Tag Archives | urban preserving

Urban Preserving: Strawberry Kiwi Jam

strawberries and kiwis - Food in Jars

When it comes to travel prep, my husband and I are not well matched. He likes to be fully packed at least 36 hours before a trip, so that he can get a peaceful night of sleep before a flight or drive. I am a bit more frenzied, often packing and re-packing my suitcase moments before it’s time to leave. What’s more, my last minute nature extends to preserving projects.

cooking strawberry kiwi jam - Food in Jars

Last December, the last thing I did before putting my coat on to head to the airport was take half a dozen jars out of the hot water bath and turn off the stove. I had a citron melon with a broken rind. It would not last and I couldn’t bare to throw it away. It had to be done.

finished strawberry kiwi jam - Food in Jars

More recently, I found myself in the kitchen at 11:30 pm, having that familiar debate. Trash can or jam pan? You see, we had most of a pound of strawberries in the fridge that would not last my absence and four wrinkly kiwis that would be well on their way to hooch if left in the fruit basket another four days. I could either bear the responsibility for wasting them or make a quick batch of jam.

strawberry kiwi jam in a jar - Food in Jars

And so, I made jam. I followed the formula you’ve all seen me employ before. I chopped the berries, scooped the kiwi out of its fuzzy wrapper, and heaped them both into a measuring cup to eyeball my volume. Three cups. I added in 1 1/4 cups of granulated sugar (I calculate half as much sugar as fruit and then use a bit less than that) stirred until it was juicy. The fruit and sugar combo then went into a skillet, where I cooked it until thick and spreadable (in the last two minutes of cooking, I added a little lemon juice to balance the sweetness).

Instead of being in possession of fading fruit, I had two half pints of tangy strawberry kiwi jam. I may not have gotten as much sleep as I could have used, but I was set free from the guilt of wasted fruit. A fair trade, in my book. And just this morning, I ate a bit on a slice of peanut butter toast and thought fondly of that late night investment of time.

Where do you all fall on the pre-travel canning continuum? Do you preserve at all costs, or do you occasionally let the produce go?

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Urban Preserving: Pickled Fairy Tale Eggplant

finished pickled fairytale eggplant

Two years ago, when I was still writing a weekly pickling column for Serious Eats, I made a little batch of pickled eggplant to feature in that space. The recipe was just slightly adapted from one in Linda Ziedrich’s book The Joy of Pickling. I did not have particularly high hopes for that particular pickle, but I had eggplant to use and an approaching deadline, so I made it.

fairytale eggplants

In the end, I was astonished by how delicious the pickled eggplant was, especially when removed from the jar, drizzled with olive oil and eaten on toast. I’ve made it several times and have even included a version of the recipe in my upcoming cookbook (of course, Linda is prominently credited as the inspiration).

slivered eggplants

In the past, the I pickled cubes from a standard bulbous eggplant (nothing fancy, it was just what I happened to have around). However, I’ve long thought that those beautiful, lavender-streaked fairy tale eggplants were an ideal candidate for pickling. Last summer, I bought them twice with intention of suspending them in vinegar, but each time used them up in summer braises instead. So, when I saw a few baskets of pretty eggplant at the farmers market last Saturday, I forked over $6 for a quart so that I could finally execute my pickle plan.

blanch in boiling vinegar

This pickle does have a few steps, but isn’t actually particularly complicated. You start by trimming away the stem end off a quart of fairy tale eggplant and slicing each fingerling into four or six wedges (use your judgement; more strips for larger eggplants, fewer for smaller ones). Place them in a bowl and toss them with two tablespoons kosher salt and the juice of one lemon (the salt draws out the liquid in the eggplant and the lemon prevents them strips from browning).

in the vinegar

Once the eggplant slivers have sat for an hour or two, you dump them into a colander and give them a quick rinse. Then, using your hands, gently press out as much liquid as you can without entirely smashing the eggplant. While you are rinsing and draining, pour three cups of red wine vinegar into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Put all the eggplant into the boiling vinegar. Once the vinegar returns to a boil, let the eggplant cook for just 2 minutes.

pickled fairytale eggplant

When the cooking time is up, remove the eggplant from the saucepan with a slotted spoon and place it into a bowl (keep the vinegar hot). Add 1/4 cup torn basil leaves, 1 minced garlic clove (I like to use a garlic press for applications like this one), and 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper and stir to combine. Funnel the dressed eggplant into two prepared pint jars (half pints are fine as well). Top with the blanching vinegar, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Using a chopstick, remove air bubbles and add more vinegar if the headspace levels have dropped.

two pints pickled fairytale eggplant

 

Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel (this removes any particulars that could interfere with a good seal). Apply heated lids and rings. Lower the jars into a small boiling water bath canner and process for 10 minutes (starting your timer when the pot returns to a boil). When the time is up, carefully remove jars from the canning pot and place them on a folded kitchen towel to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, remove the rings, check seals and (if seals are good), wash jars to remove any remnants of spilled brine.

