THE NIBBLE BLOG: Products, Recipes & Trends In Specialty Foods
Also visit our main website, TheNibble.com.



Archive for Kitchenware/Tabletop

TIP OF THE DAY: 10+ Uses For A Trifle Bowl

English Trifle Bowl

English Trifle Bowl

Peanut Butter Trifle

Homemade Edible Arrangement

[1] A classic English trifle (photo courtesy JoyCooks.Blogspot.com). [1] This modern trifle combines peanut butter pudding and pretzels. [3] A good-for-you substitute. Move over, Edible Arrangements (photos #2 and #3 courtesy Pampered Chef).

 

Trifles are one of the easiest desserts you can make—and impressive to present. Most of the ingredients are purchased ready-to-use, with only custard or other pudding requiring a few minutes of preparation.
 
WHAT’S A TRIFLE?

A trifle is a layered British dessert of fruit, sponge fingers or sponge cake soaked, custard, and a topping of whipped cream. Other ingredients can be added (gelatin/Jell-O, cookie crumbs) and the cake can be soaked in alcohol.
 
TRIFLE HISTORY

Trifle is an evolution of a fruit fool, a dessert that probably originated in 15th -century Britain. Puréed stewed fruit was swirled with sweet custard.

The classic was (and is) gooseberry fool, but seasonal fruits—apples, berries, rhubarb—were also used.

Other countries have their own versions that followed the British concept. In Italy, for example, zuppa inglese, a layering of liqueur-soaked sponge and custard, appeared in the late 19th century.

The first known reference to a trifle appears in 1585 in a cookbook, The Good Huswifes Jewell. It was flavored with sugar, ginger and rosewater (a recipe for the well-do-do, as sugar and spices were costly).

The trifle evolved to include a layer of crumbled biscuits (cookies) and alcohol-soaked sponge cake or sponge fingers (ladyfingers) as the bottom layer. Brandy, madeira, port and sherry were used to soak the sponge.

When powdered gelatin* became available in 1845, a layer of fruit “jelly” was added to recipes.

As was so common among the fashionable in Renaissance Britain, France, and other European countries, new foods engendered new styles of dishes and flatware. For trifles, a straight-sided pedestal glass bowl showed off the beauty of the layers.

Today, many people prefer bowls without the pedestal (easier to store), and modern ingredient layers that range from layers of chocolate cake, peanut butter pudding, pretzels and Oreos.

Glass bowls with or without a pedestal are used for other desserts and can also be repurposed. Anyone who owns a straight-sided glass bowl has already figured out how to use it for layered dips, layered salads (fruit, green, pasta) and as a fruit bowl.

It can serve as anything from a bread basket (nice with muffins at brunch) to a chip bowl.

Here are more ways to use a trifle bowl. Thanks to Pampered Chef for some of these ideas and photos.

 

OTHER USES FOR A TRIFLE BOWL

  • Candle Holder. A trifle bowl can make a candle holder with lots of flair. Just place a flame-proof base inside the bowl, place a pedestal candle on top, then fill around the base with any festive decoration: pretty stones, marbles, nuts, wine corks, wood chips. TIP: For the dinner table, use an unscented candle.
  • Centerpiece. For fall, fill the bowl with apples, chestnuts, dried wheat, gourds, Indian corn, mini pumpkins or a combination (photo #4). For the holidays, use candy canes, ornaments, pine cones, or mini evergreen trees (photo #5). For summer: sand and seashells, topped by a starfish. With any season, you can also place that pedastel candle in the center.
  • Desserts. Nouvelle trifle: Think of how to expand beyond the classic. Butterscotch pudding and pretzel layers? Banana pudding and ‘Nilla Wafers? Oreos and whipped cream? Baked Alaska? It’s so much easier to layer the cake and ice cream. Use a kitchen torch to brown the meringue. Or create a stunning fruit salad, either in colored layers or like the one in photo #3.
  • Drinks. Serve party punch or even ice cold shrimp cocktail. It makes a great visual impact that doesn’t require any additional decoration. Beautifully presented food speaks for itself!
  • Flatware. For buffets, wrap the flatware in napkins and present them in the bowl.
  • Flower Vase. Grab a bouquet or two of your favorite blooms and arrange them in the bowl. To hide the stems, try filling the vessel with rocks, fruit, or even crushed ice. Not much of a florist? No worries: Decorating your table with a few vases that have the same flower in the same color creates a pretty, modern look.
  • Ice Bucket. Make it the centerpiece of your drink station. Mini bottles of wine or champagne look just plain adorable displayed in the bowl.
  • Parties. Fill them with anything, from candy to party favors.
  • Punch Bowl. A smaller punch bowl can contain a mocktail version for those who don’t want alcohol (photo #6).
  • Snacks. Chips, pretzels, Chex Mix, etc.
  •  
    What else?

