With the establishment the Master Food Preserver program here in L.A. earlier this year, chances are there are a few budding, or even master, food preservers on your shopping list. And it might be tempting to go out and get them a Ball canning kit and call it a day.
That's about as thoughtful as giving a pastry chef some random cake decorating kit. Sure the genre's right, but don't be surprised if the response is tepid gratitude. If they're already canning, they already have those tools, and probably much nicer ones. You can do better. Much better. And we're here to help.
5. Thermapen: This was one of the hottest items at a recent Master Food Preserver silent auction, and with good reason. The gel point in jams and jellies can be an elusive beast. But not when instantaneous accuracy is at your fingertips. Reaching the magical 220°F is much less painful, easier on the eyes, and involves way less clean up than the standard, bulky candy thermometer. Plate test, schmate test. Trust us, they will love it.
4. All American Pressure Canner: Pressure canners are essential for safely canning low-acid foods like chili, salsa, soups, stock, and vegetables. Not a pressure cooker. There's a huge difference between a gaugeless pressure cooker and a well-calibrated pressure canner. And no one has been making them longer than the Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry. The All American Pressure Canner has been their primary consumer product since 1930, and the design hasn't changed much since.
3. Farmer's Kitchen Fermentation Jars: Master Food Preserver and executive chef Ernest Miller constructs these himself. The advantage? His design, based on the beer fermentation buckets he uses to make sauerkraut, uses an air-lock system that eliminates yeast growth – a potential spoiler in the fermentation process. There are several models to choose from, but we're really fond of the converted Le Parfait bale jars, making countertop fermentation as beautiful as it is functional.
2. Hand-carved tampers from JCT Woodwork: Speaking of Farmer's Kitchen, Miller approached local woodcarver, John C. Talbot, to create a customized jar tamper for his canned goods. Talbot works exclusively with reclaimed local wood, turning it into generous bowls, graceful goblets, and small kitchen implements. The tampers he makes for Miller come in whatever wood Talbot has on hand (we have one made from orange wood rescued from a Northridge grove) and no one is ever like the other. The ends fit both regular and wide mouth jars. You can find Talbot at the Hollywood Farmers Market every Sunday, but if you want the tampers, you have to go to the Farmer's Kitchen.
1. Schmancy Jars: Jars are probably one of the biggest repeat expenditures for all food preservationists, in part because they end up giving so much of what they make away as gifts. Word of jar sales at the local hardware store or Smart and Final make regular rounds on Facebook. But that's for the generic Ball and Kerr standards. Regular canners don't often splurge on a full set of Bormioli Rocco, Leifheit, Weck, or Le Parfait. They're all available online, though you can pick some up locally at branches of The Container Store, Sur le Table, and at Heath Ceramics. For the jar collector, snagging them an antique Mission canning jar is also pretty special. They were once made right here in L.A. by Latchford Glass until the company was bought by Kerr in 1980 and shut down. The large embossed mission bell on the outside is artful and location-appropriate, and makes a very thoughtful gift.
Felicia Friesema is a graduate from the inaugural class of Master Food Preservers. She tweets at @FeliciaFriesema. Follow the Master Food Preservers at their Facebook page or Twitter feed.