Posts Tagged cherries

Jam-boree!

Once a year, canning buddy and I have a marathon pick ‘n jam session, hitting the market at 7am, then the pick-your-own and then retreating to the house for as many batches of jam as we can be bothered to make. Raspberry and strawberry jams are givens, but there are so many options for things to add and subtract that the fun could go on all day.

We started with this, which included the last of my black cap raspberries from the community garden, and a small container of red currants, also from the garden. They yellow raspberries were a gift. We ate them, unwashed, between batches of jam.


jam3By 4pm, with the shortest possible breaks for coffee and lunch, we had 55 jars of jam, plus a container each of strawberries, raspberries and cherries to keep for eating fresh. It was quite the production line. At any one time we had one or two jams prepped and one on the boil. As soon as the on-the-boil one was ready, we moved one of the prepped jams to the stove and started on that. And rather than waterbathing each batch as we finished it, we did four big water baths of around a dozen jars apiece, coding the lids carefully so we knew which jam was which. It would be so sad to think you’re opening a jar of raspberry lime, and it turns out to be raspberry lemon instead.

jam1We mostly worked with a proportion of 7 cups of fruit, four cups of sugar and the juice of two lemons, which cut the sugar somewhat from our normal 6-4-2 ratio. It seemed to work, although the jams are mostly a little on the runny side. Not a problem my end, given that most of my jams end up in yogurt rather than on bread:

Strawberry raspberry jam (7 jars)
This has to be one of my always-favourite jams, melding two tastes of summer into one glorious mix. It’s so good that I tend to save it rather than open it, so there’s still a jar of 2013 strawberry-raspberry in the cold room.

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

Yummy. What else can I say?

Raspberry jam (7 jars)
The KISS principle jam. (Keep it simple, stupid). You can’t go wrong with raspberry jam.

Two-cherry jam (5-1/2 jars)
I think this one was half sour cherry, half sweet. We used kiwi instead of pectin. Using kiwi instead of pectin may change my jamming life.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

I’m surprising myself with this one. After insisting repeatedly that I don’t like cherry jam, this one is wowing me. I ate it in midwinter, spooned over Greek yogurt or slathered on home-made bread. It was very, very good.

Red-black raspberry jam (6-1/2 jars)
Half red raspberries, half black-cap beauties, like the ones in the black-cap raspberry jam a week or so ago. My arms and legs are still scratched up from picking these. My partner in community garden crime says it’s like we’ve been wrestling with kittens.

Sour cherry jam (4-3/4 jars)
Kiwi for pectin again. Do you see a trend?

Raspberry lime jam (7 jars)
It looked as though we were going to run out of lemons. Besides, it tastes good.

Strawberry lemon verbena jam (5 jars)
This is that New York Times no-pectin strawberry jam again. I’ve done it with mint and with lavender, so it was time to give lemon verbena a try. That came from the community garden too.

Rating: 4 (out of 5)

I have to admit the strawberry mint is better.

Raspberry-mint-chocolate jam (7-3/4 jars)
The jury is still out on this one. We threw chocolate chips in at the end, and they didn’t melt in that well, so we have chocolate blobs as well as raspberry seeds. And I’m not 100 percent convinced about the idea of raspberries and mint. But it might grow on me.

Rating: 3-1/2 (out of 5). In all honesty, I can barely taste the mint, and the chocolate blobs are a little disconcerting. The spouse says they taste of soap. But it works nicely with plain yogurt or with home-made bread.

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The kiwi to no-pectin jam

I more or less stopped using commercial pectin a few years back because I don’t like the firm-set texture, and I don’t like the piles of sugar you need to compensate for the bitterness of the pectin.

But there are fruits that won’t set without added pectin, cherries for example. So each year I bit the bullet as we followed the recipe on the Bernadin pectin box for a couple of big batches of cherry jam, which is probably canning buddy’s must-make jam each year. Bernadin suggests an extraordinary 7 cups of sugar to four of fruit, along with two pouches of liquid pectin. It sets like a rock, and I didn’t mind much anyway. Cherry jam, as I have said before, is simply not my favourite.

But the New York Times transformed my strawberry jam making last year with a recipe that throws a kiwi fruit into the mix, because kiwi contains the pectin that sweet, ripe strawberries don’t. Could we do that for cherries? Would a cherry jam with kiwi turn to syrup, or would it set?

