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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Double Jam: Pears two (more) ways

25 10 2009
A colour plate from The Pears of New York (192...
Image via Wikipedia

In central NY, pears are a transitional fruit – hardy enough to grow in home gardens on special cultivars, but with fruits too fragile to ‘hold’ in cold cellars like apples. They come into the market in October, but are soon replaced by apples, and then citrus and imported melons.

Last week, after a few days basking in baskets on my counter, several pounds of pears filled my condo with their delicate ripening. After a summer of enriching peach, apricot and strawberry jams with balsamic vinegar, chipotle peppers and sweet spices, I wanted the delicacy of aromatic pear jam, recipes that would use pears without enhancements. This Simply Recipes Pear Butter – similar to my own in all but the star anise and nutmeg – is on my list to try with the dark-ripened fruit that is the last of the pear harvest, along with my Pear-Orange Honey. But for my first batch of 2009 pears, I wanted a simpler pear recipe, something slow-cooked without pectin – just enough sugar, a splash of citrus or vanilla to brighten the jam – but all pears, straight up.

On Recipeza’ar, I found #147884 from “dividend” – Pear Vanilla Jam. I reduced the sugar, used all Bartlett pears instead of a mix of Bosc and Asian pears, and used a bit of fresh lemon zest instead of the original recipe’s ground nutmeg – because I just don’t like nutmeg in pear jam! From an old recipe for Spiced Pear Jam, I removed the spices and substituted brown sugar for half of the orginal amount of sugar, improvising on a recipe for Butterscotch Peach Jam. Each of these recipes makes about 5 cups of jam.


Pear Vanilla Jam
3 lbs fresh pears (about 6 pears, to create about 3 cups of puree)
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup lemon juice, divided
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • Peel, core and quarter the pears. Toss the quartered pears with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to prevent the fruit from darkening.
  • Coarsely chop the pears in a food processor or chopper, and measure them to ensure that you have 3 cups chopped fruit. Add the pears, sugar, grated ginger and three tablespoons of lemon juice to a large pot, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  • Grate a couple pinches of fresh nutmeg over the sugar.
  • Simmer about 40 minutes, or until the jam reaches the jellying point (220 deg. F.) Stir frequently to prevent scorching.
  • Remove the fruit mixture from the heat, and stir in the vanilla extract. Pass the fruit through a food mill if you would like a smooth jam.
  • Spoon into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Wipe the jar rims and adjust the lids.
  • Process in boiling water for 10 minutes.


Pear Jam

4 cups pear puree (about 3 lbs. whole pears, peeled, cored, put through a food mill)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

  • In a heavy saucepan, heat all of the ingredients to boiling, stirring constantly until the boiling can’t be stirred down.
  • Lower the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for 1 hour or until thickened to a jelly consistency.
  • Skim off foam with a metal spoon.
  • Pour immediately into hot sterilized jars, filling to about 1/4 inch from the top.
  • Remove air bubbles and wipe jar rims. Cover the jars with lids and bands, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.


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Bacon Jam: Playing for time…

14 10 2009
Bacon in a Skillet
Image by ahockley via Flickr

In my tiny 7 x 10 ft. kitchen, I can only manage a couple simultaneous projects. Two days ago I started the process for homemade mustard with an easy recipe. However, the first step is ‘Soak the mustard seed in the alcohol’ – I’ve chosen a red wine blend of chardonnay and merlot and a half-and-half mixture of white and black mustard seeds. While my mustard seeds are becoming all that they can be, I’m searching out pear recipes to try, something that will be a counterpoint and complement to the pear honey recipe I make each year. I was happily amassing a list of promising pear recipes when I stumbled into savory jam territory.

My explorations took me to this tweet about bacon jam from @ChefRobinL, one of the current season of Top Chef contestants. Bacon, the food of the gods. In a jam. Oh my!

Those of you who’ve watched this season of Top Chef will remember that Kevin made a candied bacon jam garnish for his escargot in episode four, which earned very high marks. But Robin’s tweet pointed me to Skillet Street Food – a mobile ‘joint’ which is open in various locations in Seattle. Skillet makes and sells 8 oz. jars of bacon jam and ships them around the country. Bacon, onions, spices all cooked down low and slow for six hours or so and then jarred. Oh. My. God. At $17/jar, it’s a little spendy – but my mouth is watering just from that bare-bones description. I’m still wondering how they managed to get all that bacon-y goodness into a jar. You can also follow @skilletbaconjam on Twitter.

Bacon jam is the kind of kitchen improv that makes me want to stay up cooking all night. Or at the very least, thaw out some bacon and put some of those red onions on my counter to a higher purpose. Kevin’s candied bacon jam is also a long and slow cooking recipe, something that could probably go all night in the crockpot and be perfect in the morning. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to play for some time while my mustard seeds marinate. I think I’ll julienne some red onions – and thaw out some bacon!

