Tag Archives | Washington State Fruit Commission

Sweet Cherry Rhubarb Jam

cherries in colander (1)

When I got my box of fruit from the Washington State Fruit Commission back at the beginning of June, I had grand plans to dedicate a full week to my many delicious cherry creations. And then life got in the way (as it so often does). Instead, I’ve been publishing these tasty things in fits and starts.

measured sliced cherries

Today’s recipe is for a batch of cherry rhubarb jam, made with minimal sugar and set up with Pomona’s Pectin. The combination of cherries and tangy rhubarb make for a preserve that has a really nice balance of sweet and tart.

measured rhubarb

At this point, I must confess I am bereft of words to describe this recipe. The photo shoot for the next book started today (and I still have four more preserves I must make and deliver to the studio), my inbox is clamoring for my attention, and most difficult, my mother-in-law has been in the hospital since Friday night. Oof.

mixed cherries and rhubarb

I would like to point you to some of the other Canbassador projects I’ve posted in the past.

finished cherry rhubarb jam 1

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Cherry Kompot

cherries in colander

When I was 16, I went to Poland. It was the first time I’d ever been outside of North America and I was thrilled to be seeing more of the world. I went with a small group of fellow teenagers from my Unitarian church, to be native speakers at English immersion camp outside of Warsaw.

It’s been twenty years now since that trip and while many of the specifics have blurred, I still remember the meals clearly. They were served family style at long tables, with benches on either side. Breakfast and dinner were much the same, consisting of sturdy rolls, cheese, butter, yogurt, jam, sliced cucumber, fruit, and often some ham or sausage. We drank tea, milk, and water.

cherries in water

The main meal was served at lunchtime and always consisted of three simple courses. First there would be soup (I had my first chilled cucumber soup that summer). Then there would be cooked meat, potatoes, and a vegetable. To finish, a fruit-based dessert. And in the upper right hand corner of the place setting, you also had a small glass filled with lukewarm juice, with a piece of cherry or plum resting at the bottom. This was the kompot.

steaming kompot

The first time I was confronted by a glass of kompot, I was wary. It was unlike any beverage I’d had in the US and the soften fruit in the bottom gave me pause. After one taste, I was among the kompot converted. It was mildly sweet and refreshing, reminding me slightly of what Kool Aid might be if made with fresh fruit.

finished compete

A few weeks back, 20 pounds of cherries arrived on my doorstep, sent by the Washington State Fruit Commission as part of the Canbassador program. As I gazed at those cherries pondering how to best use them, a memory of the kompot popped into my head. After a few quick searches, I cobbled a recipe together and brewed up a batch of cherry kompot. After it had cooled a little, I ladled up a glass and it tasted of that summer 20 years ago.

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Low Sugar Spiced Peach Jam

finished peach jam

For the last four summers, I’ve been invited by the folks at the Washington State Fruit Commission and Sweet Preservation to participate in their Canbassador program. Essentially, sometime around mid-summer, they drop me an email and ask if I want to make something tasty with their fruit. When I say yes, the ship a box of delicious Washington-grown cherries, peaches, plums, or apricots.

peach box

Some years, they send me a mix of fruit. Other years, it’s just a single variety. Here’s what I’ve made for this partnership since kicking things off in 2010.

chopped peaches

This year, they sent me a giant box of sweet, juicy peaches. About half the fruit was at the apex of ripeness upon arrival. I triaged the box, sorting the peaches that had to be used immediately from the ones that could stand a couple of days in the fridge. When I was done, I had six pounds of peaches that required immediate action.

And so I peeled them, roughly chopped them, and divided them between a couple of large jars. I added some sugar to help hold them (1/2 a cup for the quart jar and 1 cup for the half gallon), gave both jars a good shake to distribute everything, and plunked them in the fridge for 2 1/2 days while I went down to Washington, D.C. to teach some classes.

peaches in the pan

When I got home from the trip, I poured the macerated peaches into a low, wide pan (in fact, the one I wrote about here). I added a tablespoon of calcium water (Pomona’s Pectin), 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, and the zest and juice from a lemon.

I brought it to a boil and cooked until the peaches where very soft and the syrup became to thicken. I whisked 1 tablespoon of Pomona’s Pectin into 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar and after about 35 minutes of cooking, stirred it into the jam. A few more minutes of simmering to help everything combined and then the jam was done.

cooked peach jam

Funneled into eight half pint jars and processed for 10 minutes, this jam is lighter on sugar than many, but doesn’t sacrifice anything in terms of flavor. It’s a nice one for holiday gifts and eating with fat slices of angel food cake.

