Tag Archives: jam

now bite your tongue and say “apple”

30 Oct

Remember doing that as a kid? The stupid things we did to try and get people to curse… so goofy. And it doesn’t even sound right.

I promise this post will be more productive than sad attempts at swearing and the effects better than that of biting your tongue. Ouch.

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Apple Pie Butter, baby!

I wanted to make apple butter, but wanted it to be distinctly different than the pumpkin butter. When you start cooking down fruit and throwing around spices it’s all too easy for it to start losing it’s personality. The key to this recipe is one my dearest friends, vanilla. Vanilla really plays up the apples, adds a hint of creaminess and generally just kicks ass.

This recipe yields a lot of butter, so be prepared to eat, make Apple Butter Cookies from 100 BVBR or, reluctantly, share your bounty.

Apple Pie Butter

7 lbs apples, assorted varieties (I used Gala, Pinova, Honeycrisp and Granny Smith)
3 1/2 cups dark sugar
juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 teas. ground ginger

Peel and chop up all of the apples. You could always peel them, cut them and then toss in the food processor to roughly chop. I like the hands on prep, so I peel them, cut them with my apple slicer and then chop the slices. Combine apples in a stock pot along with sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon and mix well. Cook the apple mixture on medium heat until juices are boiling and apples become very soft and begin to break down, stirring often, about 25-30 minutes.

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Process apple mixture in a food mill, processor or blender in batches until it is creamy and smooth.

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Return to pot, lower heat a bit and add vanilla. You may wish to add more sugar (do so 1/4 cup at a time) or more spices, to taste. Be mindful that the spices will intensify after canning. Cook down until the mixture is thick and sticks well to a spatula or spoon.

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Can according to manufacturers directions in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove jars and let cool completely. Makes 4 1/2 pints (I ended up with 7 -1/2 pint jars and 1 pint jar)

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I really think that making fruit butter is even easier than making jam, it’s truly so simple. If you are unsure about canning, you can always buy freezer canning jars and make freezer butters- they still make great gifts!

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jam on parade!

6 Aug

Okay, this has been long in the making, but summer’s been keeping me a little occupied.

So, two things for this post:

1. Jam! I’m made a little photo tutorial on how to make jam. I swear, it’s not hard. A little time consuming, yes. But once you have your elements prepared and ready to go, it’s very straightforward. And after you’ve made jam once or twice you’ll be cranking out jars like you’re a machine. Now that I have my own pattern down, I can make a batch of jam, start to finish, in about 2 1/2 hours. Not too shabby.

2. I’m going to give this whole online community thing a whirl. I started a very interactive forum for nom! nom! nom!. It’s pretty sweet, it has the traditional forum bits with threads, but you make a profile that’s more in depth, kind of like Facebook. Plus, it’s got a real-time chat room integrated in it! So, I hope to see you on there. 🙂

Okay, so on to the jam. This jam is one of my favorites that’s I’ve made (and I’m up to 9 different kinds, yikes!). It is a mixture of marionberries (a NW varietal similar to blackberries), blueberries and plum. You could easily substitute other berries to make up the difference. I have a hard time coming up with fun names for my recipes, so I am pretty pleased with myself with this one.

Marion’s Plum Mad About Blueberry Jam
yields 6-7 half pint (8 oz) jars

3 cups plums, washed chopped and pitted
3 cups marionberries, washed
3 cups blueberries
4 cups sugar
juice from 1 lemon
2 tbsp. pectin

To start off the jam making process, I first prepare my jars. This means that I wash and sterilize them. You can do this in a number of ways. You can hand wash them and then simmer them in hot water, you can wash them and place them, mouths up, on a baking sheet in a 150 degree oven or you can wash them in a dishwasher and leave it on the hot air drying setting. It’s really up to you. This serves multiple purposes. First off, you are cleaning the jars (obviously), but you are also keeping them warm and sanitary so your hot jam isn’t shocking a cold glass jar. Canning jars are tempered, but keeping them warm is important.

There is also a school of thought that if you are going to use a hot water bath to seal the jars and you will be boiling them for at least 10 minutes, the jars only need to be washed, but not sterilized. I know this is what many of our grandmothers did, but I’m a perpetual worry-wort, so I sterilize and hot water bathe them.

