Tag Archives | small batch

Apple Ginger Jelly

This small batch of apple ginger jelly is delicious in a PB&J and would be even better served with fresh ricotta and crostini.

I bought these cute little lady apples back in January, thinking I would make a clever pickle or a preserve them in a cinnamon-spiked syrup. I tucked them into my produce drawer and the days went by.

As I started thinking about this month’s challenge, those apples leapt to mind and I knew that their destiny lay elsewhere. Along with a couple other apples, they were meant to become jelly. Apple ginger jelly, to be precise.

I love using apples to make jelly because while they make a respectable preserve all on their own, they have a neutral enough flavor that they can take on a wide array of other flavors as well. I combined my apples with fresh ginger, but you could go with a fresh herb or a trio of warm winter spices.

The process of making jelly from apples is easy enough. Cut them into halves or quarters. Cover them with water (start with about a cup more water than you need for your finished recipe). Add your flavor enhancers if you’re using something that appreciates a longer infusion. And simmer until the fruit is very soft.

Once the fruit is soft, it’s time to strain. I line old china cap and stand that I inherited from my great-aunt Flora with a nut milk bag (sturdier than a jelly bag), but you can also use a traditional jelly bag stand, or even a colander lined with cheesecloth that you perch on top of a tall bowl.

Best practice is to give your fruit at least 6-8 hours to drain so that you don’t introduce any pulp into the juice that could make your jelly cloudy. However, if you don’t really care about having a batch of a slightly opaque jelly, go ahead and squeeze. I got an additional half cup of juice from my fruit thanks to some vigorous squeezing.

Once you’ve got all the juice extracted from your apples, it’s time to make the jelly. Bring the juice to a boil. As it heats, whisk the sugar and pectin together. Once the juice boils, whisk in the the pectin-spiked sugar and stir. Add some fresh lemon juice for balance. And start checking for set.

Once you get some nice, thick sheeting on the back of your spoon or the jelly passes the plate test, it is done. Pour it into jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace (the thinner the product, the less headspace you need).

The finished flavor of this jelly is bright from the apples and just a little bit spicy from the ginger. I ate the last couple teaspoons that wouldn’t fit into the jars on peanut butter toast and felt very much like all was right with the world. I could also see it tasting very good spread thinly inside a grilled cheese sandwich.

For those of you who made jelly for this month’s challenge, how has it gone for you? Any favorites to share?

Continue Reading →

Comments { 4 }

How to Make Apartment-Scale Hard Cider

Our intrepid Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is back again. This time, she’s telling the tale of her journey to becoming a home hard cider maker. You small batch home brewers are going to love this one! -Marisa

My first flirtation with home brewing happened back in 2010, before my penchant for collecting food-related hobbies and weird old stuff outgrew my life and space.

I was living with six friends in a big renovated West Philadelphia Victorian, complete with servants’ staircase coming up from the kitchen, a substantial back deck, and a south-facing backyard where I made my first attempts at raised bed gardening.

That winter, my job was managing the CSA program at Greensgrow Farms, a longtime local food oasis in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, and we often had a few crates of leftover local apples that I could buy at cost.

So when I saw a vintage wooden cider press for sale on Craigslist, I jumped at the chance to haul that huge, heavy thing home, got some apples from work, and made my first batch—after a snowstorm, it looks like. (I’m the one in the green boots.)

Since I only used one kind of apple, and a sweet one at that, the cider had an uninteresting, ricelike flavor, almost like a mild, fruity sake. Soon, our little collective house dissolved, and having nowhere to store the ungainly cider press, I passed it along to another urbanite with a love of DIY projects who had more space.

Now, with a small apartment and an already-full preserving schedule and pantry for most of the year, I thought my cider-making days were long gone. But when I was recently given a gift card to Philly Homebrew Outlet, my neighborhood supplier of all things fermentation, I found myself back in the game. (Philly-area readers can visit PHO locations in Southwest Philly and Kensington; others can shop online.)

I picked up this adorably compact cider-making kit, which contains instructions and all the supplies you need but the starter juice and yeast, which I selected with the advice of a helpful staffer. (Cider and mead are good options for the small-space homebrewer, since the fermentation vessel doesn’t need to have as much extra air space as it does for beer.)

For the starter juice, I picked up a gallon of Eden Garden Farm’s excellent fresh apple cider, made at the Bermudian Springs Cider Mill in Dillsburg, PA. It’s UV pasteurized, which helps to preserve the bright, sweet-tart flavor of farmer Lem’s specially selected blend of half a dozen apple varieties.

Using a fresh-pressed cider whose sweet-tart taste you love should yield a well-balanced end product. But any fresh or pasteurized cider or juice will work as long as it doesn’t contain preservatives like sodium benzoate or potassium sorbate. If you do want to select and press or juice your own apples, be sure to use a mix of sweet and tart varieties to get the best flavor.

Before you begin your mini-batch, you’ll want to decide if you’d like to add sugar to the recipe. Additional sugars like honey (which I used), white or brown sugar, or dextrose will boost the alcohol content of the finished product, so be sure to check the alcohol tolerance of the yeast you’re using and calculate how much sugar to add based on that range. Otherwise, a too-boozy brew could kill the yeast and halt fermentation before the full process is completed.

