Low Sugar Sour Cherry Jam

Capture the fleeting tart cherry season with a batch of whole fruit, sweet and tangy low sugar sour cherry jam.

Last week, I made a small batch of low sugar sour cherry jam live on Facebook, using Pomona’s pectin for set. When people asked me about the recipe, I told them it was already up on the blog from last summer. Because I was absolutely convinced that this was a recipe I’d already published.

However, I started to hear from people that they couldn’t find it. Was I sure that it was on the blog?

Turns out, I never wrote a low sugar sour cherry jam recipe. It must have been a dream. I’ve made this style of preserve a bunch of times over the years and really thought I’d shared it. Oops!

So, let’s dig in. Like so much of my jam making, the recipe you’ll find at the bottom of the post is built on a ratio. For these batches of low sugar jam, I use four parts fruit to one part sugar. You could always drop the sugar level a bit lower, but I find that this ratio leaves me with a jam that is nicely balanced between sweet and tart, and holds its color beautifully.

Two questions come up when I talk about making jam by ratio. The first is, are we talking about calculating by weight or by volume? Because I love my kitchen scale, I typically use weight to work out the proportions. But you can also use volume. The trick is to be consistent. If you start with weight for your produce, you use weight for your sweetener. Same goes for volume. Stick with what you start with.

Second question is about measuring before or after you prep your fruit. Here’s the honest truth. As long as you aren’t doing a massive amount of culling, your batch size is pretty generous, and you’re measuring by weight, it doesn’t matter too much. I weighed this batch of fruit before I started pitting and I had 5 pounds, two ounces. After pitting, I had 4 pounds, 15 ounces. In this large-ish batch, those three ounces won’t impact the finished outcome much.

Now, if you’re measuring by volume, prepping the fruit first is the best course of action, because it’s going to fill the measuring cup best. Additionally, if you’re using seconds and so need to do a lot of culling, doing all your necessary peeling, pitting, hulling, trimming, and chopping before you start measuring and calculating.

Now, for the pectin. I like to use less pectin that the Pomona’s packet instructions call for. Typically, I use between 1/2 and 3/4 teaspoon calcium water and pectin for every pound of fruit. Use less for a soft set and a bit more for a firmer set.

Once all the pitting, prepping, and calculating is done, I combine the fruit with the bulk of the sugar the jam will use. I save out about half a cup to use as the medium with which to integrate the pectin. Then it’s time to cook!

PS – Like the labels I used on my jars up at the top of the picture? Those are these kraft paper labels from Canning Crafts! Love them!

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Cookbooks: Bread Toast Crumbs

I first discovered that it was possible to bake bread without kneading (along with much of the English speaking world) in 2006 when the Sullivan Street Bakery recipe ran in the New York Times. I embraced the concept wholeheartedly and have been something of a no-knead recipe collector ever since.

Four or five years ago, I stumbled across a recipe for peasant bread on Alexandra Stafford’s blog, Alexandra’s Kitchen, that didn’t need to be kneading, was baked up in some of the Pyrex bowls I already owned, AND could be ready to eat in just a couple of hours. I made a batch immediately and became a fan for life. It became THE thing I made to serve with leftover soup, to bulk out a meal for unexpected guests, or on weekends when we wanted sandwiches but didn’t feel like leaving the apartment.

As a food writer, it’s rare that I return to the same recipe over and over again (because I am always looking for new, interesting things to write about), but this one is simply too good and too reliable to leave behind (though I almost always make it with half whole wheat pastry flour and half white. I am what I am).

So, when Ali announced that she was writing a cookbook that used her peasant bread recipe as a starting place, I was delighted. More ways to make use of this recipe and its tasty results? Yes, please!

Bread Toast Crumbs came out back in April and is everything I hoped it would be. The title also serves as the organizational structure for the book. It opens with the master peasant bread recipe and then offers up more than 35 variations. I’ve only made the original recipe, but have plans to make the hamburger buns this weekend and have half a dozen other versions earmarked.

