Tag Archives | Washington State Fruit Commission

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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Blackberry-Apricot Jam

blackberry-apricot jam

Blackberry season has come to the mid-atlantic region and I couldn’t be more delighted. I spent my childhood foraging blackberries in the Oregon brambles and those sweet, tart, juicy berries are some of my favorite summer fruits. While they don’t grow wild out here in Pennsylvania in the same way they do out west, I’m lucky enough to have a good pick-your-own location.

smashing blackberries

The weekend before last, I picked just over eight pounds (and had a lovely couple of hours outside with my friend Shay). I spent the week eating them crushed into yogurt and straight out of the container. By Thursday night, it was time to turn them into something longer lasting. I smashed up a bunch, until I had a generous four cups of smashed berries.

rival apricots

I combined the four cups of mashed berries with four cups of apricot puree. Those apricots were lovely, juicy things that came to me via the Washington State Fruit Commission. They’ve just launched a website called Sweet Preservation that is dedicated to the art of canning and fruit preservation. Several weeks ago, they invited me to be one of the “CANbassadors” and help them spread word of this new resource.

Having gone to college in Washington State (go Whitman!), I’m happy to do what I can to lend my support. I also made whole canned apricots in a honey-vanilla syrup and pickled sweet cherries from the goodness that came in the box above. Stay tuned for those recipes, they’ll be rolling out over the next week.

blackberries merging with apricot puree

In the past, I’ve been something of a single fruit jam kind of girl. I like my preserves fairly simple and tasting of the fruit that it is. However, I’ve already made apricot jam, apricot butter and blackberry jam this season. But I had a hunch that a marriage of the two would be an interesting and worthy pursuit. Happily, I was right. This jam turned out to have the sweetness of the apricots and the tart, juiciness of the blackberries.

empty jam pot

Typically, when I make blackberry jam, I seed the blackberries by pushing them through a fine mesh sieve so that all the fruit and pulp winds up in a bowl and the seeds are left behind in the strainer. This time, I chose to include the seeds, since the apricot was there balancing things out. I find the seeds add a nice textural interest. However, if you aren’t a fan of seeds in your jam, you could absolutely use seeded blackberry pulp.

blackberry-apricot jam

Just so you know, as I wrote this post, I found myself struggling to remember what this jam tasted like (I’ve made a lot of jam lately). So I did was any good canner would do. I popped opened a jar to remind myself. That led to five minutes of eating the jam out of the jar with a spoon. It is that good. The open jar is sitting right next to me. As soon as this recipe is published, I’ll be back in the kitchen, looking for something upon which to slather it.

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