Saturday, October 13, 2012

Copper Preserving Pan - WOW

Did I mention that I had gone to a jam demonstration given by jam expert and small business success story, Rachel Saunders? I also bought her cookbook, Blue Chair Fruit, She recommends as an essential piece of equipment, the copper preserving pan, saying it is the game changer.  I wanted one very much, but told myself that I had to earn it. When my jams won ribbons at both county fairs that I entered. I decided that after many years of canning, I deserved it and I would make the huge investment. I spent so much on the pot, that i didn't have money left to buy fruit to make the jam. I couldn't wait to try it out and reap the rewards of better equipment and Rachel's example.

However, the first attempt was rather a disaster... in trying to make a grape jelly with homegrown grapes generously given me by my friend, with the plan to return the grapes in the form of sparkling sweet/tart white grape jelly. In my enthusiasm to use the pot, I disregarded all the guidelines that I had learned in the last  few years. Fruit too green, not enough sugar, not adding pectin for jelly, cooking way too long, not reaching the jel point - that just about covers everything about preserves. Here is how it turned out.  I didn't blame the pot ( just at first) - they were all my mistakes.

Getting up and right back on the horse, so to speak, I made a super Peach Jam with Lime and everything turned out according to my hopes. The peaches were pretty ripe, being at the end of their season, and needed a little zing to balance the flavor. This time, I followed Rachel's method exactly, and with my own experience guiding me too, I made a low sugar, no- added- pectin, softly textured sweet and peachy jam. The copper pot really really made a difference in the cooking and it is possible, that for jams, jellies and preserves, this is the right piece.
The copper pot takes up a lot of space on the stove top.

Skimming the foam off the top is easier with the wide shallow pan size.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Jersey City Farmers' Market Exploration #4. Journal Square

Jackie Robinson played ball here in 1946 at Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City.
It's August and the last month of summer is here. The farms are overflowing with corn, tomatoes, cukes, peppers, eggplants, zucchini - all the late summer crops - lettuces, beets and spinach, bokchoy, are still strong and the fruit crops have turned away from berries to stone fruits and melons. There is a farmers' market in Jersey City every day of the week, and the Friday market is held at Journal Square. In search of more delicious string beans and ripe tomatoes,
I ventured out to the PATH Plaza at the intersection of Kennedy Blvd and Bergen St. This location operates on Wednesdays and Fridays, and features the two big farmer's stands, Stony Hill Gardens, and Alstede's. They were rather evenly matched for produce, quantity, prices. 

The historic Loew's Theater stands proudly behind the canopied farmers.
I found an assortment of heirloom tomatoes and dill at Stony Hill; Alstede's offered purple podded string beans. Personal interaction and friendliness, evident here, are important qualities for sustaining the farmer-to-buyer relationship. Stony Hill customers are helped by cute twin girls from the JSQ neighborhood; international exchange students from Slovakia and Bulgaria are spending the summer working at Alstede's farms and market.

The fountain is dry.
I don't know yet, if it's typical of a Friday market there, but the only other vendors are Dr. Pickle (" he's got your cure") and the nut vendor. This urban location has a fountain, civic statues, a kiosk, some planters and shady trees and places to sit. It might be busier on Wednesdays, but the today, the combination of the traffic, empty lot, heavy 1970's-style architecture make it seem less vibrant than it should be. Strolling musicians would be nice.

The next day, my two friends and I set to work on a trio of recipes. We made a peach-cardamom jam, Moroccan-style preserved lemons, and dilly beans. The peach cardamom jam was almost preserves like in texture, and a bold spicy taste. The goal was to make a product that was lower in sugar and pectin, and this is what we did.
6 lbs of peaches
4 lbs sugar
3 tablespoons dry pectin ( 1 box)
1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh 
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
Peel the peaches, and slice them into small pieces. We wanted a chunky texture. Put them into a very large preserving pan or dutch oven, and add the lemon juice. Cook over high heat until the fruit boils. Then add the pectin and the sugar. Bring to a boil again stirring well to dissolve the sugar. Add the cardamom and cook until the color darkens a little and the syrup thickens. Test for jell. Add a little more cardamom if you like. If the jam is too runny, cook at a steady boil for another four or five minutes, testing every 2 minutes. Yield: 8 half pints.