    We look forward to your suggestions!
     
    ________________
    *Gelatin was first extracted by boiling animal bones, in 1682. But this laborious process was only undertaken in large kitchens with staff to prepare it. While gelatin is pure protein, it is colorless, flavorless and odorless, so it also needed to be enhanced for serving.

     

    Fall Centerpiece

    Christmas Centerpiece

    Trifle Bowl For Punch

    [4] Fall centerpiece. [5] Christmas centerpiece. [6] Punch bowl (all photos courtesy Pampered Chef).

     

      

    Comments

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Pizzeria Pronto Stovetop Pizza Oven

    September 5th is National Cheese Pizza Day, honoring the original modern pizza, the Margherita. It was named after Queen Margherita, consort to Umberto I, King of Italy from 1878–1900.

    As the story goes, during a visit to Naples, she asked the best pizza maker in town, Don Raffaele, to make her a pie. He made it in the colors of the Italian flag, a simple but delicious pie of basil, mozzarella and tomatoes. Here’s the history of pizza.

     
    WHAT’S A STOVETOP PIZZA OVEN?

    Simply this: a steel case that sits on top of a gas burner and cooks your pizza atop pizza stones. There’s no electricity, no wood chips, no nuthin’ but the Pizzeria Pronto and your gas range.

    We love it: from the pizza stones that create an oh-so-delightful crust to the top quality ingredients we used. As long as we have dough in the fridge, we can have a pizza anytime we want, better than anything delivered. efficient new way to make pizza at home.

    Pizzeria Pronto is made by Companion Group, a company that began more than 30 years ago with the original Charcoal Companion charcoal chimney starter. The line now includes other grilling tools and accessories, and the Pizzacraft® line of artisan-quality pizza stones, pizza ovens, tools and accessories.

    In 2013 the company launched the first propane-fueled outdoor portable pizza oven, which pre-heats in 10 minutes and cooks the pie in 5 minutes. In 2016, the indoor Pizzeria Pronto® Stovetop Pizza Oven was released nationwide—the first gas range-powered indoor oven.

    Small but mighty, Pizzeria Pronto transforms your favorite dough and toppings into perfectly-cooked pizzas in just minutes (after all, the name means “pizza in a hurry”). With its heat-efficient design, it traps and reflects heat to harness the power of your gas range, creating an optimal cooking environment of up to 600°F. Yet, the room is no warmer than if you used your oven.
     
    How To Use Pizzeria Pronto Stovetop Pizza Oven

  • Simply place the round oven over a gas burner and turn on the flame.
  • The inside of the oven reaches 600°F, much higher than a conventional oven.
  • It preheats in 15 minutes and cooks a personal-size pizza in 6 minutes. TIP: If you want to keep the first pizzas hot while you cook more, keep them warm in a conventional oven preheated to 500°F.
  • You also need a personal-size pizza peel to insert and remove the pizza from the oven. The company sells one separately.
  •  
    The electric plug-in pizza ovens we’ve tried can’t hold a candle to it.

    It’s well worth the space it requires if you’d like to make pizza weekly or more often. We don’t have extra room in our kitchen so we did a bit of housecleaning. So long, old backup food processor and biannually-used waffle iron.
     
    WHERE TO FIND IT

    Pizzeria Pronto is available at major retailers such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma and online. Williams-Sonoma carries a gray-top model instead of the standard red-orange model shown in the photos.

    Prices vary but it’s currently $106.27 on Amazon (a deep discount off the MSRP of $179.99).

     

    Pizzeria Pronto

    Pizzeria Pronto

    Pizzeria Pronto

    Pizzeria Pronto

    [1] Place the oven on the stovetop and turn up the flame to preheat. Add the pizza. [2] Close the oven door. [3] Cook for six minutes. [4] Remove the pizza, fragrant and bubbling. Photos courtesy Pizzeria Pronto .

     
    Before buying, take a minute to look at the bottom of this page to see if your gas burners will work.

    OUR FIRST PIZZERIA PRONTO PARTY

    We invited the crowd over for a pizza party and bought (or over-bought, as is our won’t) the ingredients: regular and whole wheat doughs, sauces and cheeses for red and white pies.

