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Cashew Butter with Honey and Cinnamon

jar of cashews - Food in Jars

Back in late March, before I left for three weeks away, I tumbled into a flurry of making. I find that this often happens to me just before I leave for a trip, for so many reasons. I’m a procrastinator by nature and so often have a few ingredients that must be used or preserved before I leave town.

roasted cashews - Food in Jars

I always need things to write about on this site and so I scramble to get a few things in the can (jar, really) to share while I’m gone. And knowing that I probably won’t be doing much cooking beyond demos and classes during my travels, like to cook up until the last minute, to fill up that creative tank until I return to my little kitchen.

cashew butter ingredients - Food in Jars

I’ve been thinking a lot about homemade nut butters lately. I’ve long had a weakness for interestingly flavored and spiced peanut, almond, and seed butters, but hate spending $10 or $12 for a nine-ounce jar (not that I haven’t done it on occasion). Several years back, I went through a phase when I often made my own, but hit a point where the elderly food processor I used for all things began to struggle with nuts.

cashew butter halfway - Food in Jars

Last summer, things changed in my nut butter making world. I got a new food processor. A former canning student got in touch to say that he and family were moving out of the country, and would I be interested in buying his barely used 14 cup Magimix processor for a very good price? We made a deal that day.

finished cashew butter - Food in Jars

This isn’t to say that you need a fancy new processor to make nut butters, but I won’t deny that this new, zippy beast has sped up the process. I also no longer worry that my machine is going to die halfway through the making ritual, which is comforting.

cashew butter jar - Food in Jars

Now, a bit about the actual cashew butter. I flavored mine with honey and cinnamon, but variations using maple with vanilla, or golden syrup with cardamom would also be nice. I also use a little coconut oil to help aid the transition from nut flour to nut butter. However, if you can’t stand the slight taste of coconut that it imparts, try using a neutral oil like grapeseed or canola.

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Maple Bourbon Apple Butter + OXO On Illuminating Digital Immersion Blender

Looking for an easy, five-ingredient apple butter for holiday giving? Look no further than this small batch Maple Bourbon Apple Butter!

Finished Maple Bourbon Apple Butter - Food in Jars

My family got our first immersion blender when I was in middle school. I can’t remember where it came from, though if I was forced to guess, I’d bet that it was a gift from my grandmother. While she didn’t cook much herself, she garnered a great deal of pleasure from buying culinary appliances and giving them to others (probably in the hopes that they’d prepare something for her with it).

OXO Illuminating Digital Immersion Blender - Food in Jars

My sister and I claimed that immersion blender as our own, using to make jam and yogurt smoothies for breakfast and after school snacks of skim milk and chocolate SlimFast (it was the nineties, after all). Since then, there’s rarely been a time when I didn’t have an immersion blender in my kitchen.

Apples for Butter - Food in Jars

These days, I pull out my immersion blender on a near-daily basis and use it for soups, purees, fruit butters, jams, gravies, salad dressings, and mason jar mayonnaise. When I heard that OXO was bring an new immersion blender to market, I was excited to check it out because I knew that my current immersion blender was nearing the end of its lifespan and OXO products are always so thoughtfully designed.

OXO Core Clip - Food in Jars

Guys, the OXO On Illuminating Digital Immersion Blender is even better than I had hoped. The blender head is made of sturdy nylon, which means you don’t have to worry about scratching your bowls or cookware with metal. The shaft is coated in silicone, so that you can knock the drips of the blender without dinging the edges of your pan (I have a few pots that are pockmarked from repeated immersion blender banging). The blending end removes from the motor with the press of a button. The motor end has heft and the DC motor produces a lot of power.

Chopped Apples for Butter - Food in Jars

No matter what speed you’re on, the blender starts slowly to prevent splashes and then ramps up to whichever of the six speeds you’ve set it at. The speeds are controlled digitally and you can set them using the dial on the top of the blender. The cord comes with a useful clip on the end, so that you can wrap it around the handle and secure it in place. The wide power button is easy to press and hold. Oh, and lets not forget about the headlight, which illuminates whatever you’re blending. On my dark stovetop, this is so useful.

Cooked Apples for Butter - Food in Jars

For its maiden voyage in my kitchen, I used this lovely OXO immersion blender to make a batch of Maple Bourbon Apple Butter. Wanting to really test it, I cored and chopped five pounds of apples, but left the peels on (unlike this recent butter, where I peeled). In my experience, not all immersion blenders can break down even long-cooked apple peels, but this one handled it like it was nothing.

OXO Blending Apples - Food in Jars

No matter how large or small the batch size, I use a two-blend process when I make apple butter. I cook the fruit down into a soft sauce, puree the heck out of it, cook it down until it thickens and darkens, and then work it with the immersion blender again.

