Tuesday, September 13, 2011

playing catch-up...

I hardly know where to begin since I haven't written about any of my summer projects since the blackberries. Since then, I've made a melange of hot pepper slices which I'd call "Nacho Bizness" if I enjoyed puns. Okay, who am I kidding? I totally love puns!  Digressing... I also put up about 20 jars of fig preserves after receiving what I would refer to as the holy grail of phone calls. It went something like this: "Hey, it's Laura. I'm at my Mom's house in Albany and her fig tree is literally weeping with fruit..."

After the figs were the plums, and after the plums were more peaches--a soft set, mild flavored, party pooper of a jam... And then came what my friend Lindsey refers to as "adultcherries"--those boozy, syrupy gals who live in the refrigerator.  Later came a couple of jars of organic cherry jammy glaze.  I deviated from jars for a bit and dehydrated Vidalia onions. Then, in the face of feeling as if I'd missed the end of the peach season while moping around the house during my husband's extremely long, asian business trip, I received the amazing news that there was one last variety of peaches available for just a teeny tiny window of time.

Enter the Autumnprince. He's a handsome fellow--fantastically freestone and delectable. These are easily the best peaches I've had all season.  From this box of 25 pounds I decided that some needed to be frozen and dehydrated because it's like my mother-in-law always says: What are you going to do with all that jam if it comes down to it? You can't live on jam.  BUT, if there were a jam to live on, it'd be the Autumnprince jam laced with Don Julio Anejo tequila.  It's beautifully flame colored, and there's something about the slightly vanilla finish to the tequila that really complements the flavor profile... Wow. I just nearly choked on my own pretension.  So, the jam? It's really good. And it's totally brilliantly reddish orange with a high clarity. You'll love it.

For fabulous tequila spiked peach jam, follow the linked peach jam recipe from an earlier post, but add 2-3 TBS tequila with the lemon juice, and follow as normal.  I've done this with Chambord as well, and it's delish.

Speaking of things delish, go look at the beautiful creation of Erika Jurney, aptly named Delishix. Her recipes are fantastic, and I've already added a few to our weekly menu plan.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

large, overdue batch: blackberries

By the time blackberries came in season this early summer, I was pretty excited. I also quickly discerned that my kids were approaching pro-rural status and was ready to test their picking skills. Son, 8, daughter, 5, and baby in a backpack managed to get out to the farm, pick 5 pounds of berries, and get home inside of an hour. We pretty much rock in the produce procuring process.

Blackberry jam making was my first go at making anything beyond a cobbler with this miraculous fruit. I'd been admonished about seeds, perplexed by articles fussing over how to remove them, which mill worked best, and admittedly I as a little worried at how I'd handle them. I made a few missteps, but putting on my black apron was the smartest thing I did all day.

My main mistake was thinking that I could put whole, fresh berries through the food mill. I didn't realize that they really needed to benefit from cooking before the seeds would begin to give from the berry flesh. Let's just say that the squirting of fresh berry juice gave me pause to consider my process. I cleaned out my food mill---and since it always comes up in posts, I'll mention that I use the KitchenAid food straining attachment to my stand mixer. Once I cooked the berries, the mill worked beautifully.

Due to quantity, I doubled my recipe and turned out a fantastic product. I really didn't know it would be such a hit, and now I'm sort of sorry that I waited so long to go for a second pick. Daughter ended up with almost 4 pounds of berries for a good friend, and I came away with just enough for a cold-pressed shrub. No complaints, I just feel bad that I don't have enough as I'd like to go around.

Blackberry Jam

~5 pounds of berries
9 cups of sugar

4 TBS lemon juice

2 pkgs. powdered pectin

1 tsp. butter (to reduce foaming)

Cook the berries in a non-reactive pot over medium heat until they're soft and begin to burst--about 15 minutes. Feed berries through a food strainer, mill or sieve. Discard the solids, and put the puree back in your non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil, add sugar, butter and cook until the mixture boils again. Skim off any foam. Add pectin, and bring to a boil once again. I tend to use a candy thermometer, and would cook until the blackberries reach 220 degrees. Turn off the heat, and ladle into sterilized jars, being careful to wipe rims, then adding lids and rings. Process in a water bath canner for 12 minutes at a rolling boil.

