Open Jars: Turn Your Jam Into BBQ Sauce

Way back when I first introduced this Open Jars series, Susan wrote in to say that she had a post that might fit the bill. You see, she’s invented a handy formula that easily transforms just about any variety of jam into a tasty barbecue sauce.

Though it took me a little while to reply to her email (I’m notoriously bad about responding punctually), I’m delighted she got in touch to share her recipe and I’m even happier to tell all of you about it. Here’s what she has to say.

I have discovered that I can make a delicious and varied BBQ sauce by combining the following:

1 cup jam
1/2 cup chili sauce
1 tbsp. dried chopped onion
1 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce

For the chicken you see above, I used my lemon, pineapple and rosemary marmalade as the base. I’ve used this same sauce on thick pork chops or country style pork ribs in the crock pot, but with my plum and pineapple jam. You can make any combination of meat and jam you like. Do season the meat well with salt and pepper. Add garlic powder too, if you like.

I baked this whole, cut up, chicken in a 9 x 13 pan in a 350 degree oven for about 50 minutes. I love serving this chicken with fragrant brown Basmati rice. I think the jammed crock pot pork tastes great with mashed sweet potatoes. The sauce combines with the meat juices to make a tasty gravy.

Until we share a table again – Jam! It’s not just for toast anymore!

I’d love to hear from more of you with ideas for how to use up your home canned goodness.

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Canning 101: How to Can Creatively and Still Be Safe

When you first start canning, one of the things you hear a lot is how important it is to stick to the tested recipes. We’re told that because canning is as much science as it is kitchen art, you’ve got no choice but to color within the lines. And to a large degree, this is true. There are rules that you must follow in order to keep your canned goods safe.

However, I often get questions from people wondering how I’ve gotten to the point where I can incorporate elements of creativity in my canning and how they might be able to do the same. Here’s what I tell them.

Stick to the high the acid products like jams, jellies and vinegar pickles.

Because botulism can’t grow in high acid environments, this is a space where you can experiment a bit. Within the structure of high acid fruit preserves, play around with different fruit and flavor combinations. My Blackberry-Apricot Jam was a happy accident that is now going on the permanent roster. I knew it would be a safe deviation from my standard blackberry jam recipe because fresh apricot puree has plenty of acid and it was a delight to learn just how good they tasted together.

As far as getting creative with pickles, check out this post on Pickled Carrot and Daikon. Those were some good pickles that were born out of the recipe triangulation method I describe below.

Add a splash of booze to enhance a flavor.

It’s well-known that peaches go naturally with bourbon, but what about an adult apple butter spiked with a jigger of applejack or rum? That could be fun. This is an easy way to take a reliable, tested recipe and give it a new kick.

Consult a variety of reliable canning sources and use them to triangulate towards the recipe you want to create.

When I want to create something new, I consult So Easy to Preserve, Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving and any applicable book by Linda Ziedrich. I figure out the ratios and determine whether what I want to do seems to fit within these previously tested recipes.

On reducing sugar.

Sugar plays two roles in homemade preserves. First, the addition of sugar is what allows the temperature of your product to reach 220 degrees (or thereabouts), which then helps with the set of your jam or jelly. This is particularly important when you’re working without pectin, but is also necessary even when you’re working with commercial pectin. If you’ve ever had a situation in which you’ve drastically reduced the amount of sugar in your recipe and then found yourself with a very runny product, this is why.

Second, sugar acts as a preservative. If you reduce the amount of sugar in your jam or jelly, its shelf life will not be as long. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important to know, particularly if you’re making jam to give or sell others. It’s also good to remember that a high amount of sugar is not a substitute for the proper acid balance in a recipe. Sugar does not inhibit the growth of botulism spores.

Know your limits.

There are certain things you really shouldn’t mess with. Quite a few famously delicious fruits camp out in or above acidity grey zone. These include figs, bananas, mango, tomatoes, white peaches, dates and melons. When you’re working with those, don’t screw around. Follow tested recipes (and just so you know, not all recipes found on the internet are actually tested. Only use recipes from sources you know and trust).

Additionally, I would strongly advice that you not try to invent your own chutney recipe. They are typically a combination of low acid foods like onions combined with higher acid foods like apples, pears and peaches. If you don’t have the balance of onions to fruit/vinegar correct, you can make a product that may not be safe.

