Archive for the ‘Jams, Jellies & Syrups’ Category

Chocolate Cardamom Plum Jam

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

I found my inspiration for this jam earlier last week on the Grow It Cook It Can It blog. Of course I couldn’t leave it alone, and had to play around with the idea until I created something that was mine. I like to make old-fashioned cooked jams, so I almost always remove the pectin from a recipe.  I also prefer to use honey in place of sugar. Also, last year’s experiment with Salted Butterscotch Peach jam taught me that a bit of salt has it’s place in jam.

There’s no way I can top my inspiring blogger’s post on her jam, and the wonderful poem by William Carlos Williams , so I’m not even going to try.

When I give some of the measurements, notice that I indicate amounts “up to”.  The amount of honey, lemon juice, and spices will depend on the ripeness, sweetness, and acidity of the plums.  These factors can vary quite a bit, so I always taste as I go. My plums were perfectly ripe and very sweet.  I used only 1 cup of honey and the juice of 1/2 a lemon.  Also, I found that only 1/2 ounce of the chocolate gave me  what I wanted without overwhelming the flavor of the plums.  If you’ve never cooked with cardamom, let me warn you that a little can go a very long way.  If you’re using store-bought ground cardamom, you’ll probably end up using a whole 1/4 teaspoon.  If you split the pods and grind the seeds like I do, then you’ll need less. One last note, because this is a cooked jam, the volume will reduce by almost half … another reason it’s important to go easy on the spices, taste as you go, and adjust at the end of the cooking (if needed).

Chocolate Cardamom Plum Jam
3 pounds skinned, chopped plums (approximately 6 cups)
1 to 1 1/2 cup local raw honey
Up to 1/4 cup lemon juice
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 to 1 ounce grated, good quality 100% cacao baking chocolate
Salt to taste (optional)

To make skinning plums easy, drop them in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds, and then remove to ice water.

Place plums in a wide shallow pan over medium heat.  Add honey, lemon juice, and cardamom. Once the mixture reaches a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, or until the plums reach the desired jam like consistency. Add grated chocolate and stir to incorporate.  Add salt to taste.

If you would like to can the jam, prepare jars and lids according to standard canning practices. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

Gingered Rhubarb Conserve

Saturday, June 11th, 2011

I adore rhubarb.  But, I think my youngest son might love it even more than I do.  Each spring he starts begging me to make rhubarb crisp… almost every single day!

Most rhubarb recipes that I’ve run across over the years call for far, far too much sugar for my taste. I’ve tweaked my rhubarb conserve recipe until I ended up with a proportion of 1 part sugar to 3 parts rhubarb. It’s enough sugar to balance the high acidity of the rhubarb, but not so much that it prevents the flavor of the rhubarb from shining through. My family loves this sweet treat rolled up in Icelandic Crepes served with freshly whipped cream. I’ve even been know to place a big dollop of this rhubarb yummy-ness in bowl, throw in a small handful of hazelnuts and a splash of cream, and eat the whole mess with a spoon. It’s also divine as an ice cream topping.

Gingered Rhubarb Conserve
6 cups chopped rhubarb
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 vanilla bean

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive, heavy bottomed pan.

I use my 5 quart Update International stainless sauté pan, which is perfect for small batches of cooked jams and conserves. It’s a heavy duty commercial quality pan that I picked up at a restaurant supply store for $59.  It has a 3/4″ thick aluminum bottom, and is 12 ” in diameter and about 3″ deep. This pan makes my top 10 kitchen tools list, and is every bit as good as an equivalent sized All Clad pan that retails for around $250.

Back to our regularly scheduled rhubarb recipe.  Bring ingredients up to a simmer and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the rhubarb reaches a thick jam like consistency.  Remove the vanilla bean and cool, or can.

Violet Syrup

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Most of my herbie friends are about 2 weeks ahead of me on their foraging projects, and have already shared their violet projects. My friend, Maggie, was featured on the cover of  Radish Magazine with her violet jelly recipe.

