Soil and Cellar

Growing and preserving foods in Seattle


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New Years Resolutions and 2014 Recap

OK, it’s been a really long time since I’ve written. Not just for the blog, but anything! I’ve been at my “new” job for 9 months now, so I guess it’s time for me to stop feeling like it’s a temporary schedule. My job (see this post here) is wonderful, but my commute is making it so that I have less time at home, and less energy, to do the things I enjoy. Things like cooking, canning, seeing friends, and writing.

Well, that needs to stop. So what if I’m in the car 3 hours a day? I have time on the ferry to write, and time on the weekends for cooking projects. I need to stop spending my weekends in non-stop “catch up on sleep” mode. The New Year is a classic time to make changes and recommit to the life I want to live. My resolution is to stop letting my commute rule my life. So this post is my first in months. Soon I’ll be starting projects again, but for now I’ll just catch up on what I’ve missed.

Canning Projects

I didn’t make nearly as many canning projects this year as the last – mostly due to time constraints. The recipes I took on were mostly repeats – things I know I like and will eat.

Leeks Vinaigrette, or oil-preserved leeks. Great as a side or on salads.

Leeks Vinaigrette, or oil-preserved leeks. Great as a side or on salads.

Oil preserved Leeks (called “Leeks Vinaigrette” but it is not salad dressing, which I would actually love to make sometime) with the Ladies Preservation Society

Strawberry Jam (here’s a post on this from a couple years ago)

Raspberry Jam

Raspberry jam (left) and strawberry jam (right). I made these a week apart in a very productive moment last summer.

Raspberry jam (left) and strawberry jam (right). I made these a week apart in a very productive moment last summer.

Apricot Jam (this one was new – made with my friends in the Ladies Preservation Society – and was really fun. The resulting jam is a little tart for my taste, but has great apricot flavor.)

Peach Jam – we took a field trip to the Yakima farmer’s market and bought peaches there. Yakima is about 2-3 hours east, and is the heart of farm country in WA. Their farmer’s market is basically heaven.

Bread and Butter Pickles (recipe here)

Concord Grape Jelly – my neighbors have a grape vine that produces more fruit than they can use, so they put out a call to the neighborhood to come take them. 1 hour later I was washing and stemming 9 lbs in my giant sink. I made juice, and the next week made it into jelly. Next year (they say I can use their grapes again next year!) I’d like to try grape jam. I think it’ll be a little more work, but jelly is still kind of weird to me. I think I have enough photos to make this one into its own post, actually. Maybe I’ll do that soon.

Concord grapes picked moments before. These were turned into jelly.

Concord grapes picked moments before. These were turned into jelly.

Geez – is that all I did? I’m sure there were a few others, but these are the bulky items. See what I mean? I’ve really got to get back into the swing of things. I had enough jam for Christmas and hostess gifts this year, but only just.

So, onward, upward, and into the garden! Next week I’ll write about the projects going on in our little garden. Happy New Year!


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Carrot Coriander Relish

Here's the relish I made last year.

I’m finally posting about this relish I made last year. This is last year’s photo, but the rest of the post is from this week.

A few weeks ago I was talking to a coworker about my blog, and she asked about the orange thing in the middle of my banner photo. When I told her it was carrot relish, she wanted to read the post. Well, as it happens, I never wrote about it! It was one of my projects from early last year, before the blog. When piecing together my colorful banner photo, I had to find foods I had made and photographed, which if you can believe, wasn’t common for me back then. Oh, how times have changed.

Annabeth is a great helper in the kitchen. Here she is ensuring that I can't read the recipe. Later she stole carrots from the compost and chased them all over the house, finally eating them. This recipe is fun for the whole family!

Annabeth is a great helper in the kitchen. Here she is ensuring that I can’t read the recipe. Later she stole carrots from the compost and chased them all over the house, finally eating them. This recipe is fun for the whole family!

Anyway, I knew I had to remake this relish, because it is delicious, flavorful, and bright. It’s a great alternative to pickle relish, and goes fabulously on burgers, hotdogs, and all manner of sandwiches. It’s also a little spicy, but not too much (you could certainly add more chili to amp up the heat). This weekend (Happy Memorial Day to all!) marked our first BBQ of the season, so it was the perfect time to bust out this great recipe.

