I didn’t quite know what to call this themed-menu: Jars for Dinner? A Jarred Feast? Cooking in Jars? This meal—strewn with jars—is a perfect ‘confession’ of my obsession with jars.
Yes: I am obsessed. I adore jars, I go to garage sales and estate sales in search of jars. I find dilapidated boxes full of forgotten, apparently past-their-prime preserving jars. Perhaps the whole notion feels like a rescue mission? I find these once well-used, annually-filled jars caked with dust and tossed into even dustier boxes. I scoop them up, take them home and wash out the cobwebs. I buy new sealers and rubber rings, I place them like trophies on an open kitchen ledge. I cradle them with my eyes, take pictures of them and make big plans for building pantries on my urban farm.
Then, when the fruit is plump and the bounty is in: they become the useful, preserve-filled vessels they were meant to be.
Pickles, jams, chutneys and salsas fill hot jars just under the brim. Lids sing ‘plink, plink, plunk’ as they seal in their respective seasonal bounty—and the jars once again stand proud. My affection for them rises.
When empty, I use jars for all sorts of things. Whether holding pencils or leftover soup, buttons or fresh flowers, simple syrup or bacon grease. Jars in my kitchen boast spice labels and showcase arborio rice, line my shelves as water glasses and keep coffee grounds fresh. I told you it was an obsession… but perhaps a healthy one? I liken my ever-increasing use of jars to ‘Ziploc replacement therapy.’ Jars are a re-usable receptacle, after all.
And did you know? You can cook right in jars. For this all-jar feast I warmed dip in individual servings for an appetizer, made soup, souffles, biscuits and even pie all in individual jars. This jarred meal took place at my brother and sister-in-laws’ lakeside home in Bellingham, WA—a casual and fun-filled meal with relatives.
The menu started with two summery cocktails ‘shaken,’ chilled and served in jars. Next I offered two appetizers—a jarred preserve served with cheese, and individual jars filled with just-baked dip. The soup coarse included corn biscuits and salmon chowder with fresh zucchini, tomatoes and just-clipped herbs (both the biscuits and soup were cooked right in the jars!). The main coarse: individual, ‘jarred’ potato souffles served with herb/shallots/goat cheese stuffed and grilled pork loin. No jar? Actually yes: I took homemade Chianti Jelly as a base for a divine wine sauce to accompany the pork. I do that sometimes: use preserves as a base for salad dressings, meat sauces or even to flavor cocktails or homemade soda. It’s not cheating… it’s smart! Besides, I wanted this meal to ‘parade’ the many uses of jars, from cocktail shaker to drinking glasses, candle and flower holders, as baking/cooking vessels and much more.
For dessert: pie in a jar. Actually it was hard to choose: shall I make cheesecake in a jar? A crumble or crisp? Individual tiramisus or creme brulees? I finally settled on blackberry pies; my family adores blackberries and I found some nearby bushes… plus I couldn’t resist picking extra for a batch of jarred blackberry jam. Wide smile.
A PARADE OF JARS:
Vodka, triple sec and fresh lime juice: made it ahead in large jar, sealed & stored in freezer.
Mint Jelly Mojitos
Homemade mint jelly preserves served as the ‘mint’ and ‘sweet’ notes in a classic mojito: combine gold rum with mint jelly (use jar as shaker), add lime juice and splash of soda. Strain into jars and serve.
Red Pepper Jelly with Goat Cheese & Rosemary Crackers
Perhaps the most popular preserve on our urban farm: red pepper jelly (made with red bell peppers and red pepper flakes). I served it right out of the jar, with goat cheese and rosemary crackers for an easy appetizer. (Photo top of page).
Jarred: Artichoke and Sun-dried Tomato Dip
Make dip, place in jars and heat in oven. Guests enjoy individual appetizers! Serve with crackers or crostini. Recipe follows.
Jarred: Tarragon Salmon Chowder
I skipped the dill, potatoes and corn and instead tossed in loads of garden herbs, homegrown squash and Sungold tomatoes, then sealed and baked the jarred salmon chowders right in the oven. Recipe follows.
Jarred: White Cheddar and Scallion Biscuits
I mixed the dough, placed them into 4 oz. jars and baked them. Guests enjoyed warm jar-shaped biscuits—a perfect compliment with salmon chowder. Recipe follows.
Jarred: Herbed Potato Souffle
Can it be done? I couldn’t resist the challenge of baking a souffle in a jars. Sure enough: the souffles rose and browned. I will be making jarred souffles again soon!