After an unusually long, cool spring, and Indiana’s wettest spring on record in a 100 years, my violets finally hit full bloom in the past week.  Fearful of more crazy weather, I was out gathering violets at first opportunity.

In case you’re wondering what on earth you would do with violet syrup, here are a few suggestions:  Serve with crepes or pancakes, add it to champagne or a white wine spritzer, drizzle it over vanilla ice cream, pour over shaved ice for a cool summer treat, or use it as a cocktail mixer for a violet martini or violet gin fizz.

Making violet syrup is as simple as brewing a cup of tea, and making simple syrup.

Violet Syrup
Violet flowers
Lemon Juice

Fill a jar with violets flowers. Pour boiling water over violets and allow to cool. Strain liquid from flowers. Don’t be alarmed at the color of the water.  It will range anywhere from blue to green, but will be adjusted to purple later. Here is what mine looked like in the first 30 seconds of steeping. The picture doesn’t do the color justice. Even fiddling with my camera settings, I was not able to capture the deep rich quality of the color.  You’ll probably see what I mean if you try making your own syrup. Further steeping darkens the color.

At a 1:1 ratio, place violet liquid and sugar in a large pan.  I used a quart jar and ended up with 3 cups of violet water, so I used 3 cups of sugar.

Add lemon juice to the mixture until the desired color of violet is achieved.  It doesn’t take much, and too much will result in magenta or pink syrup.  It took a little over a teaspoon of lemon juice to bring my syrup to a deep jewel toned violet color.

Bring syrup mixture to a rolling boil and boil for 1 to 2 minutes. If the color fades a little during cooking, you can add a few more drops of lemon juice to readjust the color before bottling. Cool and store in the refrigerator.  This syrup can become moldy if stored for long periods of time in the refrigerator.  I plan to try freezing some this year to see if I can extend violets into the winter months.

Corn Cob Jelly

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

I know you’re probably thinking, “Whaaaat???” As strange as it sounds, this jelly is delicious.   Some say it tastes like honey, but I disagree.  I’m not quite sure how to describe the flavor, so you’ll just have to try it for yourself.  If you Google corn cob jelly, you will find most of the recipes are the same.  You will also find a murky history, and lots of speculation about it’s origins.  I’ve been making it for more than 15 years (before I started using the internet), and I can’t remember where I got the idea.  I don’t know if the memory is accurate, but it’s floating around in my head that I found it in an historical cookbook.

I’ve played around with my recipe over the years, and I do recommend doing a couple of things differently than most of the recipes you’ll find floating around on the net. To begin with, I use WAY more corn cobs than 12,  I use lemon juice, and I do not use food coloring.  I use red cobs which produce a beautiful natural color.

Side note on pectin: I’ve been using liquid pectin with no trouble for years.  This summer every jelly I’ve made using liquid pectin has failed to set up. I do tend to make jellies from herbs and other foods that contain little or no naturally occurring pectin or sugar. As a result, I’ve switched to using either Sure Jell for less or no sugar, or Pomona’s Universal Pectin. Pomona’s is my first choice, but I was out when I made this jelly, so I’m giving instructions for use with Sure Jell. If you would like to use Pomona’s, use 4 teaspoons each of pectin and calcium water, and follow the instructions on the box insert.

Corn Cob Jelly
Enough red corn cobs to fill a 6 quart pot

4 cups corn cob “juice”
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 cups sugar
1 box pectin (for less or no sugar needed recipes)

Place 1/2 the corn cobs in a six quart pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 1/2 hour to an hour. Remove corn cobs from liquid. The cobs absorb quite a bit of water, so I remove them to a colander sitting over a bowl, and then add the drained liquid back to my pot.  Here is another way in which my recipe is different.  I add the other half of the corn cobs to my pot of liquid, top it off with more water, and simmer my cobs for another 1/2 hour or so.  I like the corn cob flavor to come shining through, so no wimpy 12 cobs are going to do for me! Strain the corn cob infusion through a jelly bag, or old T-shirt material. I usually get enough liquid for two batches of jelly.