These pickles need a little curing time for optimum deliciousness. Give them at least a week (if not more).

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Small Batch Black Velvet Apricot Jam Recipe

black velvet apricots

Slowly but surely, the stonefruit is beginning to appear. Nothing truly local yet, it’s getting ever closer. My little local greengrocer had South Carolina peaches last week, and the week before that, they had a small box of black velvet apricots from California. I call that considerable geographic progress!

black velvet apricots macerating with honey

I skipped the peaches (I’m holding out for the good stuff from the farmers I know), but succumbed to a single pound of the black velvet apricots. Have you ever tried these tender little guys? They’re a fifty-fifty cross between a purple plum and an apricot and so have a tender, sweet interior and a wine-colored, downy outside.

cooking a small batch of black velvet apricot jam

Because I absolutely cannot resist, I made a tiny batch jam with my eight little black velvets. I pitted them, chopped them, and combined them with four ounces of honey. Like I’ve mentioned in the past, I like to measure my honey by weight so that I don’t lose a single drop to the measuring cup.

finished jam black velvet apricot jam

I used a ratio of four parts fruit to one part honey for this jam because I wanted to end up with a product that allowed the fruit flavor to shine. Because it was such a small batch, I knew that I’d be able to get it to set with a minimal amount of sweetener and so could get away with the relatively tiny amount of honey (this ratio will not work if you increase the batch size).

black velvet apricot jam in the jar

Simmered up in my trusty 12-inch stainless steel skillet, this jam took just eight minutes to fully cook (though cooking times will always vary). Because there was so much surface area in the pan and so little depth, the water from the fruit was able to cook out efficiently and cook to a high enough temperature to achieve set. This is the secret of these tiny, low sugar, no additional pectin small batches.

black velvet apricot jam on toast

Made from just fruit and honey, my yield was a scant cup of jam. While I often can my small batches so that they’re shelf stable, I couldn’t muster the will to heat up even the tiniest canner in my arsenal for a single half pint of jam. So instead, it went into the fridge and I’ve been dolloping it on any vehicle that will hold still. I love how tart it is and am planning to make a similar batch when the true apricots come into season later in the month.

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A Thimbleful of Jam

black raspberries

I’ve been home from my west coast book tour for just over a week now. My suitcases are unpacked but not put away. I’ve nearly made it through the mail and magazines that piled up while I was away. And sleeping in my own bed remains a delightful novelty.

I readjusted to the three-hour time difference fairly quickly, but I’m still experiencing a bit of temporal dislocation. You see, when I left Philadelphia, it was barely summer. We’d had some hot weather, but with peas and baby lettuces in the markets, it still felt more like spring. Once out west, the cool days in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco reinforced the feeling that it was April, not June.

mashed black raspberries

Returning to Philly felt like being thrust forward a month or more. I’m out of sync with the weather and worst yet (particularly for a canner), my understanding of what’s in season is entirely out of whack.

Last Tuesday, in an attempt to refresh my awareness of seasonality, I drove out to Lancaster County with my friend Shay so that we could go to Root’s Country Market. It’s a produce market, food auction and flea market and if something’s in currently in season in PA, you’ll find it there.

cooking

There were mountains of corn, as well as tomatoes, stonefruit and local melon. Summer food, all of it. Sweet cherries could still be had and a single stand had sour cherries for sale. I bought two quarts and counted myself lucky to have found them (it has been a bad year for them all over the country).

I had my eyes peeled for black raspberries and for a great while was convinced that I really had missed them entirely. But then, as we turned a corner, I found a table with a few lone baskets. At $3.95 a half pint, they were pricy and I’d already spent most all the money I’d budgeted for fruit on the cherries and two bunches of red, red rhubarb. So I bought just a single, shallow basket and decided to make the smallest batch of jam ever.

Last year, I had a full flat of black raspberries to work with and this year, just a half pint. Though part of me wishes for the abundance of last June, I’m also tickled by the contrast. I really wanted a little taste of black raspberry jam and that’s exactly what I got.

Providing a recipe for this miniature batch of jam feels a little silly, but nonetheless, here’s what I did.

Rinse the raspberries and pick them over for any moldy bits. Tumble them into a measuring cup and smash them. Once you have pulp, eyeball the measurement and add half as much sugar (I got about 2/3 cup of mashed berries and so added 1/3 cup sugar). Stir to combine. Scrape the sweetened fruit into a small saucepan and cook until it thickens (my batch took all of five minutes).

The final yield was about half a cup. Not enough to bother with canning, but certainly enough to enjoy for awhile.

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Recipe Reminder: Small Batch Strawberry Vanilla Jam

This week got away from me. On Monday, I mapped out five full days of posts in my mind and in the end, hardly managed to write a thing for this site. The combination of freelance commitments, book events and travel siphoned off my blogging time but good. Now the week is over and I’m moments away from collapse.

However, before I tumble into bed, I want to take a moment to show you that when it comes to squeezing food preservation into even the most busy days, I really and truly do practice what I preach.

smashed berries

On Wednesday, I met up with my friend Joy for an hour. We took a walk together and at the end, stopped by her neighborhood farmers’ market. I picked up a quart of strawberries, fully intending to eat them whole over the next couple of days.

They got a little beat up on my drive home and when I opened the fridge tonight (just after getting back from New York and being awake for 18 hours straight), I realized that they were not long for this world. So I did the thing I’ve so often recommended.

mixed with sugar

I plucked off their green leafy stems, packed them into a jar and smashed them with a wooden spoon (if they’re quite ripe, this is even easier than trying to chop or slice them). Eyeballing the volume in the jar, I estimated that I had about three cups of mashed berries. I added one cup of sugar and a split vanilla bean, put a lid on the jar and popped it into the fridge.

Instead of finding a rotten puddle in there tomorrow afternoon, I’ve placed those berries into temporary suspended animation and it took all of five minutes. They’ll hold happily like that until Sunday afternoon when I’ll be able to cook them down into jam. I’ll have something delicious instead of waste. A definite win in my book.

For a more organized and cohesive version of this recipe, check out this post from last spring.

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Small Batch Blood Orange Marmalade

blood oranges

When I first started making marmalade, I thought it was the same as any other preserve. Chop the fruit, combine it with sugar and cook until set. I didn’t realize that citrus needed a more specialized treatment. You either need to cut away the tough, white pith or treat it in some way so that it tenderizes and loses its chewy bitterness.

blood orange marm cut one

This recipe uses an overnight soak to help break down the pith, providing a far superior product to the old blood orange marmalade recipe you’ll find on this site. The fruit becomes tender and it fully suspended in a ruby-hued jelly. Here’s how you do it.

Take 1 pound of blood oranges (approximately 4-5 tennis ball-sized oranges) and wash them well. Trim away both ends and slice the oranges in half.

blood orange marm cut two

Using a very sharp knife, trim away the core of the oranges and pluck out any seeds that you find. Set the cores and the seeds aside. Not all blood oranges have seeds, so don’t stress if you don’t find any.

blood orange marm cut three

Cut the orange halves into thin slices. Go as thin as you can manage (I recommend sharping your knife before starting this project).

blood orange marm cut four

Finally, cut each sliced half in half again, so that you have a number of thin blood orange quarters.

seeds and membranes

Bundle up all those seeds and pithy cores in a length of cheesecloth and tie it tightly so that nothing can escape.

soaking blood oranges

Put chopped oranges in a medium bowl and cover with 3 cups water. Tuck the cheesecloth bundle into the bowl and cover the whole thing with a length of plastic wrap or a plate. Refrigerate it overnight.

blood orange marm cooking

When you’re ready to cook your marmalade, remove the cheesecloth bundle. Combine the soaked fruit and water with 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar. If you happen to have a copper preserving pan like the one you see pictured above, make sure to fully dissolve the sugar into the fruit before pouring it into the pan.

three half pints

Bring the marmalade to a simmer and cook until it is reduced by more than half, reads 220 degrees F on a thermometer and passes the plate/sauce/wrinkle test. When it is finished cooking, pour marmalade into prepared jars. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes.

blood orange marm

When all is done, you should have three half pints of the most vivid red blood orange marmalade. I’m extraordinarily fond of this particular preserve on peanut butter toast, as you can see above. It’s also good on scones, stirred into yogurt or with crumbly homemade shortbread.

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