Pork with Chianti Sauce (made with Chianti Jelly)
I highly recommend taking a wine jelly or fig jam or some fun flavor and stirring it into sauce that will accompany meat; I made the sauce by sauteeing shallots, garlic, salt, pepper and herbs in olive oil. I then added 1-2 T flour and cooked/stirred for 2 minutes. Then added 2-3 T of wine jelly and stirred to blend, then added homemade chicken broth and let simmer for another 10 minutes. I cut the pork loin, stuffed it with goat cheese/herbs/sauteed shallots and garlic/minced rosemary; I tied it and we grilled it. To serve, I sliced 3/4 inch slices and drizzled with Chianti Sauce.
Pie in a Jar: Blackberry
This was perhaps the greatest hit of the night: each person equipped with a spoon had their own jar of pie. I bought pre-made pie dough (Trader Joe’s), rolled it out and cut large circles to line tiny 4 oz. jars. I filled each jar with blackberry mix and topped with a small round of dough, pricking each little pie. Blackberry mix: 4 cups just-picked blackberries, 1/4 cup flour, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 2/3 cup sugar to blend. Oven 375 until browned, about 25 minutes. Pictures above.
White Cheddar & Scallion Biscuits
12-16 4 oz. jar biscuits
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. salt
4 T cold butter
1/4 cup finely chopped scallion greens
1 cup extra sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup plus 2 T cold milk
Oven to 375. Grease jars; combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Use pastry blender to ‘just’ mix butter into dry ingredients—marble size butter pieces are fine. Use wooden spoon and mix in scallions, cheese and milk. Just when dough comes together, divide among jars and bake 25 minutes.
Jarred: Tarragon Salmon Chowder
12 individual jar servings. I used wide, low 8 oz. jars.
1/2 LB salmon (or snapper, cod, halibut…) deboned and cut into 3/4 inch bites
12-24 Sungold tomatoes
4 stalks asparagus
2-3 ribs celery
1/3 cup mixed, minced fresh herbs (tarragon, chervil, parsley, chives, oregano, etc.)
KS&CP (Kosher Salt and Coarse Pepper)
optional: 1/4 cup minced shallots & garlic
choose one: heavy cream/broth or olive oil
Mince herbs and finely slice asparagus, celery, squash. Place 2-3 pieces of salmon, 1-2 Sungold tomatoes, a small handful of vegetables in each jar. Distribute shallots and garlic among jars, if using. Season with salt and pepper. Then drizzle 2 T cream and 2 T broth OR drizzle 1-2 T olive oil in each jar. Seal jars. (Jar contents should come up about halfway in jars; don’t overfill). In 400 oven, heat large casserole dish right in oven—1/2 full of water. When water is hot, add jars to water and cook 15-18 minutes. Remove from pan, open lids being careful not to burn yourself. Serve immediately.
Herbed Potato Souffle
12 individual jar servings.
2 T butter
1 1/2 LBS. baking potatoes
1/2 LB shredded Gruyere
3/4 cup half and half
1 tsp. each: oregano, thyme
1 T finely chopped rosemary
2 tsp Italian flat-leaf parsley
KS&CP (kosher salt and coarse pepper)
5 large eggs, separated
2 large egg whites
pinch: cream of tartar
Oven to 375. Butter and flour jars. Boil, then simmer potatoes for 20 minutes until fork tender. Drain, then shake over heat to burn off moisture. Add butter, stir in half and half. Add cheese, herbs, S&P. Let cool slightly; stir in yolks. In electric mixer: beat 7 egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat until stiff. Stir 1/3 whites into potatoes; fold in remaining whites. Put in jars, bake in bottom 1/3 of oven for 35 minutes until browned. Serve immediately.
Artichoke & Sundried Tomato Dip
12 4 oz. jars.
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup coarsely chopped, sundried tomatoes (stored in oil; drained)
2 cups Gruyere
1 1/4 cup artichoke hearts (14 oz. can: drained, chopped)
pinch garlic powder
pinch hot pepper sauce
Oven to 350. Combine ingredients. Spoon into dishes. Bake for 20 minutes until beginning to brown; garnish with chopped herbs, if desired.
Loved making the table decor with jars: these jars have a glass tea-light holder standing inside the jar. Fern snippings line the jars and the tea-lights brought a delicate ambiance to the table. Who doesn’t love a challenge? What would you make for an all-jar feast? Feast or no: may you find many uses for jars, from fridge to oven to table to mouth… to freezer to cupboard and picnic basket. Wide smile.