There is something so rewarding about reaching in to my pantry for a jar of homemade jam. Last summer I made certain to stock the pantry well. We ran out of jam in the spring. So I made double batches of strawberry, raspberry, and nectarine. The jam lasted us well into this summer.
For raspberry jam see the post Beginners Raspberry Jam 101.
Making jam can seem daunting at first. But after a couple of tries the fear subsides. It is always easier to make jam for the first time with a friend. Preferably someone who has some experience. So grab a buddy and a bushel of fruit before the season is over.
Large canning pot, with insert
Small sauce pan for sterilizing lids
Large pot for cooking the jam in
4-5 sterilized 1/2 pint jars with lids and rings
4 cups of peeled, pitted, and chopped nectarines or peaches (about 4 pounds)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
7 cups sugar
1 package powdered Pectin
Fill canning pot, sauce pan, and stock pot with water. Bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, wash jars, rings, and lids.
Lower the temperature of the canning pot to a simmer. Set jars in canning pot.
until ready to use.
Put the lids in a small sauce pan with water. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Leave the lids in the hot water until ready to use.
Wash the fruit removing any mushy fruit, stems and leaves. Cut a shallow X on the bottom of each nectarine. Place fruit in the boiling water of the stock pot. Let process for a minute (if ripe) or longer (if unripe). Drain water. Pour ice cold water and ice gently over nectarines. Cover with a lid for 1 to 2 minutes. The skins should easily peel off.
Remove the nectarines from the pot. Rinse pot.
Cut fruit into quarters and dice. Place back in stock pot. Mash fruit slightly leaving some whole bits.
Combine nectarines, pectin, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over high heat (stirring often to prevent burning). Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a boil (it continues to boil even when stirred). Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Turn off heat and remove from stove. Remove jars and lids from the water and place on a clean dish towel.
Skim off any foam from the top of the jam. (*Use the sugary foam to sweeten popsicles or smoothies.)
Place the funnel in the mouth of a jar. Use the ladle to pour hot jam into prepared jars; filling up no higher than 1/4-inch from the top of the jar. Wipe the rim of the jar with a warm wet cloth or paper towel to remove any syrup.
Cap with the lid and screw on the ring. Return the filled jars to the canning pot of water. Adjust the water level to cover the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Return the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover and process (boil) for 10 minutes. (**boil longer if at higher altitude*)
Turn off the heat. Carefully remove the lid. Use the canning tongs to remove the jars from the water bath. The lids should immediately make popping sounds. This indicates that the jars are sealing. Test each lid by pressing down in the middle of the lid. If there is a slight bump that is raised and pops back up when pressed, the jar is not sealed. Let the jar sit for an hour. If the jar has not sealed store the jar in the refrigerator. Sealed jars can be stored in the pantry.
August and September is stone fruit season. Our little tree in the backyard had a nice bumper crop of nectarines last year. I scarcely knew what to do with them all. This year, sadly our little tree developed curl leaf in the spring. My plan to can nectarine jam this summer was thwarted.
One day while at Stephen’s parents house, their neighbor brought over a hefty supply of nectarines. I took several pounds home with me to make into jam. Trying to decide which recipe to use was quite a chore. I settled on this recipe with vanilla and a more traditional recipe.
This recipe for vanilla nectarine jam is more like a chutney. It is thick and lighter in color. It lacks the glossy brightness of a classic jam. I found it an amazing compliment to chicken or pork. Just add a little cinnamon and butter or light oil and bake.
Source: Canning for a New Generation
Large canning pot, with insert
Large stock pot
4-5 sterilized 1/2 pint jars with lids and rings
3 pounds ripened nectarines
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 whole vanilla bean
Fill both canning pot and stock pot with water. Bring to a boil.
Wash jars and lids. Set jars in canning pot with simmering water until ready to use. Put the lids in a small sauce pan with water. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat. Leave the lids in the hot water until ready to use.
