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Low Sugar Strawberry Vanilla Jam

cluster of strawberry vanilla jam

Last Friday, I stopped in to Reading Terminal Market to see Annelies and pick up a few things. While there, I wandered by the Fair Food Farmstand and commented on the gorgeous, fragrant strawberries. In response, the operations manager Anne, offered to sell me a flat of seconds*. Cheap.

berry seconds

I am unable to resist fruit bargains and so ended up walking the eight blocks home hugging a flat of berries. I found that people responded to the berries in much the same way they do when I’ve found myself carrying a new baby through a grocery store. They smile at your parcel and murmur under their breath, “Baby! (Berries!).”

hulled strawberries

I made it home, berries intact, and set my load down near the air conditioner to cool (there was no space in the fridge). There they sat until later that evening. When I finally started disassembling the flat, I discovered that these were true seconds and needed careful culling.

discarded strawberry bits

I put on a podcast and sidled up to the sink. I hulled and sliced, ruthlessly eliminating all the bits that moldy, slimy, or had started to smelly boozy. In the end, I had enough berries for some slow cooker strawberry butter (a batch of this, sweetened with cane sugar instead of maple) and a batch of low sugar strawberry vanilla jam.

strawberry puree in slow cooker

I pureed the berries for the butter and set them up on low in my ancient four quart cooker to reduce overnight. I put the rest of the berries into a large bowl and pummeled them with a potato masher until I had about nine cups of pulp. That went into a eight quart pot with 2 cups of cane sugar and 2 split and scraped vanilla beans.

cooking strawberry jam

Now, had my refrigerator not been packed to the gills, I would have put the sugared berry mash in there and kept it cold overnight. However, there was no space in the inn, so I cheated a little. I brought it to a rolling boil for a couple minutes and then turned off the heat. I covered the pot, shoved it to the back burner, and left it there overnight.

steamy strawberry jam

Food safety experts might ding me for this practice, but the quick boil kills off the worst of the bacteria and the sugar acts as a preservative (plus, it was a relatively cool night. I don’t do this during the true heat of summer).

It was entirely fine when came back to it the next morning, and so I pulled the pot back to my most powerful burner, added 1 tablespoon of calcium water and the juice of 2 small lemons, and brought it back to a boil.

strawberry jam overhead

I boiled the fruit for 25 minutes (or so), until it had reduced by about half, was thickening up a little, and the worst of the foaming had subsided. I stirred 1 tablespoon of Pomona’s Pectin into 1/2 cup cane sugar and whisked it into the jam in a thin, steady stream so that the pectin didn’t clump.

pint of strawberry vanilla jam

Two more minutes of rapid boiling and it was done. The batch made 4 1/2 pints and I processed them in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. The finished is sweet, but the primary flavor is strawberry. It’s a very good one for stirring into plain yogurt because it doesn’t overpower the pleasing tartness of the yogurt.

empty berry boxes

And remember, you can always treat this recipe as a template. You can add different flavors (strawberries with a little cinnamon and nutmeg is always nice). You can also slice the batch in half if 4 1/2 pints of a single flavor is more than you want in your pantry.

*If you’re in Philly and want in on cheap flats of berries, Anne has yet more. Leave a comment on this post and I’ll connect you.

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Urban Preserving: Small Batch Vanilla Rhubarb Jam

chopped rhubarb

I’ve been keeping this blog long enough that I’m starting to repeat myself. This rhubarb jam, for instances, is nothing more than a simplified, scaled down version of the one I posted in the first year I was writing here (there’s also a very similar recipe in my first cookbook).

sugared rhubarb

The honest truth of it is that I can as much for myself as I do to create content for this site, and I very much love this easy little preserve. And so I make it every year or two, each time tweaked slightly. I thought you’d like to see how I do it when I’m only making a little bit.

vanilla rhubarb jam

You could also use this recipe as a starting place for a strawberry rhubarb jam. Either swap in berries for half the rhubarb, or double it (I know that I typically discourage people from doubling small batch recipes, but because this one has a touch of pectin, it scales up nicely).

