Carrot Cardamom Jam

Carrot Cardamon Jam

I have been in a little funk lately – and I think I finally figured out what it is.  I miss making jam – it has been at least a month since I have made a batch, and it is leaving a little bit of a void in my life.  I thought after making about 80 jars between June and December that I would need a couple of months just to get back into it – but I am ready.  I am ready to get back on that horse.  Now, there is just a couple of small problems…fresh fruit, and time.

Of all the jams I made this summer and fall, I hardly ventured into what I would call the “risky” jams.  Those are the jams that you don’t really use to make a peanut butter and jam sandwich.  I think my Fig Jam was the only one that came close – and after I saw her lick the spoon clean from the sample I gave her, I was pretty sure it would go perfect with peanut butter.  I remember when I had an open jar of the Mulled Cider Jelly in the refrigerator, and decided to use that on her sandwich.  I was sure I would hear about it that night – since that was my first attempt to broaden her from the berry or stone fruit jams.  That night as I started to make her a sandwich for the next day, she called from upstairs asking if I could use that really yummy jam again…success!

Last month when I attended the holiday gift workshop at The Pantry, I was overjoyed when I saw we were going to be making jam.  Not that I needed any more to give out – but I was so excited to try this jam, that would definitely go into the “risky” category.  Not only was this jam beautiful (look at the color!), it was delicious – especially with goat cheese.  This is the perfect appetizer jam.  So – aren’t you curious to see how this would go with peanut butter?  Well, you might have to make it to find out – and the good news is that you can get fresh carrots in the market pretty much all year.  I am holding out putting on my daughter’s sandwich – but if I run out of her other favorites…that might be next.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound 2 ounces fresh young carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • Freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange, about ½ cup
  • 1 ½ teaspoons roughly ground cardamom seed
  • 2 ¼ pounds sugar
  • 4 ½ ounces liquid pectin

 Preparation

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the carrots, reduce the heat slightly and simmer for about 8-10 minutes, until the carrots are tender but not mushy or falling apart.  Drain the carrots, run them under cold water to stop them from overcooking and set them aside in a colander to drain for a few minutes.

Place the carrots in a food processor and pulse until the carrots are finely chopped.  Be sure not to take them down to a puree.

Place the carrots, lemon zest and juice, orange zest and juice, and cardamom in a heavy bottomed stock pot.  Add the sugar and cook over high heat until the mixture comes to a boil.  Boil hard for 5 minutes, skimming and discarding any foam that rises to the surface.

Add the pectin and return to the boil.  Cook for another 1-3 minutes, testing for a set often.  When the jam has reached the desired consistency, remove the pot from the heat and ladle the jam into clean, sterilized jars.  Process as desired or cool and then store in the refrigerator.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Carrot Cardamom Jam

Mulled Cider Jelly

My husband grew up on apple juice.  When we first started living together, he still loved his apple juice.  I was not brought up with juice, and I just couldn’t get my arms around this one.  In fact, when his mother comes to visit – she still drinks her cup of apple juice in the morning.  Slowly he stopped drinking it – and he actually supported me in a pretty much a non-juice household with the kids.  I just feel that if you are going to get your fruit intake, it might as well be from real fruit (this is from the non-fruit eater…so I should really talk…one of the joys of motherhood, making up the rules) and not from juice.

I started giving the kids juice in their lunch, because it takes too much time to stand in line and buy milk – they only have 15-20 minutes to eat their lunch, and semi-cold milk in a lunch box is really not good.  I remember one day the girls came home – both of them, and told me that they hated apple juice.  I was kind of shocked.  Because they didn’t have juice growing up – when they would be at birthday parties – they would drink anything that remotely resembled juice, like it was going out of style.  Needless to say, I stopped putting apple juice in their lunches.  They both take water bottles to school – and sometimes would just rather just have water anyway.

Even though I am not a juice fan, I put cider in a completely different category.  I love a good hot apple cider drink – with all those spices and complex flavors.  It is the true sign of fall.  I saw this recipe in the Food in Jars cookbook – and couldn’t wait for fall to come.  I went to the farmer’s market to buy the apple cider from the best apple stand at the market.  It came in this beautiful glass bottle – and it was amazing.  I knew this was going to make incredible jelly.  I was a little nervous at first, because it was my first attempt by myself to make jelly – and I overcooked my first batch.  It was still edible, but it got a little more firm than it was supposed to.  The next batch though, I watched the thermometer like a hawk, did the plate test – and it came out perfectly.  The girls LOVE this jelly – even with peanut butter.  It is definitely the best jelly I have ever made…oh right, it is the only jelly I have made.  So maybe I didn’t bring my kids up on apple juice, but now they are being brought up with mulled cider jelly – now maybe I can be in the running for the best mom ever, instead of the mom that deprived her kids of juice.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 1 (1.75 ounce/50 g packet) powdered pectin
  • 4 cups fresh pressed apple cider
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Preparation

Fill your canning pot with water and begin to bring it to temperature. Wash your jars and rings in warm soapy water and set aside. Put your lids in a small pot of water and heat (but do not boil) in order to soften the sealing compound.

Measure the sugar into a blow. Whisk the powdered pectin into the sugar to blend.  In a large, nonreactive pot, combine the apple cider and the pectin-spiked sugar.  Add the orange zest and spices.  Bring to a boil and cook over high heat for 15-25 minutes, stirring frequently, until the volume in the pot is greatly reduced.  While you continue to stir, clip a candy thermometer to the pot and watch until the pot reaches 220 degrees F.  There will be a great deal of foaming and bubbling before it reaches this point.  It should look thick and syrupy and the bubbles should look glossy.

Test the set of the jelly using the saucer test (place a saucer in the freezer when you start – when you think the jam is done, place a drop on the plate and return to the freezer for 1-2 minutes, it should wrinkle when you push on it).  If it doesn’t pass, return the pot to the heat and cook for an additional 5 minutes before repeating the test.  When the jelly has reached the desired consistency, turn off the heat and fill the jars. Wipe rims and apply lids. Screw on the bands and lower into the water. Process in the hot water bath 10 minutes. When time is up, remove from water and cool on the counter. When the jars are cooled, check the seal by pressing on the top of the jar. If there’s no movement, the jar has sealed. Store up to one year in a cool, dark place.

Makes 4 pints (yield varies depending on width of pot, cooking length and juiciness of fruit).

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Mulled Cider Jelly

Pear Butter

Fall fruit is here, and I am just LOVING it!!  But, there is actually something else that I am loving right now…and it doesn’t have anything to do with food – although I am using it to post this entry right now.  It is my new Surface.  As you know, I try to keep my blogging life separate from my work life, but occasionally the paths do cross.  Aside from my family and food – I have another passion – it is my work.

When I graduated from High School, my father told me he would buy me a computer for my graduation gift.  This was 1987.  This was long before the internet, and before there was a computer in every home and on every desk.  This was quite a gift.  At this time, most people my age were going for the Macs – they were cute, a nice rectangular shape – and they were starting to pop up everywhere.  I didn’t want a Mac though – I wanted a PC.  I read about Windows, and Microsoft’s vision for computing – and I was sold.  I loved my computer – and if I wasn’t so focused on majoring in mathematics, I probably would have switched to computer science – instead I took a few classes as electives.  When it was time for me to start thinking about what I was going to be when I grew up – I decided I wanted to work for Microsoft.  I went to the library to look up where Microsoft was located, and it was in Redmond, Washington.  Well – at that point – living my entire life on the east coast, I didn’t think I would ever visit Washington, let alone live there.  So I decided that becoming an Actuary would be more realistic.

At first I liked my job – but it soon became boring.  I couldn’t imagine spending my life calculating the ROI on insurance products.  The only thing that got me excited was being able to get into the actuarial software and program my own solutions.  I loved Microsoft Excel – when I wasn’t programming, I would create elaborate spreadsheets to calculate premiums using formulas in Excel.  I remember staring at my computer one day wishing I worked somewhere that produced a tangible product – like Microsoft.  Everyone used it – Windows was popping up everywhere as PCs became more and more mainstream.  I knew what I had to do – I just had to figure out how I was going to do it.

