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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More Online Jam: How-to-can videos

21 10 2009
Caning Apple Pie Filling
Image by upturnedface via Flickr

‘Net searches turn up the most amazing things.

Yesterday, searching for a more refined method for drying my overabundant herb harvest, I wandered into CanningUSA — a site which offers recipes, how-to videos and podcasts, and lots of very specific canning information. No longer do novice canners need to plow through tables of canning instructions; if you learn better by watching, then the videos of various canning and preserving processes are made just for you!

Need some visuals that explain how to make and can Jam and Infused Fruit?

Need an explanation of the differences between raw, hot and cold pack canning methods?

Hoping to put up some of the apples or pears filling your local farmer’s market?

If you’re looking for a visual guide to canning and preserving, as well as some interesting new improvisations on familiar preserving recipes, you might want to drop into the CanningUSA site, and investigate their online help section.

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Condiment Jam: Homemade mustard update

19 10 2009
Image by foodistablog via Flickr

It’s finally MUSTARD! After two patient days (patience isn’t always my strong suit), it was finally time to take the great mustard experiment to the next level.

I’d been soaking a combination of dark and white mustard seeds in red wine (a chardonnay and merlot blend), red wine & balsamic vinegars for two days. With the soaking done, I improvised the next steps on a mustard recipe which came originally from Martha Stewart.

Stewart’s recipe uses all red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon of ground marjoram. Since I’d just brought in my herb harvest, I substituted 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme leaves. Stewart’s mustard is designed to be refrigerator mustard, but since this recipe is high in vinegar, I used a cold-pack canning method on two of my jars. First tastes were very sharp; I’m looking forward to tasting daily to see how it mellows.


  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3/4 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves


  1. In a 1-pint canning jar, combine mustard seeds with the red wine and vinegars. I used a chardonnay/merlot wine blend. Cover the jar and let sit 48 hours. (I put mine in the refrigerator.) Check daily to be sure seeds are covered by liquid; add more wine if necessary.
  2. Put the seeds and liquid in the bowl of a food processor, along with all of the remaining ingredients. Process about 5 minutes, or until seeds are broken down and the mixture become creamy.
  3. To can: Spoon the mustard into hot, sterilized 1 cup or 1/2 cup jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Process 20 minutes in a boiling water batch.
  4. To use within 1 month: Spoon the mustard into an airtight container. Allow the mustard to rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 week before using to let the flavors develop. The mustard will keep for up to 1 month.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Update: I marinated another batch of mustard seeds, and this variation is mellowing right now…


  • 1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 3/4 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons roasted garlic cloves (about 20 cloves)
Directions (as above)
  1. Marinate the mustard seeds in the vinegars and red wine for 48 hours.
  2. Put the marinade, mustard seeds, and all remaining ingredients into a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth and creamy.
  3. Can or refrigerate as directed for red wine mustard (above.)
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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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Savory Jam: Home-made mustard

11 10 2009
Close-up picture of mustard seeds
Image via Wikipedia

I love mustard. And I have ready access to mustard seed in quantity in the ethnic food aisle at my local Wegmans, health food and Asian grocery stores. So as I finished a jar of roasted garlic gourmet mustard, I began to wonder if I could make mustard at home.

On the web, I found several resources including these:
Making Mustard at Home from the folks at

Instructions for canning mustard (scroll to bottom))

And out of a myriad of mustard recipes, I chose this simple proportional wine mustard recipe which I found in a collection of mustard recipes at

Mustard-making is a multi-day proposition. The seeds need to soak, and the flavor needs time to age, develop and mellow.
I’ve got a cup and a half of mixed mustard seeds soaking, some in red wine and some in sherry in my refrigerator; updates in 24 hours when the soaking is finished and my mustard develops!

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NY State Fair Jam, part 4: Official results (finally!)

8 10 2009
The New York state seal.
Image via Wikipedia

The NY State Fair website was down for the count for several weeks after the fair ended on September 7, 2009. This delayed posting of the official results. Then I went camping for six days. So my apologies to all that it’s taken me awhile to get the official canning, preserving and jam competition results from my own New York State Fair.

