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More red magic

 

My “where’s the jam” crisis is now officially over, thanks to a smallish batch of strawberry-rhubarb jam with the first of the glorious Ontario strawberries. It’s the first time I’ve made strawberry anything jam in what was still a Canadian May, and it quells the fear that I might run out of home made jam before this year’s canning season.

I can relax now.

Having said that, it was a slightly strange venture, with a jam that foamed madly at the start and settled down quickly to something that passed my set test after just five minutes of a rolling boil, separating nicely on a chilled plate and feeling very jam-like in the pan. Except that it didn’t, and it wasn’t. This turns out to be a runny jam that will work in yogurt or ice cream rather than on bread, probably because both strawberries and rhubarb are pretty low in pectin and I didn’t add any of the bought or home-made stuff. I don’t see that as a problem, because most of my jam ends up in yogurt anyway, and it’s definitely thicker than the gingery melon syrup I made a few years back. And it’s also a very, very tasty jam, sweet yet tart at the same time. But it is a little curious.

What I did:

Rhubarb-strawberry jam (makes 5 jars, almost)

350g rhubarb, washed, trimmed and chopped
600g strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 lemons, juiced
750g sugar

Mix all the ingredients and let the fruit/sugar mix sit for a couple of hours until the juices start to flow.

Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved, and then at a full, rolling boil until it sets. It foamed like crazy at first, rising half way up the very large pan. But it settled down eventually, and there was only a little foam left to skim off at the end.


Test for a set by spooning a blob onto a chilled plate. If the blob stays apart when you run your finger through it, you have a set. It did, and I didn’t, even though I kept the boil going for another couple of minutes after the supposedly successful test. No clue why.

Skim off any remaining foam (which is amazingly good on bread), and bottle the jam in sterilized jars. Waterbath for 10 minutes, or just keep the jars of crimson magic in the fridge. The hot jars sealed quite nicely, even without waterbathing, and there’s a decent amount of sugar and lemon juice in this anyway.

(USDA recommends water baths, so I suppose I do too, theoretically at least.)

Enjoy.

 

 

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Rhubarb jam today


I nearly ran out of jam last month, an almost unprecedented disaster that forced canning buddy to come to the rescue with a top-up from her stash. But it’s another few weeks before the arrival of Ontario strawberries that traditionally launches my jamming season*, and that’s too long to wait. Rhubarb? We have not done that one for a while.

I based my rhubarb ginger jam on a recipe from Madelaine Bullwinkel’s “Gourmet Preserves” although I dismissed her idea of two slices of ginger in favour of a twonie sized blob of fresh ginger, sliced and julienned. And I failed to read the recipe properly, so added the sugar early rather than giving the fruit a preliminary cook before boiling it up.

The result? A pretty coral coloured jam with just a hint of ginger. The rhubarb has melted to a thick purée, with just a few tiny strips of ginger to add some texture and a little bite. Is this a rhubarb butter rather than a jam? Does it matter?

Rhubarb ginger jam (butter?)

1.5kg rhubarb, sliced into 1cm pieces
3-3/4 cups sugar (cut next time?)
1/2 cup water
juice and zest of one lemon
chunk of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
100g crystallized ginger, roughly chopped

Mix all the ingredients except for the crystallized ginger and allow the fruit to macerate for an hour. Or longer.


Heat gently until the rhubarb starts breaking up, and then at a rolling boil until it thickens. We tried a set test, but it’s hard to judge set with a purée, so we just concluded that things would be all right when it looked thick. Add the chopped, crystallized ginger and boil for a few more seconds..

Bottle in sterilized jars. Water bath 10 minutes, or just store the jars in the fridge.

I blame the cult of Instant Pot for the deficit, because I’ve been spooning the jam by the jarful into that creamy, tangy yogurt that proved so life changing when I started Instant Potting it a couple of months ago.

The Instant Pot makes pretty awesome, super quick steel cut oatmeal too. I might blog about that one day.

