Category Archives: Jam, Jelly, Marmalade and Other Preserves

My Freezer Is A Wall Of Jalapenos: How To Preserve Hot Peppers, Pt.2

Right before the frost this past year, I stashed a lot of hot peppers in my freezer. I already wrote this post about preserving peppers, which included the whole idea of just stashing them in the freezer for later in the winter instead of rushing to deal with all of them right away.  Since “later in the winter” is officially here, I’m trying to deal with this ridiculous wall of peppers when I open the freezer door, and I thought I’d share a couple of the recipes that I’m making.  chilis!Before you say it, I know, hot pepper jelly is always my absolute favorite idea for using chili peppers, but I already have enough hot pepper jelly to last through several apocalypses. And since people always ask for a good recipe for hot pepper jelly, here’s my tip: I’ve tried almost all of them, and in the end I decided my favorite is just the recipe in the sure-gel box.  The high sugar one. It turns out awesome.

So, if you’ve already made enough hot pepper jelly to satisfy the cravings of your friends, relatives, and hungry neighbors, here are a few more ideas:

Escabeche Vegetables, from Canning For A New Generation, by Liana Krisoff-

I’ve had pickles similar to these in lots of taquerias in San Francisco. They’re addictive, with the kind of spicy heat that makes you almost want to stop eating them, but they’re so good you just have to have one more, even though you’re starting to sweat.  They’re perfect with a beer and a burrito, and I’m so excited to have my own jars in the pantry now.

escabeche vegetables

Fermented Sriracha, from The Hungry Tigress

I haven’t actually tasted it yet since the peppers are still fermenting on the windowsill, but I’m pretty sure I’m gonna end up doing a monster batch once I taste this first one (because sriracha is inherently delicious and there’s no way one small batch is gonna do the trick).

fermenting chilis

Candied Jalapenos, seen in many places around the internet, but I used this recipe from Foodie with Family:

I’ve never tried these before, but I’ve heard people go absolutely crazy about them, and I can’t wait to see how they taste.

candied jalapenos

Jalapeno Bread and Butter Pickles, from Simply Recipes:

I’m really excited for these, because I generally like bread and butter anything.  I can hear them screaming out to get put on top of a burger, fresh off the grill, or maybe diced and put in egg salad if you wanted to get really crazy.

jalapeno bread and butter pickles

I haven’t actually tried any of these yet since pickles need a few days to mellow out after you make them, but I’ll report back when I do.  Can you think of any recipes that I’m missing? If you have something you love to make, please leave a link in the comments. I still have ten huge bags of jalapenos in my freezer and I really need to get them outta there!

Citrus-Quince Marmalade with Fresh Rosemary

I’ve been having a bit of trouble finding inspiration for preserves this winter.  I went a whole month without canning a single thing, which I think has to be a record since I started canning.  I realized that the reason this had happened is that I started getting my fruit sourcing really dialed in last summer; I used mostly wild berries and plums, stone fruit from our own farm, the fall apples and quince from abandoned orchards were right on the hill where I live, I was gifted a bounty of ripe, juicy bartlett pears right from Redwood Valley.  When it came to citrus season, the idea of actually having to buy fruit seemed so unappealing. In past years, I’ve gone to big farmers markets in San Francisco and bought fruit directly from the growers. I know I would have fun making the trip, and I still think this is a great way to support local farms, but…. I kept hoping some lemons would just fall into my lap.

And they did.

I’m so happy I waited.  Some friends from the city brought us up a lovely shopping bag filled with meyer lemons from their tree on their last visit, and after a record breaking canning dry spell, I was back in the kitchen slicing fruit.  citrus-quince-rosemary marmaladeOver the past few years, I’ve really fallen in love with the whole process of making marmalades.  For my summer fruit jams, I’ve been wanting to keep them really simple: just ripe fruit, sugar, a touch of lemon juice, nothing else.  Good marmalades are often the polar opposite, with ridiculously complicated multi-day instructions (if you want to read more… check out Shae’s post about Why Good Marmalade Takes Time).  The thing is, it seems complicated at first, if you’re not experienced making marmalades, but the process is actually really straightforward and once you get the hang of it, I find it almost meditative — the tedious knife work to get perfectly sliced rinds, the patience involved in waiting for everything. Winter can be dark and dreary, but having the house smell like fresh citrus for several days does wonders.

This marmalade takes two days: day one is for making the quince juice and slicing the grapefruits, day two is for slicing the meyer lemons and cooking off the marmalade. Since the process might be complicated for less experienced jammers, I’m including some detailed instructions first, but scroll down to the bottom for the quick recipe with the measurements included.

Day 1:

Step 1: Make Quince Juice

quinceI was lucky to still have a case of quince in my pantry that I picked all the way back in October.  If you don’t have access to fresh quince or any frozen quince juice, you could substitute apple juice in its place (good quality juice, not the cheap stuff from concentrate).

