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How to Make Homemade Maple Cream

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is here today to share her family recipe for homemade maple cream. She transforms some real maple syrup into a gorgeous, spreadable cream that is perfect for your morning toast or a holiday cheese board. If this post doesn’t want to make you leap up and head to the kitchen, I don’t know what will! -Marisa

A can of real maple syrup for homemade maple cream

I have a confession to make: I’m a maple snob.

Growing up, my house always had real maple syrup to top pancakes, French toast, and ice cream. I didn’t even know that “pancake syrup” (typically an artificially flavored, corn syrup-based imitation of the real thing) was different from what my family used until I was a teenager, when I unwittingly poured it all over my breakfast at a friend’s house after a sleepover. Imitation just doesn’t compare.

We kept real maple syrup in the house not just because it’s incredibly delicious and we could to afford it, but because my mother’s family in Quebec would have disowned her — or sent a care package — if we hadn’t.

As an American-born cook with Canadian dual citizenship, maple syrup is part of my culinary heritage. My gaggle of aunts up Quebec, whose preserving habits and big gardens I’ve written about before, always give me a can of sirop d’erable pur to take home on my visits — if not a coveted bottle of homemade maple syrup, the really good stuff boiled down over a wood fire in my uncle’s sugar shack.

And just about the only thing more delicious than maple syrup is maple cream, a spreadable, velvety smooth maple reduction with a super-concentrated maple flavor. When I spied a spare can of syrup in my pantry while hunting for another ingredient, I decided to try making this pricey, hard-to-find treat myself.

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How to Make Homemade Quince Butter

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alexandra Jones is here today with a recipe for homemade quince butter. Quince is one of my favorites and I loved this glimpse into her process! -Marisa

quince for homemade quince butter

Quince is one of my favorite fruits to preserve — and where I am in Pennsylvania, it’s also one of the hardest to find.

Luckily, I happened on a farmers’ market in Old City Philadelphia recently where Beechwood Orchards, the only farm I know to offer quince at retail, happened to have a single crate on their stand. After sending out a quick alert over social media — quince spotted! — I promptly bought several pounds.

Peeled and chopped quince for homemade quince butter

It may seem silly to go so wild over a fruit that, when grown in a temperate climate, you can’t even eat raw, although its floral scent will perfume any room in which you stash your fruit. Quince flesh is dry, tannic, and unpalatable until you poach slices in syrup or cook it down with sugar into a thick paste, when it becomes tender, toothsome, vibrant and bright, with that unmistakable floral note.

The traditional way to prepare quince is as quince paste, or membrillo — cooking down the mixture so long with sugar that it becomes a firm, sliceable brick after refrigeration, still tender in texture but more like a fruit cheese than a spread.

quince puree for homemade quince butter

But knowing that I might not come upon quince again for another few years, I decided to find a way to can it, with visions of giving some away for the holidays. It’s delightful to serve on a cheese board alongside aged wedges made the traditional way. I found a Williams-Sonoma recipe for inspiration and set to work.

While parts of the recipe were really out-of-whack — the quince were supposed to redden in 20 minutes, according to the recipe, but this took closer to three hours in my kitchen, and resting the pot off the heat didn’t help redden them at all — I ended up with a dreamy finished product.

pink quince puree for homemade quince butter

It isn’t a chunky jam nor a runny compote, and it’s not a firm-set fruit cheese more reminiscent of membrillo. The best way I can describe it is quince butter — despite the sugar added.

It’s lush, smooth, and stands up on a spoon in a way that’s reminiscent of my favorite long-cooked, no-sugar butters made with sweeter fruits. Spread it on a thick slice of toast with good cultured butter, drizzle it over drop biscuits with whipped cream or ice cream, or spoon an artful dollop onto your next cheese board.

finished homemade quince butter

While it might take a little effort to track down quince in your area, those of you in the northeast may still be able to track some down (I assume you may also have luck in California, though I’m not sure of the fruit’s season out there.) I’ve also seen specimens grown overseas at Asian markets here in Philly. But once you get your hands on some and get a taste , you’ll know if was worth it.

My four pounds of quince cooked down into six pints of supple, rosy butter over a few hours on low heat, but you should be able to halve (or double) this recipe without issue. I canned mine in a mix of half-pints and quarter-pints, perfect for gifting or bringing to a party — or hoarding all to yourself.

finished homemade quince butter

I also swapped out the spices in the original recipe with a few long sprigs of rosemary from my garden. I might add another the next time I make this, hopefully sooner than later.

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Sweet Cherry Ketchup

Last month, the folks from the Northwest Cherry Growers sent me 18 pounds of sweet cherries (it’s my 8th year participating in their Sweet Preservation Canbassador program). After eating a couple pounds in a single sitting, I got down to the work of preserving. I made some whole fruit preserves, cherry and Meyer lemon marmalade, a batch of cherry and black raspberry jam, some cherry ketchup, and used up the rest in a mixed fruit jam.

I managed to share the recipe for the Spiced Cherry Preserves and then totally lost my blogging mojo. So this week, I’m going to try and make up for lost time while fresh cherries can still be had. I’ll link up this post as I get the recipes published. Here’s the first one.

A few notes. The recipe calls for pitted cherries, but you can also use the technique described here if you want an easier route to getting those pits out. If you’re not sure what you would do with cherry ketchup, know that it’s delicious on burgers and with roasted sweet potatoes. And if you’ve got them, feel free to use fancy sauce bottles, as described in this post.

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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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