Wash the fruit removing any mushy fruit, stems and leaves. Cut a shallow X on the bottom of each nectarine. Place fruit in the boiling water in the stock pot. Let process for a minute (if ripe) or longer (if unripe). Drain water. Pour ice cold water and ice over gently over nectarines. Cover with a lid for 1 to 2 minutes. The skins should easily peel off.
Remove the nectarine from the pot. Rinse pot.
Cut fruit into quarters and dice. Place back in stock pot. Mash fruit slightly leaving some whole bits.
Combine nectarines, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla; bring to a boil over high heat.
Boil for at least 5 minutes to thicken. The jam is ready when a candy themometer reads about 220.
* To Test: place a spoon in the freezer. Dip the spoon into the jam. Set on an ice cube to cool. If the jam begins to conceal it is done.
Turn off heat and remove from stove.
Remove jars and lids from the water and place on a towel.
Skim off any foam from the top of the jam. (Use the sugary foam to sweeten popsicles or smoothies.)
Place the funnel in the mouth of a jar. Use the ladle to pour hot jam into prepared jars; filling up no higher than a 1/4-inch from the top of the jar. Wipe the rim of the jar with a warm wet cloth or paper towel to remove any syrup.
Cap with the lid and screw on the ring. Return the filled jars to the pot of water. Adjust the water level to cover the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover and process (boil) for 5 minutes.
Carefully remove the jars from the water bath. (Let sit overnight on a towel.) The lids should immediately make popping sounds. This indicates that the jars are sealed. Test each lid by pressing down in the middle of the lid. If there is a slight bump that is raised and pops back up when pressed, the jar is not sealed. Store the jar in the refrigerator. Sealed jars can be stored in the pantry.
Art Work by: Franz Eugen Köhler
No one is for certain where exactly the vitamin packed “Golden Apple”, as the natives of Northern India often referred to lemons, came from. Lemons are believed to have originally come from India and China. Those in Northern India considered the lemon to be a valuable trade as they prized the lemon for its unique flavor in cooking. The Chinese used them as an antiseptic for wounds and as an antidote for poisons. The lemon eventually made its way to Egypt and the Mediterranean by way of the ancient Jews. Lemons were introduced to the Islamic gardens as an ornamental plant while the Egyptians used the leaves of the lemon tree in a drink known as Kashkab. Kashkab was a beverage made of fermented barley, mint, rue, black pepper, and Citron (lemon) leaf. By the thirteenth century the trade in lemon juice had grown considerably. Records of a medieval Jewish community in Cairo show that bottles of lemon juice, Gatarmizat, made with sugar were consumed locally and exported. Scholars believe this lemon juice to be an early version of lemonade.
By the time Christopher Columbus made his second voyage in 1493 the lemon tree was well established across the Mediterranean and Asian continents. On that voyage Christopher Columbus brought with him the seeds of the lemon tree, among other citrus trees, to the Island of Haiti. The Spaniards also brought a crew populated with scurvy (a nutritional deficiency) to the New World. Ironically they were carrying the vary fruit that could have prevented the disease. The antidote for scurvy was not published until British naval surgeon, James Lind, sanctioned the use of lemons in his “Treatise on the Scurvy”, in 1753. Nonetheless, his advice to give citrus fruit to the sailors was not implemented by the Royal Navy for several decades. By 1563 groves of citrus fruit including the lemon were introduced along the South Caroline coast and Saint Augustine Florida. Today California and Florida remain the largest producers of lemons in the United States while India is the world’s largest exporter of lemons.
Lemon juice is a complementary flavor in many fish dishes. Lemons are often used in marinades with poultry or red meat. They are also used to flavor steamed vegetables and lend flavoring in baking decadent desserts, cakes, pies, tarts, icings, puddings, fillings and candies. Mostly lemons are used as a garnish for iced beverages or hot tea. Besides cooking, lemons offer many healing properties.
To juice a lemon keep them in a bowl on the counter rather than in the fridge. Press down and roll the lemons on your cutting board before juicing.
Ancient in its origins, Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH) has been a staple in it’s native lands of Chile, Peru and the colonies in the Andes Mountains of Bolivia, for almost 5,000 years. Quinoa translated in the Incan language meas “Mother Grain” and was once considered “the gold of the Incas.” While Quinoa is commonly referred to as a grain, similar to buckwheat and amaranth, it is grown from an edible leafy green vegetable plant relative to Swiss chard, sugar beet, table beet, and spinach whereas grains are born from grassy plants. The seed like granule comes in a range of colors that vary from white, yellow, and pink, to darker red, purple, and black.
Quinoa may be eaten hot or cold in salads soups, stews, pilafs and casseroles. Quinoa is used in bread, muffins, bagels, cookies, pancakes, granola and other baked goods. Use Quinoa in the place of potatoes, couscous and rice. It is also a yummy nutritional replacement for oatmeal. Top with a drizzle of honey, nuts or berries. Quinoa is a complete protein and an excellent source of magnesium, a mineral that helps relax blood vessels. Increased intake of magnesium has been shown to reduce the severity of migraine headaches and arteriosclerosis.
To prepare quinoa, always rinse it as you would rice to remove any powdery residue. Bring one part quinoa and two parts liquid to a boil; cover and reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes or until the grains are translucent.
The Coriander plant originated in 5,000 BC Greece, where it was first cultivated and used as a spice to flavor meats and breads. Its popularity grew throughout the Asian, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions as its medical and culinary properties began to gain appeal. By the mid15th century cilantro, the leaves of the coriander plant, became an essential part of Latin cuisine in Mexico and Peru through the culinary influence of the Spanish conquistadors. The entire Coriander plant is edible including the roots which are featured in traditional Thai and Chinese cuisines.
Cilantro leaves are derived from the coriander plant and bear a strong resemblance to Italian flat leaf parsley. In fact I often have to smell the two to tell them apart. Cilantro, although highly aromatic, has the ability to subtly enhance the other flavors in a dish. Cilantro is an elegant delicate herb often used sprinkled on salads, soups, mixed in sauces and salsas and as tenderizer for meat. Select cilantro that is deep green and vibrant, without signs of wilting or yellowing. To store, rinse well, dry and place moist in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Coriander the spice refers to the fruit of the coriander plant that contains two yellowish-brown seeds that are ground into powder. It is best to buy whole coriander seeds instead of coriander powder since the powder loses its flavor more quickly. Coriander seeds can be easily ground with a mortar and pestle when needed to season soups, meats and sauces.
The health benefits of the coriander plant have been used since Hippocrates.
(Use daily in cooking or essential oil form)
*Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Photo by Greener Loudoun
Vinegar came into existence, by mere chance, more than 10,000 years ago when a cask of wine had over-reached its expiration date. Centuries later in 1964, Scientist Louis Pasteur, discovered that it was the fermentation of natural sugars into alcohol followed by a secondary fermentation that resulted in the product vinegar.
Throughout the time that vinegar has been known to man the substance has been distilled using ingredients such as molasses, dates, fruits, berries, melons, coconut, honey, beer, maple syrup, potatoes, beets, malt, grains and whey. Consequently, the flavors and varieties of vinegars available are just as vast and unique as the substances it is made from.
Since the first accidental discovery this inexpensive kitchen staple has been used in remarkable capacities. Recorded historical uses of vinegar began as far back as 5,000 BC.
-Babylonians used it as a preservative; flavoring the liquid with herbs and spices.
-Roman legionnaires consumed it as a beverage. In ancient Egypt, -Cleopatra used vinegar as a solvent dissolving pearls in it to win a wager that she could consume a fortune in a single meal.
-The Ancient Physician Hippocrates, discovered its medicinal qualities using it as a stringent and cough remedy.
-The Greeks used it for culinary purposes in pickling vegetables and meats.
-Hannibal, a great general, gained access across the Alps by heating a barrier of boulders and then doused them with vinegar. The boulders cracked and crumbled paving a path for his army to cross through.
-During the American Civil War, vinegar was used to treat scurvy.