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Makrut Lime Marmalade

vertical image of lime marmalade

The citrus situation in my kitchen is out of control. There’s a big bowl of clementines on the table, three red grapefruits in the basket with the onions, and a open bag of cara cara oranges on the counter (not to mention the remaining Meyer lemons, which are lined up on a rimmed baking sheet and hanging out in the living room). I realize I should probably restrain myself, but citrus feels like the only good way to combat the short days, chilly weather, and non-stop parade of head colds.

limes

Up until a couple days ago, there was also something a lime situation. Because I’m a long-time customer, Karen from the Lemon Ladies will occasionally slip an extra treat into my order. This year, she tucked in a bonus pound of makrut* limes in with the Meyers. Both makrut limes and their leaves are used a great deal in Thai cooking and have a heady, slightly woodsy fragrance.

slicing limes

Because I am who I am, you should not be surprised to hear that I took those makrut limes and made marmalade with them. I used the Hungry Tigress’ Lime on Lime Shred Marmalade as a starting place and got to work (just a glance at her site makes me nostalgic for the days of the Can Jam).

I stretched the making of this marmalade out over three days. I find that this is my favorite way to make any labor-intensive preserve, because it never ends up feeling like too much of a pain. If I force myself to do it all at once, I often end up hating the process. If I work in small spurts, I end up delighted with the experience instead.

naked limes

So, on Monday evening, after the dinner dishes were cleaned and I had clear counters and an empty sink, I turned on a podcast and set to work. I had a scant pound of makrut limes and three quarters of a pound of conventional limes. After giving the makrut limes a good scrub, I cut them in half across their equators, plucked out the seeds, and using a freshly sharpened knife, cut them into the thinnest half moons I could manage.

jars for lime marm

Because the other limes weren’t organic, I didn’t want to use their skins. Instead, I cut away the peels to expose the interior flesh and, using my very sharp knife a little too close to my fingertips, I sectioned out the pulpy innards. Then I pulled down a wide mouth half gallon jar and scraped all my prepared fruit bits into it. Four cups of filtered water went in on top, and it all spent the night in the fridge (next to some fermented dilly beans and leftover soup).

lime marm in jars

The next night, I poured the contents of that jar out into a big, wide jam pan (this one, to be specific) and added four cups of granulated sugar. I stirred the sugar into the fruit and brought it to a brief boil. Then I killed the heat, fitted a round of parchment paper to serve as a makeshift lid, and went to bed.

jars of lime marm

The next morning, before I’d even taken a shower, I fired up the canning pot, brought the lime slurry to a boil, cooked it until it reached 222°F (a little higher than I sometimes recommend, but I wanted to ensure a firm set). The end result was just a little less than four half pints (I canned it in hexagonal jars that hold four ounces, and there was a bit left over that went into a jar for the fridge).

The finished marmalade is bright, pleasantly bitter, and may well travel with me to the Philly Food Swap next week. Who knows!

*Makrut limes also go by another name. It is deeply problematic and so I’ve chosen not to use it here.

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Urban Preserving: Pear Vanilla Drizzle

pears in a bowl

There a short list of canning recipes that I think of as my greatest hits. They are the preserves I come back to again and again, and are also the ones about which I’ve gotten the most feedback from readers and friends. This tomato jam is one. The roasted corn salsa in Food in Jars is another. And this time of year, I always make a batch of apple cranberry jam to share for Thanksgiving.

chopping pears

Another recipe that tops the greatest hits list? Pear vanilla jam. It’s a recipe I first made in early 2011 and I’ve since done it so many times that I can produce it entirely from memory. It’s a jam that works equally well on peanut butter toast or as part of a fancy pants cheese plate (try it with Delice de Bourgogne) and is always makes for a welcome hostess gift.

pan of cooked pear jam

Recently, I’ve been taking a slightly different approach to this jam. I start with just two pounds of pears, cut the proportion of sugar down a hair, and then, when it’s all done cooking, I scrape it into a heat-proof measuring cup and puree the heck out of it with an immersion blender.

pureeing jam

What the pureeing does is that it transforms it into a sweet, sticky glaze that retains a bit of the pear’s wonderful graininess. I call it a drizzle, though if the jar has been in the fridge, it can harden slightly past the drizzle point. I’ve taken to spreading micro-thin layers on toasted and buttered whole grain pancakes (I try to keep a stash in the freezer) and really like an afternoon snack that includes rice crackers, goat cheese, and little dabs of this sweet pear goo.

pear vanilla jam drizzle

It’s not a flashy preserve, but it’s one of my favorites. Maybe it will become one yours too!

