Free Range on Food cooking Q&A: How to make jam with any summer fruit

Jul 29, 2020

Every Wednesday at noon, Food section staff members and guests answer your cooking questions. This week's chat is over, but you can submit questions for next week's chat here.

Want more recipes and tips from the food team? Sign up for Voraciously's Essential Cookbooks Newsletter, our collection of 10 cookbooks that belong in your collection.

Past Free Range on Food chats

Have you always wanted to make summer jams, but felt intimidated?

All you need is one simple recipe to make jam out of just about any summer berry, such as raspberry, blackberries or blueberries, or stone fruits like apricots, peaches, plums, cherries and nectarines, says food writer Cathy Barrow, who joins us this afternoon for our chat.

This week, Cathy shared her straightforward recipe, which includes three essential ingredients -- fruit, lemon juice and sugar. She also shared her method for cooking and water bath canning summer fruit.

Cathy's done this so often, she easily answers readers' questions, such as: What if you want to freeze the jam? Why is sugar necessary? Can you sub something in for the lemon juice?

As she noted: "It’s just another day in the kitchen, almost a habit, and not tinged with fear of any sort. I want to give you this same confidence." 

She can advise you on getting started or answer specific questions. She's canned it all from artichoke hearts to peppers to pickles.

The Voraciously staff and columnists have, of course, been cooking, too. We've whipped up seafood guacamole, a collards and sweet potato hash, an Instant Pot risotto and grilled zucchini roll-ups. And Dave McIntyre has a recommendation for a Beaujolais that goes with just about anything.

So, throw out any queries about any recipes, tools or cooking techniques. We'll do our best to share suggestions and advice.

Happy cooking!

Thank you for publishing the article about jam making. With the exception of making David Leibovitz's excellent orange marmalade recipe, I've always added pectin, either the low sugar type or the regular. I'd appreciate it if Ms. Barrow would explain any differences in flavor, appearance, and shelf-life among the no added pectin, less sugar pectin, and regular pectin methods of making jam. Thank you

When I began to make jams about 10 years ago, after a lull since the 70s when I canned with my grandmother, I fell under the spell of a famous French jam maker, Christine Ferber. She never uses pectin and I began making jams using her method (which turns out to be a common, centuries-old, jam technique). For our household, the smaller batches that used less sugar worked better. Packaged pectin was initially introduced not only to ensure gel set, but also to make larger batches with less fruit and more sugar. Fruit was expensive, sugar was cheap. 

In recent years, changes have been made to pectin and it's easier to make smaller batches. Pomona pectin was introduced and became the darling of the no sugar set. They are all good. They all work. They're all suitable for home preservation.

And all the pectin types and jam making methods, including the one I use that is detailed in the article and recipe, are safe for shelf stability for 18 months, a new expectation beyond the standard that was 12 months.

As to appearance, classic pectin provides a sweet jam with a clear background gel, no and low sugar pectin is also clear. Pomona pectin can make a cloudier jam. The method I use is clear and the fruit often retains a brighter color because it is  cooked only as long as needed. When I travel to France, I like to buy the sugar/pectin blend that is sold on all the grocery store shelves. It's wonderful for low pectin fruits like sweet cherries and for herb and flower jellies.

Flavor is a personal thing. I'm biased.

Hi, how low can I go with the sugar to fruit ratio and still follow Cathy’s method for making a no-pectin jam? We like our jams a lot less sweet and I am curious to know the make or break point for this method instead of just using Pomona’s pectin or adding higher pectin fruit.

Hi. If you would like to use less sugar, I recommend sticking with Pomona pectin. The ratio of sugar to fruit is essential to the methodology.

I ended up with an extra bag of California Valencia oranges that I know I won't be able to finish before they go bad. What recipes would use a lot at the same time? Most recipes just seem to need one or two. Years ago I used to make an orange cake recipe where you dropped entire oranges into the food processor, rind and all. But, I think Valencia's have some seeds? Any other suggestions?

Marmalade! Here's a delicious marmalade recipe that uses lemon but would work equally well with oranges. 

Can that marmalade recipe be canned? And, if so, would switching to oranges change anything in the process? Oh, and re the dairy vs non-dairy milk, I've subbed almond, soy, and coconut milk in recipes since I went vegan-ish several years ago, and never noticed a difference in the results.

Yes, that marmalade recipe could be canned (with either lemon or oranges). Process 10 minutes in a waterbath.

Ball makes a special pectin for low-sugar jam recipes, which is what I use. I don't know how it differs from the regular kind, but I've never had any problems with my freezer jam setting up.

The low sugar jam recipe and pectin are terrific for freezer jam. Without more sugar, these jams are not appropriate for shelf-stable preservation.

I picked wild black raspberries that grow near my house and made jam with them. The jam hasn’t set. To make it, I followed the instructions for making raspberry jam that were included with the liquid pectin package. Because black raspberries have an abundance of seeds, I strained half of them. I was careful to measure everything precisely and didn’t add extra fruit or reduce the sugar. Any suggestions for fixing this?