Anyway, I usually wash them and simmer them in my hot water canning pot. This way, the water is nice and hot, so once the jars are prepared and filled with the jam, it doesn’t take long to bring it to a boil to process them.

Let’s take inventory of the tools you need:

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This is a basic canning tool set. You need this in addition to a hot water bath pot. I picked up these tools and my pot for about $30 3 years ago. From left to right you have your funnel (to pour your jam into each jar without making a mess), your jar lifter (to lift the jars in and out of the hot water bath safely), your magnet (to lift the sterilized lids out of their pot), a jar vice thingy (not necessary, but helpful to hold onto a hot jar while screwing the ring on over the lid, and tongs (which serve many purposes). I usually configure my stove with a stockpot to make my jam, my hot water canner and a smaller saucepan to sterilize the lids and rings in.

Now, as a basic guideline, you can fit about 7 jars in a canner at a time. That’s 6 around the perimeter and 1 in the middle. If you’re using smaller jars (such as 4 oz. cuties) resist the urge to crowd them in there. Your jars should not touch inside the canner, or you risk the glass of the jars expanding and contracting against each other and cracking. Now that I’ve scared you, don’t worry. If you just put in 7 jars, you’ll be fine.

Another thing- make sure your jars don’t have any chips or cracks in them. Canning is very earth-friendly in that you can reuse jars and the metal screw rings over and over, but look for flaws in the glass and rust on the rings before using. You must buy new lids (just the flat metal part) each time you can, as they are single use for a safe seal.

Okay, so our jars are clean. Let’s chop up some fruit.

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Here’s our beautiful fruit, sitting in the bottom of a large stockpot. The fruit will boil and foam up a bit, so make sure you use a pot with some space.

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After adding the fruit, I add the sugar (reserving 1/2 cup) and the lemon juice, and cook over medium heat, stirring often. Once it comes to simmer I crush up the fruit, gently, with a potato masher. I like my jam chunky, so I don’t crush it up too much, but this is your call. By crushing up the fruit we also release some of the natural pectin in it, which interacts with the acidity in the lemon juice, helping it gel.

Around now I toss a saucer or small plate in the freezer to get it cold. I would also place the lids and rings in a my saucepan with just a few inches of water (enough to cover, plus an inch) and bring it to a simmer.

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Once the jam comes to a boil, I mix up my remaining 1/2 cup sugar with the pectin, so the pectin doesn’t clump. This is added to the jam and mixed well to combine. Lower the heat to medium and let the jam bubble and burp for about 15-20 minutes, stirring continuously, until it begins to thicken.

Once your lids and rings come to a simmer, I usually turn off the heat and put a lid on them. This keeps them warm and clean. The heat cleans the lids, but also softens the wax along the bottom ring of the lid, making for a strong seal. You don’t want to boil the lids for a long time, just a nice simmer for a few minutes will do.

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Once the jam starts to thicken you can begin testing it. We are checking to see if the jam will gel properly. To do this, retrieve your cold saucer or plate from the freezer and ladle on a little jam, about 1-2 tbsp will do. Place it back in the freezer for about 2 minutes to cool. Keep stirring that jam! Once the test jam has cooled, take it out and push your finger against the edge of the jam. If it is ready, it should wrinkle up slightly. That means the jam will gel. If your finger goes right through it with no resistance or wrinkle, clean off the plate, toss it back in the freezer and keep cooking that jam. Test again in 5 minutes.

If you are concerned that the jam is, yes, wrinkling, but not as thick as you want your finished product to be, don’t fret. This is a basic gel test and your jam sets up much more as it cools in the jars over the course of a day or two. This is just a simple way to gauge if it’s ready or not.

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Once the jam is set, you can start to fill your jars. If your jam has a lot of foam on the top of it, skim it off as best you can.

I remove my simmering jars from the canner with the lifter and tilt them carefully to dump out the water. Quickly sanitize your funnel by dunking it in the hot water on the end that will touch the jars and ladle in your yummy jam, filling each jar to 1/4 inch below the edge. If there is too much space, the jar may not make a strong seal. If there is not enough room, the pressure from the seal may push out jam, causing it to ooze down the sides of the jar. About 1/4 inch space will do and if you don’t seal or it oozes, it’s not the end of the world. After filling each jar, use a plastic utensil and run it around the inside of the jar to release any air bubbles.

