Mrs. Wages Blueberry Cinnamon Freezer Jam

Blueberry Freezer Jam

I first discovered the Mrs. Wages line of canning products last year and I’ve used them with some frequency since then. In April, I became a contributor to their monthly newsletter. My little column includes some chatty articles and recipes (much like what you find here). This week, I’m pleased to be giving away a basket of their mixes, pectins and other products. If you’re interested in entering to win, click here and leave a comment. Now, time for blueberry cinnamon freezer jam.

Blueberry Freezer Jam

Confession time. Until I made this batch of jam, I’d never tried my hand at freezer jam before. Living in a small apartment, I am desperately short of both refrigerator and freezer space. For me, the point of preserving is to make things that are shelf stable. But I’ve heard people rave about the fresh and bright flavors of freezer jam, so I was excited to give it a try.

Blueberry Freezer Jam

It’s easy enough. Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar and the contents of the pectin packet in a bowl and stir to combine.

Blueberry Freezer Jam

Set a timer to three minutes so it’s ready to go (this is how long you’re going to stir once all the ingredients are in the bowl).

Blueberry Freezer Jam

Add four cups of mashed fruit (I used blueberries, though from what I hear, strawberries or raspberries are more traditional choices).

Blueberry Freezer Jam

One heaping 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon (my mom always puts cinnamon in with her blueberry jam, so my tastebuds are conditioned to like it best that way).

Blueberry Freezer Jam

Start your timer and stir, stir, stir.

Blueberry Freezer Jam

When those three minutes are up, your work is nearly done. Just pour the jam into jars and put the lids on (you can even re-use lids in this case, since you’re not looking to get a good seal. Just make sure to give them a good sniff, so that you don’t end up putting garlicky pickle lids onto your jam).

Blueberry Freezer Jam

Pop ‘em into the fridge (for up to a couple of weeks) or the freezer (for up to a year) and you’re done.

All in all, I felt very satisfied by my first freezer jam experience. I loved the speed with which it came together. However, I have found that this jam is better on toast than it is stirred into yogurt. Because you don’t cook the jam, it utilizes a strong pectin in order to get a set from the fruit. I found that the pectin ends up trying to set the yogurt, leaving it curdled and a little gross. Live and learn!

And don’t forget to click over to the Mrs. Wages giveaway and leave a comment (preferably featuring a story about your apron-wearing habits) to enter. And if freezer jam just isn’t your thing, check back tomorrow when I’ll be posting a different, small batch blueberry jam recipe.

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Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

I first discovered the Mrs. Wages line of canning products last year and I’ve used them with some frequency since then. In April, I became a contributor to their monthly newsletter. My little column includes some chatty articles and recipes (much like what you find here). Now, I’m pleased to be giving away a basket of their mixes, pectins and other products. If you’re interested in entering to win, click here and leave a comment. Now, on to the salsa.

Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

Last summer, I canned peach, tomatillo, tomato and pineapple salsas (all were recipes I was working on for the book). They were delicious, but after all the peeling, chopping and general prepping, an incredible amount of work. Since I’m not writing a canning book this summer, I’m looking to make my preserving decidedly less intense (to be honest, I’m still a bit burnt out). One of the ways I’m planning to do this is by cheating, ever so slightly.

Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

This Mrs. Wages salsa mix is one of the ways I’m making my life easier. It uses six pounds of fresh, ripe tomatoes, 1/2 cup of vinegar and the packet of salsa mix. That’s it. No major chopping sessions, long simmering times or running out to the store when I realize I forgot the cilantro. By taking a little help from Mrs. Wages, I can bang out five pints of salsa (as well as a half full jar for the fridge) in half an hour and move on to something else while it processes.

Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

You do need to blanch and peel the tomatoes, but once the pot of blanching water comes to a boil, it takes all of six minutes to move the cored and prepped (don’t skip the little cross on the bottom of the tomato, it makes it far easier to slip those skins off) through the boiling water and into a cool bath. Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, you should be able to pull the skins away easily.

Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

The instructions on the packet say to roughly chop the tomatoes, but because I was lazy (and in a bit of a hurry as I also did five pints of dilly beans that morning), I used the Vitamix to break down the peeled tomatoes (imagine a very chunky puree). Once they were all peeled, pureed and in the pot, it was just a matter adding the vinegar and spice mix.

Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

As soon as the salsa mix went in, my kitchen filled with the smells of garlic, onion, peppers and other spices. I was impressed by how quickly it transformed my pot of plain tomatoes into a flavorful, aromatic condiment. Later that afternoon, I served the finished salsa to some friends and they complimented me on my perfectly balanced, homemade salsa. I’m sure they thought I was crazy, but I ran excitedly to the trash can and fished out the empty packet so that I could show them how easy it had been to make.

Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

I am so happy to already have a stash of salsa on the shelf for our winter tacos, dinners of chips and breakfast burritos (it normally takes me until September to start thinking tomatoes). This isn’t to say that I won’t try my hand a fully from-scratch salsa later in the summer, but the ease with which this came together was balm for my canning-focused but over-committed brain. And it tastes so bright and fresh (though it’s not very spicy. If you like a lot of heat in your salsa, I recommend boosting it with a few red hot chili flakes or a dab of cayenne).

There you have it. If you’ve been eying one of these salsa mixes, I say go for it. Particularly if you’re swimming in ripe tomatoes and are decidedly short on time.

And don’t forget to click over to the Mrs. Wages giveaway and leave a comment (preferably featuring a story about your apron-wearing habits) to enter. And keep you eyes peeled, I’ll be posting about my first experience making freezer jam tomorrow.

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Personal Sour Cherry Pies for the Pie Party

tiny cherry pie

Recently, I found myself in the possession of a flat of cherries. Half sweet and half sour, I spent several days binging on cherries and finding various ways to put them up. I made jam with some of the sours, turned others into that no-cook sour cherry syrup and finally stashed four pitted cups in the freezer for another day.

I intended for that other day to be July 4th, but like so often in my life, I’m a day late (though hopefully not a dollar short). Scott and I had a couple friends over yesterday to swim in the pool on our roof and then dig into an indoor cookout. We had burgers, hot dogs, chicken sausage, potato salad, coleslaw, and grilled zucchini. It was quite a feast and in the activity of getting the rest of the meal made, I didn’t manage to make the pie (I also make five pints of dilly beans and nearly six pints of salsa yesterday, so it wasn’t as if I was lazing).

mini-cherry pies

But wanting to post a contribution to Shauna’s Pie Party, the first thing I did when I got home from work today was pull out my previously prepared pie crust to soften (I got so far as making the crust yesterday) and mix my defrosted cherries with a bit of sugar and flour.

One of the challenges that comes with making pie in my household is that my husband isn’t into fruit and so won’t help eat a pie (not even one as delicious as sour cherry). I am not capable of eating enough of any single pie in a timely fashion to make it worth making. So I determined to make small pies that could be frozen. I pondered forming them into jars like so many clever folk have done, but it’s canning season and I can’t spare the jars.

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Instead, I used the large, six-cup muffin tin that Scott brought this to our marriage (it’s not a piece of equipment I would have bought on my own, but I find I use it all the time) and formed the pies into its wells. I tried to be creative in the ways I slit the top pastry, but by the time I was forming those lids, I’d overworked the dough and the gluten was making things too elastic to cut easily. I traded creativity for expediency and just cut slits.

They baked for approximately 40 minutes at 375 degrees. They bubbled beautifully and tasted like pure heaven (oh sour cherries, how did I survive my first 27 years without you?). A rough recipe is after the jump.

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Drink Week, Day Five: Rosemary Lemon and Lavender Honey Syrups

rosemary and lavender

Happy 4th of July! Day five of Drink Week has finally arrived! I’m a few days late in posting this one, but I think you’ll find it’s worth the wait. Make sure to check out the previous Drink Week posts, Black Raspberry Syrup, Cherry Bounce and Other Boozy Infusions, No-Cook Sour Cherry Syrup and Black Raspberry Shrub.

rosemary lemon syrup

About a month ago, the activities of my day job took me out to Talula’s Table in Kennett Square, PA. This gourmet food shop/fabulous restaurant is an wonderful place to get lunch or pick up a few to-go items (it’s one of the hardest dinner reservations in the country to get because they only do one seating for 8-12 people a night). While I was there, I discovered that they serve a rosemary latte. It’s your standard latte, spiked with a rosemary syrup and is transcendent. It instantly went on my list for drink week.

lavender honey syrup

For some people, eating lavender flavored foods make them feel like they’re eating soap. I’ve never had that problem. I gobble up lavender flavored candies, cookies and drinks. Nearly a decade ago, some friends introduced me to lavender iced tea and I spent weeks making it (half strong black tea, and half lavender-infused hot water, sweetened with honey). This syrup is a concentrated version of the lavender half of that equation and makes it dead easy to replicate the iced tea on an as-needed basis. It uses both regular sugar and honey, so that it has the flavor of honey, but with the syrup-y consistency of a sugar-based syrup.

straining the lavender syrup

It goes without saying that either of these syrups work beautifully in a glass of sparkling water, in iced tea, in coffee or in a cooling cocktail. Both recipes are after the jump.

