Tag Archives | small batch canning

Welcome 2012 + Persimmon and Pear Chutney

persimmon

Happy New Year, friends! I hope your celebrations last night were full of delight. Scott and I rang in the new year with pizza, champagne and a few favorite people (including 20-month-old twins who entertained us by dancing to the Nutcracker Suite).

I didn’t intend to go entirely quiet over the last week, but I so wanted to relish my last couple days in Portland with my parents. When I landed in Philadelphia on Wednesday morning, it just felt right to continue the break. It’s been a lovely thing to take a little time away from this space, to think about how I want to approach it in 2012.

I plan to continue to post new recipes, including more pressure canner tutorials, small batch preserves and ways to get your jams, chutneys and sauces out of their jars and onto the table.

purloined persimmons

You’ll see more foods in jars made by other people. Though it’s always my goal to help inspire people to head for their own kitchens, there’s also a world of delicious foods in jars out there being made by truly talented folks. I want to occasionally showcase them.

There will also be posts about cookbooks, space for questions and answers and some regular video features. I’m also going to be out and about a bit over the spring and summer to help promote my cookbook, so I’ll be posting about any and all opportunities to come and spend a bit of time with me.

bruised pears and persimmons

Now, about that recipe. While I was out in Portland, my mom and I came across a persimmon tree. It was in someone’s yard, bursting with fruit and covered with birds. We stood there for a moment, pondering the ethics of the situation, when a car pulled into the house’s driveway. We asked about picking a few and the owner held out an open grocery bag and simply said, “take what you want.”

Not wanting to be greedy, we took just three of the perfect fuyu persimmons from his bag and said thanks. We brought them home and proceeded to let them sit around for nearly a week. On the morning of Christmas Eve, my mom commented that I either needed to make something with them or throw them out. And so, I made a small batch of chutney with our three foraged persimmons and two bruised pears that had been rolling around the fridge.

After cutting away the bad spots and chopping them finely, I combined the pears and persimmons with half of a finely chopped red onion, 1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons grated ginger, 2 tablespoons raisins, 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1/2 teaspoon allspice in a wide, heavy-bottomed pot.

Then it was just a matter of letting the mixture cook down for 30-45 minutes over medium-high heat. As you simmer the chutney, taste it and adjust the sugar, spices and salt. Should you like a bit of heat in your chutney, add a pinch of red chili flakes or smidgen of cayenne pepper. The chutney is finished when the persimmon skins are tender and it doesn’t look at all watery.

My batch filled three half-pint jars with just a bit leftover to eat immediately with cheese. It can be processed in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, or just kept in the fridge for regular eating. This time of year, when we rely more heavily on braises, stews and soups, it’s nice to have something within easy reach that can add a burst of bright flavor. I left all that I made back in Portland and am hoping to find a few inexpensive persimmons in Philly to make another batch.

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Urban Preserving: Blueberry Ginger Jam

two pints blueberries

Already this summer, I’ve worked my way through nearly two flats of blueberries. I got my first flat from Beechwood Orchards and the second has been picked up piecemeal from various farmers’ markets and produce shops. I made a batch of slow cooker blueberry butter with some of the Beechwood blues and ate the rest. That second flat has gone into smoothies, baked goods and this small batch of blueberry ginger jam.

draining

In the past, I’ve stuck with the combination of blueberry, cinnamon and nutmeg. It’s how my mom makes jam and so it tastes like my childhood. However, I had a chunky knob of ginger in my fruit basket and a few hunks of candied ginger knocking around a jar, so I decided to go a different way.

just less than 3 cups mashed berries

I went with the two different styles of ginger because 1). I had them both kicking around and 2). I’ve found that when you use two different methods for infusing flavor, you get a deeper and stronger presence. I also like the surprise of having little bits of candied ginger spread throughout the jam.

plus one and quarter cups sugar

As you can see from the picture above, what I did was use the same measuring cup to portion out all the ingredients. When I make small batches of jam, I like to minimize the number of dishes I use so that the experience is as streamlined and easy as possible. After smashing the blueberries, I had just under three cups and so I measured a little less than one and half cups of sugar right on top of the berries.

adding ginger

After the sugar and blueberries were stirred together, I tossed in about three inches of chopped ginger into the mix. Now here’s where I say that you should deviate from my method and consider putting the ginger into a tea ball or tying it into a length of cheesecloth. I ended up fishing each little slice of ginger out of the jam as it cooked, which was fiddly business.

finished blueberry ginger jam

The finished jam is gently ginger-y with a nice, deep color and flavor. I’ve been eating it on toasted English muffins and I think it would be really good with a bit of cottage cheese.

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Small Batch Canning and Sour Cherry Jam

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Although I’m not as diligent about it as some people, I’ve always been one to steer clear of kitchen tools that offer little in the way of flexibility or range. This is why I’ve avoided things like egg poachers (a simmering pan of water works just fine for me) and yogurt makers (milk* in glass jars + small Playmate cooler + warm water + eight hours = yogurt). However, I recently found myself madly coveting one of those tall, skinny pots that were designed for steaming asparagus.

You see, I had a funny suspicion that the asparagus pot, with it’s slender styling and interior rack, would make a most convenient small batch canner. So, when I encountered one with a mis-matched lid at a thrift store, I determined that I could risk the $4 to see if my hunch was correct.

small batch set-up

Now, at this point in my little tale of asparagus pots, you might be asking yourself why I’d even need a pot to process small batches of jam. And it’s true that my kitchen is well kitted out in just about every pot and pan you could imagine. Thing is, the idea of pulling out the big pots is sometimes enough to deter me from cooking up a batch of jam.

If it’s 9 o’clock at night and the kitchen’s already been put to bed for the evening, the last thing I want to do is stir everything up again and create a whole sink’s worth of dishes. I hate to admit it, but there have been times when I’ve let a pound of berries or a cluster of peaches go bad because I couldn’t summon up the energy to create and then clean the mess necessary to preserve them.

sour cherry jam wreckage

For instances, when I picked up my CSA share last Thursday afternoon, included in the bounty was a quart of glowing sour cherries. There weren’t any additional cherries at the adjacent market, so I couldn’t pick up more in order to have enough for a full batch of jam. What’s more, my charming husband doesn’t eat fruit or the many desserts that are crafted from them, so I couldn’t make a small pie or tart, unless I wanted to eat the whole darn thing (and while my inner seven year old rejoices at the idea of a whole pie for dinner, the 31 year old that I am knows just how sad my belly would feel post-indulgence).

So Sunday night, after a long day errands, gardening and picnicking with friends, I took my little $4 asparagus pot on a test drive with those sour cherries. After pitting, I had approximately 1 1/2 pounds of cherries, which I combined with 3/4 a pound of cane sugar and one packet of liquid pectin (cherries are naturally low in pectin, so even small amounts of jam need a little boost). I cooked them down in a two-quart pan, which proved to be just the right size (although I did need to watch carefully for bubbling over).

two 12-ounce jars

While the jam cooked, I filled that tall little pot with water and brought it a boil. When the jam was ready, I filled my clean jars (I got two 12 ounce jars and one 4 ounce jar out of this batch), applied the lids and rings and processed them in succession (10 minutes per jar). While that’s not a USDA-recommended procedure, the jars sealed firmly and I feel comfortable storing these on the shelf. The final 4 ounce jar got tucked into the fridge.

I’m sure that some of you are wondering why I’d even go to the trouble of processing such a small batch of jam. Here’s the thing. I have limited refrigerator space. (Actually, make that limited kitchen space. I imagine that some of you have pantries that are larger than my entire kitchen.) Any time I can process something to be shelf stable and keep it out of the fridge is a good thing, even when it’s a micro-batch such as this. Also, as you may have noticed, I make quite a lot of sweet preserves and at any given time, have at least half a dozen open jars hanging out on the right-hand door of the fridge. I just don’t need to add to the open jam/butter/curd queue at this time.

So, if you’re like me and want to process even the smallest batches, without hauling out your big old canning pot, consider putting an asparagus steamer to work.

*Milk simmered to 180-190 degrees, cooled to 110-120 and combined with some plain yogurt or powdered yogurt starter.

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