Now, I know canning seems like a massive undertaking. There’s the canner or pressure cooker, jars, lids, special utensils, special ingredients . . . it all seems like so much. Fortunately, summer is also known for something else: ubiquitous garage sales. You can acquire almost everything you need to start canning next week for less than $20, and the only really hard part is finding produce at a good price for all your projects. Luckily “u-pick” farms may be found in every direction, where you can procure fruits and vegetables at a significant discount compared to retail. Just after the start of blueberry season, I was able to go picking and hauled away ten pounds at $1.85/lb., a steal compared to $4 for a dry pint (10 oz.) at the store!
Category Archives: Cooking with Blake
Cooking with Blake: Aioli
There are two times of the year when we seek to test our culinary mettle against friends and family: the winter holiday and grilling season. While we resort to time-honored family recipes in the winter, summer favors variety and experimentation, often in the form of handheld meals that cry out for a little something extra . . . perhaps a little hidden moisture that pushes the dish into mouth-watering territory. Forget the mayo, reach for the aioli.
Cooking with Blake: Making roasted potatoes perfect every time
Everyone is impressed when you can pull off a grand meal or serve that fancy dish you saw on television, but something that people will always talk about no matter how simple or elegant the dish is how well you can cook your starches. I can’t even recall how many times I’ve been disappointed with an otherwise great meal because the rice was gummy, the crust was soggy, or the potatoes were too hard or burned. Think about it; have you ever had a pie with a nice crackly crust and not remarked about it? Hopefully, I can set you on that path today.
Knives: the most important kitchen tool
Having a sharp, comfortable knife facilitates so many things for the cook. A sharp knife allows for more precise and uniform cutting, less fatigue from use, less risk to you since less force is used, and the most important benefit: less crying from onions. Most likely a result of maintaining my own knives and becoming accustomed to that standard, it now feels like I’m slicing with a brick whenever I visit a friend and get to enjoy whatever knife set was cheapest at the department store last decade. Here’s hoping we can change that.
The price of spice: tips on how to lower spice prices
I have a confession. Despite my greatest efforts, like many of you, I, too have a habit of neglecting my spice rack until I go to reach for a familiar bottle — only to remember that it ran out the previous week — which leads me to the second worse aspect of running out of a spice: buying it. Take cinnamon sticks, for instance. I don’t think I have ever seen McCormick brand cinnamon sticks priced at anything less than one dollar a stick. However, here is one secret: go to the ethnic foods aisle.
Great wine-filled evenings are within your reach
On January 21 I learned of a group I had never heard of, the American Wine Society, Electric City Chapter. I obtained the typical meeting time and their next event was to be that very day at the Scranton Cultural Center, so on a whim I decided to stop by and see what the gathering would entail. The following day I found myself seriously considering membership because of how entertaining and educational my evening had been.
Cooking with Blake: On the state of food service workers today
Recently, general food service workers across the nation went on strike in order to protest low wages and lack of benefits, calling for an increase of the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 per hour. Many in the media were quick to point out that these are unskilled positions that should not be highly paid, and are not what many consider to be careers. Furthermore, anecdotally, several of my highly-trained cook and chef peers (excluding executive and sous chefs) expressed resentment over the proposed raise in pay for all food service laborers, feeling that it diminished their own worth as more skilled kitchen workers, as the suggested $15 per hour is equal to or greater than their current pay rate in this area, no matter their years of restaurant cooking expertise or culinary schooling.
Cooking with Blake: Baking tips
With one of the heaviest baking seasons looming, or already in full swing for some of us, this month I decided to include a helpful list of general baking tips sure to help you become the envy of your family gatherings. Some of these tips will help you churn out sheet trays of sweets as gifts, or refine some aspects of a dessert to make a story-worthy evening. Most are simple, and some you may already be well aware of, but with any luck you’ll still find something new to implement.
Fall’s bounty offers squash in all its forms
Squash is a staple for me in the latter parts of the year for its great versatility in the kitchen, easily finding a niche at all skill levels, while simultaneously being extremely affordable and filling.
Shopping Tips: Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A shelf of oils at the market turned into half an aisle, nearly all of which contained different olive oils, often in plastic jugs or clear glass bottles. The consumer was abandoned to wade through this deluge of product on their own with sometimes no idea of what to select. Now, with a mature olive oil market before us, let me share some tips and suggestions to transform you, the reader, into a more informed olive oil consumer.