Mixed Fruit Slow Cooker Butter

mixed fruit butter

About a week and a half ago, I found myself in something of a fruit predicament. There were peaches and nectarines* from the folks at Sweet Preservation that needed to be used. I had pre-chopped plums and pears leftover from a wacky little freelance project. And two bruised apples.

Not having the mental fortitude to devise a fancypants jam or two to take care of that fruit, I did what I often do in a pinch. I chopped it all up and threw it in the slow cooker (I did take the time to peel the peaches and apples. Happily, the peaches were so ripe that their skins just slid right off). Lazy preservation at its best.

I have talked at length about my slow cooker butters in the past so I won’t rehash the minutia here, I’ll just hit the high points. I filled a five quart cooker with chopped fruit. I cooked it with the lid on for a couple of hours to soften the fruit and then pureed it with an immersion blender. Then it was my standard lid-propped-on-the-spoon and cooking it overnight game.

The next morning, the butter was done. After a quick taste, I doctored it with some maple syrup and 1/4 cup of Stevia in the Raw** and called it done. Packed into pints and processed for 15 minutes, I think my fruit butter work may well be done for this year.

Let’s talk about the stevia for just a moment. From what I understand, it’s a naturally occurring non-sugar sweetener that is derived from an herb. Stevia in the Raw has been processed and granulated to make it easier to cook with.

What I’ve found in working with it is that while it works as a sweetener, it can have something of a bitter taste unless paired with sugar, honey or some other conventional sweetener. Thus the tandem addition of stevia and maple syrup to my butter. It works particularly well in fruit butters because they are not products that needs sugar in order to achieve a set. I’m going to keep working with it and will be reporting back more as I integrate it into future preserves.

*The bulk of the nectarines went into this pickled nectarine project I did for Serious Eats last week.

**I received a free package of Stevia in the Raw from the company to try it out. As always, opinions are all my own.

 

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A Pair of Food Blogging Classes with Madame Fromage

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I started blogging in February 2005. In actual years, that’s not so long ago, but in internet years, it’s at least two lifetimes. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words for wide swath of online sites (most of them having to do with food, Philadelphia or food in Philadelphia). I’ve launched, run, edited, managed and even closed blogs.

I know a little bit about this blogging thing.

Next month, I’m teaming up with Tenaya Darlington (you might know her as Madame Fromage), to teach a pair of workshops about food blogging at Indy Hall. The first session is geared to those who are newer to the food blogging world or haven’t even started a blog yet. The second workshop will be a bit more advanced and is the perfect thing for those who need a bit of grounding and focus. Both sessions will leave you motivated, excited and happily fed (of course, I’ll be bringing jam). We hope a few of you will join us!

Food Blogging I : An Introduction
Sat., October 15, 10-1 p.m.
Indy Hall, $75, includes brunch
Instructors: Marisa McClellan & Tenaya Darlington

Want to launch a food blog, or spice up the one you’ve already started? Spend a morning developing your culinary identity. We’ll give you an anatomy lesson of good blog components, talk photo gear, explore trends and niches, plus brainstorm future posts with you. This is a hands-on class. You will eat muffins. You will take lots of notes. When you leave, you’ll have all the tools to start blogging with a clear vision of the food story you want to share.

Food Blogging II: Ethics & Etiquette
Sat., Nov. 5, 10-1p.m.
Indy Hall, $75, includes breakfast
Instructors: Marisa McClellan & Tenaya Darlington

So you’ve been blogging for a while, but you’re wondering how to get noticed. And you’re worried your posts might be too long. And you think you might want to run advertising? In this 3-hour workshop, we’ll run through Blog Ethics 101 and help you think through the choices ahead. We’ll also look at several case studies of successful bloggers who have landed book deals and launched full-blown careers in writing. It’s not just about branding, it’s also about understanding the ethics and etiquette around posting recipes, photos, and comments. Consider this your baptism into the pro blogger community.

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Five Ways to Preserve Large Tomatoes

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Two years ago, in the final weeks before my wedding, I bought and preserved 50 pounds of tomatoes. Last summer, I upped the ante and brought home 100 pounds. This year, though I was sorely tempted to push ever upwards, I kept myself to another 100 pounds.

I realize that tomato season is coming to a close, but I thought it would be nice to round up my favorite ways to preserve big tomatoes (here are the ways that I do small tomatoes)

jar of tomatoes

Slow roasted and frozen. These tomatoes are amazing and do wonders to lift my spirits during those cold, dark months, when it doesn’t seem at all possible that fresh tomatoes will ever return.