Be safe and enjoy.

I strongly believe that the act of preserving food at home is one that everyone should try at least once. It is so satisfying to create something in your own kitchen that tastes good and extends the season beyond its allotted calendar pages. Just know the rules and don’t be scared!

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Holiday Giving: Cranberry Orange Scone Mix in a Jar

cranberry orange scone mix

In my family, we always eat the same breakfast on Christmas morning. It consists of eggs cooked sunny-side up, crispy turkey bacon and a warm bread product. Some years, it’s crusty sourdough bread. Others, we toast slices of panattone. Last year, upon my father’s request, I made a batch of bear claws (they were good but deeply imperfect). Of all our breakfast breads, I think my very favorite was a batch of cranberry orange scones.

jar with funnel

It’s a recipe my mother plucked off the internet some years back and was so easy and good that I asked her to send it to me. I’ve made them many times in the last four years (the recipe print-out is dated 2006) and now, I’ve adapted the recipe to make a gift out of the mix. I’ve managed to get the whole thing into a pint jar, save the 1 egg, 1/4 cup of butter and 1/2 a cup of buttermilk that the recipient will have to provide. Gifted with a jar of homemade jam, it becomes a Christmas breakfast kit that I think many a household would be happy to have.

filling the jar

You begin with a pint jar. If you’re preparing a batch for particularly good friends, I recommend using a lovelier than average jar. I’ve pulled a sturdy, vintage one from my collection to use here and I think it adds to the charm of the gift. Layer 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour, 3 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt (sea salt is best if you have it) into the jar. Put the lid on and give it a good shake, so that ingredients integrate. Once they are combined, make sure to tap the jar gently on the counter a few times, to better compress the ingredients into the jar.

orange sugar

Measure out 1/4 cup of sugar into a small jar and grate the zest of one orange into it. Use your fingers to work the zest into the sugar. The sugar will act as a preservative and will help the orange zest maintain its fragrance and flavor longer than if you just heaped the zest into the jar on its own (a small jar of orange infused sugar would make a tasty gift all on its own as well).

cranberry orange scone mix

Pack the orange sugar on top of the flour (if your orange sugar is very moist, laying a small piece of plastic wrap between the flour level and the sugar level will extend the shelf life quite a bit. Just make sure to tell your recipient to look out for it) and finish the jar off with 1/2 cup of dried cranberries. Should you realize as you’re making up a jar that you’re actually out of dried cranberries, feel free to substitute dried blueberries. Had I not already written up the recipe card, I would have simply called these blueberry orange scones, but that’s what I get for my poor pantry maintenance.

Write the following instructions on a small card (if you’re doing a number of these, feel free to print it up on the computer. Though, the handwritten touch is nice, provided your penmanship is legible).

1. Empty the contents of this jar into a bowl.
2. Cut 1/4 cup of butter into the flour.
3. Beat 1/2 cup buttermilk and 1 egg together. Add them to the flour mixture and stir to combine.
4. Once combined, turn out batter onto a cookie sheet and pat into a circle.
5. Cut into 8 wedges, but do not separate.
6. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, until they are golden on top.
7. Serve with jam.

One thing to note is that this scone mix doesn’t have the longest shelf life ever, so do try to gift it soon after mixing.

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Dark Days: Beef Stew

beef stew

When Scott and I were out in Oregon back in October, we ate dinner at a little restaurant called the Irish Table. During the daytime, it’s a quiet coffee shop and roaster but at night it transforms into a very cozy dining spot. The night we were there, Scott ordered their beef stew and I’ve been thinking about it ever since (I stole many tastes during our meal).

This Saturday afternoon, I cooked up a Dark Days appropriate batch of stew. The beef and the bit of bacon grease I used as lubricant were from Meadow Run Farms, the vegetables (carrots, potatoes, onions, celery, mushrooms, garlic) were all from the Rittenhouse Square Farmers’ Market and the tomato sauce was some I canned last summer (I cooked it down a bit in a small pot to get something akin to tomato paste). I also had half a bottle of red wine from our Berks County Wine Tour excursion to use as part of the cooking medium. The only non-local item was the bit of ap flour I used to dust the beef before browning.