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Summer-in-a-jar Jam: Italian prune plums

3 10 2009

The first vegetarian cookbook I ever received as a gift came from my uncle Will – a copy of Anna Thomas‘ 1972 Vegetarian Epicure. I was two years into college, and like grad student Thomas, my cooking was mostly vegetarian. My copy of VE was part kitchen bible and encyclopedia and part novel – I read it cover to cover, for both knowledge and fun. I memorized several of the recipes (potato peel broth, asparagus brisee, savory baked garbanzo beans) and improvised and evolved them to make them my own. That dog-eared copy of VE anchors my kitchen bookshelf. I’m eagerly awaiting my copy of Thomas’ newest book, Love Soup, where she’s turned her masterful kitchen touch to one of my favorite foods – soup.

Italian prune plums (with a little help from Azahar)

Italian prune plums (with a little help from Azahar)

Why all this love for a vegetarian cookbook that doesn’t include a single recipe for jam? Mainly because the author, Anna Thomas, is also the inspiration for the plum jam recipe I made today for Linsey Cake’s Summer-in-a-bottle Can-a-rama contest.

While searching for a small-batch recipe for those tiny end-of-summer stone fruits called Italian prune-plums, I stumbled on this improvisation on a prune-plum jam recipe insipired by — Anna Thomas. It must have appeared in VE2 or on her website, because it’s not in my copy of VE. But Thomas brings simplicity and bright summer goodness to this brilliant red plum jam, and like all of her recipes, the ingredients are the stars.

Prune Plum Jam (with a little help from Azahar)

Prune Plum Jam (with a little help from Azahar)

The recipe which inspired me appears on Bryanna’s Vegan Feast Kitchen blog, and is her adaptation of Thomas’ recipe. Like Bryanna, I also boiled my plums and ran them through the food mill. I also added splashes of balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest and a teaspoon of grated ginger to the recipe.

Bryanna quotes Thomas:“This is made from the plums that become prunes when they are dried. In some markets I’ve seen them called prunes, and in others Italian plums, or prune plums, but they are the very small plums with the egg-like shape and the dusky purple skin.” Anna Thomas

(inspired by recipes from Anna Thomas and Bryanna)

2 1/2 lbs small dark plums or Italian prune plums (about 20)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon grated ginger root

  • Wash and stem the plums. Cut in half, discarding the pits, and put the plums and balsamic vinegar in a medium-sized saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil over medium heat, and cook about five minutes or just until the plum puree start to split from the skins. Put the plums through a fine food mill to separate all the skins from the puree.
  • Measure the puree, adding water if needed to make 3 cups. Return the puree to the saucepan, along with the lemon juice, zest, grated ginger and sugar. Stir thoroughly until the sugar dissolves.
  • Continue to stir over medium heat. Keep the jam at a steady boil for 15 minutes (skim off any foam that rises) until the jam reaches the jellying point (212 degrees.) You can also dip a metal spoon into the jam, place it in the freezer for three minutes, and test for consistency that way.
  • Ladle the jam into clean half-pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Place lids and rings on the jars.
  • To process: seal the jars and process in a boiling water bath according to USDA directions.
  • To freeze: seal the bands and lids on the jars, and allow to cool to room temperature. Jam will keep it in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, and in the freezer for up to one year.

Yields about 4 cups

This post is part of the 1st Annual Can-a-rama Summer in a Bottle Challenge at Cake and Commerce.

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Red Jam: Watermelon

1 10 2009
Wee sweet watermelon
Image by Kodamakitty via Flickr

Okay, I’ll say it out loud — one of the foods that eased me through every chemo regimen was watermelon. Winter, summer, fall, spring; whether on oxaliplatin (nothing cold) or Folfiri (everything tasted like aluminum foil) — there was one food that always tasted like food, kept me hydrated and got me over the hump between days 2 and 5 in infusion weeks…watermelon. And Taco Bell tacos (but that’s another post in another blog!)

The last of the fresh local watermelon is now in central New York supermarkets — and I thought I’d try to make watermelon jam to save a bit of summer. The recipe I tried is from an Indian foods blog written by Chandrika and called AkshayaPatra. Chandrika’s recipe makes a very small batch, although it can easily be doubled. Just remember that jam recipes are proportional: for each 2 lbs. of fruit pulp, you’ll need 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice.

I used what Wegmans calls a ‘personal watermelon’ — a perfect dark green sphere less than 8″ diameter, seedless and organic. The jam is thick, brilliant red. This recipe makes about 1 cup (the watermelon will cook down quite a bit.)

Watermelon Jam

2lbs watermelon pulp (remove pulp from rind and seed the chunks)

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon lime juice

1 teaspoon lime zest (zest from about half a lime)

  • Remove the watermelon pulp from the ring and cut it into chunks. Seed the melon if seeds are present.
  • Mix the cinnamon and sugar together, and stir into the melon pulp.
  • Stir the lime juice, zest and sugar-cinnamon into the melon. Simmer about 15 minutes until the sugar has dissolved in the juice. To help break down the melon pulp, mash it in the saucepan with an immersion blender.
  • Continue to to simmer the melon-sugar mixture until it thickens and easily coats the back of a metal spoon. You can also test the jam for consistency using a spoonful of jam placed onto a very cold (frozen) plate.
  • Ladle the hot jam into sterilized jam jars and process 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner according to USDA directions for canning. Alternately, allow the jam to cool in the containers and store in refrigerator for up to two weeks, or freezer for up to a year.

Makes about 1 cup or two half-cup containers of jam.

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