*Strawberries arrived early this year. Strawberry-rhubarb jam followed just one day after this one, thanks to an unexpected farmers market find.

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Changing my life 

If I’m honest, it was the one-pot-does-everything idea that attracted me to my new toy, the Instant Pot, because I liked the idea of getting rid of a bunch of single-task stuff and still being able to simmer oatmeal, slow-cook beets and fast-cook chickpeas for hummus.
But after just two weeks as a member of the IP cult, I realize that the yogurt it makes has the potential to change my life. This a smooth, creamy yogurt, which I make with full-fat, organic milk and strain just long enough for a medium firm consistency. (It works both for me and for the “I don’t like Greek yogurt” spouse.) I add it to my morning oatmeal, for a spoonful of tang, and then eat it by the bowlful with a generous dollop of jam. He mixes his with hemp seeds and maple syrup and takes it into work. The only problem is making it fast enough and often enough that we don’t run out.


The recipe, if you can call it such, is beyond simple. Heat milk in the pot until it gets to 180F (or a bit more), cool it back down to 115F (or a bit less) – experts suggest placing the inner pot in a sink of cold water and whisking the hot milk to cool it down. Add starter (basically a tablespoon of the previous batch), and then leave the pot of milk on the yogurt setting overnight to let the bacteria do their stuff. Come morning I strain the yogurt for an hour or so for a set that’s half way between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt. You need almost nothing: strainer, cheesecloth, thermometer and a container to store the yogurt when it’s done.


No muss, no fuss, true perfection.

The bonus: the leftover whey is perfect for bread and for that amazing Ottolenghi chocolate babka. I even added some to a pasta casserole instead of milk.

My life will never be the same again.

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Oranges, meet salt

The challenge over at Food in Jars is all about salt preserving this month, and the discussion centres on whether there’s enough stuff to keep the 1000-plus canners going all month. Marisa has a number of suggestions, including salted egg yolks (???) and an intriguing sounding vegetable stock base. But the thing that everyone keeps coming back to is preserved lemons, which I’ve made several times and always enjoy.

But for me this challenge is all about learning and experimenting, so I’m going for salt preserved oranges, because … why not? It was quick, although it will take a few weeks before I open the jar and decide about the taste.

I started by cutting two organic navel oranges into segments, dipping them in kosher salt and cramming them into a 1-pint Mason jar. Add orange juice to cover, seal and store in the fridge for a month or more to let the flavours develop. If I remember, I’ll turn the jar over a few times to mix the salt and fruit, but I’ll probably forget. I seem to have lost my little plastic lid for Mason jars, so I put a layer of plastic film between jar and lid, in the hope that will stop things rusting too fast — a salt/acid combination can pretty much destroy a ring/lid combination.

Worst case scenario.

Preserved oranges turn out to be sort of indifferent, and I don’t make them again.

Best case scenario.

They are new and wonderful, and I make them week after week after week after week, putting them in soups, stews, hummus and anything else that can do with a citrus tang.

Bonus scenario.

I zested the orange I was juicing to cover the fruit, and mixed that with the remaining kosher salt in a no-waste effort to make some citrus salt. No clue what I’ll use that for either, but again, it’s an experiment. If it doesn’t work I’m out a couple of ounces of salt.

Now comes the waiting.

 

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Marmalade musings: Using it up

My latest marmalade adventures, plus a spirited debate over on the Food in Jars community Facebook page, has got me thinking about what I use marmalade for, and whether the 16 jars I have so far will be enough for the year.

So far, I favour the following.