    We provided lots of toppings: anchovies, garlic, jalapeños, mini meatballs, mushrooms, olives, onion and zucchini. But the crust (dough purchased from Fairway), sauce (the Classico brand Riserva line [not Bertolli Riserva]), mozzarella and ricotta (Bel Gioso) were so good that most people opted for a plain pie.

    We personally, however, had anchovies from Cento: not salty, just right.
     
    FEATURES & TIPS

    Features

  • Steel casing with a heat-efficient design (you won’t feel that it’s 600° of heat).
  • Ttwo Cordierite baking stones diffuse the heat and deliver a perfect crust.
  • Very little assembly required. You need no technical skill whatsoever.
  • The built-in thermometer tells you when it’s time to add the pizza.
  • A moisture vent on top prevents the crust pizza from becoming soggy.
  • Dimensions: 16.93 inches x 14.25 inches x 6.69 inches. Weight: 14.7 pounds, which we (non-athletic female) had no trouble lifting.
  • Not for use with electric or induction stoves.
  •  
    Tips

  • You’ll need cornmeal (semolina), so the bottom of the crust doesn’t stick to the stone plate.
  • Be sure to have a good pizza cutter and a brush to clean the pizza stone afterward.
  • One package of store-bought dough (we bought the fresh dough that comes in a plain plastic bag), meant for one large pie, makes two personal pizzas.
  •  
    HAVE FUN WITH IT!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Use Egg Molds Or Cookie Cutters For Pancakes

    Whether Dad likes pancakes or fried eggs for breakfast, make Father’s Day special: Shape his breakfast with egg/pancake molds.

    If you can’t pick up molds in time, you can use cookie cutters. Since they don’t have handles, you’ll need a spatula, kitchen tongs and dexterity to lift the cooked eggs.
     
    HOW ELSE CAN YOU USE THE MOLDS?

    We’ve molded:

  • Cheeses that fry without melting: halloumi (Greece), paneer (India), queso blanco or queso para frier (Mexico)
  • Chocolate, melted and shaped into a medallion for topping an iced cake
  • Dough (use the egg molds as cookie cutters in a pinch [the edge is not as sharp for cutting as a cookie cutter])
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Meat loaf
  • Rice or other grains
  •  
     
    WHAT WOULD YOU MOLD?

    We’d love to have a longer list of foods to shape with our egg/pancake molds.

     

    Chocolate Heart Pancakes

    Fried Egg Molds

    Top: I [heart] you, Dad (photo and recipe from The Baker Chick). Bottom: A set of molds from Neon, available on Amazon. The handles fold down for easy storage.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Herb & Spice Grinders

    Some recipes instruct you to grind herbs or spices. In our grandmother’s day, that meant using a mortar and pestle. In our mother’s day, it meant using the coffee grinder for herbs and spices.

    Mom, a purist, had a second grinder for that purpose. Other folks had to first grind uncooked rice in their coffee grinder to remove minute particles of coffee, or else suffer coffee-accented spices.

    Today, manufacturers are doing more to meet the needs of home cooks. McCormick, for example, sells four popular herbs—basil, Italian blend, oregano and parsley—in non-refillable glass grinder bottles (center photo).

    On the spice end, McCormick has grinders for peppercorns and peppercorn-herb blends, seasoned salt blends and plain salt grinders.

    There are herb mills and spice grinders, a.k.a. mills, but we especially like the new Kyocera “Everything Grinder” (bottom photo—more about the mill below). Technically, “mill” refers to the entire device and “grinder” to the grinding mechanism inside the mill.

    FOOD 101: HERBS, MINERALS & SPICES—THE DIFFERENCE

    Herbs, minerals and spices are three options to flavor foods.

  • Herbs are parts of leafy green plants, such as leaves and stems.
  • Spices are bark, berries, fruits, roots or seeds of plants. Peppercorns are the berries of a vine.
  • Minerals are solid inorganic substances. Salt is a mineral. Other minerals used in cooking include baking powder, baking soda, citric acid, MSG and tartaric acid. Sugar is not a mineral since it is derived from the sap of a plant.
  • Herbs and spices lose their flavor over time, but salt retains its flavoring.
  •  
    THE KYOCERA EVERYTHING MILL

    Now, one mill grinds everything: dried herbs, pepper, salt, seeds and spices: the Kyocera Everything Mill With Adjustable Advanced Ceramic Grinder.

    The company states that its advanced ceramic burr mill mechanism, close in hardness to a diamond, will outlast any metal-based grinding mill. Is adjusts from fine to coarse grinds.

