Archive for the ‘jams’ Category

I tend to do a funny thing with excess food that’s taking up too much space. I turn it into something else and then move it from one place to another. From fridge to freezer. From pantry to freezer (um, hello bean stash.) From fruit bowl to pantry. It’s more of a shifting of the problem than eliminating the problem, but whatever. I’m doing something and it’s not going to waste.

Recently I found myself with an excess of fruit. Again. It’s a frequently occurring problem. I’d picked up a bunch of rhubarb with no plan (no plan = frequently occurring problem #2) and it sat in the fridge for a bit. I also had a few containers of raspberries, over purchased for a holiday cake. I often over purchase as I’m a terrible at calculating how much I’ll need and I don’t like to run out midway. It’s less stressful to deal with an excess of fruit later than to run to the store at 2am to buy more. Trust me. So here I was, again, finding a use for excess fruit but this was an easy one. I’ve said before and I’ll happily repeat myself … raspberries + rhubarb is the superior combination. They are meant to be together. So was it to be tarts? Ice cream? How about a small batch of jam? Yes, why not jam?

A small batch moves quickly, which was important because I was short on time, and the method couldn’t be easier. Equal parts fruit to sugar. My raspberries and chopped rhubarb equaled 380g so I tumbled them into a bowl, added an equal amount of sugar and some fresh lemon juice, gave it a stir and popped it in the fridge. Two days later I brought it to a boil, cooked for just over 10 minutes until it gelled and poured the bubbly red mix into 5 little jars. Easy. Sunshine on toast. And the problem has now moved from the fridge to the pantry. Success. Ish.

I read a nice little description in a marmalade recipe by Master Preserver Camilla Wynne on how to tell when you’ve hit the proper gelled/cooked state. On a plate that’s been in the freezer for 10 minutes, place a small spoonful of the jam and pop back in the freezer for 2 minutes. Retrieve the dish, then give the dollop a nudge with your fingertip. If the surface wrinkles like a silk shirt on the floor on Sunday morning, it’s ready. Otherwise, continue cooking for a few minutes before trying again. Doesn’t that conjure up exactly what to look for? Bravo Camilla.

STRESS BAKING THERAPY FACTOR: EASY LIKE A SUNDAY MORNING. I’ve recently started composting and have become hyper aware of my food waste. Had I waited until I had a stretch of time, these lovely fruits would have gone into the bin so I’m pretty damn pleased I turned this into something lovely and delicious 30 minutes before my dentist appointment. I squeezed it in when I could. While my jam shelf is packed, it’s easier to deal with than a full fridge so I’m calling victory. My morning toast appreciates it. Plus I can always gift a jar and people will think I’m wonderful. They don’t need to know the real back story. Victory x 2.

other jams: Wild Blackberry JamRhubarb Beer JamApricot JamTomato Chile JamTexas MarmaladeBlood Orange Marmalade, Small Batch Spiced Plum Butter

things to do with jam: Simple Jam TartOatmeal Jam BarsThe CBJ (grilled cashew butter, cheese and fig jam sandwich), Baked Brie with Savory Fig JamJam ThumbprintsJam Streusel TartsSavory Jam ThumbprintsMarmalade Yogurt Cake  

thirteen years ago: Chanterelles & Fresh Pasta

twelve years ago: Sour Cherry Cobbler

eleven years agoSweet & Spicy Beer Mustard

ten years agoSour Cherry Slab Pie

nine years agoHungarian Cherry Soup

eight years agoGuinness Crème Anglaise

seven years ago: Carrot Green & Parmesan Bites  

six years ago: Pineapple with Lemongrass & Lime Leaf Syrup

five years ago: Salmon Rilettes

four years agoGreek Salad Piadini Sandwiches

three years ago: Pan Con Tomate

two years ago: Fresh Pita Bread

last year: Peaches, Halloumi, Mint Vinaigrette,  


380g fruit = 5 small 4oz jars

Base recipe:

1:1 fruit to sugar

5% the weight of the fruit in fresh lemon juice (this helps the set)

My batch:

165g fresh red raspberries

216g chopped rhubarb

380g sugar

19g fresh lemon juice

  1. In a large bowl, combine the fruit, sugar and lemon juice, Stir to combine at refrigerate 1-3 days. If you remember, give a stir once or twice a day.
  2. When you’re ready to cook the jam, place your jars in a large pan with at least 1” water to cover. Boil for 10 minutes.
  3. Drain and remove the jars from the hot water and turn upside down on a clean kitchen towel. Slide the rings and lids into the hot water and put the lid on the pot.
  4. Placed a small ceramic plate in the freezer.
  5. Meanwhile, in another pot, bring the fruit mixture to a boil of medium high,
  6. Continue boiling the mixture, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, cook until the surface is glossy, the mixture clings to the spatula and the bubbles are large, rhythmic and a little mesmerizing. Test the set as noted above – place a bit of the frozen plate and return to the freezer for 2 minutes. Give the chilled jam a little nudge with your finger and if it wrinkles a bit, it’s ready. If not, boil for another 5 minutes and test again. My small batch was ready in about 12 minutes.  
  7. Turn the jars right side up, remove the rings and lids from the hot water and let drain on the kitchen towel. 
  8. Fill the jars, leaving ½” headspace. Wipe the jar rims clean with a damp paper towel, place a lid and ring on top and fasten the ring. 
  9. At this point, you can water bath process in boiling water for 10 minutes or turn the jars upside down on a wire rack for 2 minutes, then turn upright and let rest at room temperature, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Regardless of method, check the next day to make sure the jars have sealed. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and consumed within 2 months. Sealed jars can be kept at room temperature for up to 1 year.

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Two pounds of jalapeños. Two pounds. They were leftover from a project and I had no plan on what to do with them. Various breads and other recipes used one or two, not nearly enough to make a dent in the pile. I had a pantry full of salsa so that was out. Someone had just given me a jar of pickled jalapeños and lord knows I didn’t need anymore. I was fully stocked with hot sauce. Jalapeño poppers were a thought but I had a better idea. What if I candied them? Sweet-hot is a wonderful thing.


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Winter always slaps me in the face with a wet glove. Work is typically slow to pick up as I wait for clients to return from holiday travel and get back up to speed. I cooked so much last month that I draw a complete blank when coming up with ideas for January. I got nothing. So I turn to sometimes silly little things to generate ideas, like made up food holidays. There’s always something there to work with. Facebook cooking groups are another. Food in Jars has a monthly challenge I decided to do, though I have enough jars of jams, chutneys and pickles stocked up to last a lifetime. Eh, what the hell. The January challenge was citrus and I had a big bowl of fruit that needed to be used. Recipes with purpose I guess and I do love a good chunky marmalade.


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For the last few weeks, the deep purple elongated prune plums have been hanging out quietly on the farmer’s market tables. I always buy a big bag and think of the things I’ll make. Cakes mainly, of all varieties – upside down, almond batter, brown sugar glazed but maybe also a lovely French inspired custard tart, studded with a shingle of plum slices that ooze their crimson juices in the oven. My enthusiasm, though great, is often tempered by my ability to lose track of things. While I keep a running inventory in my head, I am often distracted, miscalculating the time I actually have available to make such things. I also have this fabulous habit of forgetting where I put things. I’m telling you, those refrigerator produce drawers are a hazard. It’s a wormhole in there. With the latest plums, I made a skillet cake and promptly forgot that I stashed the rest in that damn drawer, next to the miso I’ll never get around to using but keep because maybe, I just might. A week later, I found those plums in surprisingly good shape with a heady aroma but they needed to be used pronto. A small amount of jam or fruit butter was in my near future.