-During World War I, vinegar was used to treat wounds.
Today we continue to enjoy the benefits of this ancient sour wine in cleaning, household projects, medicinal remedies, organic agriculture, and the culinary arts. The following tips use ordinary distilled white vinegar. This list is just a sample of the many uses of vinegar. For more fun facts and tips visit VinegarTips.com for 1001 Uses for White Distilled Vinegar.
Photo By: This Old House
Photo By: This Old House
Photo By: AppleCiderVinegarWeightloss.com
Photo By: Planet Green
Photo By: My Little Cottage in the Making
FUN KIDS STUFF:
Sweet potatoes were originally cultivated in Mexico and Central and South America. Columbus discovered the sweet potato during one of his voyages to the West Indies. Spain eventually cultivated the potato resulting in a profitable business with France and England. The Portuguese are responsible for carrying sweet potatoes to Asia and Africa where they remain an important staple of the diet even today.
When I started writing this post my goal was to clear up a common misconception about sweet potatoes. Whole Foods Market among others insist yams are considered a sweet potato. However; chef’s on the opposing side of the debate heatedly disagree that not all sweet potatoes are considered equal. So, who is right?
Apparently the term ‘yam’ is used loosely in the United States to differentiate between the white and orange varieties. Yet, they are all sweet potatoes. The colorings of flesh ranges from white to brown, orange and purple. True yams are from Africa, are very starchy, not sweet and grow as large as 100 pounds.
So how do you know which garden variety to use when a recipe calls for sweet potatoes? Generally, white sweet potatoes are best for baking while the orange flesh potatoes are better mashed or in soups.
The neighbor behind our house moved in last summer. Already his back yard is lush and magnificent. The trees, bushes and flowering plants have grown ten fold. Every evening the neighbor loving works in his garden. Tending to each tree and plant. Digging. Watering.
I planted a few tomato plants, bell pepper and some cilantro back in March. The cilantro died last month and the tomato and bell pepper plants are definitely not what I hoped for. First of all I have a major problem with bugs eating the meager offerings of vegetables. Secondly, or maybe this should be number one, I imagined the plants would produce more.
During my research two most common answers were soil and water. There was a period when the watering system was not working. Then when the drip system was on the plants were over watered. Thus I have wilted and yellowing tomato plants. The other missing ingredient is food. Plant food. When the plants were originally planted I used a bag of soil with fertilizer. However all the over watering took the nutrients straight through the bottom of the barrel.
It was suggested to combat any insects use organic compost. The art of decomposing bulk such as coffee grinds, paper, straw, manure, table scraps and dead plants is supposedly a turn off to bugs. Flowers and herbs also help with insects. There is a difference between the greener and healthier peppers that share the same pot with marigolds and the spiny tomatoes.
Lesson learned: Need to fix drip system, plant some basil with the tomatoes and make another attempt at composting.
When the economy started it’s downward spiral the commodity most talked about was rice and flour. I started to write down all the many uses of flour. When used in baking it binds the ingredients together and supports the batter to prevent nuts and berries from sinking to the bottom of the pan. When used in cooking, it thickens sauces, creams and pie fillings.
The types of flour available seems practically endless: barley, buckwheat, chickpea, corn, oats, potato, rice, rye, soy, wheat, cake, self rising, bread and all-purpose. The choice of flour used will ultimately affect the finished product. Here is a short lesson on the science of flour. Flour contains protein. When the protein comes in contact with water and heat it produces gluten. Gluten is what gives elasticity and strength to baked goods. Different types of flour contain different amounts of protein. Therefore varying from what is called for in a recipe will alter the outcome of the baked good.
Cake Flour: The most common variance I can think of is using regular all-purpose flour in the place of cake flour. Cake flour has a protein base of 6-8%. It is used to produce a delicate tender crumb. Using all-purpose flour to make biscuits or cake will produce a dense texture rather than a light and airy one. Make your own by adding 2 tablespoons cornstarch to 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour. To substitute cake flour for all-purpose use 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour for every cup of all-purpose flour.
