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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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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Summer Fruit Jam: Peaches & Balsamic vinegar

21 09 2009
Making jam at home

Image via Wikipedia

To enter the cooking competitions at the NY State Fair, contestants need to pick categories in early July, a good seven weeks before the fair judging at the end of August. Sometimes, I see a category and know right away what I’ll make. This year I knew as soon as I saw Vegan Dessert that my mom’s Chocolate Wacky Cake would be perfect for that category.

Freezer Jam was more difficult; I made five test batches and recipes before I decided to enter Apricot Chipotle (freezer) Jam. My experiments were the perfect opportunity to try out several new pectins Ball(R). I really liked the results and ease of use in Ball’s new low-sugar, practically-no-effort ‘Simple Creations’ no-cook granulated pectin for freezer jam.

‘Simple Creations’ (SC) is a dextrose-pectin combination which adds about 0.5g carbohydrate to recipes. The relatively small amount of destrose in the pectin mixture means that even the no-cook recipes using SC require far less sugar to fruit — only 1 1/2 cups sugar to each 4 cups of crushed fruit and juice. SC works with most types of fruit, although Ball(R) provides a special recipe for peaches.

This summer, in addition to the Apricot Chiptole Jam I made for the fair, I also used SC pectin to made Strawberry Balsamic Jam, Lime-Vanilla Jam and Peach Balsamic Jam.

I used the peach jam variation on the package as a guide for my Apricot Chipotle and Peach Balsamic jam improvs. For both, I did take the package’s suggestion that boiling the fruit for one minute would produce thicker jam. I boiled the chopped fruits for about 1 minute prior to mixing in the sugar, acids and pectin. That extra effort produced jam with wonderful consistency and didn’t steal too much of the fresh-fruit flavor. Use a big saucepot, and it will still be a quick, one-pot jam recipe.

For Peach Balsamic jam, I replaced the lemon juice called for on the SC package recipe with lime juice and white balsamic vinegar and added lime zest. The batch filled 5 Ball(R) one-cup plastic freezer jars. Hope you enjoy my riff on Ball’s Simple Creations Peach Freezer Jam recipe!

Peach Balsamic Jam

4 cups crushed ripe peaches and their juice

1 1/2 cups sugar*

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar*

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/2 teaspoon lime zest, finely grated

1 pkg. Ball Simple Creations no-cook freezer jam fruit pectin.

5 one-cup freezer containers

  • Peel, stone and chop the peaches.
  • If the peaches are under-ripe, or ripening before you can jam them, you can ‘hold’ the fruit by macerating the chopped fruit in 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar the day before. Reduce the amount of sugar and vinegar used in the recipe by the amounts used to macerate the fruit.
  • When you have time to jam, measure the macerated peaches and juice into a saucepan and bring to a boil; boil for one minute. Remove from heat.
  • Stir into the hot peaches the lime juice and zest, the rest of the balsamic vinegar, and the sugar. Stir until dissolved, and let stand for 10 minutes..
  • Stir into the fruit mixture the package of Simple Creations powdered pectin.
  • Let stand 30 minutes to confirm set. Refrigerate and use within three weeks, or freeze the containers.
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Salsa Jam: Fresh & canned peach salsa

17 09 2009
Image by rageforst via Flickr

We didn’t get many early-season peaches in Central NY this summer. The ones in the local markets never met my buy-me criteria: they never seduced me with their peachy aroma as soon as I entered the stand or market. Yes, I know I could have used nectarines — but they didn’t convince me, either. Now some small harvests of aromatic peaches are finally showing up in the market. While their aroma is calling me to gather enough peaches to make jam, it also makes me crave some sharp, spicy peach salsa.

In 1994, just outside Hilton Head, South Carolina, I picked up my first jar of homemade peach salsa. Since that summer vacation, I’ve improvised on many recipes, attempting to duplicate the sweet-hot spicy goodness I’d found in that farm stand jar of salsa. Here are some internet sources for both fresh and canned peach salsa recipes I’ve tried along the way:

From The Seasonal Chef (, these five variations of Peach Salsa include a recipe with honey, another with tomatoes, one with mint, and two which use increasingly hot varieties of peppers.

Here are fresh peach (and other fruit) salsa recipes from

You can also find several peach salsa recipes at That’s my Home

Christis’s Corner has a fresh peach salsa that only needs 3 or 4 fresh peaches for those times when you can only get a few peaches at a time. You can also make it with frozen peaches.

My peach salsa recipe combines peaches, sweet and hot peppers, basil, red onions and garlic, along with lime juice and white balsamic vinegar. It’s a bit of work to can from a small harvest, but the taste is such a strong reminder of my summer vacation in Hilton Head that I make it as often as I can.