In 1996 my husband and I were deciding where to move next – he had to do his post-doctoral work, and we had narrowed it down to two cities – Seattle and Boston.  Secretly I wanted to move to Seattle so I could work for Microsoft – but I sent them my resume, and didn’t hear back.  I had a job offer with an insurance company, so I resigned to continuing my actuarial work.  That only lasted 18 more months, before the opportunity fell into my lap to go work for Microsoft.  They were looking for accountants, and I convinced them that I was good enough with numbers that I could figure it out.  Ok, so I had never taken an accounting class, but I could learn quickly – and I did.  It was amazing – my job was exciting, and the career opportunities were endless.  I switched jobs every year and a half for the first 5 years, and loved every minute of each of them.  15 years later, I am still at Microsoft, and as passionate as ever about our products.  I know we are the underdog now.  I know we are considered old and stodgy – but I believe in what we can do – and that things will turn around.  The last few years have been tough – it has been hard to watch (some of) my family turn and support our competitors.  I take it personally.  I have put my heart and soul into this company.  Well – with Windows 8 and Surface, I believe we have a new opportunity.  I am extremely proud of what we have been able to accomplish, and I hope the world will give us another chance.

I had to find something really special to post using my new Surface, and this is just about as good as it gets.  The bonus is it makes your entire house smell like fall.  I think I am going to be making this Pear Butter every weekend until the Pears are gone, yes, it is that good.  My husband is completely addicted, and the girls eat this with a spoon.  It is like a very thick applesauce, but so much better.  It spreads so nicely and is perfect on an English muffin – or just spread on more fruit.  Thanks Food in Jars for yet another amazing recipe!  Now I have to go get myself another spoon of this stuff, while I play with my Surface some more…oh, and did I tell you about the touch keyboard??  Magical…

Ingredients

  • 10 cups cored and chopped pears (about 5 pounds)
  • 2 to 3 cups of sugar, or as needed
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 3 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preparation

Place the pears in a 4-quart slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 1 hour.  If you have an older slow cooker, they cook cooler, so you may need to cook on high.

Remove the lid and give the pears a stir.  From this point forward, you will want to keep the lid slightly cracked.  I have found that propping it open with a wooden spoon or chopstick gives just enough room for the evaporating steam to escape.

Continue to cook the pears down for an additional 5 to 7 hours, checking every hour and stirring.  After it has cooked for 4 hours, blend the butter for a smoother texture.  For a chunkier consistency, use a potato masher to help break down the pears.

In the final hour of cooking, taste the pears and add 2 to 3 cups of sugar.  Use your judgment and taste buds to determine the correct sugar level.  Add the lemon zest and juice and the spices and stir to combine.

If you need to speed up the process of cooking the pears down, remove the lid and turn the slow cooker to high.  Stay close when it’s on high and stir often.

When the butter is nearing completion, fill your canning pot with water and begin to bring it to temperature. Wash your jars and rings in warm soapy water and set aside. Put your lids in a small pot of water and heat (but do not boil) in order to soften the sealing compound.

When it has reached a consistency that is thick and spreadable, ladle the butter into the prepared jars. Wipe rims and apply lids. Screw on the bands and lower into the water. Process in the hot water bath 15 minutes. When time is up, remove from water and cool on the counter. When the jars are cooled, check the seal by pressing on the top of the jar. If there’s no movement, the jar has sealed. Store up to one year in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months

Makes 3 pints (yield varies depending on width of pot, cooking length and juiciness of fruit).

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Pear Butter

Damson Plum Jam

There is something to be said about making something out of nothing.  I know what it is like to be completely bombarded with fruit from your trees.  It stresses me out.  I find my self force feeding it to the family, and then no one is really enjoying it.  I don’t want to waste a single bit – and that’s why canning is just such a gift.  I have found my calling.

The other week I happened to see my neighbor outside.  It was just after I finished making the fig jam from my other neighbor’s bounty.  He mentioned that his plum-tree was exploding with fruit this year.  Little did he know who he was really talking to…not all of my neighbors know about my little hobbies.  I am not a big fan of plums, but that was before I started jamming.  My eyes got bigger, as I almost burst with excitement.  He asked if I wanted some – and boy did I ever.  I asked if he could spare about 5 pounds, and he looked at me like I was crazy.  I told him that I recently became obsessed with making jam, and I was dying to try this Damson Plum Jam (slightly adapted below) that I found in the Food in Jars book.  I promised I would bring some over for them afterwards.