I did 20 pounds like this a few weeks back. Instead of packing them in jars for freezing (like those pictured above), I froze them on the same cookie sheets on which they were roasted and then packed them into freezer bags. Makes it easier to grab one or two and drop them into dinner.

full jar

Whole peeled tomatoes are the backbone of my autumn and winter cooking. I use them in soups, stews, sauces, casseroles and even whir them into batches of smooth salsa. They come together fairly easily and are so incredibly useful to have in the pantry. If you do nothing else, put up a few jars of whole peeled tomatoes.

one jar of pickled red tomatoes

While you’re peeling those tomatoes for canning, set a few aside and make these pickled red tomatoes. I layer them into toasted cheese sandwiches and serve them with strong cheeses. They are unexpectedly delicious and just fun to have in your pantry for those moments when lunch or dinner needs a little extra zing.

Mrs. Wages pasta sauce

I don’t make tomato sauce every year but when I can squeeze it into the schedule, I’m never sad to have made it. Earlier this month, I stirred up five pints with the last of my 100 pound. And I cheated a bit by using this packet of Mrs. Wages Pasta Sauce mix. Do I feel bad about that? Not at all! If you don’t have a spice pack laying around, I’ve also made the tomato sauce from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and I most happily recommend it.

tomato butter

Tomato butter. I’ve become awfully fond of this butter that I made last summer for the Can Jam. I like to combine it with whatever leftover runny jam I have in the fridge and braise fatty hunks of meat in it. I just can’t get over how good it is.

There you have it. Five of my favorite ways to preserve large tomatoes. What’s your favorite method?

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Preserves in Action: Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella and Pickle Salad

tomato dill pickle salad

One day, not too far ago, I was casting around for something to eat for lunch. There was a rapidly softening tomato, a few sprigs of basil and a 1/4 cup of tiny mozzarella balls. Knowing that those items would make a nice salad, I started rummaging for something to add a bit of crunch and volume to the salad. There wasn’t a cucumber, stalk of celery or pepper to be found in my crisper.

However, there were a few dill pickle spears floating in a jar (the remains of these pickles, in fact). Roughly chopped and stirred together with the other salad components, a spoonful of the brine and glug of olive oil, it was the perfect lunch. I’ve now taken to adding dilly beans or pickled cauliflower to just about any chopped salad I make, both for the gentle crunch and the pucker they lend.

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Canning Cookbook: Home Made by Yvette Von Boven

Homemade cover

My cookbook collection is out of control. Just like the jars, they are in every room of our apartment (oddly, except the kitchen. There’s no room in there for anything other than food, cookware and me). I’ve tried to go cold turkey and abstain from new books entirely, but occasionally, there’s one that is so beautiful and alluring that I can’t resist giving it a permanent place on the shelves. Home Made by Yvette Von Boven is one such book.

Homemade spine

Yvette Von Boven is a European food stylist, freelance writer and restaurant-owner who’s work regularly appears in a variety of magazines and other publications. Home Made was published first in Dutch and was named the Dutch cookbook of the year in 2010.

Homemade - Making Jam

One of the things that most charmed me about this book right off the bat was the tone it takes. Chatty and confidence-inspiring, after reading her instructions, you’ll feel like you can take on any one of these projects. However, before you dive in to any of her preserving project, I would recommend that you also acquaint yourself with current USDA standards. This book recommends the inversion method for sealing jams and also gives instruction on how to reuse canning jar lids, both ill-advised according US standards.

Homemade - Duck Ham

The pages are filled with lovely, useful illustrations like the ones you see above. I love a recipe that’s written with drawings instead of simply typed in the conventional fashion. There are also a number of recipes I’ve bookmarked, like the butternut pickles (a refrigerator pickle, not a processed one) on page 162 and the rose tea marshmallows you see below.

Homemade - Rose Tea Marshmallows

And just so I don’t give you the impression that this book is only a preserving and food crafting one, you should know that the pages are also bursting with recipes for delicious-sounding things like Chicken Kebabs with Honey, Prunes and Walnuts (page 253), Salad with Celeriac, Goat Cheese, Pomegranate & Tarragon (page 176) and the Vanilla Fritters with Zabaglione (page 330). Who’s ready to eat?

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book. However, my thoughts and opinions are, as always, entirely my own.

 

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A Canning Seminar with Slow Food Philadelphia

packed jars

This one is for all you Philadelphia-area folk! On Wednesday, September 21, I’ll be giving a canning talk/demonstration at the Restaurant School of Philadelphia as part of Slow Food Philadelphia’s annual seminar series.

I’ll be talking about all the basics of canning and will demonstrate a batch of spiced plum jam. Questions will be answered, preserved food will be tasted and wine will be poured. The seminar costs $20 per person and you can register through Brown Paper Tickets.

In other event-based news, there are still spots in both of this Sunday’s (September 18) canning events. Choose between a jam and pickles class at 12 noon at Cook or the cheeses and preserves pairing that Madame Fromage and I are hosting at Wedge + Fig at 4 pm.

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