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The result, I am proud to say, is a lovely, soft set, both with sour cherries, and with a mix of sour and sweet. We added a single chopped up kiwi fruit to our generous kilo of cherries and mean 800 grams of sugar (plus the juice of two lemons). Our only mistake was to include every last scrap of kiwi (barring the skin) — next time we’ll cut out the woody bits at the stem as we chop the fruit. The rest of the fruit melts away to nothing as you boil the jam, barring a few intriguing black seeds. But the woody bits turn to pale chunks in the dark red jam, and it doesn’t look quite right. But hey, it’s cherry jam without added pectin, and canning buddy says we could even use less sugar next time, with perhaps a second kiwi to firm up the set.

Me? I haven’t yet opened my jars of cherry jam, and I suspect they will linger in the back of the store cupboard until I finally give up and give them away.

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But I can’t wait to try my twice-failed melon-ginger jam with kiwi rather than with pectin. The syrup I ended up with last time was perfect for poaching peaches or apricots, but it wasn’t jam.

Any other no-pectin tips out there?

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Almost black

Canning buddy and I braved the hot kitchen in the Toronto heatwave for a quick jamming burst this week, with a jam from a mix of sweet and sour cherries because that’s what I picked up on a trip to the Niagara cherry country. I stoned them the night before, and left them in the fridge overnight with sugar according to the simple 3:2:1 formula that I’ve used for almost all my jams this year. That means 3/6/9 (generous) cups of fruit, 2/4/6 (skimpy) cups of sugar and the juice of 1/2/3 lemon(s), depending on how much fruit you have.

Cherries are low in pectin, and all the recipes suggest adding a pack or a pouch of powdered or liquid pectin to encourage the jam to set.  I try to avoid commercial pectin — it gives me too firm a set — so am always seeking other options. Last year we tried adding apples to a cherry vanilla jam, which was sort of meh, but we had amazing success with adding a kiwi fruit to a strawberry jam earlier this year. (I opened one jar straight away because the seal didn’t take, for some reason, and it’s very, very yummy. A 4-1/2 out of five at least.)

But this year I had some home made pectin to play around with, after an experiment last summer boiling down a couple of pounds of crabapples into a pretty, pink syrup that I froze to pretty pink cubes. We threw two pectin cubes our cherry syrup after 5 minutes of a rolling boil, and Eureka! Five more minutes of boiling and we had an almost black jam with a fairly firm set. It’s a very good cherry jam.

I will add one reality check, and after years of trying to like cherry-flavored stuff, I am forced to admit that cherry jam will never be my favorite. I don’t like the chewy texture, and I don’t like the taste of cooked cherries all that much.

Am I alone in not really liking cherry jam?

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Raspberries and …

Whatever possessed me to pick my busiest weekend of the year — some 26 hours mostly in front of the computer over just two days — to launch into a mad, six-batch jamming session including a dash through the pick-your-own to pick up the super-fresh fruit? In reality, it was the only weekend that worked for me and for canning buddy, so we didn’t have that many options. But honestly, am I totally utterly mad?

We left the house at 730 for the picking fields, were back just before 10 and I interspersed real work with sticky, jammy goo while canning buddy kept things under control. By 2pm we were done, I moved back up to my air conditioned office and launched back into work mode for the rest of the day.

I’m too tired to be too intelligent about this post, but here is what we did, all (barring the last one) using varying quantities of fruit, sugar and lemons to a 3:2:1 ratio — three (or six, or nine) cups of fruit, two (or four or six) cups of sugar and one (or two, or three) lemon(s). You mix em up, heat gently until the sugar dissolves and then boil like crazy until it sets. Bottle, waterbath, cool, eat. Far easier than pie.

No pectin.

None of them need it, and I don’t like cooking with pectin anyway.