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Canning Party in Country Woman Magazine + Sodastream Winner

Country Woman cover

Oops. I fell off the wagon as far as finishing up Drink Week. I still plan on posting my recipes for Lavender Honey and Rosemary Lemon syrups, so stay tuned for that. And for those of you who entered the Sodastream giveaway, make sure to read through to the bottom of the post where the winner is posted.

Last summer, I got an email from an editor at Country Woman Magazine. She was planning an article on canning for the following summer and wanted to know if I was interested in being involved. I was totally flattered by the request and said I’d be happy to help in anyway I could.

canning party spread

It turned out that they wanted to do an article about canning parties. As luck would have it, at the time they got in touch, Audra and I were already planning on attending a canning party at Kate’s house in Brooklyn.

canning recipes

The day of the canning party, we gathered in Kate’s kitchen, made ketchup, dilly beans, lemon plum jam and peach chutney. I took photos as we worked and had an absolutely fabulous day.

summer in a jar

Early last week, I got an envelope from Country Woman with three copies of the magazine inside. It’s so fun to see our party in its pages (that’s Autumn from Autumn Makes and Does in the lower right-hand corner). The issue contains a bunch of really delicious-sounding recipes (as well as a couple from me) and instructions on how to download some adorable jar labels, so make sure to check it out.

And now, the moment so many of you have been waiting for. Random.org has selected number 759, Liz W. in Vermont. Congratulations Liz, I’ll be in touch momentarily. So many thanks to all of you for all the fantastic comments on the giveaway!

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Drink Week, Day Four: Black Raspberry Shrub

black raspberry shrub with fizzy water

It’s day four of Drink Week! Today’s topic is the fruit shrub. These are a concentrated fruit syrup, spiked with vinegar, to give it an appealing sweet/tart flavor profile. They definitely need dilution, so top them with a bit of sparkling water (and make sure to click over and enter the Sodastream giveaway). Make sure to check out the previous two Drink Week posts, Black Raspberry Syrup, Cherry Bounce and Other Boozy Infusions and No-Cook Sour Cherry Syrup.

mashed black raspberries + sugar

I started hearing about fruit shrubs a lot last summer. A bartender, upon hearing that I was a canner, mentioned that he made his own. I started seeing them discussed on various cooking blogs. And I spotted the bottled version that Pennsylvania growers Tait Farm makes and bottles. When my friend Albert mentioned them again recently, I realized it was time for me to give shrubs a try.

straining

The combination of fruit, sweetener and vinegar that makes up a shrub goes back to colonial days, when they were a popular way to preserve and enjoy the fleeting bounty of summer. Now, I realize that some of you might be initially turned off by the idea of drinking vinegar, but truly, shrubs are worth your consideration. You know how satisfying it can be to balance the sweetness of jam with a bit of lemon juice? Well, shrubs work on a similar principle, while also managing to enhance the flavor of the fruit. The tonic that results from the combination of fruit juice, sugar and vinegar is a delicious miracle.

blackberry infused vinegar

In doing my shrub research, I settled upon the cold brewing technique outlined in this post over on the Drinks section of Serious Eats (penned by cocktail expert Michael Dietsch). I liked it because it was dead easy and meant that I didn’t have to turn my stove on again (always a plus in late June in Philadelphia). In a wide-mouth quart jar, I combined a rough cup of black raspberries with a cup of cane sugar and smashed the heck out of them with my handy muddler. Once I had a messy mash, on went a lid and the jar headed for the fridge to hang out for a bit.

black raspberry seeds and the shrub

Two days later, I pulled the jar out. With most normal fruit, the sugar will have pulled a great deal of the juice out of the fruit. These black raspberries were thicker and stickier than many berries I’ve seen and so needed a little bit of additional water to get well and truly syrupy. I added all of a 1/2 cup to really get things going.

When I was ready to make the shrub, I strained the seeds and pulp from the syrup, really working the solids to ensure that I was squeezing every last bit of juicy goodness from them. This yielded about 1 1/2 cups of syrup.

fizzy overboard!

To the syrup, I added 1 cup of vinegar. The instructions on Serious Eats call for apple cider or red wine vinegar. I actually used some of the blackberry vinegar I made with seeds from a jam making session last summer, but I realize that not everyone has a cache of blackberry vinegar. Follow Michael’s advice and use the apple cider or red wine vinegar. Stir the vinegar into the syrup and stash in the fridge. It should taste good right away, but the flavors will continue to deepen and evolve, so try and let it hang out a little while.

Make sure to save those leftover black raspberry seeds and start a batch of infused vinegar. Your future self will thank you! Oh, and pour the sparkling water carefully when there’s some shrub in the glass. It makes those bubbles fizz and explode (as you can see in the picture above).

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