Triple Berry Jam


I’ve decided to celebrate Independence Day this year by breaking free!!!…

…of pectin, that is.

As long as I can remember, I’ve equated summertime with homemade jam.  I’ve also always equated homemade jam with Sure-Jell.  In fact, I felt I could never create the perfect jam without it.

However, after producing a few bland batches last summer, I began to wonder if there was a better recipe out there.  A recipe that would render the bright, rich jam I was striving for.

pectin

So with a little bit of research, I stumbled upon a great blog called Northwest Edible.  Erica’s tutorial on pectin-free jam was so informative and inspiring that I couldn’t wait to round up some fresh fruit and get started.

Since the berries were especially fresh and fragrant (and on sale) this season, I decided my first pectin-free experiment would be a triple berry jam of blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.

The results?

Wow.  Just…wow.  The flavors were deeper, the color richer, the texture more velvety.

But my most favorite part about the recipe was that I didn’t have to stress about how much of this or that I needed to add or at what specific times I needed to add them.

Instead, I was free to taste and tweak as much as I needed in order to transform my bowl of berries into the perfect batch of jam.

So if summertime means homemade jam for you, here’s the recipe in case you want to break free of pectin, too!

Pectin-Free Triple Berry Jam

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Makes 5 8-ounce jars

You will need:

*2 pounds+ fresh berries (I used 6 lbs of fruit: 2 lbs strawberries, 2 lbs blueberries and 2 lbs raspberries)

*1 gently rounded 1/2 cup of granulated sugar per 2 pounds of fruit

*1 Tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice per 2 pounds fruit

Step #1: “Marinate” the berries

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berrymacerate

Dump fruit into a large, non-reactive bowl (no metal or aluminum).

Toss fruit with sugar until well combined.

Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in the fridge.  Allow berries to macerate for up to 24 hours.

Step #2: Cook the Jam

First, prepare a water bath by filling a large canning pot halfway with water and allowing it to come to a full boil over high heat while you cook the jam.

Second, sterilize your jars in either the dishwasher steam setting or by placing them in a container of boiling hot water.  Leave jars in water until it is time to process the jam.

To cook the jam, pour the macerated berries into a large saucepan.  For larger batches, divide the fruit between two sauce pans.

berryjampan

Cook berries over medium-high heat until fruit is tender but not falling apart.

At this point, add lemon juice.

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Mash fruit with a potato masher or use an immersion blender depending on how you prefer the texture of your jam.  (I prefer large bites of fruit in mine.)

berrymash

Continue to cook the berries until thickened (about 50 minutes), stirring frequently to prevent burning.

Once the jam starts to thicken, test the jam for readiness by ladling a small amount on a cold plate.

Allow jam to cool a few seconds and then run your finger down the middle of it.

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If the jam stays separated and doesn’t run together quickly, it’s soft-spoon ready.  (If you prefer firmer jam, cook for another 10 minutes and test again.)

Step #3: Adjust the Flavors

berryfinger

Take a bite of the jam you just tested.

Does it need more sugar?  Stir in a couple tablespoons of sugar to the batch and taste again.

Is the jam tart to your liking?  Stir in just a teaspoon of lemon juice to the batch and taste again.

*Remember: It’s better to add smaller amounts of sugar and lemon juice than larger ones!*

For more ideas on flavor combinations, follow the Northwest Edible link above.

Step #4: Process the Jam

Keeping jam over a low simmer, fill hot, sterile jars with jams and wipe the rims thoroughly with a clean, damp, lint-free rag.

Place an unused canning lid firmly on top of the jar, and screw on a canning band to finger tightness.

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Place jars in boiling water, cover the pot and process the jars at a full rolling boil for 10 minutes.

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Remove jars and allow to cool before storing in a cool, dry place.  Will stay at peak flavor for up to a year.

Store opened jars (or jars that have not sealed all the way) in the refrigerator for 1-3 months.

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Here’s to freedom and the best jam you’ve ever made!

*********************************

celebrate summer_350

To see more Celebrate Summer ideas, check out this fun collection of projects and recipes from my other Blog-Hop buddies!

Patriotic Popcorn & Decor

by Simply Domestic Blog

A Patriotic Star Garland

by A Bright and Beautiful Life

DIY 4th of July Wreath

by Live Like Grace

Canada Day Sweets Buffet

by Red Cottage Chronicles

Red, White and Blue Ribbon Garland

by Create & Babble

M.Y.O.B. (Make Your Own Butter)


“The cream rises to the top,” my high school English teacher used to say.