We love the widemouth short half pint Ball jar.
A jar packed with lemon rinds, waiting to be filled and capped

Cutting, rolling and juicing 2 dozen lemons.
The basic jar of string beans ready for different flavors.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dilly Beans

I have been wanting to make dilled string beans for a long time. Yesterday I shopped at the Hamilton Park Farmers' Market and bought 5 lbs of nice green and yellow snap beans from my friends at Stony Hill farm, and a bunch of organic dill leaves from the organic farm stand.
Why are most of the pickles sold in stores and at the farmers markets, made from cucumbers? Sure, pickled beets are popular, but dilly bean pickles are rarely seen on a grocery shelf. I asked google, are pickles a healthy food?
You might be interested in what "the nutrition diva" had to say about it. When a pickle counts as a serving of vegetables, that's tops with me! "The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving" by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard has a big chapter on a variety of pickled vegetables.
I researched my "library" of canning books and found each one had a recipe for  Dilled Green Beans. All of them called for white vinegar, salt, dill, garlic and hot pepper. Some pre-cooked the beans, other recipes said to pack raw beans into the jars. I tried a batch each way. In the Better Homes and Gardens, there was an eyecatching photo of Lemon-Bay pickled beans. I made those also, with the yellow beans (to match the lemon). Then I had four cups of leftover pickle solution, so I cut up a huge onion and put that into a pickle.
Dilly Beans, Lemon Bay Beans, raw pack Dilly Beans, Pickled Onion Rings
In all, I worked through the afternoon, washing, trimming, stirring and canning, and have 7 lovely pints of pickled beans and 2 pints pickled onion rings as my reward.
I learned a rule of thumb: one pound of green beans, trimmed into 4 inch pieces, will fill just 2 pints, packed tightly. 
Look for beans at the farm stand or pick-your-own farm, and buy an extra pound. Try this easy recipe, using a few common ingredients, and make two jars. It won't take much time, and you'll have a lovely product that you will not want to open because they look so nice! I mean - you will be so proud of them, you'll save them for a special occasion. Dilly Beans, from "Pickles and Relishes" by Andrea Chesman, page 90. I cut the recipe in half.
Ingredients: 1 pound green beans, washed and trimmed into 4 inch pieces
2 cloves of garlic
2 heads of dill (seed), or 4 stems of fresh dill leaves, or 2 tsp dill seed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or 1-2 small dried red chili peppers
1-1/4 cup  water
1-1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup pickling salt ( I don't want all that salt, I used one tablespoon)
1. Wash 2 wide mouth pint jars and heat them in a water bath canner put on medium heat. 
2. In a sauce pan, combine the water, vinegar and salt; stir to dissolve, then heat to boiling.
3. Remove the hot jars from the canner, and place them on their sides on a towel. 
Fill the jars laying on their sides, garlic, dill leaves, beans, then the vinegar. 
4. Into each jar, put a clove of garlic, a chili pepper and the dill. 
5. Pack the beans into the jars, so they are "standing up"in the jar. this is easier to do with the jar lying on its side, and using a little plastic fork to move the beans into place. 
6. Stand up the jars and pour the boiling vinegar into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace and covering the beans with the liquid.
7. Wipe the rims clean and top with the lid and then the ring. Tighten the ring firmly but not terribly tight.
8. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes for pints, timing when the water returns to a boil.
9. Remove jars and let them cool, undisturbed. The lids should snap down.
10. If you do not yet have a water bath canner, you can use a large deep stock pot, with a little rack made of extra canning rings or a towel, filled with enough water to cover the tops of the jars.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Red, White and Blue at the Warren County Fair

I won't keep you in suspense -  I've won a ribbon for each entry in the Warren County Fair! How exciting and surprising. I'm so glad I took a chance.
First place and a blue ribbon for Chunky Mustard Pickles and for Apple-Mint Jelly. Second place and a red ribbon for Pineapple Marmalade and for Peach-Jalepeno Pepper Jelly, and third place and a white ribbon for Plum Jam. 
I'm really proud of them all.  The prize winning recipe for the pickles is in the previous post about Van Vorst Park Farmers' Market.

Second Place for the Peach-Jalepeno Jelly.
Each jar was displayed with the entry tag, recipe and the comment card. Judge's comment for mint-apple jelly, " sealed well, color and taste excellent, make some more".
That was my first time making herb jelly, a little challenging, but worth it. You can use other herbs too.
Here is the recipe, from the Better Homes and Gardens Canning special interest magazine, 2011, page 106
Mint-Apple Jelly
  3 ounces fresh peppermint leaves
  3 cups fresh apple juice
  1/4 cup lemon juice, fresh squeezed
  1 pkg, 1.75 oz, powdered pectin
  4 cups sugar
1. Wash, cut and measure 1 cup mint leaves. 
2. Simmer the apple juice and mint together for 15 minutes. 
3. Strain, reserving the juice, and discard the leaves. 
4. Combine the flavored apple juice, lemon juice and dry pectin in a large pot. 5. Heat to a full boil and add the sugar. Stir to dissolve completely.
6. Return to a full rolling boil for 1 minute.
7. Remove from heat, skim foam, fill jars to 1/4 " headspace and adjust lids.
8. Process in a water bath canner for 5 minutes, timing when the water boils.
Yields five 8oz jars.

