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It’s a Can-A-Rama!

Our preserving celebration launches today with our third annual Can-a-rama, a week of home canning parties and seasonal preserving nationwide. From August 14th to August 20th, we encourage you all to gather with your friends and family around the canning kettle.

Today in Seattle, we have more free and open-to-the-public demos at Pike Place Market. At Noon, join us for an Apricot-Raspberry Jam Demonstration by Rebecca Staffel, of Deluxe Foods, a Seattle artisanal preserves company, or at 2:00pm to learn how to can Pickled Jalapeno Peppers by renowned pickle expert Lucy Norris.

If you can not join us in Seattle to kick off our Can-A-Rama, Rebecca and Lucy have graciously shared their recipes.

DELUXE APRICOT RASPBERRY JAM

PICKLED JALAPENO PEPPERS

Enjoy!

 

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CAA in the News: New Day Northwest

Kim O’Donnel, cookbook author and founder of CAA, shows Margaret Larson how easy and tasty it is to can. To view the full segment, please click here.

You can can too! Join us online this Saturday, August 13th, for live-streaming demonstrations as part of National Can-It-Forward Day. View the full schedule of events here and be sure to sign up to get your log-in info on the FreshPreserving.com website.

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Can-It-Forward Stars: Rebecca Staffel

In the days leading up to Can-It-Forward Day & our third annual Can-a-Rama kickoff, we’ll be giving a daily shout out to the dedicated group of folks who will be on location showing the ropes of everyday preserving and who have been instrumental to our mission of reviving the lost art of “putting up” food through safe food preservation and community building.

Rebecca Staffel.

That’s Rebecca. She’s the founder and Chief Tasting Officer of Seattle-based  Deluxe Foods, which crafts artisanal preserves from peak-of-the-season Washington fruit. In Deluxe Foods, Rebecca brings together her passions for local farmers and produce, French preservation techniques and imaginative flavor combinations, along with a dollop of good humor. You can connect with Rebecca on Facebook.

What inspires her to can:
I love Washington fruit. It’s that simple. Opening a jar of blueberry jam in the middle of February helps me remember summer. It’s sunshine in a jar. 

Rebecca will be leading the apricot-raspberry jam demo Sunday, August 14 (Noon PST) at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Go here for the full schedule of the Aug. 13-14 Can-It-Forward events.

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Use Up What You Put Up: Jam Dot Cookies

Photo: Kim O'Donnel

We Canvolutionaries talk a lot about how to “use up what you put up” — how to incorporate your home preserved goodies into your everyday cooking and baking. Here’s a goodie I learned this spring from the wellness-minded folk at Golden Door spa in Esconido, Calif.   Believe it or not, this is a dairy-free and egg-free treat, and you’ll never know the difference, thanks to the healthy fats from the ground almond meal.  In the batch pictured above, I filled the cookies with last year’s blueberry (or was it blackberry?) jam, plus a satsuma marmalade I whipped up this winter with CAA Web editor Jeanne Sauvage.   I think you’ll agree they make great eye candy.

Jam Dot Cookies
Adapted from The Golden Door spa.

Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unsalted almonds
1 cup oats (don’t use instant)
(Gluten-free option: Omit wheat flour, use 1 1/2 cups ground almonds and 1 1/2 cups oats)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil (grapeseed, safflower or sunflower all good choices)
1/2 cup good quality maple syrup
1/2 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 1/2 cup of your favorite homemade jam or marmalade

Method
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a baking sheet with oil spray or line it with parchment paper.

Using a food processor,  pulverize almonds and oats until you have a coarse meal. Remove and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add whole wheat flour and cinnamon, and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, add oil, maple syrup, orange juice and vanilla, and stir to combine. With a rubber spatula, fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients, and mix well. Scoop batter with a 1-tablespoon measure onto prepared baking sheet.  Using your thumb or the back of a spoon, make an indentation into the middle of the cookie. Fill the middle with 1 teaspoon of jam/marmalade.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer to a cooling rack. Will keep for about 5 days in an airtight container.  Cookie batter can be frozen, then thawed and filled as needed.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

 

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How Much Is Too Much?

Photo by katart

Recently, I was reading a 50+ year-old British cookbook by Elizabeth David on food preservation. I had great fun imagining the accent of Ms. David, who wrote in such florid language.  No doubt, with her upper class pedigree and as a food preservationist, she spoke in pear-shaped tones.