I julienned the carrots on the mandoline. I think next time I'll shred them in the food processor - this took a really long time.

I julienned the carrots on the mandoline. I think next time I’ll shred them in the food processor – this took a really long time.

I got the recipe from Salt Sugar Smoke, still one of my favorite books on food preservation. This time I didn’t toast coriander seeds and grind them, opting for pre-ground coriander. I recommend doing as the recipe suggests, the coriander flavor stood out more last year. Also, this time I subbed a jalapeño for “red chili” because I don’t know what she meant by “red chili.” Looking back, I think a dried red chili is probably a better fit. But I do like the jalapeño, so you do you and I’ll do me.

Just put everything in the pot all together. I love recipes like that!

Just put everything in the pot all together. I love recipes like that!

Recipe (makes about a pint)

8 carrots, cleaned, and shredded (or julienned)
1 ½ inch piece of ginger root, peeled and minced
8 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 Tbsp coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
zest and juice of 1 lime
¼ cup apple juice
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cup firmly packed brown sugar
pinch or two of salt
¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped (optional) – I have never included this, but I think it would taste great, but would probably really change the flavor.

After cooking, but not cooked all the way down (there's still a lot of liquid.) When it's done it'll be drier.

After cooking, but not cooked all the way down (there’s still a lot of liquid.) When it’s done it’ll be almost totally dry.

Mix everything except cilantro together in a pot. Stir and bring to a boil slowly over medium-high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Then increase to medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. You want the liquid to reduce and cook off. The carrots should be soft but not mushy, and appear candied from the liquid.

The relish on a (veggie) sausage. Fantastic! This is dog is also a "Seattle dog" which is with cream cheese and caramelized onions. I urge you to try that, it's ridiculous. So freaking delish - and adding this relish really worked!

Messy, but so tasty – carrot relish on a (veggie) sausage. This dog is also a “Seattle dog” which is with cream cheese and caramelized onions. I urge you to try that, it’s ridiculous. So freaking delish – and adding this relish really worked! Just noticed, “delish” and “relish” are one letter apart… coincidence?

Remove from heat and pack into a warm sterilized jar. Store in the fridge for up to 3 months (if it lasts that long!). If you’re using cilantro, either add just before using or mix it in the jars with the relish. If you do the latter, you need to use it up within 5 days.

Enjoy!


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Lemon Curd with the Ladies’ Preservation Society

Waffles served with butter, lemon curd, and a little powdered sugar. Pure heaven!

Waffles served with butter, lemon curd, and a little powdered sugar. Pure heaven!

Oh yes. This is a real winner, let me tell you. You know the delicious lemony part of a lemon bar? That’s what this is, but you can put it on anything! Waffles! Popovers! Ginger snaps! Toast? I’m sure you could, but it might be a bit much for me, it’s quite sweet and rich.

We made this lemon curd for LPS in March (once again, I’m super behind.) It is a perfect recipe to do with friends. It’s one of those recipes (like many I post on here) that isn’t hard but has a lot of little steps. It’s great having helpers! And, frankly, I love sharing it at the end. The recipe is for freezing or refrigerating, not canning, so there’s a limited amount you can keep yourself.

Zest-ah zest-ah zest-ah!

Zest-ah, zest-ah, zest-ah!

We took the recipe from Saving the Season’s lime curd recipe, but we left out almost all the aromatics and spices, except ginger (and replaced lemons for limes, obviously.) Here’s our version:

Lemon Curd

Makes 6 quarter-pints

1 lb lemons
1 inch ginger root – peeled and chopped into large chunks
5 egg yolks
1 ½ cup sugar
2 sticks (8 oz) chilled unsalted butter, cut into chunks

The lighting was really cool back in March, and I just liked the way this lemon was backlit.

The lighting was really cool back in March, and I just liked the way this lemon was backlit.

Zest the lemons, to get about 3 Tbsp of zest. Juice the lemons, to get about ¾ cup juice. Strain. Combine zest, juice, and ginger in a bowl.

