Monthly Archives: October 2011

Fig Love

First of all I want to sa that figs are hard to find fresh here in the mod-Atlantic unless you know some one who has a tree. The one person I know who has a tree didn’t get many this year. And the price at the grocery store? Um, I could buy a lot of yarn for that price.

I have been volunteering as a kitchen assistant at a local cooking school. You get to do a lot of dishes but you are assisting and learning too. I have learned to make sushi so far and I am really looking forward to the pasta class this coming Friday. Although I am not looking forward to all of the dishes on that one! But this past Saturday was harvest canning.

There were four recipes made and while they were all good only two are ones that I would make for myself. And me being me, I had to adapt and tweak them slightly.

I really liked the Spiced Fig Jam from Small Batch Preserving. It used dried figs! And dried figs are easy to find. And actually they are reasonably priced.

One note about figs once you plump them up in water is that theya re a bit sticky.

I am posting the recipe here the way that I made it with a few minor tweaks.

Spiced Fig Jam

8 ounces dried figs*
2-1/4 cups of water
4 cups of sugar**
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
5 tablespoons Ball Flex Batch classic***
1/2 teaspoon minced lemon zest (dried or fresh)
1/2 teaspoon minced orange zest (dried or fresh)

Put your figs and water together in a bowl. Let it sit at least 8 hours or overnight.

Prepare canner, jars, and lids.

Drain the water from the figs, reserving it. Pull the stems off the figs. Place into a food processor with a chopping blade. Add a little bit of the reserved water. Puree the figs until pulverized.

Measure the figs and add enough of the reserved water to make 3 cups.

Put the measured figs & soaking water into a wide pan. Add the pectin and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Add the sugar, spices, and orange and lemon zest. Bring back to a full boil and boil hard for one full minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from the heat. Ladle the hot jam into the prepared jars. Leave 1/4 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims carefully and put on the lids and bands. Process in a how water bath for 10 minutes.****

My recipe made 5 8-ounce jars with some left over. I was able to fill a 4-ounce jar and still had a bit left over. So prepare extra jars just in case.

Notes –
* I used dried Mission figs which are darker and more flavorful. Check the bag weight since the sizes seem to vary. The bag I bought was 7 ounces. The color of the finished jam will be determined by the type of fig you use.
**The original recipe called for 4-1/2 cups of sugar. I found it a bit sweet and reduced it bu 1/2 cup
***The original recipe calls for one box of pectin. The directions for the Ball Flex Batch say 6 tablespoons equal one box. I found the original recipe a little bit stiff so I only used 5 tablespoons. The next time I will use 4 to see how it sets up.
****The original recipe says to process for only 5 minutes. Almsot every jam I have ever made processes for 10 minutes so I will err on the side of safety.

Now the fun part! How to use it! You could do a traditional and serve it over some lovely fresh goat cheese. Just warm it up slightly and pour over some shaped flavored goat cheese. (You could flavor cream cheese if you like that too.) Make a nice loaf of homemade bread and toast a slice and lightly coat with butter and top with the jam. Use it on a sandwich of an imported ham with a bit of arugula, maybe a small touch of a hard cheese. Pour some of the jam that has been slightly heated to make it runny and pour over a lovely homemade ice cream. Make some pastry puffs with Stilton cheese and the jam. They are easy to make and will impress the crew at the office.

And the ever popular and all time favorite of young and old – COOKIES!!!! You could use it in a thumbprint cookie but let’s be honest, I am talking about a newton type cookie. And you can even make it healthy and no one will ever know the difference. I personally will go with the healthier option.

And I am working on two more recipes that are being tested right now by some of my canning cohorts from FB. One has been sent to them and I am writing up the second one. So if you find cranberries in the store, buy a few bags and throw them into the freezer for later.

Can you guess what the other one is?


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Beauty of Fall

Every fall I go up to Ohiopyle to support the local fire company in their annual find raiser. I am not that big of a fan of buckwheat pancakes or of pancakes really. But it is a nice drive up there and I know that without the money from this fund raiser this particular fire company could not survive. And this fund raiser has been going on for a rather long time and people come from all over to support it. Many of them drive up from the DC area just for the weekend!

For me, going up to Ohiopyle is all about the mountains and the trees. It is one of my favorite places. Normally over the last several years, the river has been really low due to a lack of rain. Not this year!

The Youghiogheny River is a white water kayaker’s and rafter’s dream. It offers up class 3 and 4 rapids. But when the river levels are up, some of the class 4 rapids become class 5 rapids. A class 5 rapid can kill. The photo in the link shows what the falls normally look like.

This year though it was an entirely different story. The Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania have had quite a bit of rain over the last month or so. The river was running full bore and I loved it! I took a ton of photos and will be posting them as soon as I work my way through them. But here are a few.

