Tag Archives | small batch

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 our 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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Strawberry Meyer Lemon Jam

This weekend, cook up a small batch of strawberry jam. I use Meyer lemons here, but any flavor enhancer is welcome!

Earlier this week, I hosted an hour-long Facebook livestream on the topic of jam making. I used a small batch of Strawberry Meyer Lemon Jam to demonstrate the no-additional-pectin approach.

I started with just two pounds of berries, used a scant two cups of sugar and flavored the whole thing with the zest and juice from two Meyer lemons. When the jam was finished cooking, the yield was two pints (you may be sensing a theme here). I canned up the finished jam in these cute half pint Anchor Hocking jars I got from Fillmore Container.

If you find yourself in possession of a couple of pounds of berries this weekend (there’s no shame in using a clamshell from the grocery store), consider making something similar. Oh, and if you can’t get Meyer lemons, try flavoring the jam with vanilla bean paste, grated ginger, a splash of balsamic vinegar, or even the juice and zest from some regular lemons or limes.

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Small Batch Tomato Jalapeño Jam

Prevent food waste with a tiny batch of tomato jalapeño jam. It needs just two clamshell boxes of grape tomatoes and less than an hour of cooking.

24 ounce jar of tomato jalapeño jam

I have half a dozen or so buckets of activity that I’m trying to move forward at the moment and I spend most of my time ricochetting between them. A book proposal. The podcast. My teaching schedule. Taxes. This blog. My email inbox (good lord, that inbox). And around 4:30 this afternoon, I was just done.

grape tomatoes for tomato jalapeño jam

I wandered to the fridge and started looking for things that needed to be used up. Even if I couldn’t move my work world any further at that moment, perhaps I could be productive in other ways.

slivered tomatoes for tomato jalapeño jam

I found two squat containers of grape tomatoes and a tiny jar containing three tablespoons of diced jalapeños (leftover from a recipe testing project that I did for a friend a couple weeks back). Ah yes. Tiny batch tomato jalapeño jam.

all ingredients for tomato jalapeño jam

From there, it was a matter of a few minutes of chopping, a quick bit of measuring, and 45 minutes of low simmer. I could have cooked it down more quickly over higher heat, but wanted to be able to do a sink full of dishes and some other prep, and so opted for a lazy bubble rather than a frenzied one.

cooked tomato jalapeño jam

And then, it was done. Tomatoes and jalapeños repurposed rather than wasted and a sense of purpose regained. Now, I’ll confess that finished batch doesn’t forge any particularly new territory in the world of tomato jams. But the heat and brightness of flavor made it delicious enough to merit a quick blog post. And so here we are.

Now, tell me. How do you handle it when you hit a work wall?

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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?

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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!

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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.

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