Juicing the lemons. After this, pour through a sieve, to remove seeds and pulp.

Juicing the lemons. After this, pour through a sieve, to remove seeds and pulp.

Using a double boiler on medium heat (I use a glass bowl over a pot of water), whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Whisk in the mixture of lemon and ginger. Add the butter, and whisk, one piece at a time, until melted.

 

Ok, here we go. This part took the longest for sure, I'd say at least a half hour. You have to melt all the butter slowly, then cook for 10 minutes. But I'd say it took more like 15-20 for us to get to the consistency recommended.

Ok, here we go. This part took the longest for sure, I’d say at least a half hour. You have to melt all the butter slowly, then cook for 10 minutes. But I’d say it took more like 15-20 for us to get to the consistency recommended.

Stirring constantly, cook the curd for 10 minutes in this way. (Don’t let the curd boil, or the eggs will curdle. If that happens, pull off of heat and whisk vigorously.) The curd is done when it is as thick as heavy cream and coats a wooden spoon. Or, use a candy thermometer and cook until it is 170. You can also test the consistency by testing on a frozen plate. I think we got impatient on all these fronts so ours is a little runnier than may be ideal, but it’s still quite wonderful.

Filling jars.

Filling jars. Also – you can tell from the background this was Manhattans night. I had just been offered a job, so we were celebrating! Sadly, I was long since out of the brandied cherries I made last summer. I’ll be making those again as soon as I see cherries in the market!

Pour the curd through a fine sieve into a measuring cup, or something else you can pour from (this will make it easy to fill the jars.) Pour into 6 quarter-pint jars, or 3 half-pint jars that have been sterilized and kept warm. Seal and cool on the counter overnight. Then, store in the fridge and use within a month, or freeze for up to a year.

Now, how to use it? Well, my favorite thing was actually on waffles. It turned an already treat-like breakfast into straight-up dessert.

We dipped ginger snaps into the warm curd for an after-project treat. Nice!

We dipped ginger snaps into the warm curd for an after-project treat. Nice!


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Spicy Pickled Carrots with the LPS

These are my taco truck's spicy carrots. Oh heavens, they are phenomenal. I've been trying to copy them for years now.

These are my taco truck’s spicy carrots. Oh heavens, they are phenomenal. I’ve been trying to copy them for years now.

I keep trying to make spicy pickled carrots. I just haven’t found the perfect recipe yet, but I feel like I’m honing in on something. I’m learning, at any rate, and it’s totally fun to keep trying! I think pickled jalapeños and carrots was the first thing I ever pickled… maybe? It’s been awhile.

I don’t know if you go to taco trucks, but they are the original food trucks in Seattle, and have been around forever. We used to hit Tacos El Asadero on Rainier about once a week for a great cheap meal. We’re a little further away now, but we still go just about every month.

Beautiful fresh carrots. Too fresh for this recipe, if you can believe it! They were thin and softened quite quickly. Ahh well...

Beautiful fresh carrots. Too fresh for this recipe, if you can believe it! They were thin and softened quite quickly. Ahh well…

They have the most delicious pickled carrots. They’re served free as a condiment, next to the limes and jalapenos and radishes. We try to put them in every bite of burritos. But lately they’ve been making them too spicy for me! I’m not one to shy away from spice, but I do prefer it medium hot rather than hot-hot. And lately they’ve been hot-hot. So I’d love to be able to make the same recipe but just leave a few of the peppers out. Then I could have spicy pickled carrots whenever I want! On burgers? On salads? In a quesadilla? Yes yes yes!

The pickling liquid: cider vinegar, water, and spices.

The pickling liquid: cider vinegar, water, and spices.

So this recipe was taken from a friend’s book, Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry, and we made it for LPS in February. I like the flavor ok, and I think the heat is just about right. There is too much cinnamon, though, and it takes away from the carrotiness. Also, we were using small local fresh carrots, and those took less time to cook than suggested, so they are pretty soft. I like a good firm carrot, almost crunchy, in my burritos!

Prepping the jars - in sterile and still hot jars, add garlic, thyme, and red chili flakes.

