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.

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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.

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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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Slow Jam: Cooking jam without pectin

18 08 2009

Before powdered and liquified pectin, jam makers slow-cooked jam long enough for it to reach a jellying point (8-10 degrees above the temperature where water would boil.) At sea level, water boils at 212 degrees F. and the jellying point of liquids is around 220 degrees F.

Sugars and sweet syrups along with a small amount of acid in each recipe helped the jellying process and helped preserve the jams. But some fruits naturally contain more pectin than others (apples, crabapples, gooseberries, some varieties of plums, high-bush cranberries.) Underripe fruits always contain more pectin than their fully-ripe versions. 3pears_flickr

Often, slow-cooked jams combine a high pectin fruit with a lower pectin fruit to firm up the jam. Cranberries, one of my favorite fruits, contain so much natural pectin that most will jell on their own when boiled without the addition of extra sugar. My pear honey recipe, inspired by a ‘Reba’s Pear Honey’ variation originally printed in the Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook uses a small amount of fresh (or frozen) whole cranberries and their natural pectin to make a firmer spread. Enjoy!

Pear-Orange Honey with Cranberries

4 cup peeled and finely chopped pears

1 small orange, finely chopped (fruit, juice and peel – about 2/3 cup)

2/3 cup of whole washed and stemmed cranberries (about ½ cup finely chopped)

¼ teaspoon kosher or coarse salt

  • Using a food mill* or processor with a coarse blade, finely chop or grind the peeled pears and the orange together.
  • Put the fruit in a heavy saucepan along with the sugar and salt and cook slowly over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves.
  • Once the sugar is dissolved, cook at a slow boil about 15 minutes or until fruits in mixture are clear and the thick syrup from their juices reaches the jellying point.
  • Pour into hot, sterilized jars and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner according to USDA recommendations.
  • Makes 2 ½ pints (five 8-oz jars) of fruit honey
1950s Foley food mill

1950s Foley food mill

* To finely chop the fruits, you can use the modern day food-processor, or a farm-kitchen standard, the food mill. Mirro/Foley now make a stainless steel version of the traditional red-handled Foley Food Mill which is available in many hardware stores for $30-35.

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