Posts Tagged preserves

Don’t throw them away

I bought the last of the tiny Concord grapes this weekend, and then realized they are crowded with large, inedible seeds. Not my favourite, and the spouse said he wasn’t going to eat them either. That left two options: toss them; or make grape jelly. I hate wasting food, so I started simmering the fruit before I realized I had no jars in the pantry, and before I started looking up recipes, most of which say you should prep the fruit before you boil it by popping the fruit from the skins and making the jelly in two stages. No matter. I made redcurrant jelly with redcurrants on the stem. I can do the same for grapes.

The recipes also called for pectin, which I don’t like. I threw in a couple of my pectin cubes from the freezer, added the juice of a lemon and winged it.


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Concorde grape jelly

Wash grapes, add a little water and simmer until they are soft and some of the seeds and skins start floating to the surface. Strain overnight in a jelly bag, then squeeze out the juice. Measure the juice (I had just under five cups) and add the same volume of sugar, plus the juice of one lemon. I added two of my pectin cubes as well — they are less bitter than the pectin in the stores, but don’t provide that gelatinous set either. Boil until it seems to set — it was probably six or eight minutes. Bottle in sterilized jars. Water bath.

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Thoughts:

  • It’s a deep, deep purple, and must be one of the most beautiful jellies I’ve ever made
  • Two crabapple pectin cubes seem to be enough for my basket of Concord grapes to bubble their way to a loose set after about six minutes of rolling boil
  • Those recipes mean business when they order you not to use more than 5 cups of grape juice at a time. This bubbled to at least twice the volume during the rolling boil. Any more and it would have bubbled out of the pan
  • The 1:1 ratio of juice to sugar seems awful sweet to me, but then bought grape jelly is sweet as well
  • I have no idea how we’re ever going to get through the 500ml jar, but the smaller jars (three @250ml and one @125ml) are more promising
  • Unless the spouse falls in love with grape jelly, and unless I can find a way to cut the sweetness significantly, I may not make this again

Rating: 3-1/2 (out of 5)

On reflection, this is actually rather good, although I will probably never be a huge fan of grape jelly. Jelly needs a fruit with more attitude than grapes, methinks, which is why it works with crab apples, or red currants. But if I was choosing between this or Welch’s bland and anaemic grape jelly on my PBJ sandwich, I’ll take this any day. And the spouse loves is.

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Plenty of plums

I missed a month of canning and jamming on the bike trip of a lifetime last month, so there are some jams that just won’t happen this year. I don’t think it matters — the storage shelves are creaking with jam already — but I do want to step up the pickles, add to the chutney collection and save those wonderful late summer/autumn fruits that are starting to arrive, a couple of weeks later than in a normal year.

Last week we canned peaches in three slightly different ways, but I’m saving the blog-about-it until I get around to opening a jar (why eat canned peaches when there are fresh ones in the market?). This week it was those nice, blue Zwetschken plums. I’ve written before about the mysterious alchemy that turns blue plums into red jam, but today’s batch seemed to produce a jam that’s even redder than usual. We picked a plum preserve recipe from Madelaine Bullwinkel’s Gourmet Preserves but eliminated a few steps, added ginger and cut the already small amount of sugar. It set super fast, and I think it’s going to be very nice, but it made five jars, so no samples now.

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Plum ginger jam (adapted from Gourmet Preserves)

3 lbs blue plums, pitted and quartered
1 cup water (maybe use 1-1/2 cups next time)
2 cups sugar
juice of one lemon
1-2 cup crystallized ginger, coarsely chopped

Simmer the chopped plums with the water for 20 minutes, and then drain the liquid from the mushy plums in a colander — let the mush sit around for a good 30 minutes so that it drains well. Add the sugar to the liquid with half the lemon juice and heat, gently until the sugar dissolves, and then at a rolling boil until it’s about to set. The recipe says 5-10 minutes for this stage, but ours was well set within 4 minutes. Then, off the heat, add the plum quarters and the ginger and let it sit around for another 15 minutes or so. Bring the mix back to the boil and boil until it’s set. Again, this took minutes.

Bottle in sterilized jars. Water bath 10 minutes.

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Second venture was a plum apple chutney, from the adventurous Art of Preserving, by the beautifully named Jan Berry. I got this book for $9 in a second hand shop a while back, and I see that Amazon has it on offer at $138. Maybe I should sell.

Plum raisin chutney (mostly from Art of Preserving)

4 lbs blue plums, pitted and chopped
2 lbs apples (we used Macintosh)
1 lb onions
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup currants
2-1/2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp allspice
1-1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tbsp mustard seeds
Black pepper

Put all the ingredients in a big, heavy pan and simmer until it thickens (something over an hour). Bottle in sterilized jars. Waterbath.

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Why is everything made from plums quite so beautiful?

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OMG!

There was a moment in our quickfire Sunday afternoon canjam when canning buddy and I scraped every last streak of rhubarb-strawberry jam from the very bottom of the preserving kettle and let out a collective “oooooh.” This jam is lick-the-spoon, scrape-the-saucepan and lick-your-finger good. And it’s beautiful to boot.