  1. Plain, simple, ordinary raspberry jam. It’s summer in a jar. It won’t last long
  2. Experimental raspberry jalapeno jam, with a chopped, deseeded jalapeno added to the mix at the last second. The inspiration came from the Santa Fe farmers’ market a few years back, plus last year’s super successful experiment with peach jalapeno jam.
    Rating: 4 (out of 5) There’s a nibble rather than a bite to this one. Either we get brave and throw in the seeds as well next time, or we add a second jalapeno. But even without the bite, it’s a very satisfactory raspberry jam
  3. Raspberry chocolate jam. We made two jars of this, inspired by a German-English blog that showed up in a WordPress search.  How can you go wrong if you throw a spoonful of top quality chocolate chips into the hot jam and then stir it around to help it melt a little. We made just two jars, which is probably just as well, because I can see the still-whole chips suspended in the jam and am starting to wonder what it’s going to taste like. (Rating: 3-1/2 (out of 5). The unmelted chips are disconcerting, especially as a raspberry jam has pits anyway, and the chocolate that did melt (at the bottom of the jar) makes the jam a little sweeter than I would like. Try unsweetened cooking chocolate next time? )
  4. Raspberry strawberry jam. This was a knock-your-socks off recipe from last year. Not doing it again was not an option.
  5. Raspberry cherry jam. I have mentioned before that this one is not my favorite. Cherries should be eaten fresh. But the spouse and the canning buddy both like it, so we made it anyway.
  6. No pectin strawberry jam. The New York Times provided the recipe for this one, noting that a single kiwi adds all the pectin you need to turn a three-pound batch of strawberries to jam. It’s surprisingly dark, after a boil that was maybe half the 30-40 minutes the recipe suggests, and it’s a beautiful soft set with tempting chunks of strawberry. Three big sprigs of grown-in-the-garden mint gives it some serious attitude. I think I might have to spoon this one out straight from the jar. (Edit: The seals on one  jar didn’t take, so I was forced to open it immediately. It confirms the spoon-from-the-jar impressions. At least a 4-1/2 out of 5) 

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Come on, fess up. Which of those would you most (or least) want to try?

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Simple small-batch stuff

Last year I discovered the small-batch jam, throwing together the ingredients needed for 2-3 jars and giving the botulism killing waterbath a miss because I knew I’d eat it all up so fast. And it was such fun that I’ve kept the process going this year, even though I’m also back with the bigger-volume madness like last month’s massive raspberry-plus adventure.

The sour cherry vanilla jam I wrote about here was one example of the small-scale stuff, and I riffed on that last week with a  similar cherry-redcurrant venture.  I added a cup of redcurrants instead of one of the apples, and I boosted the sugar too, because I was afraid of too much bite. It set within minutes.

Sour cherry redcurrant jam (based on last week’s recipe that was in turn based on Madelaine Bullwinkle’s Gourmet Preserves)
1 quart pitted sour cherries (I think it came out as 4 cups)
1 chopped, peeled apple
1 cup redcurrants
3 (and a bit) cups sugar

Simmer fruit for 15 minutes until they are soft. Add sugar, in 3-4  batches,  bringing back to a simmer between each lot of sugar and making sure one batch has dissolved before adding the next one.

Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 5 minutes until it sets.

Lovely taste, but a notch too much of a set, and it’s a little sweet. Three cups of sugar would  have been plenty. Maybe even two and a half.

It’s still a cherry jam though. I still suspect that cherries are best enjoyed raw.

So given that the super-short sour cherry season is already over, I moved on to apricots, after finding a farm stand in Niagara that had clearly escaped the apricot eating frost we got earlier this year.

I mixed a couple of recipes, did a lot of guesstimating and ended up with this.

It was actually a three-day recipe, because I chopped the apricots up on Sunday and let them sit with the sugar in the fridge until Tuesday because I didn’t think I had time to cook them up.

And then, of course, I realised that apricot jam takes no time at all to cook. I won’t post a recipe, because it was all a bit hit and miss, but basically I chopped up 2 quarts of apricots, added 3 cups of sugar and the juice of a lemon and a bit and let it sit around for a while. Then today, I cracked open the apricot stones to get the kernels and threw a couple of bitter kernels into each of my five sterilized jars.

Next stage was the boil, which took maybe 5 minutes, because the sugar was more or less melted before I started, and finally I threw in a handful of redcurrants to produce the red streaks we liked so much a few years back.

Curious factoids about apricot jam. It foams like mad at the start, but the foam disappears to produce a clear, apricot-colored jam. Watch it carefully. Apricot jam sets fast. Before you know it, it can burn.

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Pretty as a pickle

Why did noone ever tell me how easy bread-and-butter pickles are?

