Top 10 Posts from 2011

Wasting time on the internet reading Top 10 lists is such a delightful tradition right before Jan 1.  I want to enable anyone else who enjoys it as much as I do, by writing yet another top 10 list.  You know you love ’em.  Don’t go be productive, sit here on the computer, for just another few minutes.

1. How To Preserve 100+ lbs. of Tomatoes With Almost No Work

This is probably my favorite post too, detailing the massive amounts of tomato preservation that happens at the farm every summer.  Sometimes I come home from the farmers market with more tomatoes than I actually took, which is completely ridiculous.  At the end of the market, when vendors have unsold tomatoes, if I hear mutters of “ah, feed ’em to the chickens,” I try to get in on the action before the hens.  End of summer, heavily discounted tomatoes are where it’s at.

2. Stout Beer Jelly

This is such a weird jelly.  It’s good and all, but…  This post made it to the front page of reddit, which hurt my brain, since there are so many other preserves I’ve made that I would recommend more than this one.  It’s a novelty jelly.  It’s definitely really tasty in certain situations, like on grilled lamb, or with toasted pumpernickel bread with cream cheese.  This is what happens if you, um, partake on St. Patrick’s Day and are a huge canning nerd, and then you decide to start making jelly out of random stuff in the kitchen.

So here’s the deal: I’m working on a new version, with tart cherries, some dried spices and bay leaves.  Please, I beg you, wait for the updated recipe before you make this. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

3. Vanilla Peach Jam

This jam is killer, and this post has step-by-step instructions for beginners.  Vanilla bean and ripe, juicy peaches is a pretty perfect combination.

4. Chocolate Plum Jam

I spent days and days and days canning in the commercial kitchen I use (that’s the door, in the picture below) for the National Heirloom Expo this September. The chocolate plum jam was a creation for that event, which you can make at home if you didn’t get to go.  It’s another winner, absolutely delicious.

5. Concord Grape Jam

What’s not to love about grape jam? It’s heavenly…

6. Pineapple Weed Tea

So…  I was all excited about how popular this post was, sitting in my living room going “gosh it’s so great that people are so interested in foraging these days”… and then I realized, after reading the search terms a little more closely:

There’s a strain of marijuana named “pineapple” and when I wrote “pineapple weed tea” a lot of people thought that I meant I was making tea out of marijuana and got really excited about my blog.

Am I naive? Yes. Is this post about getting high off your tea? Sadly, no. Is it still delicious tea? Yes.

7. My Grandma Molly’s Recipe for Pickled Watermelon Rind

Pickled watermelon was all kinds of trendy this year, and I saw recipes popping up all over the place.  Well, this is the exact recipe that my grandma from North Carolina was making, decades ago.  It’s a tedious recipe, true, but keep a jar in the fridge during the summer, and you’ll be rewarded with the most deliciously sweet, cold, crunchy pickle you’ve ever had.  People sometimes ask me what this pickle is for, exactly, and let me just say: Fried Chicken.  A big southern dinner is never complete without a little glass dish of pickles out on the table.

8. Pear Cardamom Jam 

This is my personal favorite jam, the one that I put on my toast.  Pears have such a bold, juicy flavor- I can’t get enough.

9. Candied Buddha’s Hand

One of the most exotic fruits you’ll ever see, chopped up in little pieces, cooked in sugar and turned into sweet little bites, perfect for putting in bread, cookies and fruitcake.

10. Kimchi

‘cuz kimchi is totally a thing now, like cupcakes and making jam…

This is a small batch recipe that ferments in the fridge, adapted from The Hungry Tigress, who adapted it from Tart and Sweet, which is a fantastic cookbook that I just got for Christmas! Funny how it works like that… (Thanks, my sweet little sister, you rock).

And that’s the top 10…

Thanks for reading this year, and here’s to another epic year of jamming pickling fermenting baking roasting braising gardening and all that stuff that we all love! Happy New Year!

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Pome Honey

I’ve written three different introductions to this recipe now, trying to think of a witty way of saying that this is an adaptation of a recipe from Paula Deen.  I can’t think of anything.  Really, I’m embarrassed to say that I like one of her recipes.  I want to be cool like Anthony Bourdain and just sit around smoking cigarettes,* eating pork and drinking cocktails, but that’s not happening today.  I should thank one of my old friends for turning me on to this preserve.  She’s an amazingly sweet southern girl that should have her own cooking show, and when she gave me a jar of pear honey as a gift a few years ago, it pretty much blew my mind.  It was one of the most delicious canned goods I’ve ever tried. I distinctly remember my friend looking me in the eyes and saying “Don’t tell anyone the recipe!” and I realize that what I’m doing right now is literally the exact opposite of that.  I’m kind of a big mouth when it comes to recipes.

Now, I’m never one to stick to an ingredient list, and I had some quince that were sitting around looking all pretty, so instead of pear honey, I made pome honey.  It’s a delightfully rosy mixture of bosc pears and quince that tastes sweet and juicy out of the jar.  The term “honey” is a reference to the bright flavor and has nothing to do with the ingredients list.  (The original, pear-only recipe tastes a bit more like honey than my version).