I had no idea that plum jam could taste so good.  I was also shocked that it came out such a beautiful purple color – especially when the flesh is basically a golden-yellow.  I guess just a little of the purple skin goes a long way, even though all the fruit was peeled.  I decided to add a little cinnamon because my family loves that spice – and it was amazing.  It was so good that I actually called up my neighbors and asked if they had another 5 pounds to spare.  It was like a win-win for both of us – they gave the plums to someone who was going to put them to good use, I got to make jars and jars of delicious plum jam, and they got some as well.  My husband was so proud – who would have thought that plums would give us all so much joy!

Ingredients

  • 8 cups of damson plum pulp, from about 4 1/2 pounds
  • 4 cups of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 packets (1 box) liquid pectin

Preparation

Fill your canning pot with water and begin to bring it to temperature. Wash your jars and rings in warm soapy water and set aside. Put your lids in a small pot of water and heat (but do not boil) in order to soften the sealing compound.

Put plums in 1 cup of water, and simmer until the skins pop.  Then peel and pit the plums – and squish in your hands until you make pulp.  Add plums and sugar to a large, non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the jam begins to look molten and syrupy. Add the pectin, cinnamon and lemon juice/zest and bring to a rolling boil for a full five minutes.

Turn off the heat under the jam and fill jars. Wipe rims and apply lids. Screw on the bands and lower into the water. Process in the hot water bath 10 minutes. When time is up, remove from water and cool on the counter. When the jars are cooled, check the seal by pressing on the top of the jar. If there’s no movement, the jar has sealed. Store up to one year in a cool, dark place.

Makes 4 pints (yield varies depending on width of pot, cooking length and juiciness of fruit).

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Damson Plum Jam

Nectarine Lime Jam

I know that nectarine season is just about ending, but I had to get one more jam in before moving onto the apples and pears.  Before I talk about this jam though, I have recap my culinary adventures over the past few days – nothing too outlandious, but definitely some highs and lows.  Just another fun week.

Last Thursday evening, I was invited to a work event by an external collegue.  I almost never go to these types of events, but this one really caught my attention.  It was an evening with Tom Douglas.  He was going to do a couple of demos, and serve food from his array of restaurants in the Seattle area.  I had to really think about this though – I couldn’t take my husband, so I would have to do this alone.  I am an introvert – I get anxiety thinking about entering a room of people I don’t know, or people I don’t know well.  My husband is the same way – so we are a perfect match.  Most of the time, we stick to ourselves, have a great time, and leave.  If we end up meeting a couple of people along the way, it is not because we approached them.  So – I got to the event, and actually had to sit in my car for about 30 minutes before mustering up the courage to enter.  I kept reminding myself why I was doing this – I love food.  It would be worth it.  Boy was I right, it was spectacular.  He is quite an amazing person – he was so approachable, and it was a pretty small crowd.  I ended up finding a few people who I knew, which also helped.

Fast forward to Saturday night.  My husband and I love our date nights – we love going out for dinner, being able to talk to each other (with two girls, we don’t have a lot of opportunities) and to try new restaurants.  The last new restaurant we tried was a HUGE winner – in fact, we went back a couple of weeks later, it was that good.  So last night we rolled the dice again, and went to another new place.  It wasn’t entirely new, but they moved to a new space.  We were only at the old space once, but we both had a good meal there, so we were excited to try it again.  When our cocktails came, we were a little disappointed – but then again, we have high expectations in that area.  Most of our friends know wine, we know alcohol – good alcohol, and this was not up to par.  Moving onto the salad, I knew we were in trouble when I couldn’t find the roasted beets in the beet salad.  The main course was a complete disaster – we shared one (since the waiter told us it was a huge portion), and it was almost inedible.  We were both trying to stay positive though, but we finally couldn’t do it anymore.  By the time they brought us the desert menus, we were done with that place, never to return again. We paid the check and ran out as fast as we could.  What a dissappointment.  I guess you win some and you loose some – we had a wonderful smoked chicken for dinner tonight – which wiped out all the bad memories of last night.  For those of you who live in Seattle and want to know the name of this place, feel free to leave a comment – and I will email you back.  Maybe it was just last night – but we won’t be trying it again to figure that out.