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Honey-Sweetened Peach Vanilla Jam

one half pint of peach jam

A couple weeks back, I was on something of a peach tear (thanks to the folks at Sweet Preservation). I wrote about my Lazy Peach Preserves and my Honey-Sweetened Peach Chutney. I promised that I’d have one final peach jam for you and then I went and fell off the recipe map. However, I’m here to make good. Without further delay, my recipe for Honey-Sweetened Peach Vanilla Jam.

three half pints of peach jam

This is one of those preserves that has just a few ingredients and so depends on you getting the best-tasting players as you possibly can. Search out those super sweet end-of-season peaches. Find a light honey that won’t demand center stage. And please, please, use a real vanilla bean. I know they’re pricy at grocery stores and gourmet markets, but if you buy them online, they are quite affordable. Go in with a friend or two. The flavor just can’t compare.

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Urban Preserving: Italian Plum Jam with Star Anise

chopped plums

The day before Hurricane Irene hit the east coast, a massive box of fruit arrived on my doorstep. It was from the Washington State Fruit Commission, the folks behind the most fabulous website Sweet Preservation. A few weeks earlier, they’d emailed to ask if I’d be one of their Canbassadors again this year (last year’s recipes can be found here and here).

macerating plums

Last year, I got apricots and cherries. This year, it was a fun blend of Italian plums, apricots, nectarines and peaches. So far, I’ve made a small batch of lavender-infused, honey-sweetened apricot butter (you’ll see that one over on Simple Bites soon), an oven-roasted peach butter (it’s a technique I detail in my cookbook, but I’ll give you a little preview before the peaches are out of season) and this tiny batch of plum jam with star anise. The nectarines are still in the fridge, waiting for inspiration to strike.

truffle tremor

I only had about a pound of these little plums, so by necessity, this was a small batch. Chopped, there just over 2 cups of fruit. Combined with a moderate amount of sugar and three star anise flowers, I let this macerate at room temperature until it was beautifully syrup-y. Tasting every 15 minutes or so, I left the star anise in while it sat, but pulled them out before cooking, to ensure that I didn’t cross the line from gently flavored to something akin to Nyquil.

truffle tremor with plum star anise jam

As it was cooking, I tasted. Most of the time, I taste jam just once or twice as it cooks down. This time, I tried it at least five or six times because I was so in love with the way the plums played with the flavor of the star anise. As I tasted, I started thinking about the cheese I had in the fridge.

Awhile back, the folks from Cypress Grove sent me a few of their startling good goat cheeses. The idea was for me to dream up a few perfectly paired jams to match up with them. And while I hadn’t started this batch of jam thinking to couple it with one of those cheeses, it’s just gorgeous with the Truffle Tremor. The slight, mystical funkiness of that cheese just sings with the plums and their trace of star anise.

I’ve eaten the combination for lunch at least three times already. I can’t promise that there won’t be a fourth.

Recipe after the jump…

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Pickled Sweet Cherries

pickled cherries

I grew up in a family with a fairly limited condiment scope. We ate ketchup on burgers, grainy mustard on hot dogs and sausage and dipped steamed broccoli florets into little puddles of mayonnaise. Pickles were cucumber dills, either eaten whole as a snack, or sliced and blotted before being stacked in a sandwich. Jam was strawberry or plum (made from the fruit off our backyard trees) and salad dressing was Good Seasonings, made from the spice packet in the branded cruet.

cherries packed in jars

This isn’t to say I grew up in a community of boring eaters. We were among the first people I knew to regularly stock teriyaki sauce and my mom liked to make the Good Seasonings dressing a little more interesting with the addition of balsamic vinegar or toasted sesame oil. Real maple syrup was the rule. In fact, my brief devotion to the fake stuff caused my father a great deal of anguish. There was always soy sauce in the fridge and we had a wicked pickled ginger phase after my parents’ early nineties trip to Hawaii.

bay and peppercorns in jar

In recent years, it’s been deeply gratifying to branch out beyond my childhood condiments (although I still firmly believe that ketchup on a hot dog is sacrilege) and explore a broader world of homemade flavor. However, until very recently there was an area I’d yet to broach.

Pickled fruit.

I toyed with a recipe for pickled Seckel pears last fall, but preserved them in a gingery syrup instead. I contemplated pickled blueberries, but opted to simply eat the last of my picking out of hand. I was uneasy about it, fearful I’d make something off-putting and end up wasting good food.

life is just a bowl of

However, when faced with nearly eight pounds of juicy, ripe cherries from the Washington State Fruit Commission (thanks Sweet Preservation), I knew the time was ripe to pickle. I consulted several recipes and concocted a brine that was sweet and tart. I added a few peppercorns for spice and a bay leaf for nuance to each jar, packed the cherries in and hoped for the best.

As you might have guessed, my expectations were far too low. These pickled cherries are amazing! They are sweet and puckery, and despite the water bath, managed to retain a bit of that snap and gentle crunch you get when you first bite into a really good cherry. I am smitten. If you are still able to get sweet cherries in your area I highly encourage you to make a batch.

Oh, and one more thing. If you live in the Philadelphia area, there’s going to be an opportunity for you to taste these, along with a couple other pickles I’ve made recently, so keep your eyes peeled. More on Monday!

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