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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Winter Jams

Even though it's winter, you can still play with fruit! At my new job, I get to do all sorts of fun projects. My current new favorite task is making the jams and jellies we serve with our breakfasts. Now, this will probably get even better in the spring when my palette of seasonal ingredients expands, but for now I am finding all kinds of great recipes to explore. We use them up so fast that I do not have to get involved in the canning process so I have not included it in the instructions, but it's not that complex and you can find excellent instructions elsewhere online. Here are 4 to try at home:

Grapefruit and Campari Marmalade

6 pink grapefruits (or Ugli Fruit, which I used)
2/3 cup Campari
5-6 cups sugar (the amount is based on volume of prepared fruit)
Peel the grapefruit, remove the white pith, and cut the rinds into 2-inch pieces. Bring some water to a boil in a small pot. Drop in the rinds and boil for 1 minute. Drain and discard the water. Repeat two more times using fresh water each time.  When done drain the rinds well. Chop the peeled grapefruit flesh into chunks and pick out the seeds (or just use seedless ones, d'oh!). Discard the seeds. Place the chopped fruit and accumulated juices into a food processor fitted with a cutting blade and process for 1 minute, until the mixture is well-chopped and frothy. Measure the amount of chopped fruit and juice. Return 1 cup of the fruit to the food processor. and process with the rinds till they are in small bits. Now use the same amount of sugar as the total amount of the fruit and juice mixture. Place the sugar in the pot with the fruit. Stir the chopped rinds into the fruit and sugar mixture in the large heavy pot. Stir in the Campari. Bring to a boil, stirring, and reduce heat to maintain a constant simmer. Cook for 25 minutes, stirring gently to prevent scorching and boil-overs. The color will darken as the marmalade thickens.

If you have any doubts, you can test the marmalade: put a tablespoon on a small plate, put the plate in the freezer for three minutes. The marmalade is ready if it no longer is runny. Note: it's a traditional marmalade in the sense that it's a bit bitter — much like myself. This recipe makes about 12 half-pint jars.

Grilled Anjou Pear Butter

3 pounds ripe Anjou pears quartered, seeded, skin on
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/2 cup water

Take your quartered pears and brown them on a grill (or in the broiler). Combine the charred pears with all the ingredients in a large pot. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until very tender. Run the mixture through a food mill, which will remove the peels (and any seeds you missed) and leave you with a lovely purée. Pour the purée into a pot and simmer on the stove till thickened, about 1 hour on a very low flame. Or you can roast in at 300 degree oven for about 2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes so it won't stick, until it reaches the consistency you like.

Red Grape and Cassis Jelly

3 pounds (about 2 quarts) of flavorful grapes, Concord are best, but ruby red work well, too
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup Cassis black currant liqueur
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons apple pectin
1/4 cup lemon juice

Wash and stem grapes — don't worry if small stems remain on the fruit, since they will be strained out along with the seeds. In a nonreactive, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring grapes, water, and Cassis to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer grapes, periodically stirring and crushing, until they've begun to lose their shape, you can see their color changing, and the liquid increases — about ten minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Set a food mill (with the smallest sieve in place) over a large, heatproof bowl or pitcher, and pour grapes and cooking liquid through. Mill until all that remains are the seeds, skins, and stems. You will have about 4 cups (32 ounces) of grape pulp. In the same nonreactive saucepan, stir grape pulp together with sugar, pectin, and citrus juice and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the mixture registers 220 degrees on a candy or instant read thermometer. Turn off heat and skim any foam with a spoon. This will gel as it cools.

Strawberry and Vanilla Preserves with Balsamic Reduction

Yes, yes, I know strawberries are not a winter fruit, but they are really cheap right now, and sometimes only a berry jam will do!

2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled and cut in quarters
5 cups sugar
1 tablespoon Balsamic Reduction (see below)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt

In a pot, combine the strawberries and sugar. Bring to a rolling boil and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the berries start to fall apart and temperature of the mixture has reached 220 degrees, which means it will be nice and thick and set. Now stir in the balsamic reduction and the vanilla. Wasn't that was easy?

balsamic reduction

What's Balsamic reduction? Just what it sounds like, you take Balsamic vinegar and cook it down until the volume is reduced, and the flavor is concentrated. In a medium-sized, nonreactive saucepan bring 1 cup of vinegar to a simmer over medium-high heat, and then turn down to low. Simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes to thicken and reduce. Keep an eye on it — you don't want it to burn. When it coats the back of a spoon, you're good to go.

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