Apple Ginger Jelly

This small batch of apple ginger jelly is delicious in a PB&J and would be even better served with fresh ricotta and crostini.

I bought these cute little lady apples back in January, thinking I would make a clever pickle or a preserve them in a cinnamon-spiked syrup. I tucked them into my produce drawer and the days went by.

As I started thinking about this month’s challenge, those apples leapt to mind and I knew that their destiny lay elsewhere. Along with a couple other apples, they were meant to become jelly. Apple ginger jelly, to be precise.

I love using apples to make jelly because while they make a respectable preserve all on their own, they have a neutral enough flavor that they can take on a wide array of other flavors as well. I combined my apples with fresh ginger, but you could go with a fresh herb or a trio of warm winter spices.

The process of making jelly from apples is easy enough. Cut them into halves or quarters. Cover them with water (start with about a cup more water than you need for your finished recipe). Add your flavor enhancers if you’re using something that appreciates a longer infusion. And simmer until the fruit is very soft.

Once the fruit is soft, it’s time to strain. I line old china cap and stand that I inherited from my great-aunt Flora with a nut milk bag (sturdier than a jelly bag), but you can also use a traditional jelly bag stand, or even a colander lined with cheesecloth that you perch on top of a tall bowl.

Best practice is to give your fruit at least 6-8 hours to drain so that you don’t introduce any pulp into the juice that could make your jelly cloudy. However, if you don’t really care about having a batch of a slightly opaque jelly, go ahead and squeeze. I got an additional half cup of juice from my fruit thanks to some vigorous squeezing.

Once you’ve got all the juice extracted from your apples, it’s time to make the jelly. Bring the juice to a boil. As it heats, whisk the sugar and pectin together. Once the juice boils, whisk in the the pectin-spiked sugar and stir. Add some fresh lemon juice for balance. And start checking for set.

Once you get some nice, thick sheeting on the back of your spoon or the jelly passes the plate test, it is done. Pour it into jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace (the thinner the product, the less headspace you need).

The finished flavor of this jelly is bright from the apples and just a little bit spicy from the ginger. I ate the last couple teaspoons that wouldn’t fit into the jars on peanut butter toast and felt very much like all was right with the world. I could also see it tasting very good spread thinly inside a grilled cheese sandwich.

For those of you who made jelly for this month’s challenge, how has it gone for you? Any favorites to share?

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Chicken, Leek, & Preserved Lemon Pasta + Lagostina Nera Hard Anodized 5 Quart Casserole Giveaway

It’s become popular in recent years to keep a gratitude journal. Often no more than a simple notebook, this practice allows one to list and enumerate the many things for which they feel grateful. I’ve often considered adopting this habit, but have never quite managed to commit to that kind of journaling (sometimes it’s all I can do to keep up this website).

However, I have much that for which I am grateful. And if I were to start making lists, near the top would be my gratitude for my dinner making abilities. It might sound silly, but I am grateful that it’s something I have both the means and the skills to do without a whole lot of heartache or struggle.

Throughout my adult life, I’ve picked up an assortment of know-how related to making dinner. How to make soup. How to roast vegetables. How to toast grains in a little bit of butter before adding water to increase their deliciousness. And how to make a one-pot pasta dish.

I’ve made a number of these pasta dishes over the years (here’s a memorably delicious one) and their original inspiration is always the single skillet pasta recipe from Martha Stewart that took the internet by storm a several years back. This one takes a bit longer than the Martha version, but most of the time is hands off, so it still manages to feel blessedly simple.

This particular one-pan pasta dish features a whole bunch of leeks, braised boneless, skinless chicken thighs, baby spinach, creme fraiche (for creaminess), and several tablespoons of diced preserved lemon peel (about three-quarters of a small preserved lemon).

The resulting meal is hearty, bright, and really comforting. It reminds me of the casseroles of my childhood, only without a can of cream of mushroom soup.

I made this dish this weekend particularly to feature the Lagostina Nera Hard Anodized 5 Quart Casserole. A few months back, a rep from Lagostina emailed and invited me to participate a promotion/giveaway to show off the goodness that is this pan.

And it is good. The wide cooking area and non-stick surface makes for quick cooking and even speedier clean-up. The tight-fitting lid makes a nice braising environment. It’s oven safe (in case you want to crisp the top of your pasta). And it’s pretty enough to go straight from stovetop to the table.

The Lagostina Nera Hard Anodized 5 Quart Casserole is valued at $49.99 (a steal for such a sturdy pan) and can be found exclusively at Macy’s. For more information about Lagostina, check out their social accounts and visit their website.

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Thanks to the kind folks at Lagostina, I have one of these lovely casseroles to give away. Please use the widget below to enter.

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Disclosure: Lagostina sent me this casserole to use and write about. No additional compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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Links: Asparagus Tarts, Potluck Nation, and Winners

Spring tiptoed in this morning at 6:28 am. While I know intellectually that it’s a mostly arbitrary dividing line, I can’t help but imagine that the air smells sweeter and that the quality of the light is warmer and more substantial. While I dream about local strawberries and asparagus (still weeks away), some links.

