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Urban Preserving: Strawberry Kiwi Jam

strawberries and kiwis - Food in Jars

When it comes to travel prep, my husband and I are not well matched. He likes to be fully packed at least 36 hours before a trip, so that he can get a peaceful night of sleep before a flight or drive. I am a bit more frenzied, often packing and re-packing my suitcase moments before it’s time to leave. What’s more, my last minute nature extends to preserving projects.

cooking strawberry kiwi jam - Food in Jars

Last December, the last thing I did before putting my coat on to head to the airport was take half a dozen jars out of the hot water bath and turn off the stove. I had a citron melon with a broken rind. It would not last and I couldn’t bare to throw it away. It had to be done.

finished strawberry kiwi jam - Food in Jars

More recently, I found myself in the kitchen at 11:30 pm, having that familiar debate. Trash can or jam pan? You see, we had most of a pound of strawberries in the fridge that would not last my absence and four wrinkly kiwis that would be well on their way to hooch if left in the fruit basket another four days. I could either bear the responsibility for wasting them or make a quick batch of jam.

strawberry kiwi jam in a jar - Food in Jars

And so, I made jam. I followed the formula you’ve all seen me employ before. I chopped the berries, scooped the kiwi out of its fuzzy wrapper, and heaped them both into a measuring cup to eyeball my volume. Three cups. I added in 1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar (I calculate half as much sugar as fruit and then use a bit less than that) stirred until it was juicy. The fruit and sugar combo then went into a skillet, where I cooked it until thick and spreadable (in the last two minutes of cooking, I added a little lemon juice to balance the sweetness).

Instead of being in possession of fading fruit, I had two half pints of tangy strawberry kiwi jam. I may not have gotten as much sleep as I could have used, but I was set free from the guilt of wasted fruit. A fair trade, in my book. And just this morning, I ate a bit on a slice of peanut butter toast and thought fondly of that late night investment of time.

Where do you all fall on the pre-travel canning continuum? Do you preserve at all costs, or do you occasionally let the produce go?

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Honey Sweetened Cara Cara Orange Jam on Simple Bites

finished orange jam

I got back from Chicago last night with a stack of other peoples’ business cards, half a dozen water bottles from the Housewares Show (more on that soon), and a fog-inducing head cold. I’m good for nothing right now beyond curling up on the couch with a book and some tea.

Happily, I don’t have to leave you all entirely empty-handed. I wrote a piece for Simple Bites on Honey Sweetened Cara Cara Orange Jam that went live today. It’s bright, well-balanced, and can be used a number of different ways (on toast! with yogurt! in vinaigrette!). Please do head over there and take a look.

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Honey Sweetened Meyer Lemon Curd

honey sweetened lemon curd

After I posted the recipe for blood orange curd last week, my mom’s best friend Maria sent me a note asking whether if curds could be made with honey instead of sugar. She and her husband are on a limited diet right now, but honey, eggs, citrus, and dairy are allowed. If a batch of curd could be sweetened with honey, she though it would make a very nice treat in the face of a whole bunch of food restrictions.

I’d not tried making a citrus curd with honey before, but dove into the challenge. I used the same recipe framework that had worked so nicely for the blood oranges, but cut back on the egg yolks by one (to account for the extra liquid the honey would be adding) and swapped in honey for sugar by weight (3/4 cup of sugar weighs 6 ounces, so I used that much honey. Because honey weighs more than sugar, the volume measure is 1/2 cup).

It took a few minutes longer to set up, but it came together beautifully. I used Meyer lemons for this batch because they’re the citrus that most needed to be used in my kitchen. The flavor is gloriously tangy and the sweetness is nicely balanced. I may start sweetening all my curds with honey from now on.

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Blood Orange Curd

blood oranges

A couple weeks ago, I was walking through Reading Terminal Market when I spotted a bin of blood oranges. They were relatively small, but the sign said they were just 4 for $1 and so I picked up eight. I had no plan for them beyond making something delicious. I buy produce like this far too often.

juiced blood oranges (and one lemon)

I considered making marmalade, but I still have one jar left from last year (and I’ve been working on a few varieties with Meyer lemons and Cara Cara oranges). As I thought over my other options, it occurred to me that it’s been far too long since I had a jar of curd in the fridge. And so the decision was made.

blood orange juice

The nice thing about making blood orange curd is that it only needed half of my oranges (so I may just make myself a batch of blood orange shrub). I added the juice of one lemon to the mix to up the pucker a little and had a very generous 1/2 cup, which is exactly what I needed.

eggs

Whenever I make a curd, I always make sure to search out the very best eggs, because they contribute both color and flavor to the finished product. The only problem with that in this particular curd is that the yolks were so vividly orange that they muddied the ruby color of the blood orange juice. Happily, the resulting salmon color doesn’t impact the flavor, it just looks a little funky.

blood orange curd

Let’s talk briefly about canning and curds. In my first book, I included three curd recipes. Because of differing acid contents, two are deemed safe for canning and one is not (I take my cues from the National Center for Home Food Preservation).