To make the quince juice, first run the quince under water and scrub the gray fuzz off the outside with a clean sponge. Then remove the leaves and slice each quince into quarters. (Don’t remove the cores). Put the sliced fruit in a large pot with 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice, cover with water, and simmer for an hour or two. Drain the cooked fruit through a jelly bag for eight hours or so.  The juice will freeze very well, or can be used fresh for a variety of recipes.

Step 2:  Slice grapefruit for marmalade
I had a few organic grapefruits that I’d bought at the store that were so sweet, I couldn’t help throwing a few into this recpe.  Oranges would work equally well, or a combination of the two.

In case you don’t know how to slice fruit for marmalade, here’s a little reminder on the method I think most people are using… (again, I have to credit Shae from Hitchhiking to Heaven for teaching me this. She is the marmalade goddess).  You may notice that I’m cheating and using a serrated knife- I couldn’t find my steel for my chef’s knife, and this really doesn’t work with a dull knife. You really have to have a sharp knife to get the proper slices and not just squish everything.  Serrated is a decent backup, althought it makes the process take even longer. grapefruitcut off the blossom endsnotch out the white pithy centerslice the fruit into eighthtsslice each eighth into thin wedges

and then you cover the slices with water to soak overnight.grapefruit slices soaking
Day 2: You’ll slice the meyer lemons the same way as the grapefruit and then cook off the marmalade, then it’s into the jars…

Citrus-Quince Marmalade with Fresh Rosemary

The finished marmalade is pleasantly bitter, perfect spread on a crusty slice of whole wheat sourdough bread.

Cook Time: 2 days

Makes: about 12 1/2 pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 5 c. prepared grapefruit slices (from 5 medium grapefruits)
  • 6 c. water (or quince juice)
  • 3 c. prepared meyer lemon slices (from 9 meyer lemons)
  • 4 c. quince juice
  • 1/2 c. lemon juice
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 9 c. sugar

Day 1: Combine grapefruit slices and water in a nonreactive container.  Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.  At the same time, make quince juice using instructions above.

Day 2: Bring boiling water canner to a boil.  Prepare jars and lids.

Combine meyer lemon slices with quince juice in a medium nonreactive pot.  Transfer the grapefruit slices to a large, nonreactive pot. Cook both mixtures until the slices are tender, about 15 minutes (the grapefruit slices may take a little bit longer than the lemon slices).  Once both batches are tender, combine them.  Add the sugar, lemon juice and rosemary sprigs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the marmalade reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer or passes whatever gel test you like…. I still just use the spoon test, shown here.

 

Skim any foam off the top of the marmalade, remove the rosemary sprigs, and then ladle the hot marmalade into hot jars using 1/4″ headspace, then process for 10 minutes, remembering to adjust for altitude as necessary.

Oh, and one note: While I was cooking this batch of marmalade, I actually ended up splitting it back into two pots. I was afraid that the cooking time would be too long with this larger batch size and that the finished product would taste caramelized. You might want to do this too.

marmalade

 

Wine Grape Jelly

Looking at these pictures feels like 100 years ago.  I got busy and meant to write this up about a month ago, and then….  here we are, in November, post frost. But, you know, pretend there are still grapes around or bookmark this for next fall… The jelly turned out so good, perfect with peanut butter and wheat bread.  There are certainly some fancy pairings you can do as well; the surprisingly delicate flavor of this jelly would be lovely on a cheese plate with some soft chevre and a loaf of good bread.

During the annual whirlwind of activity that takes place immediately before the first rains of the fall, my friend Jessie, from Inland Ranch Organics, let me glean some of the wine grapes from her field.  I took home a big basket of red and white grapes, slightly blemished with some mold in spots but perfectly salvageable for  jelly. After an absurd amount of soul-searching  (absolutely unwarranted for making a batch of jelly) I decided to break out the boxed pectin for this one. I’ve turned into a pectin snob when it comes to almost all of my jams — once you taste a jar of perfectly made, no added pectin apricot jam, you won’t feel like you need to put in commercial pectin anymore.  The texture is just so …. luxurious. It can be difficult to keep the flavor really bright since the cooking time is longer, but when it works, man oh man oh man does it work.  For jelly, though, even though I’ve had some success with making quince and apple with no added pectin, I just really don’t like how much sugar you have to add to make it set (most jellies with no added pectin use a 1:1 ratio of juice to sugar.)  Plus, making jelly without commercial pectin is so temperamental.  I’ve overcooked and caramelized a few batches, where they set but have totally lost the fresh fruit flavor, and it makes me want to stomp around the kitchen and smash all my dishes on the floor.

