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August 29, 2010

Fruit Frenzy

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Summer is coming to an end, and it seems that the fruit has been jumping into my kitchen. The stone fruits have been outstanding, and when Tougas Farm had a pick-your-own special last weekend, we came home with 40 pounds of dead-ripe fruit. That's a hella lot of peaches and nectarines.

So, I dragged my ancient canning equipment upstairs. It's been years since I've canned. I had to consult some books and websites to remember the process and see what guidelines are being recommended these days. I also wanted to use much, much less sugar than traditional recipes call for. Commercial pectin needs a ton of sugar, sometimes almost as much in weight as there is fruit in a recipe! Thank goodness there's now a No Sugar Needed pectin, which I've had a lot of success with. I've been using as little pectin as possible, and none in long-simmered jams when using fruit with a lot of natural pectin. As an example, I made a blueberry-lemon jam with 8 cups of berries and 11/2 cups of sugar, instead of the 6 called for in old recipes. The jam is pleasantly tart, more like fruit than sugar.


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Ahem.


The farmstands and produce stores have all had bumper crops, and when a whole flat of figs was $5, blueberries on sale by the 2-quart box, and an enormous bag of 20 pounds of slightly dinged apples another $8, well. Things got a bit out of hand. Needless to say, everyone is getting preserves this December.


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I'm terrified of poisoning someone with a beautiful jar of peaches, so I tend to be very conservative about acidity levels, sterilization, and a proper seal. I know plenty of people who can blithely throw some fruit into a jar, pour in hot syrup, clamp on a lid, give it a shake and pronounce it done, but I'm not one of them. (My mother-in-law doesn't even use proper canning lids--just recycled baby food bottles. *shudder* I throw out her jam. Shhh. Don't tell.)


On the other hand, it's not rocket science, people. If you haven't attempted canning before, just get yourself a copy of The Ball Blue Book or look at one of the Extension Service websites; or spend an afternoon in a canner's kitchen. My friend Kerry (where are you, Kerry? We lost track after you went to grad school) taught me more than 20 years ago.

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So far I've made brandied peaches, peach-ginger conserve, fig-ginger-lemon jam, blueberry-peach jam, jalapeno jam, jalapeno-peach jam, blueberry-lemon jam, gingered peach halves, peach chutney, raspberry-blueberry-cassis jam, and raspberry-peach jam. I have cooked-down apples waiting to be sieved then slow-simmered into apple butter, and a bucket of sour damson plums on the counter waiting for ripening and inspiration. I tend to like the zany combinations, something to give a jolt of flavor on a toasted pita in the morning, or to top plain yogurt and fresh fruit, or to go on a cheese platter or in a glaze or sauce.

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Now, how to flavor those sour Damson plums? And my box of tomatoes is coming Thursday.

October 12, 2010

Cranberry-Apple Chutney

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At home with 30 pounds of apples. Made applesauce and more apple butter, and it looks like the apple bag has barely been touched. Time to use up anther dozen. Humn....Thanksgiving's coming, how about apple-cranberry chutney? I adapted a few recipes, keeping the acidity levels up with plenty of vinegar. This is a spicy, sweet-tart chutney that I think will be awesome with Thanksgiving turkey. I had a bit stirred into plain yogurt, and it was delicious. Sandwich spread with turkey, on toast with cream cheese, or to top baked brie as an appetizer would be other uses. Which is good, because I ended up with 11 half pints! This would also freeze well.

CRANBERRY APPLE CHUTNEY

12-14 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into rough chunks
1 bag fresh cranberries
2 cups raisins
1 large onion, peeled and rough chopped
1 large red peppers, rough chopped
3-4 cups brown sugar (start with 3, and taste)
3 Tbsp. yellow mustard seed
1 Tbsp. fresh diced ginger
1 Tbsp. diced crystallized ginger
2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. pickling salt
2-4 tsp. hot pepper flakes
5 cloves garlic, peeled and rough chopped
4 cups cider vinegar
2 cups halved walnuts

Clean canning jars and lids. Place jars in canning kettle and bring to boil. Cover and keep warm while making chutney.Put lids and rings in smaller pan, and bring to very low simmer.

Place all ingredients in a large, heavy-bottomed pot and mix well to dissolve brown sugar. Place on stove and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, uncovered 20-30 minutes or so, stirring often to keep from scorching. The cranberries will burst and "melt" into the chutney, and the whole thing will thicken. Taste for sweetness, and add more sugar if needed for balance. Stir in the nuts for the last five minutes.