The Concession stand and the Rides behind it.
The Warren County Fairgrounds are about five miles north of Phillipsburg NJ, and the fair is noted for its hot air balloon "inflation". It also features all the usual fun attractions of a county fair: carnival rides, strawberry shortcake; farm animals; quilts; pig races; beauty and baby contests; tractor races, vendors and community organizations, and something new to me "Polish-style hamburgers".There is so much to see and do and a lot of effort is put into it.

A girl and her goats.
I'd like to thank Becky Hummer, of the Warren County Rutgers Cooperative Extension office, consultant for the canning exhibits, who helped me fill out the paperwork and kept my opened jars an extra day so I could pick them up. Exhibitors who enter 5 or more items received a week long pass, and I wish I lived closer so I could take my son-in-law and my grandson to the competitive hay bale rolling and the 4 wheel drive truck pull. Maybe next year...

Next weekend I plan to enter more jams and pickles in the Middlesex County Fair in East Brunswick. Can this city girl win some more ribbons? 

Oh, you definitely want to check out this great article on canning, southern style, in the August issue of Southern Living magazine. Looks like a lot of fun and some new twists on traditional recipes, as well as a quick 3 step description of how to can and properly process your jars. I've been invited to make corn relish and tomato marmalade; and mango jam and Indian pickles; and zucchini sott'olio, sounds like a good time for a party?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Jersey City Farmers' Market Exploration #3 - Van Vorst Park

The Farmers' Market at Van Vorst Park is like a little gem tucked inside a secret garden. The market is set up in the center of the square around the gazebo and you walk down shady paths bordered with roses and flowers to reach it. Besides the farmers, there are the knife sharpener, Stella's Argentine empanadas, three tables of baked goods, and Dakota Dog selling the cutest handcrafted toys for pets. It's friendly, small and simply charming.

I needed ingredients to make Mustard Pickles and found them at the stand displaying a wide variety of fresh greens, reds, whites and purples. Their prices for Kirby cucumbers and bell peppers and white onions were a bargain and they had lots of corn, tomatoes, eggplant and nice looking leafy vegetables. Just because there was the “Jersey Fresh” label on the jar, I bought some really good honey made by Trapper’s Honey LLC from Clarksburg.  

I was happy to see a farmer advertising cheese and eggs for sale, Ed Huff of Central Valley Farms of Asbury NJ. His third generation family farm began years ago as a dairy farm, selling milk. Then, uncertainties with processing and marketing the fluid milk led to a change in direction, to making fresh artisanal cheese.

 Central Valley Farm's cows are grazing in green pastures all spring and summer - only this milk is used for the cheeses. Their booth displays beauty shots of the cows and the hens, giving them their due. Today the table has a smaller selection of produce, but coming soon are 30+ varieties of heirloom tomatoes and peppers Central Valley Farm rotates to Union Square (NYC) and an uptown market, plus a CSA. 

Bon Appetit' magazine has tips on shopping at a Farmers' Market. It's worth the look.

This is the batch of pickles I’m taking to the Warren County Fair. It's a quick and easy recipe which will be submitted in the category “Any other pickle”. 
Chunky Mustard Pickles
Yield: Six Pints, One Halfpint, and a Quart of Extra Pickle Juice 
Ingredients: the pickle solution:
   5 cups white vinegar
   ¼ cup prepared yellow mustard
   3 ½ cups sugar
   1/3 cup salt
   2 TBS celery seed
   2 TBS mustard seed
   ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
   ½ teaspoon whole cloves
 The vegetables:
     5 lbs Kirby cucumbers
     3 large white onions
     2 large green peppers
     4 medium stalks celery

1. Scrub all vegetables thoroughly in running water. Seed (if seeds are large) and cut the cucumbers into chunks.
2. Dice the green peppers, onions and celery.
3. In a large stockpot combine the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt and spices.  Bring to a boil, stirring well to dissolve the sugar, salt and mustard.
4. Add the chopped vegetables to the pot, and heat until almost boiling, about ten minutes. Then reduce the heat to very low. Have clean hot pint jars ready.
5. Fill the pint jars with vegetables, and cover with vinegar solution to ½ inch of the rims. Using a canning funnel helps so much.
6. Wipe rims clean with a paper towel, adjust lids, and process in a water-bath canner, using a lower heat pasteurization method, of 30 minutes at 180-185 degrees.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cherry Conserve

Don't you love cherries? Fresh cherries are here and gone in a matter of 2 or 3 weeks. I found them at the Grove St Farmers' Market on Monday and bought as much as I could carry. Ort Farms had a table of early stone fruits, along with the cherries, there were two varieties of plums and some peaches. Truth to tell, the cherries were grown in Washington state. Ort Family Farms is located in Long Valley NJ and has family friendly activities and offers a CSA program too.  They sell at several other markets around here.