Instead of having to replace all those plates, I caved and went for the sure-gel low sugar pectin from the grocery store.  I encourage other pectin snobs to do the same when it comes to some of the fruit jellies.  It’s so much easier. You know your jelly will turn out really nice. And it’s not too sweet, so you taste grape juice instead of sugar. Wine Grape Jelly 

I was really surprised by the flavor.  It’s delicious, but I was expecting something closer to concord grapes.  The juice ended up being more delicate because I used a mixture of both red and white wine grapes.  I assume that the bolder the flavor you want, the fewer white wine grapes you should include.

Instead of acting like this is complicated and writing out a traditional recipe, I’d rather just share the process here, since the most difficult element is certainly finding a person growing wine grapes who will let you have some, not making the actual jelly.

You’ll need:

  • wine grapes
  • sugar
  • lemon juice
  • sure-gel low sugar pectin
  • cheesecloth or a jelly bag
  • half pint jars

1. Get your hands on some wine grapes.  Gleaning is a good idea, since most grape growers only pick the big, perfect bunches and will leaves behind lots of small straggly ones. As with all gleaned fruit, the grapes can be slightly blemished, but make sure that there are still plenty of grapes that are fresh and ripe looking, since it’s really not a good idea to try and preserve semi- rotten fruit.

2. Pick through the grapes, separating the stems, leaves and blemished ones aside from the good ones that will be for the jelly.  Put the good grapes in a colander and rinse them thoroughly.

3. Transfer the grapes to a pot and add water just to cover them.  Simmer the grapes for about an hour.  (Lust after steam juicers on the internet while they cook.)

4. Drain this mixture through a jelly bag or cheesecloth. The resulting grape juice can be left in the fridge for jelly making on another day or frozen for projects later in the winter.

5. To make the jelly: follow the instructions for grape jelly from the sure-gel low sugar pectin box, but add 2 oz. of lemon juice for each batch.  (Just stir it in at the beginning).   Waterbath can according to the instructions in the pectin box.

6. Take a walk in the woods and look at salamanders, and think about how exciting it is that you have this free time now since you didn’t try to make no-added pectin jelly. Make a peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich. Think about how tasty homemade canned goods are. Be happy. 

 

 

Plum Jam with Rose Geranium

There have been some really beautiful plums at the farmers markets recently:

Plums are one of my favorite fruits for jamming.  They’re very forgiving if you’re trying to make jam without boxed pectin; while strawberry jam might be a real challenge to get to set properly, plums come out right almost all the time.

The purple plums are prune plums, from Green Uprising Farm. They’re incredibly sweet, with a darker, more elegant flavor than a lot of other plum varieties. I love them.  I meant to make more jam but I ate almost all of them fresh.  The yellowish pink plums in the picture are completely different; as the farmer said, they’re like mother nature’s version of sweet-tarts, not as ideal for fresh eating but epic for jam making. (That tart flavor in some fresh fruit is what makes for complex, well-rounded jam.). 
I fancied up this batch with some rose geranium and green cardamom pods, even though it would be a great jam without the add-ins.  The rose geranium plays up the floral notes in the more sour plums and the cardamom is a nice spice to put with the prune-plums.

I really love the flavor of the geranium.  It might be a hair on the strong side, but I feel like it will be a surprising treat for a rainy November day.  It’s interesting to see how those flavors mellow out over time, too – sometimes what tastes a touch strong 5 minutes after cooking will end up being just right in a few months.

Plum Jam with Rose Geranium

Like I mentioned above, you can easily omit the rose geranium and cardamom if you want to make a really nice, simple plum jam.  The texture comes out smooth and lovely on this recipe, so it will be stellar either way.

makes: 6 1/2  half pint jars

cook time: well….. 24 hours, but it’s mostly macerating time in the fridge

Ingredients:

  • 6 c. prune plum halves*
  • 2 c. sour plum slices**
  • 5 c. sugar
  • 1 oz. lemon juice
  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • 1 sprig of rose geranium (5 or 6 small leaves)

In a nonreactive container (a glass bowl, your jam pot, etc.) combine all of the ingredients.  Gently stir everything to mix the plums and sugar together thoroughly.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 24 hours.

The next day: Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids.  Transfer the macerated plums to your jam pot and cook on high heat for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, until the fruit is cooked and looking close to the consistency of a finished jam.  Remove from the heat.  Put half of the cooked jam through a food mill or sieve to remove the skins.  (Discard the skins and put the plum puree back into the pot with the rest of the jam.)

Put the pot back on the stove and turn the heat to medium high.  Cook until the jam gels, about another 20 minutes, (if I’m remembering correctly). I use the sheet test when I’m making jams like this, which you can see a graphic of here if you don’t know what I’m talking about.   Ladle hot jam into hot clean jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Process for ten minutes, adjusting for altitude as needed.