When you’re ready to make your cider, sanitize any equipment that will come into contact with the mixture using a bleach water solution. Add your optional additional sugars, dissolved in a little cider, to the two-gallon bucket that comes with the kit. Dissolve the pectic enzyme, which will make your finished product clear, in a little cider and add that to the bucket.

Next, add the full gallon of cider, sprinkle on the yeast, close up the bucket, pop on the airlock, and stash in a cool, dark place for at least a week and up to three. Calculating how much yeast to add wasn’t something I had discussed with my homebrew guru and online research was inconclusive, so I played it safe and added half the packet. This is something I want to learn more about before I brew my next batch.

That’s primary fermentation. Secondary fermentation is where the fun (and plastic tubing) begins.

Once again, sanitize all vessels, utensils, and other equipment that will come into contact with the cider. You’ll be transferring the cider from the two-gallon bucket into the one-gallon jug. My apartment-size movable dishwasher was the perfect height to be the siphoning surface once I propped up the jug with an apple crate.

Your siphon and tubing, also included in the kit, are the perfect tools to get the cider from vessel A to vessel B without disturbing the yeasts that have settled at the bottom of the bucket, which we want to leave behind.

To move the cider, you’ll pump the auto-siphon, which will move cider from the first vessel to the second one below. It can be a little tricky to do at first without spilling cider all over yourself or the floor; PHO recommends practicing with sanitizer until you get the hang of it. The goal here is to make sure that the tube end stays in the jug and the siphon end doesn’t stir up the yeast at the bottom of the bucket.

Once the cider (minus the sediment) has been siphoned, replace the airlock and stash your jug in a cool, dark place for anywhere from two weeks to up to a month.

After that, you’ll have drinkable, boozy cider—huzzah!

I ended up with two liter bottles and one quart bottle, about ¾ gallon yield after starting with one gallon of fresh cider.

You can stop here and keep your cider still—simply siphon into any bottle with a tight-fitting lid (a growler is great for this, but wine bottles work too) and store in the refrigerator.

At this stage, mine was very light-tasting, slightly sweet and slightly tart. It left the slightest hint of fizz on the tongue and smelled, improbably, of jasmine—a far cry from the unappealing result of my first effort years ago. I’d hoped for something a little drier, with bigger flavors, but I’m pretty pleased with this initial result.

To add carbonation to your hard cider, you’ll need to take one more step and wait a few more weeks. (I’m still in this waiting stage as I write this—but I’ll be back in a few days with an update on my sparkling cider results.)

Additional carbonation requires a little more sugar; a bottle priming calculator can help you determine how much sugar to add based on the volumes of carbon dioxide typical for the style of beer or cider you’re making and the amount of cider you’re working with.

Rather than siphoning from the jug directly into bottles, as you would with still cider, dissolve the amount of sugar you need in a little water and add to your sanitized brewing bucket. Siphon the cider (minus any sediment at the bottom of the jug, of course) into the bucket.

Then, siphon the cider-sugar mixture into sanitized bottles appropriate for carbonation. (PHO’s kit recommends doing this with the siphon; I admit I simply poured my still cider, pretty sediment-free and mixed with sugar, through a sanitized funnel into the bottles.) You can use swing-top bottles, cappable beer bottles, or plastic soda bottles to carbonate. Be sure to leave one inch of headspace between the top of the liquid and the bottle stopper.

When using glass bottles, I like to play it safe and keep them in a plastic cooler with a tight-fitting lid in case of any freak explosions while this last stage of fermentation is taking place. Let your bottles carbonate for two weeks at room temperature, then chill and enjoy.

There you have it—a way to make your own cider that won’t take up more room in your kitchen than, say, your food processor or crock pot.

Have you tried making your own hard cider before? What about other small-scale boozy projects? How did it go? Share your hopes, fears, and experiences in the comments!

Continue Reading →

Comments { 10 }

Yellow Plum Apricot Jam + Facebook Live

This little batch of yellow plum apricot jam is sweetened with honey and is gorgeously sunny and bright.

yellow plum apricot jam

A giant thank you to everyone who joined me on Facebook Live last night! I had a great time talking my way through a batch of jam and answering your many canning questions. I had such a good time that I’m going to do it again next week. Join me again on Tuesday, July 19 at 9 pm EDT/6 pm PDT. I’m not sure what I’ll make yet, but I’ll announce it over the weekend (when I have a better idea of what produce I’ll have on hand).

If you missed it last night, you can still watch, and in fact, the video is embedded below. Just skip over the first 3 minutes, because I started a little early to make sure the technology was going to work and then left it running while I finished getting ready. I won’t do that next time. Live and learn.

Finally, the recipe I made last night is after the jump. You could easily double the batch, should you wish! It’s set up with Pomona’s Pectin, so there’s a bit more flexibility in the size of the batch than there is when you’re not working with pectin.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 10 }

Tiny Batch Gooseberry Jam

In possession of just a few gooseberries? Make this tiny batch gooseberry jam!