So back to this jam.  I wanted to try a completely different recipe in Food in Jars (like my love of trying new restaurants), but this one came through – even though I love stone fruit with vanilla and cinnamon, the lime in this recipe really gave the nectarines a punch.   This is not the type of jam I would serve for breakfast, this is more of an appetizer jam with cheese.  I let my younger daughter eat the samples from this picture, and she was on top of the moon.  She especially loved licking every bit of jam off the spoon.  The best part about this jam?  You don’t need to peel the fruit – what a time saver.  So – if you are looking to try something new – give this one a try.  It won’t cost you as much money as we spent on our dinner last night – and if you don’t like it, give it to a friend, I know someone will love this jam.  I promise.

Ingredients

  • 5 cups pitted and chopped nectarines (about 3 pounds)
  • 3 cups of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 1 packet (3-oz) liquid pectin

Preparation

Fill your canning pot with water and begin to bring it to temperature. Wash your jars and rings in warm soapy water and set aside. Put your lids in a small pot of water and heat (but do not boil) in order to soften the sealing compound.

Combine the nectarines and sugar in a large pot.  Bring to a boil and let the jam boil for about 15 to 20 minutes over high heat, until the fruit softens and can be mashed with the back of a wooden spoon.

If you prefer a smoother jam, use a potato masher or immersion blender (taking care not to burn yourself with hot jam) to break down the chunks. If you prefer a chunkier jam, just leave as is.  Add the lime zest and juice and stir well.  Add the pectin and bring to a rolling boil for a full five minutes, until it looks molten and syrupy.

Turn off the heat under the jam and fill jars. Wipe rims and apply lids. Screw on the bands and lower into the water. Process in the hot water bath 10 minutes. When time is up, remove from water and cool on the counter. When the jars are cooled, check the seal by pressing on the top of the jar. If there’s no movement, the jar has sealed. Store up to one year in a cool, dark place.

Makes 3 pints (yield varies depending on width of pot, cooking length and juiciness of fruit).

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Nectarine Lime Jam

Fig Jam

When I was little, I thought that Fig Newtons were like a cruel joke.  I didn’t get dessert very often, and when cookies were an option, the last variety I was looking for was a Fig Newton, they were almost as bad as Oatmeal Raison Cookies (purely because of the raisins).  As you can see, there was a pattern, I was just not fond of dried fruit.  In fact, I wasn’t much of a fresh fruit person either.  I guess I had to counter balance the lack of sweets in my life – if I didn’t get non-healthy sweets, I wasn’t about to eat the healthy ones either.

As an adult, some things have changed.  I still don’t like raisins in my cookies – but figs are almost like a delicacy.  I remember the first time I had some fig jam with cheese – it was a remarkable combination.  I just couldn’t believe how perfect the cheese went with the figs (but that was before I tried the truffled honey…talk about out of this world), I was actually starting to like figs.  I even remember trying a Fig Newton as an adult – and wow, I loved it.  Of course this was after the cheese incident, which made me appreciate figs in a whole new way.

I saw a recipe in Food in Jars for Fig Jam, and I couldn’t wait to give it a try.  I waited for the figs to go on sale at Whole Foods, and I bought a whole bunch.  They made the most wonderful jam – I was eating it with a spoon.  The next weekend, I saw my neighbor post something about his fig tree – I couldn’t believe it, more figs!!!  So, what does that mean?  More jam – yes, I know I have a problem, and you haven’t even seen my pantry.  My next project?  Turning that jam into Newtons…boy does life come full circle.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups coarsely chopped fresh figs (about 3 pounds)
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 3-ounce packet of liquid pectin

Preparation

Prepare a boiling water bath and 3 half-pint jars.  Place the lids in a small saucepan, cover them with water, and simmer over very low heat.

Combine the figs and sugar in a large pot and stir well to help the sugar pull the juice from the figs.  When the mixture starts to look juicy, place the pot over high heat and bring to an active simmer.  Cook for approximately 20 minutes, stirring regularly, until the figs have started to break down and the liquid starts to look syrupy.  At this point you can choose to have chunky jam, or use an immersion blender to make it smoother.

Add the lemon juice and liquid pectin and return the figs to an active boil for 5 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and ladle the jam into the prepared jars.  Wipe the rims, and apply the lids and rings, then process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Fig Jam

Peach Jam with Cinnamon and Vanilla

What a week, and it is not even over yet.  The first week of school is always filled with so much apprehension, excitement, homework (and I am not talking about for the kids – am I the only one that has mountains of forms to fill out?), that I am glad when it is over.  One more day, I can do it!

So – this is the jam I was talking about.  The jam that changed my life.  See, the other week as I was making the third batch of jam this summer, my husband asked what I was planning to do with all these jars that are starting to fill the pantry.  I told him some of my ideas, and then he looked at me and said, “You better start eating.”  I continued to put the stickers on my tops, and said, “But I don’t like jam.”  I confessed, and he just started laughing.  I know – I have no idea why I am obsessed with making jam, when I don’t even like the stuff?  Now, it is not that I hate it, but I certainly don’t crave it (unlike pickles, which I cannot get enough of).  I did love the blueberry jam I made, but that was definitely a new experience for me, and at that point it didn’t change my life.  If I was going to eat jam, that would definitely be what I choose – but for the most part, I don’t choose jam.

That was before I made this jam.  I saw this in the Food in Jars book, and it looked like all the jam I make – delicious, but not for me – for jam lovers.  This jam comes from a different planet.  I could eat it with a spoon, it is that good.  I just made my daughter’s peanut butter sandwich for lunch tomorrow (after she requested it with the Peach Jam), and I licked the knife dry.  Who am I?  Needless to say, where do you think I am going to be first thing on Saturday morning?  Back at the farmer’s market buying more peaches – and I suggest you do the same.  This is the best jam I have ever had, hands down.  I might just need to move to Georgia…

Ingredients

  • 10 cups of peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 6 cups of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 2 packets (1 box) liquid pectin

Preparation

Fill your canning pot with water and begin to bring it to temperature. Wash your jars and rings in warm soapy water and set aside. Put your lids in a small pot of water and heat (but do not boil) in order to soften the sealing compound.

Add peaches and sugar to a large, non-reactive pot. Stir so that the peaches begin to release their juice and mingle with the sugar. Bring to a boil and add cinnamon, seeds from the vanilla bean, lemon zest and juice and let jam continue to cook for about fifteen minutes. If the fruit hasn’t broken down much after that time is up, use a potato masher or immersion blender (taking care not to burn yourself with hot jam) to break down the chunks. Add pectin and bring to a rolling boil for a full five minutes.

Turn off the heat under the jam and fill jars. Wipe rims and apply lids. Screw on the bands and lower into the water. Process in the hot water bath 10 minutes. When time is up, remove from water and cool on the counter. When the jars are cooled, check the seal by pressing on the top of the jar. If there’s no movement, the jar has sealed. Store up to one year in a cool, dark place.

Makes 6-7 pints (yield varies depending on width of pot, cooking length and juiciness of fruit).

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Peach Jam with Cinnamon and Vanilla

Blueberry Jam

I see a lot of me in my youngest daughter – she has actually shown me that many of my idiosyncracies are due to genetics – which has definitely made me feel a whole lot better.  If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am just a little obsessive compulsive – ok, but at least I can admit it.  I am a neat freak.  My husband on the other hand, is a germ freak – so the two of us together make quite a pair.  My youngest daughter – she definitely likes things in their place.  I see her arranging her shoes so they are in her perfect order – oh, and if anyone touches her things, she freaks.

So – I am the same way, but on a different scale.  This week the exterior of our house is getting painted.  I seriously almost had a nervous breakdown when I came home last night to find all of our outside furniture piled on the grass in the backyard, along with all of their ladders and other equipment.  As I stood there staring at the upheaval, my youngest daughter started to cry.  She wanted to know when the furniture would go back in its place.  This was not half as bad though as the day I rearranged the furniture in the back – and my older daughter burst into tears.  She wanted me to move everything back.  Fortunately I stayed strong, and after a few days she was used to the change.  Girls are tough.

So tonight, instead of going right home after I picked up the girls, I decided we needed to stop at the farmer’s market – one of my happy places – before facing the mess.  I figured it would put me in a better state of mind.  Boy did it ever.  Walking through the market, I couldn’t stop thinking about pickles and jam – particularly this Blueberry Jam from Food in Jars, that I made at my mother’s house.  I don’t even like jam, but what I am realizing is, I don’t like store-bought jam.  This jam is incredible.  I had it every morning with toast for breakfast, it was that good.  The cinnamon and nutmeg give it this subtle comforting flavor – it is unlike any jam I have ever had.

