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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Chocolate Nut Butter & The Food In Jars Cookbook

I love the feeling of being inspired.  It’s euphoric.  That light bulb that goes off, when I see something that triggers the whole process, and then it’s like a landslide of ideas that I have to write down and start working on immediately.  After canning for many years now (where does the time go?), sometimes it can be hard to get that rush; I still love the whole process of growing and preserving my own food, but it’s been awhile since I’ve stumbled on a shiny new idea that I’d never thought to try before.

So, since I’m such a junky for finding new projects, I have to say how incredibly happy I am with the new Food In Jars cookbook.  I fully support buying tons of cookbooks — I’m never one to say that it’s a waste of money or my cookbook shelf is too full.  I especially enjoy cookbooks like Marisa’s, where the author’s love of the subject matter is so apparent and the recipes are so accessible and down-to-earth.  (Also, FYI: no one asked me to write this, I’m just excited about this cookbook.)

The chapter in particular that got me feeling so inspired was the one on nut butters.  It had never occurred to me to make my own, and I guess I’d always assumed that I needed some kind of really powerful food processor or blender that I didn’t own.  It turns out that my little mini- food processor that I usually use for making things like pesto works completely fine, and it also turns out that you can make something like homemade nutella in about fifteen minutes, while you’re still half-asleep and drinking coffee in the morning.  And that means you can do stuff like eat a quart of strawberries smeared with chocolate- nut butter for breakfast. Plus, we still buy peanut-butter at the store, and anytime I realize that I can easily make a DIY version of an ingredient that we’ve been buying, it’s a major jackpot.

There are several other recipes in this book that I’m really excited to try, like the pickled sweet cherries, pickled okra, boozy canned peaches, and the cantaloupe-vanilla bean jam. (I know, right? cantaloupe jam? who knew! no, I’ve never tried it, but yes, I’ll tell you how it is when I do.)

Chocolate-Nut Butter

My version of the recipe is only ever-so-slightly tweaked, but Marisa has graciously agreed to let me share it here with all of you.  The original recipe calls for hazelnuts, but since I didn’t have any, I used walnuts instead.  Oddly enough, I did have hazelnut oil on hand, so I used that instead of the walnut oil the original recipe calls for, and it also worked fine.

Cook Time: 20 min.

Makes: 1 1/2 c.

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. hazelnuts (or walnuts)
  • 2 tsp. walnut oil (or hazelnut oil… or any other neutral oil)
  • 3 ounces of dark chocolate, melted
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (or 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract if you’re broke and don’t have any vanilla beans)
  • 2/3 c. confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Roast whatever nuts you’re using on a cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes, until they’re aromatic (you’ll know- they’ll really smell divine).   Give the cookie sheet a shake once or twice to make sure the nuts roast evenly.

If you’re using walnuts, you don’t need to worry about this next step, but if you’re using hazelnuts, you’ll need to remove the skins.  From the original recipe: Remove the baking sheet from the oven and pour the nuts into a large, fine-mesh strainer and gently shake it.  This helps loosen the skins of the hazelnuts.  Alternatively, let the nuts cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet.  When the nuts are cool enough to handle, you can bundle them in a clean kitchen towel and rub vigorously to aid the removal of the skins.  They don’t all have to be removed, but then can impart a bitter flavor if too many remain.

and then…  put the nuts in the food processor and blend them until they look about like cornmeal.  Blend in the melted chocolate and walnut oil next, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend them in as well.  You’ll need to stop and scrape down the sides of the processor with a spoon a couple times, but just keep blending everything and after a couple of minutes it will look like butter. Transfer the mixture to a jar, where it will last for a month in the fridge — or so the recipe says, but I give this thing a day, maybe two, before it’s totally devoured.  (No way is this gonna last a month.  I bet we’ll have made three or four more batches by then.)