I've been wanting to make a conserve. Here is how the Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving describes it: "Conserves are jams garnished with nuts... and sometimes with dried fruits." This is their recipe for Cherry Hazelnut Conserve, adjusted slightly, substituting pineapple for the orange.

2 lbs of sweet cherries, about 3 baskets
2 ½ cups of sugar
½ lemon
1/2 lb pineapple
1/3 cup hazelnuts, chopped
¼ teaspoon citric acid

1. Wash and pit the cherries, yielding 4 cups.
2. Wash the lemon and remove the yellow rind, slicing it into very thin pieces.Discard the white rind and chop the lemon pulp.
3. Chop the pineapple coarsely, about 1/3 cup
4. Mix all the fruit with the sugar, and let it stand for a few hours or overnight. Stir well until the sugar is dissolved. Taste the mixture for balance of sweet and tart, and if it is not tart enough, add the citric acid.
Homemade Cherry-Pineapple Conserve
5. Pour the fruit and juice into a tall stockpot. Bring to a rapid boil of high heat. Set the time for 15 minutes. As it cooks, the water evapor-ates and the foam rises threateningly in the pot. 
6. Stir to prevent scorching and lower the heat slightly if the jam is sticking. Observe when the color darkens and the liquid becomes syrupy and shiny. 
7. Turn off the heat and pour in the chopped hazelnuts.
8. Stir steadily 4-5 minutes, to release more steam and distribute the fruit and nuts evenly.
9. Ladle into hot jars, wipe the rims, adjust the lids and rings, and process 10 minutes in a water bath canner. Yields four halfpint jars.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Blue Chair Fruit Company and My Best-tasting Strawberry Jam

Three weeks ago, I dropped in on a demo of jammaking by the owner of Blue Chair Fruit Company herself, Rachel Saunders.  This was a serendipitous encounter, as I had browsed around my favorite jam websites that morning and was surprised to find that a Williams-Sonoma store was featuring Rachel, her new cookbook, and a demo that very afternoon. I hopped on the PATH and was there.

My copy is autographed by Rachel.
  Rachel is a slim stylish woman who has a warm personality and a fountain of knowledge about making fruit preserves. She started her own business, Blue Chair Fruit Company in Oakland CA, making artisanal products with organic local ingre-dients. She adheres closely to those ideals, and so forgoes pineapples and other non native fruit. Lucky for lovers of her marmalade, California is a grower of citrus and the Bay area has many organic farms.

  As I stood watching her make pure strawberry jam, she explained her methods and answered my questions. Most impressive thing about it was the 
Photo credit: Blue Chair Fruit. com
huge copper jam pot boiling away at a very high foaming boil. Rachel said she has 6 of these pans going at once in her commercial kitchen. That speaks to her organization and stamina in addition to the hand filling, processing, labeling etc. that goes along with it. Jam making is hot stuff!

  I couldn’t help but think that without the added pectin, this boiling mixture of strawberries, sugar and lemon juice, would end up sticky and overcooked, with large pieces of floating fruit. Well, I was wrong (of course –who has the cookbook and whose jars are sold at Williams Sonoma, and who is giving the demo !?!) . The fruit mixture changed before my eyes, from a juicy soup of individual berries, to a richly colored, thick spread where the fruit has disintegrated and become, well, jam. The jell texture is soft, not stiff, and the flavor is fresh and sincere. Now I have a better way for making jams – freed from the constraints of the box of pectin, its generic recipes with too much sugar. Yay!
June jams: strawberry pineapple; strawberry vanilla;
strawberry preserves; strawberry lemon; strawberry
 balsamic peppercorn, and plain strawberry
Some of her tips:  Macerate the fruit with sugar for several hours or overnight. This aids in drawing out the juice.  Cook in a wide deep pot, a wide sloping pan lets the mixture evaporate more quickly. Measure fruit and sugar by weight. Add fresh squeezed lemon juice gradually and don't let the flavor of lemon become pronounced. The yield will be less than when made with pectin because there is less sugar added and the longer cooking reduces the water in the jam. Stir well so fruit doesn't stick.
My last batch of strawberry jam was made without pectin according to her method, though without the copper pot. From 3 lbs of berries, I made five 8oz jars of lovely red jam which has a sweet tart fruity flavor. I am going to enter this batch in the Middlesex County Fair in August - and I bet I'll win the blue ribbon. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Jersey City Farmers' Market Exploration, #2, Grove Street

Cafe' tables and wine, anyone?
Open Mon and Thurs 4-8 pm

This market is set up on a small plaza at the centrally located Grove Street Path station in the historic downtown section of Jersey City. The city has provided the vendors with nice shady decorated canopies which lends an organized air amid the busy and crowded commuter atmosphere. With the paved space bordered by new and old buildings, the variety of stands and customers, and the planters, lampposts and bicycles, the Grove St market almost has an Italian piazza vibe - missing are the outdoor cafe' tables.  I think there should be a special “market transfer” pass for the public on the bus and PATH trains. Wouldn't it be great
if a commuter could stop at this Farmer’s Market, shop and then continue on home without being charged the extra $2? 

