Posts Tagged jam

Not so plummy

A while back, as we completed the eco-friendly renovation of our two-candle home, I persuaded the spouse that we needed a couple of fruit trees in our pocket-handkerchief backyard. After mild debate, and total inability to find a greengage tree supplier anywhere in Ontario, we settled on a plumcot, which was billed as a high-yield, plum-apricot hybrid with a delicate taste and the ability to resist a Canadian winter, as well as two cherry-plum hybrids called chums.

But we’ve had that tree for about five years now, and I’m definitely not feeling the love. For the first couple of years we had no fruit at all, and then the squirrels climbed in and devoured the few green/yellow orbs that survived frost, rain and polar vortex. There was a lot more fruit this year, and I started to get my hopes up. But even before they ripened those damn squirrels knocked dozens off the tree, leaving sad, green fruit rotting on the ground. We picked the two baskets of what was left and let them ripen indoors, only to end up with an almost tasteless yellow-red clingstone plum. Not nice enough to eat, too few to freeze, so I decided on one small batch of jam, as the deciding factor on whether we keep the tree.

The verdict. Yes, my plumcots boil down quickly into a well-set, if curiously cloudy jam, with a pleasantly tart taste (from the lemon, perhaps?) and an interesting aroma that’s apricot as much as plum. But I don’t think it’s worth the effort of tending the tree, which isn’t a particularly good-looking specimen anyway. Time to cut our fruit tree losses and move on? But how do we get rid of the root, and what will we plant in its stead?


The good news. Our backyard raspberry patch had a few iffy years as well, especially after we dug the canes up so we could run the wiring for a fast charger for the spouse’s new electric car. But this year they are doing well, and I’m enjoying raspberries on cereal, with yogurt and fresh off the canes. Of course it’s not really a glut. You can never have too many raspberries.

Advertisements

Leave a Comment

Four-way strawberries

strawberry_170630

Strawberries are tricky. Definitely one of the yummiest summer fruits around, and perhaps the nicest jam of all (except for all the others). But they are so low in pectin, the magic ingredient that makes jam set, that it’s always a gamble whether you’re going to end up with jam or syrup. Or a sweet, tasty liquid with strawberry lumps.

Last year canning buddy and I had a bold day of experimenting with various pectin options, which included the much-vaunted Pomona pectin (which is surprisingly hard to find in Canada) as well as using raspberries, gooseberries and home-made gooseberry pectin to ensure a set. I didn’t like the Pomona pectin jam at all. Low suger, it’s true, and a good, if firm set. But I didn’t like the taste. This year was a little less experimental, but mostly successful, with a fast and simple race through strawberry jam, four ways. The method and the fruit-jam-lemon ratio was the same for all of them, but there were tweaks to the pectin and the flavourings.

Fruit-jam ratio: Seven cups of chopped up fruit (our traditional ratio would call for 6, but we added an extra cup this year.); 4 not quite full cups sugar; juice of two lemons.

Basic method: Mix fruit, lemon juice and sugar and allow it to sit around for as much time as you have. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, and then at a rolling boil for at least 10 minutes. It will foam madly at the start — use a big, big pot. But the foam dies down as the boil goes on. Add whatever you are using for pectin and boil for another 5 minutes or so until it seems to set. Add any extra flavourings and boil a little longer. Bottle in sterilized jars. Waterbath for 10 minutes.

Strawberry, kiwi, mint (5 jars)

This is based on a New York Times recipe, which uses one and a half finely chopped kiwis for the pectin that the strawberries lack (and adds that kiwi right at the start, as opposed to the later-on addition in the basic recipe). Finely chopped mint goes in at the end. It’s very good, although the little black specks of kiwi can be marginally disconcerting.

Strawberry lemon (5 jars)

Add the zest of three lemons before you start cooking the jam. It’s an interesting flavour, although I’m not sure yet whether I really like it. We used a cube of last year’s frozen gooseberry pectin toward the end of the boil and yes, it set. We could have used kiwi instead, or crabapple pectin. (Must make more of that this year.)

Strawberry balsamic pepper (5 jars)

Also with a cube of frozen gooseberry pectin for set (use a kiwi as an alternative). Add 3 tbsp of balsamic vinegar and about 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper about five minutes before the end. Very yummy, with a lovely pepper kick that reminds me of the hugely successful peach white pepper jam we’ve made several times.

Strawberry rhubarb (6 jars)

With gooseberry pectin again (or kiwi). It’s a lovely taste combination because you get the sweetness of the strawberry and the tartness of the rhubarb. We used 4 cups strawberries and three of rhubarb. I think.