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Retro old school appetizers, for the most part, are perfect. Rumaki, that delicious little bite of salty brown sugar glazed bacon wrapped around a bit of water chestnut and chicken liver? They were a requirement at my parents’ parties when I was a kid and I ate as many as I could steal. Green olives wrapped in a cheddar dough and baked until crispy? Delightful. How about meatballs or little Vienna sausages swimming in a sea of those ‘70’s classics, chili sauce and grape jelly? Sounds hideous, I know, but I’m also certain you were the one boxing out the crockpot, fishing around with a toothpick hoping to score that last delectable, caramelized piece. And then there’s baked Brie. Does anything epitomize the ‘80’s more than a golden pastry encased round of gooey cheese? I think not. I also don’t think it should stay stuck in the ’80’s. Holiday party season is here, let’s bring that baby back


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Something comes over me in the waning weeks of summer.  An intense, insatiable need save the best of the seasonal produce becomes too strong to fully ignore. Preserve, can, pickle, jam … anything that makes it possible to enjoy a little hope in the gray, dreary months of winter.  I turn into a hyperactive Betty Crocker.  In the last few years I’ve dialed it back a bit from the epic high of the Summer of 2010 when I worked for a fruit farmer and made colossal amounts of jam that I’m still trying to work through.  But there’s something about tables piled high with flats of tomatoes that I find hard to resist.


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Last summer while working with my friend Kate in Southwest France, I played a curious little game in the name of straightening up the pantry.  Kate, like me, is a bit of pack rat and her side pantry is chock full of interesting things – jars of confit, pickled and preserved bits made over the year, miscellaneous cooking equipment, tools of the charcuterie trade and countless jars and lids awaiting something delicious.  The challenge becomes when you need to find a jar with a matching lid among the bins of supplies.  Good luck.  It’s there somewhere but digging through tub after tub to find a mate may take a while.  So I lugged everything out to the terrasse and played a game I called “French Country Concentration”.  I divided everything into three categories – large, medium, small – jars on one side of the table, lids on the other and went about finding mates.  It was an exercise in the Three Little Bears, repeating too big, too small, just right over and over.  At the end, any stray jars and lids went right into the recycling bin to continue their journey elsewhere.  I may or may not have told Kate that but I didn’t want them kicking around, mucking up the place, no matter how interesting the lidless jar may have been.  Instead, I washed everything thoroughly and put them all back together, nestled in their appropriate bins, awaiting some delicious tidbit.


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As usual, I found myself with too much of a good thing. This time, it was rhubarb. The big red fleshy stalks stared back every time I opened the fridge. Once in a while, a few would tumble out in a desperate attempt to make their prescience more of a priority in my life. It wasn’t happening. Yet.


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What the hell are ramps anyway?  For most of my life I’d never heard of the things and then about five or six years ago, they started popping up everywhere.  The way folks go on and on about them you’d think they’d cure cancer, world peace and the international debt crisis.  How can something possibly live up to that hype?  Then I tasted some.  Huh.  Oniony, garlicy with an ever so slight funky edge that is so much more interesting than a scallion or straight up onion.  Worth it?  I think so.  They’re also a sure sign that spring has arrived, even more so than the season’s first asparagus or rhubarb.  I think that’s what we’re all really looking for after a few dreary months so maybe a little crazy behavior is expected.


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Sometimes in the dead of a dreary winter, I need something bright.  Recently, heaps and heaps of citrus in all their vivid glory – oranges, grapefruits, lemons, clementines, pommelos – flat out distracted me.  The stunning displays immediately brought to mind images of a warmer, sunnier climate; somewhere, ANYWHERE but here.  I inhaled their sweet-tart fragrance and smiled as I glanced around.  And there, on the end … there they were.  Bright orange with a flush of reddish pink the only hint of what lay inside.  Yep, blood oranges.  Hot damn.  And the Moro variety to boot – I’ve found them to be a little sweeter than some of the others.  Slice them open and you’re rewarded with a shock – deep, almost purple flesh and a sweet flavor.  I immediately scooped up a bunch thinking I’d make something lovely and pinkish for Valentine’s Day.


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