Category Archives: Canning

Peachy

After last week’s blueberry sadness, I convinced the family to go peach picking over the weekend even though I knew I would not have much time to process them.

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We got four half bushels of peaches, which is roughly 180 peaches. I know. We meant to only pick two baskets, but that just took about five minutes with all four of us picking. It’s a lot of peaches, but everyone loves having these peaches in the winter when summer seems like another world away. So, we put other things off and buckled down with our peaches this week.

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Have you ever had a peach fresh off of a tree? It is a sublime eating experience. This year, since we went a week or two earlier than usual, the peaches were smaller than softball sized, but still delicious. And beautiful.

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The boys were a huge help this year with the processing. Look how big they are getting!

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With their help, we put up 16 quarts of peaches. If you look carefully, you’ll see one quart that’s leftover from last year. It’s a sorry sight. Over the year they slowly turned brown, but despite appearances, they tasted fine. This year, I added a teaspoon of lemon juice to each jar before processing, which I hope will keep them from getting that color. I’ll report back to you next year and let you know if it helped. For the peaches, I used a recipe from Food in Jars. The only changes I made were quartering the peaches, which helped us fit more in each jar and only adding one tablespoon of bourbon to each jar.

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We also made 6 quarts of dried peaches, a batch of peach butter, and a batch of strawberry peach jam. I think we are all set now for peaches in the winter. Yay! I feel so much better about winter this week than I did last week. Believe it or not, all of that took care of all but about a dozen peaches. They will become a cobbler tonight or tomorrow, I think. Happy summer, everyone!

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Strawberry Nectarine Jam with Vanilla and Riesling

Last week, there were two pounds of strawberries left in the fridge, and we had a flat of nectarines that we could not eat through before they started going bad. I remembered a strawberry peach jam that I made a couple of years ago that the boys loved. So, I decided to put them together into a jam.

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Now, I don’t have a whole lot of pictures of the process here because we had a contractor in the house giving us a quote on some work we want done and it felt a bit odd to say, “Excuse me, I need to go take pictures of this for my blog.” Of course, I was in the kitchen working on the jam at the same time, so maybe it would have been ok.

Anyway, I think I like this jam better than the strawberry peach I made awhile back because you do not have to peel nectarines. Any chance to save a prepping step is good in my book. Plus, I added a vanilla bean which gives this jam an amazing aroma. Then, at the end, I added some sweet Riesling wine, which turned out to be a perfect compliment. Originally, I wanted to use champagne, but I never made it to the store to buy any and the Riesling was just sitting the in the fridge waiting to be used.

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This should be a slightly loose jam because there is not a whole lot of pectin in nectarines or strawberries. We are relying on the hefty amount of sugar and lemon juice to set the jam here, so do not be tempted to mess with the ratios or you will not get the same result. Besides, a loose jam is just perfect for stirring into yogurt or spreading on a cake.

Strawberry Nectarine Jam with Vanilla and Riesling
loosely adapted from Sarabeth’s Bakery
makes about 4 pints

3 pounds ripe nectarines
2 pounds ripe strawberries
2.5 pounds sugar
grated zest of 4 lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 whole vanilla bean
1/4 cup Riesling wine or other sweet white wine

Sterilize your jars and lids and have them ready. Place a few teaspoons or saucers in the freezer for testing later.

Quarter the nectarines and slice them thinly. Toss them into your largest, widest pot with 1.5 pounds of the sugar and heat over medium high heat until the sugar is dissolved.

In the meantime, hull and slice the strawberries. Also, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and then halve them crosswise. You should have four pieces. Scrape out the seeds with the back of a knife.

Stir in the strawberries, lemon zest and juice, the vanilla bean (seeds and all), and the remaining sugar into the pot and stir until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbling nicely.

Lower the heat to medium and simmer briskly until the mixture is uniform in color and thickened. The strawberries will lose their color in the middle and look funny, but as the jam cooks, the color should become evenly pink. This will probably take awhile with this much fruit, at least 40 minutes up to an hour.

When you think it is done, put a few drops onto a frozen spoon. If it is slow to move when you hold the spoon up, then it is done. It should be close to the consistency of honey, maybe a tad looser, but it should not run down the spoon like water. If it’s not done, simmer the jam for 5-10 more minutes and test again. Do this until it’s ready.

Remove the pot from the heat and add the wine. Stir thoroughly. Transfer the jam to your jars and process them for 15 minutes.

The jam should keep for at least a year in the cupboard if stored in a cool place with the seals intact.

Colors of Summer

Favorite Colors of Summer:

Blue

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Freezing blueberries is easy. Line a rimmed baking sheet with a sheet of foil, then lay a kitchen towel on top. Rinse a whole bunch of just picked berries or just bought berries. Transfer them to the towel. Give a little shake to give the towel a chance to absorb all the excess water. Carefully remove the towel. Pull out enough berries to have just one layer of berries in the tray. Freeze until firm and then transfer to a plastic bag for safe keeping in the freezer.

