Archives for posts with tag: canning

One of the things that makes me happy is seeing basket after basket of gorgeous summer strawberries stacked up and lined up at our local farmers market.  Living in the outskirts of London, the majority of the summer strawberry bounty comes from Kent, also known as the Garden of England.  And, let me tell you, they are gorgeous.  Unlike the giants that come from California, British strawberries are smaller (a little larger around than a quarter) but absolutely packed with flavor.  No watery fruit here – these bright red beauties are juicy and sweet and absolutely lip-smackingly yummy.

So, every year, I grab around four baskets of those babies, add a bunch of jam sugar and put them into jars for the winter (and for gifts).  This year, I decided to change things up a bit – throw in a bit of sass to the sweetness – and added some rhubarb to balance out the sweetness of the strawberries with a little sourness as well as some honey to give the sweetness a little depth.

This recipe will make eight jam jars (I like to recycle Bonne Maman jam jars), so put them through the dishwasher first, then pop them into a warm oven while the jam is simmering.

Sassy Summer Jam

  • 4 cups rhubarb that’s been cut into 1″ pieces
  • 7 cups strawberries that have been hulled and quartered
  • 9 cups jam sugar (sugar that has pectin added to it)
  • 1 cup honey
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Additional package of pectin (1 Tbsp)

Take your 7 cups of quartered strawberries and lightly mash.  You don’t want a puree – rather you want a pulpy mush – I like to use a loose potato masher that looks like this and just give it a press or two.  Then layer the rhubarb and strawberries with the jam sugar and let them macerate for about 4 hours to get all the fruit juices running.

When you’re ready to start cooking the jam, put 3 small plates into the freezer and the jars and jam funnel into a warm oven.  Pour the fruit and sugar into a large non-reactive pan, and cook on low for 15-20 minutes until all the sugar is fully dissolved.  Raise the heat to medium high, add the extra pectin and bring to the boil, then reduce slightly and cook for 30 minutes, skimming the foam as you go.  Warning – it’ll boil over quickly, so you don’t want to leave it once you’ve started.

After about 30 minutes, start testing to see if the jam has set – put a teaspoon of the juice onto one of the cold plates and let it sit for a minute or so.  If it wrinkles up when you push it with your finger, the jam has set.  If it hasn’t, continue to boil and check every 5-10 minutes.  When the jam is ready to jar, pour in the lemon juice and give it a good stir, then pour the jam into the warm jars and screw the lid on tightly.  As the jars cool, you’ll hear the *ping* of freshness button on the lid, letting you know they’re fully sealed.  If they don’t seal, you can still use the jam, just keep them in the fridge.

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I think I’ve mentioned in the past that every Thanksgiving was a pie-fest in our house when I grew up.  There were five of us in my family and mom would make each of us our favorite pie – apple, chocolate cream, lemon meringue and pumpkin for my dad.  Her favorite was mincemeat – until I got older, she was the only person I knew who liked it.  Of course, now I’m in England the land of mince pies at Christmas – mom would have loved that!

This is a slight twist on the traditional recipe – instead of using plums it uses apples and pears which gives it a lighter, fresher taste.  And, since it doesn’t use suet to thicken it, it’s also a little heathier!  It makes for an easy weekend recipe if you want to put some up for your friends and family.  And, you don’t have to limit its use to pies – you can use it to stuff apples for baking or even store-bought puff pastry for smaller treats. 

Apple, Pear and Ginger Mincemeat

  • 2 1/2 lbs tart apples like Granny Smith or Bramley, cored, peeled and diced
  • 1 lb pears, peeled, cored and diced
  • 3 cups mixture of currants and raisins
  • 1/2 cup crystallized ginger, chopped to a small dice
  • zest and juice of 3 oranges
  • 1 cup orange marmalade
  • 1 1/3 cup demerera sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 nutmeg, grated
  • 1 cup almonds, bashed
  • 2/3 cup brandy

Thoroughly mix everything except for the almonds and brandy, pour into a large casserole dish, and let sit for 24 hours.  Preheat the oven to 250 F then stir in the almonds and cook the mincemeat for 3-4 hours.  When finished, stir in the brandy and pour into sterilized jars.  You’ll love how it makes the house smell!

Peaches.  I have a love/hate relationship with them.  On their own, they are juicy and sweet.  If you bake them into a cake, they can be equally lovely.  But, then there seems to be this tipping point where peaches go from being gorgeous to gooey, from being sweet to sickening.  I’m thinking about things like cobblers – gah – so sweet and syrupy and pasty that they ruin peaches for me.