  • Toast and marmalade. Well doh. That’s what marmalade is all about. It’s especially good if the toast is made from home-made bread. Lashings of butter, preferably salted, is a welcome addition.
  • Marmalade and peanut butter sandwiches (also on home-made bread). That’s become my go-to snack for summer biking and winter cross-country skiing because it offers carbs, protein and sugar in an easy-to-transport, not-too-sweet package. It was the main reason I almost ran out of marmalade last year.
  • Marmalade and cottage cheese. Try it. Even better than marmalade and yogurt. It works as a post-ride protein boost as well.
  • Marmalade and oatmeal. In winter, I slow-cook a large batch of steel-cut oatmeal every few days, usually adding dates or cranberries for taste, and then microwave a portion for breakfast each morning. Adding a dollop of marmalade offers sweetness with a slightly bitter kick,. I’ve also started throwing in a handful of different grains when I make the oatmeal. Flax/wheat/rye based Red River cereal was a good addition, but I recently switched to amaranth seeds, which give a slightly nutty taste, and might move on next to quinoa or teff.
  • Nigella Lawson’s chocolate marmalade cake (recipe below). I can’t remember where I first found this recipe, but it’s like a cross between a brownie and a cake, with the marmalade’s bitter taste and peel adding something very special. I’m willing to bet you can’t just eat one slice.
  • The inside of a thumbprint cookie, preferably a cookie with lots of almonds and one that uses maple syrup instead of sugar. I like this Wholefoods recipe.
  • A glaze for any other sort of cake, within reason.
  • A glaze for meat (chicken, pork. beef) or fish (salmon, especially). OK, I’ve not tried this one for ages, but how can it possibly go wrong?

I am still looking for the perfect recipe for marmalade cake. Any offers?

And any other marmalade-using ideas?

In fact writing this blog got me so excited about the chocolate cake that I raced down to the library (in the rain) to get their copy of Nigella’s “How to be a domestic goddess,” which is the book with the recipe. She calls it store-cupboard chocolate-orange cake, because she assumes most people have all the ingredients in their store cupboards.

I beg to differ. You think I keep dark chocolate at home?

Chocolate marmalade cake
(or store-cupboard chocolate-orange cake, if you prefer)

125g unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate (I used Lindt with 70 percent cocoa)
300g home-made marmalade (that’s one full 250 ml jar, plus a little bit)
130g sugar (Nigella says 150g, but I figured a little less wouldn’t hurt)
a pinch of salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
150g self-rising flour (or 150 g all-purpose flour and 1.5 tsp baking powder)

Melt the butter and chocolate together, as if you were making brownies. Nigella suggests a saucepan over low heat; I microwaved, cautiously, on half power. Allow to cool slightly, then stir in the marmalade, sugar and salt and then the beaten eggs. Mix in the flour and then pour into a greased 20-22cm cake tin. I used my trusted, nogrease silicon pan, which makes life easier.

Bake for 40-50 minutes in a preheated 375F oven, until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack.


I had forgotten quite how yummy this is.

 

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From tree to table, via pan and jar

Another on the road adventure, during a short trip to Florida to escape the Canadian winter. Friend here has citrus trees in her lush green yard, but in 30 (or is it 40?) years of living here, she’s never made marmalade. Cue batch no. 4 of 2017 marmalade, which I consider to be one of the best yet. A real classic marmalade, with tangy peel suspended in glorious bittersweet orange jelly. This one might win prizes at the county fair.

We went small on this one. Just two large home grown oranges and one extremely large home grown Meyer lemon, a trio that weighed in at two pounds exactly. That made the 1:1:1 fruit/sugar/water ratio an easy one to follow. Two pounds of fruit, two pounds of sugar, two pounds (or two US pints) of the glorious citrus-infused cooking water.

Orange and lemon marmalade

An equal quantity of fruit and sugar, by weight

Wash and quarter the fruit and cover with water. Bring the water to the boil, and then simmer, slowly, until the peel is really soft. It took the best part of an hour.

Allow the quarters to cool enough to handle, and then scoop out the flesh of the fruits, saving the seeds and the membrane in a cheesecloth bag, which you tie up tight with string or ribbon. It’s the pits and the white stuff that gives the marmalade it’s set, do don’t skimp that one. Measure the water, and add as much as you need to make up the same weight as the fruit – one pound of fruit means one pound (16 fl oz) of water;  a kilo of fruit means a kilo of water and so on.