A single pint of green gooseberries.

I have a standing work date with my friend Audra. Once a week, we meet up at a coffeeshop to catch up, do a little work, and do our best to shake off the inevitable sense of isolation that comes when one works from home.

Audra and I met in early 2009 because we both happened to be Philadelphians who were blogging about food preservation (she was once the primary voice behind the site, Doris and Jilly Cook). While our friendship has long since expanded beyond the kitchen, we do often find ourselves on the topics of cooking, gardening, and sourcing produce for our canning pots.

Eight ounces of trimmed gooseberries, in a saucepan.

A few weeks ago (and knowing that I would appropriately value them), Audra showed up with a pint container of gooseberries from the bush in her backyard. Gooseberries are notoriously hard to come by in Philadelphia (at the turn of the last century, they were thought to harbor a fungus that was a threat to pine forests, and so were banned in many states. Their commercial production has yet to recover) and so my excitement was audible.

Once home with the container of gooseberries, I debated how to best make use of my small cache. I pondered incorporating them into some larger recipes, before deciding that their highest purpose was to become a tiny batch of gooseberry jam.

My tiny batch gooseberry jam, in a 12 ounce jar.

I consulted The River Cottage Preserves book (written by Pam Corbin, who is the reigning queen of gooseberries) to refresh my memory on ratios and preparation before diving in. With so few berries, it took no time to trim away the tops and tails, before heaping them in a pan.

I made this jam with one part fruit and one part sugar, by weight (it’s more sugar than I normally use, but gooseberries are quite tart). I also added a generous splash of water, to dampen the sugar until the berries burst and added their liquid. The finished jam vibrates with the tangy essence of gooseberry and I’m saving the sole 12 ounce jar I made as a mid-winter treat.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 7 }

Strawberry Ginger Jam

strawberry ginger vertical

Strawberry season is breathing its last gasps, and before it’s over for good, I wanted to share one last recipe.

Flat of strawberries

This recipe for strawberry ginger jam is one that I can’t quite believe I haven’t shared at some point in the past. Truly, I thought I’d posted every variation on strawberry jam that was possible. Happily I was wrong.

strawberries in a colander (1)

This jam gets its kick from a goodly application of freshly grated ginger root. I’ve found that there’s no better tool for grating ginger than a microplane zester.

sugared berries

With small berries, I don’t even bother to chop them. Instead, half way through cooking, I go in with a potato masher (this is my favorite) and work them until the fruit is pulverized. It works nicely and saves you a goodly amount of knife work.

finished strawberry ginger jam

Finally, if I’d had my wits about me, I would have canned this one in five half pint jars (as that makes for better quantities for sharing). However, I was clean out of half pints the day I made this jam and so used a motley collection of pints and quarter pints.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 12 }

Low Sugar Apricot Strawberry Jam

This sweet, tangy, and bright apricot strawberry jam is the perfect marriage of early season stonefruit and juicy berries. Try it stirred into yogurt or as a glaze for roast chicken.

A stainless steel pan, filled with chopped apricots and strawberries.

Several weeks ago, before the local season for either apricots or strawberries started, I found myself wandering through Reading Terminal Market. I was there to pick up a few things for a recipe development gig, and had no intention of buying out-of-season fruit that had traveled great distances.

A stainless steel pan filled with sugared apricots and strawberries.

I was walking with purpose towards the herbs, when the sight of a pile of tiny, brightly hued apricots stopped me mid-step and I was suddenly powerless to resist them. Before I knew what I was doing, I had a plastic bag in my hand and I was filling it with perfect fruit. With the bag nestled into my basket, I went a few more steps before I was again stopped by a display of incredibly fragrant strawberries. They joined the apricots. This is the not the first time I’ve fallen sway to fruit.

The chopped and sugared apricots and strawberries, after they've sat and gotten juicy.

Once home, I snacked on the fruit a bit (both to get a sense of their state of sweet and tart, and because it all smelled so good) and then weighed out what remained. I worked up a recipe ratio in my head and got to the work of pitted, hulling, and chopping.

The fully cooked apricot strawberry jam.

In the end, I used 2 1/2 pounds of apricots and 1 1/2 pounds of strawberries. Using a ratio of four parts fruit to one part sugar, I measured out 2 cups of sugar, which is approximately 1 pound. I settled the fruit into my Kilner jam pan, added most of the sugar, gave it a good stir, and then let it sit for several hours, so that the sugar could dissolve and help draw the juice from the fruit. Later, I added some lemon juice to help balance the flavors, and used Pomona’s Pectin to get it to set up.

Five half pint jars filled with apricot strawberry jam.

Once cooked, I had exactly five half pints of really delicious jam, that starts with the flavor of apricots and finishes with the strawberry. I typically keep a box of recently made jams and preserves next to my front door, so that I can easily grab things to share with friends and neighbors. However, this is one that I’ve actively kept out of the box, because I want to keep it all for myself. It’s just that good.

Continue Reading →

Comments { 11 }