Seedy berries are an issue for so many people! But getting the seeds out takes some care. When you strained the seeds, did you use a food mill or a sieve? Fruit pressed through an aluminum sieve will not set up in jam -- it has to do with the fruit's cell structure and natural pectin; metal sieves will compromise the acidity of the jam. Weird, right? 

If you don't have a food mill, use a cheesecloth lined colander and capture seeds by gently pressing on the fruit. Yields from seedless jams will be one or two jars less than jams with seeds.

Of course, if you have a wild black raspberry patch, it might be worth it to get a food mill! They're also indispensable for tomato canning, to remove seeds and peels.

See how I removed some of the seeds in this raspberry jam recipe that I shared earlier this week.

I'm lusting after Dorie Greenspan's scones, featured in this week's Essential Cookbooks newsletter. But...her recipe calls for dried (I guess) currants, and I'm loaded with fresh peaches and blueberries from our newly reopened farmer's market. Would I have to make any changes to use either--or both--of those instead of currants, since I assume the fresh fruit would be more 'liquid-y'? (I'm loving the Essential Cookbooks series, by the way...)

Glad you're interested in the recipe. I was the tester and I can tell you they are great! Yes, the currants should be dried. We can update the recipe.

I would absolutely feel free to swap in the fruit of your choice. Throw the blueberries in just as they are. Dice the peaches, but maybe try to get rid of a bit of their excess moisture by patting them dry -- just so they don't get the batter too wet.

Cream Scones

RECIPE: Cream Scones

If you are interested in the Essential Cookbooks newsletter, you can find out more about it here: Our new newsletter is the virtual cookbook club you’ve been waiting for


I've heard on food tv and elsewhere that you should boil and salt water, add raw shrimp and cook for 3 minutes or so. Does that 3 minutes begin as soon as you add the shrimp or after the water comes back to the boil?

This is how I do it, if I am cooking shrimp to use in another  recipe:  To cook the shrimp, peel and devein them, removing the tails. Bring a medium pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add the shrimp and return to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and poach the shrimp until pink and curled, 2 to 3 minutes. Test a shrimp to see that it is done and opaque throughout, then drain. To stop the cooking here, you can briefly put the shrimp in an ice bath. Cooking time may vary with the size of the shrimp.

If I am cooking them in the shell to be eaten with cocktail sauce,  for example, I would highly season the water and allow the shrimp to soak it in for a longer time to pick up that flavor. In this case, I'd add the shrimp in the shell, cover and bring back to a boil. Stir and check to see if shrimp are rising to the top of the pot. If so, take one and check to see if the shell is beginning to separate from the meat.
If not, allow to boil for another minute. Check again.
If so, remove the pan from the heat and let the shrimp soak, taste-testing for seasoning every few minutes until they are well-seasoned.  When ready, I'd drain them. I would not rinse them or put them in an ice bath in this method.

How does the dry cup measure differ from the liquid cup measure? If I pour a cup of water into the liquid cup and then into the dry measure it fills perfectly. Why would you need both?

So envious of those with grills - and yards to put them in. Is there an indoor appliance of modest proportion and price that can be used instead? Perhaps something that goes inside the oven? I feel like many of your most tempting recipes are off limits to me.

How do you feel about a grill pan? I think, also, there might be small Korean grills for indoor use -- though I have never used them myself.

Seconding grill pans. My aunt has this contraption, a little more out there, which is wonderful for meat, though we've not tested what it can do with veggies. 

Here's my story on grill pans, too. A lot of recipes can be pretty easily adapted for it.

grill pan

ARTICLE: How to use a grill pan

It only took me 11 years but I finally was able to make this peach ice cream over the weekend. It was worth the wait. But I’m wondering whether there is an actual reason for freezing it in a stainless steel bowl or that’s just like the old jokes about cutting off the back of the chicken because it doesn’t fit in the pan. That bowl takes up half of my freezer drawer. Is there some reason I couldn’t have split it into some plastic containers that I can stack on the shelf? Can I transfer it now that it’s well frozen?

Peach Ice Cream

RECIPE: Peach Ice Cream

Honestly, I really don't know. I've dug around and can't find a rationale that would explain why. Definitely feel free to transfer, and next time I think you can certainly feel free to freeze in plastic containers. I've made a lot of ice cream and never had a problem with that. When I went on an ice cream making tear for my project last year, I actually froze in glass Pyrex containers, which I really liked, too. Also, FWIW, I much prefer covering the surface of ice cream with parchment, as plastic wrap is more likely to stick and get frozen into the ice cream.

Peach Ice Cream With Amaretti and Ginger

ARTICLE: How to create the ice cream of your dreams

When fruit gets fuzzy, as mine does overnight, do you throw away the whole thing (strawberry, nectarine, whatever) or cut away the bad part?