On a side note, this was the first time that my little girl helped in the jam making. She carefully counted out lids and rings to match jar quantities, sorted berries and stirred the pot. We both had a good time, and had 13 pretty, half pint jars to show for it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Small Batch, part 2

So, there was that half cup or so of kumquat syrup reserved from what was left of the preserves into marmalade debacle. I decided to mix it in with a chopped mango, a cup of sugar, a couple of ounces of lemon juice, and a tablespoon of pectin. I cooked the fruit for a bit longer than I might typically, but only because the mango was not as ripe as I would have liked it to be. The yield was 1 half pint and 2 precious four ounce jars. I processed them in a water bath for about 12 minutes. The end product was still very lemony in color---despite how it shows in the photograph below which was taken with my mobile phone camera. The preserves have a really bright flavor, and that citrus infused syrup really serves it well.

next time? we'll go back to big batches with seedless blackberry jam!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Small Batch.

There's been some talk about small batches on the Food In Jars facebook page lately. Obviously, small batches are great for people with small kitchens, little households or who just want to make something to save rather quickly. I was really mentally puffing up like a proud bird, and preparing to do nothing EVER on such a small scale until two things happened: a couple of packages of organic kumquats were on sale at the grocer and my daughter started to peel a not quite ripe mango.

First came the kumquats. I read the Canning for a New Generation approach to preparing a kumquat preserve, and was really uneasy about the process. The boiling and rinsing three times perplexed me, but it turned out fine. The thing that ended up bothering me was that as beautiful as the translucent orbs appeared in the jar, they seemed really hard to approach from an eating perspective. I found myself wondering how on earth I'd serve a chewy kumquat in drippy syrup.

Luckily, I remembered that my mother-in-law was only a shade irritated about not getting a jar of the grapefruit-orange marmalade that I made in January, so I decided to remove the seeds from the kumquats and quickly process them in my Cuisinart. I ended up with enough product to make 2 half pint jars of marmalade with about 6 ounces of just the syrup reserved for my next project. There was also just enough to smear on some buttery, slightly burned toast.

To recap, I followed Liana Krissoff's recipe for Kumquat Preserves before mincing the kumquats, adding a tablespoon of pectin, a tablespoon of lemon juice, some lemon zest and boiling to 220 degrees. I processed for 12 minutes in a water bath, and checked for a good seal. The product was delicious---a little more pungent than orange marmalade, but a surprisingly good, little batch.

look for my post on how to make something special with 4 ounces of kumquat and lemon infused simple syrup and just one mango next!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sweet Vidalia Onion Jelly

Last week I came into a bushel of Vidalia onions. My father-in-law came back from his annual trip to the beach with bags and bags of these "straight out of the dirt" onions. It was pretty exciting...it has also been pretty intimidating to have 50 pounds of onions in your kitchen with nary an idea of what to do with them. I've imagined bottling my own salad dressings, chopping and freezing some of them, but when I had serious questions of preservation, I went straight to the horse's mouth.

The Vidalia Onion Committee has a wealth of amazing recipes and history about the Vidalia onion which is sort of like Serrano ham or Champagne in that it can only be called a Vidalia if it's really, truly, honestly from Vidalia, Georgia. All onion'd out already? Let's get to it...

I decided to try the committee's recipe for Sweet Vidalia Onion Jelly last night. It turned out really nicely even if it only used up 3 of my eleventy million onions. The end product is something that a southern woman would spoon over a brick of cream cheese and serve with crackers. I also imagine a dollop in my meatloaf mixture or as a pork glaze. In its wildest dreams, I imagine that this peppery-onion-y jelly, which is really more "jammy", would love to be paired with some cream Havarti and a fresh pear. (and, maybe a cracker.)

The recipe is as follows:

3 cups chopped Vidalia onions
3/4 cup cider vinegar
2.5-3 cups sugar
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 box of powdered fruit pectin (no sugar needed variety)


Puree the onion and vinegar in the blender until smooth. Pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar and red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 5 minutes and then add the pectin. Bring to a hard boil for 1 minute. Pour into hot, sterilized jars. Secure the lids and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Some notes about this: First of all, I chose to use my food processor for the whole chopping/pureeing process which worked fine. I then added all other ingredients in the pot. I wasn't happy with the color with only 6 minutes of cooking time. It seemed sort of like white mush with red flaking. I cooked the entire mixture a bit longer--probably 10-15 minutes to bring a more caramelized color. It also allowed some of the red pepper flavor to infuse a bit more. I added a bit more cider vinegar, red pepper flakes, and probably ended up using 3 cups of sugar. I got 5 half pint jars of the jelly with a little left over to sample. I processed them for 15 minutes just to be on the safe side.

This recipe turned out really well, and I'm looking forward to experimenting with other ways to save the Vidalia onion season.