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Honey Lemon Apple Jam Recipe

honey lemon apple jam

For months now, I’ve been working on finding a way to make a jam from apples that is satisfying and, well, jammy. The problem with apples is if you try and cook them raw with sugar, which is the way you approach the fruit in most jam recipes, the apples don’t break down. They stay hard and firm, releasing little of their sugars and leaving you with a final product that is closer to marmalade than jam.

chopped apples

In some recipes, such as my Cranberry-Apple Jam, this isn’t such a bad thing. The cranberries and sugar do the jammy work, and the apples add nice texture and mouthfeel. But up until down, I’ve found that making a good jam with apples as the primary fruit just hasn’t been all that great (I did get close with my Apple-Ginger Jam, but it still wasn’t quite right). That is, until now.

This time, I cooked the apples down into a sauce with two cups of lemon juice before adding the sugar. And this did the trick. I got close to the texture I wanted from the fruit before I added the sugar (ensuring I’d get what I wanted once the sugar and honey was added), and I was able to infuse the tart flavor of the lemons fully into the jam to boot (this is a great way to get a whole variety flavors into jam, I’m already envisioning lavender, more ginger or chai spices).

honey lemon apple jam

You may be wondering why I’m so excited to find a good apple jam technique. Well, apples are cheap, abundant and store really well. I overbought at the fall farmers’ markets and so had an entire crisper drawer full that needed to be used (and I have plenty of applesauce and butter already stashed away). And, I just like apples. I think they’re endlessly adaptable and knew there was a way to make them do jam nicely.

hand written recipe

Before, I jump to the recipe, I want to talk pectin. I do include one envelope (half of the contents of a box) of liquid pectin in this recipe. However, many apples are naturally high in pectin. If you’re working with green or under-ripe apples, you might not need to add any pectin. But if you’re using old apples that have been in your fridge for a couple of months, adding a little pectin is good insurance that your jam will have a good set.

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Apple-Ginger Jam

apples

For the longest time, I’ve had it in my mind to make an gingery apple jam. I wanted something that had a true gingery punch, but wasn’t so spicy that it wouldn’t still go nicely with a buttered piece of toast. I pondered whether I could make a jam with nothing more than apple, ginger and sugar, without some other fruit in there to smooth things out. Then, one night, in the chaotic days before Christmas, I decided that I couldn’t simply think about it for another minute. I just had to do it.

peeled apples

I used six large apples (a mix of local cameos and a couple golden delicious). They were peeled by hand (I’ve learned the hard way that apple skins never play nicely in jam), but, being that I embarked upon this particular jam journey well past 9 p.m., I used the grater blade on my hand-me-down food processor to break down the apples. In my initial jam vision, they were hand-diced into neat quarter-inch cubes, but that would have added a good hour to my process, so I went down a different path.

grated apples

One of the things that kept me from making this jam for so long was that I just wasn’t sure how to impart the best ginger flavor. I briefly pondered using powdered or candied ginger, before determining that I wanted the clarity of fresh ginger, but without any little woody bits. So I sliced approximately 3/4 of a pound of a firm ginger root into approximate rounds and pureed them in my Vitamix with a cup of water, until all I had was the ginger pulp you see below. Drained through several layers of cheesecloth (don’t be afraid to squeeze), I got almost exactly two cups of gingery liquid.

ginger pulp

I combined the eight cups of grated apple with the two cups of ginger liquid and five cups of sugar. It cooked together for approximately a half hour (some ugly grey foam appeared on top, which I skimmed off), until the bubbles on top of the jam looked thick and syrupy and it was 218 degrees (I couldn’t get it to 220, which is the commonly accepted jam point, but it looked good enough to me).

apple-ginger jam half pints

The jam filled about six pints (with a little leftover) and achieved essentially what I was after. A sticky, gingery apple jam. I do think that I’ll continue to play around with this recipe, as all by itself, apple isn’t the world’s best jammer. I’d love to find some fruit that doesn’t have an aggressive flavor but jams beautifully (I’m wondering if adding a single quince might suit my purpose here). But it sure looks nice and tastes good on that slice of buttered toast.

The organized recipe is after the jump…

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Gift in a Jar: Apple-Cranberry Jam

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Throughout my childhood and teenage years, my parents’ standard holiday gift for friends and family was a bag of my dad’s homemade pancake mix (in particularly flush years, we’d also gift a bottle of maple syrup). The bag would also contain printed instructions on how to turn the mix into batches of fluffy cakes or waffles. I have it on good authority that people looked forward with great anticipation to those pancake mix gifts.

Over the years, we were also the recipients of many a homemade holiday gift, including jars of lemon curd from our cousins in the Bay Area, bottles of homemade coffee liqueur and divided plastic plates from my dad’s business partner, overflowing with cookies, fudge and caramels, hand-wrapped in squares of waxed paper.

In recent years, as my canning practice has grown, more and more of the holiday gifts I give are home-jarred edibles. This year, I’m planning to give my Philadelphia cousins jars of apple butter and apple-cranberry jam, along with mini-loaves of cranberry bread. If you’d like to give your friends and family their own jars of apple-cranberry jam, the recipe is after the jump (it’d be great with some scones on Christmas morning).