This is the same waterfall in the link to Wikipedia


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Harvest Time

Yes, I have been quiet again. But it is harvest time and I am busy putting things up for the winter.

I have been busy putting apples, pears, tomatoes, green beans, and cranberries this past week or so. I still have a 32 pound monster heirloom pumpkin to deal with. Part of it will be pressure canned as cubes and the rest roasted and pureed before being frozen.

But while I have been busy, I have managed to create another apple jam recipe. This one is for the chile heads out there or those who like a little zing in their jams.

Apple-Chile Jam

A note on the apples – use what ever you have on hand. You need to like the apples you are using. Mix them up and use a variety. I have seconds from the orchard for applesauce and asked them to mix up the varieties so I honestly have no clue as to what type of apples I have in my box. Leave the skins on the apples because they will provide the pectin.

For a primer on dried chiles, see this page – The Cook’s Thesaurus Chile.

If you are suing fresh chiles, you may need to add about 1 to 2 teaspoons of pectin. For some reason whenever I use fresh chiles in a jam, it never seems to set up as thick as I would like it. So keep an eye on how your jam is setting up and test it!

I prefer to let the apples sweeten this jam as much as possible. If you do not have honey, you can add white or brown sugar in 1/4 cup increments to sweeten it. But do keep in mind that the taste of the final jam will change based on what you use to sweeten it. If you need to use an artificial sweetener, please make sure it is heat stable.

If you do not like the apples or apple cider you are using, you will not enjoy the final product. Cook with ingredients you love to eat!

Ingredients –
2 pounds of apples (read note)
1 to 2 dried chiles – I am planning to use a dried chipotle and part of a aji panca but adjust the peppers to what you can easily find and your heat comfort level OR dried jalapenos OR fresh jalapenos
1 cup of apple cider
1 to 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice
pinch of salt
1/2 to 1 cup of local honey (the amount needed will depend on how sweet your apples are)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
pinch of red chile pepper flakes – optional

Prepare your canner, jars, and lids for canning.

Crush up your dried chiles.

Pour the apple cider and lemon juice into the bottom of a large pan for jam making. Wash and quarter your apples. Core them. Shred the apples using the shredder blade of your food processor. (Or you can use a box grater.) Empty the container into the pot as it fills up.
art to

Add the pinch of salt and the dried chiles to the apple mixture. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover and turn down the heat and simmer for 15 to 30 minutes, You want the juices mostly gone and the apples to sort of melt and soften down.

Raise the heat back up and slowly add 1/2 cup of honey. Bring back up to a boil. Check at this point. Check the jam for sweetness levels and to make sure the chile levels are at a heat level you are comfortable with. If you need to add more sweetener, add up to 1 cup of honey total. Add the red chile pepper flakes if you want to raise the heat level a touch.

You want the jam to be thick at this point. Think jammy. Fill your hot sterilized jars with the hot jam leaving 1/4-inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles using a wood chopstick or the handle of a wood spoon. Clean the jar rims and seal with lids and bands. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

You can expect this to make 4 to 5 8-ounce jars.

And as a double bonus, I am updating the cranberry jam that I recently posted.

A friend or three on Facebook asked about some variations to that recipe. And yes it is a jan but if you tell everyone it is a chutney they will not think twice about putting next to their turkey or using it as a savory. I mean they eat the canned cranberry jelly as a savory.

Cranberry Jam – Version 2

I was asked to create a variation on the first version of this recipe and make it more savory and add some items.

I was asked to add crushed pineapple and walnuts to the jam. And as a note to the savory side, you could add a small amount of crushed red chile flakes to add a note of zing.

1 12-ounce bag of fresh or frozen cranberries (a 12 ounce bag is 3 cups)
1-1/2 cups of water or pineapple juice & water to make
chopped zest from 1 orange (I used a naval orange)
chopped zest from 1 lemon
1 small can of crushed pineapple, reserving and measuring the juice
1 cinnamon stick
1 little bit of fresh grated nutmeg
a small pinch of crushed red chile flakes – optional
1 to 2 coins of fresh ginger or use 1/4 to 1/2 cup of minced crystallized ginger added at the end of cooking
1-1/2 teaspoons of calcium water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon white sugar
2-1/4 teaspoons Pomona’s Natural pectin powder
1/2 to 1 cup local honey (you may want to add some extra honey or sugar since this is very tart!)
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces (or pecans if you like them better)

Combine the cranberries, cinnamon stick, zest, nutmeg, fresh ginger and water/juice mixture in a Dutch oven and simmer over medium low hear just until the cranberries start to pop. Once the cranberries start to pop, crush a few with the back of a spatula.

Juice your orange and lemon into a measuring cup. Add enough bottled lemon juice to get 1/3 of a cup. Add to the cranberries along with the crushed pineapple.