 

Leave a Comment

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.

 

 

Leave a Comment

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.

Comments (3)

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?

Comments (2)

Ontario oranges

I’ve taken my jam obsession on the road before now, making marmalade in California and golden greengage jam in Germany. But I never thought I would make marmalade from home-grown Ontario oranges. Locavore jam in January? In Northern Ontario? Madness.

Except that the spouse’s cousin, who lives up near Sault Ste Marie, is the proud owner of a waist-high indoor citrus tree, which this year was laden with a few dozen citrus somethings, a tiny tangerine style fruit, with loose, thin, sweet peel and a pucker-your-mouth inside. They were the size of a quarter (plus a few big twonies and a couple of nickels) and they were so ripe that some were falling off the tree. But they are so bitter inside that nobody wanted to eat them. My eyes lit up? Citrus-something marmalade?


Of course without knowing what the fruit was it was hard to find a recipe, but when did I ever let that get in the way of making jam? Even a worst-case scenario would create a citrus syrup for cakes or pancakes, so what did we have to lose? Here is the non-recipe for about a jar of marmalade from miniature mandarin-kumquat-orange-citrus somethings. Ten minutes prep time, an hour of sitting around time, then 25 minutes to boil and bottle the jam and clean up the kitchen.

Miniature citrus marmalade

Wash and slice the fruit (peel and all), removing any pits, and measure your chopped up fruit by  volume. We started with just under a pound of fruit, which yielded just over a cup of fruit/peel mix. We mixed that with a scant cup of sugar, and about a quarter cup of water. Then there was a pause while we went off snowshoeing for an hour, and by the time we got back, there was a bright orange goop, just waiting to be turned into a bright orange marmalade. Heat the mixture, slowly until the sugar dissolves, and then at the fastest boil your stove allows until it sets. That set took less than five minutes at a rolling boil, and that was basically it. I had optimistically sterilized three jars, which was two too many, but we divided our marmalade into two jars anyway, so that both families will get a taste. From the tiny taste we got in the clean-up, I would mark this one down as a success. It’s tart, but with an intense, orange taste and a nice, firm And the colour is beautiful too. Almost like apricot jam.

How awesome is that?

Update: This is a really nice marmalade, with a good, firm set and a taste that’s somewhere between bitter orange and sweet apricot. The peel has melted away to almost nothing, which makes it feel more like a jam than a marmalade, and I could never identify the taste. But it’s absolutely intriguing. If I ever had access to more miniature citrus somethings, I would definitely make it again. At least four out of five, plus a bonus point for sheer exotic wonderfulness.

Comments (5)

Blue magic

One minute I had blueberries. Next minute, or so it seemed, I had jam. Perhaps the easiest jam on the planet.berries

It started with a visit to the pick-your-own farm on the way back from a bike trip this weekend, and we scooped up $10 worth of blueberries in very short order — a surprisingly large quantity.

I did look up a couple of recipes, because blueberry jam is not one of those that I make every year. But I ignored both of them in favour of a modified 6:4:2 ratio — six cups fruit, four (scant) cups sugar and the juice of two lemons. One of the recipes suggested simmering the berries in a half cup of water for 10-20 minutes, so I simmered for five minutes, and I added a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar at the end, because I thought the blueberries could use a little extra tang.

And it was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it sort of set. First I had a blue liquid, with a few floating berries, and I thought I’d be pouring blueberry syrup on my ice cream all year. Then it boiled up, to double the starting volume, and then quite suddenly the volume went down, the liquid thickened up, and I started scraping seriously jelled jam off the sides of the preserving pan. How easy can things get?

berries2

Blueberry balsamic jam
(makes 5 250mm jars)

6 cups blueberries
1/2 cup water
4 (scant) cups sugar
juice of 2 lemons
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Wash the berries, and put them in a heavy preserving pan with a half cup of water, and simmer for 5-10 minutes until the berries start to break down a little. Add the lemon juice, and then the sugar, a little at a time, and then bring to a rolling boil. Boil hard until it sets, which took less than 5 minutes. Add balsamic, and boil for another minute or so, just for good luck.

Bottle in sterilized jars. You should then waterbath for 10 minutes (according to USDA guidelines), but I skipped that stage. The lemon juice and the balsamic should make this jam plenty acidic enough to store, and it’s only a few jars. There’s room in the fridge for that.

Eat on toast, on bagels, on muffins, on yogurt, or spoon it out of the jar. It’s good.

 

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »