Vanilla Scented Peach Jam

There is an inordinate amount of vanilla in my house right now.  I’m trying to be careful about how we best use it up, but when I brought home some peaches from the orchard up the road, I had a feeling I wanted to try to combine these two.  I always love peaches in vanilla ice cream, so it made sense that these two would go together.

I will warn you–making this is going to make your house smell so freaking good that you’re instantly going to feel like a culinary rock star.  What happens after that…well, just know you’ve been warned.

Because I didn’t want to waste my resources in case this was a tremendous flop, I made just enough to fill two 8 ounce jars.  Below is the recipe expanded out for a bigger batch–just ask if you’d like the measurements for the smaller batch.

Vanilla Scented Peach Jam 
 
5 1/2 cups Peaches, finely chopped
4 Tbsp lemon juice
6 Tbsp pectin (or one box)
6 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut legnth-wise and seeds scraped out
 
  1. Prepare waterbath canner, jars and lids.  While water heats, prepare fruit and measure out ingredients.
  2. Combine fruit, lemon juice, pectin, scraped vanilla beans and the vanilla bean pod together in an heavy bottomed saucepan.  Bring mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.
  3. Add all of the sugar, stirring to help dissolve.  Return mixture to a full rolling boil, and boil hard 1 minute.  Remove from heat and let sit, untouched, for 5 minutes (this will help make sure that the fruit is evenly distributed in the jars when you transfer it over).
  4. Remove vanilla pods (but don’t throw them out!  Wipe them down and stick in some sugar for vanilla scented sugar, or put in a small saucepan with 2 cups water, 1/2 sliced lemon, and 1 sprig of rosemary and let simmer on the back of your stove for an AMAZING potpourri).  Ladle hot jam into jars, put the lids on and process in waterbath for 10 minutes.  Remove from canner, and set in a safe spot.  Be sure to check in 24 hours to make sure all of your jars have sealed.

Quince-Lemon Marmalade

My travel for work is starting to come to a close for the fall.  I have traversed all throughout Southwest Virginia, and then made two loops around my home stomping grounds of New England.  I always come back from these jaunts excited to be back home, and more often than not inspired by something new that I saw or ate.  Like the Lemon-Orzo soup with a hint of kale that I am going to have to replicate, or the incredible mum and pansy displays I saw while driving through the suburbs of Maine and Connecticut, or the plethora of pumpkin spiced lattes and pumpkin spiced muffins and pumpkin spiced donuts.

Inspiration, however, can come from funny little places, too.  I got to visit with my Mom and Dad for a hot minute over the weekend, and having not been to their New Hampshire home during this part of October before, I was taken by a little bush up front that had tons of fruit on it.  After asking what it was, Mom said, “Quince.  But your grandfather says the fruit is inedible.”

Quince!  I’d read about this power packed fruit that to the normal person just passing by is too tart to eat off of the bush.  But quince has an incredible abundance of pectin–so much so that in the days before I could run to the grocery store and grab a packet of pectin, folks would use quince boiled down to produce it’s own pectin.  So much so that the origin of the word Marmalade is actually derived from quince (the Portuguese word for quince is marmelo, and marmelada was originally made with the quince fruit).

After giving this exact lecture to my mother, she agreed to let us try to make something with the fruit, and after a bit of searching, she came up with the Quince-Lemon Marmalade Recipe below.  It was easy, relatively quick, and let me tell you–it’s some of the best looking and smelling jam/marmalade I’ve ever seen!  The quince cooks down into a beautifully rosy color, and the day after we processed it the whole concoction had jelled up beautifully.

Next on my to do list is to see if I can try to grow one of these gems in Virginia, and to see if the folks can preserve or freeze the remainder of their harvest for a can-a-palooza at Thanksgiving time.

Quince-Lemon Marmalade

Adapted from Dana McCauley in Cooking Light
OCTOBER 2005

Ingredients

4 cups chopped cored peeled quince (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1/2 lemon, seeded and coarsely chopped

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

2-ish tsps of vanilla

Preparation

  1. Place quince and lemon in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until finely chopped.
  2. Place quince mixture, sugar, water, and vanilla in a large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 55 minutes or until reduced to about 3 1/2 cups.
  3. Cool; pour into an airtight container or process in a hot water bath to can for about 20 minutes.
  4. Don’t be tempted to crack open that marmalade!  It needs at least two weeks untouched to fully develop the flavor.  It’ll be worth the wait, I promise!

Tomato-Basil Jam

My hands currently look like serial killer hands–my nails and cuticles are stained a nasty shade of deep purple/red and no matter how much I scrub or wash my hands, it’s sticking.  I know it makes me look gross, but I’m kind of digging it.  Why, you might ask?

Because these are preservers hands, and they make me feel like I’m really accomplishing something for my family.   I’m watching my store of jams, jellies, fruits and veggies just get more robust downstairs, and I’m thrilled because I already know that come the middle of winter when all I can think about is when the first seed catalog of the season will get here, I can crack open a can of cherries, or fresh peaches, or thaw out some beans and I can be automatically transporting to the middle of summer.  It’s not out of necessity that we can, but how can you not get a little excited about providing something local, healthy, and cheap for your family?

Last night I finished up the last bit of the cherries and made cherry jam, and then with the benevolent gift of tomatoes from the across the street neighbors I tried my hand at some tomato-basil jam that I’ve been eyeing up since we picked up the canning magazine during our vacation.

And let me tell you, folks, this stuff is DANGEROUS.  There was just a smidge left in the pan after I filled the jars, and JGL and I were pushing and shoving each other out of the way to try to sop up the last, sweet bite with our bread.  The jam is very sweet, really showcasing the fruity aspect of the tomatoes, but the basil really helps to remind you that this is a sweet and savory treat.  I’m really envisioning us either pouring this over a block of cream cheese and enjoying with crackers, or using as a base for a mid-winter crostini.  I’m also envisioning another batch being put in smaller jars for holiday gifts (sorry for the spoiler, y’all!)  When I do this recipe again, I’m going to extend the cooking time on the last boil to help reduce the mixture down and reduce the moisture content–this first batch was a bit loose, and I think a firmer set will really help the texture.

I really hope you’ll try your hand at this gorgeous and different jam–it’s so easy, and so incredibly delicious!

Tomato-Basil Jam
Adapted from BH&G Canning Magazine, page 27
 
2 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled
1/4 cup lemon juice (I substituted a 1/4 cup Veritas Chardonay for the juice)
3 TBS Snipped fresh basil
3 cups sugar
1 package powdered fruit pectin for lower sugar recipes
  • Seed, core and finely chop tomatoes (I just crushed them with my hands).
  • Take half of the tomatoes (about 3 1/2 cups) and bring to boil in a heavy pot.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Add remainder of tomatoes, wine and basil to the pot, stir together mixture.
  • In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup sugar and the packet of pectin.
  • Stir into mixture, and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly
  • Add remaining sugar and return to a rolling boil
  • Boil hard for 1 minute, reduce heat and allow mixture to reduce to desired consistency
  • Remove from heat, and ladle into hot jars with a 1/4 headspace.
  • Process jars in boiling water for 5 minutes.
  • Makes about 5 half-pints (mine last night made about 6)

Canned Cherries

Two things you need to know before reading this post.

  1. I have a small obsession with plastic straws.  I really love them, and I may or may not take one or five more than I need every time I’m out at an establishment that offers grab-your-own-straws so that we can have a stash at the house.
  2. Several years ago a very sweet woman at the strawberry farm showed us how to hull strawberries with a straw (You just simply stick the straw up the bottom of the strawberry so that the strawberry cap just pops off).  While it’s still not my favorite way to hull berries, it’s wonderful for kids or folks who aren’t super comfortable hulling strawberries.
I found cherries for $1.99 a pound this weekend.  Yup, you got it–a ridiculously cheap price for sweet, delicious cherries.  So I may or may not have bought five 4 pound bags of cherries.  It’s going to take me a while to figure out exactly how to preserve all of them, but I dove in tonight by just canning the fruit with a simple syrup.

I do not, however, have a cherry pitter.  And I was stressing out that I did not have said cherry pitter.  But then my dear, sweet JGL reminded me of that woman in the strawberry patch and how she used the straw to hull the strawberries.  After a few tries and a few snips, I was able to easily pit the cherries.  Simple, easy, and something we certainly have on hand in our house, and something that is a multi-tasker.

I’m thinking some cherry jam and cherry pie filling might be good solutions to our abundance of cherries, but any brilliant suggestions are more than welcomed!

Simple Canned Cherries
Taken from the Ball Book of Preserving
 
Combine 1 1/4 cup sugar and 5 1/2 cups of water in a saucepan.  Heat till boiling.
 
Pit cherries and fill hot jars until full.  Pour hot syrup over cherries, and jiggle to make sure the air pockets are out of the jars.  Place lids and rims on cans, and process in a hot water bath for 25 minutes.  

Strawberry-Lemon Marmalade

In college one of the things I loved the most about coming home for the summer was that I got to see the lilacs bloom twice–about a month before school would let out the lilacs would just cascade around campus, and then when we returned home to New England at the beginning of May the lilacs were just waking up for spring.

Even though the strawberries have long since passed in Virginia, they are just now nearing the end of their season here in New Hampshire.  So while JGL is back in good ole VA with the dog-kids, I’m having a blast up here in NH picking berries with my family, and trying new jams and marmalades out of the Canning Magazine that my mother so kindly splurged on.

So here was the first can-venture of the week–Strawberry-Lemon Marmalade made with sweet end of the season NH berries.  We’ll do a cross-country family taste test in two weeks when it’s finished curing!

Strawberry-Lemon Marmalade
BHG Special Interest Publication, Canning, pg 19

 

2 Medium Lemons
1/2 cup water
1/8 tsp baking soda
3 cups crushed strawberries
5 cups sugar
1/2 of a 6 oz package liquid fruit pectin

 

Remove peel from each lemon, removing any pith from the back of it.  Shred into small strips.