 

*I decided midway through this that I might want to write it down and share the recipe, so I don’t have the weight for the original amount of plums!  When I say “6 c. prune plum halves,” I mean that they’ve already been prepared by having the stems and pits removed.  Just slice them in half, that’s all.

**Use any variety of plum that has a tart flavor here. Again, this is 2 c. of prepared plum slices with the pits already removed, not 2 c. of whole plums.  Just to be super clear.

Jam Vinaigrette from the Redwood Valley Farmers Market Chef Demo

I’m pretty excited about this.

So, a couple weeks ago at the Redwood Valley Farmers Market, my friend Amanda from Fairall’s Farm Fresh Eggs & Produce did a chef demo using some of the wonderful items available at the farmers market that morning.  She set up a delicious taco bar with chipotle sausage hash, a zesty salmon taco filling, and a big veggie and egg scramble, which you can find the recipes for here. She also made a huge farmers market salad with a jam vinaigrette that was so damn good I knew I had to write about it here and try to convince everyone on the internet to make too.

I’d never actually bothered making salad dressing with jam before, and it was so tasty that I went home and promptly made huge batch.  I guess  that when I thought about jam for salads, it sounded like it would be too sweet and overpowering.  I still think if you were having a really delicate salad of baby lettuces and sliced radishes, it would be a questionable idea at best.  Amanda’s salad was killer, though, and it’s because she didn’t just use lettuce, but also incorporated sliced cabbage, raw kale and chard leaves, summer squash and salad turnips.   These big, hearty vegetables stood up so well to the flavor of the jam.

Floodgate Farms grew the salad mix used as a base for everything, which in itself was outstanding.  It has more fresh produce than I’ve ever seen in any salad mix, ever, with fresh mint leaves, onion blossoms, sprigs of dill, nasturtium blossoms, purslane leaves, and more.  I’m not always much of a salad girl- I usually would rather have a big bowl of vegetable stew, like a ratatouille or the braised kale and white beans, but this salad mix is so beautiful and full of flavors that…. well, it makes me want to go buy more from them, even though I have a huge garden with plenty of my own vegetables.

Jam Vinaigrette

Cook Time: lightning fast

Ingredients:

  • jam:  I really like the flavor of dark berry or plum jams with the kale and cabbage, especially if they happen to be tart or low-sugar jams, but really, anything you want to use up will be good.
  • oil: I used hazelnut oil when I made it at home,  but anything you have will work.
  • vinegar: apple cider, champagne, sherry– again, whatever ya got.

In a half pint jar, combine two parts jam with two parts oil and one part vinegar. Shake it up. Pour over your salad. Eat.

Amanda’s Farmers Market Salad

In a big bowl, combine as many good salad things as you can find:

  • Salad Mix: different kinds of lettuce, diced onion blossoms, sprigs of fresh dill fronds and dill flowers, edible flowers, roughly chopped mint leaves, cilantro, parsley…. and any other things you can think of.Dark Leafy Greens: like shredded green cabbage, roughly chopped kale leaves and roughly chopped swiss chard leaves.  The more the merrier.  The key to growing really nice greens is to keep them well picked, so go out to the garden and pick any random leaves you can find.
  • Chopped Vegetables: summer squash, salad turnips, and cucumbers, etc.

Dress with jam vinaigrette, top with crumbled chevre or feta to make it even better, and serve.  My little brother ate a huge plate of it and said: “this salad is awesome, and I hate salad.”  So, it’s that kind of recipe, where you get to eat a really good meal, but then you get the added bonus of laughing when your family members who claim to hate kale end up eating a whole bunch of it — and liking it.

Amanda, thanks so much for sharing your wonderful cooking with everyone.  It was delicious!

Jam Round-Up

I’m not even going to lie. I should be doing other work right now.  Have I ever told you how much I enjoy blogging as rationale for sitting around on the couch? It’s kind of like how you can get sucked into facebook and waste tons of time rotting your brain, but with this, if anyone mentions your lack of physical activity, you can be like…

oh….

but I’m busy writing right now.

I say, the perfect thing for a lazy Sunday afternoon is looking at a bunch of pretty jam jars and bookmarking a couple recipes to make… you know, sometime later… when standing up and walking around seems more realistic. 

The June Cook it! 2012 Resolution was to Make Jam.  I love how without any planning whatsoever, we kind of ended up with an exploration of the eternal challenge of making strawberry jam.  Yes, those innocent looking, sweet little berries are so low in pectin– they don’t really make life very easy, do they? I actually hate making strawberry jam.  I end up burning the strawberries/my favorite jam pots/the burners on my stove and then end really aggravated.  I only caved and made it this year because it’s my boyfriend’s absolute favorite, and if I didn’t hook up my honey with some jam, that would just be crazy.

