Category Archives: Tigress Can Jam Challenge

May Can Jam: Rhubarb

Thanks to Meg at Grow and Resist fame I didn’t miss the can jam this month (whew!) Here’s to facebook. If only it had been around when I was in college so friends could have reminded me of deadlines…

This month’s Can Jam is either rhubarb or asparagus. I plan to do both many times as soon as Sunday’s garden tour is over but for now I had to bang out a quickie by the deadline to stay in the challenge. When I opened my google reader the other day I saw this. If you haven’t visited Tom’s blog you need to. A master gardener gardening in my zone who knows how to live in style, if only I could be a dog in his house…I have a feeling those dogs get some amazing eats and plenty of belly scratching which sounds perfect to me about now. I’m ordering the Mes Confitures cookbook through his amazon link as a way to thank him for sharing it with me.

His recipe calls for strawberries and rhubarb and since my strawberries aren’t quite ripe yet (plus I’m a rhubarb purist) I thought I’d make it without strawberry’s cloying ways. I followed his recipe with the following exceptions: No strawberries, second day brought the juice to 220, added the rhubarb and cooked until thick which took about 20 minutes longer, added 2 sprigs of rosemary during the fruit boil.

Can I just say divine? The hint of rosemary is suggestive without being overpowering, the rhubarb is fresh despite being cooked with just a hint of toothiness, the flavors have all the brightness of strawberry freezer jam with a touch of tart, plenty of sweet and all wrapped up in shelf stable jars.

I tried it immediately on a peanut butter sandwich and it was divine. It will be equally divine with roast duck or on camembert and crackers. And you can bet your bottom dollar it will be great on scones tomorrow morning.

What I’m most excited for though, is my daddy to come soon so I can combine it with fresh strawberries into a no-bake pie since he’s a strawberry rhubarb kind of guy. I think he’s actually timing his visit so that my strawberries are ripe when he’s here.

April Can Jam – Herbs in Jars

This month’s can jam challenge was herbs that must be water bath processed. We’re still sitting on a lot of pickles and I don’t really have any seasonal veggies right for pickling right now but I do have a monster rosemary bush (honestly, it’s devious) and a huge box of rotting apples in the garage that I need to get off my butt and process. I made up some apple jelly to preserve my rosemary for posterity’s sake. Or for a nice pork loin, whichever comes first.

I’ve always wanted to make apple jelly and still have it on my list of things to do from last October that had somehow slipped behind the espresso maker and lay there out of sight until last week. Kizmet, no?

I thought my friend Joshua was brilliant last fall bringing lavender plum jam to the canning barter party so I can’t wait to pull this out in October. “Oh, just a little something I whipped up.” I’ll say nonchalantly.

Here’s the incredibly cool thing about apples – they are super high in pectin. Boy do I feel dumb sitting on a 1# bag of Pomona’s pectin that I bought when I first had this wild hair to grow or put up all our food. I thought I was so smart buying it in bulk for all the preserves I make. But then after rhubarb and strawberry season were over I realized I could make old fashioned preserves by either cooking stone fruit sufficiently to gel or by making my own pectin from apples. I made tomato, blackberry, apricot, plum, peach and jalapeno jams and jellies plus the orange and lemon rosemary marmalade for can jam in January all without pectin.

At least I can use my Pomona’s pectin to make homemade jello.

As apples come back into season I’ll be posting on how to make pectin from apples that you can use to make other preserves. I planted an early crab apple tree just for cider and pectin. Am I nutty or what? But on to this recipe.

Making apple jelly is simple but it does take a longer boil than you might be used to if you’ve only ever used store-bought pectin.

I’m basing these measurements loosely on those from The Herbfarm Cookbook which is a personal favorite of mine.

Herbed Apple Jelly

4 pounds organic unripe or tart apples, washed with skins on
8 cups filtered water

Cook the apples in the water at a simmer for about 45 minutes until they begin to fall apart. Line a colander with a porous tea towel or cheesecloth. Place the colander over a deep pot. Pour in the apples and let them drain for about 6-8 hours without pressuring it.

Discard the apples and place the pan with the apple liquid on the stove. Add 3 cups of sugar and bring it to a boil. Boil it until you hit the gel stage.

The gel stage is essentially that mysterious point where you’ve managed to boil out enough of the water to allow your mixture to set up, although it’s not exactly that simple. It’s not as simple as reaching a certain temperature because you might hit it before you reach that temperature depending on altitude and weather, all related to the boiling point of water. More on that here for you geeky types.