     

    Marble Mortar & Pestle

    McCormick Oregano Spice Grinder

    Kyocera Everything Mill

    Top: Marble mortar and pestle from RSVP. Center: McCormick Spice Grinder. Bottom: Kyocera Everything Mill.

     
    The mill features a glass body, ceramic grinding mechanism and acrylic top. The glass base is dishwasher safe, and all components are rustproof.
     

    In addition to salt and peppercorns, you can grind celery, cumin, dill, flax, mustard and sesame seeds; any spices including red pepper flakes; and any dried herbs.

    To grind pliant fresh herbs you’ll still need a mortar and pestle (preferably) or a spice mill/coffee grinder with a metal blade. We’ve tried both and strongly recommend hand-grinding with a mortar and pestle for the finest flavor. Metal blades tear the leaves in a way that releases the oil in a different way. You’ll also need the mortar or metal blades stop grind nuts.

    But for most grinding, you can count on the Kyocera Everything Mill. There’s a color for every kitchen: Apple Green, Bright Black, Brilliant White, Candy Apple Red, Translucent Blue and Translucent Maroon.

    At $19.95, they make good gifts for your favorite cooks. All colors are available on Amazon.com.
     
    FUN: The History Of Coffee Grinders.


      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The Best Oven Mitts

    When you’re working with hot oven pans, stove pot handles, steaming pasta pots and the like, you need more protection than a cloth oven mitt. Otherwise, be prepared to say “Ouch!”

    We tossed our cloth oven mitts 15 years ago when the first Orka silicone oven mitts debuted. No matter pleasing the design—or the ability to wear a matching apron—cloth mitts didn’t provide enough burn protection.

    Beyond protection against burns, cloth mitts are neither waterproof nor oil-proof—and get pretty stained pretty fast.

    If you haven’t yet heeded the call, it’s time to toss your cloth oven mitts and bring in the heavy hitter: silicone.
     
    THE SOLUTION: SUPERFLEX GLOVES FROM THE TRIUMPHANT CHEF

    While there are numerous silicone mitts on they market, we recently gave our older ones away in favor of what we think is the new best: the Silicone Flex Mitt from The Triumphant Chef.

    They’re the latest generation of silicone: super-flexible, yet still heat resistant up to 450°F.

  • The no-slip silicone grips better than cloth—and even better grip from the circle-and-spoke pattern.
  • You can flip chops, steaks, hot dogs on the grill without tools.
  • You can easily hold down a turkey or roast while you carve it.
  • You can fully clean them in the sink with soap and hot water—or in the dishwasher.
  •  
    A couple of decades ago, Playtex Living Gloves promoted themselves as “so flexible, you can pick up a dime. We didn’t easily pick up a dime with Flex Mitts, but it was a cinch to pick up a quarter.

    Like those Living Gloves, they have a soft cloth liner, here quilted. They’re currently on sale at Amazon.com for $13.83 a pair, plus a bonus silicone basting brush. The gloves are available in:

  • Black
  • Canary Yellow
  • Dark Red
  • Lime Green
  • Royal Blue
  • Royal Purple
  •  
    Get them for your favorite cooks for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, summer grilling weekends…and think ahead to Christmas season.

     
    THE HISTORY OF OVEN MITTS

    For much of man’s history, hot pots and pans were handled with cloth. One source notes that mittens have been in use for more 1,000 years for a wide range of protective purposes, including protecting hands from hot ovens.

    If so, they were abandoned somewhere along the line for the presumably more effective potholders.

    Apparently, a Texan named Earl Mitt (seriously?) came up with the idea in the early 1870s, after a bad burn while baking. In an effort to prevent getting burned again, he invented the first oven mitt from shoe leather and wool. After experimenting with different materials and designs, he finally came up with the oven mitt style of cooking glove. [Source]

    Today, the outer layers are typically made of cotton or polyester, while the inner layer is filled with an insulator fabric.

    Thanks, Earl; but they’re old technology now. Along with potholders, they provide incomplete protection against high heat, steam and oil splattering. A user can be scalded by boiling water and burned hot pans and steam.

    What are you waiting for?

     

    All Clad pot from Williams-Sonoma. It can be monogrammed!All-Clad Pasta Pot

    Tramontana Deep Fryer

    Super Flex Silicone Oven Gloves

    Super Flex Oven Mitts

    Do you really want to touch a hot pot with kitchen towels or cloth oven mitts? (All-Clad Pasta Pot and Tramontino Deep Fryer from Williams-Sonoma). Bottom: Our favorite protection, Super Flex Oven Mitts from The Triumphant Chef, with a soft quilted liner and a bonus matching basting brush.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Other Uses For A Paella Pan

    Shrimp Paella

    A paella pan from IMUSA USA. The delicious shrimp and bay scallop paella has lots of fresh spring peas.