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Urban Preserving: Concord Grape Jam

concord grapes

Two or three times a year, I pack up a big box of jam and mail it off to my sister and her family in Austin, TX. While Raina knows the fundamentals of jam making (and I know she has at least two cookbooks that could show her how), my mom and I easily (and happily) meet the bulk of her fruit spread needs.

grapes in a pan

In the last shipment, one of the jars I sent was a squat little half pint of concord grape jam. I’d made it as a test batch sometime last fall and hadn’t thought much about it beyond assuming that my nephew might dig it. When Raina reported back on the winners, the thing she raved about most was the grape jam. They ate through it in record time and were all a little sad to hear that there wasn’t even a drop more.

simmered grapes

So when concord grapes came into season this fall, I made a point to pick some up to make another batch of jam for Raina and her crew. I started with 2 pounds of concord grapes. I gave them a quick rinse, and popped them in a saucepan with 1/4 cup of water. I set the pan on the stove and brought it to a simmer. I let it go for a few minutes, just until the grapes popped.

Once the grapes where soft, I poured them into a food mill that I’d fitted with the finest screen and milled them through. This is the step that makes this preserve more of a jam than a jelly. It’s not going to have a ton of texture from the skin, but some gets through and gives the finished product a little more body.

grapes in a food mill

Once I couldn’t mill any more, I measured out the pulp. In my case, I had a little more than 3 1/2 cups, but your results will vary. I poured the pulp into a low, wide pan and added 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar (roughly half the volume of pulp) and the juice of half a lemon. Then I cooked it until it was thick (times vary, use your judgment).

Once the jam was done, I funneled it into two half pint jars (there was a little leftover for the fridge) and processed them in a boiling water bath canner for ten minutes. They sealed perfectly and will be in my checked luggage when I head for Austin later this month to meet my new nephew (!!!). He was born at 7:59 this morning and everyone is well.

 

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Low Sugar Spiced Peach Jam

finished peach jam

For the last four summers, I’ve been invited by the folks at the Washington State Fruit Commission and Sweet Preservation to participate in their Canbassador program. Essentially, sometime around mid-summer, they drop me an email and ask if I want to make something tasty with their fruit. When I say yes, the ship a box of delicious Washington-grown cherries, peaches, plums, or apricots.

peach box

Some years, they send me a mix of fruit. Other years, it’s just a single variety. Here’s what I’ve made for this partnership since kicking things off in 2010.

chopped peaches

This year, they sent me a giant box of sweet, juicy peaches. About half the fruit was at the apex of ripeness upon arrival. I triaged the box, sorting the peaches that had to be used immediately from the ones that could stand a couple of days in the fridge. When I was done, I had six pounds of peaches that required immediate action.

And so I peeled them, roughly chopped them, and divided them between a couple of large jars. I added some sugar to help hold them (1/2 a cup for the quart jar and 1 cup for the half gallon), gave both jars a good shake to distribute everything, and plunked them in the fridge for 2 1/2 days while I went down to Washington, D.C. to teach some classes.

peaches in the pan

When I got home from the trip, I poured the macerated peaches into a low, wide pan (in fact, the one I wrote about here). I added a tablespoon of calcium water (Pomona’s Pectin), 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, and the zest and juice from a lemon.

I brought it to a boil and cooked until the peaches where very soft and the syrup became to thicken. I whisked 1 tablespoon of Pomona’s Pectin into 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar and after about 35 minutes of cooking, stirred it into the jam. A few more minutes of simmering to help everything combined and then the jam was done.

cooked peach jam

Funneled into eight half pint jars and processed for 10 minutes, this jam is lighter on sugar than many, but doesn’t sacrifice anything in terms of flavor. It’s a nice one for holiday gifts and eating with fat slices of angel food cake.

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