Prepping the jars – in sterile and still hot jars, add garlic, thyme, and red chili flakes.

Spicy Carrot Pickles
Makes 4 pint jars

2 pounds carrots, trimmed and scrubbed
5 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 Tbsp kosher salt
3 Tbsp sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
3 bay leaves
8 dried hot chilies, stemmed
4 cloves garlic, sliced
4 sprigs thyme, kept whole
1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1/2 white onion, thinly sliced lengthwise

Peel or scrub the carrots, cut into sticks 4″ long and about 1/2″ thick.

Combine the vinegar, 1 C water, the salt, sugar, cinnamon sticks, and bay leaves in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Add the carrots and cook until just crisp-tender. The recipe says 8-10 minutes, but that was much too long in my opinion. Remove carrots from water. We weren’t quite ready with the jars here, so I the carrots cooked even longer! Not cool.

Loading carrots into jars. This is hot business!

Loading carrots into jars. This is hot business!

While the carrots are cooking, divide the chilies, garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, and peppercorns among the jars. Put the still-hot carrots into the jars (do not pack them too tightly) and fill the empty spaces loosely with slivers of onion. Ladle the hot pickling liquid into the jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace at the top. Use a chopstick to remove air bubbles around the inside of each jar. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel, then put a lid and ring on each jar.

Add onions and pickling liquid, leaving 1/2" head space.

Add onions and pickling liquid, leaving 1/2″ head space.

Process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. Remove the jars and cool on the counter overnight.

As I said, this isn’t quite what I was looking for. But it’s still tasty, and very very pretty! I’ll keep trying, but in the meantime, enjoy!

Gorgeous! Here they are ready to be sealed and processed.

Gorgeous! Here they are ready to be sealed and processed.


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Ladies’ Preservation Society Pickles Beets!

Pickled beets, canned and ready for storage.

Pickled beets, canned and ready for storage.

I have made pickled beets many times but never canned them to store. I’ve always just made refrigerator pickled beets. The recipes aren’t different, much, but whenever you can something it’s best to go with a real recipe from a trusted source, so that you know the acids and sugars are in balance and will properly preserve your food. My other recipe is sort of made up, which is just fine if you are refrigerating and eating within a few weeks.

Trim leaves to an inch or so, and wash the beets well.

Trim leaves to an inch or so, and wash the beets well.

For the Ladies’ Preservation Society in January, we pickled beets. I didn’t write about it sooner because we had to wait 3 weeks for them to be ready. Then, you know, I got a case of the lazies and haven’t been writing much this winter.

Cooking the beets. 7 pounds of beets is a lot!

Cooking the beets. 7 pounds of beets is a lot!

But boy oh boy, eating beets and cottage cheese for lunch is one of my favorite things. It’s nostalgic and really wonderful. Do you ever eat cottage cheese this way? I know people seem to fall on one side or the other, eating cottage cheese with sweet foods (like canned peaches – which I made but forgot to blog about!) or savory, like with salt and pepper. Eating it with pickled beets is the perfect marriage of the two sides. That’s me; unable to choose a side so I tiptoe down the middle. Yup!

After beets have cooled enough to hold, remove the skins. Here my friend is rubbing the skin off with a paper towel.

After beets have cooled enough to hold, remove the skins. Here my friend is rubbing the skin off with a paper towel.

We got the recipe from The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich (another Christmas present!) and I really like it. I don’t know if it’s as great as my mom’s recipe, but what could ever be? Next time I make them I might reduce the allspice or cloves slightly to let the beet flavor shine.

This little beet was shaped like a heart! Also - check out those pink fingers. I made my friends do all of the peeling and slicing because I had an interview the next day, and beets can stain for a day or so. For that reason, wear dark colors or an apron.

This little beet was shaped like a heart! Also – check out those pink fingers. I made my friends do all of the peeling and slicing because I had an interview the next day, and beets can stain for a day or so. For that reason, wear dark colors or an apron.

Here’s the recipe: (Makes 7 pints)

7 lbs beets, cleaned (ok to leave on roots and a little of the stem, you’ll cut those off later.)
2 cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces
1 Tbsp whole allspice
1 tsp whole cloves
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 quart cider vinegar
2 cups water

Sliced beets.