1. Prepare your canning paraphernalia: water bath canner, jars, lids, bands, etc. (pectin insert usually includes instructions on preparing your equipment).

2. Measure corn cob “juice” and lemon juice into a 6 or 8 quart pot.

3. Measure sugar into a separate bowl.

4. Mix 1/4 cup sugar from measured amount and 1 box of pectin in a small bowl.

5. Stir pectin/sugar mixture into the liquid in the pot. You may see some clumping, but don’t worry, they will dissolve as the liquid heats.

6. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly.

7. Stir in remaining sugar. Return to a full rolling boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

8. Ladle into jars. Wipe rims. Put on lids. Process in water bath.

Salted Butterscotch Peach Jam

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

This peach jam is amazing! It’s so amazing that I’m going to have to make more.  My family loved it so much that I only have these two little 4 ounce jars left a little over a week after making it. That’s just two little 1/2 cup jars! They demolished the stuff!. It’s wonderful on ice cream. It’s also good on waffles, and it passed my 15 year old son’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich test.

From a cook’s standpoint this recipe was especially fun, because I got to see how it evolved, as each cook put her own touch on it.  The original recipe comes from Mary Ann Dragan’s Well Preserved: Small Batch Preserving for the New Cook I found the recipe reprinted a couple times on the net by the time my friend Maggie got her hands on it. It was Maggie’s idea to transform the recipe into a sweet and salty treat.

I loved Maggie’s idea, but the more I looked at the recipe, I realized I wanted it to be truly butterscotch and it was going to need an addition of butter and vanilla. After all, butterscotch isn’t butterscotch without BUTTER! So I put my own spin on the recipe. Maggie and I share a similar cooking style in that we follow measurement’s very loosely and go more by taste. The measurements I give allow for differing ripeness of your peaches and personal preference. For instance, I didn’t use quite as much salt as Maggie because I have relatively sensitive taste buds, and don’t like my food uber salty. Also, my peaches were very ripe and sweet, and didn’t need as much sugar. These peaches were a surprise gift from my neighbors who got them from their parents’ unsprayed tree. Local and chemical free …. the best way to go.

Salted Butterscotch Peach Jam
6 cups peaches, peeled and pitted
1/3 cup lemon juice
Up to 5 cups of brown sugar (I only needed about 4 1/4 cups)
4 tablespoons butter
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 teaspoons GOOD salt (I used French grey sea salt)

First peel and pit your peaches. The easiest way to do this is to drop your peaches into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute, and then remove them to an ice water bath with a slotted spoon.  Work in small batches and make sure you bring the water back to a full boil between batches. After scalding, the skins should slip off relatively easily. Split the peaches in half with a knife, remove the stone, and chop the flesh. I know Maggie left her skins on, but I just can’t stand peach skin. I even peel fresh peaches before eating them.

Place the peaches in a large heavy pot and smoosh them up. You can use a potato masher or your hands. Add lemon juice, sugar to taste, butter, and vanilla bean specks. Bring the mixture up to a simmer and then continue to cook over low heat for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring often. Cooking time will vary. My peaches were extremely juicy, and I cooked for a full 1 1/2 hours to bring the jam to a thick consistency.  As stated in the Well Preserved book, “Long-cooked jams use less sugar than those made with commercial pectin, and, I believe, have a more intense fruit flavor.”

At this point, I removed the jam from the stove and set it aside to let it cool while I fixed dinner. I did this for two reasons. First, my family was hungry and things were about to get ugly.  Secondly, I can’t properly taste anything if it’s too hot or cold. Since I was going to be adding salt I wanted to be sure I got it right.  Also, by cooling, I was able to see if the consistency of the jam was too my liking.

After dinner I assembled my water bath canner, jars, lids, and other canning accouterments. Then I added my salt to taste.  You should do the same. You might want more, you may want less. The point is you want it to taste good to YOU. Once the flavor was to my liking I brought the jam back up to a simmer, poured it into my hot jars, and processed. If you’re unfamiliar with the canning process, there are many good books and online tutorials. A quick online search should give you more than you ever wanted to know.