I usually cut away bruised spots, but if mold and fuzz are evident, I throw it out. But let's address why your fruit is molding overnight? Are you leaving it out? Most fruit, if ripe, should be refrigerated or eaten. Ripen stone fruit on the counter in a basket, to keep air flowing. To keep berries fresh for a week, take them out of the counter and spread them out on plate lined with paper or cloth towels in a single layer and cover and refrigerate. One bad apple really does spoil the whole bunch, so remove any moldy or bruised fruit from the fruit basket. 

Hello and thank you for your chats! I tried making bean soup in the slow cooker for the first time. I used Great Northern beans, ham hocks and unsalted bone broth. I cooked it for almost 9 hours on low. Half the beans were perfect: tender and creamy. The other half were unpleasantly firm as if not completely cooked or completely hard. I read that old beans don’t cook well, but it was a brand new package and half of them were soft and cooked through. I didn’t soak them because the recipe didn’t call for it. Do you know what went wrong and what I can do next time?

That's so frustrating!

Did the recipe call for you to boil the beans for a short period first? I like to do that when I use the slow cooker for them (which I rarely ever do, TBH), partly because of the fact that  the slow cooker doesn't otherwise get hot enough to reduce components in beans called lectins that can cause digestive distress -- and are particularly high in red kidney beans. 

The fact, though, that half your beans were tender and creamy and half were far from it makes me think that even though this was a brand new package, inside were beans that came from a variety of ages, or perhaps had not been properly stored by the company. I'd avoid beans by that company in the future.

As for soaking, it would certainly have helped here. Generally, I'm of the opinion that you don't HAVE to soak, really, but that there are reasons that you might want to, and one of them is when cooking beans of an unknown provenance for the first time. I think of soaking as an insurance policy in that regard -- it can make older beans cook more like they're fresher.

In the future, you could also be buying beans from a company that sells them fresher, such as my favorite, Rancho Gordo.

Another factor could be that your water is particularly hard, although in that case it would cause all the beans to take a really long time, not just some of them. You can try distilled water or add a pinch of baking soda next time.

How long will these keep in the refrigerator after opening? Or can I freeze them? It seems like every recipe only uses one chili, at most, and I don't want to throw out the rest of the jar/can.

Freeze away!

When a recipe calls for a cup of milk, I wonder if I’m missing out by using unsweetened almond milk (30 cal/cup) or unsweetened vanilla almond-coconut milk (40 cal) instead. Both are much thinner than whole milk from a cow, more comparable to skim milk, and I wouldn’t use skim milk instead of whole in a recipe. Is there no cause for concern? Or is there a non-dairy milk that best mimics whole milk, or something (sugar? thickener?) I should add to unsweetened almond milks to make them more closely approximate whole milk?

In many recipes, it's fine. As I noted in my baking subs post:

Stella Parks says for most general baking, you can use what you have: “Milk is rarely a primary source of fat in a recipe, making the difference between whole and skim almost negligible in the face of heavy hitters like butter, chocolate, cream and egg yolks.” The exceptions would be recipes for desserts such as ice cream and custards that rely almost exclusively on milk fat. Likewise, in many baking recipes, it’s fine to swap in your nondairy milk of choice.

My son brought home some hard, underripe peaches from the grocery store (I prefer to buy them from farm stands). Will they ripen if we leave them on the counter? If not, what can I do with them? Make jam or pie?

I've always stuck my hard peaches into a brown paper bag and they ripen in a day or two.

I was out of butter so I tried to make my own with heavy cream. It didn’t work - I got whipped cream but couldn’t get it to go the additional step to butter. I guess my electric beater/mixer isn’t powerful enough. My main question is, Can I possibly use whipped cream instead of butter in a muffin recipe? Second, what can I do with the leftover cream, besides pouring it on strawberries or trying to make ice cream? Third, how does one make cream into butter, without a powerful mixer/beater? I know farmers used to churn their own butter without benefit of electric appliances but clearly, they have superior know-how and physical strength

Was the cream ultra pasteurized? If so, that's your culprit. With a heavy cream that hasn't had the "ultra" treatment, using a mixer, I can convert cream to butter in about 10 minutes. But you're right, butter was churned for centuries without a mixer. Make butter by shaking a pint of heavy cream in a tightly closed quart-sized jar. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes and is a great job for a kid. The butter gathers and separates from (delicious!) buttermilk. Squeeze all the liquid from the butter, washing it under cold water to clear any remaining buttermilk, knead in the salt (1/2 teaspoon) and chill or freeze.

Whipped cream will not have the same qualities as butter in a baking recipe. 

Make sour cream or creme fraiche with leftover cream. It's more stable - lasting a couple of weeks at least.

 

In cleaning out my late mother-in-laws home I have come across a fairly new and as yet unused Fagor pressure cooker. I have not jumped on the instant pot band wagon and I'm wondering if I want to try using this new-to-me style of cooking. My own mother had one she used constantly, but unfortunately she's no longer here to advise me. What do you think? Where can I find more information? Can instant pot recipes be used for a pressure cooker? What am I missing by not pressure cooking?

