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Mastery Challenge: Apple-Quince Fruit Cheese

Our intrepid contributor Alexandra Jones returns again, with a recipe for apple-quince fruit cheese. This homemade fruit paste (this month’s mastery challenge topic) is the perfect thing to make your holiday cheese board stand out from the crowd! -Marisa

Fruit for apple-quince fruit cheese

I confess that over the past few months, I’ve fallen off the Mastery Challenge train. The contents of my kitchen and the time I have to devote to preserving just didn’t add up. But I’m excited to finish out the year strong with December’s topic: fruit pastes, one of my favorite ways to preserve seasonal fruits.

I canned a spreadable version of the typically sliceable quince paste last month. I had a few more quinces than would fit in my Dutch oven when I made that recipe, and they sat patiently in my fruit bowl while I figured out what to do with them.

sliced fruit for apple-quince fruit cheese

Since I’ll be entertaining friends with a cheese-centric holiday party next week, I decided to combine my remaining quinces with a few apples and whip up a concentrated, sliceable apple-quince fruit paste that would combine both flavors, with this recipe as my framework. And since I’ll be serving this paste with cheese, I’m choosing to call it a fruit cheese, but it’s basically a pate de fruits.

The beautiful thing about fruit pastes is that they’re pretty forgiving. The thing you want to avoid when making jam and jelly — a firm, overly-set preserve — is exactly what you’re going for in this case. It’s also quite easy, as there’s no peeling necessary, thanks to a food mill or fine mesh strainer.

cooked fruit for apple-quince fruit cheese

But there is a trick to it: the goal is to cook down the milled fruit puree until it’s as stiff as possible while still being spreadable, but there’s even a trick for that — if you’ve got a programmable dehydrator or an oven that goes nice and low.

After cooking my fruit till it was thick and mounding, spreading the mixture into a pan, and letting it sit overnight, the paste was still soft and moist. Mine spent several hours in the dehydrator at 150 degrees F, which firmed up the surface quite a lot.

milled fruit sauce that will become apple-quince fruit cheese

However, because the paste wasn’t spread perfectly evenly, some areas were firm on top but soft underneath.  No problem: I put the pan in the fridge to firm up for a few hours, then simply pulled the block paste out of the pan by hand and flipped it over. The pan went back into the dehydrator for a few more hours until the paste achieved a more uniform consistency.

At this point, all that’s left to do is slice and serve with a wedge of something pungent. (You could also cut the paste into cubes or squares, toss them with sugar, and serve as a dessert treat.) I like to pair this paste a cave-aged cheddar, but Alpine cheeses, blues, tangy fromage blanc, and other cheeses will all work with its sweet-tart, slightly floral flavor.

cheese plate with heart shaped apple-quince fruit cheese

While you can simply slice the paste into cubes, batons, or squares, I think this recipe is a great excuse to bust out your cutest cookie cutter. It’s the holidays, after all.

Apple-Quince Fruit Cheese

Ingredients

  • 2 apples
  • 2 quinces
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Brush an 8" x 8" pan with a small amount of neutral oil and line with parchment paper. Brush the parchment paper with oil.
  2. Core and roughly slice the fruit. Place slices and water in a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid.
  3. Cover and cook the fruit over medium heat for 20 minutes. Uncover and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the fruit is very tender and falling apart. (The quince will take a little longer to get tender than the apples will.) If the mixture dries out before the fruit is tender, add another splash of water and put the cover back on the pot.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat. Pass the mixture through a food mill or press it through a fine mesh strainer until skins are removed.
  5. Return the fruit puree to the pot and add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for an hour or more, stirring frequently to keep the bottom of the pot from burning. Keep an eye out for when the mixture begins to mound up. You want the mixture to be as sturdy and thick as possible while still being spreadable.
  6. Once the puree has thickened, spread it into the prepared pan, doing your best to achieve a smooth surface and uniform thickness. Allow to dry overnight.
  7. The next morning, gently touch the surface of the fruit paste. If it's still wet or tacky and the paste is soft, put the pan into a 150 degree F oven or dehydrator. Check every hour or so and remove the paste when the surface is dry to the touch.
  8. Press gently around the pan, especially on any areas that may be thicker than others. If the underside of the paste is still soft and spreadable, put the pan into the fridge to cool for an hour or two. Once it's cooled, you should be able to gently pull up the square of paste and flip it back into the pan, soft side up. Return the pan to the dehydrator or oven, checking every hour or so. Remove when the surface feels dry and the texture has firmed up.
  9. Cut into shapes using a knife or cookie cutters and serve with cheeses, or cut shapes, toss in granulated sugar, and serve immediately as a sweet. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
http://foodinjars.com/2017/12/mastery-challenge-apple-quince-fruit-cheese/