Sliced beets.

Cover beets with boiling water, in a large pot. Cover and return to a boil, then boil for 15 to 35 minutes, until they are just tender – this will depend on the size of the beets. They will be processed for 30 minutes later, so you don’t want them soft at this stage. Drain and then cover with cold water, to stop them cooking.

Filling jars with beets, using tongs. A wide mouth funnel would be useful, but we found we didn't need it.

Filling jars with beets, using tongs. A wide mouth funnel would be useful, but we found we were fine without it for this step.

When the beets are cool, remove their skins. This can be done by rubbing with a paper towel, or a vegetable peeler, or a knife. Some beets will peel easily, some won’t.

Slice all the beets ¼” thick.

Tie up all the spices in a cheesecloth bag.

Tie up all the spices in a cheesecloth bag.

Tie the spices into a cheesecloth bag. Put this into a pot with both sugars, salt, vinegar, and water. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. (The smell of boiling vinegar is very harsh! I recommend leaving the room while it boils, or opening windows and doors.)

Cooking the vinegar, water, sugar, and spices.

Cooking the vinegar, water, sugar, and spices.

As the liquid is simmering, pack the beets into sterilized pint jars. When the liquid is done cooking, pour over the beets, leaving ½” headspace from the top of the jar. Run a chopstick around the inside of the jar, to remove air bubbles. Add more liquid if needed. Wipe rims, put on lids, and process the jars for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Jars filled with beets, ready for the hot vinegar mixture.

Jars filled with beets, ready for the hot vinegar mixture.

After processing for 30 minutes, let cool. Label, and store. They need to sit at least 3 weeks before they are ready to be eating. The waiting is the hardest part, as they say. I like to label the lids with the “open on” date so I can remember.

At last, after at least 3 weeks of waiting, I was able to have beets and cottage cheese for lunch. Yay!

At last, after at least 3 weeks of waiting, I was able to have beets and cottage cheese for lunch. Yay!


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Citrus Fruit Cocktail

Citrus fruit cocktail cooling on the counter. I swear this sunbeam was total happenstance, but it was so beautiful!

Citrus fruit cocktail cooling on the counter. This sunbeam was total happenstance, but it was so beautiful, I probably took 30 different pictures!

For Christmas this year I got a bunch of books, including Saving the Season by Kevin West. This is a wonderful book, you should definitely check it out. It contains lots of great stories and recipes, all organized by season. There are descriptive pictures and how-to’s, which are useful for a novice home canner.

Fruits, ready to be prepped. I had fun at the Chinese grocer near my home, they have such beautiful fruits for really great prices.

Fruits, ready to be prepped. I had fun at the Chinese grocer near my home, they have such beautiful fruits for really great prices.

Winter is, of course, focused on citrus. If you’re like me, you wait all year for the wonderful grapefruit that come out in winter. What a treat! And I love oranges, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and all other citrus (except maybe kumquats?) but I don’t love marmalade. It’s too bitter for me. And it seems like most recipes for preserving citrus are marmalades. But one of the first recipes in the section is for a winter fruit cocktail. Fruit cocktail! I don’t think I’ve had that since I was a kid and mom was packing my lunches. (Odd memory, one day, she forgot to pack a spoon, and I got clever and used a carrot stick to eat it. Heh.)

Peeling the grapefruit with a peeler.

Removing strips of the grapefruit skin with a peeler. I cut off way more than I needed, it turned out.

This fruit cocktail is all citrus, no pears or cherries. I totally love it! I used a variety of citrus in different colors, but you could just use this as a way to can oranges, frankly. There’s not even that much sugar in it, for you sugar-conscious peeps. I find the grapefruit flavor dominates the others, so if you’re not into that, leave the grapefruit out, or only use 1 (I used 2.)

The hardest part of this recipe is supreming the fruit. It takes a long time, and if your fruit is as ripe as it should be, is really sloppy. I’d definitely take this project on when you’re feeling like spacing out and listening to some good music, or Marketplace on NPR, whatever suits your fancy. But you really do need to supreme the fruit, so that you get all the skins off each section.

