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Honey Sweetened Plum Pear Jam

finished pear plum jam

As the weather cools and each day comes bearing less light, I find that my almost-compulsive urge to make jam is starting to go quiet (I’m not worried. It will return with the strawberries in May). The kitchen still pulls me, but once standing at the stove, I make vast pots of soup, warm grain salads, long simmered beans, and oven-roasted compotes of apples and raisins.

plums and pears

I find this time of year to be the very most satiating, both when it comes to food and to general living. My body loves the cooler weather and the bounty of winter squash and cruciferous vegetables, and my mind so appreciates the earlier bedtimes and the reintroduction of pleasure reading that happens when I’m not trying to work through all the waking hours.

pouring honey

I plan on sharing more of these homey soups, salads, and roasted fruit compotes with you in the coming weeks. However, I do have a preserve that is itching to be written up before it is forgotten forever. It’s a honey sweetened jam made from plums and pears that bridges the season in a very appealing way. I realize that in most places, plums are but a distant memory. If that’s the case for you, bookmark or pin it for next year, as it is worth making.

cox honey bottle

This one started as so much of my preserving does, with an assessment of what produce was most urgently on the verge. On the particular afternoon I made this jam, the answer to that question was a quart of plums from my Philly Foodworks CSA share and the last two very ripe pears that remained from a six pound bag we’d bought at Costco ten days earlier.

fruit and honey

I chopped the fruit, cutting away any unseemly bits (the pears teetering on their very last leg) and plunked it all into the pot. I added 2/3 a cup of honey (the ratio of fruit to sweetener was about four to one), the juice of half a lemon, and a heaping half teaspoon of ground cinnamon and cooked it for about 20 minutes, until it was thick.

pear plum jam close

The finished yield was just four half pints. There was a bit leftover in the pan that I swirled into yogurt while it was still warm (so good). I do so love the satisfaction of transforming things that would otherwise get tossed into good, usable food.

Disclosure: The Cox Honey that’s pictured above was part of the shipment of honey that I detailed in this post. The plums were part of my October share from Philly Foodworks.

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Small Batch Apple Cranberry Compote

apple cranberry compote side

On Monday night, I did a canning event at the Mullica Hill Library in Gloucester County, NJ. When I was planning out the event with the librarian many months back, I suggested I demonstrate a recipe for apple cranberry compote. It seemed like just the thing for mid-October, what with Thanksgiving and the gifting season rapidly approaching.

The only trouble was at the time, I didn’t actually have an apple cranberry compote recipe in my personal preserve arsenal. I had jams, sauces, and chutneys, but no compotes.

So, with the demo rapidly approaching, I spend a little time over the weekend working one up. It starts with 4 large apples (peeled, cored, and diced), 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries (rinsed and picked over), and 1/2 cup water. You combine those three things in a saucepan, set them over medium-high heat, and simmer them until the cranberries pop and the apple chunks soften.

apple cranberry compote top

Once the fruit is tender and most the water has evaporated, you add 1 cup of granulated sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and the zest and juice of a lemon. You cook for another 8 to 10 minutes, until the compote looses its watery look and the apples can be easily crushed with the back of your spoon.

When you like the consistency, you funnel it into jars, wipe off the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process the closed jars for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. When the time is up, pull the pot off the heat, remove the lid, and let the jars cool gradually for a bit. Depending on how much sugar you use, the yield will be between 3-4 half pints.

This is a highly flexible preserve. You could sweet it with honey instead of sugar (use 2/3 cup). To add a bit more flavor from the start, cook the fruit down in apple juice or cider instead of water. Add some freshly grated ginger, or a bit of cloves for an even more autumnal flavor. As long as you don’t add any low acid ingredients like onions or garlic, you can tweak the spices and liquids as much as you like.

However, even the most simple version is quite delicious.

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CSA Cooking: On Using a Giant Head of Curly Endive


Time for another installment of CSA Cooking, where I write about how I’ve used, prepped, eaten, or preserved items from my monthly Philly Foodworks rolling farm share. Use the code FOODINJARS to get $10 off your first Philly Foodworks order.

I didn’t manage to take a group picture of all that came in my share this month. However, the box was a season-spanning collection of fruits and vegetables. I got sweet potatoes, garlic, a hefty eggplant, a small of kale, a big red bell pepper, a quart of plums, and a giant head of curly endive.

chicken soup

Heating soup leftovers on the second night. The original batch was far larger.

There was so much of the curly endive that it made an appearance in two different dishes. The first was a pot of chicken soup that stretched across four days, two dinners, a breakfast, and a lunch (when it’s available, I do love a warm bowl of soup for breakfast).

The soup was made using my standard technique. I pulled the meat off leftover chicken, piled the bones in a pot, added vegetables, and made stock (this time, I used a pressure cooker, which was amazingly speedy). I sauteed chopped onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, and garlic in some olive oil, added the roughly chopped greens, poured the hot stock over the top, and stirred in the leftover chicken.

Seasoned with salt, pepper, a little Better than Bouillon (to round out the chicken-y flavor), a couple tablespoons of vinegar, and a splash of soy sauce for depth, it was done when the carrots were tender. As with all soups, it was good the first night, but far better the second and third days.

beans and greens

The second curly endive dish was based on one I ate while in Pittsburgh a couple of weeks ago. My friend Cindy lives near an Italian place called Legends of the North Shore that is particularly well-known for their beans and greens (they also sell them out of a food truck). We ordered a small spread from Legends the first night I was in town, and I so loved that dish that I dug around online until I found a recipe that the chef had shared with their local CBS affiliate.

What’s so interesting about this dish is that it doesn’t actually depend on traditional cooking greens they way you might think. Instead, it uses spring mix, chopped romaine, and spinach. Adapting it to my needs, I made my version with the other half of the curly endive, one romaine heart, and the very end of a bag of baby arugula. This is going to be my approach from now on when I have an abundance of salad greens that need to be used, because it is fantastic.

Essentially, you heat a bit more olive oil than feels reasonable and heap your greens into the pan. While they wilt, you mince/press/grate several cloves of garlic, rinse off some white beans (I used a jar of these), and measure out a little grated parmesan or pecorino. Once the greens have wilted, you add the garlic, beans, cheese, and a splash of water or broth. With just a couple stirs, the cheese melts and the liquid in the pan magically transforms into a lush, creamy sauce. Salt and pepper to taste and you’re done.

We ate our beans and greens alongside some scallops, but you could easily turn this into the main event by tossing in some pasta or a bit of cooked and crumbled sausage. I can already tell, this is a dish that is going to be in heavy rotation this winter.

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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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