Hey, there's no harm in trying it out. I was a longtime Instant Pot skeptic, bought one in the last year or so and now I use it all the time. I'm definitely not someone who tries to make everything in there (although it's great actually in the summer if you want to cook in a countertop appliance without generating a lot of heat), but I still use it at least once a week, if not more. The benefits are that you can cook many foods very quickly under pressure, and they can come out very moist and tender.

An Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, it just has more functions. Is yours a stovetop model or a standalone electric? But, yes, you can use IP recipes in other pressure cookers. If it's a stovetop model, things might cook faster and if a recipe calls for browning, you may need to do that in a separate skillet if your model does not have a saute function, again, most likely if it's a stovetop model. Also, IPs sometimes tend to run hotter, so if you're using recipes designed specifically for them, you may need to tinker with the time as well.

I use my Instant Pot the most for making beans. Joe gives some insight in his bean story. And just last night I used it to make risotto -- here's Olga's piece on that.

As far as resources -- tons. The IP/pressure community is very strong. Look for Facebook groups, too. As far as books, I turn to Melissa Clark's two books a lot, as well as the Martha Stewart pressure cooking book. That's just the tip of the iceberg. So many books have been published in recent years. Ivy Manning is another great option, ditto America's Test Kitchen's book. Check out my project below as well.

Braised Chicken Thighs With White Beans and Pancetta

ARTICLE: A complete guide to Instant Pots and other multicookers

This is a fairly technical question. I am about to make an olive bread that provides for 3 cups of flour. King Arthur says 1 cup weighs 120 grams. The 1975 Joy of Cooking says 1 cup weighs 113 grams (I wonder if flour was lighter 45 years ago?). The problem is that you don't know which method the recipe writer used to measure the flour. Luckily, the recipe I am using provides metric measurements, but the difference in weights shows what a problem this can be. My specific recipe is this no-knead olive bread. It says that 3 cups of flour is 420 grams. King Arthur translates to 360 grams. The Joy of Cooking chart translates to 339 grams. When you only have a volumetric measurement, even using a conversion chart, you have to start with a guess. I assume you should start with the lesser amount of flour and then add flour until the dough "looks right." Is that what you do when you are presented with only volumetric measurements?

Right! This is kind of where the volume measurements can lead one astray. I once made rather famous viral cookies only to be met with utter failure and upon chatting with the author realized that their cup of flour was about 145 grams, whereas I was using King Arthur default (which was then 125 grams)... Anyway, this is all to say that it's ALWAYS best to just include grams in all baking recipes (even for liquids, so you use fewer vessels) -- because 300 grams is 300 grams no matter if your cup of flour is 125 grams, 120 grams, 140 grams... or... well, you get the idea.

During quarantine, I've been trying to work my way through one of the recipe books I have and keep running into a problem: onions. Specifically, the smell of burnt onions. Any ideas on how to get the smell out quickly? I have a small house so when something burns during cooking, I can smell it everywhere. (I am not a good cook so there has been a lot of burned and overcooked (though mostly edible) food.)

I'll simmer some citrus wedges in water to make a natural air freshener. Give that a try! Another idea is to use baking soda the same way you do in the fridge -- but this time, pour it into a bowl and leave it out on the counter, where it will help absorb odors overnight. Chatters, tell us your other favorite tricks for this!

I have the rice wraps to make spring rolls, but I try to limit our tofu intake -- is there something I can use to fill them that isn't tofu? Thanks!

Do you eat meat? You could try adding finely diced or thin strips of cooked pork, chicken or shrimp, along with shredded carrots or zucchini matchsticks. Any chatters have other favorite ingredients? We have a frew spring roll recipes in our Recipe Finder, such as this:

Vietnamese Cold Summer Rolls

I freeze and find they are SO easy to deal with frozen. They are so much easier to dice frozen.

Hi -- I ordered a bag of semolina flour to use for pizza dough, but the flour company sent two bags! Far more than I can use just for pizza. Any recommendations for flatbread recipes or cracker recipes that use semolina? Thanks!

Went to 3 stores and no unflavored gelatin. Now that flour and yeast are back in stock; is this the new ingredient that customers are making a run on??

Oddly, there is a tightening of the gelatin market right now. Gelatin is sourced from collagen, connective tissues in pigs, cattle, and other meat animals. Most is sold via abattoirs. So there was some impact as the slaughterhouses dealt with COVID outbreaks, but there is also a growing need for gelatin in the manufacturing of capsules for medicines. More than you wanted to know? For what it's worth, I like to use gelatin sheets, available online. They have a very long shelf life. Like forever, as far as I can tell. 

Is this for the curing part? It might be that plastic insulates and doesn't transfer heat/cold very well. Maybe cure in the stainless bowl and then transfer to plastic for long term storage?

Perhaps, but from what I can tell stainless steel isn't a particularly effective conductor either. Like I said, I've never found ice cream -- including the peach I made last year -- to suffer from being frozen in plastic or glass.