Supreme the fruit. Cut off the top and bottom, and set it on one end. Cut the strips of the skin off following the curvature of the fruit. Remove as much of the white part as possible. A sharp knife will be your best friend.

Supreme the fruit. Cut off the top and bottom, and set it on one end. Cut the strips of the skin off following the curvature of the fruit. Remove as much of the white part as possible. A sharp knife will be your best friend.

Recipe, from Saving the Season

6 pounds mixed citrus (I used Cara Cara oranges, red grapefruit, blood oranges, and Satsuma mandarins)
3 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 whole lemon (for zest)
½ cup sugar
(Optional: you can add Cointreau, brandy, bourbon, or other alcohol. Since I thought this could be a snack for the nephews at some point I left it out. But if you’d like to do that, add in ¼ cup of the alcohol just at the end of the boiling process, before filling jars.)

Hold the fruit in one hand (over a bowl, to catch drips), and with the other, cut out each slice. Some will be easier than others, but remove it with no skin. I've never filleted a salmon, but I feel like I could after supreming 6 lbs of citrus. :)

Hold the fruit in one hand (over a bowl, to catch drips), and with the other, cut out each slice. Some will be easier than others, but remove it with no skin. I’ve never filleted a salmon (and don’t plan on it), but I feel like I could after supreming 6 lbs of citrus. 🙂

1. Wash the skins thoroughly, as you’ll be using the zest. With a veggie peeler, remove large strips of the peels of an orange, a grapefruit, and the lemon. Set aside.

2. “Supreme” the fruits. See my photos, but basically you cut off the top and bottom, set it upright “like a barrel” and cut off the skins and all the pith, and then remove each section of fruit with a knife. I did this while holding it over the bowl I was putting the cut fruit in, because it’s a very juicy proposition.

Squeeze out the remainder of the juice from the piths. I kept it all in one bowl until I was ready to use it, which was actually 2 days later. Typical me.

Squeeze out the remainder of the juice. I kept the juice and fruit all in one bowl until I was ready to can it, which was actually 2 days later. Typical me.

3. Squeeze the leftover piths to get all the rest of the juice from the fruit.

4. Separate fruit from juice using a slotted spoon.

Fruit and juice. Look at those colors, man, it looks fake!

Fruit and juice. Look at those colors, man, it looks fake! After sitting for awhile, they’ve all taken on that pink cast of the juice, sadly.

5. Add a strip of lemon peel, orange peel, and grapefruit peel into each of 3 sterilized pint jars. Pack the fruit loosely into jars, keeping about ¾” to an inch of headspace.

6. Measure out the juice, and add the lemon juice if you haven’t already. If you don’t have enough juice, add water to bring it up to 1 ½ cups.

Fruit, juice, and peels, pretty much all you need.

Fruit, juice, and peels, pretty much all you need.

7. Combine juice with ½ cup sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. (Here is when you’d add the alcohol, if using.)

8. Pour hot liquid over the fruit, leaving ½” headspace. Remove air pockets (I use a chopstick) and top off if needed. Wipe the jar rims clean, and put on lids and rings.

9. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

I learned something new with this recipe, about “venting.” When I make things like canned peaches or pickles, some of the liquid gets out while processing, making the jars super sticky. This is because of venting, which is when the jars are removed from the water and the quick temperature change causes some of the liquid to escape. So when you’re doing foods in liquid, turn off the heat under the water bath canner at the end of the required time, and let the jars sit in the water for 5 more minutes. Then when you pull out the jars they are less likely to vent. Yay!

Close up of the finished product (in that same sunbeam.) Pretty pretty pretty!

Close up of the finished product (in that same sunbeam.) Pretty pretty pretty!

I actually got 2.5 pints, not a full 3. So I put the half jar in the fridge. I’ve been enjoying eating it (trying to remember to not eat it all at once is a little hard though!) The rest I’ll be saving for late spring or early fall, when I’m antsy for juicy and delicious citrus.


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Apple Cider Jelly

Apple cider jelly, the next day. You can see the small solids in there, I didn't feel like straining them out. They give the finished product a cool "speckled" look.

