Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A quartet of Jams

I've been a very busy cook! I decided to take full advantage of the local produce that did grown this year, and make some jams. All with a little bit of a twist! I'm sure you were wondering why I was on a fruit butter tangent, and this is one reason. Stay tuned for my second installment on fruit butters coming soon!

The are (from the left): apricot pineapple cinnamon, onion (tiny jar in the middle bottom), raspberry, and strawberry rhubarb. I made all of them (except the onion) with low/no sugar pectin, and modified recipes. And, they are all delicious!

I wanted to share a few things I learned along the way, just in case you decide to make your own. Yes, this can be a daunting task, but it is 100% worth it. And, your friends and family will worship you! There's just something about home made jams that make them better.

First, and foremost, it's important to make sure you have all your tools and ingredients before you start. Read each recipe, know how to process jams, and know where you are going to put the hot jars once they are out of the water. It really pays off if you can buy/borrow a few things from a "canning kit". I bought one a few months ago, and it really does help. If you can't find them, the most helpful parts of the kit are: a magnetic lid lifter, a canning funnel, and a jar lifter. I bought the kit mainly because it was much cheaper as a kit than buying the individual pieces.

Make sure you have a clean workspace. You are working with several hot items, and need to work in a quick and efficient fashion. It helps if you stand in your kitchen and imagine what needs to be done. For me, I sterilized the jars in the same large pot I processed them in - in a very large stock pot. If you have a dishwasher, the dishwasher is easier. However, sterilizing them in the same pot you will process them in allows you to see how much water you need to add to the pot as well as if all the jars will fit in the pot.

I like to put my jars on a few kitchen towels to cool. It works very well. The other thing I can think of is a ladle. It helps a lot to have one to ladle the jam into the jars. One of the things that I thought was very handy was a 1 cup liquid measuring cup. You can use that to pour hot water over your lids, if you are using a hot water bath to seal your jars.

Your jars will seal easier if you have a clean towel handy, and wipe the tops of each of your jars before placing your lids on. I only had one jar not seal this year, so I must have done something right.

Also, on another note. I am more than happy to share my experiences, recipes, and ideas. However, your experience can vary, and I highly recommend using an easier recipe if you have never made jams before. Or, make freezer jams, and not have to worry about the lids and hot jars, etc. I also recommend you check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation for more information on how to properly store jams, if you plan on storing them outside of refrigeration.

Because all of my jams are much lower sugar, I process them in a water bath for 10 minutes instead of the five that is normal with jams. I can't say how long they would last, since most of them are gone within 3 months.

I add 1/2 t. butter to each of my jams just so you don't see a "foam". If you don't add the butter, the frothy substance forms on the side of the saucepan that needs to be skimmed off. The butter seems to reduce/eliminate this.

Phew! I'm exhausted just proofreading that. Let's have a snack. Yea, that apricot pineapple cinnamon jam is really good! Now, on to the recipes!
Now, on to the jams!

First up, Apricot Pineapple Cinnamon. When I bought some apricots to make jam, my mom recommended adding pineapple to it. After some research, I discovered this was a fairly common recipe. However, I wanted to add a few things to it. I added cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg to the jam, and the result was really tasty. You get just a hint of the spices, yet they are not enough to overpower the fruit.

The raspberry jam was the easiest. I only used 2 cups of sugar for the entire batch of jam. I did add lemon juice to brighten the flavor a bit, and jam tastes so bright and fresh. I am really happy with this jam, and can't wait to cook with it. You can strain the mashed raspberries through a sieve or a food mill to reduce/eliminate the seeds, but I like it with the seeds in.

The onion jam was another experiment. I love sweet onions - walla walla sweets, as well as vidalia's. However, I don't love not being able to find them around. So, I decided to caramelize a ton of onions, and make a jam with that. The ingredients are simple, but this recipe takes a while. It can be just as easily be done in a crock pot as on the stove, though. I first got this idea when I was at a restaurant, and ate their French Onion Soup. Immediately I thought, wow, this would be good on a burger. So, I have been working on that concept ever since. Haven't been completely successful, but I have explored a lot of ways to use onions.

Finally, the rhubarb strawberry jam. I made this mostly for my mom. I know she loves the flavors, but can't eat most jams because they have too much sugar. After reading up on a few things, I made this jam with absolutely no sugar - just with Splenda. It was great - a little sweet, a bit tart, and a great taste of strawberries and rhubarb. You don't even miss the sugar.

Apricot Pineapple Cinnamon Jam

Recipe from: Mom, modified to reduce sugar and add spices
Makes 5-6 pints
4 cups apricots, pitted, chopped, and peeled
20 oz. crushed pineapple, in its own juice
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
3 cups sugar
1/2 t. butter (if desired)
1 package low/no sugar pectin

In a large saucepan, combine all ingredients except for sugar and pectin. Mix 1/2 sugar and pectin together, and add to saucepan. Stir until very well combined. Heat to boiling, add remaining sugar, and heat to boiling again. Let boil 1 full minute. Take off heat, and fill sterilized jars, put lids on, and process in a water bath for at least 10 minutes. Cool jars on towels.

Low Sugar Raspberry Jam

Recipe From: Twisted Kitchen
Makes 5-6 pints
6 cups mashed raspberries
2 cups sugar
2 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. butter
1 package low/no sugar pectin

In a large saucepan, combine raspberries, butter, and lemon juice. In a smaller bowl, combine 1/2 cup sugar and pectin, stir into the raspberries. Cook berry mixture until it comes to a boil, add remaining sugar, and bring to a full rolling boil. Cook for 1 full minute. Ladle into sterilized jars, adding lids, and processing in water bath for 10 minutes. Cool jars on clean towels.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Recipe From: Mom, modified to add Splenda and eliminate sugar
Makes 5 pints
6 cups Rhubarb, cut into 1" pieces
3 cups crushed strawberries
2 cups splenda
1 package low sugar/no sugar pectin
2 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. water
1/2 t. butter

In a large saucepan, add rhubarb and water, and cook over low to medium heat for 5-10 minutes, or until rhubarb starts to lose its shape, and water is almost evaporated. Add lemon juice, butter, salt, and strawberries. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 c. splenda and the pectin. Add the pectin mixture to the saucepan, and heat the mixture to boiling. Add remaining splenda, and heat to boil. Boil for 1 full minute. Ladle into prepared jars, seal and process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Let cool on a towel.

Onion Jam

Recipe From: Twisted Kitchen
5 lbs. sweet onions, such as vidalia, maui, or walla walla
3 T. brown sugar
2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/2 T. oil
1/2 T. butter
2 T. roast garlic (optional)

Chop onions into 1/2" squares. In a very very large sauce pan (or crock pot), heat oil and butter together over medium heat. Add onions, sugar, and salt. If onions don't fit, you can add in batches until all onions are in pan. Let cook until all moisture has been released from the onions, and they are a deep caramel color. Add pepper and roast garlic. Season to taste, they should be slightly sweet, but still taste heavily of onions. Add roast Garlic. Add to small freezer safe containers and freeze until using, up to 3-6 months.

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