Tag Archives | urban preserving

Roasted Seedless Grape Jam

Our intrepid contributor Alex Jones is back with a recipe for roasted grape jam. Just reading this post makes my mouth water!I can’t even imagine how good her kitchen must have smelled during the roasting process! -Marisa

I didn’t taste a Concord grape until I was in my late 20s and buying them from local Pennsylvania farmers to share with members of the Greensgrow CSA. And once I had — while I finally understood what “grape” flavor is meant to emulate — I just couldn’t get down with the seeds. They were too much work to snack on compared to the fat, juicy table grapes I’d grown up with as a kid in California.

So imagine my delight when I found out that when Lem Christophel, a Mennonite who runs Eden Garden Farm in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, brings grapes to my local farmers’ market, they are completely seed-free.

I love them for snacking (these days, I try to leave the California produce as a special treat to help me get through the depths of winter), and last year, I made possibly the most delicious raisins I’ve ever had by steming a few bunches and throwing them in the dehydrator. But I’d never canned them before.

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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 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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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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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.

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Maple Bourbon Apple Butter + OXO On Illuminating Digital Immersion Blender

Looking for an easy, five-ingredient apple butter for holiday giving? Look no further than this small batch Maple Bourbon Apple Butter!

Finished Maple Bourbon Apple Butter - Food in Jars

My family got our first immersion blender when I was in middle school. I can’t remember where it came from, though if I was forced to guess, I’d bet that it was a gift from my grandmother. While she didn’t cook much herself, she garnered a great deal of pleasure from buying culinary appliances and giving them to others (probably in the hopes that they’d prepare something for her with it).

OXO Illuminating Digital Immersion Blender - Food in Jars

My sister and I claimed that immersion blender as our own, using to make jam and yogurt smoothies for breakfast and after school snacks of skim milk and chocolate SlimFast (it was the nineties, after all). Since then, there’s rarely been a time when I didn’t have an immersion blender in my kitchen.

Apples for Butter - Food in Jars

These days, I pull out my immersion blender on a near-daily basis and use it for soups, purees, fruit butters, jams, gravies, salad dressings, and mason jar mayonnaise. When I heard that OXO was bring an new immersion blender to market, I was excited to check it out because I knew that my current immersion blender was nearing the end of its lifespan and OXO products are always so thoughtfully designed.

OXO Core Clip - Food in Jars

Guys, the OXO On Illuminating Digital Immersion Blender is even better than I had hoped. The blender head is made of sturdy nylon, which means you don’t have to worry about scratching your bowls or cookware with metal. The shaft is coated in silicone, so that you can knock the drips of the blender without dinging the edges of your pan (I have a few pots that are pockmarked from repeated immersion blender banging). The blending end removes from the motor with the press of a button. The motor end has heft and the DC motor produces a lot of power.

Chopped Apples for Butter - Food in Jars

No matter what speed you’re on, the blender starts slowly to prevent splashes and then ramps up to whichever of the six speeds you’ve set it at. The speeds are controlled digitally and you can set them using the dial on the top of the blender. The cord comes with a useful clip on the end, so that you can wrap it around the handle and secure it in place. The wide power button is easy to press and hold. Oh, and lets not forget about the headlight, which illuminates whatever you’re blending. On my dark stovetop, this is so useful.

Cooked Apples for Butter - Food in Jars

For its maiden voyage in my kitchen, I used this lovely OXO immersion blender to make a batch of Maple Bourbon Apple Butter. Wanting to really test it, I cored and chopped five pounds of apples, but left the peels on (unlike this recent butter, where I peeled). In my experience, not all immersion blenders can break down even long-cooked apple peels, but this one handled it like it was nothing.

OXO Blending Apples - Food in Jars

No matter how large or small the batch size, I use a two-blend process when I make apple butter. I cook the fruit down into a soft sauce, puree the heck out of it, cook it down until it thickens and darkens, and then work it with the immersion blender again.

The reason for the second puree is two-fold. First, the peels aren’t always quite soften enough to disappear during that first round of blending. Second, most fruit butters clump a bit while you’re cooking them down, and I prefer a super smooth butter. Pureeing just before the butter goes into the jar ensures that silky texture.

OXO Blender in Action - Food in Jars

As the fruit was cooking down, I spent a little time pondering flavorings. I have plenty of spiced apple butters on my shelves, and wanted to opt for something different here. I know that the combination maple, bourbon, and orange zest isn’t a particularly novel one, but combined the richness of the long-cooked apples, was just the thing I was craving. My plan is to keep two of the jars for myself, and tuck the remaining two into gift baskets for people I know will appreciate it.

Maple Bourbon Apple Butter Overhead - Food in Jars

The OXO On Digital Illuminating Immersion Blender isn’t the only small kitchen appliance that OXO has brought to market lately. There’s also an illuminating hand mixer, a pair of motorized toasters, and a line of coffee makers and water kettles (several times lately, I’ve found myself at Williams-Sonoma, petting the 9-cup coffee maker). I look forward to seeing what OXO creates next!

Disclosure: OXO sent me this OXO On Illuminating Digital Immersion Blender to try and write about. No additional compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

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Urban Preserving: Small Batch Vanilla Rhubarb Jam

chopped rhubarb

I’ve been keeping this blog long enough that I’m starting to repeat myself. This rhubarb jam, for instances, is nothing more than a simplified, scaled down version of the one I posted in the first year I was writing here (there’s also a very similar recipe in my first cookbook).

sugared rhubarb

The honest truth of it is that I can as much for myself as I do to create content for this site, and I very much love this easy little preserve. And so I make it every year or two, each time tweaked slightly. I thought you’d like to see how I do it when I’m only making a little bit.

vanilla rhubarb jam

You could also use this recipe as a starting place for a strawberry rhubarb jam. Either swap in berries for half the rhubarb, or double it (I know that I typically discourage people from doubling small batch recipes, but because this one has a touch of pectin, it scales up nicely).

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