In the Toast section, you’ll find an array of soups, salads, starters, sandwiches, main dishes, and sweet things. I’ve got my eye on the Summer Vegetable Strata for the near-term and the Cabbage Soup with Gruyere-Rye Toasts for the fall (if you listen to Local Mouthful, you’ll know that my love for cabbage knows no bounds).

The Crumbs section takes the heels of your loaves, grinds them down, and makes delicious use. Someone needs to invite me to a potluck so that I can make the Sheet Pan Mac and Cheese or the Baked Pasta with Mushrooms, Fontina, and Crumbs. Seriously. How good do those dishes sound?

My bottom line on this book is that if you’re looking to up your bread baking game in an approachable way and then find some new ways to make good use of every last morsel of the bread you made, you should check it out.

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Giveaway: Anchor Hocking Jars from Fillmore Container

Love learning about new jars? Read on for details about the line of Anchor Hocking canning jars, available from our friends at Fillmore Container, as well as a chance to win a case to use in your own kitchen!

When it comes to gathering vessels for preserving, I have always been something of a magpie. I like to use jars of different shapes and from different makers. The result is a pantry that gives off a sense of happy, appealing chaos (of course, it’s only an appearance. I always know what’s in there, down to the very last item). It also allows for a preserves closet where you almost always have exactly the right sized jar for dinner prep, potluck preparations, or a gift basket.

Thanks to our friends at Fillmore Container, I’ve recently added a new line of jars to my kitchen and I am quite pleased to have them. Made by Anchor Hocking, these sturdy, squared off jars are an affordable, pleasing option for any home canner. If you have any vintage Anchor Hocking jars in your collection, the shape and heft of these jars will be familiar (though sadly, these are not quite as graceful as the ones our grandmothers knew and used).

These Anchor Hocking jars come in three sizes – quarts, pints, and half pints. Fillmore sells them without closures, which allows you to choose from a world of possibilities. They have regular mouth openings and so can be sealed with Ball brand lids and rings, with open stock lids and rings from Fillmore, or with one-piece lids designed to be used on jars with continuous threads (if you’re curious how to can at home using one-piece lids, check out my tutorial).

Having canned a bit in these jars over the last few weeks, I can tell you that they perform beautifully. They are true to size, strong, and seal well. I also really appreciate the fact that the slightly square shape offers up four smooth sides for labeling. If I were canning for a baby or wedding shower, I’d stock up on the half pint size, order some custom labels from CanningCrafts, and offer up the prettiest party favors this side of Pinterest.

This week, the folks at Fillmore are sponsoring our giveaway. One lucky winner will get a case of the Anchor Hocking jars (jar size is winner’s choice), a dozen lids and rings, and a $25 gift card, good on the Fillmore Container website (perhaps you’ll want to use it to get a copy of Naturally Sweet Food in Jars!). This giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents. Please use the widget below to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: Fillmore Container is a Food in Jars sponsor. Their participation my sponsorship program helps keep this website afloat. They sent the jars pictured in this post for review and photography purposes and are also contributing the prize, both at no cost to me. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed here remain entirely my own.

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Submit your June Mastery Challenge Projects!

June is nearly over, which means it’s time to get serious about completing this month’s jam making challenge! If you’ve already finished up your project for this month’s Mastery Challenge, please use the form below to record your information and be counted in the final tally. If the embedded form isn’t working for you, click here.

If you’ve not yet tackled a batch of jam yet this month, check out my jam archive for some recipe inspiration

To be counted in the final tally, please submit your projects no later than Friday, June 30.

Oh, and if you do post to social media, make sure to use the #fijchallenge tag to help spread the word of our preserving activities!

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Early Summer Cooking with Blue Apron

Today’s post is sponsored by Blue Apron.

In my household, I do the vast majority of our grocery shopping and meal planning. Most of the time, this makes sense for my husband and me. I work from home. I like cook. I make a podcast about home cooking. And I write about food for a living, for goodness sakes.

However, there are times when I am tired. I run out of ideas and the very thought of coming up with a nutritious, relatively easy to make, and tasty meal feels like a mountain too high to climb. My husband’s answer to these periods is to order take-out. And while that’s an adequate answer in the short term, it’s not a good solution for more than a night or two.