Well – it worked.  I came home in a much different mind-set than last night – and I wasn’t nearly as freaked out when I saw the windows taped up.  I just had to close my eyes – and remember, that all this painting should be done soon, and if not, just focus on making some more jam…

Ingredients

  • 6 cups of smashed blueberries (you’ll need 8-10 cups of unsquashed berries to equal this amount)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • two (3-ounce) packets liquid pectin

Preparation

Fill your canning pot with water and begin to bring it to temperature. Wash your jars and rings in warm soapy water and set aside. Put your lids in a small pot of water and heat (but do not boil) in order to soften the sealing compound.

Add smashed blueberries and sugar to a large, non-reactive pot. Bring to a boil and add cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest and juice and let jam continue to cook for about fifteen minutes. Add pectin and bring to a rolling boil for a full five minutes.

Turn off the heat under the jam and fill jars. Wipe rims and apply lids. Screw on the bands and lower into the water. Process in the hot water bath 10 minutes. When time is up, remove from water and cool on the counter. When the jars are cooled, check the seal by pressing on the top of the jar. If there’s no movement, the jar has sealed. Store up to one year in a cool, dark place.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Blueberry Jam

Strawberry Vanilla Jam

I have a little confession to make, I have a new obsession.  I am obsessed with canning.  It came on very quickly, and I haven’t been able to shake it yet.  I am already clearing shelves in the pantry, because I know this is not just a fling.  I had to break it to my husband, but canning is here to stay for a while.

Months ago I signed up for a class at one of my favorite places, The Pantry – it was a canning class taught by a woman who just wrote a cookbook called Food in Jars.  I was excited about the class, but never did I think I would really catch the canning bug.  We made two jars of jam/jelly that night, and two jars of pickles – pickled snap peas and pickled asparagus.  I came home gushing.  I couldn’t stop talking about it – and that’s how it began.  I now find myself at the farmer’s market looking at things with a whole new lens.

The night I took the class, we were making pretty good time, we had already made the first three recipes, and we had over an hour to go.  The last recipe was the Strawberry Vanilla Jam – and I am not sure what exactly happened, but the next thing we knew, we were out of time.  So, instead of boiling the jam for the appropriate amount of time to make sure it would set, we had to cut it short.  Marisa just told everyone that now it would be ice-cream sauce – and we all went with it.  I was feeling more confident that maybe I could make jam that didn’t have to be stored in the freezer.  We still put the Strawberry Vanilla Ice-Cream Sauce in the water bath to seal the jars, but she was right, the jam never did set.  Not to worry, I will be serving it on ice-cream soon.  But, I just couldn’t stop thinking about that jam…so I had to make some for myself at home – and this time, I took the time needed to boil the jam, and it set perfectly.  I was beaming.  And now, I am completely hooked…

Ingredients

  • 12 cups of ripe, chopped strawberries
  • 2-3 vanilla beans, split and scraped
  • 6 cups of sugar, divided
  • 2 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 4 tablespoons powdered pectin

Preparation

Wash and chop berries. Toss them with 1 cup of sugar and the vanilla beans/seeds and place in a large jar or bowl.  Allow the berries to macerate for at least 2-3 hours and up to 72 hours.

When you’re ready to make the jam, prepare jars (this recipe makes 5 pints).  Pour macerated strawberries into a large, non-reactive pot and add the remaining cups of sugar, lemon juice and zest and stir to combine.  Bring to a boil (this jam will foam madly, beware).  Cook jam over high heat, stirring regularly for 20-25 minutes, until it takes on a thick, syrupy consistency.

Add the pectin and bring to a rolling boil.  Let the jam boil vigorously for an additional three to four minutes.

Remove jam from the stove, and ladle into your prepared jars.

Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in your canner for 10 minutes (normally I’d admonish you not to start your timer until the water has returned to a boil. However, as long as your water is quite hot when the jars go into the canner, the time it will take to return to boiling should be minimal).

When time is up, remove jars from canner and let them cool on a towel-lined counter top.

When jars are cool enough to handle, remove rings and check seals.  If any jars are not sealed, store them in the fridge and use them first.  Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Strawberry Vanilla Jam