The stew spent four hours in the oven on Saturday afternoon. When it came out, the meat had become incredibly tender and the vegetables were creamy but not quite falling apart. The only thing that could have made our meal more perfect would have been a dusting of snow.

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Holiday Giving: Little Loaves of Cranberry Bread

jam and bread

This year for Thanksgiving, Scott and I drove down to Virginia to celebrate the holiday with his mother and extended family. We took a variety of treats to Joan, including bread and butter pickles and blondies (sadly, we forgot the pound of grated locatelli she had requested). In return, she sent us home with a big box of books she was finished with, the crystal wine glasses she had gotten for her engagement many years ago and a mini-loaf pan that she wasn’t using.

cranberry bread batter

The wine glasses are beautiful and the books have provided a great deal of pleasure in recent days. However, it was that mini-loaf pan that got my creative juices flowing. I started imagining holiday gift bags that included two or three different loaves of quick breads to accompany a jar of jam.

baked loaves

For my first round of quick bread baked into mini-loaves, I used a recipe for cranberry bread that I’ve made nearly 100 times in my lifetime. It comes from the back cover of a storybook called Cranberry Thanksgiving and I first begged my mom to help me make it when I was six years ago. She was quickly convinced of its virtues and it became a family tradition to make up several loaves of this bread each year and give them to our friends and neighbors for the holidays.

cranberry bread

I’ve altered the recipe a little from the one printed on the book, mostly in an attempt to make it healthier. I use whole wheat pastry flour in place of all-purpose and have reduced the sugar a little (I’m okay with sweets in the morning, but I don’t want to feel like I’m eating straight cake). Typically, I will include toasted pecans in the batter, but left them out this time because my pecans had been in the fridge for some time (at least a year) and had that spongy, fridge taste. Nobody likes that.

The lack of pecans aside, I’m really happy with these little loaves. I took one to brunch with friends this morning and the four year old who was present delighted in unfurling it from its parchment and baker’s string wrappings. She loved that it was sized just for her and the rest of us just liked how good it tasted.

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December Can Jam: Cranberry Marmalade with Dried Apricots

cranberry chutney

I’m not quite sure how it’s possible, but we’ve reached the end of the 2010 Can Jam. I’m not sure if I’m still even eligible to participate, since I’ve gotten my posts up past the deadline the last two times, but it felt strange not to finish things off, so I’m posting a contribution nonetheless.

sliced oranges

As you might guess, due to Wednesday’s potluck, I’ve had The Essential New York Times Cookbook on the brain a bit lately. I’ve had my copy for about two weeks now and even before Amanda Hesser signed it, I found myself carrying it from room to room (granted, we really only have three rooms, so that isn’t as much of a feat as it sounds) so as to always have it near. You know, in case a recipe emergency struck.

cooking the chutney

When it was time to determine what I was going to make for the December Can Jam, it felt right to turn to my new best-friend-in-book-form and see what it had to offer. There’s a whole chapter devoted to Sauces, Dressings, Condiments, Rubs and Preserves, so there was quite a wealth to choose from. Keeping the theme ingredient (dried fruit) in mind, I settled on a recipe for Cranberry Chutney. It called for dried apricots and was quite seasonal to boot.

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Originally designed as part of a low stress Thanksgiving meal, it’s a chutney recipe different from those I’ve encountered in the past. It does not include onions or vinegar, so it doesn’t offer the pucker or sweet-and-savory aspect that so many of us have come to associate with the word chutney. That does not mean, however, that it isn’t worth making. I found it to be quite delicious, though more akin to marmalade than chutney (whole, chopped orange will do that a palate).

cranberry chutney with dried apricots

For once in my life, I followed the recipe fairly devotedly. The one place I deviated is that I did a bit of small batch canning with it. I kept one jar for the fridge (that’s the one you see above) and then filled as second (traditional, with a two-piece lid) pint jar with what remained and water bath canned it for ten minutes (using my handy little asparagus steamer). I did this because while it was quite tasty, there’s no way I’ll be able to work my way through two full pints quickly enough to merit that kind of refrigerator space. Because the recipe was written for Thanksgiving, it did not include directions for canning. However, the recipe is made of up a cacophony of high acid ingredients, so there shouldn’t be a problem. For even longer shelf stability, you could replace some of the honey with sugar.

The recipe is after the jump.

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