     

    Today is National Paella Day, one of our favorite foods. It’s a great party dish. It can feed a crowd. It can be served at the table or can sit on a buffet. It can be a special weekend dinner. Any leftovers can be microwaved for lunch at work—but it tastes just fine at room temperature.

    Paella can be made on a stovetop or atop a grill. In fact, it was originally a worker’s meal, cooked in the field over a wood fire.

    Here’s the history of paella, and a recipe for paella on the grill.

     
    DO YOU NEED A PAELLA PAN TO MAKE PAELLA?

    Paella pans were developed to meet specific criteria for cooking the dish. If you don’t have a paella pan, you can use a large skillet, of course.

    Be sure that it’s a flat-bottomed conventional, nonstick skillet. If you want soccorat, the caramelized rice an the bottom of the pan which many people cherish, it won’t happen in a nonstick pan. (That said, there are nonstick paella pans for those who would rather not scrub the rice off the bottom of the pan.)

    The major “pro” for the skillet is that you don’t have to buy a piece of specialized cookware.

     
    Not surprisingly, there are more reasons to use a paella pan.

  • First is the diameter. Paella pans are very large so you can make a lot at once. Paella is usually served as a large family meal or for a party. It takes enough effort so that you want leftovers, too. A 15″ pan is fine for family dinners, and since the pans are made in one-inch increments (15″, 16″, 17″, 18″, etc.) the choices are staggering,
  • Diameter is important so the rice can be spread out to cook properly; a layer half an inch deep is ideal. Pans are made up to 50 inches in diameter. The jumbo ones are for restaurant use; but on a consumer level.
  • Another important criterion is even heat distribution.
  •  
    In sum, the shape was developed over time to be ideal for…cooking paella!
     
    OTHER USES FOR A PAELLA PAN

    Beyond paella, the pan can easily substitute for skillets, griddles and baking and roasting pans.

  • Make breakfast. You can cook larger amounts of bacon, eggs, and pancakes in a wok than in most frying pans and griddles.
  • Fry or sauté fish and meat. A paella pan is much larger than a standard frying pan. You can fit numerous chicken breasts, chops, fish fillets or steaks, even large steaks, without crowding the pan.
  • Make stir fries. Don’t have a wok? Use your paella pan to stir fry.
  • Bake and roast. Need an extra baking sheet or roasting pan? Bake those biscuits or roast that chicken in your paella pan!
  • Serve. If your pan looks new enough, use it as a serving tray.
  • Use as a plancha. A plancha is a flat-top metal grill that gets very hot, enabling cut-up food or small items like shrimp to cook quickly. It’s the high-heat, quick-cooking Spanish version of a wok.
  •  
    If you have other kitchen uses for paella pans, we’d love to hear them!
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Cold-Pressed Juice

    “What is cold-pressed juice,” our aunt asked us recently, “and should I be drinking it instead of Tropicana?”

    While we don’t focus on health foods, we’ll give the topic a bit of attention.

    Cold-pressed juicing has existed for decades among health-food devotées, and generated attention in the 1990s as more sophisticated home juicers came onto the market.

    But it has become much more visible over the last few years as some celebrities (Gwyneth, Kim et al) have publicized their juice fasts for dieting and/or health.

    This engendered the current juicing fad, made more visible by the proliferation of shops and delivery services selling pricey cold-pressed juice. (By the same token, buying produce at retail for pressing juice at home is not inexpensive.)
     
    SHOULD YOU SWITCH TO COLD-PRESSED JUICE?

    If you’re a juice drinker, or are thinking about it, know that there is little scientific evidence to support the claim that cold-pressed juice contains more nutrients than pasteurized juices, or those you could hand-squeeze at home. However, when the juice is unfiltered and cloudy, it indicates a higher level of fiber.

    What is known is that any juice begins to lose nutrients immediately after squeezing, and should consumed quickly if you want to capture every iota of nutrition. Those juices made commercially under high pressure processing (HPP) hold their nutrients longer. Hard-core juicers argue that cold-pressed is better than HPP. Here’s the argument.
     