These days, I don’t can my curds at all, even when working with those that are higher in acid (which this one is not). That’s because I find that the texture often firms up unpleasantly in the boiling water bath canner. Curds will keep a couple weeks in the fridge and up to six months in the freezer.

blood orange curd in yogurt

Let’s talk a little about what you can do once you have a batch of curd in the fridge. You can use it to fill a layer cake. You can smooth it into a tart shell. You can dip berries into it. You can dollop it on scones or biscuits. Or, you can do my favorite thing in the whole world and stir it into a bowl of Greek yogurt. The combination is sweet, creamy, and just a bit tart. Truly, it’s the best thing ever.

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Honey Sweetened Meyer Lemon Jam

four jars meyer lemon jam

Meyer lemons are a large part of what make the winter months bearable for me. Smooth-skinned, mildly tart, and with a fresh, slightly floral fragrance, they bring a welcome brightness to February (particularly this month. Every time the weather report predicts more snow, I feel ready to weep).

one and a half pounds

Over the years, I think I’ve done nearly everything that one can do with a Meyer lemon. I’ve preserved them in salt, turned them into curd, chopped and sliced into marmalade, dehydrated them, made jelly with their juice, and packed the zest into both salt and sugar.

simmered lemons

I think this whole fruit jam might be my final meyer lemon frontier. I’d been thinking along these lines for a while and then Shae over at Hitchhiking to Heaven posted a similar whole fruit jam using grapefruit and it cemented the deal for me.

lemons in a blender

Because I find that honey sweetened preserves are best done in small batches, I started with just one and a half pounds of lemons. I put them in a saucepan where they’d fit in a single layer and added some water (you need two cups of water to make the jam, so I started with a bit more than that to account for evaporation).

pouring meyer lemon sludge

I simmered the lemons for about 25 minutes, until the were tender but not falling apart and then I left them in the pot for a day because life got busy. Had my fridge not been packed to the gills, I would have poured them into a container and popped them in there, but there just wasn’t room.

meyer lemon jam

When I was ready to cook, I put the lemons in the blender with two cups of the cooking water and pulsed until they were broken into relatively small pieces but not uniformly pureed (I wanted some texture). The puree went into a low, wide pan with two cups of honey (approximately one half of the meyer lemon mixture by weight). Cooked over high heat, it was setting up nicely in just 15 minutes.

I’m really pleased with the way this jam turned out. It shows off all the charms of the meyer lemon, is pleasingly bracing, and manages to avoid being over-sweet. I also love the fact that it skips all the work of a traditional batch of marmalade. I still have a few meyer lemons left and am planning to make a second batch.

Updated to add: I’ve gotten some questions about the seeds. Meyer lemons are a hybrid fruit, so they typically don’t have many seeds. I used a small slotted spoon to skim them out of the jam during cooking. If your lemons are seedier than mine, cut them in half and remove the seeds before pureeing.

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Apple Horseradish Conserve

apple horseradish conserve jar

It was at least two years ago that I started imagining an apple jam with a bit of sinus-clearing horseradish for punch. I made note of it on my running list of recipe ideas and promptly moved on to other things. Each time I returned to that list for inspiration or to add a new idea, I’d spot it and promise myself that I’d try it soon. But it just didn’t happen.

apple sauce for conserve

Finally, back in December I got myself a knob of fresh horseradish and set out to see what an apple horseradish jam might taste like. Of course, as these things so often work out, I didn’t actually end up making jam. Instead, I made a conserve (anytime you add dried fruit or nuts to jam, it becomes a conserve).

You see, there was a bag of golden raisins on the counter as I was cooking, and I ended up adding a couple palmfuls for sweetness and texture. After a few tastes, I determined that it needed some vinegar for balance, a scattering of mustard seeds to compliment the horseradish, and just a little bit of cayenne fire.

grated horseradish overhead

The resulting preserve lands somewhere in between a jam and a chutney. You get the apple and raisin flavors in the beginning, but the bite will always finish with the horseradish and heat asserting themselves. I’m not sure that I’ve given up on the idea of a straight apple horseradish jam (or jelly!), but I’m really pleased with how this conserve turned out. It’s particularly good with cheese or eaten alongside bites of crisp roast potato.

apple horseradish conserve  close

A word about safety and acid levels. Horseradish is a lower acid food. Apples are quite high in acid. This preserve is made almost entirely of apples, with vinegar and lemon juice adding to the acid load. As it’s written, it is quite safe. However, please resist the temptation to increase the amount of horseradish, as that could lead to an unsafe preserve.

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