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What do you do with the blueberries you pulled out of the tray? Why, eat them, of course! I still have probably 8 pounds of blueberries to get through. It’s a good thing blueberries keep well in the fridge.

Red.
This is possibly our all time favorite color so far this season.

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The boys kept saying over and over how this is their favorite shade of red. I agree. I loved watching them work together to pit all 6.5 pounds of cherries that we picked. Having little helpers around is really great.

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We made the sour cherry jam that I made last year, only I doubled the recipe and added 2 tablespoons of kirsch at the end. Booze=yum! We had enough cherries for jam and a tray to freeze for later.

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The jam is heavenly when combined with greek yogurt. Summer color doesn’t get much better than this. What’s your favorite color of summer so far?

Pent up Energy

Today, I woke with the urge to get some things done that I have been putting off for a little while. Berry season has finally arrived (a few weeks late) and I found myself with quite a built up bounty from sales at the store and a gift of a friend’s CSA share for the week. At 9:30 this morning, my kitchen counter looked like this.

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Now, it looks like this.

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Blueberry-raspberry jam, Strawberry-rhubarb jam with Grand Marnier, and a Bluberry-nectarine pie. Not bad for one morning’s work, huh? Have I mentioned how much I love freshly made jam? Warm jam on top of peanut butter on top of homemade white bread=heaven!

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Similarly, my dining room table which would normally be strewn with school books and papers, looks like this.

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I’ve got a backlog of new knitting projects that are just waiting be cast on. There’s lots of swatching, stash diving, and yarn winding going on. Stay tuned, I’ve got some big plans for the summer.

Caramelized Spicy Apple Butter

I confess that I have a problem with most apple butters. To my taste, they tend to be too sweet and too spicy, not in the chile pepper kind of way, but in the sweet cinnamon-y kind of way. I do love spicy things such as gingerbread and spice cookies and cakes. But, I’ve always thought that fruit butters that use all those sweet spices just mask the flavors of the fruit and they all end up tasting the same so that I can’t tell a pumpkin butter from an apple butter from a peach butter. All I taste is cinnamon and nutmeg and sugar.

As a result, when I decided to make apple butter this year, I knew it would have to be different. Unlike the peach butter I make, which is just basically peaches and sugar and bourbon, the apple butter would have to have some flavoring added. Otherwise, it would just be concentrated applesauce, right? My inspiration came from thinking about caramel apples and from a juice bar apple drink I once had with fresh ginger added. I decided to try to mix those flavors and see what would happen.

I started with caramelizing the sugar. Here is one pound of sugar in the pot, melting and turning into a wonderful color. I have never caramelized this much sugar at once. It was amazing and scary at the same time.

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Four pounds of peeled and cored apples go in next. This was a scary few minutes. Boy, that sugar turned into a huge mass of hard candy.

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I added some apple cider, brought it all up to a simmer, and stirred it occasionally until all the sugar melted again. It cooked for awhile; 30 minutes, maybe? I basically boiled it until a lot of the liquid had evaporated. I thought it would be easier to boil away the liquid while the apples were still in chunks rather than when it was pureed. Purees tend to spit all over the place and make a mess.

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When everything was nice and soft and there was just a little liquid in the bottom of the pan, I got out the immersion blender and blended it all together until it was as smooth as I could get it.

Here’s the fun part. Two tablespoons of freshly grated ginger went into the pot. I let it cook down for awhile and tasted. It still needed something. It was a little flat. The ginger had a nice zing and I could taste the caramel, but it needed another flavor. This is when I opened the spice drawer and took a look around. I saw the smoked paprika and decided to throw some of that in the mix.

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Ooh! What a lovely sweet smokey scent! I think maybe at this point my tastebuds were a little apple saturated, because when I tasted the butter, it was hard for me to distinguish any ginger or paprika or caramel flavors. The husband said it was fine, but I really thought it needed a little extra kick, so I added some cayenne pepper as well.

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When the mixture was nice and thick, I declared it done before I could add anything else to the mix and make it weird.

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How was it, you ask? Well, it was pretty good. There’s a subtle, smoky heat to it that lingers in your mouth, but it is not overtly spicy. It’s also not too sweet, which is nice for a fruit butter. It was yummy on freshly baked biscuits. If you look closely enough, you’ll see red flecks from the cayenne pepper and smoked paprika. The boys thought it was a little too spicy, but I think it will mellow out as it ages.

Want some? I have an extra half pint jar to give away. Just leave me a comment telling me what your favorite Fall activity is and I’ll randomly pick someone on Friday. Sadly, I will only be able to ship domestically this time–not sure what the customs regulations for jams are. Anyway, leave me a comment for a chance to taste this unique apple butter!

Next: freezing apples