The reason for the second puree is two-fold. First, the peels aren’t always quite soften enough to disappear during that first round of blending. Second, most fruit butters clump a bit while you’re cooking them down, and I prefer a super smooth butter. Pureeing just before the butter goes into the jar ensures that silky texture.

OXO Blender in Action - Food in Jars

As the fruit was cooking down, I spent a little time pondering flavorings. I have plenty of spiced apple butters on my shelves, and wanted to opt for something different here. I know that the combination maple, bourbon, and orange zest isn’t a particularly novel one, but combined the richness of the long-cooked apples, was just the thing I was craving. My plan is to keep two of the jars for myself, and tuck the remaining two into gift baskets for people I know will appreciate it.

Maple Bourbon Apple Butter Overhead - Food in Jars

The OXO On Digital Illuminating Immersion Blender isn’t the only small kitchen appliance that OXO has brought to market lately. There’s also an illuminating hand mixer, a pair of motorized toasters, and a line of coffee makers and water kettles (several times lately, I’ve found myself at Williams-Sonoma, petting the 9-cup coffee maker). I look forward to seeing what OXO creates next!

Disclosure: OXO sent me this OXO On Illuminating Digital Immersion Blender to try and write about. No additional compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

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Pumpkin Pie Spiced Applesauce for October Unprocessed

chopped apples

It is apple season, which means that no matter where I go or what errand I’m running, inevitably a sack full of arlets, honeycrisps, or jonagolds comes home with me. I’ve been working my way through the bounty, making jam, butter, and sauce (hopefully more than enough to last what is predicted to be a very cold winter).

finished applesauce stack

Today, my technique for super-easy (no peeling or coring necessary) pumpkin pie spiced applesauce is up on Eating Rules, as part of October Unprocessed. Now, I know that we’re currently in the midst of a pie spice backlash, but truly, there’s nothing better than sweet sauce spiked with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice. Try it in your next batch of applesauce. I’m certain you’ll be convinced.

Get the Pumpkin Pie Spiced Applesauce Recipe!

Also, for this applesauce post, we’ve teamed up with MightyNest to offer a snazzy canning giveaway. Head over to Eating Rules to enter.

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CSA Cooking: Fermented Hot Sauce

finished hot sauce bottled

I made my first batch of fermented hot sauce in 2012. It was one of my very earliest fermentation projects and while technically the making of it was uneventful, the finished batch was so incredibly spicy that even one drop gave me immediate heart burn. At the time, I figured that homemade hot sauce just for me and moved along.

hot sauce ingredients

Then last fall, I was visiting Alana and had a chance to taste her hot sauce. It was bright, funky, spicy,  and made everything it touched just a bit better. I decided that I’d give making my own another try when next I had the chance.

chopped peppers and garlic

Well, that chance finally came earlier this month. My September Philly Foodworks share included a pound of hot peppers and a pound of sweet. Wanting to avoid my previous error and not make a sauce that would incinerate my digestive track, it appeared to be the perfect combination of ingredients.

chopped veg in jar

I took inspiration from a number of sources for my batch. I referenced Alana’s post, took a little inspiration from Well Preserved, and also made sure to see how Amanda over at Phickle does it. (By the way, all three of those bloggers have books coming out soon. Alana’s and Amanda’s books are hitting this month. Joel and Dana’s book will be out in the spring).

finished hot sauce mash above

After reading their various techniques and mixing it up with what I generally know about fermentation, I started my batch. I chose to make a brine (1 quart filtered water and 3 tablespoons fine sea salt) rather than directly salting so that I’d end up with a goodly amount of liquid for my final puree (I like a drippy sauce rather than a chunky one).

fermented hot sauce mash

I combined the peppers (sweet and hot), a full head of garlic (peeled, of course), and a big hunk of ginger in the bowl of my food processor and pulsed until I had a relatively uniform mash. I scraped it into a half gallon jar, added the brine, popped an airlock on top, tucked it into a corner, and forgot about it for a couple weeks.

hot sauce yield

I deemed the sauce finished when it had gone from bright green to olive drab, it was super tangy, and I found myself entirely happy to sip the liquid from a spoon. I divided the sauce into two batches, ran it through the blender, and was done. While different from the sauce that inspired it, it is still bright, tangy, and so, so good.