Pack into hot pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Seal and adjust rings. Place back in hot water bath and process 10 minutes once water has come to a boil again.


October 16, 2010

Pears in Red Wine-Vanilla Syrup

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I've only recently come to appreciate pears. The local ones that have such a short season are so wonderful, and a far cry in taste and texture from the mealy, flavorless ones the groceries offer year round. I wanted to preserve some of that lovelyness.

Pears in Red Wine-Vanilla Syrup

In a large pot, pour a bottle of fruity, lighter-bodied red wine. Something like a Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, Cotes Du Rhone, lighter Shiraz. Bring to a simmer, and add a cup of sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and add a cup of water. Using a sharp knife, slit open a vanilla bean, and scrape the seeds out and into the pot. Cut the bean into 2-inch lengths, and add. Taste for sweetness, add more sugar if you wish. Let the mixture simmer gently for a while so it will become syrupy.

If you're canning the pears, prepare your jars and lids.

Meanwhile, peel your pears. Figure on 8-10 pears, more if you're canning them. Slice into quarters, cutting away from the core. Put the slices into a bowl of water that has had a spoonful of lemon juice added, to help preserve the pear's color.

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When all the pears are peeled, drain them and then add the slices to the syrup. Gently poach. If you're not canning them, poach until just tender, probably 5-10 minutes depending on ripeness. Then remove from heat, and cool in the syrup.

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If you're canning, just bring to the boil, and then pack into jars, top off with syrup leaving 1/23 inch headspace, get rid of air bubbles, cap and process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Serve the pears on their own, or even better, with vanilla ice cream, or over a simple cake. Or to be really decadent, with a drizzle of caramel sauce.

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October 26, 2010

Apple Pie Jam

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Apple butter, check. Applesauce, check. Apple chutney, check. Oh man, there are still apples left in the box.

I tried out this low-sugar jam, and it was fabulous. Like apple pie filling. Makes whole wheat toast sing.

Apple Pie Jam

Enlist husband to help peel apples. After he decides there's a dire need to be elsewhere, chop the peeled apples. I had about 8 cups chopped apples from about 20 smallish apples. Throw into a large pot with two cups of apple cider and 1/4 cup lemon juice. Bring to a low simmer. Cook until apples are soft, about 30-45 minutes, depending on your apple variety. While they're cooking, wash and sterilize your jars and lids, and get your canning water simmering.

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Add a cup of brown sugar to the apples, stir and let cook a bit. Add about a Tablespoon cinnamon, a teaspoon nutmeg, and a bit of allspice. Stir around, and taste. Add more sugar and spices if you wish. The mixture should be thickening up a bit by this point. Cook longer if your apples aren't soft yet.

Combine 1/2 package of no-sugar needed pectin with 1/2 cup brown or white sugar. Quickly stir it into the bubbling jam, and stir thoroughly while it bubbles for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat, and fill jars.

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Process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. I got 7 half pints, ymmv


July 5, 2011

Strawberry Madness and Cherrypalooza

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It's canning season again! I've been working with strawberries and cherries. I am thrilled that some of our local farms are now growing cherries. This weekend we extended the strawberry season by driving north to New Hampshire, where we picked at Brookdale Farms in Hollis. It's less than an hour from Boston, and the you-pick price was much lower than at our local farms. We picked 20 pounds in about an hour. Afterward we wandered around and stumbled onto the lovely Andres Institute, a hillside sculpture garden in the woods. Some nice hiking and interesting sculptures, until mosquitoes and rain forced us back to the car.

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I've put up Strawberry-Amaretto jam, Strawberry-Balsamic jam, Strawberry-Pinot Noir jam, Brandied Cherries, Strawberry-Rhubarb jam, and Cherry Jam. By this time I've become comfortable enough with the materials and techniques that I'm working with recipes as suggestions for ingredients, and experimenting as I go. Safety first, so I follow procedures for sterilization, acidity levels, and processing times. I do like to use at least some pectin in jams so I don't have to be messing around too much with long simmers and unknown set points. I use the no-sugar pectin when using commercial pectin, and do use sugar, although much, much less than in traditional jams so I get more fruit flavor and less sugar. I like a slightly looser set than commercial jams and made my own pectin from green apple cores and skins last year. Depending on the fruit, I sometimes cut back on the pectin--for example, raspberries and apples have a lot of natural pectin so I may use only half of the pectin envelope or my homemade pectin with them. I often use Christine Ferber's technique of macerating the fruit to draw out the juices, then cooking it first to concentrate flavors and natural pectin. Looking forward to raspberries and blueberries next week!