I'm going to have a couple over for dinner next week. I'd like to make everything ahead, since I'll need to put my toddler to sleep while they're here. I was thinking about a side of salmon with an orzo salad and some roasted vegetables. Are there any sauces that would be really good with that?

A neighbor gifted me from their garden. I like beets but have never fixed them. What is easy and tasty? thanks.

How about this beet hummus, which sounds delightful?

My Instacart shopper bought me three green plantains instead of the three bananas I asked for. I've never cooked a plantain before; I can count on one hand the number of times I've even eaten them. I've been dithering around searching for recipes, found nothing that looked easy enough, and they are now yellow, so most of the recipes that I did find (which called for green plantains) aren't even useful anymore. Should I wait until they're riper (black), and make the Caribbean Black Beans With Sauteed Plantains, or do you have any better ideas? I'm vegetarian, I don't have enough oil to deep fry anything, and I don't have a grill. Thanks!

Plantains of all colors/stages of ripeness are delicious, but you're right that they are prepared differently. I would wait until your yellow plantains have a lot of black spots on them and then pan fry them in canola or coconut oil, then serve with stewed black beans, as in the Caribbean black bean recipe, or I love them on the side of scrambled or sunny-side-up eggs for breakfast. They're great as a side dish for roasted or sauteed chicken, or even as snack, too. The blacker they get, the sweeter they will be. 

I'm going to get 17-18 gigantic green tomatoes from my garden in 2-3 days! Any ideas to turn them into a savory relish?

Naturally, you can fry them and then put them in this BLT.

They can be pickled just like a deli half sour, replacing the cucumbers in this recipe. Quarter the tomatoes first.

This green tomato chutney is delicious. 

Thanks for this recipe. If I use frozen kernels, do they need to be thawed before I put them in the skillet?

No, but you will likely have to wait a bit longer for them to "pop." Here's the recipe in case anyone missed it.

Skillet-cook summer corn and chorizo for tacos that pop with summer flavor

Wait until the plantains are ripe then bake! Like a potato but less time, with a vent, then just eat.

Hi folks, I had a very strange issue this weekend: I hope you can help. I purchased a dry aged steak (porterhouse) from a local high end butcher. We grilled it to medium rare. While eating mine I ate a bite that tasted “different” and experienced a sensation between my tongue and salivary gland. My tongue felt like it was sticking to the bottom of my mouth, almost like super glue. I actually had to stick my finger under my tongue to force it to move. I ate a few more bites (completely fine - delicious) then it happened again! When I looked at the potion I was cutting, a while substance was oozing from the outer edge of the strip side. My husband and I shared the steak, his cuts (bottom half of filet and strip) had no issues. My filet had no issues. What could that white stuff possibly have been? Google was no help. TIA

Maybe call the butcher?

Yes, you've stumped us. Like Kari suggested, you might call a butcher and explain this. We'd love to hear what you hear back.

Cathy Barrow sent the question to Bob del Grosso, who she says "was one of my butchery teachers and has held positions at both CIA and Drexel. He pshaws when I call him a food scientist because he doesn't have a PhD, but he works in the area of food science now." He answered after the chat had ended, but we're adding his answer here post-chat!

 Oh boy, this is interesting.... Okay. Firstly, as a scientist, I cannot give a definitive answer without seeing the meat 'in the flesh.' 😉So if you'd like to quote me, please add some sense of that in your response.

 

Bottom line first: There is nothing bad going on here. What happened was that the meat was unevenly aged and dried in a way that allowed protein and water to accumulate and become trapped within gaps in the muscle(s).

The reason why the trapped plasma was sticky is that it had actually been turned into a kind of glue. During the aging process the proteins (e.g. myoglobin) that are suspended in the plasma (aka 'extracellular fluid') that surround the muscle cells become denatured and unwind. Given enough time some will even break into short strands (peptide). At the same time the plasma become condensed as water evaporates from the meat and into the aging room and beyond. If one could peer inside of this dense, increasingly opaque goop, you see thousands of tiny strands slowly drifting among larger globe shaped proteins in various states of decay. On contact, this stuff would be sticky not simply because it is dense and viscous, but because those broken strands of protein cling to the microscopically tiny pores and ridges of our skin, teeth, tongue etc.

I have most certainly seen what your reader has described before.

As I was reading your column this morning, I was wondering how you saw this happen? Would you think an existing agency would spearhead it or how do you see changes it being implemented?

An excellent question. I think it happens when individual scientists decide to study these things, and try to get them funded. If you're doing something with schools, you need government buy-in, but other than that I like to focus on ideas that don't require political will -- which seems awful hard to come by these days.

I’ve made that recipe three times now, and find even without the dulce de leche, it makes a perfect, sandy shortbread cookie. I’d like to experiment with adding finely ground hazelnuts or pecans, so my question is, do I just add a few teaspoons of nuts, or should I reduce a bit of the flour?

