Washington State Cherries, Peaches, Nectarines, and Plums

Every summer for the last eight years, I’ve teamed up with the folks at the Washington State Fruit Commission. As one of their Canbassadors, they send me boxes of fruit. I take those cherries, peaches, nectarines, and plums into my kitchen and then share how I transform them into various batches of jams, pickles, butters, compotes, and conserves.

This year, they sent me three separate shipments of fruit. In late June, it was 18 pounds of sweet, juicy cherries. At the beginning of August, two flats of fragrant peaches and nectarines. And right around Labor Day, a box of sturdy Italian plums (they are a perennial favorite in my kitchen).

I made a bunch of really great stuff with all this fruit, but as the intensity of the summer ratcheted up, I’ve not done as good a job at getting those recipes from my kitchen scratch pad to this site. So here’s what I’ve done. I’ve created individual posts for each of the unshared recipes (to make them more easily searchable) and then I’ve rounded them all up here. Much of these are out of season for this year, but perhaps you’ll remember one or two for next year.

Cherries

Peaches and Nectarines

Italian Plums

And for anyone who’s keeping track, here’s what I’ve made in past years with my Canbassador fruit.

If you want to see what some of the other Canbassadors have done this year, make sure to follow the Washington State Fruit and Northwest Cherries folks on social media, as they’ve been sharing all the posts. Here’s where you can find them.

Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest

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Spiced Plum Jam

When I was very young, my family lived in an old house in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Eagle Rock. We had a trio of plum trees that produced great heaps of fruit every other year. My parents would fill paper grocery bags with plums and pass them out to friends and neighbors. Even after those bags were distributed, there were always more plums.

My mom would always make two or three batches of delicious, runny plum jam, spiked with cinnamon and bright with lemon zest that we’d eat on oatmeal, pancakes, and yogurt. Because of those preserves, the flavor of plum jam satisfies my deepest taste memories in a way that other jams can’t touch.

This recipe is my attempt to recreate that childhood jam. The only difference is that I use a bit of pectin to ensure that mine has a firmer set than the batches my mom used to make.

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Plum Conserve with Golden Raisins and Toasted Walnuts

This plum conserve is a condiment that veers a bit of the more commonly tread canning ground. However, once you try it, I’m certain it will become one of your regular pantry players.

A jar of plum conserve with golden raisins and walnts

Italian plums are one of my favorite things to come out of late summer. Sturdy, sweet, and with a flavor that improves upon cooking, they are a fabulous primary ingredient for all manner of jams, spreads, and compotes.

Finished plum conserve in the pot

This particular conserve (it’s the addition of dried fruits and nuts that turn a basic preserve into a conserve) is a good gift giving, serving at holiday gatherings, and eating with a spoon when you’re craving something sweet.

A detailed look at a single jar of plum conserve

I canned my batch in a collection of mismatched pint jars (we’re getting to the end of the canning season and I’m starting to run short on smaller jars), but because a little goes a long way, you’d be better off opting for half pints.

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Cookbooks: Modern Cider

We’re nearing the end of September, but it’s still blazingly hot and swampy here in Philadelphia. One way that I’m coping with the unseasonable weather is by pretending that it’s more like autumn outside than it actually is. To that end, I’ve been making pots of soup (though I’m choosing ones that can be eaten at room temperature for the sake of our sanity), knitting hats and hand warmers (while the air conditioning chugs), and diving into books that put me in the proper state of mind no matter how it actually feels outside.

One such book that I’ve been glancing at when the mercury soars is Emma Christensen’s new one, called Modern Cider. Emma is the queen of small batch home brewing and is also the author of True Brews and Brew Better Beer. You may know her work from her years as recipe editor at The Kitchn or her current gig as managing editor of Simply Recipes.

Emma is incredibly good at taking an intimidating concept or technique and making it feel approachable and appealing. I was still a novice home brewer (though my brews are still mostly confined to regular batches of kombucha), when I took a couple of the recipes from True Brews out for a test drive for Table Matters back in 2013. and she made it seem entirely doable.

If True Brews was Emma’s survey course, and Brew Better Beer was designed for the beer lover, Modern Cider is the book for anyone who has been intrigued by boozy fermentation but doesn’t consider themselves a big beer drinker. It’s for someone who wants a home brewing starting place that speaks to a wide range of experience levels. And it’s for anyone who wants to learn the science behind home brewing from a friendly, knowledgeable voice.

The first 60+ pages of the book feature cider lessons. In this initial section, you’ll learn about variations in ciders, choosing apples, crushing and sourcing (she gives you permission to use bottled juice from the store if that’s all you can manage), acidity, and the gear you’ll need to get started.

From there, the chapters are as follows: Beginner Ciders, The Cider Family, Modern Ciders, Ciders for Beer Lovers, Soft Ciders (some entirely free of alcohol!), Apple Wines, and Traditional Ciders. There’s also troubleshooting and resources sections, in case you need more guidance.

While it’s probably too early to start thinking about the holidays, if you have someone on your gift list who loves cider and has expressed interest in learning how to make it at home, this is the perfect book for them!

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Submit your Fruit Butters for the September #fijchallenge

Happy end of September, canners! Yet another month that has gone flying by with record-breaking speed! I hope everyone is enjoying the transition from summer to fall (though here in the Philadelphia region, it feels like it’s going to be summer forever).

With the end of the month comes times to wrap up another skill in our year-long Mastery Challenge. We focused on fruit butters this time around. If you haven’t yet made a batch, there’s still time. Consult the intro post for inspiration and get to simmering!

If you want to be counted in the September tally and included in the round-up, please use this form to submit your project by Saturday, September 30 . The form is below! If you can’t see it, you can also reach the form right here.

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Giveaway: Rachael Ray Lazy Spoon and Ladle

No matter how many spatulas and spoons I have, I can almost always make space for one more in my utensil jug. I swear, it’s not because I’m a hoarder (I get rid of my fair share as well). It’s because I’m forever on the lookout for excellent new tools. This explains why, when I spotted the new Lazy Spoon and Ladle set from Rachael Ray, I had to get them. Because what if that ladle was the perfect thing for scooping jam into jars? This inquiring mind had to know!

If you feel like you’ve seen these spoons before, you are correct. The lazy spoon concept is one that was originally marketed successfully by Jonathan’s Spoons. Rachael Ray liked the concept so much that she licensed the form factor and started producing plastic and silicone spoons in the image of those original wooden spoons.

At this point the question is, how do I like these spoons now that I’ve had them in my kitchen a couple months? I like them very much. They do not line up perfectly with my ideal spoon and ladle, but they’re darned handy when you’re dealing with sticky stuff that you don’t want to drip all over your stove or countertop. I wish that they were a little lighter and a little more supple (despite the silicone coating, they don’t have much give), but all in all, they’ve earned their spots in the utensil jug.

Now, for the giveaway. I have one set of these handy tools to give away to a lucky Food in Jars reader. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me about your favorite kitchen tool.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Sunday, October 1, 2017. Winners will be chosen at random and this post will be updated with the winner.
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

The giveaway is closed! The winner is #24/Julie.

Disclosure: Both the set pictured here and the giveaway set were provided at no cost to me by the PR team that handles the Rachael Ray line. No additional compensation was provided. 

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