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A friend had asked about my Strawberry Pinot Noir Jam, so here you go:

Strawberry Pinot Noir Jam

For the strawberry jam, quarter about 8 cups cleaned and hulled strawberries. Put them into a bowl with a cup of sugar and 1/4 cup lemon juice, and stir to coat. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Then, drain off the juice that collects, and put the juice into your cooking pot. Add 1/2 the berries, 1/2 cup pinot noir wine, and simmer until the berries are soft. Use a potato masher to mash the berries into the syrup, then cook a few minutes until it begins to thicken. Put a small plate into the freezer.

Meanwhile, wash your jars, put them into your canner with water to cover by an inch, and boil for 10 minutes. Put the washed lids, ladle, funnel, and a chopstick into a smaller pan with water, and simmer 10 minutes. Turn down that heat, then add the lids to the pan so the rims can soften.

Add the rest of the berries to the jam pan, and cook for 5-10 minutes. Mix 1 envelope no-sugar pectin with a cup of sugar. Thoroughly stir this mixture into the jam, and bring to the boil for 1 minute. Taste and add more sugar if you wish. Test for gel by putting a teaspoon of the jam onto the frozen plate. It should thicken after a minute or so, enough so that you get a "trail" when you push your ginger through.

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Take your jars out of the canner (I do hope you have a jar lifter!) and put onto a towel on the counter. Place a funnel onto the first jar, ladle in jam til 1/4 inch of the top. Remove funnel, use the chopstick to pop any air bubbles, then wipe the rims with a damp paper towel until clean. Place on the lid, then the ring, and tighten. Repeat with remaining jars. Carefully put jars back into the canner, and when the water comes to the boil, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, remove cover, and let jars sit for 5 minutes. Then take jars out and put onto a towel, and let rest for 24 hours. You should hear the "ping" of the vacuum forming within a few minutes. After 24 hours, remove the bands, check for a good seal, wash the jars, label and store. I got 8 1/2-pints, your mileage will vary.

Here's another one:

Brandied Cherries with Wine and Spices: (adapted from Canning for a new Generation)

Pit three pounds sweet cherries. (and yes, I totally recommend one of those cherry pitter gizmos. I take the pit "reservoir" off so I don't have to stop and clean it out, and plan on showering afterward. The first time I pitted cherries I was startled into thinking I'd broken out on a horrid rash later when I glimpsed my arm covered in pinpricks of red)

In your jam pan, combine 2 cups brandy, 1 cup fruity red wine, a few long strips of orange zest, and 1 cup sugar. Bring to the boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the pitted cherries, lower the heat and simmer 5 minutes. Taste the syrup and add more sugar if needed.

Meanwhile, wash 7 1/2 pint jars, put them into your canner with water to cover by an inch, and boil for 10 minutes. Put the washed lids, ladle, slotted spoon, funnel, and a chopstick into a smaller pan with water, and simmer 10 minutes. Turn down that heat, then add the lids to the pan so the rims can soften.

Take your jars out of the canner (I do hope you have a jar lifter!) and put onto a towel on the counter. Place a funnel onto the first jar, and use the slotted spoon to ladle in cherries until 1/2 inch from the top. Tuck in a cinnamon stick, 1-2 of the orange zest strips, and a star anise if you have some. Then ladle in the syrup to cover until 1/4 inch from the top. Remove funnel, use the chopstick to pop any air bubbles, then wipe the rims with a damp paper towel until clean. Place on the lid, then the ring, and tighten. Repeat with remaining jars. Carefully put jars back into the canner, and when the water comes to the boil, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, remove cover, and let jars sit for 5 minutes. Then take jars out and put onto a towel, and let rest for 24 hours. You should hear the "ping" of the vacuum forming within a few minutes. After 24 hours, remove the bands, check for a good seal, wash the jars, label and store. I got 9 1/2-pints, your mileage will vary. These should sit for at least a month before using so the brandy and wine will permeate the fruit.
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July 8, 2012

Blueberry Jam with Cinnamon, Vanilla and Port

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This was a winner. The subtle flavors just deepen the "blueberriness" of the jam. Delicious on goat cheese!

8 cups blueberries, picked over
1 1/2 cups sugar (or more to taste)
2 Tbs. bottled lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 vanilla bean, split and broken in half
1/4 tsp. butter
1 package no-sugar necessary pectin
1/2 cup ruby port or other fortified wine (or another red wine of your choice)

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1. Put 6 cups of the berries in a large wide pot. Add 1 cup of the sugar, the lemon juice, the cinnamon and vanilla. Stir and squish some of the berries. Let sit for an hour.