To test the gel stage you’ll want to have a cooled plate in the fridge waiting. I usually start checking for gel around 205 degrees Fahrenheit and then check every 5 or 10 minutes thereafter. When making this apple jelly my thermometer never registered above 205 yet at some point it hit gel stage regardless of the temperature not climbing.

Remove your chilled plate from the fridge and pour a small amount of liquid onto it then return the plate to the refrigerator. After 1 or 2 minutes remove it. If you can wipe a line through the liquid with your finger that remains you are there. If the liquid runs right into your newly made line and fills it up then you need to cook the jelly longer.

There are several other ways to tell you’ve hit gel stage as well, including pouring liquid off the spoon and gauging the shape it makes as it pours (it’s ready when it “sheets”) but the plate method is the easiest for you to replicate without seeing pictures of sheeting liquid.

Once you’ve hit gel stage pour your hot jelly into sterilized half pint jars and insert a sprig of your herb of choice, then water bath process for 5 minutes.

Note: inserting the sprig works great with woody herbs such as lavender, rosemary or thyme. If you are using a tender herb you may want to steep it in the jelly for 15 minutes before removing it and canning the jelly. A more tender herb would likely break down in the jelly over time, making it unattractive.

How will I use this jelly? I’ll probably use it as a glaze for pork, chicken or winter squash. It would also be great spread on crackers with Camembert.

Vietnamese Carrot and Parsnip Pickles

This month Tigress’ challenge for the Can Jam is carrots. I recently harvested a bed of overwintered Purple Dragon and Scarlet Nantaise carrots and Javelin parsnips. Since I have a whole other bed to harvest still it was nice to use up the last of that bed we ate from all fall in this challenge so I can move on. It’s almost time to plant new carrots anyway!

I did have to buy the ginger for this but in another month I’ll be buying my hardy ginger start from Rockridge Orchard which will be nice. Ginger is one of those things I love but it only grows in tropical climates. There is a vendor in the summer at the farmer’s market who sells fresh ginger grown during summer temps in his hothouse in Eastern Washington which I should have pickled. Next year, right?

The hardy ginger is not the same plant, which is why it grows in Seattle. Instead of harvesting the roots you use the leaves to flavor things. I’m hoping between dried ground ginger, fresh leaves part of the year and pickled ginger root I won’t be buying any more imported or Hawaiian ginger root.

These pickles come together quickly and only require a 10 minute water bath. In fact, almost all the labor is in the peeling. The original recipe called for julienning them which would make this more of a condiment than a pickle. We like pickles around here so I cut them into sticks for munching straight out of the jar. I imagine they’ll be nice in school lunches for Pickle Man or diced into Loki salmon or St. Jude tuna sandwiches.

Vietnamese Carrot Pickles (adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)
Makes 6 pint jars

3 cups Rockridge Orchard apple cider vinegar
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups organic sugar
2 teaspoons grated ginger root
2 pounds cut carrots
2 pounds cut daikon radishes or parsnips
1 small hot pepper or pinch crushed dried red pepper (optional)

Sterilize jars and lids.

In a large stainless steel pan combine the vinegar, water, sugar and ginger root. Bring to a boil until the sugar dissolves.

Add the cut vegetables and cook for 1 minute.

Pack the vegetables into the jars and fill not above 1/2 inch from the top of the jar.

Ladle the hot liquid into the jars to 1/2 inch from the top of the jar.

Wipe the jar rims, place the lids on and screw on the bands until fingertip tight.

Place the jars in a water bath canner, completely covering the tops with water. Bring the water to a boil and process the jars for 10 minutes.

You will be able to eat these within a few hours but the flavor improves after a few weeks.

Tigress’s Can Jam and Local Citrus

lemon-rosemary-marmalade

I’ve so enjoyed reading everyone’s Tigress Can Jam citrus posts this week that I almost forgot to write my post about it!

Citrus from the store is not local in the Pacific NW but there are some citrus you can grow at home. Unfortunately only one can overwinter in your garden and I just planted mine last spring so it will be several years (probably another 3) before I see fruit from my Yuzu. I’ve tasted yuzu at Dahlia Lounge (did I ever tell you how weepy Tom Douglas makes me?) and while it’s frequently described as a cross between lime and bitter orange in the ceviche it tasted like a really intense lime to me. I can’t wait!

I also have an improved Meyer Lemon tree in my living room. I found a down-pointing floor lamp and bought a grow bulb for it. We’ve been meaning to get a floor lamp for years and I’m glad I held off now since this makes it dual purpose and doesn’t use any extra energy to grow my lemon verbena and improved Meyer Lemon indoors.

Tigress didn’t provide enough advance notice for me to try and source Yuzu since it’s a fall fruit so I had to stoop to buying non-local, organic Meyer lemons at PCC. And since I was there buying citrus I ended up getting some grapefruit, a case of juicing oranges, extra lemons and limes to salt preserve, lacto-ferment and to freeze zest and juice in ice cube trays for use in recipes the rest of the year. While it’s true that Rockridge Orchard apple cider vinegar works great in many recipes calling for lemon juice (salads, gravies, soups, pumpkin pie, peach preserves) there are some things like strawberry jam that lemon really works best in.

While I prefer to lacto-ferment my orange marmalade, the rules of the can jam require water bath processing so I had to get back to my canning roots. My two entries for the challenge are pretty straight forward long boiling marmalades – one orange and one lemon-rosemary. Orange is my favorite to eat with Mt. Pleasant gouda on toast or English muffins for breakfast but the lemon is multi-functional, straddling the fence of sweet, sour and savory all in the same bite. It makes a great sauce for fish, perfect pairing for creamy panna cotta or cheesecake and transcendental layer for Tom Douglas’ cornmeal rosemary lemon cake.

You’ll be able to read the recipe for the lemon-rosemary marmalade over at www.CanningAcrossAmerica.com hopefully this week, along with an explanation on what happens when water boils and why it can take so long sometimes to hit that all-important, oh-so-elusive temperature of 220 F (the magical point where high-pectin fruit hits gel stage.)

The orange marmalade was a pretty straight forward, not at all exciting recipe that has stood the test of time. I put a yuzu leaf in each jar to remind me that someday I would be making Yuzu marmalade off my own tree instead of buying non-local oranges. Without further ado here is the recipe for the orange marmalade, as simple and straightforward as the marmalade itself.

Long Boiling Orange Marmalade

Ingredients:
4 organic oranges
8 cups filtered water
8 cups organic sugar

Technique:
Thinly slice the oranges crosswise and then cut the slices into quarters. Discard any seeds and center pith. Place them in a non-reactive stock pot. Add the water and the sugar and bring it to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Turn off the burner, cover the pot and let it sit overnight.

When you are ready to make marmalade, bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about an hour and a half until the fruit and peels soften. Turn the heat up to medium and cook for another 35 minutes or until it reaches 220 F.

To check your gel, dip a cold metal spoon into the mixture. Tilt your spoon sideways over the sink. The mixture should “sheet” off the spoon in one large drop like a curtain. On other method of testing is to place a small saucer in the freezer. When the mixture is ready you should be able to place a spoonful on the saucer and return it to the freezer for one minute. If your mixture is ready it will wrinkle when you push the edge of it with your finger.

Fill sterilized jars with the hot marmalade and process in a water bath for 10 minutes. The longer the marmalade sits the less bitter it becomes. Consume within one year.

Tigress Can Jam Challenge

Click for tigress can jam food blog challenge

Here it is 2010, the very beginning of winter and I’m ready to can.  Tigress over at Tigress Can Jam is hosting a canning challenge for all of you up to it.  I am heartened by the amazing turnout for the challenge as well – it makes me glad to see so many of us interested in preserving our own foods, whether they were home-grown or farm-procured.  And did you notice that pumpkin marmalade recipe I linked into on her site?  How yummy does that one sound?

The challenge is each month Tigress will throw a mystery food at us that is seasonal and hopefully local.  Our challenge – to turn that subject into something converted into a lasting delicacy.  I’m ready.

January’s subject is citrus.  That one is a little hard for me since we have no local citrus, even if it is seasonal.  And while I do have a yuzu planted in the front and an improved Meyer lemon tree potted in my living room they are both too young to produce yet.  So I’m omitting the home grown and local step for this challenge in the hopes that come next winter I will have locally grown citrus fruit to work with. 

My choices then are things with lemon or things with lime.  I may just stick to straight and pure marmalade or I may try a new exeriment that has not yet come to me in a vision.  Either way I’m excited to source some organically grown limes, lemons or yuzus to work with.

Just like the olives that I have still curing on my kitchen counter and taking up my valuable fermenting crocks, I prefer to find a grower that thinks like I do and pay the shipping on any items that I can’t find locally.  I’ll probably start my search with Chaffin Orchards where I got the olives but it may not end there.

I’ll report back over the course of the week on what I find.

For now, I’m jammin’.