Chop the peel as finely as you like it and return the peel and the flesh to the pan, along with the sugar, the liquid and the flesh of the citrus.

Heat gently until the sugar is dissolved, and then boil madly until it sets, stirring as you go so you don’t end up with something that burns or caramelizes. It took almost 15 minutes of a rolling boil, but it could be more or less, depending on far too many variables to count. I test for set using a drizzle of marmalade on a cold plate from the freezer. If you can run your finger through the blob and the liquid stays apart, it’s just about done. It’s a test that usually works.

Bottle in sterilized jars.

And that was it. Six jars of golden awesomeness, which was especially good on fresh from the oven home made bread. It’s my fourth contender of the month for the Food in Jars marmalade mastery challenge. Still waiting for the Seville oranges to make it to Toronto for contender no. 5.

 

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Cara-Meyer marmalade

For those that find regular marmalade too bitter, let me offer you this latest experiment, with a few suggestions to make it work better for you than it did for me. You see there were Meyer lemons left over from my Meyer marmalade adventure earlier this week, and there were ripe, sweet Cara Cara oranges from the same Costco expedition. Combining them produces a really pretty orange/pink marmalade, which is almost lacking that mouth-puckering bitterness I love so much. It’s a little runnier than I would have liked, but not runny enough to boil up again to try to get a firmer set. And marmalade sometimes firms up over several days, so it might be thicker by this time next week anyway. A mostly successful experiment, but I would give it a good 15 minutes of rolling boil next time (rather than 12), and perhaps a little more sugar or a little less water.

Just like last time, I (vaguely) used the Food in Jars 1:1:1 ratio of fruit to sugar to water, although I cooked the fruit before cutting it up, and also cut the sugar a smidgeon because the oranges were already pretty sweet. Possibly a mistake. Other things were different too. I had a slightly bigger batch of fruit, I cut the peel finer, and the (seedless) oranges didn’t give me as many of the pectin-rich seeds and pith as I got from the lemons, so there was less help with the set. But I love the colour, and the taste is not half bad as well. Others may love it.

Here’s the methodology and the quantities, which yielded just over 7 jars of pretty orange/pink jam:

Cara-Meyer marmalade
(Somehow Cara-Meyer sounds better than Meyer-Cara)

I used 4 Meyer lemons and 3 Cara Cara oranges, which weighed in 1.1kg, and just under 1kg of sugar.

Weigh the fruit, and set aside a roughly equal quantity of suger. Cut fruit in quarters, cover with water and simmer until the peels are butter soft. That took about 30 minutes for the lemons and 45 minutes for the oranges. Fish the fruit out of the water and allow to cool enough to handle. With the lemons you remove the seeds and as much as the white pith as you can and tie them in cheesecloth, before slicing the peel as finely as you like. The oranges were seedless, so I just scraped flesh off the peel and chopped that up, and then sliced the peels. That breaks traditional marmalade rules which say the peel should be suspended in a jelly. But I like the extra texture that chopped-up fruit offers, so I always add the fruit. Who cares about rules?

Measure the liquid you used to simmer the fruit and add enough water to top things up to the weight of your fruit or sugar (so 1 litre in my case), and then mix the chopped up fruit, sugar and water (plus cheesecloth bag of seeds) and cook, slowly until the sugar dissolves and then at a rolling boil until it sets. We boiled our mix for about 12 minutes, and we thought we had a set. Maybe 15 minutes next time? But then each lemon and each orange is different. It’s hard to be precise with things like jam.

Bottle in sterilized jars and waterbath for 10 minutes.

Et voilla. Slightly sloppy Cara-Meyer marmalade. Tastes very good with cottage cheese, and would be awesome in a marmalade cake, if anyone can ever offer me a recipe for that that works.

Anyone?

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