seed
    • fennel seeds
    • fenugreek seeds
    • ground ginger*
    • juniper berries
    • mace
    • yellow mustard seed
    • brown mustard seed
    • ground nutmeg*
    • dried oregano
    • whole black peppercorns
    • star anise

    It's really very simple to make your own blends, and it can be quite a bit less expensive too. First you'll need a good source for your herbs & spices. In Seattle I like World Spice Merchants and Big John's PFI.

    I know that World Spice Merchants has a wonderful mail order business, because I've used it (see photo above.) Not sure about Big John's PFI, but if you're in the area it's worth a drive just to check out their well-stocked store. Truth be told, both of these stores are fun to peruse and once you buy their fresh quality herbs & spices in bulk, I doubt you'll ever buy those expensive jars of spices and pickling spice blends in the grocery store again.

    The following are suggestions, so feel free to improvise. I tend to make mine a little different every time with great results.

    A Basic Pickling Spice Blend

    British-style Pickling Spice Blend

    Pickling Spice Blend (for charcuterie)

    Pickling Spice Blend for Fish (such as salmon & herring)

    Pickling Spice Blend (for spicy dill pickles)

    Pickling Spice Blend (for crab & shrimp boils)

    *Whole spices are preferred because ground spices, like ground ginger and ground nutmeg, can darken the pickling brine and cause it to become cloudy

    Note: the seeds in any of the above recipes may be toasted lightly first, then cracked with the side of a heavy knife before adding to the spice blend mix. This gives the pickling spice blend an even more complex flavor. Try it!


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