I have to fess up, though.  There’s also a secret ingredient:Canned Crushed Pineapple.  Classy, I know.  The thing is, this recipe is so delicious that I always break my rules about local, seasonal fruit and make a big batch once a year.  The canned pineapple actually kind of hides in the background and is hard to recognize behind the pears. I could definitely make this preserve a little bit less questionable and just use fresh pineapple instead of canned, but they don’t have fresh local pineapples where I live, so my rules are already broken (…although, if you live somewhere where there are fresh local pineapples, I would definitely pick those over the canned stuff.)Pome Honey

Cooking Time: about 1 1/2 hrs.

Makes: 12-16 half pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 8 c. peeled, cored, chopped pears
  • 8 c. grated fresh quince (I leave the skins on, but make sure not to use the core or the stem)
  • 1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple in pineapple juice (make sure to check that it is not canned in high fructose corn syrup. That’s slumming it a little bit too much.)
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice
  • 10 c. sugar

Bring boiling water canner to a boil.  Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water.  Sterilize jars and lids using whatever method you prefer (I put my jars on a cookie sheet in the oven, 20 minutes at 200 degrees.)

Combine all of the ingredients in a large, nonreactive pot. Cook on medium heat until everything has thickened, stirring occasionally to prevent the fruit from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  At this point, you can either purée the fruit or leave it chunky.  I like to give it a quick spin through the blender so that there are no recognizable chunks of pineapple (shh! it’s a secret!)

Pour the hot pomes honey into hot jars leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Wipe the rims clean.  Screw on lids and rings and process in the boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

The finished product is perfect mixed with yogurt, on croissants, over ice cream, and especially over this chevre cheesecake.

Oh, and if you wanted to really go nuts, I’m pretty sure that if you added about 1/2 c. of cherry jam in with all the fruit while it cooks that it would taste exactly like canned fruit cocktail, but without all the high fructose corn syrup, red #5, soggy grapes, etc.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I might experiment with it on the next batch.

*not that smoking cigarettes is cool.

Chocolate Plum Jam

It is 108 degrees outside right now.

You know that feeling when you get into a hot car that’s been sitting in the sun? I feel like that, except there is no engine to start, no windows to roll down, and no air conditioning to turn on. I am just finding my zen place instead.  Existing inside of the hot car.

My brain feels funny.

The upside of all of this is that instead of doing any kind of work at all, I’m going to sit here on the computer and write a blog post instead, with what is potentially the most important jam recipe in the history of food preservation and the written word: Dark Chocolate Plum Jam.

But first, The Disclaimer: Chocolate is tricky in jam. Putting in too much will make the resulting sweet confection completely delicious but also completely not safe for water bath canning. I don’t know what amount is officially “too much” I’m not a food scientist, or any kind of scientist for that matter.  (This recipe has had several variations…*)

When it’s 108 outside, if you happen to be in a commercial kitchen, I recommend the following gel test: When you think the jam is ready, remove the pot from the heat.  Put a teaspoon full of jam on a plate. Go to the walk-in freezer. Stand in there holding the plate for two full minutes. You will feel amazing, and if you run your finger across the jam it wrinkles, you will know that it’s set.

Santa Rosa Plum Jam with Dark Chocolate

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Makes: I can’t remember. About 4 1/2 pint jars I think. It’s hot out though, and I wasn’t really planning to post this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 6 c. santa rosa plums, diced (or any plums, really)
  • 5 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. organic cocoa powder, sifted (I used Trader Joe’s brand)
  • 2 tbs. lemon juice

Bring boiling water canner to a boil.  Make sure jars and lids are cleaned and sterilized (I do this for everything, even if it’s a jam that has a long enough processing time that you don’t really have to sterilize your jars… it makes me feel safe, like a warm fuzzy blanket). 

In a small bowl, combine cocoa powder and 1/2 c. sugar. Set aside. In a large, nonreactive pot, combine the plums, the remaining sugar and the lemon juice. Bring to a full rolling boil. Stir in the cocoa powder/sugar mixture. Cook until jam reaches 220 or so on a candy thermometer, or whatever your preferred gel test is if you’re not using a thermometer. (Technically, my jam only hit around 216 and still was completely set once it cooled). 

Pour hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4″ head space. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

I’ll have to add some pictures of the finished jam some other day as they seem to have escaped my camera.  Or you’ll have to just make it yourself and find out.

and just one more small thing . . .

While you’re at it, you can also slice plums and dip them in melted chocolate, set them on a cookie sheet on top of some wax paper, stick them in the fridge to harden, ending up with Chocolate-Covered Santa Rosa Plums, which are about a million times more delicious than chocolate covered strawberries. While they’re still warm you can also roll them in chopped hazelnuts if you like that kind of thing. Just so you know, while we’re on the subject of chocolatey plum ideas.

