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Washington State Cherries, Peaches, Nectarines, and Plums

Every summer for the last eight years, I’ve teamed up with the folks at the Washington State Fruit Commission. As one of their Canbassadors, they send me boxes of fruit. I take those cherries, peaches, nectarines, and plums into my kitchen and then share how I transform them into various batches of jams, pickles, butters, compotes, and conserves.

This year, they sent me three separate shipments of fruit. In late June, it was 18 pounds of sweet, juicy cherries. At the beginning of August, two flats of fragrant peaches and nectarines. And right around Labor Day, a box of sturdy Italian plums (they are a perennial favorite in my kitchen).

I made a bunch of really great stuff with all this fruit, but as the intensity of the summer ratcheted up, I’ve not done as good a job at getting those recipes from my kitchen scratch pad to this site. So here’s what I’ve done. I’ve created individual posts for each of the unshared recipes (to make them more easily searchable) and then I’ve rounded them all up here. Much of these are out of season for this year, but perhaps you’ll remember one or two for next year.

Cherries

Peaches and Nectarines

Italian Plums

And for anyone who’s keeping track, here’s what I’ve made in past years with my Canbassador fruit.

If you want to see what some of the other Canbassadors have done this year, make sure to follow the Washington State Fruit and Northwest Cherries folks on social media, as they’ve been sharing all the posts. Here’s where you can find them.

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest

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Spiced Plum Jam

When I was very young, my family lived in an old house in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Eagle Rock. We had a trio of plum trees that produced great heaps of fruit every other year. My parents would fill paper grocery bags with plums and pass them out to friends and neighbors. Even after those bags were distributed, there were always more plums.

My mom would always make two or three batches of delicious, runny plum jam, spiked with cinnamon and bright with lemon zest that we’d eat on oatmeal, pancakes, and yogurt. Because of those preserves, the flavor of plum jam satisfies my deepest taste memories in a way that other jams can’t touch.

This recipe is my attempt to recreate that childhood jam. The only difference is that I use a bit of pectin to ensure that mine has a firmer set than the batches my mom used to make.

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Honey Sweetened Mixed Fruit Compote

For the last several weeks, I’ve been fully immersed in the end-of-season canning frenzy. This time of year, there’s not a lot of nuance in my preservation activities. I’m simply doing my best to get the food into the jars in the simplest way possible before the produce spoils.

One technique I use a lot this time of year is this one for mixed fruit compote. It’s the thing I call on when there are lots of odds and ends that need to be used up. As long as the fruits you use are all high in acid, you can mix and match as you see fit (this means, skip the white peaches and nectarines, figs, asian pears, mangos).

I use a variety of sweeteners in these compotes, but in this particular variation, opted for honey (mostly because there was a half empty jug on the counter that I wanted to use up). Because this preserve is sloshy by design, I use a fairly low amount of whatever sweetener I’m calling on. Typically, it ends up being a ratio of four parts fruit to one part sweetener.

These are the preserves I call on to sweeten plain yogurt, to wake up hot cereals, and to serve as a fruity layer in baked oatmeal. Gather up the dregs of the stone fruit (this batch included some of my Canbassador nectarines), throw in a few diced pears, use some berries from the freezer, and get to boiling.

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Fruit Butter for the September Food in Jars Mastery Challenge

It’s September and that means it’s time to explore another food preservation skill in the crazy journey we know as the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge. This month, we’re digging into fruit butters. For the purposes of this challenge, we’re including butters made from winter squash and sweet potatoes, provided that they are made for the fridge or freezer (since they are too dense to be canned). It can be sweetened in any which way you want and can even be made without additional sweeteners.

Remember that the goal of this challenge is to help you expand your skills while creating something that you’ll actually use. So choose an approach or recipe that will satisfy both your own learning and help you make something delicious.

What is a fruit butter?

A fruit butter is a product that is so named because it mimics the smooth spreadability of softened butter. It is made from a puree that is cooked low and slow for a number of hours, in order to evaporate the excess liquid, concentrate flavors and intensify the innate sweetness in the fruit. Thanks to this concentration, it typically contains a minimal amount of additional sweetener.

How do you make fruit butters?

The basics of making fruit butters are these. You puree some fruit. You cook it down slowly until thick. You add sweeteners, spices, and acid (to balance the flavors) to taste and preserve.

There are three standard approaches to making fruit butters.

  1. Slow Cooker – This is my favorite method for making fruit butters because it is relatively hands off, can be done outside of the kitchen (great for busy cooking days), and is produces the steady, low heat that fruit butters love. Just remember to prop the lid to allow for the steam to vent.
  2. Stove Top – When you’re in a hurry and you have the time to tend the cooking puree, small batches can be done on the stove top. Just keep stirring to prevent scorching.
  3. Oven – Another beloved technique. I often start with whole fruit when making fruit butters, roast them until soft, smash the fruit in the pan, and then continue to cook, stirring regularly. The best part of these oven roasted butters is that they develop a rich, caramelized flavor.