Sara's is handcrafted in Jersey City
Inter- Modal Node
 I counted more than 20 vendors,Made with Love organic bakery, Sara's Saucy Salsa,  Stella’s Argentina empanadas, lemonade stand, funnel cakes, pickles/olives, specialty dog biscuits, barbeque, and ready made meals to go.  
Stony Hill Farm Market of Chester NJ and Ort Farms of Long Valley NJ are definitely the big draw. Both have big tents filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, honey, and baked goods. They participate in the state's successful Jersey Fresh program,marketing produce grown in New Jersey.
Also in Edison on Sunday mornings
 In answering my question about the suspiciously summery veggies of tomato, cucumber and squash, Stony Hill's manager told me that the tomatoes are grown in their onsite greenhouses, the cucumbers and squash are brought up from a friend's farm in South Jersey where the season is a couple weeks ahead. In fact Stony Hill Farm cultivates 500 acres including some grain and hay in addition to these gorgeously colored cauliflower.  
Imagine a jar of mixed cauliflower pickle

The strawberry season has been prolific for them and I bought 4 quarts of just ripened berries which are destined for a simple strawberry jam. If this batch turns out excellent, it's destined for the county fair. It is made over two days, and is much better for it.

Plain and Simple Strawberry Jam
4 pounds fresh local strawberries, 2- 3/4 pounds sugar, 4 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice, 1 pouch of liquid pectin. Shop for the berries and the same day, wash them well, remove the green caps, and gently crush them to release some juice. Add the sugar and the lemon juice to the crush and stir very well. Cover and place in the refrigerator. The next day, gather the jars, lids, utensils and water bath canner, and the pectin; get them ready. Now, Important: divide the strawberry mixture into two equal parts so you can cook them in two small batches-use a scale or measuring cups to make accurate division.  Taste the mixture for a balance of sweet and tart. Put one half in a stock pot and increase the heat to bring it to a rapid boil. Let it boil, foaming, stirring every minute, for about 10 minutes, and you will notice that the mixture is slightly darker in color and the juice is becoming syrupy. Reduce the heat to low, and skim off the foam. Add One-Half packet of liquid pectin stirring to dissolve well. Raise the heat again and boil the jam for one minute longer. Turn off the heat and continue stirring and scraping the bottom for 3 or 4 minutes until the steam released diminishes noticeably. The jam should have a shiny red color and a texture. Test for jell. Fill the jars, wipe the rims, adjust the lids. Repeat with the half set aside- it does take more time, but your jam will be sure to set. Process ten minutes in a water bath canner for 8oz jars.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Jersey City Farmers' Markets Exploration, #1 Hamilton Park

Hamilton Park Neighborhood Association
The Hamilton Park Neighborhood Association has designed this farmers market as a fun destination inside the refurbished Hamilton Park in JC's historic downtown. The park has a playground, dog run, tennis court, green space, and gardens, so the fresh market really attracts a crowd of friendly neighbors and foodies. Among the food vendors are my friends: Made with Love Organic Bakery, Saucy Sara's Salsa, plus many more booths offering flowers, empanada, olives, lemonade,  fresh mozzarella, a pizza truck, knife sharpener, to explore

Stony Hill Farm Market rolls its truck right in and sets up a large display of tempting vegetables, herbs and fruits. Chatting with the big guy, I learn that they've been growing strawberries for 8 years or so, and that the recent hot humid weather has not been damaging to the berries at all. In fact, under irrigation, the crop is very good. In order to supply the daily schedule of local markets, the farm plants its crops in weekly succession, so they can harvest at the peak throughout the summer and fall. Interestingly, strawberries can be protected from an unexpected late frost by spraying them with water which freezes over the blossoms, rather like what citrus orchards do for oranges.