    PRESSING JUICE AT HOME

    There are two main categories of home juicers:

  • Centrifugal juicers (top photo) have an upright design; the produce food is pushed into a rapidly spinning mesh chamber with sharp teeth on the bottom (like a blender). The teeth shred the produce into a pulp, and the centrifugal motion pulls the juice out of the pulp and through the mesh filter.
  • Masticating juicers (second photo) are horizontal in design and higher in price. Produce is pushed into the top of the tube, where it is crushed and squeezed. Because of the slower crushing and squeezing action, these juicers are better at processing leafy greens and wheatgrass, a limitation of centrifugal juicers. The process extracts more juice in general.
  • Commercially cold-pressed juice (HPP) uses a hydraulic press, crushing the produce under extremely high pressure with cold water to counter the heat generated by the process (heat destroys nutrients; the water does not mix with the juice). This gives the juice a refrigerated shelf life of 30 days or so, compared to only 2 to 4 days for those extracted without high pressure.
  •  
    OUR AFFORDABLE SOLUTION

    Before we had ever heard the term “cold-pressed juice,” we were hooked on a Red Jacket Orchards, a family juice brand produced in New York’s Finger Lakes region that’s delicious, nutritious, unfiltered and affordable.

    They’ve been selling cold-pressed apple juices and blends for 50 years. We’re not a committed juicer; we just love the refreshing flavor as a glass of juice or a cocktail mixer.

    We like every flavor, but are hooked on Joe’s Half & Half.

    The company sells it online; use the store locator to find a retailer near you. Online, three 32-ounce bottles are $31, including shipping.

     

    Centrifugal Juicer

    Masticating Juicer

    Cold Pressed Juice

    Red Jacket Joe's Half & Half

    Top: The Kuvings NJ-9500U Centrifugal Juice Extractor, $149 on Amazon.com. Second: A masticating juicer from Omega, $299.99 at Amazon.com. Third: Cold-pressed juice at Trader Joe’s. Bottom: Red Jacket, a brand that’s been quietly selling cold-pressed juice for 50 years.

     
    That’s a lot more affordable than the 16-ounce bottle of cold-pressed juice at the juice shop on the corner!

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: 21st Century Uses For Ball Jars

    Blue Mason Jar

    Ball Jar Clear Lid

    Ball Drinking Mason Jar

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/drinking jar straw lid blue 230s

    Ball Jar With Salad

    Top: Ball jar in the new blue color. Second: A blue lid band enlivens clear Ball jars. Third: The jar gets a handle to make drinking hot and cold beverages easier. Fourth: A Sip & Straw lid addition for the jars. Bottom: A layered salad in a quart-size jar (here’s the recipe). Photos courtesy Ball.

     

    Whether you call them Ball jars, Kerr jars, Mason jars or some other name, canning jars, a 19th century product, have been repurposed in the 21st. (See the history below.)

    First, there’s a color version—blue—in both the three sizes of jars, and color-banded lids. The blue jars join the limited edition green and purple jars. Both products—jars and lids—are sold separately.

    They join other recent product innovations:

  • Ball Drinking Mason Jars, with a handle to make holding the a hot or cold beverage much easier. They can be used with Sip & Straw Lids, the Infuser, or any Ball lid (third photo).
  • Ball Sip & Straw Lids for regular or wide mouth Ball jars, for easy sipping. They come with a reusable straw that is wide enough for sipping smoothies and milkshakes (fourth photo).
  •  
    See the entire line at FreshPreservingStore.com.
     
    OTHER USES FOR BALL JARS

    Fans have come up with the most ingenious uses to repurpose Mason jars, from liquid soap dispensers to smartphone speakers. After-market hardware is manufactured to create them—that’s how many people repurpose Mason jars.
     
    We’ve also seen these clever applications: blender jar, night lights and party string lights, salt and pepper shakers, sewing kit, terrarium and twine dispenser. Take a look at these.

    But for us everyday folks, beyond canning there are:

    Food Uses

  • Airtight canisters for coffee, crackers, nuts, spices, tea, trail mix, etc.
  • Baking vessel for individual mini cheesecakes, muffins, pies, etc.
  • Cake-in-a-jar
  • Gift packaging for candy, cookie, etc.
  • Leftovers
  • Refrigerator storage (olives, pickles, etc.)
  • Serving individual portions of anything (cereal, cobbler, muffin, salad, etc.)
  •  
    Non-Food Uses

  • Airtight jar for paint, etc.
  • Desk organizers, from crayons to paper clips
  • Tea candle holders or homemade candles
  • Vase
  •  
    What’s your favorite use?