So glad you liked that recipe! I'm sure the recipe source, Camila Hurst, would be thrilled to hear it. Actually what I would do is reduce the cornstarch by however much you want to add of finely ground nuts. I think you want to leave the flour as is so you at least get some of its gluten-forming properties for strength. The cornstarch is really what gives them that sandy, melt-in-your mouth texture, and the ground nuts can do the same thing. Let us know how they turn out!

Alfajores (Cornstarch Cookies With Dulce de Leche)

RECIPE: Alfajores (Cornstarch Cookies With Dulce de Leche)

Why are all cupcake liners fluted? Even the reusable silicon ones? Cupcake pans aren’t fluted.

I suspect ... tradition!

In non-disrupted times I got used to subbing white whole wheat flour instead of white flour in things like muffins. Now I have whole wheat flour and white flour and nothing in between. I've read that it's OK to sub up to 50% of white flour with whole wheat, but what happens after that? The recipe that I'm looking at playing with is basically banana bread in muffin form, with a little baking soda for leavening. If I go up to, say, 75% of whole wheat, am I putting the whole enterprise in danger, or will they just be more dense? They vary a lot between batches already, with bananas varying in size, sometimes subbing a flax egg for the regular kind, etc. What say you, Food gurus?

Actually, my number for being absolutely safe is more like 25 to 33 percent. I think at 75 percent, they will be more dense, yes. And whole wheat flour absorbs more moisture than white flour, so that can throw things off. There are plenty of recipes formulated for 100 percent whole wheat. I often think it's best to find one of those rather than risk altering a recipe that's been designed for AP flour.

This one from King Arthur is a banana bread that calls for white whole wheat, but using regular should be fine and you can definitely convert to muffins.

If you haven't tried white whole wheat flour (which is 100% whole wheat, but from a different kind of wheat), give it a shot. I often use it as a 100% substitute for regular in things like spice cakes and muffins, and the results are very similar. King Arthur sells it, and has excellent suggestions for its use on their web site. 

Yes, the heavy cream is ultra pasteurized. Thanks for the tip. Can I maybe still turn it into buttermilk by finding a kid to shake it in a jar for me?

Sadly, once it's been ultra pasteurized (brought to a temperature of 280 degrees Fahrenheit), it will no longer separate into butter and buttermilk. Pour it over the peaches.

I've been using kosher salt exclusively for years, in cooking/baking as well as on the table for post-serving salting. Recently I read that kosher salt is a lot less salty than finer-ground salt, and that the amount should be doubled if you're using kosher salt in a recipe that calls for 'regular' salt. Is this true? Have I been doing it wrong all these years?

While I haven't read the same piece you have, I think what it might have meant is that since table salt is super-fine granules, 1 teaspoon of it, will contain more salt (weight) than 1 teaspoon of, say, Diamond Crystal kosher salt, and a different weight for, say, Mortons (which is different granularity than DC).... I think salt is salt, but it's how fine or coarse the granules are that determine how much salt you're adding to your food. Does this help? FWIW, I pretty much use kosher salt exclusively also!

Becky wrote this piece: How to choose the right type of salt for your recipe. You might find it helpful.

And, just in case you're trying to cut back on salt, she wrote this: 6 ways to cut back on salt — and keep the flavor — when cooking at home

I have your average gas cooktop - not high output or anything special. For some reason, whenever I set the burners to whatever a recipe says, its ALWAYS too hot. I have to cook everything on low, except boiling water. Is that normal? Is there a way to know how to modify recipes for this?

Oh no! That shouldn't be happening--it may be an issue with your stovetop. My stove runs hot too, but yours seems to be more extreme. You may want to look into a repair, but in the meantime, try to get a gauge of what temperatures are more accurate for your particular stove, and maybe favor the smaller burners for lower-heat needs?

Hi! Thank you for today's chat. I was inspired by Tamar Haspel's "Unearthed" article to attend the chat for the first time! After eating comfort-foods (homemade, with real ingredients but, undoubtedly, calorie-laden) along with my three active, teenage sons, I put on a few pounds and felt sluggish. I decided to start following a plant-based oil-free diet and have been loving it! I now eat healthy vegan soups, stews, and salads, and have experimental with a variety of cuisines from around the world with much success. However, the one issue I am having is needing a healthy substitute for oil in cooking--as so many vegan recipe call for oil. I "water-saute" vegetables when I stir-fry but would love to be able to roast vegetables (and chickpeas and kale!) to golden perfection. Using parchment paper helps prevent sticking, but I'm at a loss for a "crisping" agent that works the way oil does. I would appreciate any suggestions! Thank you!

The last thing I would ever in the whole wide world do is try to talk someone out of a healthful diet that's working for them! But without oil it's very hard to get that crispness you're looking for. That said, if you use a small amount, and toss your vegetables in it before you put them on the parchment paper, it may be a compromise you can live with. And air fryers are also reported to achieve that texture with a very small amount of oil, but I can't vouch for them personally. Good luck!

Place cinnamon - ground or sticks - in boiling water. Turn off the stove. Let it steep.

Yes!