 

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Fermentation for the November Mastery Challenge

For the November Mastery Challenge, we’re digging into fermentation. This a huge topic and you can go a number of different directions. Kimchi, sauerkraut, hot sauce, yogurt, sourdough, apple cider vinegar, kombucha, ginger bugs, brined pickles, and anything else you can think of are fair game!

If you’ve never done any fermentation, I suggest sauerkraut as a good starting place. It’s an easy entry point and can be done with just a wide mouth quart jar, a 4 ounce jelly jar, a piece of clean kitchen towel, and a rubber band.

If you’re looking for a little more detail on sauerkraut making, make sure to watch the Facebook video I did recently. I also talk about various airlocks and fermentation helpers in the video.

As far as fermentation resources go, there is no better source than Phickle. Written by Amanda Feifer (who also wrote the excellent book Ferment Your Vegetables).

To have your project included in the tally and round-up for this month, please submit your finished project using this form by Thursday, November 30.

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Submit your October Mastery Challenge Here!

Hello Mastery Challenge participants! I know it seems a little strange that I’m posting this submission form right on the heels of the monthly intro. The truth of the matter is that because of my busy-ness, we’re well into October and I wanted to make sure the form was here for those folks who are more on top of things that I am!

This month, we’re focusing on both drying/dehydrating and pressure canning. You can choose one topic or tackle them both, depending on your time, equipment and motivation!

The reporting form is below! Deadline submission deadline is Monday, October 30 to be counted in the tally and included in the round-up.

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Dehydrating and Pressure Canning for the October Mastery Challenge

Happy October, folks! So sorry that it’s taken me a little bit to get this post up. I spent most of last week in Austin co-babysitting my nephews with my mom and I’m working on a new book, so my attention has been a bit splintered.

Like our challenge back in August, this month is two-pronged. We’re focusing on both drying/dehydrating and pressure canning. The reason for two topics this time around is that I didn’t want to have a whole month dedicated to something that required the purchase of a specialized piece of equipment.

Entry level pressure canners aren’t that expensive (the 16 quart Presto that I use is currently $72 on Amazon), but it’s still a cost. The barrier to entry just needed to be lower. And while lots of people have dedicated dehydrators, drying food is something that be done just about anywhere, with nothing more than a length of string or a rubber band with which to tie and hang a bundle of herbs. So here we are, with two topics.

To participate this month, you can pick just one of the skills, or if you have access to a pressure canner, can be bold and do both. Finally, remember that the goal of this challenge is to help you expand your skills while creating something that you’ll actually use. So choose accordingly.

Drying/Dehydrating

This is one of the oldest food preservation approaches known to humans. Since the dawn of time, we’ve been drying fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and meats in order to make them last from one season to the next. In the past, we had nothing more than sun, wind, and smoke to effect drying. These days, we’ve added countertop dehydrators, microwave ovens, freeze dryers, and ovens with dedicated dehydrating settings to our toolbox.