     
    THE HISTORY OF CANNING

    The first can was a glass jar.

    We take canned food for granted, but it is a relatively recent invention—and we owe it to Napoleon Bonaparte. In his time (1769-1821), food preservation was limited to salting, drying and pickling, techniques that had existed for thousands of years.

    Needing a better solution for his troops, in 1795 the French general, known for declaring that “an army marches on its stomach,” got the French government to offer 12,000 francs to anyone who invented a new way to preserve food.

    The prize was ultimately won by Nicholas Appert, a chef, confectioner and distiller, who began experimenting when the award was announced and finally submitted his invention 14 years later, in 1809.

    Appert hermetically sealed food in airtight glass jars and heated them—a method similar to today’s home preserving in Mason jars. Appert thought that driving the air out of the containers prevented the spoilage, but 100 years later, Louis Pasteur showed that it was the elimination of bacteria through sterilization that did the trick.

    Napoleon tried to keep the new process a secret so that enemy armies would not have the advantage, but the word leaked out. Appert’s method was so easy that it quickly became widespread. Appert, who also invented the bouillon cube, became known as the “father of canning.”

    The following year another Frenchman, Pierre Durand, patented a method using a tin container. The lighter, breakage-proof tin cans would become the norm for commercial use, although homemakers, lacking canning equipment, continued to use the jars. In 1812, an English company purchased both patents and began producing canned preserves.

    While canning crossed the ocean to America and canneries began to preserve seasonal foods and perishables, most Americans still cooked with fresh and dried staples—plus whatever they “put away” in Mason jars. Canned food did not become the everyday food delivery system we rely on until the beginning of the 20th century.

     
    The Invention Of The Mason Jar

    In 1858, the first Mason jar was designed and patented. Philadelphia tinsmith John Landis Mason developed the jar specifically to withstand the high temperatures necessary for sterilizing pickles. He received a patent in 1858, but ultimately sold his rights and never enjoyed the financial rewards of his invention.
     
    The jars also became known as Ball jars after an early producer, Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Company. In 1903, Alexander H. Kerr founded the Hermetic Fruit Jar Company and created the Kerr brand, including the first wide-mouth jars (easier to fill) and jars with a metal lid that had a permanently-attached gasket.
     
    This made the lids easy to use and inexpensive. Kerr subsequently invented the threaded metal ring that held the lid down during the hot water processing and allowed re-use of canning jars: the two-part lid on the jar we know today.

    Today the Ball and Kerr brands are manufactured in the U.S. by Jarden Corp. Here’s a more detailed history.

    Currently, the history of the Mason jar ends with the wane of home canning. The growth of the artisan food movement helped sales, but on a small scale.

    Ball pursued expanding the use of the jars for 21st-century consumers. The result: today’s fashion of serving drinks and food in the jars—and jars and lids adapted for those purposes.

    What’s next? We eagerly await the news.

     
      

    Comments

    VALENTINE’S DAY: Low Calorie & No Calorie Gifts

    Keurig Pantone Red Brewer

    Rick's Picks Assortment

    Top: The Keurig 2.0 H200, which makes single cups as well as carafes. Bottom: Rick’s Picks: Great flavor, few calories.

     

    As you eye the sea of Valentine chocolates, what can you get for loved ones who can’t have (or don’t care for) chocolate?

    Some people don’t want the calories, others can’t have the caffeine or the sugar, and rarely, a few are allergic to chocolate.

    For those who avoid caffeine and chocolate, there are scrumptious macarons, artisan (“gourmet”) marshmallows, creamy fudge, fine red licorice and other confections. But they’re still packed with sugar.

    But what if you need to avoid the sugar entirely?

    There’s sugar-free candy, but it’s pretty unexciting. Here are what we’d like to get for Valentine’s Day.
     
    FOR COFFEE LOVERS: KEURIG 2.0 K200 SINGLE CUP BREWER

    This new model comes in seven colors, including red for your Valentine. It not only brews a single cup, but a 4-cup carafe, with a single touch.

    There’s a separate setting for specialty beverages such as chai, hot cocoa and mochas. And with more than 500 varieties of coffee, tea, specialty beverages and iced beverages, your Valentine has lots of choices.

    The carafe is sold separately; you can also add a Valentine mug (something with hearts?) to express your affection.

    Get yours at Keurig.com. The list price is $109.99.

    If you don’t want to spend that much, head to the nearest housewares department and get a red water bottle or red implements—spatulas, slotted spoons, etc.—to fill a Valentine mug.

