Sticky Fig Jam

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Figs are one of those fruits that fascinate me. Outside of a fig newton, I had never tasted figs until I was in college, and even then it was out of desperation. Putting myself through college, my work life involved many carefully thought out random part-time jobs that, pieced together, allowed me to live in a cute apartment with a good friend and eat mostly Cheerios and Ramen Noodles. Yes, I was living the high life. One of my jobs was giving tours at a local open air museum, and occasionally I was assigned to work a ticket booth that was labeled The Dead Zone because no one (and I mean NO ONE) ever used that entrance. While it was a failure at generating ticket revenue, I actually loved working in that little ticket booth because I could take a good book and read for hours uninterrupted. Well, mostly uninterrupted.

You see, the ticket booth in question was near a very large fig tree whose canopy extended over the museum fence and shaded the city sidewalk on the other side (this was Florida, fig trees grow BIG). Did I know this was a fig tree? Uh, no. Did I know I could pick figs and eat them? Uh, no. My suburban upbringing left me woefully unprepared to forage for my own survival. Katniss Everdeen would have kicked my a**.

And then, I met two little boys. One day, these boys came by my ticket booth carrying plastic grocery bags and asked me if they could pick the figs on the other side of the fence. Their mom had sent them up the street with an assignment and she must have been paying them, because they were all kinds of serious. I told them to go ahead and pick what they wanted. What did I care? I was getting paid to read Edith Wharton. Then I got curious. Figs? As in FOOD? I watched the boys pick the figs and eat some. I tried one. I was hooked. The boys came back several times over the summer and I always enjoyed hearing their conversations from across the fence. Sometimes they would ask me questions about the museum, but mostly they were all business. And so was I. I think I ate my weight in figs that summer.

And thus began my love of figs, which were not only delicious (and free–thank you Florida taxpayers), but they were probably the only fresh fruit I ate all summer. If it weren’t for some ginormous, multicolored tree dinosaurs grasshoppers that scared years off my life when I saw them, I probably would have picked the tree clean.

Had I known how to cook, I probably could have made better use of those figs. If I had known about THIS recipe from my friend Heather at Sugar Dish Me, I would have totally made that (and I will as soon as I get me some more figs!). Figs are just coming into season here in central NC and I plan to sock away as many as I can. I found this recipe for sticky fig jam in “Put ‘Em Up” (LOVE this book) and it is absolutely delicious. The blend of figs and balsamic vinegar is pretty amazing. It’s great on toast, but we have enjoyed it on pork tenderloin, on pizza, over cream cheese as a dip and on grilled cheese sandwiches as well. Figs are also one of those great fruits that can be frozen whole for up to 6 months, so if you can’t decide what to do with them, just pop them in the freezer!

Last year, a friend gave me a fig tree cutting and our little tree is growing nicely. We even harvested one fig this summer! I need to talk with Tom about planting another fig tree…and finding me a ticket booth…I miss Edith Wharton…

Sticky Fig Jam

  • 2 lbs. figs, washed, stemmed and cut into halves or quarters
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 c. bottled lemon juice
  1. Add figs and water to a non-reactive stock pot and heat over medium for about 5 minutes, until the figs begin to soften.
  2. Use a potato masher to mash the figs.
  3. Add the sugar, vinegar and lemon juice and stir well. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until the mixture is thick and sticky. Test for gel by putting a spoonful of the jam on a plate. If you run your finger through the jam, it should stay separated.
  4. You can put the mixture into jars and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or can into half-pint or 4 oz. jars using a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Let jars sit in the canning pot for an additional 5 minutes with the heat off and the lid removed.
  5. Remove jars from the bath and let sit for 24 hours. Test seals and store for up to 1 year.
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Roasted Red Pepper Ketchup

I am, overall, not a fan of standard tomato ketchup. Tomatoes, I love. Ketchup? Not so much. It’s too sweet for me and tastes nothing like the juicy summer tomatoes I adore. I found this recipe for a roasted red pepper ketchup that is so far superior to store bought ketchup that it almost needs a new name. It is full of tomato flavor, but also spicy. I canned a bunch of it and we have used it on pork chops, beef, hamburgers and potatoes. It is awesome. Is it obsessive to make my own ketchup? Maybe. Will you become obessive after you try it? Most likely. Yes, it’s that good.

This recipe is derived from Put ‘Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton.

Roasted Pepper Ketchup (about 4 cups)

  • 2 pounds tomatoes
  • 2 pounds red bell peppers
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  1. Prepare an ice-water bath in a large bowl or clean sink.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Drop the tomatoes into the water, no more than 1 pound at a time, and return to a boil. Blanch for 1 minute.
  3. Scoop the tomatoes out of the water with a spider or slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice-water bath. Continue blanching the tomatoes in batches. Remove from the ice bath and drain. Peel, core, and crush the tomatoes.
  4. Heat a grill. Coat the red peppers lightly in olive oil and put on the grill on medium heat. Let peppers char and turn every few minutes so all the sides of the peppers are charred and blistered.
  5. Remove peppers from the grill and put in a large paper bag (a grocery bag works well). Close the top of the bag and let peppers sit for about 10 minutes.
  6. Remove peppers from the bag and let cool. Slip the skins off the peppers, remove the stems and seeds. Roughly chop the peppers.
  7. Combine the tomato pulp, peppers, onion, vinegar, brown sugar, salt, garlic, allspice, cinnamon, and cloves in a large nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Remove from the heat and puree with a stick blender.
  8. Return the puree to the heat and simmer over low heat until thickened, about 2 hours.
  9. Remove from the heat.
  10. Refrigerate for up to 3 weeks or can using a boiling water bath.
  11. To can, ladle into clean, hot 4-ounce or half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Release trapped air. Wipe the rims clean; center lids on the jars and screw on jar bands. Process for 15 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid, and let jars rest in the water for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark plance for up to 1 year.

Rustic Blackberry Jam

Blackberry

This blackberry jam is a hybrid between jam and jelly. Jellies are clear, sparkling creations that have had the pulp, seeds and skins removed. You must strain the mashed berries slowly so none of the fruit particles remain to cloud the final product. True jellies are refined. This jam is not. Why? Because I can’t bear to part with all the goodness that comes in our summer blackberries.  I’m okay with some cloudiness and imperfection if it means more blackberry flavor. So this recipe is a fun, full-of-itself cousin to true jelly. A little rough around the edges, but still a lot of fun. Think of it as that rogue cousin who shows up at a family funeral with a six pack of beer instead of a pound cake. You know exactly who I’m talking about, don’t you? Well, okay, maybe it’s just me…

While this jelly won’t earn any ribbons for beauty at the State Fair, it is delicious, full of flavor and would be good on a biscuit or on a pork tenderloin. The reason it isn’t crystal clear and sparkling, is because I use a food mill instead of cheesecloth to extract the seeds. This leaves in some of the fruit pulp that makes the jelly opaque instead of clear. I don’t care. When I have blackberries, I’m using every little bit of them I can!

Rustic Blackberry Jam

  • 8 cups of fresh blackberries
  • 3 tsp. calcium water (this comes with the Pomona Pectin)
  • 3 cups pure cane sugar
  • 3 tsp. Pomona’s Pectin
  • 1/4 cup water
  1. Rinse the berries and put in a nonreactive stock pot. Add the water. Mash the berries with a potato masher and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Let cool about 5 minutes.
  2. Put a food mill with a fine blade over a large bowl. Fill the food mill half way with the cooled blackberry mixture. Process until there are just seeds remaining and dump the seeds into a container for composting. Continue until you have processed all the berries.
  3. Pour 3 cups of the processed blackberries into the pot and bring to a boil (NOTE: if you have more than 3 cups of processed blackberries, adjust the amounts of the remaining ingredients accordingly).
  4. Add the calcium water and bring to a boil again. Mix the pectin and sugar in a bowl. Add to the boiling blackberries and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  5. Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes. Scrape off any foam.
  6. Either refrigerate the jelly or ladle into clean, hot half-pint jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow jars to rest in the hot water for 5 minutes. Remove from the canner and set aside. Check seals after 24 hours and if seals are good, store for up to 1 year.

Blueberry Lemon Jam

20130617-080549.jpgBlueberries are awesome little powerhouses of nutrition. High in antioxidants, fiber and vitamins, they are sweet little health heroes. For me, as much as I like blueberries, I tend to like them better when paired with another flavor. Unlike our local blackberries, blueberries are just a bit too sweet for me. When partnered up with a more tart flavor, their sweetness is a bit more in balance. I love the combination of blueberry and lemon (and our blueberry-rhubarb combinations this spring were terrific also). So this weekend, I made a new jam experiment with just blueberry and lemon. The result? I think the blueberries taste far better in this jam than in plain blueberry itself! The lemon and lemon zest really brings out the brightness of the berries. This is a keeper!

One of the wonderful things about making jam with blueberries is that a lot of the work is done for you. Unlike strawberries, which require hulling and chopping, blueberries just need a quick wash and a check for any remaining little stems and you’re ready. Also, blueberries have a lot of natural pectin, so you don’t have to use any pectin at all, unless you’re in a hurry.

This recipe uses two kinds of lemon juice–bottled lemon juice (this is to provide enough acid in the jam that the jam will remain shelf stable) and fresh lemon juice and zest (for fresh lemon flavor). This is one place you want to buy an organic lemon. Actually, any time you are zesting citrus, you want to use an organic or pesticide-free fruit because you are using the part of the fruit that is most exposed to pesticides and toxins.

Blueberry Lemon Jam (makes 5-6 half pints)

  • 8 cups fresh blueberries (preferably pesticide free)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice**
  • Juice and zest from one organic lemon
  1. Fill a canning pot with water, insert the rack and add 6 half pint canning jars. Heat over high to boiling, then turn off heat and let sit until you are ready.
  2. Wash the blueberries in cool water and pick off any remaining stem pieces.
  3. Put the washed, wet blueberries into a non-reactive stock pot and heat over medium. Mash berries with a potato masher several times while cooking.
  4. When blueberries and juice come to a low boil, add the sugar, lemon juices and zest. Stir well to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Turn heat down a bit and keep blueberries at a low boil, stirring frequently, for about 45 minutes or until the berry mixture gels.
  6. Remove hot jars from the canning pot (carefully!) and set them on a clean tea towel. Put the jar lids into a bowl and pour some of the hot water over them to cover.
  7. Carefully ladle jam into the hot jars, leaving 1/4″ of headspace. Add lids and bands, just tighten bands to finger tightness.
  8. Return the filled jars to the canning pot, cover pot, and heat over high to boiling. Boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, remove cover, and let sit for 5 minutes.
  9. Remove jars from the hot water bath and let sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Check seals and store in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year.

**You can use fresh lemon juice, but because bottled juice is more consistent in its acid content, the bottled stuff may be more reliable.

Simple Strawberry Jam

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I am not a fruit jelly person.

Fruit jellies are those lovely, clear, sparkling creations prized for their lack of seeds or fruit pulp. They take time, patience and (to me) they are a bit fussy. Give me a hearty, rustic jam with chunks of tender fruit to spread all over my morning toast any day. Homemade jam reminds me of sticky, jam kisses from your children. And lazy, summer mornings. And one of my favorite children’s books, Jamberry by Bruce Degan.

By next week, we will have blueberries…

One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry
Hatberry, shoeberry, in my canoeberry

But right now, we have strawberries…

Three berry
Four berry
Hayberry
Strawberry
Finger and pawberry
My berry, your berry

So this weekend, I made strawberry jam, thick with pieces of strawberry and absolutely, berry delicious. This recipe is a slight derivation from a recipe in Sherry Brooks Vinton’s book Put ‘Em Up. Just slight though. I use a stick blender to really mash up the berries and I also add 1 tablespoon of organic, unsalted butter to the cooking berries. I seem to have a problem with strawberries producing a lot of foam and the butter is a Ball recipe suggestion for reducing foam (it works!).

And if I haven’t said it enough, the Put ‘Em Up canning/food preservation book is really the best one I have. It is the only one that is thoroughly sticky, splattered, dog-eared and well-loved. For the record, I get nothing for saying that, just the satisfaction of sharing with you something I appreciate.

Got strawberries? Go make this jam!

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Strawberry Jam (makes 6-7 half pints)

  • 8 cups of organic strawberries, rinsed and hulled (tops taken off)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted, organic butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Pomona’s Universal Pectin
  • 2 teaspoons calcium water (included in the Pomona’s packet)
  1. Cut the cleaned and hulled berries into quarters (or into halves if the are small). Put cut berries into a non-reactive stock pot.
  2. Mash the berries with a potato masher, then blend together with a stick blender for about 1 minute.
  3. Mix the sugar and pectin together in a bowl.
  4. Fill your canning pot with water and add the rack and your jars. Heat over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Put lids in a bowl and set aside.
  5. While you wait for the canning pot to heat, bring the berries and the butter to a boil over medium high heat, and stir to make sure they don’t burn.
  6. Stir in the calcium water and lemon juice. Then, add the sugar and pectin mixture, stirring to prevent lumps.
  7. Return the berry mixture to a boil, heating through. The mixture should be thick and coat the back of a spoon. Remove pot from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Skim off any foam.
  8. Turn the heat off of the canning pot. Remove hot jars from the canning pot CAREFULLY and empty the hot water inside the jars back into the canning pot. Put some of the hot water in the bowl with the jar lids. You want to cover them in the very hot water.
  9. Fill the hot jars with the hot berries, leaving 1/4″ of headspace. We use our trusty blue canning funnel. Use a spatula or the gadget that comes with your canning kit to remove any excess air in the jars.
  10. Wipe jar rims with a clean paper towel, take the lids from the hot water and top each jar with a lid. Screw on bands just to finger tightness (don’t over tighten).
  11. Add the jars back to the canning pot, add the cover, and bring water to a boil for 10 minutes.
  12. Cut off the heat, remove the pot lid and let jars sit for 5 minutes.
  13. Remove jars from the canning pot and do not tilt them! I use a clean tea towel to dab excess water off the jars, but keep them straight.
  14. Let the jars sit I disturbed for 24 hours. Check seals and store all sealed jars in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Note: If you have any extra jam that doesn’t quite fill a jar, you can ladle it into a jar or cup and refrigerate it for up to 3 weeks!

