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Roasted Quince Butter with Warm Winter Spices

A small batch of sugar-sweetened roasted quince butter is a tasty preserve for the fall canning kitchen.

five half pints of roasted quince butter

Back in September when I was in Portland, my mom and I drove out to Sauvie Island for a picnic and a walk. The day was crisp and sunny, and we both felt buoyant and energized by the gloriousness of the day. After we’d eaten, we went for a wander around the antique apple orchard at the old Bybee-Howell House.

A maintenance worker was there raking up the fallen apples. We asked if we could gather a few of the windfalls that were still in good shape (as we’ve been doing for years) and were told that they were headed for the compost and to help ourselves. I filled a bag with bruised but flavorful fruit and was entirely satisfied with my haul until I spotted a single quince laying on the ground amidst the apples.

The blossom end of quince for roasted quince butter

The game had gotten real. I love quince. And this year, they’ve been particularly hard to come by on the East Coast, in large part thanks to the wonky weather we had earlier in the season. So finding untended and unappreciated source for quince was a thrill. My scavenging went from casual stroll to focused searching and my determination paid off.

I finally found the single quince tree. There was a bounty of quince on the ground and I picked up every single one worth salvaging. While I was still in Portland, I made a batch of apple and roasted quince butter, using all the apples and the about half the quince (all that wouldn’t travel well). The rest of the quince? I bagged it up and brought it back to Philly with me for a batch of roasted quince butter.

five quince in a baking pan for roasted quince butter

Because quince is incredibly dense and unyielding when raw, I bake it until soft before I try do anything with it. This step doesn’t fully cook the fruit, it just softens it enough that you can cut into it without fear that the knife will bounce and slice your finger instead. It’s not the right approach if you want to make jelly with it, but it’s wonderful if you are planning to make jam, butter, paste or chutney.

Once it cools down from the oven, I cut away any remnants of the blossom, cut the quince into eighths, dump it into a saucepan, and simmer it with water until tender. Finally, I fit a food mill with its finest screen and push the cooked quince through. When that’s done, you’re left with a dense, fragrant, tart puree that is ready to be cooked, sweetened, and spiced into the preserve of your liking.

a close up of jars of roasted quince butter

For this batch, I opted to sweetened with sugar and spice with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. It is fragrant, smooth, and spreadable. I really like to spread a thin layer on a slice of craggy toasted sourdough and then top it with whispers of a well-aged farmhouse cheddar. Paired with a mug of tea, it’s the perfect afternoon pick-me-up (and makes me feel like perhaps I’m traveling in time to a less complicated era).

How have you been preserving quince this season?

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Homemade Peanut Butter in an Omega Nutrition Center Juicer

peanut-butter-in-a-jar

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you might have noticed that I have an enduring fascination with homemade nut and seed butters. I included a handful in my first cookbook. There are nearly half a dozen recipes in the archives of this site (as well as this very worthy chocolate sun butter I wrote for Simple Bites a few years back).

omega-nc800hds-in-box

A large part of my nut butter quest has been the search for the best tool for the job. At one time or another, my go-to nut butter machines have been a 40 year old Cuisinart, a Blendtec (best when used with a Twister jar), a Vitamix, and a newer Magimix food processor. I have also spent more than a few minutes lusting after Margo’s commercial peanut butter maker.

omega-nc800hds-set-up

However, I think my search for the best nut butter method is over. The piece of gear that has brought my journey to an end? The Omega Nutrition Center Juicer. I tried it for the first time yesterday, and it transformed a pound of roasted peanuts into smooth, spreadable butter in less than two minutes. I was agog at how fast and easy it was.

roasted-peanuts

The folks from Omega sent me this juicer last month, wondering if I might find it useful for prepping fruit for jelly making. However, I was more intrigued by the line in the description that mentioned its ability to make nut butters. Could this be the piece of equipment I’ve been looking for?

