Saturday, July 30, 2011

Wild Raspberry and Blueberry Jam

Getting read to freeze. Checking for bugs is easier at this point.

What I love most about the summer, along with all the other things I’ve been waxing poetic about lately, is picking fruit. Mostly berries. The other day, I went with my husband and son to pick blueberries, and as we drove home I said that it was perfect—the only thing I wanted to do. Steve commented that although it was fun, he could only handle it once or twice a summer. That I could do it all the time was surprising to him. I find it surprising that people don’t want to pick berries all the time. That someone could pass berry bushes filled with ripe red raspberries is unthinkable to me.

Town hall? A cup of tea?

Everybody has a place that they belong in, and mine is the woods, I think. The other morning I got out early to pick in my secret wild raspberry (also called wineberries) patch. This was one of the hottest days of the year, to date, and I appropriately left at 7 a.m. I headed off with my bait bucket—perfect for berry picking. With my smart hiking shoes, I took off along the path and suddenly drifted into my world. Steve is never happier than when body surfing in the ocean. I easily can see it, as I sit on the sand while he's in the surf, by the light in his eye, that he is deeply happy.

A perfect ladder for a squirrel.

For me it’s winding paths in the mountains. It’s rocks and downed trees, seas of fern, and a muted quiet. Soon, I am lost in the berry picking, except for remembering to whistle or sing (this year it was songs from the new Winnie the pooh soundtrack, fittingly enough, and don't laugh-- it's a great album!) in case a bear is somewhere doing the same thing I am. I am happiest when I’m in that dark, green veiled world. A world where I can imagine frogs talking to mice in waistcoats, or a fox smoking a cheroot while he surveys his domain. There are secret little worlds in there, in the hollowed out tree trunks and lily-pad-strewn ponds, with its dark peaty browns and lacy soft greens and dots of ruby red amidst it.

A lovely place to rest for a weary spider.

When I came back, legs scratched and hands sticky with resin, I felt satisfied with my haul, which is good because it was probably my last of the season. I decided to stop this particular moment in time with some blueberries in a small batch jam. The sweetness of the blueberries stand up to the tart wild raspberries. And the pectin of the blues makes for a nice set, easily gained with the acid of both fruit. This recipe made a full pint that I stuck in the fridge and is almost already gone.  You could process two half-pints instead for ten minutes.

1 cup of wild raspberries
1 cup of blueberries (good for you if they're wild too!)
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Put all ingredients in a pot that looks like it's larger than you need. It's not much fruit, but it will still boil up high, like all jams. I let my fruit macerate with the sugar overnight, just because I was too tired to do it then. Either way, when you are ready, bring the mixture to a boil. Let the little bubbles rise and wave frantically. My jam reached a gel stage after about ten minutes of boiling. I didn't use a freezer test or thermometer, just checked it dripping off my spoon and watched for sheeting. I'll admit, it's easier to recognize when you've made jam a ton of times. Remember, a thin jam is never a problem. A stack of pancakes will always come to the rescue.

Turn off the heat and let the bubbles subside. Ladle the jam into a warmed pint jar--I fill mine with very hot tap water and dump it out right before filling, so that it's not such a shock from boil to bottle. Or, as I mentioned you can process this, following normal canning procedure, for ten minutes in two half-pint jars.

I like this jam on toast, while thinking about chipmunks meeting for tea on a toadstool, or some kind of woodland fiction like that.

A spoonful of jam makes every story better.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


When you get a huge box of fruit, your mind starts swirling around that particular fruit and it's possibilities, and then, fun things happen. Or at least that's how I feel about it. This is what happened when I picked up a 25-pound box of apricot seconds the other day. 

After I tweeted for apricot inspiration, I got a response from my friend, Sarah (SarahBHood on Twitter or Toronto Tasting Notes). Sarah has a delicious and creative new canning book just out, We Sure Can, that features one or two of my recipes, alongside some stellar jamming company too long to list (the link to the book goes to the publisher, Arsenal Pulp Press, and lists all the bloggers involved.) 

Sarah gave me a few ideas for my apricots--five to be exact-- but the one that stood out for me was rosemary. I never thought to do an apricot rosemary jam, but doesn't that make the best sense in the world? Sarah mentioned her jamming buddy Alec Stockwell says it's a must. Apricot rosemary jam was the first thing I made, and I tell you, Alec was spot on, but then I didn't stop there. An extra sprig of rosemary was sitting on the counter looking to be useful as I was making an apricot pie. While making the crust in a food processor, I pulled the needles off the rosemary stem and tossed them in. The pie crust was flecked with green and added such a wonderfully subtle flavor to my apricot pie. I'm thinking of doing a peach pie next, with a lavender flowers in the crust.

I also really wanted to make the Best of Both Worlds Jam from Mrs. Wheelbarrow's post on apricots four ways. I mean, does this woman keep giving, or what? Apricots, sour cherries and St. Germain. Wait, what?? But I got carried away with so many ideas, and what I did end up doing was making an apricot blueberry, and an apricot vanilla with noyaux (a jam I made last year and was disappointed by at the start, only to open mid-winter and fall in love with it), in addition to the apricot rosemary. 

Instead of a fourth batch, which I was tempted by, I did something new to me and dried a few pounds of apricots. What's really exciting to me about this idea is that I don't have a dehydrator. The best ways to dehydrate food are obvious ones: a dehydrator, the sun, and your oven. I used my cold smoker which is electric. It maintains a temperature of about 120 degrees. I kept it in a sunny spot (I have an outdoor outlet that gets full sun) to increase the heat. (Of course, I didn't put any wood chips in, but I'm seriously considering how wood-smoked fruit must taste like.)

My apricots dried in little over 24 hours. I sprinkled them with lemon juice prior to drying to prevent browning. Now, I know not everyone has a cold smoker just hanging out in their shed, but if you do, you might want to utilize it to dry your excess bounty. In my mind's eye, I already have that thing working overtime this summer!

What are you making with apricots? Here is a look at last year's apricot endeavors:

And an Extension page from Utah University on Apricot Preservation that I consulted for drying apricots.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fresh Fava Bean Dip with Rosemary

Or you could call this a fava bean hummus, as my friend Pete did. Some friends I hadn't seen for a while stopped by the other night, and luckily I had a little bit of this on hand to offer up. I had almost eaten the whole thing for dinner it was so good. But I reigned myself in, even though it was creamy and fresh tasting and an irresistible color. Later on, we were all sitting at our outdoor table, the sun was going down in a magenta blur behind the trees, and the baby was asleep. Perfect timing for a few beers and a light snack with some old friends.

We had all lived together back in the New Paltz college years. It was a very communal time, in which an old house up on a hill on Springtown Road was one of the backdrops for lots of time frittering. Ah, those sweet days of wasting your college education! Long hikes in the mountains and late nights in town. People hanging around playing guitars. Maybe some occasional studying, but a good deal of reading. I lived in a shack (that's what we called it) that had no plumbing. I thought it was a good deal, and it would be very poetic and rustic at the same time. I might have had a little "beat generation" thing going on back then. Thankfully, my friends' house was right next door, and they availed me the use of their bourgeoise indoor plumbing.

Now, we all have families, and jobs, and houses to take care of. And now, we're eating things like fava bean dip and drinking Lagunitas beer. But it was a good life then, actually, as it's a good one now. I think someone might have had a can of Rolling Rock, though, just to keep it real.

Fresh Fava Bean Dip with Rosemary

1. Round up one pound of fresh fava beans. Remove the beans from their soft, cozy pod. I always think I want to curl up in there. No wonder favas are so velvety. They sleep well.

2. Drop them in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Drain and when cooled a little, slip their heavy jackets off to reveal the stunningly emerald beans inside.

4. Put all your beans into a food processor and start it up, while pouring olive oil  slowly in. Add the juice of a medium lemon. Some salt and pepper. Then add stalk of sticky rosemary, needles pulled off the stem and one or two cloves of garlic.

5. No measurements. Make sure it looks dippy, and thick. Taste it to see if it needs anything. Put it in a bowl, serve with pita chopped into eighths. Enjoy with some old pals.

Friday, July 15, 2011


This month's Charcutepalooza challenge, to me at least, was stuffing my sausages. The real one was emulsification -- the focus of which is blending, which results in a smooth-textured sausage. But for me, I was still concerned about how to actually stuff. Not the how-to, but the actual doing. Last month, I was lucky enough to cross paths with Peter and Winnie, and we got to use Peter's KitchenAid. This month, I went out and finally purchased a meat grinder after deliberating whether or not to finally break down and buy a KitchenAid. It was cheaper to buy the grinder, and with two cars on their way out, I can't be too expansive. I bought this, a Waring Pro MG100, which was about $100:

The culprit.
I can't say I recommend it. The short answer: it's going back to the store. Ends up, the worm, for whatever reason, likes to fall out of the motor housing (did I say that right?), and it just plain doesn't work. On the Amazon page there are a bunch of comments discussing this particular flaw, which I neglected to read before purchasing the machine. I was able to grind the meat, and fill two sausages before it stopped working entirely. Thankfully, my neighbor heard about my troubles and brought over her KitchenAid and meat grinding attachment. Aren't neighbors grand? I might not ever buy anything, but just borrow her KitchenAid every few months. 

Beautiful brats. Only two, but still beautiful.
It did grind the meat though, and much faster and nicer than the hand grinder, which couldn't really chew up the sinewy pork too well. I ate my breakfast sausage the other day, again for breakfast and also dinner, it was so good. I did notice that although it was very tasty, the texture left something to be desired, and it was due to the hand grinding. And that machine did work lovely for the two large sausages I was able to fill.

I served my dinner of bratwurst with some of the first local-ish corn I saw in the market. It was from New Jersey, and I just couldn't resist. It delivered. The corn was sweet and creamy, the perfect addition to the meal. And the bread was homemade sourdough that I toasted in the pan after cooking the brats. But where was the sauerkraut? 

The beginning of lettuce kraut.

Well, a week before I had harvested a huge amount of kale and lettuce from the garden, and I thought: why not kale kraut? Of course, it's not an original thought. I found this post from The Simple Green Frugal Co-Op, which I used as inspiration. And it's such a simple recipe that it would be silly to re-write here. Go and visit! I made a quart of lettuce and a quart of kale. The finished product is a mite salty, but goes well as a condiment. It doesn't have the tartness of cabbage kraut. The kale kraut was lovely alongside the brats. I also made a romaine lettuce kraut, which makes a great sandwich topping. What's wonderful about these ferments, is that they take only a few days. So you will have your sauerkraut just in time for your bratwurst.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Apricot Blueberry Jam

At some point, maybe it's the end of June, summer just hits you like a ton of bricks. Nothing is happening, and the crickets are chirping, and then it happens: fruit starts piling up in your fridge and then you get invited to everything in the world. I am not complaining here, actually, praise be for summer! With its ten pounds of blueberries, and six more weeks in the season. And its 25 pound boxes of apricots from around the corner. Its long drives past corn fields that start to scent the air with a sweet tea smell of new corn. And its cocktails, laughter, kids plastered with sand and ice pop residue.

Who doesn't want to spend a few hours at a blueberry farm?
It's not without it's normal downsides, the inevitable complexities of living. There's the car that died, and the one that's close behind it. There's the cell phone that died. There's a chicken that's not roosting, making you constantly wonder what could be wrong. And there's a meat grinder you bought that is a piece of junk (more on that later). And if you're a gardener, there are the myriad questions that pop up every day: is that leaf roll? Is that blight? Why are her cucumbers ready and mine are only a centimeter?? Endless inequities pile up, as usual, but something about summertime renders them less painful than during the winter. The blue skies stretched with cottony clouds are a palliative for mostly anything that life can throw my way. (I stress the mostly, as I knock on wood.)

Squashed berries happen.
And then there's jam. My routine lately is to make jam at night after my son had gone to sleep, and it's become a nice quiet meditative exercise that prepares me for bed almost as well as yoga. The other day, the confluence of apricots and blueberries in my house encouraged this jam to be. It's truly tart and sweet at the same time, and turned a gorgeous purple magenta color. 

3 pounds of apricots
1 pound of blueberries
2 pounds of sugar

Mix fruit and sugar and let macerate overnight in a glass bowl, or for however long you can stand waiting.

Put the mixture into your jam pot. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. I put in a sack of the apricot pits, for the almond flavor they impart. I don't crack them to release the kernel, like many folks do. I put them in whole because I am lazy. This step is up to you!

Bring everything to a boil and watch for it to foam furiously. Because of the pectin content of the blueberries, this came to the gel stage rather quickly, about fifteen minutes of bubbling ferocity. When it was done, I turned off the heat to let the bubbles subside and added a quarter cup of almond liqueur. You don't have to add anything, and you could use something else that you have on hand. Or pop in some fresh herbs from the garden. I almost put in a dessert wine but went with the almond riff. It's barely detectable, but I do think it smoothed out the tartness. Remove the bag of pits, if you included them.

Ladle into hot jars, seal, and process for ten minutes in a boiling water bath.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Guanciale Jam

There's been a lot of posts on charcuterie alternated with fruity preserve-y stuff, and so I figured I'd combine the two!

No, not really, but this is a meat "jam." I had some guanciale sitting around and had this idea for a spreadable meat, like 'nduja. Or, probably closer in style to bacon marmalade. Last year bacon marmalade was everywhere--do a search and a bunch of things come up. I sort of used those recipes as a guideline, and I wish I hadn't because the flavoring for guanciale should have been more subtle than for bacon. If I ever do it again, I would use white wine vinegar and fresh herbs, maybe honey.

I diced my small stash of cured jowl and sauteed it until brown and crispy. Poured off the excess fat to use later. Placed the meat to the side. Put one chopped onion in the hot pan that was still lightly greased, and cooked until soft and browned. I added some brown sugar and cider vinegar. I cooked it all down for a while, added water when it got dry. When it looked right to me, which was about twenty minutes, I took it off the heat and let it cool. When cool, into the processor it went to be whizzed down into a smooth-ish paste.

This little jar of gold has been coming in handy with the huge amount of kales and chard I have. A spoonful in a hot cast iron pan is the perfect accompaniment to hearty greens. I also had some Charcutepalooza Canadian bacon on hand, a small chunk, and chopped that into the pan as well. Add a little whey, if you have it, to simmer it all down....

It's also good on biscuits. These were made with lard (that I got from the generous Lisa Mack of Mack Hill Farms) with buttermilk and sourdough starter. It was slightly decadent to say the least! That was a really fine breakfast.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Cherry Pit Liqueur

I was complaining for a whole week about how there would be no local cherries this year due to weather conditions. But then I stopped in at the Lawrence Farms Orchard in Newburgh expecting nothing more than a fun day with my son, and got rewarded with my favorite cherry: sours. I think sour cherries taste more like cherries than sweet ones do. Does that make sense? Last year, also a bad cherry crop, I made one sacred jar of sour cherry vanilla jam. It was so good that I cried a little inside every time I had a spoonful.

Montmorency hanging on a tree.
I bought about ten pounds of cherries, and they were on sale for $3.99 a pound, which to me is still pretty expensive. But once I started picking, I couldn't stop. There were two kinds, the very sour and bright red Montmorency, which has yellow flesh, and the other one was sweeter and darker, with red flesh, and I can't remember what the owner called it, but it was sweet enough to eat right off the tree. I made Montmorency jam with white balsamic vinegar, and the other cherries became a jam with homemade black cherry brandy. Right now, I'm busy with starting a jam company, that posting jam recipes will probably not happen. But why not take a look at Nomnivorous's beautiful balsamic cherry preserves? And I know there's some sour cherry love over at Food in Jars. Sour cherry anything is SO worthwhile.

Montmorency in a big bucket.
To return to my story: I had four pounds of each kind. That's not a huge amount of cherries, but to be honest, cherries are kind of a pain to pit. Everybody has their favorite choice of pitter. I know OXO has one that is a favorite among jammers, like Hitchhiking to Heaven and Snowflake Kitchen. You might also want to check out Punk Domestics' Cherry Pitter Guide. There was some conversation recently among some canners about this topic, and I brought up how I used to pit them as a child: my mother handed me a bobby pin, stretched open, and you used the closed end to scoop out the pit. Miserable, some people commented. There is also the handy paper clip for scooping your pits. Or the ever handy no pitter style: use your hands and rip them open. I did this for the Montmorency cherries. Really they just slip out. But for the darker sour cherries, I used my trusty ancient pitter/press. It works pretty darn well for an old gal. 

The old gal done good.
 What to do with all those glistening red pits? I don't know about you, but they look way too pretty to put on the compost heap. I'm a sucker for using the "garbage" end of a project. I just can't throw something out unless I'm sure there's no other use for it. Last year I made Noyaux, with apricot pits. I threw some cherry pits in, as well. Cherry pits are actually often used to make almond extract, so this may be what my liqueur will end up being. With all these pits, I decided to cover them in brandy and wait a few weeks for cherry pit liqueur. That name is almost as appetizing as corn cob jelly, I know, but as they say, it is what it is.

No need for fancy stuff. I did four pounds in a half hour.
Please note that there is some debate on whether cherry pits, and other stone fruit pits, most notably apricot and peach, contain enough cyanide to hurt a person. I have researched it a bit and found that it's negligible enough for me. In some cases, there is support to the opposite, that apricot kernals in particular have cancer fighting potential. In any case, the way to avoid all this is to bake or boil your pits for a short while before you use them to flavor your jam or liqueur. You can go to my post on noyaux liqueur to get a few more details on this.

It's a "pitty" I have to wait so long to drink it!