Monday, September 5, 2011

Cardamom, pepper, tarragon and mint, Part 2

There is one of my motivations for making jam: the appearance of the jars in the sunlight. You see from the top: peach-jalepano jelly, apple-peppermint jelly; cherry tarragon preserves; peach jam with cardamom. 
If you are enamored of the flavor of Mint: mint choc-chip ice cream; mint patties; mint juleps; spearmint jelly slices; I have a great recipe for you! Apple mint jelly, mmm, as shown second from the top, each jar has a small mint leaf to distinguish it. This is a variation on the herb jelly recipe in the BH&G Canning magazine. I have a garden with lots of fresh peppermint and other herbs. It is much much nicer than a jar of commercial mint jelly and of course, it is all natural with nothing artificial, not even green food coloring.
4 cups fresh apple juice                               
2 handfuls fresh mint leaves and stems, well washed
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup dry pectin, or one package
Combine the apple juice and mint and bring to a boil. Let the "decoction" boil for 10 minutes, turn off the heat, and cover. After it cools, remove the mint and strain through a sieve lined with a paper towel. Measure 3 cups of the flavored juice, and add the lemon juice and the dry pectin; bring to a boil. Add the sugar, stirring constantly, and bring to a full rolling boil. Time for one minute and then check the jelling point. Skim the foam, which will rise to the top and begin to jell on the surface. Ladle the hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe the rims and adjust the lids. Process in the  water bath canner at 200 degrees for 10 minutes for a half pint jar.
Sweet Cherry Tarragon Preserves
but the fruit is not well distributed.
Cherries are a pleasure; the season for fresh sweet cherries is only a few weeks. Cherries have a firmer texture, they keep their shape well when cooked, and thus lend themselves for preserves and conserves where a chunky or whole fruit is desirable. Sweet black cherries are yummy popped in your mouth, but in a plain jam or preserves, the flavor is a little one-dimensional. An herb is needed! Tarragon, with its sweet flavor of anise, complements the dark cherry's. 

Pitted cherries fall into the tray at right.
Here I have set up the new cherry pitter machine. It is easy to use and saves a lot of time. You can pit about 30 cherries a minute as they roll down the tray and into the trap. You can eat them just as fast, too. Regardless, measure 4 cups of pitted cherries. In a large bowl, layer 2 cups of cherries, then 2 cups of sugar, and repeat. Let stand for an hour, or a morning, as the sugar draws the juice out of the cherries. This helps the fruit keep its whole shape as it cooks, and prevent it from floating as it jells ( that might happen anyway, see the photo above). After you let it stand, transfer the cherries/sugar mixture to the large pot and begin to cook it over medium heat, stirring to dissolve all the sugar. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice,10 sprigs of tarragon tied up, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook at a simmer for about 10 minutes stirring to keep the fruit from sticking.
Remove the tarragon and raise the heat to boiling. Add one pouch of liquid pectin, and cook at a boil for 1 minute. Test for jell, it will probably be rather thin, which is ok since preserves are large pieces of fruit suspended in a thick clear syrup. Stir the hot preserves in the pot for 5 minutes, and skim the foam before ladling into hot jars. Wipe the rims well with a damp paper towel and top with lid and ring. Process in the  water bath canner at 200 degrees for 10 minutes for a half pint jar.

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