Wipe the rim with a clean cloth to remove any jam residue and place on a lid and screw on a ring. This is when your magnet and the jar vice thing come in handy, but a pair of tongs and a towel or ovenmit work, too. Just remember to be careful, as your jam and jars are very hot. Do not over tighten the rings. Just screw them down until there is resistance, but don’t tighten them, as the glass needs to be able to flex. I fill all of my jars on a cooling rack, with the legs folded in, over top of a dish towel to catch any water or jam splatter. Be careful of your placement of jars on the cooling rack, distributing the weight, so it doesn’t tip. This has happened to me and while I caught them in time, it’s startling and the jars are hot to the touch!

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With the lid on, bring the canner to a boil. There should be enough water to cover the jars by 1-2 inches. Once boiling, carefully add them to the canner with the jar lifter and cover. For this jam, I processed them by boiling for 10 minutes. Other recipes you find my differ.

And this is where we get into the great jam debates. Some people process their jam in a water bath. Some people fill the sterilized jars, invert them for a few minutes and then just let them seal themselves, with no water bath. I have tried both. You will hear many people who have been canning for decades, and have never had a problem, insist that you don’t need a water bath. I encourage you to do some research and do what you are comfortable with. You will find, in the world of canning, loads and loads of contridictory advice, which is probably why it can seem overwhelming. I have found that the water bath seals feel much stronger, but they still seal fine without the water bath. I am a very cautious person, so I proceed with the water bath. It’s your call.

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After the 10 minutes, remove the jars and let them cool completely for at least 12 hours, I shoot for 24. The rings will probably have loosened and I usually wait until they are completely cooled before tightening. After you remove the jars, you should hear the satisfying “ping” of the jars sealing. This can take up to 12 hours, but with jam usually happens within a few hours.

Any jars that do not seal should be stored in the fridge and consumed first. The others can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Whenever retrieving jam that you previously canned, always check to make sure it’s still sealed before eating. If the seal released or if there is any sign of mold, discard the jar of jam. Foam from the jam can leave a bit of a texture on the top of a jar, but it should be easy to tell the difference.

jam finished

After your jam has cooled and set up, enjoy! Some kinds of jam can take a couple of days to a couple of weeks to really set up, so if it’s not quite as thick as you’d hoped, there is still a chance. And if you have a jam that doesn’t thicken, use it as a dessert sauce or over ice cream. There is plenty of room in your heart for warm berry sauce over fudgy brownies or on top of creamy vanilla soy ice cream!

cherry, cerise, cereza, nom!

7 Jul

First off, episode three is undergoing post-production behind me as we speak, so it will finally be up on Thursday I’m thinking. Sorry about the long time between episodes. We’ll be shortening that up, you know how crazy summer can get!

Last weekend, we got a great tip from our friend Amy about a farm in Hood River where u-pick cherries are $1 a pound. Bing, Lambert, Van and Rainier, all $1 a pound! Jim and I knew what we had to do, so Sunday morning we headed out, bright and early, geared up and ready for some pickin’.

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The trees were heavy and flush with ripe cherries. It was really a sight to behold.

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The full trees made quick work and soon our buckets began to fill. We focused on mostly Bing and Rainier, with some Lambert or Van (not sure which they were) filling in the cracks.

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In less than an hour we had picked 21 pounds of cherries. 21 pounds of anything can be hard to conceptualize, so here’s a better view.

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You are probably asking yourself, “What on earth do two people need with 21 pounds of cherries? What are they going to do?”

Well, we froze quite a bit, for feeding to the Vita-Mix. But the large majority went here:

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Jam on it! Earlier in the weekend I made another batch of Strawberry Rhubarb Jam while rhubarb is still lingering. With the canning bug in full force, I decided to make two large batches of cherry jam: Rainier and Vanilla Bing. Two words of advice if you plan to make a lot of cherry jam: cherry pitter. It’s a miraculous invention, especially if you decide to pit 17 pounds in one day.

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Vanilla Bing Jam

Makes 4 1/2 pints

4 lbs of chopped Bing cherries, weighed after pitting
juice of 1 medium lemon
2 cups of sugar
1 box of pectin (1.75 oz)
2 large vanilla beans

Place chopped cherries in a stockpot and combine with lemon juice. It’s very easy to chop the cherries with a food processor. Cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until cherries begin to break down and release a lot of juice.

