September Can Jam: Peach-Plum Ginger Jam

peach-plum ginger jam

I feel a bit like I had already canned stone fruit nearly every way possible by the time this can jam came around. I was at a bit of a loss as to how to make something new and interesting for our monthly challenge. In fact, I must confess that I’m actually looking forward to the seasonal slow down that’s now coming. Not that I’m tired of canning exactly, but I am ready to be turned loose from this urgency to capture as much summer goodness as possible before it takes its final bow.

This particular batch of jam was born from the fact that I had a couple of pounds of peaches that were ripening faster than I could eat them, as well as a handful of plums that were going soft. A generous hunk of ginger was hanging out in the fruit bowl. And thus, a jam was born.

My fruit ratio was approximately 3/4 peaches to 1/4 plums, but you can vary those amounts to accept whatever proportions you have on hand. The ginger was blended with a bit of water and then squeezed through cheesecloth in order to make a potent, gingery brew.

The result is sweet and spicy (not for those who shy away from a strong ginger flavor). I liked it upon initial taste, but I’ve found that my overrun jar in the fridge has mellowed into something I’m really digging.

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Tomato Jam

4 1/2 pounds of tomatoes

I used to have a fantastic coworker named John. He was calm in the face of chaos, had a buoyant sense of humor and knew how not to take things too seriously. And, his wife Amy just happened to be my kitchen soulmate. You’ve got to love a coworker who comes attached to good people.

tomatoes on the counter

Amy was the first person to introduce to me tomato jam and now I can’t go back to a life without it. She gifted me a jar last summer, with the recipe attached and I will be forever grateful. I use it in place of ketchup (with turkey burgers), as well as in places where ketchup wouldn’t dare to tread (try it with a soft, stinky cheese. It will change your life).

tomato jam

For those of you who are accustomed to preserving tomatoes, you’ll notice that this recipe does not call for you to peel these tomatoes. That is not a mistake. You see, I’ve made this recipe twice now. The first time, I thought I could improve on things and peeled and seeded the tomatoes prior to cooking them down. However, without those bits, the finished jam was too sweet and entirely without texture. It needs the skin and seeds, to keep things interesting. Don’t take them out.

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What Approximately Sixty Pounds of Tomatoes Looks Like

tomato canning

On September 1st, I picked up 100 pounds of tomatoes from a local market who occasionally places special orders for me. I had a number of recipes in mind to make with them and assumed that I’d spend most of Labor Day weekend, peacefully plowing my way through them. Of course, life never really works out as planned. I had a lovely time last weekend, but didn’t really buckle down and tackle those four boxes until Sunday night.

By the time Tuesday morning rolled around and I was headed back to work, there were still tomatoes languishing in my dining room. I peeled, chopped and preserved them Tuesday and again on Thursday. Eventually, I could see a light at the end of the tunnel.

The picture above is what has happened to approximately 60 pounds of those tomatoes. Nineteen quarts of whole peeled tomatoes (seven canned in their own juices in the pressure canner, twelve packed in water and processed in a boiling water canner). Four quarts of crushed tomatoes. Two pints of tomato sauce (the juice and some tomatoes leftover in the crushed tomato process). Seven pints of salsa (a recipe for the book). Missing from that picture are the nine half pints of tomato jam (recipe coming tomorrow) that didn’t make it out from the kitchen.

Also included in the picture are seven pints of cucumber bread and butter pickles and three pints of zucchini bread and butters. I had a lot of cucurbits to use up!

Approximately twenty pounds of the original 100 have been preserved in non-canning ways. I roasted and froze a whole bunch and also marinated and dehydrated quite a few (a technique inspired by this post from the Tennessee Locavore).

What this means is that nearly two weeks later, I still have fifteen pounds of tomatoes in my dining room (a friend happily took a few when I offered). I’m planning to make a corn salsa (another recipe to test for the cookbook) and well as Molly’s conserva. That will leave me with just a few left. Looking forward to that day.

Note: I’m sure that a few of you will notice that some of the above jars are sealed with those reusable Tattler lids that have been making the internet rounds of late. I’m planning on devoting my Canning 101 post to them on Tuesday, so please hold any questions about them until then.

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Canning 101: Why Recipes Call for Bottled Lemon Juice

bottled lemon juice

If you’ve been paying careful attention to my recipes, you may have noticed that in most my jam recipes I’ll indicate lemon juice amounts in the number of lemons, whereas when it comes to recipes that involve tomatoes or other moderately acidic ingredients, I specify bottled lemon juice.

The reason for this is that bottled lemon (or lime) juice has been uniformly acidified so that it has a consistent and dependable acid level. When you’re canning things like tomatoes (or watermelon jelly) and you need to reliably get those foods into a safe pH zone, that consistency is important.

I don’t make this recommendation because I prefer the flavor of the bottled stuff or because I’m lazy (although, some days I do appreciate the ease of just opening a bottle). It’s what the USDA recommends for canning and since I do my best to adhere to their rules, I follow suit.

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CUTCO Knives Winner + Updates on Classes

Congratulations to Glenie, commenter #317. You’re the winner of the set of CUTCO knives. I’ll be in touch shortly to get your information! Thanks to all who entered (including my father – although I’m not sure that family members can enter these giveaways, Dad).

In other news, I’ve found a location for a sauerkraut class! That’s right, if you’ve been yearning to learn to make sauerkraut, join me on Tuesday, October 5th at the Swarthmore Co-op. The class will take place 7-8:30 pm and everyone will leave with a quart jar of nascent sauerkraut (and instructions on how not to kill it). The class costs $45 and includes all supplies. Email me at foodinjarsATgmail.com to sign up.

Also, please don’t forget about my other upcoming classes. I’ve only got three people signed up at present for the September 18th applesauce class. I need at least three more to make a go of it. It will be fun and everyone will leave with some delicious applesauce (I never send people home from classes empty-handed).

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Slow Oven-Roasted Roma Tomatoes

cookie sheets of tomatoes

I’m elbow-deep in roma tomatoes at the moment, but wanted to drop by with a few words on one of the ways I’m preserving these scrumptious gems. Long, slow roasting in a 200 degree oven. This treatment shrinks their mass, concentrates their flavor and transforms them into something savory and succulent.

tomatoes in the oven

It is so easy to do, I feel a little silly offering instructions. Wash, dry and slice the tomatoes in half. Lay them out cut-side up on parchment-lined rimmed cookie sheets, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Put in the oven and roast at 200 degrees (truly, no hotter than that) for 10-12 hours. I realize that sounds like an inconveniently long time, but I tend to do this overnight, timing it so that they’re finished when I get up in the morning. Works perfectly.

finished tomatoes

I don’t can these tomatoes (honestly, I don’t think you can). I simply cool them, freeze them on the cookie sheets where they were roasted, pack them into jars or freezer bags and store them in the freezer. Easy for year-round additions to pastas, sauces, salads and more.

jar of tomatoes

Just one word of warning. They are so delicious that they may not make it into the freezer for storage. I took a cookie sheet’s worth to a potluck tonight and served them on top of baguette slices that had been smeared with goat cheese. One person told me that he doesn’t really even like tomatoes, but couldn’t stop eating these.

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