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Roasted Grape Tomato Pizza Sauce

finished pizza sauce

Each summer, I develop two mental lists of preserves (though come to think of it, it might serve me well to actually commit these lists to paper). On one side, I line up the things I must can. These are the products like roasted corn salsa, dilly beans, and tomato products. As much as I love jam (and inevitably make a goodly amount), it’s never on that must can list. However, pizza sauce always is.

roasted small tomatoes

Throughout the fall and winter, we make a lot of pizza and I love having some homemade sauce on the shelf to use. Sometimes our pizzas are built on a traditional crust and other times, it’s Carrie Vitt’s sunflower seed version (delicious and so good for those times when you’ve been eating too many bready things).

milling tomatoes

Over the years, I’ve made pizza sauce a number of different ways. I’ve got a small batch technique in Preserving by the Pint that I like a lot. You’ll find a honey sweetened version in Naturally Sweet Food in Jars. Truly, as long as you follow safe canning guidelines, there is no wrong way.

For this batch, I used ten pounds of grape and cherry tomatoes, roasted them down, pushed them through a food mill, and finished cooking them down on the stove. The finished sauce is a muted orange color, just thick enough to be spreadable, and tastes deeply of summer.

tomato pulp

I like this particular approach because the tomatoes do their initial cooking off the stove top. I can prep them while making dinner and then finish them off with that before-bed energy boost I so often have.

This would work just as well with more traditional canning tomatoes or even heirlooms, but I had all these tiny tomatoes, so I made them do. Of course, as with many tomato preserves, the yield will vary pretty widely on this one because of variations in water, sugar, and fiber content.

cooking down pizza sauce

Acidity is always an issue with tomatoes, but is even more so with these small, sweet varieties. I made the call to double the recommended amount of citric acid to this batch, adding 1/4 teaspoon directly to every half pint jar, to ensure a safe finished product. The single 12 ounce jar I used got an proportionally increased amount of citric acid.

finished pizza sauce close

If you’re not a home pizza maker, a sauce like this is still a good thing to make for the pantry. It could be used as a starter for enchilada sauce. It’s always a nice addition to a pot of soup when you need added depth and acidity. You could even thin out a couple half pints with a glug of milk and a pat of butter and call it tomato soup. Practical canning at its best!

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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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Spicy Peach Preserves

peach pulp with spices

It feels bittersweet to write these words, but I do believe that this will be my last fresh peach recipe for this year. I’ve peeled, cooked, and processed about 25 pounds this season and I feel utterly done with them. However, if you’ve still got some peach energy, this sweet, spicy, tangy preserve might be a fun one for you.

spicy peach preserves close

To build this recipe, I took the bones of my beloved tomato jam and made just a few small tweaks. I reduced the amount of sugar, added a little salt for balance, and reduced the cooking time (because peaches don’t contain as much water as tomatoes do).

spicy peach preserves

The finished jam has a nice sweet and savory balance, and would be really great to use as a glaze for baked chicken or as a dipping sauce for roasted vegetables. I’m sure that when the days get a little cooler, I’ll stir some together with apple cider vinegar and use it as a tasty braising medium for chicken thighs.

If you make it, let me know what you think, since this one is more of an experiment that most of the recipes I post here.

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Spiced Nectarine Jam

nectarines in a bowl

Earlier in the summer, the folks from the Washington State Fruit Commission sent me a glorious box of sweet cherries as part of their canbassador program. In the past, I’ve only gotten a single shipment from them and so I thought that was it for this summer. However, a few weeks ago, they got in touch saying I should expect a shipment of peaches and nectarines.

The box arrived last Tuesday and immediately filled the apartment with the fragrance of ripening summer stonefruit. So far, I’ve made a spicy peach dipping sauce (think homemade ketchup, made with peaches instead of tomatoes), a small batch of oven roasted fruit, and a batch of this spiced nectarine jam.

I’ll tell you more about the other two tomorrow and Thursday, but since I happen to be teaching this particular recipe tonight, it seemed only right to share it today.

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Gingery Pickled Blueberries for International Can-It-Forward Day

Sad news, friends. The livestream isn’t working. We’re recording demos as I type, and they’ll be available tomorrow. The Ball Mason Jar Celebrity Auction and the special $5 deal on the Ball Canning Discovery Kit (use the coupon code CIFD15 to get the discount) are still happening, so make sure to check them out.

finished pickled blueberries horizontal

It’s International Can-It-Forward Day! Time to stop what you’re doing, get yourself some produce and head to the canning pot. If blueberries are still in season, may I suggest a batch of Gingery Pickled Blueberries?

blueberries in colander

When I first started pickling fruit four or five years ago, I experienced a lot of resistance. People weren’t familiar with it and so often dismissed it as unappealing. However, thanks to both the increasing popularity of shrubs/drinking vinegars and chefs who started putting all manner of pickled fruit on their menus, I’m finding a more welcome climate out there for these tangy preserves.

pouring berries into colander

I find that pickled blueberries are a really great introduction to the world of pickled fruit. For one thing, the require almost no preparation (pickled peaches are also delicious, but you’ve got to scald those peels off). You give the berries a quick rinse and look them over to remove any stubborn stems.

berry-stained tools

The brine is nothing more than vinegar, water, sugar, and some sliced ginger. Once it boils, you tumble the berries in and cook for a few minutes. Once they’ve started to boil and the brine turns dark purple, the cooking portion is done. You get the berries in the jars, top them off with brine, pop the lids and rings on, and into the canning pot they go.

pickled blueberries side

I like to eat these berries with cheese or scattered on top of a salad of baby arugula, feta, and toasted almonds. They pair really well with creamy cheeses, and I’ll often take a jar to parties with a log of goat cheese and some sturdy crackers. They also go really nicely anywhere that you’d serve cranberry sauce.

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Apricot and Sweet Cherry Compote

finished cherry apricot compote

This is a blog post about preserving fruit, but on second read, I realize that it’s also about going with the flow of life. 

I didn’t get as many apricots into jars this year as I like. I ordered my annual half-bushel from Beechwood Orchards like I always do, but it arrived at the start of that week when my mother-in-law went into the hospital, which was also the same week as the photo shoot for my next book.

While I did do my best to prevent the apricots from going bad, at least a quarter of them ended up succumbing to mold before I could cook them down.

prepped cherries and apricots

Instead of feeling bad about the waste (I’m trying to spend less time beating myself up about my inevitable shortcomings), I’m focusing my efforts on celebrating the apricot preserves I was able to make. This apricot and cherry compote is one such victory.

cooking cherry apricot compote

Much like the peach and cherry preserve I wrote about on Wednesday, this simple preserve employs just three ingredients. Because it contains a relatively low amount of sugar, it ended up with a fairly sloshy consistency. Thankfully, I’m okay with that.

finished cherry apricot compote close

You see, one of the privileges of being the preserver is that you get to set the expectations for each finished batch. I will often go into a preserving project thinking I’m making jam, only to realize that I’ve ended up with a preserve, compote, or sauce. Instead of struggling with the outcome, I embrace what is. Being flexible saves a great deal of heartache in the end.

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