The inspiration came from Food in Jars, although we scaled the recipe up hugely, increased the ratio of rhubarb to strawberry, added a little sugar and threw in the juice of a couple of lemons.  It’s spoon-on-yogurt runny and a rich red, with a bite of rhubarb and that glorious taste you only get from local strawberries that have not spent the last three weeks in a refrigerated truck. And in fact it’s so good that we did it all over again the following week.

We made two jams that first week, that one, plus five jars of a rhubarb-lavender venture that Tigress in a Jam posted about a few years back and that I’ve made both with lavender and with rosemary. This time I used used lavender from the garden, which made it almost feel home grown.

Talking garden, we have a large number of still green raspberries that should be enjoying the rain we’ve been getting more than we are. I’m hoping there might be enough to jam, although I worry that the critters might get to them before we do. I guess the summer was warmer the last time I used home-grown raspberries. It was July 5, and we had been eating raspberries for weeks.

But the latest jam making came just in time, I admit. Before adding the latest jars, there were just four jars in the cold room, which was starting to make me feel a little nervous.

Lovely to know that the canning season is starting over again.

Strawberry rhubarb jam
4 lbs strawberries
5 lbs rhubarb
6 (and a bit) cups sugar
juice of two lemons

Chop the fruit, add the sugar and lemon juice, stir the mix and then let it sit around for a couple of hours to let the juices flow. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then bring to a rolling boil until it sets. It took about 10 minutes, and it spattered madly. Wear a red shirt, and shoes rather than sandals.

Bottle in sterilized jars. Water bath.

Easy.

Rating: 3-1/2 4 (out of 5) This one tasted wonderful as we made it, but the taste seemed to dull over the summer. A jar opened in August was sharp rather than fruity, Too sharp for yogurt, a dribble too runny to boot. Strange.

Edit: Raising the rating to 4 (out of 5) on this one on the realization that it’s actually all about the pairing. This jam is a notch too tart for yogurt, but it’s absolutely perfect atop vanilla ice cream. Sadly this means I will be eating more vanilla ice cream.

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Snagging stuff

Canning buddy and I went over to a jam session last night, a get-together of those who can to swap our home made produce.

Big-time canners over at Well Preserved have been organizing these for a couple of years, but this was the first time that my stars lined up with theirs. So I went through my jars, to see what I had in triplicate or quadruplicate, and took a look what my fellow jam-makers had on offer.

My to-swap offerings comprised three different marmalades (orange, lemon and grapefruit) as well as two chutneys (plum apple and a mango one that I have not even blogged about yet), one of my four precious jars of quince jelly and my final jar of the vanilla/apple/cherry jam that was an attempt not to use pectin in a cherry jam.

I ended up with:

One jar of pear, lime ginger jam that’s on today’s yogurt already. Nice bite, but perhaps a notch sweeter than I would have made it.

One (large) jar of a fermented hot pepper sauce, which I’m going to leave entirely for the spouse, given the fact that hot things scare me a little.

A small jar of rowan berry jelly and one of a prizewinning Persian carrot jam. I am intrigued by the idea of a carrot jam.

A jar of very green salsa verde, made from tomatillos from the canner’s garden.

One jar of apple vanilla jam.

One jar of raspberry pear jam.

A small package of home-crystallized ginger. A little stringy. Very hot.

A successful evening, methinks.

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Peaches with peppercorns?

Do I write about peach preserve with white peppercorns, or common-or-garden crushed tomatoes for today’s blog entry?

I mean peach-pepper jam, another recipe from my new online heroine Tigress in a Jam is strange and exotic, with a gentle kick of pepper and large chunks of peaches suspended in a sweet-and-slightly-spicy syrup sauce.

But tomatoes are wonderfully in season, and canned, crushed tomatoes are something that we’ll use all winter long, whether it’s in stews or soups or something similar.

So I’ll write about both.

I admit I originally intended to make a tomato sauce with the haul from today’s farmers market run. But dire internet warnings about botulism and the need for pressure canning once vegetables enter the mix encouraged me to stay away from that this time and focus on plain Jane tomatoes, with nothing but salt, lemon juice and a little sugar for seasoning. I’ve never bought that many tomatoes before — the contents of the container weighed in at something over 5 kilos — and blanching, peeling and crushing them all created something of a production line, with tomato juice spattering every surface. (Dark, non favorite clothing is clearly the way to go for a tomato session). But the actual boiling and bottling was scarily quick, in line with a super-simple recipe from something called the National Center Home Food Preservation.

We ended up with eight 500 ml jars, plus some leftovers for freezing, at an average cost of under a buck a jar. I will think of the morning adventure when it comes to pasta sauce and minestrone soup in the dead of winter.

But I think the peach-pepper jam will top that as far as exotica is concerned, with a surprisingly subtle pepper bite along with taste-of-summer peach. It’s another one of those two-day recipes, where day one creates a syrup that’s boiled to a jam on day two. That means the fruit stays surprisingly whole instead of breaking up, so we have a mildly tangy syrup with golden peach slices. They were supposed to be nectarine slices, but I had peaches in stock, so that was that. I also used thyme rather than summer savory and added it too early, which created interesting looking green flecks in the amber jam.

The concoction looks a bit runny for now, but it will presumably firm up a little as it cools down. It tastes glorious already. I had it for lunch with plain organic yogurt. Very yummy.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) (provisional)
(The final figure will come when it cools down, and I see how good the set is.)

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