I was inspired by your tomato to make something similar -puff pastry and feta added to the cream cheese and some oregano with farmer's market tomatoes on top. Actually I didn't have enough tomatoes so I added a very small variety of eggplant, cut down the middle. I brushed with oil and some balsamic. It was delish

Oooh, that sounds so good. Happy that my recipe helped you get there.

Everything Tomato Tart

RECIPE: Everything Tomato Tart

I made bread and butter pickles for the first time over the weekend using what I thought were celery seeds but were either dill seeds or anise seeds ( label had fallen off jar). Should I throw pickles out - wait 6 weeks and taste? I just got more cucumbers from my CSA so could try again,

Wow. It's a little hard to wrap my head around anise in a B&B pickle. Dill I could live with. But I'm too curious, so wait 6 weeks and please check back with us. 

If, after 6 weeks, you decide you don't like them I will eat them - if it's pickled I will eat shirt cardboard. 

I just wanted to thank all of you for these weekly chats. You’re the only one I make a point of reading live. My questions nearly always get answered. And you’ve inspired me in so many ways: I bought a kitchen scale (game changer!), have started experimenting with all sorts of things — baking bread and going beyond brownies and banana bread — trying at least one new recipe every week, buying things at the farmers market I never did before. You’re all such a wonderful resource. And I’ll share a kitchen hack I came up with last week. I’ve been buying fresh mozzarella at the farmers market. It’s delicious but since it is balls packed in some sort of liquid it’s been difficult to slice, let alone shred. Then recently I was making egg salad and inspiration struck: Use the egg slicer! Worked like a charm. (Dry it first with a paper towel. Slice, then if you want a more shredded type turn it crosswise and slice again.)

I am just SO excited to read "I bought a kitchen scale (game changer!)" -- I can't even handle it.

On a related note, if you don't have an egg slicer, a pastry cutter! That was a tip from a reader I featured in my clever kitchen tool tips piece.

kitchen tools

ARTICLE: Clever reader tips for alternative uses for single-purpose kitchen tools

Is it true that one should bruise garlic and then wait 10 minutes before cooking it to obtain the most benefit from its active compounds?

There has been research showing that yes, do that if you're wanting to get the most possible benefit from its sulphuric compounds, particularly. It's not a must, but it certainly can't hurt if you're concerned about this to chop/crush and then wait a few minutes, to potentially activate enzymes that make those compounds more available.

I got a bunch of apples (golden delicious, alas) in my CSA share. I can make a crisp or a pie, but is there a preserve-like thing I could do? (Apple jelly is a waste of space in my opinion, but suggestions are welcome!

Why not make this delightful, delicious apple butter? And then spread it on toast or make an insanely good chai-spiced apple butter cake with it?

Lots of home grown. Can't do much dairy. Any different ideas for using them uncooked - like a special dressing or whatever you think. Thanks.

So, last summer Joe made this amazing vegan pasta that I am pretty sure I ate most of after the photo shoot, and then dreamt about it for a year. Last night, I made it with our CSA heirloom tomatoes and it was every bit as glorious as I remember. Highly recommend. Will be a game-changer - and easy, too!

This gorgeous Summer Tomato Panzanella.

Look up a recipe for maduros -- That means mature, or ripe, plantains. I've never prepared it but I could eat maduros endlessly. Some people pour cream on them but I think they're unbelievably delicious plain and for some reason, you can pass them off as a side dish, like potatoes, as well as serve them as dessert.

We have a few plantain recipes in our Recipe Finder, if you're interested.

Hi - I've recently been diagnosed with celiac disease so I need to go 100% gluten-free. I was wondering if you & chatters have favorite resources to recommend -- cookbooks, blogs, prepared foods, etc.? I eat mainly plant-based & pescatarian. One friend has already recommended the America's Test Kitchen ccokbooks, so those are on my list. Thanks!

I recommend Amy Chaplin's latest book, "Whole Food Cooking Every Day," which has wonderful g/f recipes. Also Aran Goyoaga's "Cannelle et Vanille," which is worth it for the gluten-free breads alone!

How to succeed at gluten-free bread baking

Regular Heinz, Simply Heinz, or Organic Heinz. I prefer Simply Heinz made with sugar rathr than corn syrup. Discuss

Raised in Pittsburgh, it's Heinz or die. I shunned all but the "regular" until a shopping error. Now, I'm SIMPLY HEINZ all the way. 

I buy onions in 2-3 pound bags because we’re a household of two and loose onions are ha-yuge. But my pantry is warm, and I can’t use even 2 pounds before they sprout and soften. Advice is NOT to put them in the fridge (and I keep mine at 37F) but I don’t know why. What would happen to them if I put them in the fridge? Cut onions in plastic storage doohickeys keep for several days at least.

Whole onions get mushy if you put them in the fridge. 

How often do you shop, and how many onions do you go through in a week? Could you buy less?

Generally, you want to keep them somewhere cool with lots of air circulation, but ... yeah, I don't have anyplace cool either.