Back then, I applied the phrase to academic excellence.

This weekend, however, I applied it to raw milk.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with raw milk, it is basically milk straight from the cow.  There is a fair amount of controversy with this white stuff, mainly because it is not pasteurized.  There are many people, however, who are switching to raw milk due to its nutritional benefits, most of which are lost in the pasteurization process.  I am by no means an expert nor a die-hard advocate, so I encourage you to do your own research.  Here is an article for starters.

To be quite honest, the main reason why I partake in the occasional glass of raw milk is because it’s, for the most part, easily accessible here in Clyde America, and I am always up for trying local fare.  This past week, my friend, who just so happens to own cows, had a surplus of milk, and apparently it was a very creamy batch.  When she suggested that it was great for making butter, I wasted no time in getting my hands on a gallon.

Until this weekend, I had never made, tasted or even seen homemade butter before.  However, once I discover that something can be homemade, I just have to make it.  In my home.  (Just thought I’d clarify.)

With that said, I L.O.V.E. homemade biscuits with homemade jam, and it only makes sense to enjoy the latter with homemade butter!

So thanks to cow-owning friends (and Google), I have a lovely mound of homemade butter sitting in my fridge.

Here’s how you, too, can M.Y. O. B……………..

How to Make Homemade Butter

First of all, you will need some cream.  Store-bought heavy whipping cream will definitely do the trick OR you can use the cream that rises to the top of a gallon of raw milk:

(To remove the cream, I poured the milk into a clear bowl, let it sit overnight in the fridge and then skimmed the cream off the top the next morning.  Now that I think about it, it would have been just as easy to remove the cream from the gallon container using a baster.  Oh, well.  Lessons for next time.)

Pour 2 cups of cold (around 60 degrees) cream in a large bowl.  For salted butter, add 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt.

Using the whisk attachment on your mixer, whip the cream on the highest setting until thick, about 3-5 minutes.

Cook’s Note: Commercial whipping cream tends to stiffen up much faster than raw cream.

Once the cream begins to thicken, tiny butter crystals will begin to form.  Since these crystals have the tendency to clog up a whisk, replace the whisk attachment with beaters or a paddle.

Once again, beat on the highest setting.  (Drape a dish towel over the mixer to prevent the inevitable shower of milk and butter bits from spraying all over your kitchen.)

After roughly 5-10 minutes, the cream will look clumpy and frothy and will be full of large butter crystals:

Scoop the butter crystals to one side, and carefully pour the buttermilk off into another bowl:

Cook’s Note: Do not discard this miraculous liquid!  Though not the best for drinking, this milk is great for baking.

Using a spoon or spatula, press out all of the excess buttermilk.

You could use the butter as is at this point, or you can “rinse” it to extend its shelf life.  Here’s how:

Pour about a cup of ice-cold water over the butter and mash the butter with a spoon.  The water will immediately become cloudy with buttermilk.

Roll the butter around in the water to remove any excess buttermilk.

Discard the water and repeat the process with another addition of fresh water.  Continue rinsing the butter a few times until the rinse water is clear:

Press the butter to extract all of the water.

And that’s it.

You just M.Y.O.B.ed!

Fresh butter will last about 2 weeks in the fridge…that is, if you and your family don’t devour it right away!  Especially if you make biscuits.

(Biscuits: A great way to put fresh buttermilk to use!)

And now the question begs to ask: Was it worth the effort?

Answer: You butter believe it!

The final result was so light and creamy and best of all, it spread like…well…like butter.  (Which is more than I can say for…well…store-bought butter.)

Homemade biscuits.  Homemade jam.  And now homemade butter.

I can die a fulfilled and happy woman now.

Go ahead!  Live life on the decadent side, and make your own butter!

Recipe

*2 cups heavy cream or whipping cream (about 60 degrees in temperature)

*1/2 t salt

*Pitcher of ice water

Using a whisk attachment, beat cream and salt on the highest setting until thick and butter bits begin to form (5-7 minutes).  Replace whisk with beaters or paddle, and beat on highest setting another 7-10 minutes until mixture looks clumpy and foamy with large butter crystals.  Using a spatula, press the crystals together and carefully drain off buttermilk into a separate bowl.  Continue to press all excess buttermilk out of butter.  Pour a cup of ice water over the butter and “rinse” butter by pressing out the the excess buttermilk.  Discard water and continue process until rinse water is clear.  Press out all excess water using, store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

Homemade Apricot Jam


Last week, I became the richest woman in the world.