Bread Flour: Bread flour has a protein base of 12-14% and is used to make yeast breads.
All-Purpose: All-Purpose Flour has a protein base of 10-12% and is used to make traditional sweets like cakes, cookies, quick breads, and pastries.
Pastry Flour: Pastry flour is similar to cake flour, with an 8-10% protein base. To make two cups of pastry flour, combine 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour with 2/3 cup cake flour.
Self-Rising Flour: Self-Rising Flour has a low protein base with salt and leavening already added. Combine 1 cup all-purpose, 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
Bleached Flour: Bleached flour has less protein than unbleached. Bleached is best for delicate baked goods such as yeast bread, pastries, pie crusts, cookies, quick breads, pancakes and popovers.
Whole Wheat Flour: Whole wheat is made from the whole kernel and is higher in dietary fiber than white flours. Whole wheat does not produce as much gluten, so it is often mixed with all-purpose or bread flour to give a better rise. The protein base depends on the type of wheat used. Hard red wheat has a higher protein level than hard white wheat. Hard white wheat when ground is much like all-purpose flour and can be used in much the same way. Red wheat berries can be cooked and added to soups, casseroles or lasagna, eaten like oatmeal or ground and made into bread.
Other Types of Flour: barley, buckwheat, chickpea, corn, oats, potato, rice, rye, soy and flaxseed are sometimes combined with all-purpose or wheat to give added flavor and nutrients. These flours can be used in pasta, yeast bread and some quick breads.
The Use of Flour:
Proper measuring of flour is extremely important. Too much flour will result in a tough and heavy baked good. When measuring flour always fluff the flour then spoon the flour into a measuring cup and level off with a knife. Do not pack it down or scoop the cup into the flour.
Sifting flour removes lumps and aerates it so that when combined with the liquid the batter mixes easily. If a recipe calls for 1 cup sifted flour this means you sift the flour before measuring. If the recipe calls for 1 cup flour, sifted this means you sift the flour after measuring.
Store flour in a cool dry place for up to six months. To prevent insects you can store flour in the refrigerator or freezer, bring to room temperature before using.
Old Man Winter has been reluctant to leave. The minute I think we are heading into mild weather, bitter cold and shrill winds rip through causing me to re-think packing up the winter clothing. Last year, Old Man Winter toyed with us clear into June. Anyone remember it snowing in Idaho in June? I am definitely not complaining. The 115 degree heat of the valley is nothing I look forward to. However, I am anxious to get my garden planted.
Mason’s preschool class learned about gardening last week. It was part of the topic “growing”. All week, they witnessed caterpillars creating chrysalis. I am as excited as the kids to see the appearance of butterflies soon. The sandbox was turned into a garden. They planted marigolds, some herbs, tomatoes and pumpkin seeds. I signed up to bring tomato plants and marigolds. While at the nursery, I took the opportunity to purchase a few plants for myself.
I was in the process of building the raised beds when I realized the biggest enemy to my garden at present are the kids. Adelin loves flowers so much I had to stand guard over the fruit trees when they were in bloom. Last year, they dug up the potted orange tree I planted so they could use the dirt. I decided last minute to move the plants to the front yard incorporating the them into the landscape. I took three half barrels and planted tomatoes, cilantro, marigolds and green peppers then set them on the front porch. I lined the walkway with strawberry plants then dug a bed for future planting. The tree in the front yard was finally saved from the encroaching grass.
I am still working on setting the stage in the backyard. The kids finally managed to demolish the wooden boat sandbox. As I was taking it apart, I saw the makings of a trellis for the raspberries and the perfect box for the kids garden. We took the egg cartons I was saving to make flowers with and used them to plant vegetable seeds in. I have even seen the use of cotton balls and peat moss to start seeds. The leftover seeds belong to the kids to plant in their garden.
The next step is to figure out how to keep the bugs away from the growing strawberries, wait for the seedlings to grow and the larger plants to produce.