Inspired by a seriously simple New York Times recipe I put together a sweet sour batch in not much more than the time it took to bring sour cherries up to boil (see below), and we’ve already eaten almost half the jar. This is an eat-now pickle rather than a can-and-keep one, which makes it faster, but I was flabbergasted at how easy it is. Slice cucumbers, salt them, and leave them sitting on the kitchen counter (the recipe said the fridge, but the fridge was full) while you go off to the store. When that’s done, boil up some vinegar, sugar and spices, pour over the (drained) cukes and wait an hour or so before you eat them. My only changes: adding mustard seeds because I wanted more of a kick, and substituting chive blossom vinegar because I made it when the chive blossoms were out and needed something to use it in. I forgot to add the dill.

Very pretty, very tasty. They won’t last long.

Then it was on to sour cherries, which always make incredibly fleeting performances in the farmers’ market at around this time of year. I bought a quart, which came out as a mere 3-1/2 cups of stoned cherries. There wasn’t going to be much jam.

Looking for inspiration, I seized on the recipe book I used for one of the raspberry jams last week because it was the only one I could find that didn’t add bought pectin. It used pectin-filled Granny Smith apples instead, and that added a little bulk as well. I cut the apples, increased the lemon juice, and had a jam about 20 minutes from starting the stove.

Sour cherry vanilla jam (based on Madelaine Bullwinkle’s Gourmet Preserves)
3-1/2 cups pitted sour cherries
2 cups chopped, peeled Granny Smith apples
2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Simmer apples and cherries for 15 minutes until they are soft. The recipe said to  chop them in a food processor ahead of time, but I like my jams with chunks, so I just used a potato masher to squish the fruits down a little as they simmered.

Add vanilla, and then the sugar (in 3-4 parts), bringing back to a simmer between each lot of sugar and making sure one batch has dissolved before adding the next one.

Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 5 minutes until it sets. Again, the recipe said 10 minutes, but that was clearly far too long.

It looks good, it tastes good. Very, very tart. It made three jars.

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Silly season

Raspberry jam is one of my recommendations for the starter canner, because it’s so easy and so amazingly, deliciously good. Raspberry jam sets in the twinkle of an eye, looks beautiful and tastes like summer, whether you lick out the preserving kettle after the boil-up venture, or whether you serve it on fresh-baked bread in the middle of winter. But we might have gone a little bit crazy after a raspberry picking venture this weekend.

The original plan was  cherry jam, mostly for canning buddy, and raspberry jam, mostly for me, and perhaps one or two more if we felt really enthusiastic. But after picking 10 pounds of raspberries in something under an hour, as well as smaller quantities of strawberries and peas, we moved into overdrive, with an intense production line of six different sorts of jam that filled the whole house with the smell of summer.

Cherry jam
I admit this isn’t my favorite jam, and I ended up with cherry syrup last year after trying to wing it without a recipe.  But canning buddy likes it, and the spouse is a fan as well, so there was no choice. We followed the Bernadin recipe, we used pectin (which I usually resist) and we got five jars. Pit cherries, add pectin, add sugar and boil for just over a minute until it sets. I may have got the order wrong on that one. I will make it another version when the sour cherries roll in later this month and will post a proper recipe then.

Raspberry jam
This was the main point of the fruit picking exercise, and we liked the idea so much we did it twice, once with the basic “best every raspberry jam” recipe  from “Jellies, Jams and Chutneys” (one pound sugar, one pound raspberries) and once with my tried and tested 4-3-2 ratio (four cups fruit, three cups sugar, juice of two lemons). I admit I think raspberry jam needs lemons to give it a kick, but will wait for a more formal taste test to determine if this is true.

Raspberry cherry jam

Madelaine Bullwinkle’s Gourmet Preserves was our inspiration for this one, although we only had one type of raspberry (she suggests black raspberries and red raspberries) and we had sweet cherries rather than sour. We used two pounds of raspberries, one of cherries, 2 tbsp of lemon juice and a mere 2-1/2 cups of sugar. It set fast, and is deliciously tart.

Raspberry strawberry jam
We made this one up, on the 4-3-2 principle. Two cups raspberries, two cups strawberries, three cups sugar, juice of two lemons. Heat gently until sugar dissolves, then boil like crazy until it sets. It takes a little longer to set than raspberry jam does, but has a lovely taste.

Raspberry redcurrant jam
4-3-2 raspberry jam recipe, with a generous handful of redcurrants thrown in at the end for fun.

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