Seattle Pictures + Raspberry Jam

outdoor kitchen

A couple of months ago, based solely on a handful of tweets and a couple of emails, I logged onto Travelocity and bought a plane ticket to Seattle in order to spend some time with a number of people upon whom I’d never before laid eyes. This is a scenario that might give lots of folks pause, but I felt completely at ease, because I was going to be part of the Canvolution.

I landed late on Friday night and a friend of more than ten years picked me up. She took me home with her and tucked me into a wonderfully cushy, comfortable bed. The next morning, she dropped me off in a KFC parking lot, across from the U District farmers market, where I met up with Tea and ogled produce that I could not have (I did buy a wreath of garlic to bring home). The rest of the day went by in a blur of ferry rides, more farmers market shopping (where I ate two incredible figs) and lots and lots of canning, feasting and laughter.

Now, looking back on the hours I spent last weekend with Tea, Viv, Shauna, Laura, Kim, Kimberly, Jeanne and others, I am so totally grateful and delighted that I bought a plane ticket on impulsive. Check the slide show below for more pictures from the weekend.

The only problem I had with my trip out to Seattle was the fact that I couldn’t really bring any of the food we made back with me (I didn’t want to take the risk that the TSA would categorize my homemade jam as a liquid and confiscate it). I did leave the canning party with a couple of jars, but I left them with my parents to bring when the come out for the wedding in a few weeks. So, when I got back home, I was jonesing for a canning project or two. So I canned plums in a honey syrup and made raspberry jam.

raspberries

This was actually the first batch of raspberry jam I’ve ever made. I’ve always looked at raspberries as being too precious to turn into jam. I believe they are far better eaten out of hand, until your fingers are stained bright red and your belly aches. However, the raspberries were so abundant in the field that I made myself half-sick from overindulgence before I even got home. I couldn’t bear the idea of eating another berry, but the 2 1/2 pounds needed to be used. So jam it was.

I made this batch using weight measures as opposed to cups, because my scale was on the counter and it seemed easier. If you don’t have a scale, I’m under the impression I used approximately 8 cups of fairly well-packed berries. Additionally, unlike my blackberry jam, I did not seed this batch. I look at the seeds in raspberry jam as being part of its charm so I left them in. However, if you’re a seed hater, feel free to seed (check out the instructions in the blackberry jam post).

raspberry jam

And, since I like to share, I have one half pint of this amazing, jewel-like jam to giveaway. Leave a comment before Tuesday, September 8th at 11:59 p.m.

Now, recipe time…

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Blackberry Winner + Plums in Honey

italian plums

I had such a wonderful time over the weekend in Seattle. I met so many amazing people, reunited with a dear old friend, taught a really fun canning class and saw my parents for the first time in nearly nine months. I have bunches of pictures from the weekend, and so expect a post in the next couple of days that will feature those photos, along with my thoughts about the first Canning Across American weekend (preview: it was a rousing success and I can’t wait for next year).

Before I start talking about plums, there’s a bit of giveaway business to wrap up. The blackberry jam goes to lucky number 13, which is the comment left by Linus (who is a web developer and pickle maker – nice combo). He also seems to be Philly-based, which means that I get to skip the post office this time around and see if I can’t hand deliver this particular jar.

Last week, before I left town, I made tentative plans to meet up with the Philadelphia half of Doris and Jilly Cook to take a Mood’s Farm field trip just a couple of hours after I returned from the trip. My parents thought this plan crazy, assuming I’d need the rest of the day to recover from the red-eye flight. Thanks to my exhaustion and an innate ability to sleep just about anywhere, I landed feeling fairly refreshed and ready to take on an afternoon of fruit picking.

whole plums in jars

The sheer abundance at the farmstand merely hinted at the bounty we’d encounter in the fields. The peach trees were hanging heavy with fruit and the raspberry canes were covered in the largest, most delicious berries I’ve met in about twenty years. We had plans to pick blackberries as well, but mid-picking decided that our containers would be better used for the raspberries.

When we headed back to the city, the station wagon carried nearly 100 pounds of fruits and vegetables. My personal haul included 2 1/2 pounds of raspberries (at $3.75 a pound, they were by far the most expensive item I’ve ever gotten at Mood’s), nearly 20 pounds of rosy peaches, two quarts of Gala apples (those are just for eating, I’ll get some fresh Granny Smith’s later in the season for apple sauce and butter) and four quarts each of Bartlett pears (for butter), Seckel pears (for canning whole and pickling) and Italian plums.

plums in jars with syrup

I haven’t tackled the pears yet, but last night I turned the raspberries into jam (stay tuned, I’ll have that recipe and giveaway up later in the week) and I canned four quarts of the plums in a honey syrup. Canning whole fruit like this couldn’t be easier, because beyond washing, the fruit needs no prepping (some recipes recommend piercing the skin with a sharp fork several times. I skipped it and the skins only barely cracked). You simply pack the raw, whole fruit as tightly as you can into your cleaned jars, pour the syrup in to cover, shake out the air bubbles and process. I tucked a cinnamon stick into each jar, but that’s as fancy as I got. The quarts process for 25 minutes in a boiling water bath and then you’re done.

