Shared Jam: Bounty in a recipe exchange

27 11 2009
71370-Jars of Jams

Image by SeattleRay via Flickr

I didn’t find out about Under the High Chair’s Virtual Jam Swap in a straight-line kinda way. I was reading my latest Foodbuzz headlines, and saw a new post called Jam Swap from Coco Bean, a blog from the Montreal food improv team of Ian and Christie. Seems they’d discovered that canning – at first intimidating – could pay off just like a cookie exchange at their friend Aimee’s real-life Jam Swap. I followed their link to Aimee’s Under the High Chair blog (don’t you love the way links are the internet’s version of a bread crumb trail?) At UtHC, I discovered that in addition to her live jam swap, about which Ian had written, Aimee had just posted a round-up of her virtual (blogging) jam swap. Her post includes the links to the adventures (and misadventures) and 25 recipes from jammers who personify the improvisational approach to preserving flavor.

Julie Powell cooked her way through Julia Child‘s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I want to cook my way through all 25 recipes in Aimee’s Virtual Jam Swap. Always on the lookout for unique and new jam recipes, several of the VJS entries caught my eye, and fit right in to the kinds of fruit available at this time of year in central New York:

Apple Pie Jam from Kim at Flavorista (lower sugar, with pectin)
Grapefruit Cranberry Marmalade from Cheri at Kitchen Simplicity (no added pectin)
Coconut Jam (Kaya) from Cheryl at Backseat Gourmet (no added pectin)

UtHC’s jam swap also collected recipes for jams, butters, marmalades and spreads made with plums, rhubarb, apricots, peaches, blueberries, cherries, mint, peppers, berries and apples.

I’ve got a lot of reading and recipe-sorting to do; I definitely need to put some of these recipes into my jam repertoire. Thanks, Aimee, for sending out the call for your Virtual Jam Swap, and then sharing all of the bounty with the world.

What jams will you be making next – for holiday gifts, or when the fresh fruits in your area come back into season? Will you share your jam plans?

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Thanksgiving Jam: Cranberries

15 11 2009
Cranberry Field
Image by xymox via Flickr

My grandfather used to say tomatoes overproduce so that we could save some for February (by canning, of course!)  As the produce aisles in the local stores fill up with fixin’s for Thanksgiving, I hear my grandfather’s voice. Only this time, we’re talking about the bushels of cranberries, and how beautiful a jar of cranberry jam looks on the Thanksgiving table.

My sister likes jellied cranberry sauce out of the can; my mom loves her home-made chopped cranberry relish which, full of skins and fiber, is a little hard for me to digest these days. But I like the soft spread my grandfather used to make – cranberries simmered in orange juice and ginger with just enough brown sugar to be tart-sweet. Grandpa ran his cooked cranberries through a food mill after cooking to produce jam – a very different consistency than either conventional jellied cranberries or whole or chopped cranberry relishes. The taste is big and bright. No need for pectin – the cranberries bring enough pectin to the mix to produce jam. And the soft spread is much easier for me to digest.

I found this recipe in an old cookbook, and the tastes are very similar to my grandpa’s recipe. It makes three cups, which is just about enough for a big family Thanksgiving – or enough to share if you’re feeding a smaller crowd. If you want to can the jam, fill clean hot four or eight oz. jam jars and leave 1/2 inch headspace. Add lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, according to the USDA directions for water-bath canning. Or you can fill containers suitable for freezing, seal and cool, and freeze.

This jam will keep in the refrigerator for three to four weeks – or through the holidays, with plenty left to dress leftover turkey sandwiches or bake into jam filled holiday cookies.

Cranberry-Orange Jam

3 cups fresh or frozen whole cranberries (about one 12 oz. bag)

1 1/2 cups orange juice (I juiced five large blood oranges; you can also include regular orange juice)

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

  • In a saucepan, mix together the orange juice, brown sugar and ginger. Heat the mixture, and when the sugar begins to dissolve, stir in the cranberries.
  • Cook the cranberries until they pop open, stirring over medium heat to prevent scorching. Add more orange juice or water if the mixture thickens too quickly. Cook for 15-20 minutes on medium, or until the berries break down.
  • Put the berries through a food grinder or food mill to create a puree and separate out the cranberry skins.

Once pureed, this makes about three cups of jam. Either process in a hot water bath according to USDA recommendations, freeze or keep in the refrigerator and use within 3-4 weeks.  

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Can-o-rama jam #2: Pear honey, pure and simple

1 11 2009
Bosc Pears, from Portland Farmers Market

Image via Wikipedia

They are the last pears of the season – Boscs, juicy and sweet. Their perfume called to me from the far end of the farm stand. They were unblemised, slightly yielding to a gentle squeeze but not yet bruised, still firm enough to eat out-of-hand and not yet ready to be stewed into pear butter.

Just perfect for these pears is the simplest of pear jams: pear honey, made with brown sugar and my current favorite jamming acidifier, white balsamic vinegar.

It’s smooth, not-too-sweet, with a hint of the grated ginger. Unfortunately, my finished jam shots are a little too dark, but I’ll upload the color-corrected picture later today. Meanwhile, I’m enjoing this last taste of summer!

Pear Balsamic Honey

3 lbs Bosc pears (peeled, cored)
2 cups brown sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, grated

  • Run the peeled and cored pears through a food mill on a coarse grind (or chop very fine.)
  • Measure the fruit puree. Add the balsamic vinegar, and add water if needed so that the fruit puree measures 4 cups.
  • Stir the brown sugar and ginger root into the pear puree. Bring the mixture to a boil,
  • When the boiling puree can’t be stirred down, reduce the heat to medium and maintain the steady boil, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and sheets from the spoon. Time will vary but this takes between 25-35 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat, skim off any foam that rises, and ladle into hot jars you’ve prepared for water bath canning. Leave 1/2 inch headspace.
  • Process in hot jars according to USDA directions for hot-water bath canning (10 min. for 8 oz. jars.)

Makes about 5 jars of pear honey.

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