My friend Kristin has launched a lovely movement called Potluck Nation. She’s the author of the book Modern Potluck and is hoping to use the power of the potluck to bring people together heal some of what’s been fractured in this country over the recent months and years. As an avowed lover of potlucks myself, I am fully on board and hope to host a few potlucks of my own (I plan on making the asparagus tart pictured above. It’s one I developed for a column I wrote many moons ago. I’ve reprinted the recipe below). Perhaps some of you will be inspired to do the same!

Here’s the winner of the Ball Canning giveaway I hosted last week!

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Submit your March Mastery Challenge Projects Here!

Hello #fijchallenge folks! From the looks of things on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, you’ve all been keeping quite busy making jellies and shrubs this month. I love seeing all the creative flavor combinations that so many of you have come up with!

We’re past the mid-point of the month, so it’s high time for me to give all your jelly and shrub makers a way to submit your March projects.

Instead of embedding the form, I’m going ask that you click here to access it. For some reason, the Google form made the blog behave oddly last time, so by leaving it off the front page, I’m hoping to avoid any functionality issues!

Submit your March Projects here! 

This month, there are just three required fields on the form. I’m asking you tell me is your name, where you live, and to mark a check-box telling me what you made.

Those are the only details I need to count you among the participants, but like last month, more fields do exist on the form. Because the challenge was two-pronged this month, there are questions relating to both jellies and shrubs. If you made one and not the other, skip the questions that do not apply.

There’s also a space in the form to share a link to your project. That link can go to a blog post, a specific picture on Instagram, a Tweet, a post on Tumblr, or to a picture on Flickr or Google Photos. Just remember that you need to set your privacy settings so that wherever your post is, it is publicly available. And remember, sharing a link is not a requirement.

With nearly than 1,800 people signed up for this challenge, I cannot do a comprehensive round-up. However, just like last month, I will do my very best to link out to as many people as I can, though.

Please remember that the deadline to submit your March project in order to be counted in the monthly total is Wednesday, March 29.

And if you haven’t made either a jelly or a shrub yet this month, there’s still time! All the details about this month’s challenge are here.

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Mastery Challenge: Sour Cherry Elderflower Jelly, Made Two Ways

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones drops by today to share her experience making jelly using both Pomona’s Pectin and homemade gooseberry pectin. Read on for her tale of experimentation!

Ah, jelly month. It’s time for me to reckon with pectin.

If I recall correctly, this Mastery Challenge is only my second time making jelly. The first was a few years ago when I worked as the buyer for an all-local foods store here in Philly, Fair Food Farmstand. We got some Japanese knotweed in early April, and I set to work making a tart, pale-pink jelly out of this invasive plant as a way to preserve it. But the set was unappealing and too firm for me, so I gave the still-sealed jars that were left to a friend excited about foraged foods.

For every time I’ve made jam or other preserves with pectin, I can count a time when set didn’t occur or occurred too well. So in recent years, I’ve avoided it, eschewing recipes using pectin for the whole-fruit preserves and confitures found in Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry, one of a select number of preserving books I own. These fruit preserves manage to be thick and spoonable, and I love them — but it was time to tackle working with pectin.

When it came time to consider this month’s challenge, I had a freezer full of fruit to work with (and thanks to the time I spent organizing my chest freezer last month, I knew exactly how much and where it all was). There were three gallon bags of West Philly-grown sour cherries in there that needed to become something great — so I pulled out two of them to thaw in the fridge. I’d also use the dregs of a bottle of St. Germain elderflower liqueur, since those flavors go so well together.

And, since I like to do things the hard way sometimes, I searched online for homemade pectin alternatives to the packaged stuff that had vexed me in the past. Mrs. Wheelbarrow came through yet again, this time with a post about how to make and use pectin from green gooseberries — a bag of which, harvested from my community garden two summers before, also languished in my freezer.

Roughly a quart of gooseberries, simmered with water, strained through a jelly bag, and cooked down again until the pectin formed a mass that could be picked up with a fork when dropped into alcohol, yielded me two four-ounce jars, one to use now and one to stash away for later.

Along with an unopened box of Pomona’s Pectin that had been in my pantry for a couple years — according to the manufacturer, it will last indefinitely if stored cool and dry — I had what I needed to find out (a) if I could be trusted to make something tasty from the packaged stuff and (b) if my woo-woo homemade method could be used for jelly made with low-pectin fruit.

The results? Yes, surprisingly, and sort of!

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How to Make Tart Red Cherry Jelly

Itching to make cherry jelly but don’t want to wait months? Try making a small batch of low sugar Tart Red Cherry Jelly using a bottle of juice from the store!

Last Thursday night, I did an hour-long live broadcast on Facebook Live. A bunch of you tuned in, I showed you how to make Tart Red Cherry Jelly using store bought juice, we talked about the various ways to make shrubs, and I answered a whole bunch of questions.

During the broadcast, I promised to post the recipe I used to make the jelly. It’s taken me a little longer than anticipated, but here it is. I demonstrated how to do it using a bottle of tart cherry juice from Trader Joe’s, but you can use any bottle of 100% fruit juice that you’d like. In the past, I’ve done this with Concord grape juice and blueberry juice, both to good effect.

This recipe also works with honey. If you go in that direction, reduce the amount by approximately one-third. Oh, and before you put the jelly into jars, taste it. Some batches of juice are sweeter than others, and so occasionally a bit of fresh lemon juice is needed to help balance the flavors.

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