For the purposes of this month’s challenge, any homemade dried food will count. I do ask that if you opt for making jerky that you take care and use proper food handling techniques to prevent spoilage (Hank Shaw is always my first stop for jerky info).

  • I am partial to these marinated and dried tomatoes, these dehydrated tiny tomatoes, and these sprouted and dried almonds.
  • For ease of prep and use, nothing beats these air dried lemon peel slices.
  • Making fruit leather with a jar of applesauce spiked with some elderly jam is always a nice way to go, particularly if you have kids with a fruit leather habit (though having just spent a week with a very picky three-year-old, I could see him turning up his nose at fruit leather without a wrapper. Your mileage will vary on that front).
  • This weekend, hit the farmers market and buy a few bundles of herbs. Tie them with string and hang them upside down someplace where they can just be for a week or two. When they’re dry, rub them, tuck them into a jar, and label them for winter cooking.
  • There’s also a bunch of good information on drying food on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website, should you need more detail.

Pressure Canning

Whereas drying has an element of the loosy-goosy about it, there’s no messing around with pressure canning (though truly, there’s nothing to be afraid of). The reason some foods needs to be canned with the help of a pressure canner is that they are low in acid. Without an ample volume of acid, there’s nothing to check the germination ability of any botulism spores that might be present and you could potentially end up with a jar full of danger. For more the role of acid in canning, read this post.

And so, whenever we want to preserve things like unpickled vegetables, meats, stocks and broths, and beans, we call on a pressure canner. A well-vented pressure canner typically reaches 250F, which is enough to kill botulism spores. The amount of time different foods are processed in a pressure canner is typically calculated based on the volume of the jar and the density of the food.

One thing to note is that when you start considering pressure canning, you will need to get your hands on a dedicated pressure canner. Consumer pressure cookers are not designed for pressure canning and cannot be used to preserve low acid foods. Additionally, no electric countertop pressure cooker has been approved for canning (no matter what the infomercials tell you).

For more detail on pressure canning, read the following posts:

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September Mastery Challenge Round-up: Fruit Butters

A post shared by Genevieve Boehme (@genaboehme) on

September is over and so it’s time for our monthly Mastery Challenge accounting. This was a good month for the challenge, with 73 people reporting in that they cooked up a batch or two of fruit butter in order to meet the goals of the challenge.

The array of fruits used was nice and broad. Folks made butters out of apples, apricots, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, figs, muscadine grapes, nectarines, pawpaws, peaches, pears, plums, pumpkins, rhubarb, tomatoes, and zucchini. Those butters were flavored with aleppo pepper, bourbon, cardamom, chai, chipotle, cinnamon, ginger, lavender, lemon, rosewater, rum, and vanilla. And they were sweetened with brown sugar, cane sugar, honey, maple, and sorghum.

Going into the challenge, the feelings about fruit butters were scattered across the spectrum, with a number of folks feeling ok and then really positive about the style of preserve.

Happily, after completing the challenge, nearly everyone who participated feels pretty darn good about fruit butters. That always warms my heart. Sadly, I forgot to include a field for people to leave comments about this month’s challenge on the submission form (oops), so I don’t have any words of wisdom or excitement from participants to share. 🙁

Apple and Pears

A post shared by Karen Burchard (@karenburchard) on

Cherries, Nectarines, Plums, and Peaches

Everything Else

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Submit your Fruit Butters for the September #fijchallenge

Happy end of September, canners! Yet another month that has gone flying by with record-breaking speed! I hope everyone is enjoying the transition from summer to fall (though here in the Philadelphia region, it feels like it’s going to be summer forever).

With the end of the month comes times to wrap up another skill in our year-long Mastery Challenge. We focused on fruit butters this time around. If you haven’t yet made a batch, there’s still time. Consult the intro post for inspiration and get to simmering!

If you want to be counted in the September tally and included in the round-up, please use this form to submit your project by Saturday, September 30 . The form is below! If you can’t see it, you can also reach the form right here.

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