One quart equals 1-1/2 pounds
Strawberries are the first fruit of the season in the northeast and I am hoping that you will join me in making jams and pickles. Let's have a warm up session and make a batch of Strawberry Vanilla Jam, over 3 days and doing a little bit each day. We'll make one small batch starting with 1 quart of berries and yielding 4 half pint jars.
Day 1 - buy your supplies: a 5 lb bag of sugar; one vanilla bean; a package of liquid or dry pectin; a 
box (one dozen) half pint canning jars and lids; a lemon or two; 2 essential canning tools the jar lifter and a large mouth funnel. Wash 4 jars and lids in the dishwasher and set them upside down on a clean towel, ready to go. Time: half hour in the grocery store.
Strawberry Vanilla jam 
Day 2 - shop for fresh locally grown berries. buy 1 quart (1-1/2 lbs) for making the jam and -more for strawberry shortcake, ice cream, etc. Wash the berries very well and trim the leaves and slice in quarters resulting in 3-1/2 to 4 cups. Place the prepared berries in a non-reactive bowl and add the vanilla bean, and 1 cup sugar. Mix well, cover and refrigerate overnight. Time: half hour at the farmers' market, half hour of food prep.
Day 3 - put on your apron. Measure 2 and 1/2 cups sugar, squeeze the lemon for 2 Tbsp juice. Heat four jars in the canner or in the oven if not processing and put four lids and rings in a small pan- cover with hot water.
Heating the jars
Now remove the vanilla bean, then crush the berries with a potato masher. Add them to the stockpot or large kettle along with the sugar and lemon juice. Bring up the heat slowly stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Raise the heat to get a very rapid boil. Watch out for splatters and keep stirring for about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the pectin ( half a pouch or half a dry package, because we have only 1 qt fruit). incorporate the pectin and raise the heat again for a rapid boil. Count one minute, reduce the heat and test for jelling. Turn off the heat and stir for another 3 minutes to distribute the fruit and diminish the foam. Skim off the foam and using the funnel, ladle the very hot jam into the hot jars. Wipe the rims carefully with a damp towel and top each with a lid and ring.
Process them in a water bath or steam canner for 10 minutes; cool and test the lids to see whether the jars are sealed. Or if you are not processing, then you will have to store them in the refrigerator. Time: about an hour, or less if not processing.
This recipe is from the blog "Food in Jars" a few changes by me, and I want to give credit to the author Marisa McClellan. She has written a cookbook, and I follow her blog.
So for about 2 hours time, you have four jars of a unique and tasty topping for scones, toast, poundcake and ice cream. Mmmmm. Overall, very good, but it turned out a little stiff like jelly. Adding the pectin here would be optional if you'd like a softer spoonable jam as a result.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Now in Season

Hi Friends,
It’s mid-May and I’m looking forward to a new season of preserving and pickling. I have new challenges and new goals.
The biggest challenge is to locate top quality fresh produce in Jersey City and the surrounding area including New York and Pennsylvania. The second is to maximize canning in my (not too big) apartment kitchen. The third is to be cost-conscious. It’s not as expensive a hobby as golf, but there is a large $ input for a little jar of output.
My first goal is to win a ribbon for my jarred products in a county fair this summer. My second goal is to make jams as favors for a bridal shower, baby shower or birthday party. That leads into my third goal, to create a cute label for my jars. And last but not least: Try new things: like freezer pickles or preserved lemons.
I promise to continue my education in preserving by reading all the information I can on the topic, and attending classes or workshops if available. Maybe one day, I can teach how to put up food.

In preparation for this second “Summer of Jam and Pickles”,  I did a few things: bought new equipment, organized my books, made a list of the farmers markets in Jersey City, and took an inventory of the jams I had on hand at the present time.
I had packed up my canning jars and lids, the pickle crock and the large earthenware bowls, the kettle, strainers, tongs etc and put them in storage. I didn’t think I’d have room here. When I had made the marmalade last winter, I realized I needed this equipment here in the apartment. So I bought a box of canning utensils, and a steam canner. This is not a pressure canner, but an alternative to the boiling water bath process. In my small kitchen, it takes up less space, uses less water, and gives me an extra pot to use as a sterilizer, and as intended to heat the jars and the contents and make a seal. For those of you who love to shop on-line or who don’t have a friendly Ace hardware store in the neighborhood, try for canning supplies.