Turning to her recipe for apricot jam, my long-since-deceased guide assured me that the secret to really flavorful apricot jam is in the kernel held within the pit.   Break open the pit, she instructed, and one will find a soft kernel full of flavor. Add a few of these to the pot of bubbling jam and, voilà!   A depth of flavor, reminiscent of almond blossoms will be imparted to the jam.   Who else but foodies, of this or any other century, can wax so poetic about the wonders of a fruit pit? But I digress.

Taking to heart the advice of my guide, I picked out what appeared to be the most beautiful apricot pits of the seven pounds I had already pitted for my jam.   Heading to the garage I went in search of a hammer or other blunt object.   I felt like Michelangelo releasing the sculpture from the marble.   I was transported by the fact my apricot kernels were just as anxious to be free, to feel the sunshine and breeze on their little faces.   Now, you must understand that my husband has a place for everything when it comes to his tools but I rarely know where those places are.   After a search of about 10 minutes, I found a yellow-handled heavyweight with the name Stanley emblazoned across its handle.   I would not have cared if it had been called Livingstone- -I needed to get on with it! Carrying the hammer to the back sidewalk, I crouched down to break open the apricot pits.  That is about the time my right knee locked up and started singing its own version of Swanee River: “Way down upon the back stoop sidewalk, that’s where I hurt!”   The pain was so sharp and so instant and I was sure I could not stand up and was just as was sure I could not lower my kneecap on the cement.   I was frozen somewhere between.

Bearing a strong resemblance to a stork, I decided to quickly whack the pits, grab the kernels, and hoist myself up.  This worked fine for the first two pits.  They each opened nicely to reveal a buttery yellow kernel just ready for a suicide mission in a pot of superheated boiling fruit.  However, when I hit the 3rd pit, it ricocheted off the sidewalk. The pit seemed to say, as it hit my aching knee and proceeded to gouge a hole in my skin, “I’m not going back to the BIG HOUSE!”  Needless to say, the cut hurt worse than the knee joint pain, so I sprang up immediately and hopped around cursing my English cooking guide in tones that were more thorn-shaped than pear.

I returned to the house and spent a few minutes wiping the blood that had gone south on my leg and plugging the hole from the pit with a wad of cotton and an adhesive strip.  Settling myself once more, I washed my hands and returned to jam making.  I placed two kernels in a little bag of culinary cheesecloth and boiled them with the jam. When it was done, I removed the kernels and tasted the jam.  True to her word, the jam had a lovely woodsy undertone.  Into the jars it went.  I was thrilled. . . for about a nanosecond.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered reading that some folks thought apricot pits or kernels were medicinal, especially in the treatment of cancer.   I headed to the computer and began to search the Web.   The more I read, the more alarmed I became.   My Internet search had informed me that stone fruits like apricots, cherries and peaches contain amygdalin, a cyanide derivative.   It is used very often as a favorite poison of murder mysteries.  Cyanide is colorless and tasteless, there is no antidote, and death takes place within minutes when ingested inmlarge doses.   Think of the capsule that spies chomp on when they are caught behind enemy lines.   Fortunately, my Internet search also assured me that there are a large number of apricot varieties the kernels of which are considered to be completely harmless.

I returned to sanity, if a foodie like me can ever be called sane when it comes to food.   I glanced up from my laptop and saw that a sunbeam had shone in the kitchen window and landed on the jam jars.   The color of the apricots was the color of the morning sun.   My yield of seven jars equaled about 48 ounces of jam and only two kernels in all of that.

That being said, the near loss of a knee cap notwithstanding, the improved flavor and brilliant color of my latest batch seemed to assure me that there really is such a thing as just enough cyanide.  I put my jam pot to soak in the sink and made myself a cup of English tea.  I spread a little cream cheese on toast and slathered it with apricot jam.   Ms. David lived to be 83, even using her secret ingredient.  I guess that makes me good for at least few more decades.

Editor’s note: using kernels from sweet apricots is considered safe in jam-making because they have negligible amounts of cyanide.  On the other hand, kernels from bitter apricots contain significant amounts of cyanide and should be approached with extreme caution.

CAA contributor Cynthia Dare O’Connor writes from Northeastern, Ohio.   She blogs at The Womens Boomer Humor Blog .   She learned to can from her mother’s southwestern Virginia relatives who “put up” everything from chicken soup to chow chow.   She also learned from her paternal aunts who, as Eastern European women, wanted not only fruits and vegetables in the jar but also wonderful jams and jellies for their exquisite Christmas and Easter pastries.   This summer, she is joining friends in starting a community Farmers Market where she will sell her wares.   Her husband is a graduate of the Ohio State Extension Master Gardener program, so she has lots of produce this summer for canning!