Strawberry Freezer Jam, from My Pantry Shelf:  solution #1- don’t bother cooking it at all.  This post discusses the advantages of freezer jams, which don’t ever go near the stove.  That bright red jar of strawberry jam sure looks delicious, get me a spoon, please!

Strawberry Jam with Natural Fruit Pectin, from Three Clever Sisters: solution #2- another novel approach- as a first step, make a quick applesauce.  The apples add some natural pectin, helping the jam to thicken nicely, and have a neutral flavor that will hide behind the strawberries.

Strawberry Lemon Marmalade and Marmalade Muffins  from Adventures of the Kitchen Ninja: solution #3- pair them with another fruit and bypass plain strawberry jam altogether.  I’ve definitely noticed that jams and marmalades that pair citrus fruit with some other sweet fruit are almost always mind-blowingly delicious. (I was just working on apricot/blood orange this week…. it’s luscious…)  Plus, the color on those jars, it’s just gorgeous, like gemstones.

Summer Peach Jam with bonus recipes for Peach Syrup and Bourbon Peach Skin Butter from Homemade Trade: Aimee gives us the lowdown on peaches in this post, with clever ways to turn the skins into even more treats in jars.  The jam looks beautiful, but then the peach syrup, and the bourbon peach butter…. my goodness! (I could use some of that peach syrup right now, plus some ice cubes, selzter and vodka. Oh yah.)

 

Thanks again for sharing your projects- they’re stunning, like always.

And a reminder:

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To be included in the upcoming Canned Fruit in Syrup Round-Up, e-mail me a link to your post by August 15.  My e-mail is thejamgirl@gmail.com.

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June Cook it! 2012 Resolution

It’s time.

The Cook it! 2012 June Resolution is:

MAKE JAM

I’ve been absolutely slammed with work for the last few weeks. Yesterday, in the middle of all this, I found some ollalieberries, fresh from the farm.  Sweet and tart, dark and juicy, they’re the berries I’ve been waiting for all winter long.  What started out as a stressful day with too many things that needed to be done instantly turned into a happy afternoon of jam making.  (Yes, when I see ollalieberries, I buy all of them and drop everything I was doing to make a pie or some jam. I’m a fruit nerd, what can I say).

Whether you’re a complete beginner or you already have years of canning experience, there’s really nothing quite like the joy of making a really simple batch of jam with some really excellent fruit — fresh off the vine, still warm from the sun.

When I waste time on the internet, it seems like everyone has been canning forever now and it’s no big revelation. If I happen to buy jars or pectin at the grocery store, though, without fail someone will stop me and ask about it.  Sweet little old ladies have stopped me in the aisle to say that it’s nice seeing me buying all these jars, that no one knows how to make jam or can food anymore.  (I thank them for the nice words but assure them that it’s become all the rage again.) Then, of course, the people in the checkout line, who will glance at my cart and say:

what are you doing with all those jars?

making jam, i say.

… oh, i’ve always wanted to learn how to do that….

To the cashier who bought a canner and cookbook but it’s been sitting on the shelf for a year now: don’t wait any longer, it’s time! To the lady in line whose grandma used to make pickled watermelon rind, just like my grandma did: dig out that recipe and get yourself a watermelon! To the guy at the farmers market who said he wished he had a women around who knew how to make jam: man, you don’t need to be a girl to can, just grab some of those strawberries, a couple jars and get to it!

Consider this your personal invitation to join the party…

In honor of the june resolution, summer, and all the people who are making jam even though it has nothing to do with the Cook it! 2012 project we’ve been working on, I thought I’d share a couple of the things that I’ve learned along the way.

TIPS FOR TOTAL BEGINNERS:

This isn’t meant to be all-encompassing, more just some information that might help when used hand-in-hand with a good recipe.