So, if you have a glut of plums, this is a great way to handle them quickly and easily. When winter comes, you can eat them whole with yogurt or ice cream, make a cobbler with them, or even stew them down further and eat them over oatmeal. So, so good. Recipe after the jump.

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Off to Seattle

I’m headed to the airport in just a few minutes for my flight out to Seattle this weekend. I am totally delighted to be going to hang out with so many cool canning folk while out there. Giddiness abounds!

There are still a few spots left in my Sunday canning class, and I’d love to have a few more of you join me. We’re going to be making plum jam and talking about the basics of boiling water canning, which is always a good time. If you want to sign up, click here!

See you all on the flip side!

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Can You Reuse Pickle Brine?

half empty jar

At least once a week, someone asks me if they can reuse the brine that’s leftover in the jar when all the pickles have been eaten. I’m here to say, yes! You can absolutely reuse that brine as long as…

  1. You’re only using it to make refrigerator pickles. Once a brine has been used to can something, that’s it. You can’t do it again because you can’t guarantee the acidity level once it has been heated up, hot water processed, absorbed by vegetables and refrigerated for an unknown amount of time.
  2. It doesn’t look murky or cloudy. I typically find that the maximum number of times you can replenish the veggies in a jar is three. After that, you’ve lost too much brine volume and it’s developed an unhealthy scum.

refilled pickle jar

One tip when refilling your pickle jar is to take out the last of the pickles from the previous batch before popping the fresh veg in. I forgot to do it last time, and now all my wonderfully cured pickle slices are trapped at the bottom of the jar.

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Blackberry Jam

blackberries in field

People in the Pacific Northwest take wild blackberries for granted. In fact, they’re something of a nuisance, lining highways and filling empty lots (my dad once had to rent a backhoe in order to clear the brambles from the lower half of our yard). In August, it’s easy to freely pick gallons of blackberries (you may sacrifice a bit of skin in the process – wild blackberries have very sharp thorns) at local parks, nature reserves and backyards. Just make sure to watch where you’re picking, last summer my parents got scolded after accidentally wandering onto someone’s property while picking berries at the very furthest most point of a dead end road.

blackberries in strainer

Out here in the Mid-Atlantic area of the country, blackberries are a little harder to come by. In fact, I’ve yet to find any wild fruit growing here in Philadelphia. However, I’m lucky to have a few good u-pick farms in the area. They’re not free, but they’re pretty cheap (two weekends ago, I paid $1.10 a pound) and when it comes to blackberries, the cultivated patches come with far fewer thorns than the wild ones.

mashing berries

Blackberry jam is one of my mom’s specialties, so this recipe is more hers than mine. She’s the one who taught me to mash the berries through a strainer to remove the seeds before turning them into jam (it’s a necessity with wild berries, as they tend to be seedier than cultivated berries. If you have more civilized berries, the deseeding process is optional). She’s also the one who showed me how wonderful a smear of blackberry jam can be on a slice of peanut butter toast mid-February.

blackberry pulp into pot

And, because I like to share my bounty, I do have a half pint of this luscious jam to give away. It’s a deep, deep purple color, is almost entirely seedless and is particularly amazing on pancakes (I had friends over for brunch the day after I made the batch and we couldn’t believe how perfect it was in place of maple syrup). Leave a comment by Monday, August 31st at 11:59 p.m. eastern time to enter.

So, on to the recipe we go.

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Catching Up + Desserts in Jars

half-bushel of kirbies

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve made blackberry jam, three kinds of plum jam, peach butter, nearly three gallons of cucumber pickles, five quarts of canned tomatoes and a double batch of honey-cinnamon granola. Problem is that after all those hours in the kitchen, I’m a little addled. I’m heading to bed early tonight in the hope that I’ll wake up with a clear enough mind tomorrow to get a recipe or two posted.

In the mean time, check out this wonderful example of food in jars. I love the idea of baking cupcakes in jars (I’m only just a little jealous that I didn’t think of it first). It’s almost as good as the pies in jars that Lauren made last year.

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