Tag Archives | Can Jam

The Food in Jars Mastery Challenge

Join the Food in Jars community for a year-long food preservation mastery challenge. Each month brings a different skill on which to focus and explore!

Happy New Year, friends! And welcome to the Food in Jars Mastery Challenge!

Back in 2010, the blogger we all knew as Tigress hosted a year-long canning challenge known as the Can Jam. Each month, she’d announce a new category of ingredients and we’d all head out and make a preserve featuring that particular food. It was fun to be pushed to try new things and I so loved the sense of community that the Can Jam created.

There have been other challenges in more recent years (Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Charcutepalooza is one such memorable project) and after much pondering, I’ve decided to host one in 2017.

This challenge will be skill-based. Each month, we’ll all focus on a different pickling or preserving skill, with the intention that we end this calendar year with a greater level of expertise and comfort with a wide range of food preservation techniques than when we started.

At the beginningĀ of each month, I’ll publish a blog post sharing tips on how to be successful with that skill and then will ask you to go forth and try it out. We’ll be talking in greater depth about each challenge in the Food in Jars Community on Facebook and I’ll be popping in regularly to answer questions.

If you have a blog or an Instagram account, I invite you to post the results of your project by the 25th of the month so that I can include it in a round-up (I’ll provide a monthly Google Forms link that you can use to submit your name and URL). However, you don’t have to have any kind of blog or social presence to participate. This challenge is about learning and sharing above all else.

Calendar of Preserving Skills
January – Marmalade
February – Salt Preserving
March – Jelly OR Shrubs
April – Quick Pickles
May – Cold Pack Preserving
June – Jam
July – Hot Pack Preserving
August – Low Temperature Pasteurization OR Steam Canning
September – Fruit Butter
October – Drying and Dehydration OR Pressure Canning
November – Fermentation
December – Fruit Pastes

If you’d like to join the challenge, please use the form below to sign up for the email list. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments and I’ll try to be quick with my replies. Oh, and if you post to Instagram or tweet about the challenge, please use the hashtag #fijchallenge

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December Can Jam: Cranberry Marmalade with Dried Apricots

cranberry chutney

I’m not quite sure how it’s possible, but we’ve reached the end of the 2010 Can Jam. I’m not sure if I’m still even eligible to participate, since I’ve gotten my posts up past the deadline the last two times, but it felt strange not to finish things off, so I’m posting a contribution nonetheless.

sliced oranges

As you might guess, due to Wednesday’s potluck, I’ve had The Essential New York Times Cookbook on the brain a bit lately. I’ve had my copy for about two weeks now and even before Amanda Hesser signed it, I found myself carrying it from room to room (granted, we really only have three rooms, so that isn’t as much of a feat as it sounds) so as to always have it near. You know, in case a recipe emergency struck.

cooking the chutney

When it was time to determine what I was going to make for the December Can Jam, it felt right to turn to my new best-friend-in-book-form and see what it had to offer. There’s a whole chapter devoted to Sauces, Dressings, Condiments, Rubs and Preserves, so there was quite a wealth to choose from. Keeping the theme ingredient (dried fruit) in mind, I settled on a recipe for Cranberry Chutney. It called for dried apricots and was quite seasonal to boot.

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Originally designed as part of a low stress Thanksgiving meal, it’s a chutney recipe different from those I’ve encountered in the past. It does not include onions or vinegar, so it doesn’t offer the pucker or sweet-and-savory aspect that so many of us have come to associate with the word chutney. That does not mean, however, that it isn’t worth making. I found it to be quite delicious, though more akin to marmalade than chutney (whole, chopped orange will do that a palate).

cranberry chutney with dried apricots

For once in my life, I followed the recipe fairly devotedly. The one place I deviated is that I did a bit of small batch canning with it. I kept one jar for the fridge (that’s the one you see above) and then filled as second (traditional, with a two-piece lid) pint jar with what remained and water bath canned it for ten minutes (using my handy little asparagus steamer). I did this because while it was quite tasty, there’s no way I’ll be able to work my way through two full pints quickly enough to merit that kind of refrigerator space. Because the recipe was written for Thanksgiving, it did not include directions for canning. However, the recipe is made of up a cacophony of high acid ingredients, so there shouldn’t be a problem. For even longer shelf stability, you could replace some of the honey with sugar.

The recipe is after the jump.

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November Can Jam: Rosy Quince Jelly

quince by the sink

It took me years to figure out that quince were edible. During my middle school years my family lived in a house that, years before, had been owned by a botanist. She had planted beautiful and exotic trees all over the property, many of which were impressively mature during our time there. Towards the back of the property, there was a cluster of fruit trees we optimistically called “The Orchard.”

chopping quince

There were four unidentified apple trees, a bedraggled pear tree that only produced one mealy piece of fruit per year and a mysterious tree that produced rock hard furry pieces of fruit that we had no idea what to do with. Season after season, we let these dense, inedible fruits ripen and rot.

boiling quince

It wasn’t until last year did I finally made the connection between that old tree and the fruit I’d come to know as quince. As soon as I realized what we had had and squandered, I felt a bit mournful. If I ever come across a feral quince again someday, I won’t make the same mistake.

boiling quince

If you’ve never worked with quince, here are a few things you should know. When it is ripe, it smells incredibly fragrant, clean and floral. However, for as good as the fruit can smell while sitting demurely in a bowl on the counter, during the cooking process it goes through a period of time when it releases a terrible scent, akin to my sister’s dirty feet.