  • There are lots of posts out there on the internet that can explain the basics.  Food In Jars has a whole section of Canning 101 posts that explains some important stuff.  My recipe for peach jam with vanilla bean jam has step-by-step instructions to show the whole process from beginning to end if you want to take a look there.
  • When you’re just starting, make sure to find a recipe from a trusted source.  The best canning cookbook I own is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  The pectin box also counts as a trusted source.  The internet, especially if it’s just some really random looking website, does not necessarily count as a trusted source (I know, you’re reading this on the internet, right?)
  • There are, essentially, two different styles of jam making.  One uses commercial pectin (Ball, Clearjel, Pomona’s, etc.) to make the jam set.  This method is usually a pretty quick cooking time, and you just follow instructions included in the pectin box.  The other style uses the natural pectin in the fruit, which means that you combine the fruit, sugar and sometimes lemon juice, then cook it for awhile til it gels.  Usually you use a candy thermometer for this, since you really just have to cook it til 220 degrees).
  • Use a really big, thick-bottomed pot.  When jam boils over, it leaves awful burnt black crusty sugar all over your stove, which is virtually impossible to get off.
  • If you’re using commercial pectin: when they say “full rolling boil” they really mean “full rolling boil.”  The jam will boil up furiously and you’ll really know it when you see it.  A low simmer is not a boil.  If you only bring it to a low simmer for a minute, it won’t set right at all.
  • When they say “clean the rims of the jars,” they mean perfectly spotless, immaculate.  Not “basically clean” or “pretty much clean.”  I like to use a paper towel to do this.  If you leave any little bits of anything on those jar rims, the lids won’t seal later on.
  • A boiling water canner is really just a huge pot filled with water that has a rack on the bottom to set the jars on so they don’t clank around and break.  They’re cheap, often under $20.
  • Don’t touch the lids of the jars when they come out of the canner.  The need to sit and cool, which pulls down on the lid and makes it seal.  If you touch the lid, jostle the jar around, poke it and say “wow! I made jam!” you can potentially mess up the seal and ruin the batch.
  • In plain english, (hopefully to convince someone that hasn’t made jam before that it isn’t scary):  Canning jam is just cooking fruit with sugar and then putting it in clean jars.  You screw the lids on and basically just put it in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes* to sterilize the jar and make the whole thing shelf stable.  Once the lids seal after they’re out of the canner, they’re good for a year.
  • Know your farmer.  Fruit for awesome canned goods comes from right from the farms/farmers markets, not the grocery store. I don’t care how cheap the peaches are at the WalMart superstore, it’s not worth it.  Sure, any old mediocre peach with a bunch of sugar is going to taste kind of good, but it’s not going to be the life-changing kind of experience that fundamentally changes the way you eat food and feed your family.

TIPS FOR EXPERIENCED JAMMERS

  • If you can find a wholesale source for bulk bags of organic sugar, you’ll save a lot of time and money.  A lot of the time, local natural foods stores can add on an extra 50 lb. bag of sugar onto their order for you and you’ll get a better price.  Then you’ll be ready to go when the fruit shows up.
  • Lemon juice always ends up being an issue if you’re trying to stay local.  I try to freeze lots of local lemon juice during the winter, but I almost always run out.  Costco has ridiculously cheap organic lemon juice, and Santa Cruz Organics makes semi-cheap bottled organic lemon juice that you can usually find with the other juices in the store.
  • Remember, if you run into a screaming good deal on super ripe, beautiful fruit, but you don’t have time to make jam, you can always prepare the fruit and then leave it to macerate, tossed with sugar in the fridge.  You can also prepare the fruit and then freeze it to make jam later .
  • Don’t forget to stay in touch with farmer friends (you do have farmer friends, right?)  Tell them at the beginning of the summer that you want to make a lot of peach jam, write down your name and phone number for them, and have them call you when the peaches are in.  Farmers like it when there’s a person that wants to buy a lot of fruit, because they want to make money and you want to buy their products.  Tell them to call you when they’re totally swimming in peaches (or plums, or whatever…), when they have so many that they don’t know what to do and they’re going to start rotting.  That’s your cue to stop in, buy them all for cheap, and stock your pantry for the year.

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If you want to be included in the jam round-up post, send me a link to the url or your post (or, if you don’t have a blog, e-mail me a picture of what you made)by June 15, 2012.  My e-mail is thejamgirl@gmail.com.

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P.S. I didn’t include the ollalieberry jam recipe because I didn’t really use one.  I glanced at the Blue Chair Fruit cookbook to check it first.  Their cookbook is right next to my Ball Cookbook, and I recommend buying it as well.  It’s a more advanced cookbook and doesn’t use commercial pectin, which is nice, and the jams tend to be much lower sugar than the Ball Book.  Plus the Blue Chair Fruit cookbook has super pretty pictures which will make you feel all warm and fuzzy about the whole jam and fruit thing.

What To Do When Your Jam Turns Out Disgusting

I was lying in bed the other night, and thought to myself:

I’m going to make rose petal jam. I patted myself on the back for thinking of such a great idea and went to sleep.

I’d never made rose petal jam before even though I’ve seen recipes floating around the internet every once in awhile.  The roses in the garden are beautiful right now, and it seemed like a good enough idea.  I started the recipe and figured I’d thrown in some rainier cherries and some sliced lemon. Everything looked so pretty macerating in the fridge.

I thought about how nice the pictures would look for a rose petal jam.  I thought about how much I like flowers, and cherries.  Everything was going great. and then….I tasted some.

