Saturday, December 4, 2010

Beautiful Blackberry Jam

I've been on this kick to make all of my Christmas gifts this year and I've been having a ball (the pun was intended for those of you who know the "ball" reference) with canning. I made the pear-apple butter, which I've enjoyed because there was a smudge of it left that I couldn't can. I had it on a toasted bagel this morning and it was yummy! For those of you who really know me, I'm not a fruit person and definitely not a fruit spread person.

Today I was at Costco and the blackberries looked really good. So I grabbed four cartons of them and headed off to my local Ace Hardware store. They have a large canning section and I picked up some nice 1/2 pint jars and a flat of cute little 1/4 pints ones too. Those will be my office gifts. I'm going to make more pear-apple butter tomorrow and more bacon jam too.

I was really surprised by how easy it was to make fresh jam and I was glad I found a recipe that didn't call for any sugar. Looking at some of the recipes (online and on the pectin box) regular jam called for so much sugar. Nearly 4 cups per batch! So I found one that used honey instead of sugar and I was sure to get the pectin for no added sugar.

Blackberry Jam

One Batch Makes About 4 1/2 Cups (only make one batch at a time as you cannot double jam and get it to thicken properly)

2 and 1/4 pounds fresh blackberries (about 8 cups)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup honey
1 package of fruit pectin for no sugar added (like I said I got mine at my Ace Hardware store but I'm sure you can find it in your grocery store, even off season)

Prepare your jars, rings, and lids for canning and have your water bath near boiling. I got two 1/2 pints and five 1/4 pints from one batch. Or you could make two pint jars if you go through jam quickly.

Sort through, wash, and drain the berries then put them in a large pot. Take a potato masher and thoroughly mash the berries until there are no whole berries and then add the lemon juice. In another bowl mix the honey with the packet of pectin and set aside but within reach of the stove.

Put the pot on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring continuously so you don't burn it. Don't worry, if you pay attention and keep stirring burning is practically impossible. Like I said, I was really surprised by how easy it was to make.

As your mixture is boiling add the honey and pectin mixture. This will melt in and keep stirring. Once your jam has come to a vigorous boil time for about 3 minutes. I timed my boil at 4 minutes because of the altitude. Turn off the heat. The jam will be thicker but still runny.

Pour the jam into the jars, place on lids and rings and processes according to jar size. Let cool and seal. I applied labels with the ingredients listed. I think these are really pretty and the jam set up nicely because of the pectin. I actually tasted it and because there was only a small amount of honey the jam was a bit tangy and I thought tasted a bit like cherries. It was pretty good. Maybe my taste buds are changing as I'm getting older.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pear-Apple Butter

Wow, this is a lot of work for very little yield but I must admit that it was worth it. I must say that I even liked the finished product. I'm not a fan of pears or apples cooked (I don't like pears raw, but I do like apples) and when my butter was going through the cooking process it was at a stage of being sauce at one time and I thought...GAG! After 3-4 hours late it was looking and smelling pretty good to me and I tried some and I liked it! It was nice and sweet and slightly tangy. The flavors were very simple and intense and I could taste the blend of pear and apple. Now I just have to make more since I only ended up with 4 half pints.

Pear-Apple Butter

Yields 4 Cups (I recommend that you double this just to make the time worth takes a long time but so worth it)

2 1/2 pounds Gala apples
2 1/2 pounds Anjou pears
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cinnamon stick

Peel, quarter, and core all of the apples and the pears. This takes some time, but if you're good with a paring knife this shouldn't be too painful. Take the fruit and chop it up (in batches if you need to) in a food processor. Don't worry if the puree starts to turn brown because you'll be cooking the bejeezus out of it. Put the puree into a large slow cooker and cook covered on high for four hours. Carefully puree until smooth (in batches if you need to) in the food processor and put back into the slow cooker uncovered for four more hours. It will not burn but turn dark and thick.

I made the mistake of putting the fruit into my larger slow cooker for one batch. So I transferred it to my smaller one, but by then it had taken forever to reduce down. If you double the batch the larger cooker will be fine. I finished the butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat, stirring constantly until the fruit was very, very thick and there wasn't much moisture. It should be able to hold it's shape if you stir it up with a rubber spatula and look a bit like canned pumpkin.

While the mixture is still hot fill your hot jars for canning. Process half pints according to the directions. I did mine for 12 minutes because of the high altitude.

I can't wait to give this as gifts! I'm planning on making a double batch again very soon!

Bacon Makes Everything Taste Better...

...practically! Who doesn't agree? And if you don't, you're crazy!

The very words bacon jam bring two reactions. Either sheer delight or sheer disgust. Hey, don't knock it until you try it! This would be wonderful on a warm biscuit or a piece of buttered toast or even a juicy burger. The below recipe is doubled because since it takes quite a bit of time it's best to get your times worth.

Bacon Jam

Yields 5 Cup

3 pounds of slice bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces (this doesn't have to be the top quality thick sliced bacon, in fact the cheaper stuff is great for this because it's usually sliced really thin)
4 medium yellow onions, diced small
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled (I use the jarred chopped garlic)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 1/2 cup brewed black coffee

I used my electric frying pan, cook bacon over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is lightly browned (about 20 minutes, and I had to do this in batches since I doubled the recipe. That's right...three pounds of love!). With a slotted spoon transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon fat from skillet. Save the rest in a jar in the fridge. Bacon fat is delicious in all sorts of things!

In the skillet add the onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent (about 6 minutes). Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup, and black coffee and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping all of the brown bits (about 2 minutes). Add bacon and stir to combine and slowly simmer on low (simmer setting) in the pan for 1 hour. The slow simmering intensifies the flavor. There will be quite a bit of juice leftover after simmering. Turn up heat and simmer at medium heat until the juice has reduced to a nice syrup.

Shut off heat and put mixture into a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Your mixture will have a jam texture. I then put the jam back into the pan on warm setting and added 2 teaspoons of cider vinegar. After tasting the jam it was nice and sweet and the extra added cider gives it a bit of a zing.

I heated up water, sterilized my half pint jars, lids, rings, and all utensils then I brought my water bath to a boil. Putting the mixture back in the pan kept it warm. You want warm jam to put into the warm sterile jars. I filled to the threads (you need head-space) and put on the sterile lids (boiled these in a separate pan...that's what my Mom always did) and screwed on a ring until finger tight.

I put my filled jars into the water bath and brought it to a boil. Once it started boiling I timed 11 minutes. Normally at sea level the processing time is only 5 minutes, but I am 6,000 feet above and I had to add a minute processing for each 1,000 feet. It seemed to do the trick since all of my bacon jam jars sealed!

Neato! I wrote out cute labels I had with the name and ingredients. I can't wait to give these as gifts. I think I'm going to have to make another batch. I don't think that 5 jars are enough to give out. I tried some on a little bagel and it was very good and rich. A little will do, but that's all you need to savor the wonderful taste of this delectable jam! Enjoy!