In a small bowl, combine sugar with pectin and add to cherries after initial cook time. Combine well, stirring often and bring to a low boil. Once mixture comes to a boil, slice open vanilla beans and scrape seeds into jam. Continue cooking until it begins to thicken, about 15-20 minutes.

Test for gel by spooning a bit of jam on a plate and putting it in the freezer for 1 minute. After the minute, remove it from the freezer and push the edge with your finger. If it wrinkles up from the pressure of your finger, it is ready. If not, let it cook for 3 minute intervals, checking the gel after each interval.

Spoon hot jam into sterilized canning jars and follow good canning practices for storing your jam. Let jam sit for at least 12 hours to set up.

*Alternately, you can use pure vanilla extract, 1 teas. added after jam reaches gelling consistency.
**For the Rainier variation, sub Rainiers for the Bings and omit the vanilla.

After a long day of canning, I decided to make a treat.

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Banana ice cream, made in the Vita-Mix, with chocolate sauce and some fresh cherries. I made the ice cream using a couple of frozen bananas, a splash of almond milk, vanilla extract and a couple of ice cubes to keep it thick. It was so delicious. Next time I think I will add a little peanut butter.

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What good is all of this canning without sharing? It’s time for a giveaway! One lucky commenter will be randomly drawn on Friday and will receive a jar of my Rainier Cherry Jam. Just leave a comment about jam. What flavors do you love? Homemade or store-bought? What kinds of jam have never tried, but want to? Have you ever made homemade jam? I don’t expect that you answer all of these questions, they are just some suggestions.

I can’t wait to read your comments! And keep an eye out for episode 3!

*Edited to announce our winner- Erin! I will email you, Erin and congrats!

a tale of two jammies

13 May

jam

It was the best of jams, it was the worst of jams… but more on that later.

THANK YOU to everyone for your support, comments, emails, etc. regarding the show. We are very excited about it! Jim is upstairs editing episode two as we speak and we have many more tricks up our sleeves. Please excuse my first-show jitters, I promise to loosen up as we go along. 🙂

This past weekend I continued with my strawberry rhubarb love affair and I made jam. I haven’t made jam in a couple of years now and I was a bit too excited. Being the overly ambitious cook that I am, I set out to make a giant batch. Jam for all seasons! Jam for all reasons! Our pantry would overflow with jam! I would be handing out jars to people in the street, so encumbered with jam we would be.

4 lbs. of strawberries… check. 2 lbs. of rhubarb… check. Sugar… check. Lemons… check. Disaster… check.

My first mistake was forgetting how awful the marmalade I made several years ago was from the one preserves book that I have. Does anyone have any good recommendations for books on preserves and canning? Having destroyed those taste buds and blocked that experience from memory, I reopened that book in hopes of making a delightful strawberry rhubarb jam. This recipe relied on the pectin in some lemon rind to help thicken it. After cooking it well over the time instructed, I panicked and sent Jim to the store to buy some commercial pectin. By the time he returned, the flavor of lemon had destroyed any trace of strawberry or rhubarb and the soupy mixture was overcooked beyond repair. I mourned the loss of my beloved down the garbage disposal.

However, I refused to be beaten! The next day we went out and restocked our arsenal. I spent a good 4 hours scouring the internet, reading every recipe and forum discussion on strawberry rhubarb jam I could find. I read some pretty appalling things (making jam in the microwave?!) as well as some nauseating recipes (10 cups of sugar with 4 lbs. of strawberries? 10 cups?!) but slowly collected useful information. That evening, I entered the kitchen with a fresh state of mind and my iPod, determined yet serene.

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Come 1 a.m. I had eight jars full of thick, luscious jam. Sealed and cooling, I called it a night. The next morning I whipped up some lemon scones, using this recipe as a guideline. I pretty much stuck to it, but I soured my almond milk with 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and I increased the lemon zest to the zest from a whole lemon. They were tangy without being too sour and were perfectly accented by the jam.

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We enjoyed them with a nice parfait of fresh strawberries, vanilla soy yogurt and a sprinkle of hemp seeds, my favorite breakfast treat.

Now I need to reign it in. We’re only on Wednesday and we’ve already polished off 1 2/3 jars! We won’t make it to fall at this rate! Looks like I’ll have to make more, darn…

Okay, I promise this is the last talk of strawberries and rhubarb for awhile.