Peach Salsa

4 cups peaches – peeled and chopped
1 cup red onion – chopped
1 jalapeno pepper – chopped fine (about 1/4 cup)
1 red pepper – chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil – loosely packed*
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar*
1/4 cup fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon lime zest
2 tablespoons honey
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)

  • The peaches should be chopped in a coarse 1/2 inch dice. The peppers should be in smaller dice. It’s okay to use slightly under-ripe peaches, and to leave under-ripe peaches unpeeled for a bit of contrast.
  • * If you prefer, you can use cilantro or Italian flat-leaf parsley instead of the chopped basil. If you can’t get white balsamic vinegar, white wine or white distilled vinegar will be fine.
  • Simmer all of the ingredients for 5 minutes. Pack into hot jars, cover with caps and bands and tighten according to direction. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (0-1000 ft.), 15 minutes (1001-6000 ft.), and 20 minutes (above 6000 ft.).Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Midnight Jam: Holding berries ’til tomorrow

31 08 2009
fresh strawberries
Image by alisharusher via Flickr
Last week I found myself with both fresh apricots and fresh strawberries, two jams to make and not enough hours in the day (or night.) The apricots became Apricot Chipotle Jam (see my post on August 28.) The strawberries weren’t quite ripe, so I held them a day. But yesterday as I was turning off kitchen lights for the night, the unmistakable perfume of ripe strawberries reminded me that two quarts of berries were about to go ’round the bend from appetizing to moldy. I had to move quickly (even if it was nearly midnight.)
I’d set aside jars for strawberry balsamic jam, but I wanted to do the work Sunday afternoon, not Saturday night. Enter one of my favorite kitchen tools — the zip-top plastic bag – and a great technique called maceration. Maceration extracts the juices from ripening fruit while ‘holding’ it until you actually have time to use it. For this maceration, a bit of sugar is all I used, but alcohol or flavored liqueur certainly wouldn’t hurt! 😉
I washed, hulled and quartered my berries, and loaded them into a gallon-size zip-top bag. When about half the berries were in the bag, I sprinkled them with two tablespoons of granulated sugar. After hulling and bagging the last of them, I sprinkled another 2 tablespoons of sugar on top (4 tablespoons or a quarter-cup of sugar all together.) Then I zipped the top, shook the bag gently to cover the berries with the sugar and popped the package into the refrigerator.
On Sunday afternoon, I prepared my containers and spent a half-hour making juicy Strawberry Balsamic jam. White balsamic vinegar adds a bright, slight tartness to the jam which intensifies the berries’ natural sweetness.
This jam works equally well as freezer jam, or jam processed in a boiling water bath. Since I was already trying to save time, I made freezer jam: cooking time = less than half an hour.

Strawberry Balsamic Jam

(makes 7 – 8 cups, or 7 – 8 eight-oz. jam jars)
4 cups mashed strawberries and juice (from 2lbs. of cleaned, hulled and quartered whole strawberries)
6 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 box Sure-Jell Pectin for Less or No-Sugar-Needed Recipes *
3 cups sugar, divided into 2 3/4 c. and 1/4 c. portions
1 cup water
  • Wash, hull and quarter the berries. Layer them in a gallon zip-top bag with 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) of granulated sugar. Refrigerate to allow the berries to macerate in the sugar for up to 24** hours.
  • Crush the strawberries and juice, one layer at a time, in a large mixing bowl. (I like to use my Pyrex(R) 2-qt. measuring cup/bowl for this job.) You can also press the berries through a food mill to remove some of the seeds, and create a finer pulp for the jam.
  • Mix the balsamic vinegar into the berries, and add water if needed to measure at least 4 cups of berries and juice.
  • Prepare your containers and lids by washing them in warm, soapy water; rinse and hold them in boiling water until ready to fill. If you have a dishwasher, you can prepare containers and hold them on the ‘dry’ cycle while you cook the sugar and pectin.
  • Mix together the sugar, granulated pectin and water in a 2qt. saucepain. Using medium-heat and stirring constantly to prevent scorching, bring the mixture to a boil that can’t be stirred down.
  • Boil 1 minutes; remove the sugar-pectin mixture from heat and stir immediately into the strawberries and juice. Stir for 1 minute, or until the sugar-pectin mixture is dissolved into the berries and juice.
  • Ladle the jam into clean, prepared containers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace if you intend to freeze the jam.

* If you use a different type of pectin, follow the general directions for strawberry freezer jam on the brand that you use.

** The 24-hour ‘resting’ period is flexible. If you are processing your jam, you can skip it. If it’s very humid on jam-making day, refrigerate as soon as the jam cools.

To freeze: Cap the containers and allow them to set for 24 hours at room temperature to jell. Confirm the set and freeze, or refrigerate and use within 3 weeks.

To process: Cap the containers and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath, according to the directions from the USDA Canning and Preserving Guide.

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