The canning and preserving competition at the NY State Fair is held in two separate divisions: Culinary, hosted at the Art & Home Center, features tasted competions in canning, pickling, relishes and jams. The Flower division, hosted at the Horticulture Building, features pickling and canning competitions for items which are judged on appearance but not tasted.

The mother-daughter team of Janet Bender and Elizabeth Shepard tag-teamed their way through the Flowers canning division, earning three 1st, four 2nd and one 3rd place in the five classes in that division. Janet also earned a 1st in the Culinary division with her canned fruit. Be sure to check my blog for Kathy Wood’s Grand Prize winning Red Pepper Relish. Now, without further ado, here are the rest of the official results:

From the Culinary Competitions, published on the NY State Fair website on September 15, 2009:
(note: a ‘record’ equals an entry, so 33 records = 33 entries judged)

Culinary – A – Canned Foods, 33 records

01 – Chili Sauces – 5 records
1 – Kathy Wood Fabius NY
2 – Margie S. Milligan North Syracuse NY
3 – Joan C. Archambeau Syracuse NY

02 – Vegetable Relishes – 4 records
1 – Kathy Wood Fabius NY < – 2009 Culinary Grand Competition 1st Place! (recipe)
2 – Carol J. Martin Syracuse NY
3 – Stephen R. Booth Antwerp NY

03 – Chutney – 2 records
1 – Geri Belotti Kirkville NY
2 – John Gross Syracuse NY

04 – Dill Pickles – 7 records
1 – James Kluga Rochester NY
2 – Paul Meier Liverpool NY
3 – Tamara K. Place Mottville NY

05 – Sweet Pickles – 6 records
1 -John Gross Syracuse NY
2 – James Kluga Rochester NY
3 – Stephen R. Booth Antwerp NY

06 – Canned Fruit/Pickled Fruit – 5 records
1 – Janet Bender Kirkville NY
2 – Daniel Bianchi Phoenix NY
3 – Maryann Bianchi Phoenix NY

07 – Canned or Pickled Vegetables (no tomatoes) – 4 records
1 – Mary Jane Kovachi Buffalo NY
2 – Kathy Wood Fabius NY

Culinary – B – Jams & Jellies, 86 records

01 – Sweet Jelly – 20 records
1 -Yvonne Bakowski Warners NY
2 – Margaret Tourville E. Syracuse NY
3 – Nancy J. Warner Solvay NY

02 – Savory Jelly – 7 records
1 – Helen Lyons Camillus NY
2 – James Kluga Rochester NY

03 – Jam or Marmalade – 16 records
1 – Rosemary Tomasetti Cicero NY
2 – Aracely Hernandez Syracuse NY
3 – Donna Nichols E. Syracuse NY

05 – Freezer jam (does not need to be processed in boiling water bath)
1 – Joan C. Archambeau Syracuse NY
2 – Pat Steer East Syracuse NY < – shameless brag!
3 – Helen Lyons Camillus NY

From the Flower Show, Canning and Preserving Entries:

Garden Fruits and Vegetables CC, 19 records

139 – Canned Vegetables- 1 quart – 3 records
3 – Janet Bender Kirkville NY (no 1st or 2nd place award)

141 – Canned Pickles- 1 quart – 5 records
1 – Janet Bender Kirkville NY
2 – Elizabeth Shepard Chittenango NY
3 – Anthony Hemingway Liverpool NY

142 – Canned Vegetables- 1 pint – 3 records
1 – Cynthia Pfaff New Woodstock NY
2 – Janet Bender Kirkville NY

143 – Canned Fruits- 1 pint – 3 records
1 – Elizabeth Shepard Chittenango NY
2 – Janet Bender Kirkville NY
3 – Cynthia Pfaff New Woodstock NY

144 – Canned Pickles- 1 pint – 3 records
1 – Janet Bender Kirkville NY
2 – Elizabeth Shepard Chittenango NY
3 – Cynthia Pfaff New Woodstock NY

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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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