It’s also challenging to cut and clean. The flesh is dense and resists the blade of the knife like the dickens (to use a phrase of my father’s). It requires a good deal more force than the apples and pears we’re all used to and so you’ve also got to be increasingly wary not to slip and cut yourself. I’ve come close a number of times.

quince pulp in a strainer

Quince is best known as the main ingredient in membrillo, a vividly hued paste that’s most popular in Spain as a accompaniment to cheese. It also makes an excellent jelly, because it’s so rich in pectin that it needs little else to set up into a delicate, spreadable condiment. What’s more, if you boil the fruit with water to extract the juice, you will still have a great deal of pulp leftover, which can become part of a jam or sauce. I combined mine with four cups of cranberries and now have four pints of tart, floral sauce, some of which is headed straight for our Thanksgiving table (that recipe will be up tomorrow).

quince jelly

Yesterday, I took four different varieties of my preserves to a cheese tasting that my friend Tenaya organized. Let me tell you, this quince jelly was so, so good paired with a Spanish goat cheese called Idiazabal (please don’t ask me to pronounce it). With Thanksgiving coming up, I can also imagine it smeared on a piece of leftover turkey to very pleasing results.

the three cheeses and their jams

The recipe I used is after the jump. Since there’s no additional pectin here, you can scale the recipe up or down as needed. However, I wouldn’t increase the size of the recipe too, too much, as it will then take more time to cook the jelly to the correct temperature.

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October Can Jam: Peach Jalapeno Jelly

jalapenos

Using the syrup leftover from canning peaches to make jelly is not an idea original to me. I got the idea from Putting By, and it was such a good one that when I canned my last batch of the season, I made certain to strain my remaining syrup and stash it in the fridge.

Well, that was a month ago. I’d see that jar of syrup every time I opened the fridge and each time, I’d give it a little nod and a promise that soon, soon I’d pay it a bit of attention. Every so often, I’d crack the lid and take a whiff to make sure it wasn’t fermenting, before putting it back behind the yogurt container.

steeping chiles

Finally tonight, the stars aligned and I talked myself into the kitchen after dinner, in spite of nearly falling asleep on the couch at 8 p.m. My commitment to canning truly knows no bounds.

candied jalapenos

I started with 24 ounces of leftover syrup. I strained it into a saucepan (in order to remove the bits of peach particulate matter that could have made the jelly cloudy) and dropped in two sliced jalapenos. I let that simmer for a bit, tasting every minute or two until it had reached the level of spiciness I could handle. Then I added two cups of sugar, stirred, removed the jalapeno rings and stirred in one tablespoon of regular old powdered pectin.

finished jar

I boiled the mixture until it reached 220 degrees, strained it again (to remove the rest of the jalapeno seeds) and filled the jars. Processed the half pints (three in total) for ten minutes. So far, it’s still quite liquid-y, but judging from the way the remains in the pot looked, I’m confident it will set. The flavor is good too. Slightly spicy (I’m not a heat freak), fruity and so fragrant of those peaches (I still can’t quite believe that they’re gone for the year).

*Update*
After a week, this jelly has set nicely and firms up even more when refrigerated.

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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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August Can Jam: Tomato Butter

blanched tomatoes

Once again, I’m right up against the deadline for this month’s Can Jam. I didn’t intend for it to work out this way. In fact, I made a batch of Tomato Jam last week, based on my friend Amy’s recipe, thinking that it could be my contribution to the month’s challenge. It’s a delicious recipe and I may end up posting it at some point down the line.

However, I had this other idea tickled the back of my brain. Remember when I announced that it was my summer of butters? Well, it’s been awhile since I made one. And I had this idea that tomatoes might make a nice butter.

peeled tomatoes

I started with a little over five pounds of Lancaster County tomatoes. Blanched, cored and peeled, I fed them into my Vitamix so that I had a chunky raw puree (if you don’t have a Vitamix, you could either pulse them in the food processor or take a potato masher to them).

tomato pulp

Using my beloved slow cooker, I let the 10 cups of pulp cook down without any spices or sugar overnight and for an entire workday. It wound up being approximately 18 hours of cooking. Look closely at the next picture, you can see the rings from the cooking down process.

cooking down lines

When I got home from work today, I had a bit less than four cups of cooked tomato, a far cry from the 10+ cups I started out with. Using an immersion blender, I whirred in some honey, brown sugar, lemon juice and zest and an array of my typical jam/fruit butter spices – cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. In the hopes of giving this butter a little zip, I also included 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne. Not so much to make it unpleasant, just to give it a little extra interest.

tomato butter

When all was done, I had a spread that was a bit sweet, but not cloying, with a nice spice profile. Consistency-wise, it’s quite similar to ketchup, but without the familiar vinegar-y zing. I’m looking forward to pairing this butter with a dab of goat cheese and seeing how it works on flatbread with caramelized onions. How would you use it?

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