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Slow Cooker Brown Sugar Plum Butter

plums for butter

For most of the last three weeks, my left crisper drawer has been almost entirely occupied by plums. I’ve slowly working my way through this bounty, cooking them into jam, using them in my various demonstrations, and relying on my slow cooker to turn them into butter (two batches, thus far). The bottom of the drawer is finally in sight and I think the remaining plums will become a batch of cardamom-spiked jam.

raw plums in slow cooker

I’ve written a great deal over the years about using a slow cooker to make fruit butters, so if you’re a long-time reader, this post might feel oddly familiar. However, I’m of the belief that anything useful and good can always bear repeating, and so, I push on and offer you another slow cooker.

cooked plum halves

The plums I most like to use for butter are late season Italian plums. Bred for cooking and drying (they are also known as Italian prunes), they are typically the last variety of stonefruit available before the weather slips into fall. They can be slightly bitter or tannic when eaten raw, but once heated or dried, trade those unpleasant elements for a lush texture and natural sweetness.

pureed plums

To make plum butter, I fill my biggest colander, give the plums a good rinse, and then stand at the sink for a time to cut the fruit into halves and remove the pits. I find that for my 6 quart slow cooker, my starting weight is typically between 7 and 8 pounds.

Then I heap those plum halves in the cooker, add a few tablespoons of water to prevent scorching in the early stages of cooking, set the lid in place, and cook on high for somewhere between 2 and 4 hours. This first stage of cooking is designed to soften the plums enough so that they can easily be pureed with an immersion blender.

finished plum butter

Once they’re soft, I apply my immersion blender until the plums have been transformed into a puree. Then I balance a wooden chopstick across the lip of the slow cooker crock, and rest the lid on top of it, so that the steam can easily vent. Finally, I turn the cooker on low and proceed to cook the plum puree down over the course of the next 6 to 10 hours (your mileage will always vary here).

I try to give the cooking butter a good stir every couple of hours, to ensure that the top doesn’t dry out while the underside burns.

jars of plum butter

Once the plum puree has reduced down to a dense, thick, spreadable butter, it is done. I like to scrape it out into a medium saucepan for the final pureeing, because if you’ve done your work well, there won’t be enough depth in the slow cooker for an immersion blender to work well.

When the butter is smooth from the second application of the immersion blender, I add the sweetener and spices. In the case of this batch, I sweetened with brown sugar, thinking that it’s molasses-y flavor would go well with the plums. I also added 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and a splash of lemon juice for balance.

small jar plum butter

As with all fruit butters, you can sweeten this one to your taste. You could reduce the amount of sugar, use regular granulated sugar, add a bit of honey instead, or even leave it entirely unsweetened (though I find that even a small amount of sugar helps balance the fruit and also improves shelf life).

To preserve, funnel the finished butter into jars (I like half pints for this one, as a little goes a long way), leaving a generous 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in boiling water bath canner for 20 minutes. I always process fruit butters for longer than jam, because their increased density makes it harder for the heat of the canner to penetrate to the center of the jar. A longer processing time helps combat that.

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Spiced Cranberry Shrub + Tangy Cranberry Applesauce

cranberries

Yikes. It’s been a whole lot of sale, sponsorship, and giveaway posts around here lately, hasn’t it. Let’s get back to the pickles and preserves, shall we?

I know most people see Thanksgiving as the high point of the cranberry season, but I keep buying and using them until the last bag disappears from store shelves. I also always stash a few bags in the freezer for those moments in February when I must have some cranberry bread.

adding sugar to cranberries

Last week, inspired the last drops of liquid left over from a batch of pickled cranberries, I devised a quick cranberry shrub. It is just a combination of cranberries, apple cider vinegar, a little water (since cranberries are so dry, they don’t add any moisture to the party), sugar, and spices. You simmer it all together until the cranberries pop.

spices into cranberries

Once the contents of your saucepan have had a chance to cool (and steep just a bit more), you position a strainer over a large bowl or measuring cup and run the contents of the pot through it. You end up with a very tasty, tart syrup and a sticky mound of berries and whole spices.

spiced cranberry shrub

I like to dip a few spoonfuls of the shrub into a wide mouth quart jar and then fill it all the way up with fizzy water. The sharpness of the vinegar carries the flavor of the berries better than a syrup made without any additional acid and so it takes very little to brighten up a water or your favorite cocktail (I have it on very good authority that 3/4oz cranberry shrub + 1oz whiskey + 3oz champagne makes for a deliciously celebratory adult beverage).

open cranberry shrub

If you choose to make this, I highly suggest that you take those sticky solids and push them through a food mill or fine mesh sieve. You’ll end up with a highly spiced cranberry paste. You could serve it just as it is with some cheddar cheese (packed into a little ramekin) or you could do like I did and stir it into a batch of freshly made applesauce. It adds gorgeous color to the sauce and would be awfully good with a batch of freshly fried latkes (which starts on December 16).

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