roasted-peanuts-in-the-hopper

Here’s how it works. The Nutrition Center comes with two screens. One is designed for juicing, but the other blocks off the hole where the pulp is ejected, allowing the entirety of the product to go through the machine. As long as you use one of the wider aperture nozzles on the end of the juicer, the auger grinds the nuts and out comes butter!

peanuts-in-the-omega-shute

I added some salt as the nuts went through the machine, so that the finished butter would be uniformly salted. That worked well enough, but going forward, I plan on seasoning the nuts during the roasting step, to ensure that there aren’t any pockets that are spicy or salty.

making-peanut-butter-in-the-omega

Now, I’ve only used the Omega for peanut butter, but judging by how beautifully it worked with peanuts, I have a feeling it will do other nut butters really well. I’m looking forward to trying other nut and spice combinations as well!

finished-omega-peanut-butter

Do you have a favorite method for making nut butters at home? If you have an juicer, have you ever tried using it to make nut butters?

Disclosure: As stated above, this juicer was sent to me as a review unit. No additional payment was provided for this post and all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

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Zucchini Butter with Fresh Herbs

Long-cooked zucchini butter is the perfect way to reduce large amounts of zucchini into a flavorful spread.

Zucchini butter on a baguette slice

Many years ago, I published this recipe for zucchini butter on a food-centric website that I ran as part of my last job. Sadly, they pulled that old site down recently, which left me with broken links and no way to share the goodness of zucchini butter when asked (the recipe is also in Preserving by the Pint, but not everyone has that book at their fingertips).

I learned to cook zucchini like this from my friend Lucy. At the time, she worked as a flower gardener at a historical home in Virginia. On stormy days, the outdoor staff would gather in their little kitchen and cook up produce from the garden.

During one of those cooking sessions, an Italian vegetable gardener taught her to slow cook zucchini with herbs until it melted into a spreadable, succulent paste. I’ve never been more grateful for a second-hand cooking lesson, as this humble little butter is intensely delicious. I like to spread it on toast or toss it with warm pasta.

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Honey Sweetened Gingery Peach Butter

This naturally sweetened gingery peach butter is fragrant, flavorful, and brightly hued. It’s great stirred into yogurt or eaten directly from the jar with a spoon.

close up of gingery peach butter

A couple weeks ago, the annual box of peaches and nectarines arrived from the folks at the Washington State Fruit Commission. This is the seventh summer I’ve been part of their Canbassador program. I always enjoy the challenge of finding new and delicious ways to preserve all that goodness.

quartered peaches for gingery peach butter

This year, I’ve made four different preserves. Today, I’m sharing a recipe for Gingery Peach Butter. Tomorrow, I’ll have a batch of Peach Habanero Hot Sauce. Next week, you’ll see recipes for Nectarine Conserve and Nectarine Ketchup.

pressure cooked peaches for gingery peach butter

I’ve got a new trick to tell you for prepping peaches. For this preserve, instead of peeling them, I gave them their initial cook in a pressure cooker (an Instant Pot, to be exact). The added heat and pressure helped break the skins down. That made it possible to blend the skins into the pulp for a perfectly smooth puree.

pureed peaches for gingery peach butter

Now, if you don’t have a pressure cooker, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make this preserve. But in that case, you might want to peel the peaches to ensure a lush, smooth texture.

cooked gingery peach butter

Once your peaches are pureed, you add just a little bit of honey and three heaping tablespoons of grated ginger and cook it down. Wanting to retain a softer texture and brighter color, I didn’t take this one as far down as I sometimes do. That makes it’s a lighter spread, better for drizzling over pancakes and stirring into yogurt.

five pints of gingery peach butter

How have you been preserving your peaches this summer? Continue Reading →

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Homemade Barbecue Sauce + Canning in Sauce Bottles with Lug Lids

Impress your friends with tasty homemade barbecue sauce, preserved in commercial sauce bottles and capped with one-piece lug lids. Enter here to win a case of the sauce bottles and a $50 store credit to Fillmore Container!

