Posts Tagged jams

Doing a little different

A long while ago, canning buddy and I made a slightly caramelized marmalade with some brown sugar for colour, and whisky thrown in at the last second, supposedly for taste. But we never tried it again, for reasons I can no longer remember.

Cue this week’s experiment, an after-work celebration of the fact that the Seville oranges have finally, finally, finally made it to Toronto. Two batches, one with mostly brown sugar, one only with white, and both are pretty damn awesome. I know this because a jar of each marmalade failed to seal properly after their moment in the water bath, forcing me to open and taste both jars before storing the leftovers in the fridge. These are almost the first no-seal jars. Did I take them out of the water bath too early? Fill them too full? Not finger tighten the rings hard enough before the water bath? Who knows. It just means more marmalade to eat right now.

I’m not going to go through the recipe in detail here, because it’s basically the same as the five (!) batches of marmalade I’ve already made this month (Meyer lemon, Cara-Meyer, a mini grown-in-Ontario batch of what was probably calamondin, a mixed orange-lemon marmalade in Florida and a delicate Meyer-blood orange mix that I didn’t blog about).

The method uses equal weights of fruit, sugar and water, with a pre-boil, a slicing of the peels and then a rolling boil until it sets. It’s a method from Marisa at Food in Jars and it usually works. One of the latest batch was regular Seville orange marmalade — with a kilo of white sugar and the same weight in Seville oranges (and one lemon). For the second I used the same amount of fruit, but 650g of brown sugar and 350 of white. It very, very dark — almost a chocolate rather than an orange with a taste that’s almost burnt.

And this time, the set was just about perfect, as opposed to the slightly too runny Cara-Meyer marmalade and the rather well set Meyer lemon mix that started this year’s marmalade season.

I like.

Next up: a Daily Telegraph recipe for marmalade with the addition of black treacle (Britain’s bittersweet and gooey answer to North American molasses), and a blog on using up marmalade. There’s a lot to use.

Leave a Comment

Quite the quince

I admit I’m somewhat addicted to the concept of quinces, even if they are bastards to peel and the jams and jellies don’t always live up to their promise. It reminds me of childhood – we had a quince tree in the back yard which offered pretty pink flowers in spring and rock hard yellow fruit in fall. But they are hard to find over here, and the season is so short that I buy them when I see them, and work out what to do afterward.

This year’s I managed to snag a series of quinces from four different shopping ventures, but of course I had no clue what to cook. I made quince chutney a couple of  years ago, so wanted to try something sweet this year. Quince jelly was the event of the moment, although it was amber rather than deep, deep red, possibly because I didn’t boil the quinces for the length of time suggested in one of several internet recipes. It’s sweet rather than quince-like too. Almost too subtle.

Next up was poached quinces, and I admit it took me three attempts to get this one right. My first recipe said to pressure-cook the quinces for 30 minutes, which turned the yellow-beige fruit into a glorious shade of garnet red. But it also removed even the faintest hint of bite, which wasn’t really what was ordered. The taste was good — I threw in a generous couple of tablespoons of grated ginger for bite and the last couple of inches of a bottle of white wine. Texture sort of blah. Nothing like the pale pink chunky, grainy things my mother used to make.

From there I moved on to try a notch harder to recreate her sweet-sour taste,  although I used the pressure cook method (for 20 minutes). I added a cup of white vinegar to the poaching liquid and threw in five-spice for flavor and (too little) chilli powder for heat. But I should have upped the sugar to offset the vinegar, and used (milder) cider vinegar rather than white vinegar. It’s pleasant, and it’s working with the farro too, but it isn’t quite so nice.

Third attempt was the charm, simmered on the stove for about two hours until soft but not soggy. What it lacks in dark pinkness, it makes up for with taste.

Poached quince with vanilla and cider vinegar
6 quinces, peeled (with a potato peeler), cored and sliced into wedges
1 vanilla bean, split down the middle to remove the seeds
1 cup cider vinegar
sugar
Water

Use a sharp knife and plenty of patience to chop the quince, and weigh the chopped up fruit to work out how much sugar to use. I had just over a kilo of fruit, so I used 150 grams of sugar. (Counting in metric makes it far easier to work out the percentages)

Add vinegar and sugar to a saucepan, and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Then add the quince, the vanilla (seeds and pod) and  water to almost cover.

Bring up to a simmer and simmer until the fruit is soft. The longer you cook it the pinker it gets, but also the mushier.

It’s glorious, served with farro, my breakfast of the moment.

As for the farro, I flirted with it earlier this year, and then forgot about it. But I’ve cooked up four batches so far this fall, two with varying amounts of coconut milk, one with three parts water to one of milk and one of milk and water in equal parts, and (mixed with the quince). It’s a wonderful start to the day.

Breakfast farro
1 cup farro (a wheat like grain that’s supposed to be high in protein)
4 cups liquid (all water, or water and coconut milk, or water and milk)
A little salt

If I remember I soak this overnight (or longer) before I start cooking it, and then I boil this up 2 or three times, allowing it to simmer for a few minutes before switching off the stove and putting a lid on the pan to keep the heat in. It’s cooked once the moisture is mostly absorbed and the grains have cracked — you can’t really overcook this one. Store in the fridge in a closed container and use as needed. A cup of cooked-up farro seems to do 5-6 portions of breakfast, depending on how hungry I feel when I wake up.

I’m serving this one with a generous portion of poached quinces, or stewed fruit (or maybe jam), microwaved for a minute or two to heat it up. The addition of a splash of milk, cream or buttermilk is optional but rather nice. Bananas go well with it too.

Enjoy the fact that you won’t be hungry until almost lunchtime.

Edit: to speed up the cooking time, you can presoak the grain and then whiz them up in the food processor for a few seconds to crack them a little, before you start the boiling/cooling process. They still take a while to cook, but they become a little bit more like porridge and a little bit less like grain. It’s all a question of taste.

Comments (1)

Pretty, pretty pectin

Pectin, as I understand the science of jams and canning, is the magic ingredient that makes the difference between a hard set and no set at all in jams and jellies. But food control freak that I am, I’ve never been a fan of adding commercial pectin to jam because I like to know exactly what I’m using and I don’t like the gluey, overset texture that commercial pectin seems to give. I don’t mind a syrupy jam anyway– I spoon it into plain, Greek yogurt or pour it over ice cream — and I’d rather throw a grated apple or a handful of redcurrants into a jam from a pectin-poor fruit and encourage things to set this way.

But our latest blueberry picking venture took place at a farm with crabapple trees lining the driveway, and the thought of making my own pectin seemed a little too good to miss. It took about a minute to pick half a punnet of crabapples, and another 30 to simmer the roughly chopped fruit (peels, stems, seeds and all) down to a  glorious pink mush with a cup or so of water. Then I strained it through cheesecloth for an hour or so, squeezed the gunk out as hard as I could without tearing the cheesecloth, and measured the gooey liquid into ice cube trays so I could freeze it and use as needed.

I don’t know if the pectin works, but the little iced-pectin jello cubes are really rather pretty.

Blueberry-something jam is on the agenda for this week, perhaps with a cube or two of home-made pectin to try to encourage a set.

Watch this space for details.

Comments (2)