But, peaches are good for things other than desserts – they are fantastic when grilled with shrimp or chicken and they positively rock the joint when combined with chillies.  This chutney is great when combined with chicken or shrimp or as a condiment for cheese.

Don’t be intimidated by the thought of canning – if I can do it, anyone can.  Simply putting the jars through the dishwasher will sterilize them (just make sure you don’t touch the insides of the jars or lids after they’re done).  I also like to put them in a 200 F oven for 20 minutes or so while the chutney is cooking just to make doubly sure.  You don’t have to go to the store to buy jam jars – wash and reuse the ones you get from the grocery (this is REAL recycling!).  The best investment you can make is to spend $7 or $8 on a wide-mouth jam funnel.  It’ll save you time and effort and LOADS of cleaning.

How good is this recipe?  My brother ate nearly an entire jar in one sitting.  This year, I won’t make the mistake of taking home only one for him!

Peach and Chilli Chutney

  • 2 lbs peaches, peeled, pitted and chopped into 1/2″ dice
  • 6 baseball-sized onions, peeled and finely diced
  • 3 cups dates, diced
  • 6 red chillies, seeded and minced (if they’re small, use 8 )
  • 4″ piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 8 cloves garlic, microplaned
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp ground mace
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for at least an hour, up to two hours, until the mixture is thickened.  While it’s still hot, ladle into warm sterlized jars and screw the lid on tightly.  As the chutney cools, it will seal itself (if you use jars with the safety “belly button”, you’ll hear a very satisfying *ping* when the vacuum is formed).  Let the chutney season for 4-6 weeks before opening.  Unopened, the chutney should be good until the next peach season.  This recipe makes eight to ten jars.

Okay, so this isn’t really a Christmas chutney, per se … there are no chestnuts or cranberries or anything else that is season-specific.  I just call it that because the first time I had it was over the Christmas holidays.  It’s my mother-in-law’s recipe that she remembers helping her grandparents make when she was a little girl.  And, the fact is, it’s so flippin’ good, it’s a perfect all-year-rounder that you’ll want to have on hand to serve with cheese.  Try it with a cold turkey sandwich and you’ll feel the need to go to confession, even if you’re not Catholic.  My sister thinks it’s laced with crack.  it’s.  just.  that.  addictive.

The thing I love about chutneys is that you can use the ugly fruits that you don’t want to use in their “natural state”, as it were — the tomatoes that have a big, ugly seam or that seem to be slightly underripe, the apples that have a bruise or dent, the peaches that are a bit mealy.  It’s all good!  Throw them in a pot and simmer, simmer, simmer.

Oh, all right.  I’ll acknowledge the one downside about chutney-making — they pretty much all have a vinegar base (that’s the preserving agent), so simmering them for a couple of hours will leave your house smelling like you’ve had a Valdez-sized vinegar spill.  Make sure you undertake this on a day when you can open a couple of windows.

The last thing you need to remember about chutneys are these two words:  Simmer and Sit.  Don’t rush yourself – do this on a day when you can allow things to simmer for at least one hour, sometimes two.  And chutneys need 4-8 weeks, depending on who you ask, to sit and ripen and mellow and meld and for the sharpness to wear off.  So, if you’re planning on giving these away as Christmas presents, don’t put off making it until the weekend before (which is why I’m posting this recipe on the first weekend in November).

My Mother-in-Law’s Christmas Chutney

  • 1/2 lb tomatoes, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 lb golden raisins (or a mixture of golden raisins and currants)
  • 1/2 lb onions, small dice
  • 1/2 lb light brown sugar (about 1 cup, moderately packed)
  • 1 lb apples, peeled cored and diced – use something slightly tart that will hold its shape when cooked
  • heaping 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Throw the lot of it into a non-reactive pot (stainless steel works, I use Calphalon) and bring to a rapid boil, then reduce the heat and cover half-way, and simmer for at least an hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so to make sure nothing sticks.  Don’t use a metal spoon, only wooden to make sure nothing reacts with the acids in the vinegar.  It’s done when you make a well with your spoon and there’s only a trace of liquid pooled in the bottom.

If you taste it now, you’re going to be terrified of how sharp and hot it is from the ginger and cayenne.  Don’t worry, this is how it’s supposed to taste when it’s still in the pot.

While it’s still hot, pour into sterilized jam jars until just below the lid, tap the jar against the counter as you go to get rid of any air.  Screw the lid on tight and let cool (you’ll hear the satisfying PING as the air contracts and the lids pop sealed).

Now, here’s the tricky part – let it sit for a good 6 weeks so that the flavors will marry and mellow.  I promise you, it’s worth the wait!

Jars of Christmas Chutney, ready to rest in the pantry

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