2. Sterilize and heat your jars, rims, lids and equipment. Put a small plate in the freezer.

3. Add the port to the pan, and put on medium heat. Let gently simmer. Add the butter to prevent foaming. The blueberries will burst, and the mixture will begin to thicken after 10 minutes or so.

4. Mix the remaining 1/2 cup sugar with the pectin in a small bowl.

5. Remove the cinnamon sticks and vanilla bean pieces.

6. Add the remaining two cups blueberries, cook for 4-5 minutes to soften.

7. Bring to a higher simmer, and add the pectin/sugar mixture, stirring it quickly into the jam. Simmer and stir for another minute. Taste, and if needed add an additional 1/2 cup or so sugar to taste. Put a spoonful onto the frozen plate. If you can draw a finger through the jam and leave a path, it's set.

8. Carefully ladle into prepared jars, release bubbles, wipe rims, and put on lids and bands.

9. Put jars into bubbling canner, and process 10 minutes. Turn off heat, let sit for 5 minutes, then carefully remove and let cool for 24 hours.


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July 21, 2012

Hot Pineapple-Apricot Jam

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I had a dead-ripe pineapple and a few apricots to use up. I had originally thought to throw some diced jalapenos in for kick, but wanted to keep a fresh golden color and thought the green would muddy it. I used a spoonful of red chile sauce instead, and also some lime juice and a shot of rum to deepen the flavors a bit.

I had read that fresh pineapple has an enzyme which interacts badly with pectin, making getting a good gel a bit problematic. Cooking seems to neutralize the enzyme, and I also used my super-gelling trick of adding apple cider vinegar. Here's my experiment, which turned out wonderfully. Use just a touch of chile sauce if you want to add a little bit of heat and balance out the sweet; more if you envision this to be more of a condiment or glaze for grilled meats. Or leave out the chile entirely, but increase the rum and lime a bit to counteract the sweetness.

Hot Pineapple-Apricot Jam

1 ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, eyes trimmed off, chopped.
1/2 tsp. citric acid (Fruit Fresh, helps keep fruit from darkening)
8 ripe apricots, washed, pitted and diced
1 1/2 cups sugar or more
3 Tbs. no-sugar needed pectin (or one box)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (15% acidity)
juice of two limes
1-2 Tbs. dark rum
1/2 to 1 tsp. chile sauce, optional

Procedure:

1. Put the pineapple pieces in a food processor with metal blade (do this in two batches) and pulse until it's almost a chunky applesauce consistency, leaving some bits in pieces. Put into your jam pot with the citric acid, 1 cup sugar, the vinegar, lime juice, and start at a low simmer.

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2. Sterilize equipment, put a small plate in the freezer, and get your canning water boiling. Let the Pineapple gently simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Don't let the heat get too high, or it'll scorch on the bottom.

3. Add the diced apricots, rum and chile, and cook another 10 minutes, until apricots get very soft. Taste at this point to adjust flavors, but keep in mind you'll be adding another 1/2 cup sugar in a minute.

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4. Mix the remaining 1/2 cup sugar with your pectin, and turn the heat up under the jam. Add the sugar/pectin, and stir hard to combine. Let lightly boil for a minute, then taste and put a blob onto your frozen plate to test for set. If necessary, adjust flavorings again.

5. Ladle into jars, seal, and process 10 minutes. I got 5 1/2-pint jars and one 4 oz jar, YMMV.

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September 13, 2012

Fig and Balsamic Jam

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Seriously good.

Fig and Balsamic Jam

4 lbs fresh ripe figs (2 trays from Costco)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice (to ensure proper acidity)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
pinch salt
2 Tbs. no-sugar-needed pectin

1. Wash and dry figs. Cut off stem and a thin slice from the bottom of the fig, which can be dry. Cut into chunks.
2. Put into a bowl with 1 1/2 cups of the sugar, the lemon juice and vinegar. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
3. Sterilize equipment, get the canner boiling. Put the fig mixture into a large heavy pot, and simmer for 20-30 minutes until figs are falling apart.

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4. Mix the pectin with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Stir into the bubbling jam, stir around for a minute. Taste, add more lemon juice, vinegar or sugar as needed.
5. Ladle into prepared jars, cover, and process in a boiling water bath for five minutes. Turn off heat. Let sit in the water an additional five minutes, then remove and let sit for 24 hours.
Yield (YMMV) 7 half-pints

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Destination Anywhere in the Canning category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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