Add the calcium water and reserved lemon/orange juice mixture to your berries. Bring to a simmer. Adjust your seasonings at this point. Add your vanilla bean paste at this point. Add 1/2 cup of the honey at this point. Allow the mixture to come back to a simmer and check the sweetness. You want the mixture to still be slightly tart. If needed or you want a sweeter mixture, add another 1/2 cup of honey.

In a small bowl, blend well the white sugar and the pectin powder well.
Once the berry mixture is back up to a simmer, add the sugar and pectin mixture. Bring to a low boil. Check the mixture for seasoning once more before canning. If you need to adjust the flavors, allow it to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes before canning.

Put into hot sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

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Gingerbread Jam

Yes, you read it right, gingerbread jam. I love gingerbread and I figured that had to be some way to take the flavors of a nice warm gingerbread cake and make it into a jam. I challenged SB Canning over on Facebook and we both have come up with out own versions.

Today was the perfect day to make this jam since it really feels like autumn outside. It was gray and drizzly and just plain old damp. The kind of weather that makes you happy you are a knitter!

I will preface this with this is not a tested recipe but I based it on one that I trust. If you have not canned before or it has been awhile since you canned, I would suggest you check out the up to date information offered by the National Center for Home Food Preservation has to offer.

And a note about the molasses I used. Unless you use molasses on a regular basis, you may not realize that there are two different types. There is the milder unsulphured mollasses and the blackstrap molasses. The blackstrap molasses has a much stronger flavor. I have always used Grandma’s Original Molasses which is the gold label one. There is a difference in the age of the sugar cane from which the molasses is made which accounts for the difference in the two types. When you are cooking, please stick to the lighter molasses. Blackstrap molasses is really dark and thick like tar. The flavor is really strong and a tiny bit will go quite a long way. With the regular molasses, the flavor is sweeter and lacking the bitter taste of the blackstrap. You will ruin your recipe if you use blackstrap. If the recipe calls for blackstrap molasses (like my mother’s baked bean recipe), you are normally only using a tablespoon or two. So please make sure you are using the regular molasses. And you will find it in the grocery store normally where you will find the syrups. Some people use it on their pancakes and waffles.

Gingerbread Jam

roughly 4 pounds of apples (I used 4 Granhy Smiths, 3 Ginger Golds, & 1 Honey Crisp)

Wash and quarter the apples.Do not peel the apples because you want the natural pectin in the peels! Cut out the cores. Use your food processor and shred the apples in batches. Ad the food proceeder bowl fills, dump the shredded apples into a large Dutch oven.(I use my Le Crueset one.) As you add the shredded apples, toss them with about 1 cup of apple cider and 1/2 cup of bottled lemon juice. And do not worry if it seems like you are over filling the pan. The apple shreds will cook down.

Add 4 to 5 ginger coins at this point and 2 cinnamon sticks. You do not need to peel the ginger. I cut about a 3 inch piece of ginger and than sliced it lengthwise.

You can see that I put the chuck of apple peel that always get stuck in the food processer in as well

Cover the shredded apples and cook over medium heat until they start to cook down. This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. I found it took about 30 minutes over medium heat on my stove. The apples will release a lot of juice and you really do want them to start to dissolve and cook down.

After the apples have started to cook down, start adding the sweeteners. I added a total of 1 cup of molasses in 1/2 cup increments. I allowed the mixture to come back to a simmer before the second half cup.

Add the spices –
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (use 1/4 teaspoon if using ground nutmeg)

I combined all of my spices and added them at once.
Between each addition, bring the mixture back up to a simmer.

I adding another 3/4 of a cup of white sugar after the spices. Check your apples for sweetness after adding the molasses. By using the Granny Smiths, I knew my apples would need a bit more sugar. I wanted the jam sweet but with a touch of tartness to it. I would not add more than 1 cup of sugar total.

Cook the apple mixture down until it is jammy. Or you can either use an immersion blender or transfer half of the mixture to a blend and puree it until it kind of looks like applesauce. Make sure you pick out any ginger slices and the cinnamon sticks. Bring the mixture back up to a simmer again. Taste test it to make sure you like the flavor and adjust any spices if needed.

While waiting for the mixture to come back to a simmer, mince about 1/2 cup of crystalized ginger.

This will give you an idea of what the final jam looks like colorwise. It should look like gingerbread

Once the mixture is back to a simmer, pull it off the heat and stir in the minced crystalized ginger. Follow standard canning procedures and fill your jars with the hot mixture. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes and allow to cool. I ended up with 10 8 ounce jars total.

And I have been knitting! I started the toe of a sock September 30 so I would be ready for the beginning of Socktoberfest. I am already past the heel and up on the leg of the sock. I knit this one from the outside of the wound ball. Once I have the leg about 2 inches tall, I plan to start the second sock pulling from the center. This way I will hopefully have a better chance of the stripes being similar!


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