Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Freezer and the Cupboards

I'm thinking about writing a children's book titled "The Freezer and the Cupboards." I think it has a nice ring to it. And of course, to me it's a thrilling subject. Some two-year olds might beg to differ. Come to think of it, most people would beg to differ.

I bought my General Electric 7.0 cubic feet chest freezer with manual defrost this summer and it has been packed to the gills since September. Every time I try to pull something out, it seems that something else is eager to take it's place. It's filled with 40 pounds of chicken thighs from Murray's Chicken, about fifty pounds of a split steer from Moveable Beast that I scored with the help of Hudson Valley Food Network's Split and Share group, lots and lots of fruit, some vegetables, and some stock, both beef and apple! I love my freezer. Combined with the jars in the cupboard, and the Kingston Natural Foods Buying Club, I don't go to the store much any more.

One of the things I freeze with great success is fruit, which I can then make into preserves when it's cold outside and the sun sets at 4:30 and it's dark, really dark, by 5 p.m. In my last post about Paradise Jelly, I mentioned to save all of the pulp leftover from your jelly making in order to make fruit butter. It's not a secret that fruit butter is super easy and has less sugar in it than jams and jellies. The fact that I get to make a beautiful jelly, and some fruit butter from the same batch of fruit tickles my frugal bone. Some may say that after extracting the juices from a fruit that the leftovers are sapped of flavor. I don't particularly notice that it does. I like to eat fruit butter, but I don't always want to lay out the fresh fruit for it. But the leftovers? Why not? It's great on yogurt, and in cakes (both mixed and layered in).

From rhubarb juice I made back in spring, I had frozen a quart of rhubarb pulp. The other day I took it out and mixed it with my quince and crabapple leftovers, following Food In Jars' slow cooker recipe, which I always use now. I just can't get over how easy it is to produce five or six half-pints of fruit butter. And because it seems like a bonus, you can experiment with interesting combos that you might not otherwise try.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Paradise Jelly

This month's Tigress' Can Jam is the second to last month of the year-long jam! Cosmic Cowgirl (also of Confituras fame) gave us the pick of pomes, that is, apples, pears and quinces. Phew! What would the jam be without those guys? And, being both a quince and jelly fanatic, I decided to do a quince jelly. But not just any quince jelly. This is Paradise Jelly, my friends. I've been eyeballing this recipe that I've adapted from the Joy of Cooking for a while now.

Clockwise from top right: crabapple, lingonberry, quince.

It's an old school recipe that combines apples, quinces and cranberries. I used crabapples, quinces and lingonberries, otherwise known as low-bush cranberries—a wild Alaskan gift from the ever-generous Shae of Hitchhiking to Heaven. It's the most beautiful jelly I've ever made, as all three fruit add to the rosy hue, and the name is certainly fitting.

The married juices with some crabapples in the background.

Paradise Jelly
adapted from The Joy of Cooking
makes 4 to 5 half-pint jars

The basic method is to extract the juice from all the fruits separately, because they have such different cooking times.

3 pounds of crabapples
3 cups of water

Cut the crabapples in half, removing the blossom end and stems. Combine with water and bring to a boil, simmering gently for about thirty minutes. Strain. Reserve juice.*

1 1/2 pounds quinces
3 1/2 cups water

Cut the quinces coarsely in chunks. Add water and bring to a boil, simmer for about thirty minutes. The longer you cook them the more pink they will get. Don't use a high heat. Strain. Reserve juice.*

8 ounces of lingonberries (or cranberries)
3/4 cup of water

Bring to a boil, strain and reserve juice.**

*My next post will be about incorporating the pulp of these fruits into a great preserve. Food mill them and stash them in the fridge.

** See this post on what to do with this fruit pulp.

Combine all the juices. You will have about five cups of liquid. Measure four cups of juice, and add three cups of sugar. I froze the last cup for addition into a jam or jelly. It is high in pectin—all three fruits are pectin rich—and will serve well as a pectin stock.

Now proceed as with any jelly. Bring to a boil, and continue at high heat until the jelling point is reached. This is 22o degrees using a candy thermometer. You want to be familiar with the jelling stages though, as the temperature is never a sure indicator of a gel. Jelly is temperamental, but not entirely mysterious. Trying an apple jelly first to see what will happen is always a good starting point. It won't set you back financially, or emotionally!

You should have your jars boiling away in the water bath. Jelly making is an instance where you want the jars sterilized (boiled for at least ten minutes) so you can process them for only five minutes. If you process your jelly for ten minutes, you may lose the set you worked so hard for by cooking it away. That's why processing times are shorter for jelly.

Is there anything better than warm, fresh bread with butter and jelly?

In my opinion, it was so worth the extra work! This would be a gorgeous glaze for turkey or duck, I think. And as a tart glaze, of course, like so many jellies. But we like it straight up on some homemade bread with butter, just fine, thank you very much! (Though I think some little toddlers around here would be fine eating it right off the spoon!)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jelly Roll and Fruit Bars

It's pretty much the most obvious thing ever, isn't it? But a jelly roll is a great way to use up all those jars of jelly I make. However, in this cake I didn't use jelly. I used a great strawberry rhubarb sauce. It was delicious with a dollop of crème fraîche. I used a recipe for angel food cake jelly roll in the Joy of Cooking. I can justify it by all the eggs we get from the chickens. I have to do something with them!

And then there's fruit bars. I don't know about you, but I seem to go through a lot of these. I buy a great deal of them, but that's because I wouldn't be able to keep up with a certain toddler's hunger for them. These are like homemade fig newtons, but the filling is elderberry-apple sauce. The sauce was basically the leftover pulp from elderberry apple jelly I made. I took the pulp, added sugar, and it made a great healthy filling.

The recipe I used was from Linda Ziedrich's The Joy of Jams, Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves. I guess you could say I've got a lot of joy in my kitchen. And you would be right.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Winner and Thanksgiving Pregame

We have a winner of the eBook Hitchhiking to Heaven Prizewinning Recipes 2010! But once again, alas, I have no way to contact this fine person. Will Mary Ann please step forward to claim this prize? She mentioned an amazing preserve called Fire and Ice Jelly that I wanted to contact her about even before I randomly generated her as the winner. That just sounded stellar to me. Please do check back to the comments on the giveaway; I asked people to discuss their favorite jams. There are some mouth-watering responses there! Thank you to everyone who participated!

So, onward ho! Being that this post is about the winner of Shae's eBook, I figured I'd talk about a special jam discovery that involves Shae and her passion for fruit. She spends some time up in Alaska (beautiful post on that here) and while she was there this summer she picked loads of lingonberries, also known as low-bush cranberries. Being the superlative person she is, she sent me a ziploc bag of them. Now do you know anyone who would do that for you? I was so happy! I made some jam of it that was, to be honest, nothing to write home about. It was delish but set a bit firm. My fault, not knowing the lingonberry well enough to be finely attuned to it's quick jelling characteristics. I did, however, hoarder that I am, stow a small bag of them in my freezer. I took a small bit out the other day to make some jelly, which calls for cooking the berries to extract the juice for the jelly, leaving the pulp.

Long story longer, I was making turkey drumsticks to get ready for Thanksgiving. You have to have a bit of turkey before it all comes down, don't you agree? So, while I had this turkey burnishing and some squash roasting, I realized I needed some cranberry sauce. That pulp would be perfect, I thought. But how to dress it up? I went down into my vaults and saw that I had some clementine marmalade left from last winter (which is initially how I met Shae, by the way). I dumped the marmalade into the pulp and made the most gorgeous lingonberry-clementine sauce I've ever had. Truly. It is incroyable!

My point being that if you add a jar of marmalade to some cooked cranberries, you may find a wonderful new friend to invite to your Thanksgiving Day dinner! And yet another way to use up those jars you've been collecting all year.