Apple cider jelly, the next day. You can see the small solids in there, I didn’t feel like straining them out. They give the finished product a cool “speckled” look.

D loves apple cider. He’s from Buffalo, and like much of the northeast, they grow great apples around there. In the fall, farm stands and grocery stores have this amazing apple cider, and every time we go back to visit we get a jug (or two).

Washington state is also known for its apples, right? We have a huge apple industry, and we have some seriously delicious specialty apples. But for whatever reason, we don’t have the apple cider to go along with it. I see it at farm stands, there are a few places you can drive to and get great cider. But it’s by no means a staple, and the cider in stores in Seattle? Meh.

This is all a preface to say that I bought cider last week, hoping it would be one of the good ones. It was from Whole Foods, and pretty local. Sadly, it was really bland, like watery and tart. We weren’t going to drink it, so I decided to turn it into jelly, and the jelly is great!

Here's the jelly on an english muffin. I love the flavor!

Here’s the jelly on an english muffin. I love the flavor! And I like the speckles, too, it makes it look home-made. (Aside: when we’d get the errant chicken bone in our soup, or grilled cheese burnt on one side, our mom would say “well, that’s how you know it’s home-made.”)

D and I really like this. I did a side-by-side taste test with the spiced pear jelly I made in the fall, and this one won! That’s saying a lot because the pear was one of my favorite things I made all year. This batch of apple cider jelly has got a strong cinnamon taste, and has a flavor of apple butter – though not the texture, obviously.

Because I wasn’t in love with the cider’s flavor to start with, I simmered some spices for about an hour in the cider – ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and orange peel. After straining these and the solids out, I had 4 cups of juice exactly. The recipe in the Sure Jell packet says 6 cups, so this recipe is based on 2/3 of their recipe.

Cooking the cider with spices, to get a richer flavor. It also reduced a little in this time, enhancing the apple-ness.

Cooking the cider with spices, to get a richer flavor. It also reduced a little in this time, enhancing the apple-ness.

Recipe (makes 5 half-pint jars)
4 cups apple cider (more if you plan on cooking it ahead of time to allow for reduction)
Cinnamon, ginger, cloves, orange peel, or any other seasonings you like
2/3 Sure Jell low-sugar pectin packet (about 33 grams)
2 2/3 cups sugar

Make your apple cider. If I had a crock pot I would have used it, but instead I just warmed the cider on the stove with 2 cinnamon sticks, 5 whole cloves, 3” of ginger, peeled and cut into coins, and 3 pieces of orange peel. (Random – the only citrus I had was a bergamot orange, so that’s what I used. I love Early Grey tea, and I’d never seen bergamot before. When I saw it at Whole Foods I got so excited, I had to buy it. I would say its scent is closer to lemon than orange, though.) Once you get to a flavor you like, strain the juice. I just used a metal mesh strainer, so the finer solids are still in there. If you want truly clear jelly, use cheesecloth.

Measuring out the strained cider. You can see the bergamot orange in the background, too.

Measuring out the strained cider. You can see the bergamot orange in the background, too.

Bring 4 cups of cider and pectin mixed with ¼ cup sugar to a boil over high heat. (I generally hang out at 9, rather than 10, to avoid scorching.) I kept an extra cinnamon stick in the mix, just to keep the flavor amped. Once it is at a rolling boil, add the remaining sugar. Stir constantly until it returns to a rolling boil. Once there, stir for another minute, and then remove from heat.

Cooking the cider into jelly. I've gotten pretty good at this part, it's all the prep and whatnot that I still need to work on.

Cooking the cider into jelly. I’ve gotten pretty good at this part, it’s all the prep and whatnot that I still need to work on.

At this point, test the set (I use the chilled plate test) and skim the foam and remove the cinnamon stick. Pour into sterile jars, wipe rims, and put on lids and rings. Process in a water bath for 5 minutes, then cool for about a day.

I strongly recommend this jelly!  My house smells wonderful, I have a bunch of new tasty jelly, and I used up something that might have gone to waste. Not a bad afternoon!