This is my collection of books on making jams, etc, and pickles and the like. It comprises the following, and hopefully, I can add new ones to it. Recommendations are always welcome.
The Blue Book, Guide to Home Canning and Freezing, by the Ball Company.
The Heinz Guide to Successful Pickling, by H. J. Heinz Co. (1976)
Blue Ribbon Preserves, by Linda J. Amendt,
The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving, by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard
Canning for a New Generation, by Liana Krissoff
The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich
Pickles and Relishes by Andrea Chesman
Canning – 120 ways to savor the season year round, a special interest publication by Better Homes and Gardens.
And the last really oldie but goodie:
Complete Guide to Home Canning, Preserving, and Freezing by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture (1973)

Jersey City has a Farmer’s Market open somewhere in the city, seven days a week. Can I get to all of them this summer? Downtown F.M. – Mondays and Thursdays
Harvest Square F.M. – Tuesdays
Newport Center F.M. – Tuesdays
Journal Square F.M. – Wednesdays and Fridays
Hamilton Park F.M. – Wednesdays
Van Vorst Park F.M. – Saturdays
Riverview F.M. – Sundays
Hoboken Downtown  F.M. – Tuesdays
Hoboken Uptown F.M. – Thursdays
And I hope to head out to some pick-your-own farms, too. I’m reminded to be “green” and bring my own shopping tote to the markets. My daughter is crocheting a string bag, and setting a good example with her C.S.A. share. The above list is for me to refer to so that I visit and describe every one, hopefully bringing back some unique fresh produce to turn into a pickle or jam.

The inventory from 2011 (includes marmalade from Jan/Feb 2012). Pushing aside the hangers in the closet, I’ve discovered: Jam: red plum three 4oz, spiced blueberry, strawberry-marsala, lemon-thyme four 4oz, strawberry- rhubarb six 4oz, pumpkin, carrot, blackberry,
Preserve/Marmalade: cherry preserve, Earl Grey peach seven 4oz, citrus marmalade, meyer lemon marmalade, pineapple marmalade, four 4oz, cranberry marmalade, tangerine grapefruit marmalade, sliced peach preserve,
Jelly:  apple-mint six 4oz, grape, peach-jalapeno two 6z and three 4oz,
Pickles: in pints: 4 dills, 3 bread and butters, 2 sweet icicles
Let me know if you are interested in taking some.

There are a couple of county fairs within an hour's drive for me. The Middlesex and the Warren county fairs are in early August and the registration forms have to be sent in by mid-July. Lots of work to do in June and July!!!  Each has posted the categories of jarred food for competition, the application forms and the rules. Just imagine: Joan’s award-winning jams - tomato marmalade - pickled vegetables. I'll let you in on the process and the fun. Hope we are celebrating a ribbon later this summer.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

City Island (Daytona Beach) Farmers' Market

Under the palm trees
Today it's Bike Week, Spring Break and St Patrick's Day in Daytona Beach, Florida, and the beautiful weather has everyone outdoors. My sister and I checked out the City Island Farmers' Market set up in a spacious lot between the city's library and the Jackie Robinson Ballpark. The long tables display a bountiful selection of fruits and vegetables from meyer lemons to brussels sprouts, and there are a few non-farm vendors in the mix.

They grow on a stalk!

Shoppers carry away trays of luscious red ripe Plant City strawberries (I can vouch for how good they are). Plant City, located between Orlando and Tampa, is famous for its strawberries and hosts a yearly festival where you might like to compete in a strawberry shortcake eating contest

Organic Alternatives
Ravi and Rich opened their Access to Organics stand to offer a selection of certified organic fruits and veggies. Ravi was so friendly and informative about the quality and freshness in sourcing organic produce. I bought some of their cucumbers for the new pickle recipe I plan to try. See Ravi's schedule of Spring activities here.

Sunny and Warm
I was surprised to learn that only one farmer there grows his own produce to sell. The other vendors buy from distributors for resale and much of the produce is trucked up from south Florida, or from further away. I found that farmer proudly hawking the biggest broccoli heads and the crispest chard that I had ever seen. His farm is in Samsula, a mere 15 miles west. His comments on the season so far,"pretty decent, a little hotter and a little drier than I'd like, but who's complaining". Asked about tomatoes, he doesn't grow them for market, only for his family - the economics of it favors the south Florida farms.

Midtown Ecovillage
At the citrus stand, there were samples of grapefruit and pineapple orange to taste. We bought some meyer lemons, as big as tennis balls, to make lemon curd. Feeling thirsty, we stopped by Ravi's friend's booth, for a smoothie. Omar and Camille have a good time doing what they believe in, creating a delicious drink and educating the public on good food and healthy lifestyles. A good idea - Smoothies and Movies . 