     
    FOR PICKLE LOVERS: RICK’S PICKS PICKLE CLUB

    Good pickles are on our list of yummy foods with few calories.

    One of America’s great pickle makers offers a club that delivers four varieties, four times a year. The club is $ 199.95, including shipping.

    There’s also a Top-Seller Pack, $ 48.95, and a Rick’s Picks Sampler for $64.95.

    Order yours at RicksPicks.com.

    For a less expensive gift, head to your nearest fine market or specialty food store, pick up a single jar of Rick’s Picks, and tie a red ribbon around the neck.
     
    NOT INTO PICKLES? TRY STRAWBERRIES

    If your Valentine prefers sweet to tangy, consider Edible Arrangements or create your own strawberry basket. Look for the biggest, freshest strawberries, find a lovely small basket, and don’t forget the red bow!

     

    FOR SODA DRINKERS: SODASTREAM SPLASH PLAY

    There are red SodaStream machines that make calorie-free sodas and flavored waters. The brand has recently released a new machine, the Sodastream Splash Play, designed by Yves Béhar, a Swiss designer and sustainability expert.

    It carbonates water with touch button activation as well as quick snap-lock bottle insertion. It requires no electricity. It has a small footprint.

    Not only is it fun; it saves you from hauling home bottles of soda, and from tossing the empties into the landfill.

    For calorie counters and water enthusiasts, SodaStream also has a new line of waters, made with all natural sweeteners and colors, called Sparkling Gourmet. It has chef-inspired flavors, including Green Apple Cucumber, Blackcurrant Lime, Coriander Apple Blossom, and Lime Basil. All with 45 calories per 8-ounce serving.

     

    Sodastream Play

    Give a Sodastream in Valentine Red.

     
    There are also calorie-free flavored water options, and plenty of diet sodas.

    AND, if you own a Sodastream, you know that there are two different sizes of carbon dioxide tanks for different models, and they aren’t interchangeable. The Splash Play can use either of them! Bravo, Sodastream.

    Get yours at Sodastream.com. It’s $79.99.

      

    Comments

    GIFTS: New For Coffee Lovers

    We were recently asked about what gift to give a college student who lives in a dorm. Our thoughts immediately went to the new Keurig 2.0 K200/K250 Brewing System.

    KEURIG 2.0 K200/K250 SINGLE SERVE BREWER

    Designed with a smaller, more compact footprint, the K200/K250 (the difference is extra accessories) is sized right for small kitchens, dorm rooms, small office spaces (we have one on our desk).

    The best small footprint single-serve machine we’ve tried, it takes up half the space of our Keurig 2.0 K450. The Keurig 2.0 series brews a single-serve cup or 4-cup carafe (the carafe is an extra purchase and uses a larger pod).

    It’s also good for homes that don’t brew a lot of single-serve coffee. If you just brew one or two cups in the morning and/or evening, why take up the space with a 70-ounce water reservoir?

    The SRP is $109.99. Learn more at Keurig.com.

     
    K-CUPS FOR THE HOLIDAYS

       

    Keurig K200 Single Serve

    Small footprint, big convenience: the Keurig 2.0 K200 series. Photo courtesy Keurig.

     
    Keurig offers an astounding 500 K-Cup varieties from more than 75 brands. For the holidays, you can give some of these to anyone who has a compatible brewer:

  • Green Mountain Coffee Holiday Blend
  • Green Mountain Coffee Gingerbread
  • Green Mountain Coffee Wicked Winter Blend
  • The Original Donut Shop Holiday Buzz
  • The Original Donut Shop Peppermint Bark
  • The Original Donut Shop Sweet & Creamy Maple Crème
  •  

    Kyocera Slim Adjustable Coffee Mill

    The ceramic grinder is better than a metal
    blade. Photo courtesy Kyocera.

     

    KYOCERA SLIM ADJUSTABLE COFFEE MILL

    Coffee purists won’t use K-cups. They want their beans freshly ground.

    There have long been single-cup coffee makers, but this is the first grinder we’ve personally that’s great for small brews. It’s sized to grind the beans for one or two cups, instead of an entire pot.

    It’s the right gift for the coffee lover who wants to brew freshly ground beans.

    The grinder has a highly durable ceramic grinding mechanism; the adjustable dial enables fine to coarse grinds. A nice addition is the non-slip silicon base that provides stability when grinding.

    It’s $44.95 at KyoceraAdvancedCeramics.com

     

      

    Comments



    © Copyright 2005-2016 Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. All images are copyrighted to their respective owners.