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Sweet Cherry Butter

 

Back at the end of June, I got a shipment of sweet cherries from the folks at the Northwest Cherry Growers. They sent them as part of their annual Canbassador program (here’s my round-up from last year). I made a number of things from those cherries, including this Sweet Cherry Balsamic Jam, some Cherry Chutney, and a batch of Cherry Kompot.

When all that was complete, I still had about five pounds of cherries left. I washed them well, took off the stems, and heaped them in a pot with a cup of water. I brought it to a simmer and cooked the cherries just until they were soft enough that I could pinch out the pits. Once all the pits were out, I poured the cherry pulp into a slow cooker, zapped it with an immersion blender and cooked it down until it had reduced by about half. I zapped it again, added a little sugar to taste (enough for balance, but not so much that it was cloying).

Processed in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes, this collection of five jars will be used this winter in bar cookies and on toast spread thickly with ricotta. It recalls the dense cherry preserves that my mom’s Auntie Tunkel used to make by slow roasting cherries in her old-fashioned oven (a trick she learned from her mother during her childhood in Ukraine). It feels connected to the past and is deeply delicious.

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Quick Homemade Chimichurri

Looking for a kitchen project that is quick, versatile, and absolutely wonderful? Look no further than this easy recipe for homemade chimichurri!

I haven’t been doing a whole lot of exciting cooking lately. Ever since finishing my cookbook draft, I’ve been drifting through meal prep. I’ve made big pots of soup that last most of the week. There’s been at least one batch of bean-centric chili. More sheet pans of roasted vegetables than I can count. I’ve also relied heavily on a some Costco favorites (their pre-cooked chicken skewers and bags of kale and Brussels sprouts salad spring immediately to mind).

The long and short of it is that while we’ve been eating relatively healthy, vegetable-focused food, it hasn’t yielded much that I can write about.

However, there is one thing I’m excited to talk about. A couple weeks back, I was at Joy’s house recording an episode of Local Mouthful. When we finished, we were both ravenous. Joy heated up some meatballs from her freezer, cooked up some quinoa and pulled a tub of homemade chimichurri out of the fridge. The meatballs and quinoa were good, but the chimichurri, well, it was amazing.

It’s a condiment made from parsley, oregano, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, red chili flakes, and salt that was originally devised in Argentina to serve on top of grilled meat. It’s something I’ve had over the years at various restaurants, but it never clicked for me until I had Joy’s version. So bright, green, and fresh (I think the fresh element is a big part of the appeal, particularly since we’re living through another major snow storm right now).

I’ve made two big batches since them and have been spooning it over everything that seems even marginally appropriate. Roasted vegetables! Hummus! Scrambled eggs! Turkey sandwich! Mealtime is chimichurri time right now.

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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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