Ocie's has so many good flavors
I was excited to find a table full of jams, etc, by Ocie's Gourmet Preserves. Gloria and her sister carry on the business of canning and selling a whole line of jams, jellies, pickles and relishes begun by their mother. They grow some of their raw materials, and purchase some from their neighboring vendors in this market. So many treats I was eager to try: muscadine grape jam, mulberry jam, mango jalapeno jelly, hot pickled okra, the raw honey, sigh; I bought the sweet onion relish. They will ship their jars to you, write to them at
I enjoyed this Farmer's Market a lot, and I hope you clicked on the links to learn more. In my next post I'll report what I made with the produce I bought today.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Canning from the 21st Floor and a Book Review

One World Trade Center rises across the Hudson.
Hello friends, I am writing from our new home in Jersey City. As 2011 ended, hubby and I downsized from our suburban split level in Edison to a 2 bedroom apartment in a high rise. In anticipation of a much smaller kitchen and storage area, I had packed away all my canning equipment like the water-bath canner, jars and utensils, and left them at my mother's house, along with dozens of jars of jam and pickles. Little did I imagine then, that I would be cooking up new recipes and canning within a few months. I am making do without the aforementioned equipment, for example, using the same large stock pot that I cooked the jams in, (washed clean) to process the jars. Filling the jars without the wide funnel and holding them with tongs and not the special jar lifter is rather clumsy, but can be managed. Actually, I think I will order a set of those utensils from, and probably the steam canner as well, because it can double as a water-bath canner for pickles and relishes. Anyway, I found that I had a more than adequate kitchen stove, and prep area, to do it again. It's kind of amazing to look out the window at the very urban Manhattan skyline and be chopping oranges for a new marmalade.

The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving 
Much of the inspiration for this winter canning came from the books I received as Christmas gifts and I'd like to share my impressions with you of each book, with mentions of a recipe I tried. First is "The Complete Book of Small-Batch Canning" 2nd edition, by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard, published by Firefly Books, over 300 recipes for sweet spreads, pickles and relishes, flavored oils and vinegars, and intriguing recipes for foods made with these products as ingredients. I recommend this book for its solid introduction to preserving food and canning it. One great feature is that the recipes are fun and easy to do - they take just an hour or two and make a half -dozen jars or so, therefore, you are not killing yourself in the kitchen. And there are beautifully styled color photos - one of a teapot, jam and scones started me dreaming. 
Of course, since it is winter I have had to make a few allowances in my self-styled blog. In February and March, there is no "farm' or "farmer's market" to buy my produce. Do you mind too much that I am using imported fruits like oranges, citruses and pineapples from the supermarket?  How else will I get to make marmalade ?!
Here are two recipes from the book:  Microwavable Curd and Tangerine Grapefruit Marmalade I had cooked up a batch or two of orange marmalade, and was ready to try using tangerines in these ways. 

You make this recipe (page 111) for curd in the microwave, and may substitute tangerines for lemons. There are only four ingredients and cooking time is 5 minutes! I used a microplane to grate the rind. It did a fine job (pun intended). I had everything ready to go, and then found that my microwave cannot be set to reduced power. Therefore, I brought up the saucepan and cooked it whisking continuously until thick. I was hoping to give you a report of making curd in the microwave but I'll ask you to try it and let ME know.

Microwave Lemon Curd
2-3 lemons, ( or tangerines, or limes)          3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter ( 4 tablespoons)                  2 large eggs

Finished Tangerine Curd ready to spread on a scone 
Finely grate zest of lemons. Squeeze lemons and measure 1/2 cup juice.
In a microwavable container, like a quart canning jar, combine the zest, juice, and butter. Microwave on high for a minute until the butter melts. Remove and stir.
In a bowl, beat eggs. Then slowly add the juice mixture to the eggs, stirring rapidly. Return the mixture to the jar, and cook at 50% power for 2 minutes,STOPPING every 30 seconds to stir it well. It should get thick like a cream sauce. Do not let it boil. Transfer to a storage jar or container and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks ( not likely, it's really good) or freeze it.

Tangerine Grapefruit Marmalade, page 83
2 or 3 tangerines, to make about 1/2 cup peel           Seeds from all these fruits
2 lemons, to make about 1/2 cup peel
1 small grapefruit, to make about 1/3 cup peel
3 cups water
2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
Steaming mixed citrus fruits for Tangerine Grapefruit Marmalade
Peel the rind from the tangerines. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the rind from the lemon and the grapefruits. Slice all the peels into very thin strips, and add to a saucepan.  Put the seeds in a tea ball-they are very high in pectin. Add the water and bring to a boil, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the white pith from the fruit and discard. Chop the fruit pulp in a food processor. Add this pulp to the saucepan and cook another 20 minutes. Remove and discard the seeds. (At this point, I would let this stand overnight, I think it makes a much more tender peel, but this book doesn't call for it) Add the sugar to the saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cook, at a fast boil, uncovered and stirring, until the mixture forms a gel. Ladle into hot jars, seal and process in a waterbath canner for 10 minutes, or refrigerate. Frankly, I prefer to use a pouch of liquid pectin for a consistent texture of my product, and I do recommend it. This book has recipes without pectin, and in fact, has a recipe for making your own at home from apples.