 

Oh my god, vomit.  It’s the most disgusting jam I’ve made in months.  Horrible. And it made me think…  how can I rationalize writing a post that still includes all these roses?

so here it is…

What To Do When You’re Cooking A Batch Of Jam And Realize That It’s Completely Screwed Up

If you get addicted to jamming, you’ll go through an awkward puberty phase where you’re breaking free from all the recipes in the pectin packet and starting to do your own thing.  Things don’t always go well.  These are a couple of the bad things that you might run into along the journey, with my hints for minimizing the damage.

It tastes bitter:

  • Try adding honey or brown sugar.  A cup of honey in a pot of jam can soften up the bitter edge of many citrus fruits.  Brown sugar (or other dark sugars) can help too.

It’s way too sweet:

  • Try adding some lemon juice. The tart flavor may help balance the sweetness.
  • If the jam is only partially cooked, stop cooking it and add more fresh fruit (but no more sugar!).
  • Can it as is…. there are some good applications for overly sweet jam, like using it in smoothies or mixed into yogurt, where you won’t notice the sweetness as much.

You realize, midway through, that the fruit on the bottom of the pot has burned:

  • Stop stirring immediately.  Remove the pot from the heat and, without stirring, pour the jam into a different container.  If you stir everything, the burnt fruit will definitely be in the whole batch and make it taste scorched.   If you separate the ruined part from the jam that was still potentially fine, you might be able to rescue it.  When the jam has cooled down a little bit, taste it and see if the flavors are worth putting into jars or whether it belongs in the compost.

The combination of flavors doesn’t work and it just tastes really gross:

  • Throw it away.  I used to try and save the jars with grand plans about somehow turning them into something edible, but ….  As you know, most jam has a lot of sugar in it.  If I’m going to bother eating sugar, I’d much rather it were from a perfect jar of wild blackberry jam, not that gross jar that’s been sitting in the pantry for a year already.  Yes, if you have a jar of jam with muddled flavors that didn’t turn out how it was supposed to, you can turn it into a really delicious glaze for stir-fried chicken by adding some soy sauce, chopped scallions and cilantro.  You could do all kinds of stuff with it, really. I never end up bothering with those ideas, though, because it usually involves turning what was a really light, healthy dinner into a sugary plate of junk food.   For me, it’s usually better to dump it in the compost and move on.

A last word of advice: 

I’ve found that if I mess up a batch of jam, the best thing to do is stop canning for the day.  If I’m frustrated, I tend to just mess things up even more.  It’s usually best just to go do something else instead and come back to the fruit when I’m feeling inspired and excited again.   I Try to learn from the experience so that I don’t do it again (rose petals are bitter, and so is the citrus pectin I made awhile back = disaster).

To make failures easier to handle, I try to never buy expensive fruit.  If you stick to local fruit when it’s in peak season, the prices should be low and if you mess up a batch or two it really won’t matter very much.  Try to remember that this is supposed to be something fun, and don’t get too worried about messing up a batch.

Gratitude & Improved Chocolate Plum Jam

This is my favorite way to use up jam right now.  chocolate-plum jam with cowgirl creamery mt. tam cheese = i’m eating it for breakfast, whether that’s an appropriate breakfast or not.  eggs be damned. Cowgirl Creamery cheese is insanely expensive but 100% worth every penny and totally delicious.*  Chocolate plum jam, on the other hand, is dirt cheap if you make it when there are lots of plums around.  The original recipe, which I wrote last summer, is here.

Since I am so incredibly happy and humbled to be up on Freshly Pressed today, I want to share a few tweaks that I think make it even better.  This is absolutely one of the best jams I’ve ever made and I hope that you bookmark it for when the plums come in so you can make it too.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading.  I can’t say it enough.

Improved Chocolate Plum Jam

Cook Time: oh, an hour or so

Ingredients:

  • 6 c. santa rosa plums, diced
  • 5 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces lemon juice
  • 2 tbs. pomegranate vinegar (any fruity vinegar is good- raspberry, balsamic, etc.)
  • 1 sprig of fresh sage (4 or 5 leaves)

Bring boiling water canner to a boil.  Combine all the ingredients in a large, nonreactive pot.  Cook on high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the plums from sticking and burning.  Cook until the jam reaches 220 on a candy thermometer, or whatever your preferred method of testing for gel point is.  (I realized my candy thermometer is a piece of crap and not accurate at all, so I’ve just been doing the sheeting method with the spoon I stir the jam with- click this link for a picture if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

Before you put the jam into jars, you can remove the sage leaves if you want.  I actually gave the whole thing – sage leaves and all – a zap with my immersion blender since I was using frozen plums that didn’t have much in the texture department anyway.  Purée it or leave it chunky – either way is fine.

Pour the hot jam into clean half pint jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Wipe rims and screw on lids.  Process half pints for ten minutes (adjust for altitude if necessary).

*they didn’t pay me to say that or anything, the Cowgirl Creamery people definitely don’t know who I am.