The Recipes

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A Trip to Fishers, IN with Newell Brands, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products

A few weeks ago, I was invited by Newell Brands, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products to Fishers, IN, where I spent an action-packed day and a half with three other bloggers to peek behind the scenes and participate in Can-It Forward Day festivities.

I flew in to Indianapolis and met up with Linda and Kathryne, of Garden Betty and Cookie and Kate, respectively (Heather from Whipperberry arrived a little after we did). Our first stop was Minnetrista in Muncie.

Minnetrista is the original Ball family homesite and now houses an extensive collection of artifacts and archival material from the Ball family as well as East Central Indiana. If you’re a jar lover, it’s most certainly worth a visit, but if you can’t swing a trip, start by browsing their collection database online (try the random image search. It’s fascinating).

Their collection includes vast number of unique jars, tea sets, old jar molds, and even a small collection of Bob Ross painting (happy little trees!) I particularly loved the story of the jar pictured above. They were made specially for the Southern Methodist Orphan Home during the Great Depression.

The Home distributed them to residents of Waco, TX and asked that each household fill one or two jars while they were putting up their harvest. This way, the orphans had plenty to eat, even during the leanest of years.

After our tour of Minnetrista, we had dinner at Thr3e Wise Men in Muncie. We had a ton of food, including some seriously delicious fried pickle chips.

After dinner, I snuck away for a couple hours to see an old friend who moved to Muncie a several years ago. I met his kids, held their youngest (just a week old!), and caught up on their life.

The next day started bright and early, with breakfast with the Newell Brands, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products team. After we were fed and had coffee, it was time to take a tour of the packaging plant. I kind of loved the toe protectors we were given to wear (they looked oddly good with my red clogs). Not pictured were the neon vests, hard hats, safety glasses, and earplugs we were also assigned.

Ball® jars are made primarily in a factory north of Muncie, and then they’re transported (stacked and strapped to pallets, like you see pictured above) to the facility in Fishers. This is where they’re checked over, given lids and rings, grouped into boxes, and wrapped in plastic.

The machine they use to put the lids and rings on the jars was fascinating (it was kind of steam punky), but sadly it is proprietary equipment and so I couldn’t take any photos or video of it work its magic.

They process Ball®, Kerr, Golden Harvest, and Bernardin (Canada!) jars in that facility. This is also where they package jars up into smaller lots for various retailers. When you see a fancy jar end-cap display at your grocery store, it probably started life in Fishers.

Looking out at row after row of jars, I couldn’t help but imagine a game show for canners in the style of Supermarket Sweep. Winner gets to run around and grab all the jars they can in just 60 seconds (sadly, it’ll never happen. But it’s fun to dream!).

Once our tour was over, we had a short canning class with Jess Piper. She’s a member of the customer support team at Newell Brands, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products and if you reach out to them with a question or issue, she may well be the one to help you resolve your query. Jess also does the bulk of the on-camera presentations for Ball, is a certified canning expert, and is a delightful human.

You might think I’d feel silly taking a canning class, but I always find it useful to hear how other people present canning information. One tidbit I picked up is the fact that mason jars are designed to withstand a 90 degree F temperature change, but more than that and you risk thermal shock. I hadn’t know the exact temperature range before. Never stop learning!

After our class, we had lunch and then got down to the business of filming the Can-It Forward video segments. My segment was going to be the last to air and so we were the last to film. We demonstrated Habanero-Apricot Jelly (made with dried apricots and perfect for off-season canning!) and Sriracha Ketchup and then used them in a recipe (you’ll have to watch the segment to see what we made!).

The time flew by and before I knew it, we were done. Everyone piled into the bus and we headed to dinner. There had been talk of going to the Indiana State Fair afterwards, but it had been a full day and we were all ready to tumble into our respective beds after dessert came.

The Preserving Summer Canning Series we filmed aired throughout August. You can watch Kathryne, LindaHeather, and me over on the Ball® Fresh Preserving Products Facebook page. Make sure to let me know what you think!

Disclosure: I am a paid partner for Newell Brand, makers of Ball® Fresh Preserving Products. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

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Red Currants, Dry Canning, and Family Traditions

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is back with another post from her canning trenches. This time, she’s sharing her experience trying dry canning (aka open kettle canning) with her Canadian relatives. -Marisa

As I’m sure is the case with many of you readers, I first learned to can thanks to recipes and tips here on Food In Jars.

Marisa’s enthusiasm, knowledge, and clear, well-researched recipes and instructions have always made it easy to understand the principles of safe and delicious canning. Ever since then, I’ve felt confident in putting up seasonal produce and even developing or tweaking recipes of my own, knowing that they were based on safe, tested, well-researched information. And I’d never known anyone who practiced home preserving any other way.

That is, until I paid a visit to family in Quebec earlier this month.

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