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Jammin’ With Kathy Casey

KCportrait289x273There is no better way in my mind to preserve the abundance of summer than by making homemade jams and preserves. It has always been the perfect way to make the summer fruits bring us joy all year long — whether on warm homemade bread smeared alongside crunchy peanut butter for a gooey PB+J sandwich, spooned over vanilla ice cream, or dolloped in the middle of thumbprint cookies. Just think … this winter, when it’s blustery cold or drizzling rain outside, you’ll have sunny thoughts of picking your brilliant berries from the backyard, or the fragrance of bubbling jam will waft back under your nose, filling your head with summery reflections as you take your first bite of morning jam spread, crisp sourdough toast!

One of the favorite rituals of summer at my house is the “scum sandwich.” Yes, you read it right. “Scum” is the foamy stuff that simmers atop the jam and gets skimmed off. Fluffy and hot, there’s nothing better scooped up on some bread. The fascination is kind of like licking the cake batter off the beaters.

Probably the most loved jam is plain and simple strawberry–fun to make after a day at one of the U-pick fields. When back at home, the kids are great stem pluckers. For a charming twist to strawberry jam I’ve done a version with lemon zest and poppy seeds, giving it a fun texture and flavor zip–but I also love it with a touch of lavender added too!

Another jam I like to make is Peach Pineapple Ginger. It is especially good with the minced fresh ginger cooked in to give it a unique zing. This is pretty wonderful daubed on a morning oat nut scone, or you can even use it as a glaze on grilled pork chops by adding a dash of vinegar to it before you slather it on.

Have you ever tried a savory tomato jam? It’s fantastic! I’ve included my recipe for Tomato Basil Jam which is inspired from the tomato jam that a nun showed me how to make when I was a teen. See–a lot of this “new” cuisine isn’t really all that new in the first place. This savory/sweet spread is excellent with roasted meats or with a stinky blue or creamy blue cheese like gorgonzola or cambozola spread on crostini.

Dark Cherry Almond Conserve is just the thing to extend our season of beautiful local Bing cherries (yes you can use frozen)  Big, lush ruby orbs with toasted almonds and a pinch of allspice. Wow, can you imagine a spoon of this over some Ben + Jerry’s Cherry Garcia Ice Cream in mid-January? Yeaaaaah!

And last but not least I did whip up a recipe for no-peel Spiced Nectarine Jam. Made with a bit of brown sugar, cinnamon and allspice, this is great on morning toast or bagels. You can even toss it with a few fresh, sliced peaches, nectarines or cherries, add a dash of dark rum and serve over vanilla ice cream for a quickie dessert. Note: This method does not use the traditional method of canning but more the commercial process of making jam.

So … all this is why in the middle of a blasting hot, 85-degree summer day you’ll find me stirring a bubbling pot of fruit. This winter it’ll be apparent it’s worth every bead of sweat.

STRAWBERRY LEMON POPPYSEED JAM

PEACH PINEAPPLE GINGER JAM

SAVORY TOMATO BASIL JAM

DARK CHERRY ALMOND CONSERVE

SPICED NECTARINE JAM

Also check out Kathy’s Jam Making Tips on our Resource Page.

CAA Contributor Kathy Casey is a blend of her myriad passions: Her culinary “playground” and private event space, Kathy Casey Food Studios®; her stores and specialty product brand, Dish D’Lish®; her status as a respected national food and beverage consultant; and her cookbooks. You can find her at Kathy Casey.

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Plums From Heaven

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We are looking up into the trees, from whence cometh our ripe plums, and our necks are aching.

This is the day of our gleaning, and we are learning that picking free fruit has its rewards, both lascivious and beneficent, and its pains in the neck. The pains come first.

We are a group of eight, or nine, volunteers who have answered an email quickly on this balmy Thursday in July, we have come on bikes and rattly cars to this corner of Southeast Yamhill (seven blocks from my childhood home), to stand on the sidewalk with odd harvesting sticks and try our mightiest to dislodge only the perfectly purpley ripe plums. Splat. Splunk. Slllshhhh…. These are the sounds of the perfectly purply ripe plums hitting the sidewalk, the parking strip, the vines in the house’s front yard, occasionally, our heads.

We are not very good at this, yet.

Perhaps it is a bit too early. The timing is the worst bit of gleaning; too early and you’ll stand under the tree, frustrated as you stand on tippy-toes with your 12-foot stick to reach the uppermost, sunniest branches where the fruit can be seen, glinting ripely in the early evening light, ending up with a modest harvest. Too late and the orbs will be all underfoot, splat splunk slllssshhh, sticking to the grubby running shoes you’ve worn for the occasion, many split and wormy and gooey. But we are here for charity, and after all this is free, so we do not complain.