Oh, I just realized why plums are making me so happy today:

This is Just To Say

I have eaten

the plums

that were in 

the icebox

and which 

you were probably

saving

for breakfast

Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

– William Carlos Williams

(My brain has been associating plums with cold since I first read that poem in 11th grade).

* The first version of this recipe used low-sugar pectin and 100% cacao dark chocolate, but I’ve edited it to make a more consistent final product. Cocoa powder makes it easier not to burn the chocolate, and getting rid of the commercial pectin results in that lovely jammy texture that we all love.

Concord Grape Jam

This is like the Angelina Jolie of jam.

If these grapes were people they would wear cat eye makeup and high heels even when they were just hanging around the kitchen on a lazy Saturday morning.

The flavor is incredible: rich, earthy, sweet and musky.  It is complex and bold in ways that a strawberry can only dream about.

A piece of fruit like that doesn’t just leave the house wearing sweatpants.

(What does this metaphor even mean?)

What it means: I put a cup of really good pinot noir in this jam. I know, it’s kind of tragic not to drink the cup of really good pinot noir. There’s still almost a whole bottle though, so it’s fine, and the wine only enhances that beautiful richness that you find in these grapes.

Sure, you can put this jam on your toast.  You could also pair it almost the same way you’d pair pinot noir, though. The flavors go beautifully with roast beef or lamb, black pepper and arugula. It will be delicious with goat cheese or brie. There’s lots of room for creativity here, no need to stick within the confines of a peanut butter sandwich.Concord Grape Jam 

makes: about 7 half pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 9 c. stemmed seedless* Concord grapes (if you have a few green ones, in the bunch, throw them in too to help add natural pectin)
  • 6 c. sugar
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 c. high quality pinot noir

Bring boiling water canner to a boil. Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water. Sterilize them if you are OCD like me, but you don’t really need to. 

In a large nonreactive pot, combine the grapes and the pinot and cook on medium-high heat for about 10-15 minutes, or until the skins on the grapes have all burst. Add six cups of sugar and cook on high heat, stirring occasionally, until the jam reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer (or whatever gel test you prefer).

Pour hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4″ headspace. Process for 10 minutes.

*I was super, super lucky to find actual seedless concord grapes at the farmers market. Varieties do exist! If you can’t find them, you need to do the much more labor intensive version of this recipe. For seeded concord grapes you have to remove the grape skins (pinch the grape between your thumb and forefinger and the skin will slip right off) and cook them in one pot with the red wine until they’re tender. Then put the grape pulp through a fine-meshed sieve to remove all of the seeds. Combine the (now seedless) pulp and cooked grape skins in a large, nonreactive pot and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Boysenberry Basil Jam … and Pancakes

For the last two weeks, I’ve had a case of boysenberries in my freezer. People with big freezers might leave them in there for the winter, but space in my propane-off-the-grid-style freezer is precious, and I realized that I had to get those babies into jars.

This started a pretty straightforward berry jam recipe, until I went out in the garden and saw the basil:

My thought process was simple. This jam is for me. I am going to put it on big slices of sourdough bread with my friend Anna’s amazing garlic chevre, and it will be sweet and savory and perfect. I am getting hungry thinking about it right now.

Boysenberry Basil Jam

Makes: about 8 1/2 pint jars

Cooking Time: about an hour

Ingredients: 

  • 5 cups of crushed boysenberries
  • 4 cups of whole boysenberries, not crushed (to make a chunky jam where you can still see big pieces of berries)
  • 6 c. sugar
  • 1 tbs. minced basil
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

1. Bring boiling water canner to a boil. Wash and sterilize jars and lids (I process them for 10 minutes at the end, so technically you don’t need to sterilize them, but I am OCD about this and do it anyway). 

2. In a large reactive pot, combine berries (both crushed and whole) and sugar. Gently stir together the sugar and the berries. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until the jam reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer (or passes whatever gel test you’re using). Right at the end, when the jam is at about 210 or 215 degrees, stir in the lemon juice and the basil. If you put it in earlier you’ll completely lose the flavor.

3. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe rims and screw on lids. Process for 10 minutes.

So, if at some point in the jam-making process, a loved one walks in the kitchen and says “WOAH. It smells REALLY good in here” and you want to do something nice for them, you can whip up a quick batch of boysenberry pancakes and spoon some of the warm jam over the top.

(Don’t judge me for using Bisquick, I bought it at Costco two years ago when I was lured in by the promise of buying in bulk. I’m proud to say I only have one cup left in the box, though.)

Boysenberry Pancakes

Makes: 2 large-ish pancakes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. Biquick
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • a handful of boysenberries
  • 1 tbs. butter
  • for serving: 1 tbs. butter and a few tablespoons of warm jam

Mix the bisquick, egg, milk and berries together in a bowl. 

Heat the butter in a large nonstick pan on medium heat. Once it’s melted, ladle the batter onto the pan to make whatever size pancakes you’re in the mood for.  Cook them for about 3 minutes, or until you see bubbles coming up in the batter. Flip them over to cook the other side. Cook for another 3 minutes or so. Transfer to a plate. Top with butter and jam.