I Love Rhubarb

I’ve spent the last few weeks totally fixated on rhubarb.  Before I move on to something new (there were cherries at the market last Saturday), I thought I’d gather together all the different crap on my computer desktop into one convenient spot.  These are the highlights from the great rhubarb extravaganza of 2012.

Jam

I’ve made many, many jars of this basic rhubarb jam that I posted a few weeks ago.  It’s a simple recipe that uses rhubarb, sugar and lemon juice, and it’s the perfect blank canvas for experimenting with different add-ins like vanilla beans, lavender, rosemary, cardamom….   (As the rhubarb season has progressed, the jams have gone from bright red to pale pink to greenish-brown….. )

Know what makes me really happy?  Greek yogurt + rhubarb jam + a drizzle of honey + granola.  You gotta do it.  It’s like dessert, but healthier.

Syrup:

Rhubeena, from The Hungry Tigress, should be considered a pantry staple like tomato sauce.  It’s that good. Before the rhubarb season is over, I also need to make this Rhubarb-Lime syrup, from Hitchhiking to Heaven, because  citrus sounds like the perfect partner for rhubarb.

Cocktails:  

Rhubarb Mojitos: a classic mojito pumped up with rhubarb syrup

Rhubarb Granita Cocktails: ridiculously good frozen cocktails made with rhubarb granita, vodka and soda.  (The other night, while I was drinking one of these, I decided that they’re the best fruity cocktail that I’ve ever had in my life, ever. I love these. They’re dangerous.)(We’ve also made Local Kitchen’s Rhubarbitas, because apparently, you know, I drink a lot and really like rhubarb.   I love me a fruity pink cocktail, what can I say).

Rhubarb Fruit Leather:

Making rhubarb syrups means that you’ll end up with some leftover cooked rhubarb pulp.  It depends on how long you’ve cooked the pulp, but sometimes there’s still a lot of flavor left in there.   I was pleasantly surprised by the way the rhubarb leather turned out;  the flavor in the pulp that was definitely a bit on the bland side concentrated in the oven and came out perfectly sweet, tart and bright by the time it was finished dehydrating.   You don’t need to own a dehydrator to make leather — it comes out fine in the oven using a cookie sheet with raised sides.

Cook Time: 8 hrs. or so

Ingredients:

  • a couple cups of cooked rhubarb pulp leftover from other recipes
  • lemon juice to taste
  • sugar
  • cooking spray or neutral flavored oil

Heat the oven to 150 degrees or the lowest setting available.  Use a blender to puree the rhubarb pulp.  Taste it, and add a splash of lemon juice if it needs some brightness.  Add a bit of sugar to taste, but remember that the flavors will concentrate and sweeten in the oven, so be careful not to overdo it or it will come out really sweet.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet with neutral oil or cooking spray, and then pour the rhubarb puree onto it.  The puree layer should be about 1/4″ thick.  Put it in the oven until it’s dry and looks like fruit leather, somewhere from 6-8 hours.  (Check it more often when it’s almost done so it doesn’t get too dry).

When it’s done, peel it off the cookie sheet and cut it into convenient sized pieces.   Theoretically, it will keep for a long time at room temperature in a jar or a tupperware, but we ate ours in just a couple days.

Desserts:

Everyone knows about rhubarb pie, but there are so many other sweet treats that you can make with rhubarb.  Like this cake (or is a tart? or a pie?):I give you: strawberry rhubarb kuchen, which is what happens when you stumble onto this recipe for Rhubarb Krack from the Hungry Tigress (which is an adaptation of  Cakewalk’s Rhubarb Kuchen recipe) and realize that you don’t have enough rhubarb to make it but if you just substitute some strawberries for part of the rhubarb, things could still work out well….There’s not really much point in writing the recipe out again since two other talented ladies have already done it.  The only information that really matters is that you can substitute some strawberries for the Tigress’ recipe if you don’t have enough rhubarb, but that it’s probably wise to reduce the sugar since strawberries are pretty sweet on their own.  I used 1 c. of sugar for the filling instead of 2 c. and it was plenty sweet for my taste.  (I also used all-purpose flour, not the whole wheat pastry flour that the recipe calls for, but it was only because I didn’t have the whole wheat on hand.)

I’m pretty sure this recipe would be amazing with any ripe fruit.  I’d love to try it with peaches, or pears, or plums….  That custardy fruit layer is really just everything I could ever want out of a dessert.

I wish I could say that I’m done working on rhubarb recipes, but I’m totally not. (I definitely still want to make the rhubarb mostarda from What Julia Ate and this Rhubarb Custard Pie from Saveur.) and I really haven’t experimented enough with all of rhubarb’s savory applications….  It’s a vicious cycle of rhubarb, it’s true.

Okay, I gotta go get a slice of that pie….