In the last year, I’ve discovered that there is a really good solution to these times when I can’t dream up another hearty, healthy soup, stew, or casserole. Salvation, thy name is Blue Apron.

This is now my third go-round with Blue Apron and this most recent box could not have come at a better moment. Life has been busy. My teaching schedule has ramped up. And I’ve been doing some recipe development for a future project. Finding the mental energy to dream up dinner after spending half the day testing recipes is harder than you might think.

As I unpacked the ingredients for the Crispy Chicken Tenders, the Smoked Trout & Asparagus Salad, and Roast Beef & Farro Salad, I was really impressed by the food I found in the box. The quality of the ingredients was top notch. The portion sizes are perfect for two people. And the flavor combinations were outside my regular wheelhouse, which made the whole thing feel exciting.

Those unfamiliar flavor combinations are one of the things I like most about Blue Apron. I always take away some new culinary tidbit or new-to-me ingredient when I cook my way through a box. This go-round, I discovered that smoked trout is a delicious ingredient and that I always want to eat roasted squash when it is dressed with a couple spoonful of bright gremolata.

I was also impressed by how little packaging there was, particularly compared to my first Blue Apron experience last year. And, if packaging is a concern for you, know that if you can’t find ways to reuse or recycle the materials in your area, it can also be returned through the mail for reuse and recycling.

There’s one other thing that I love about Blue Apron and that’s the fact that the instructions are so approachable that anyone with some basic kitchen sense can tackle the recipe. This means that on nights when I’m simply too spent to cook, I can recruit my husband to handle dinner. Those step-by-step recipe cards give him all the confidence he needs to make a tasty meal.

If you’re intrigued by my experience with Blue Apron, they’ve got an offer for you, too! The first fifty readers to use this link to sign up for the service will get three meals for free on their first Blue Apron order.

Oh, and if you want to take a peek at more of the possible meals you’ll get from Blue Apron, check out their recipe page.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Blue Apron. They sent me a 2-Person box, containing three meals for two people. They’ve also compensated me for my time and attention. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely mine.

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Small Batch Strawberry Plum Jam

Looking for a preserve to bridge spring and summer? This small batch strawberry plum jam is just the thing to marry the seasons in delicious fashion.

Fruit for strawberry plum jam

Last week, I had lunch with a canning friend. After doing a quick check-in about the general state of our lives, we got down to the real business at hand – dishing about our summer preserving plans.

Lucia is planning on focusing on stonefruit this summer since they’re her favorite (and it was a terrible season for peaches and nectarines around these parts last year) and also hopes to do some classic strawberry jam to satisfy a plaintive request made by her partner.

Chopped fruit in the pan for strawberry plum jam

After spending so many seasons working on books and developing new recipes for various partnerships, my plan is to focus on restocking our beloved basics. Simple jams, plenty of fruit sauces (peach! nectarine! apple!), lots of tomatoes, and a triple batch of my beloved roasted corn salsa (the recipe is in the Food in Jars cookbook).

Artfully out of focus fruit for strawberry plum jam

I am also hoping to get my hands on a goodly number of plums in the coming months. The local ones were almost entirely wiped out in the late freeze last year and so I’m totally out of plum jam and chutney (two of my favorites).

We had plum trees in the backyard of my family’s LA house and so the flavor of plum preserves has the ability to instantly transport me to my early childhood. I need a little of that taste memory in my life.

Finished strawberry plum jam still in the pan

I will confess that I have already dabbled with plums this year. They traveled many miles to reach my grocery store, and while they wouldn’t have been particularly delicious to eat out of hand, in combination with strawberries, sugar, and a little lemon juice, they brought texture and deliciousness to a small batch of strawberry plum jam.

Finished strawberry plum jam in jars

And remember, the best pan for cooking up these small batches of jam isn’t always your beloved dutch oven or copper preserving pan. I like to use a wide pan with low sides because it means that the jam will reduce quickly and evenly. The pan pictured in this post is the Lagostina Martellata Tri-ply Copper 5-Qt. Casserole which they nicely sent me awhile back for review purposes. My review? It’s a lovely pan that’s good for jam making and so much more!

And now, for the recipe.

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