Speaking of boiling beans, Joe -- I made your Texas bowl of red this weekend (using a dutch oven, not a pressure cooker). I remembered from elsewhere that I should boil the kidney beans to reduce the lectins. Your Cool Beans recipe didn't have that note! I may have missed it in the intro -- is it in there? By the way, I'm happily eating a bowl of this while I read this chat.

Glad you're liking those!

Yes, it's always a good idea to boil kidney beans for a few minutes before cooking -- especially when using a slow cooker, since it doesn't get hot enough to reduce the lectins, and they're particularly high in those beans. In my introductory matter at the front of the book I mention this as a standard technique generally for any stovetop pot of beans. For this recipe, the main technique is pressure cooker, and it's unnecessary for that, but I could've certainly included it in the Dutch oven alternative!

you guys are the best - can't wait to eat the tomatoes!

Glad to learn a pastry cutter is useful for something! - I gave up using mine because pastry dough sticks to each of the blades and takes frustratingly long to remove.

With onions (and mushrooms and peppers) that I know will go bad before I can use them, I will saute and freeze. I freeze sized for how I use them. Such as for quiche, a stew, soup, ... Works great for me.

I'm going to get 17-18 giant heirloom tomatoes from my vegetable bed in 2-3 days. Any ideashow I can use them? Any savory relish recipe?

I'd like to shift to vegetarian dinners a few nights a week, but in a way that accommodates omnivores. I am thinking about things like sheet pan dinners, etc. Do you have recommendations of books/bloggers/sites that can help me learn to think this way? I am a comfortable cook and not time/resource constrained (e.g., no hard meal times, no little kids, etc.) but am old enough to have been raised with the "meat in the middle-starch-veg" mindset toward cooking. I need to figure out how to shift while still serving others who prefer to hew to that.

We have the PERFECT newsletter for you--Plant Powered! It's designed to prioritize veggies, with easy add-ins for omnivores. 

I like the wire ones better than the one you show in the photo. Also, the cutter is the absolutely perfect tool for making guacamole that isn't too smooth or pureed.

I use mine for guac, too. And you're right - it's perfect. But I prefer the rigid kind in the picture. The wire ones I've had have trouble getting through stuff like a firm-ish avocado without bending or splaying apart. But your wire one may be better than my wire ones. 

Favorite recipes for fresh picked Swiss chard? Thanks!

I would chop and saute in olive oil, with some garlic, or perhaps with sliced spring onions and raisins, and maybe finish with a splash of good balsamic. But this pesto pasta recipe is a great way to use a lot of it up, and extra pesto freezes well, too. 

Swiss Chard and Rosemary Pesto Pasta

I got my husband the gadget-lover a device that you point at the surface of a pan on a burner and it tells you the temperature. Maybe the poster with the too-hot-running burners could use such a device to figure out how to use her burners?

We have one of these in the lab and I loved using it to check fry oil temp, too. Infrared thermometer.

Green Tomato pie. Uses all the same spices as an apple pie. The green tomatoes have enough body to hold up to the cooking.

in that lovely chai cake? I got Fujis in my CSA share and they're just too sweet for me but they make good applesauce.

Definitely! It's a play on applesauce cake anyway!

I don't like cooking every night. I am, however, perfectly happy to cook a lot of something on the weekend and eat it for a long time. If it tastes good the first night, it still tastes good the fourth night. So, I'm about through a huge vat of ratatouille. And I could make it again, but what about another vegetable stew? Maybe something not European? I don't really like cumin or curry. Spicy is fine. Any ideas? I'm not good at making it up as I go along so I really need a recipe. Thanks so much for any ideas.

We recently did a few pieces on big-batch recipes. You might find them helfpul. 

 

Hi everyone, 
It was fun chatting about summer produce and jam with you all today.

Special thanks to our guests Cathy Barrow, who shared her raspberry jam recipe and lots of tips with us. And, to Tamar Haspel for her insights, too.

Let us know what you would like to chat about next week. Come back and share your questions ahead of time, so we can be ready!

All the best,

Ann

In This Chat
Ann Maloney
Ann Maloney is the Food team recipes editor.
Joe Yonan
Joe Yonan is the Food and Dining editor of The Post and author of "Cool Beans." He writes the Weeknight Vegetarian column.
Cathy Barrow
Cathy Barrow is the author of multiple cookbooks, including "Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Practical Pantry" and "When Pies Fly." She wrote this week's primer on making fruit jam.
Daniela Galarza
Daniela is a Food staff writer.
Tamar Haspel
Tamar Haspel, a freelance writer based in Cape Cod, has been writing about food and health for the better part of two decades. She writes The Post's Unearthed column.
Kari Sonde
Kari Sonde is the Food editorial aide.
Mary Beth Albright
Mary Beth Albright is the Host and Editor of Food Video at The Washington Post.
Becky Krystal
Becky Krystal is a staff food writer at the Post.
Olga Massov
Massov is a Food team assignment editor.
Recent Chats
  • Next: