Soil and Cellar

Growing and preserving foods in Seattle


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Pomegranate Raspberry Jam with the Ladies’ Preservation Society

Mmm... pomegranates are a great fall treat! Here's a way to make them last throughout the year.

Mmm… pomegranates are a great fall treat! Here’s a way to make them last throughout the year.

A few weeks ago we held our last meeting of the Preservation Society for 2013. With the holidays and busy schedules, it just didn’t make sense to meet in November or December. We’ll be picking up again in January. A new year! New things to can!

We wanted to make something “seasonal,” which is sort of hard in the late fall. I thought about canning cranberry sauce, and will still probably try to do this soon. A friend suggested we do something with pomegranates. What a cool idea! I love them, and they really are a special fruit this time of year!

Pomegranate juice. This brand is way cheaper than the well-marketed national brand, and is still 100% pomegranate juice.

Pomegranate juice. This brand is way cheaper (note, still not cheap) than the well-marketed national brand, and is still 100% pomegranate juice.

Well, it turns out the recipes we found for pomegranate jam using fresh pomegranates were a little ridiculous for a casual evening with friends. They involved either juicing the fruit or including the seeds in the final mix. What? The seeds are way too big to be spreading on toast. And then, even at a sale price of $2.50 per pomegranate, we’d be paying a lot of money for a little jam, and having to work really hard for it. BUT feel free to do that. I read you can juice a pomegranate just like an orange: cut in half and squeeze. Have you tried that? I’m curious if it works.

Smashing the raspberries.

Smashing the raspberries.

So anyway, we decided to go with bottled pomegranate juice, 100% juice of course. We added raspberries, because a recipe we saw online had that combo and it sounded great. Pomegranates are a little bit astringent, but it is easily mellowed by a fruit without any bitterness.

Stirring the jam before it boils. This is why we invite friends over, to help with the stirring!

Stirring the jam before it boils. This is why I invite friends over, to help with the stirring!

The final product is fan-freakin-tastic. It’s sweet and has a really nice texture, not as chunky as jam but not as smooth as jelly. But, I will say, even though the raspberries are only a small part of the total (less than a quarter by volume) they are the dominant flavor. I have an extra bottle of the pomegranate juice, so I will try making jelly out of it soon, and see how it turns out. But that’s a project for another day (and probably a season that’s a little less busy).

More stirring. Only now it's getting hot over by the stove.

More stirring. Only now it’s getting hot over by the stove. Look at her boil!

Recipe
Makes 3.5 pints (we used half-pint jars, and got 7)

4 cups pomegranate juice
2 pints raspberries, cleaned and smushed
¼ cup lemon juice
4.5 cups sugar
1 box (1.75 oz) low sugar pectin

This is made the same way you make any jam or jelly. Mix the fruit juices and fruit in a large, non-reactive pot. Mix the pectin with ¼ cup sugar, and add to the mix.

Stirring constantly (ish), bring to a full rolling boil over medium or medium-high heat. This took us about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining sugar, stirring constantly (for real). Bring back to a full boil, and then continue to boil vigorously for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Test the gel. I like the cold plate method – put a little on a cold plate and into the freezer for 2 minutes.

Filling the jars.

Filling the jars.

Let the pot sit on the counter for up to 5 minutes. This is a great time to skim the foam off the top. I like to let the jam sit so that it sets ever so slightly. Then anything suspended in it (in this case, seeds) will be evenly distributed throughout the jars, rather than rising to the top.

Pour into sterile jars, add sterile lids and bands, and process in boiling water for 10 minutes.

Finished jars. You can see the jar on the right was filled while the jam hadn't set much, and all the seeds floated to the top. The jar on the left was filled just a couple minutes later, but is more uniform. No difference in flavor, obviously. You may need to stir the jar on the right after opening, is all.

Finished jars. You can see the jar on the right was filled while the jam hadn’t set much, and all the seeds floated to the top. The jar on the left was filled just a couple minutes later, but is more uniform. There’s no difference in flavor, obviously, but you may need to stir the  jar on the right once you open it.


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Spiced Pear Jelly – a delicious comedy of errors

Spiced pear jelly and buttered whole wheat toast = heaven.