four finished jars of barbecue sauce

In the last few years, I’ve gone from being barbecue sauce ambivalent to being pretty into the stuff. A big part of my change in attitude stems from the fact that I make most of the barbecue sauce I consume these days. That means that I get to customize the flavor, sweetness, and heat and create something that I’m actually excited to paint on chicken or use as a braising medium for a meaty pork shoulder.

ten pounds of tomatoes

In the past, I’ve made barbecue sauce from peaches, cherries, and apple butter. This time, I’ve embraced the traditional approach and have made a version that starts with tomatoes. To maintain the classic theme, I’ve also preserved it in honest-to-goodness twelve ounce barbecue sauce jars from Fillmore Container (enter the giveaway for these jars and a $50 Fillmore Container store credit!).

Twelve ounce bbq sauce jars

Let’s talk about preserving in these bottles before digging into the making of the sauce. They are designed for commercial production, so they will give your sauce a professional look (which is particularly fun if you’re giving the sauce away as a gift or taking it to a food swap).

Sauce bottle and lug lid

These bottles come in two different versions. One uses lug lids, and the other uses a continuous thread (just like mason jars do). I typically opt to use the jars that take the lug lid closure because the lids have a button that depresses when the jar has sealed. I find that that makes it easier to tell whether you’ve gotten a good seal or not and I always appreciate that kind of clarity.

sauce bottles in the canning pot

You prep these bottles the same way you do mason jars. Wash them with warm, soapy water and then when your sauce is nearing completion, put them in a boiling water bath canner and bring them up to temperature. You also want to warm the lids you’ll be using, to ensure that the plastisol is ready to form a good seal. For more on canning with one-piece lug lids, read through this post.

narrow mouth adaptor for canning funnel

Once the jars are hot and the sauce is sufficiently cooked down, it’s time to fill. It can be tricky to fill these bottles because the opening is fairly narrow. I’ve solved that issue by using the wide-ish funnel from this set to adapt my regular stainless steel funnel to fit. It helps to get the sauce into the jars without splatter or mess.

sauce bottle filling station

I fill the jars to approximately 1/2 inch headspace, wipe the rims, and twist on the lug lids. At this point, you want to take care to twist the lids tightly enough to ensure that the plastisol comes into contact with the rim of the jar, but not so tightly that the air can’t vent during the boiling water bath. Then you process.

Because the jars are nearly 8 inches tall, it can be a bit of a trick to find a pot that’s tall enough to hold them fully submerged. Make sure to test the jars for size in your pot before you get everything set up.

six pounds of tomatoes in a colander

Now, to the sauce. As I was creating my recipe, I referenced a number of sources, including the National Center for Home Food Preservation, the Ball Blue Book, and the old Complete Book of Home Preserving. All three sources had nearly identical recipes, and so I used their work as a starting place.

I opted to leave out the peppers and celery, used a combination of brown sugar and molasses to sweeten, and upped the amount of vinegar a little to make a sauce that was a bit tangier.

barbecue sauce starting ingredients

Making a sauce like this is a multi-stage process, but the end result is worth the effort. First, you combine the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and jalapeno in a large pot and cook them down until totally soft. Once the onions are tender (because they’re the toughest to start with), push the vegetables through a food mill fit with its finest screen. This separates the fibrous solids from the sauce and makes for a better finished product.

finished barbecue sauce in the pot

Then you add the remaining ingredients and cook the sauce until it has reduced to a thickness that satisfies your sense of what barbecue sauce should be. At this point, I like to puree it with an immersion blender, to get rid of any clumps that formed during cooking.

filled sauce bottles

Then you funnel it into your bottles, cap them, and process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. When the processing time is up, you want to remove the bottles promptly. The seal is formed when the pressure changes thanks to the temperature differential and so you want to create a situation in which the pressure is strong so that they seal tightly and well.

Once the bottles are cool, they’re ready for labels and either the pantry or your gifting closet.

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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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