This is the basic technique that applies to all berry jam making. The proportion of acid and pectin may change, but if you can do this, you will be able to can almost anything! Ready? Give it a go!

Raspberry, jazzberry, razzamatazzberry,
Berry land, merryland, jamming in berryland

Charred Pepper Barbecue Sauce and Crock Pot Pulled Pork

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Spicy, hot and a little bit sweet! Just the way I like it!

I love barbecue sauce, but I’m not all about the super sugary bottled sauce in the grocery store. Some of them are so over-flavored that you can’t taste what you’re putting the sauce on. And when I’m buying a most delicious Boston butt from Mae Farm, I want to taste the pork as much as the sauce! We loooooove our Mae Farm meats! So this summer I experimented with making and canning some summer goodness in the form of homemade barbecue sauce. We just broke open our first jar (how did it take us so long???) and it is really quite good! A little sweet, spicy hot and rich with allspice and cloves, this barbecue sauce has a deep, rich taste, but it allows the flavor of your food to come through.

Here is a super tip on peeling tomatoes. Freeze whole tomatoes the night before you make your sauce. Run the frozen tomatoes under warm water and the skins will slip off! Totally easier than blanching!

This recipe is adapted from my all-time favorite canning recipe book, Put ‘Em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton (order it HERE).

Charred Pepper Barbecue Sauce (makes about 4 pints)

  • 1 lb. fresh chili peppers (note: red colored peppers will make a more pleasing colored sauce)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 5 lbs. ripe tomatoes
  • 1 lb. yellow onions, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cups organic brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
  • 2 organic garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 tbsp. ground allspice
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  1. Preheat an outdoor grill. Toss the peppers with olive oil. Place chili peppers on the hot grill and roast, turning often so that the skins are charred. This will take about 5-6 minutes, depending on the size of your peppers.
  2. Remove peppers from the grill and put in a paper bag or in a bowl. Close up the bag or cover the bol with plastic wrap. Wait 5 minutes or until peppers have cooled enough to handle. Wearing latex gloves or bare handed (be careful!), peel the outer skin off each pepper. Discard the skin and reserve the peppers in a bowl. If you don’t want your sauce to be spicy hot, discard the pepper seeds as well. Set peppers aside.
  3. Peel, core and chop the tomatoes and set aside.
  4. Combine the all ingredients in a large, nonreactive saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove cover, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 2 hours until the sauce is thickened.
  5. Puree with an immersion blender until smooth.
  6. Refrigerate sauce for up to 3 weeks or can using the hot water bath method. Ladle sauce into clean, hot pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Release any trapped air and wipe the rims clean with a damp paper towel. Center clean lids on jars and screw on jar bands. Process in a boiling bath for 20 minutes. Turn off heat, remove canner lid and let jars rest for 5 minutes. Remove jars and set aside for 24 hours. Check seals, then store in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Crock Pot Pulled Pork (serves 6-8)

  • 1 pasture-raised, hormone free Boston butt pork roast
  • 1 pint Roasted Chili Barbecue Sauce
  1. Put the pork roast in the bowl of a slow cooker. Cover with sauce. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours.
  2. Remove roast from the slow cooker and place on a cutting board. Pull pork apart into shreds using two forks.
  3. Skim any fat off the sauce in the slow cooker. Return pork to the sauce, toss well.
  4. Serve the shredded pork on buns, in quesadillas, on nachos, on pizza or just by itself!

Food Preservation and the Mason Jar

New Mexico. Mrs. Fidel Romero Proudly Exhibits...

My craft room almost looks like this!

I discovered canning last spring and had all the zeal of the newly converted. I canned a lot. I mean a LOT! Jam, jelly, salsa, many varieties of pickles, tomato sauce, preserves, ketchup and even barbecue sauce. I’ll be posting some of my favorite recipes soon because in no time flat we will be back in strawberry season. Can I get a hallelujah?

One aspect of all this canning is the accumulation of jars and rings as we eat through what we put up so many months ago. I know we will reuse the jars this season, but really, the Mason jar is just a darn convenient invention. I’ve been looking for inexpensive upcycling ideas to use with our Girl Scout troop and came across this article. Check it out. If you’re snowed in thanks to NEMO and need a few fun craft projects, this will get you started!

Click HERE!

Get ready for some canning ideas and recipes! What is your favorite food to can?

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