I’ll be posting more ideas for gifts in jars in the coming weeks, in the hopes that I’ll be able to inspire you to give your own gifts in jars this year.

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Wedding Silence

Damson plums

Posting will be slim ’round these parts for the next couple of weeks, as I’ll be off on my honeymoon (a road trip through Vermont and New York State). However, I just wanted to say that if you happen to run into Damson plums (they’re at the end of their season right now), you should consider buying some and making jam. They make the most wonderfully sweet/tart jam I’ve ever had. I used eight cups of chopped plums and five cups of sugar and cooked it all down until it was thick and around 217 degrees. Delicious!

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Seattle Pictures + Raspberry Jam

outdoor kitchen

A couple of months ago, based solely on a handful of tweets and a couple of emails, I logged onto Travelocity and bought a plane ticket to Seattle in order to spend some time with a number of people upon whom I’d never before laid eyes. This is a scenario that might give lots of folks pause, but I felt completely at ease, because I was going to be part of the Canvolution.

I landed late on Friday night and a friend of more than ten years picked me up. She took me home with her and tucked me into a wonderfully cushy, comfortable bed. The next morning, she dropped me off in a KFC parking lot, across from the U District farmers market, where I met up with Tea and ogled produce that I could not have (I did buy a wreath of garlic to bring home). The rest of the day went by in a blur of ferry rides, more farmers market shopping (where I ate two incredible figs) and lots and lots of canning, feasting and laughter.

Now, looking back on the hours I spent last weekend with Tea, Viv, Shauna, Laura, Kim, Kimberly, Jeanne and others, I am so totally grateful and delighted that I bought a plane ticket on impulsive. Check the slide show below for more pictures from the weekend.

The only problem I had with my trip out to Seattle was the fact that I couldn’t really bring any of the food we made back with me (I didn’t want to take the risk that the TSA would categorize my homemade jam as a liquid and confiscate it). I did leave the canning party with a couple of jars, but I left them with my parents to bring when the come out for the wedding in a few weeks. So, when I got back home, I was jonesing for a canning project or two. So I canned plums in a honey syrup and made raspberry jam.

raspberries

This was actually the first batch of raspberry jam I’ve ever made. I’ve always looked at raspberries as being too precious to turn into jam. I believe they are far better eaten out of hand, until your fingers are stained bright red and your belly aches. However, the raspberries were so abundant in the field that I made myself half-sick from overindulgence before I even got home. I couldn’t bear the idea of eating another berry, but the 2 1/2 pounds needed to be used. So jam it was.

I made this batch using weight measures as opposed to cups, because my scale was on the counter and it seemed easier. If you don’t have a scale, I’m under the impression I used approximately 8 cups of fairly well-packed berries. Additionally, unlike my blackberry jam, I did not seed this batch. I look at the seeds in raspberry jam as being part of its charm so I left them in. However, if you’re a seed hater, feel free to seed (check out the instructions in the blackberry jam post).

raspberry jam

And, since I like to share, I have one half pint of this amazing, jewel-like jam to giveaway. Leave a comment before Tuesday, September 8th at 11:59 p.m.

Now, recipe time…

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Blackberry Jam

blackberries in field

People in the Pacific Northwest take wild blackberries for granted. In fact, they’re something of a nuisance, lining highways and filling empty lots (my dad once had to rent a backhoe in order to clear the brambles from the lower half of our yard). In August, it’s easy to freely pick gallons of blackberries (you may sacrifice a bit of skin in the process – wild blackberries have very sharp thorns) at local parks, nature reserves and backyards. Just make sure to watch where you’re picking, last summer my parents got scolded after accidentally wandering onto someone’s property while picking berries at the very furthest most point of a dead end road.

blackberries in strainer

Out here in the Mid-Atlantic area of the country, blackberries are a little harder to come by. In fact, I’ve yet to find any wild fruit growing here in Philadelphia. However, I’m lucky to have a few good u-pick farms in the area. They’re not free, but they’re pretty cheap (two weekends ago, I paid $1.10 a pound) and when it comes to blackberries, the cultivated patches come with far fewer thorns than the wild ones.

mashing berries

Blackberry jam is one of my mom’s specialties, so this recipe is more hers than mine. She’s the one who taught me to mash the berries through a strainer to remove the seeds before turning them into jam (it’s a necessity with wild berries, as they tend to be seedier than cultivated berries. If you have more civilized berries, the deseeding process is optional). She’s also the one who showed me how wonderful a smear of blackberry jam can be on a slice of peanut butter toast mid-February.

blackberry pulp into pot

And, because I like to share my bounty, I do have a half pint of this luscious jam to give away. It’s a deep, deep purple color, is almost entirely seedless and is particularly amazing on pancakes (I had friends over for brunch the day after I made the batch and we couldn’t believe how perfect it was in place of maple syrup). Leave a comment by Monday, August 31st at 11:59 p.m. eastern time to enter.

So, on to the recipe we go.

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