 

In a large saucepan combine peel, water and baking soda.  Bring to boiling then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Do not drain. 

 

Meanwhile, remove the rest of the pith from the lemons, section and squeeze the juice from what is left.  Add lemon sections and juice to peel strips.  Stir in crushed berries.  Return to a boil, and then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes.
 Add sugar and bring mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.  Quickly stir in pectin, and return to a full rolling boil for 1 minute.  Ladle hot marmalade into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Process in a water canner for 5 minutes, and allow to set a room temperature for two weeks before serving.  

Strawberry Salsa (FINALLY)

I’ve been off schedule from the moment I woke this morning…but that’s not a bad thing, but my most awesome mojo I was working with yesterday doesn’t seem to be with me today.  But we’re plowing through towards salsa, nonetheless!

So back to the point…Strawberry Salsa.   When I tell people about it, I’m often faced with looks of confusing and bewilderment–how on earth could tomatoes, strawberries, jalapeno, and green onions be good together?  You just have to trust me on this one–it works, and after folks get over the first tentative bites it won’t be on your picnic table for long.  Two words:  Crowd. Pleaser.

It’s one of our favorite treats this time of year, and a recipe that we were given from our Sister in Law.  Over the years I’ve tweaked it some to fit our tastes, and for today’s purposes I tweaked it some for preserving purposes.  You see, what binds the whole thing together is Balsamic Vinegar and olive oil.  And while balsamic is a super yummy vinegar, but not a vinegar you can use for preserving.

I could insert a really long, boring, and nerdy paragraph here about acidity concentrations, how vinegar is processed, etc etc, but I’ll spare you.  Bottom line, especially if you’re a first time canner, the first vinegar of choice for preserving is White Vinegar, and can only be substituted with Apple Cider Vinegar because they share the same amount of acidity.  Mess with the acidity, and you are messing around with botulism and his nasty cousin Food Poisoning.

So today’s canning took a recipe that was meant to be served fresh, and made it so that we can enjoy it come February when summer time seems light years away.  I did that by reducing the balsamic from 12 TBS a batch to about 8 TBS, and replaced the remainder with about 1/4 cup of white vinegar and 1/4 cup lemon juice (to help brighten the flavors).  I also added about 1 tsp of peppercorns per can because I just think it looks so darn pretty, and I really wanted to make sure when we crack these guys open the flavor is full, bright, and still has bite to it.

It certainly is sitting pretty on our counter right now, and I got to utilize one of my favorite kitchen tricks–using a grapefruit spoon to scoop out the pith and seeds of the jalapeno.

So happy Friday, everyone, and here’s to happy canning!

Strawberry Jam

Last year we couldn’t pick enough berries to eat and preserve–by the time we hit the field the berries had just simply gone by.  This year, however, was a much better year strawberry wise, and with our second flat in the fridge, I’m just elated that we’ll be able to put some up this year!

Strawberry Salsa: A Primer

There are moments where I wonder how I made it to adulthood in one piece.  Like when I make a whole bowl of strawberry salsa and then eat almost the whole thing for dinner.  And legit consider it to be dinner.

Most folks see me as the girl who likes to be all thing domestic, but my dirty little secret is sometimes I’m just not great about doing it for myself.  Shhh…don’t tell everyone!

So we didn’t get around to taking a picture of the salsa because, well, we ate it, but after a play date with one of my closest friends on Saturday, the plan is to go pick enough strawberries to make jam and to can salsa.  It’s the first “to do” on my ever growing “what to do on my massive stay-cation that starts on Friday” list.

But if this primer is any indication, the stay-cation is going to be DELICIOUS!

Making my lists, checking them twice

I’m curled up in the La-Z-Boy with a fire going in the fireplace, and football on the TV.  There is still a whole lot of winter left, and I for one will be doing a snow dance on Tuesday.  Bring it, Snowpocalypse!  I am ready for you.

Tigress in a Pickle’s post about chatelaine got me thinking about my pantry and how that small place in my basement makes me brave when it comes to facing a thing like the Snowpocalypse.  Keeping it and the freezer stocked has always been like a game for me.  And as I was chatting about with Grampa today, there is nothing in the world than cracking open a can of tomatoes or peaches this time of year when everything feels bland and bleak.

It feels like we didn’t get as much canned and processed from our gardening efforts this past year.  We have a few cans of tomatoes from our own garden, pickles from our prolific cucumbers, a pound of peas I’m hoarding in our freezer, and one last quart of frozen blueberries.  While my pantry isn’t lacking in soups, stocks and pasta, I do wish I had more of my own “goods.”

So in order to fix this, I’m doing what I do best–make a list.  We’ll be tackling a list of what end products we want to see in our pantry, and what we need to grow in order to get there.  I’m hoping this more purposeful planning will let us maximize our growing space.

Here’s the list as it stands today, and recommendations and requests are always welcomed!

  • crushed tomatoes
  • bread and butter pickles
  • Salsa
  • tomato paste
  • strawberry jam
  • canned peaches
  • frozen peas
  • frozen zucchini puree (for breads)
  • frozen beans
  • frozen winter squash
  • frozen carrots