I pick up the least smushed of the plums and figure I’ll feed them to the chickens, or make them into jam. I set them in my upturned helmet. And we fetch the orchard ladders from Katy’s pickup truck and climb for more.

Katy Kolker is a little bit famous, in that Portland-est of ways. She’s been quoted in the New York Times, and she wears a t-shirt that’s so muted it screams “sustainable rock star,” green on American Apparel heathery green. “Portland Fruit Tree Project,” it reads, if you’re up close, close enough so she can tell you something out of the Times, such as, “A fruit tree is really made for sharing with your neighborhood.”

She now works full-time for the Fruit Tree Project, which organizes “harvesting parties” where volunteers pick fruit from trees whose owners have (in her words) cried “uncle.” Half the fruit is given to a food bank; the other half is divvied and sent home with the volunteers.

The time is flying, and we decide that we’ve picked “all the reachable fruit” and head to the second harvesting outpost. I remove the several bruised and battered plums from my helmet and set it on my head, juice dripping into my hair. Oops. This spot is in my neighborhood, too, in the patio of an unusual business I’ve passed many times but never visited: a wine bar/nursery. I help move the lettuce and cauliflower seedlings out of the way as an older couple on a relaxed summer date look on, and we begin the most glorious harvesting exercise any of us could imagine.

The plums are tiny, just bigger than cherries, and the harvest is immense; they are lined up on rows up and down every branch, a child’s rendering of fruit, bounteous, bedeviling. As we stare up at the tree plotting our moves, they fall around us. I climb up onto the orchard ladder and I grab a branch and wait until the other volunteers are positioned below me with a tarp. And I shake.

It is perhaps the most effective possible method of harvesting just the ripe fruit; the soft plums fall and the rest hold stubbornly to their stems. I yield the shaking ladder to another volunteer harvester and it is after dark when we finally call it a day, left to sort the plums into “OK,” “good” and compost, and pick up the many overripe fruits we’ve crushed in our fervor.

All this while I am drinking in the heady scent of plumminess and dreaming of preserves. After we’ve sorted every last bit and Katy’s weighed the bounty, we stand around in a circle and say what we’ve enjoyed, and what we plan to do with our plums. Many of those assembled will take their seven pounds, eight ounces share home to eat fresh or to stew (with just a bit of cinnamon). I am making jam.

I fill my bag with “OK” fruit, soft and split and oh-so-fragrant, and I breathe it in, I already know what I will do: I will slip off the skins with my fingers, I will squeeze the flesh from the stones into a bowl, and repeat, repeat, repeat, four or five or six pounds’ worth of ripe, overripe, almost ripe plums, I will pour it into a wide stainless steel pot with a cup of honey and I will turn on the heat and I will inhale.

The aromas of preserving are as varied as the stars, each one surely better than the one before, each one a spike in the ground, laying the tracks toward a more perfect pantry, filled with (isn’t it?) all the earthly delights. I will swear that there is nothing that will bring me to tears as the scent of the first pot of strawberry jam, I will stir in calendula and borage blossoms, I will throw myself prone, weeping to the poet’s muse, and then I will stare deep into the eyes of a currant’s jelly and flit! my heart will be gone, again, besotted.

Tonight it will be plums. After an hour simmering, a night standing in the refrigerator awaiting my whim, I choose vanilla, and I bring the plum slurry back to a simmer. I prepare the jars (rinse in hot water, a quick dunk for the lids, rings at the ready), I bring my water bath ever-closer to 180 degrees, and with a generous hand stir in the vanilla extract. Ahh! I have never known love as this before (if it were not for blackberry-gooseberry, sans seeds, oh! symphonies in your name, my sweet-sour).

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Into the jars, the plum vanilla jam, it goes, three half-pints and a pint, it is orange and glorious. Lids are secured, cans lowered into the near-bubbling vat of water, I barely glance at the clock to tell my beloveds how long they will tarry.

For I have plum pickles with star anise to can, too. I’m going to need more jars. Where else can I glean? And where can I get one of those harvesting sticks?

Ball lids, I set you as a seal upon my heart, for love of preserving is as strong as death. Oh, (pop!) my beloved is mine.

CAA Contributor Sarah Gilbert is a writer, photographer, and mama of three little boys living in Portland, Oregon. She believes in baking bread, eating local, growing your own food and preserving as art. She writes for Culinate and at her own blog, Cafe Mama, and is working on a book on inconvenient food.

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