Spiced pear jelly and buttered whole wheat toast = heaven.

This is the story of how making a series of mistakes lead to my favorite preserves this year. This jelly has the sweetness of pears and the warmth of holiday spices. It tastes like spiced cider or something similar, but without the tartness of apples. I highly recommend it!

So here’s how it happened. I had these plums that I had gathered on our less than successful blackberry picking trip. Then, I bought some beautiful pears at a farm stand outside of Monroe, and thought I’d make plum/pear jelly. I used the basic recipe for pear jelly from pick your own, because I really only had a handful of plums, and added spices to it.

Bartlett pears and foraged plums

Bartlett pears and foraged plums

I pitted the plums, but didn’t peel them (they were really small!) Next, I peeled and cored the pears, and sliced the fruit. Then, I read the recipe, and it suggested I leave the peels on, for color and extra flavor. So I pulled them out of the compost (the ones on top, anyway) and added them back to the pot. Cooking the mixture down to mush, I then strained it to get fruit juice. I had just under the amount needed for a half recipe, so I went to the store and bought some pear juice, just for the half cup I needed. I didn’t feel like doing math with the sugar and pectin.

Next, I boiled the juice with pectin and a little sugar. Only, I forgot that I was using half the recipe, so I dumped the entire packet of pectin in. As it was dissolving, it dawned on me that I had a real problem on my hands. Thankfully, I had extra pear juice that I bought earlier that day! I quickly added 3 more cups of store bought juice. That meant that my plums were now about 5% of the total, and my beautiful pears were only about 35% of the total juice. All that work making juice, and I had to dilute it!

Well, the jelly set nicely, and I poured in into jars and sealed them and so forth. But it was time to go to dinner so I left the jelly on the counter, to process the next morning. I was meeting a friend for lunch, and I wanted to show off my amazing jelly, but after re-processing them that morning, they were liquefied. By the time I gave her the jar, I wasn’t sure it would ever reset! But, when it cooled completely it was once again fully set, so I was off the hook. Phew.

All this is to say that sometimes, things don’t go as planned. And you have to improvise or start over. Sometimes those errors are fatal, and you end up with crummy jam. But sometimes, you get the most delicious jelly you’ll ever taste.

Jar of Jelly

Spiced Pear Jelly

Makes a little more than 1.5 pints (the double recipe made 3.5 pints)

2.5 pounds ripe pears
.5 pounds ripe plums (or just add more pears!)
~1 cup water
½ cup pear juice (or as much as needed to get a total of 3 cups fruit juice)
1 cinnamon stick
1” fresh ginger, peeled
2 cloves, whole
2 cups sugar
½ package (about .87 oz.) low sugar pectin

Note: this is the original half recipe that I meant to make. I ended up with twice as much, but I’m pretty happy about that.

Cooking down the pears, plums, and spices in a little water.

Cooking down the pears, plums, and spices in a little water.

Slice and pit fruit, you don’t need to peel. Put all spices into a cheesecloth packet. Add water and the packet of spices to the fruit. Cook, covered, on medium or medium high heat.

Cook until fruit is mushy, about a half hour. Pears usually don’t dissolve down (unlike apples, for instance), so I often use my potato masher to help them along. Or, if you have a food mill, it would work great once the fruit is soft.

This is my set up for straining fruit for jelly. I put the cooked fruit and juice in the top colander, which drains into the sieve, which drains into the bowl. If you don't have cheese cloth this works very well.

This is my set up for straining fruit for jelly. I put the cooked fruit and juice in the top colander, which drains into the sieve, which drains into the bowl. If you don’t have cheese cloth this works very well.

Remove spices from the mixture and set aside. Strain the fruit and collect the juice. You can use my makeshift method (description in this post) if you don’t have a jelly strainer. You want 3 cups of juice. If you are short, add some pear juice (100% fruit juice). Or, you can just start with bottled juice and save yourself a bunch of time. I won’t judge.

Put three cups of juice over medium high heat, and add spices (still in the packet.) This is just to infuse as much spice flavor as possible. I only added back the cinnamon stick at this point, because I like cinnamon best.

Cooking the juice with a little sugar and pectin. You can sort of see the cinnamon stick at the bottom of the pot, which I left in for extra flavor.

Cooking the juice with a little sugar and pectin. You can sort of see the cinnamon stick at the bottom of the pot, which I left in for extra flavor.

Mix ½ cup sugar with the half packet of pectin. Add to juice, and stir until dissolved. Bring mixture to a rolling boil. Add the remaining sugar and stir constantly until it’s back to a rolling boil. Once there, stir for 1 minute and remove from heat. Pull out the spices, and skim off foam. I’d probably test the set at this point, too (basically, just cool the jelly super fast, either by putting on a cold plate or spoon and setting in the freezer.)

Put in sterile jars with ¼” head space. Add sterile lids, and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Enjoy!


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Popovers – the best way to eat jam!

Popovers, ready to eat! The left has peach with cardamom jam, and the right has strawberry jam.

Popovers, ready to eat! The left has peach – cardamom jam, and the right has strawberry jam.

I’ve made a lot of jam this year. I mean, a lot a lot. Combine my obsession with learning to can, love of making jam, trying to use seasonal fruits… I have basically infinite jam in my basement right now. I will be giving a lot out as holiday gifts (hi everyone!), but D and I will be eating much of it ourselves.

I try to find fun ways to use jam, like in baked goods, or with cheese at parties. But mostly, I eat it the way God intended – on toast.

But the best way of all to eat jam is on popovers. I make popovers every few months. They’re for special occasions, like Sunday morning football, or when you have houseguests. It’s not a hard recipe, not by any stretch, but if we each ate 6 popovers a weekend, well. That’s just not healthy. And they don’t keep, so you have to be ready to eat them all the same morning.

Popovers, just put in the oven.

Popovers, just put in the oven. Wait till you see what comes next!

Popovers (and their brothers in another world, Yorkshire pudding), are the coolest thing you’ll ever bake. Their name is apt, they puff up so much they pop over the sides of the pan! They’re terribly fun to watch grow in the oven, but the best part is eating them. Buttery, eggy, crispy, light and fluffy.  Add a little jam, and you’ve got yourself an amazing breakfast treat.

I’ve played around with different recipes and different pans for years. I even bought a special popover pan from Williams Sonoma. That pan failed me, but it did give me a recipe that I like.

Here they are at the time I turn the temp down, a little more than half done.

Here they are at the time I turn the temp down, a little more than half done.

Popovers (adapted from the one that came on my popover pan)

Makes 12 popovers. This recipe can easily be doubled if you have more people to feed.

2 Tbsp salted butter, melted
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
1 cup AP flour
½ tsp salt
Cooking spray with flour in it*

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Spray muffin tin with cooking spray that contains flour (I use Pam Baking).

*This step is really important, as otherwise the popovers stick in the tin, and you kind of ruin them getting them out. Even regular cooking spray and butter were trouble for me. It’s the only thing I use this type of Pam for, but it’s worth it. I gave up on popovers for two years before I learned this trick from Nadine (a friend, who also blogs at Delicious Nadine), and she was right!

Add a couple drops of melted butter to each muffin cup, as well.

And here they are, all ready to eat! You can almost feel the crispiness, can't you!

And here they are, all ready to eat! You can almost feel the crispiness, can’t you?

Whisk together milk and eggs. Mix in remaining melted butter (about 1 Tbsp). Add flour and salt, and whisk together until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Pour the batter into the muffin cups, filling each one about 2/3 full.

Cook at 450 for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 325, and cook for 8 more minutes.

Remove from muffin tin onto a cooling rack or plate. Eat as soon as possible, they deflate by the minute as they cool. They are still delicious deflated, but it’s fun to tear them apart while they are light and fluffy.

Resting on the rack. We have to take turns choosing, because some come out fluffier than others :)

Resting on the rack. We have to take turns choosing, because some come out fluffier than others 🙂

Serve with jam, and enjoy!

I just told D that I was writing this post. Then on what I thought was another track, asked what he’d like for Sunday’s breakfast. He said, shockingly, “popovers!” so I’ll be making them this weekend. And to go with it, the jams that are currently open are the peach-cardamom jam that my friend made, strawberry jam that I made, and some pomegranate-raspberry I made with the Preservation Society the other day (post coming soon.) Yay!