Rich in apricots.

This fruit holds so many sweet memories for me that I am instantly transported to my childhood the moment I breathe in their sweet aroma.

Fresh, fragrant and, above all, free fruit is one of the greatest riches in the world, and I hit the mother-load last week when my friend informed me of her neighbor’s laden apricot tree.

30 pounds of apricots later, I was ready to get cracking on some jam!

As I sorted and sliced the fruit, the fragrance brought back a flood of memories from my childhood of when Momma used to make jar upon jar of apricot-pineapple jam.

It would all start one early-summer morning when Momma would wake us up to go pick apricots at our friend, Nora’s, house.  Nora was almost 90 years old and more than happy that someone with more energy could put the fruit to use.  We would pick and pick until there was nothing left and then cram our car with what seemed like a hundred grocery sacks fruit.  On the drive home, we would eat about ten apricots.  When we got home we would eat ten more.  And that is all I am gonna say about that.

Once all of the bags of fruit were in the kitchen, Momma would start to make jam.  Our kitchen would get all steamy and the smell of sweet, warm fruit would fill our house.  My favorite part of jam day, however, was when Momma would let us sample the peach-colored foam she skimmed off the surface of the jam.

Ahh!  Homemade jam is the smell and taste of summer.  As I have gotten older, I’ve come to realize that summer feels empty without some sort of jam-making.  Canning takes time and effort, but the process is just as delicious as the finished product.

Here’s to summer’s bounty!

Low Sugar Apricot Jam

The first step to great jam is great fruit.  Apricots are my favorite fruit, but I rarely eat them because they only taste good when hand-picked.  Those waxy golf balls in the grocery stores should NOT be considered apricots let alone fruit.  I would much rather hold out for the real deal!

It is also important to use fruit that is at its peak ripeness.  Jam is not a good way to put bruised or green fruit to use. 

A good rule of thumb: If the fruit is perfect to eat right now, then it is ready to use in your jam.

Thoroughly rinse the fruit and then pit and chop.

Now it’s time to set up your M.O.!

1. The Pot

I do not own canning equipment, but I DO have a couple of large stockpots and a strong pair of tongs.  Either way, fill a tall pot with water and set it over high heat.  You want the water simmering hot and waiting for you when it is time to set the jars inside it!

2. The Jars

Assuming that your jars are squeaky clean, set them in a sink of hot, hot water or put them in the dishwasher on a rinse cycle.  The jars need to be hot so that they are sterile and so that they do not crack when you fill them with hot jam or set them in a boiling pot of water.

3. The Lids

It is equally important to have clean, hot lids.  I like to place them in a pan of simmering water.  This helps soften the seal which in turn produces a tighter seal once you place it on the jar.

4. The Pectin

There are many types and brands of pectin and they all have their own SPECIFIC instructions.  I discovered Ball low-sugar/no-sugar pectin last year and I am so glad I did.  It produces equally delicious jams and jellies at a fraction of the sugar!  The container did not have a recipe for apricot jam, but it did have one for peach.  Since both are stone fruits, I went ahead and used the peach recipe and it turned out fabulous.

5. The Other Ingredients

I like to have everything measured out in separate bowls before I actually start cooking the jam.  Otherwise, I get flustered and make a mistake.  And unfortunately, THERE CANNOT BE ANY MISTAKES IN JAM!  Everything must be accurate or your jam won’t set.

Now that you have all this in place, let’s make some jam!

Combine fruit, lemon juice and water or unsweetened fruit juice in a large stock pot.  Toss in a 1/2 teaspoon of butter.  This really helps prevent the jam from foaming so much.

Stir in the pectin gradually.

Bring this mixture to a full boil, stirring frequently.

A good rule of thumb: A full boil is one that you cannot stir down.  It continues to boil strong even while you stir it.

Once the fruit/pectin mixture comes to a full boil, stir in the sugar.

Bring mixture back to a full boil, stirring often.

Once it comes to full boil, set a timer for one minute.  Do not try to guess if one minute has passed.  Remember: accuracy is key!

Boil mixture one full minute, stirring constantly to prevent burning.

Remove from heat.

Carefully ladle into hot jars and fill within 1/4 inch of the top.  Thoroughly wipe along the top of the rim.  Otherwise, excess bits of jam will weaken the seal of the lid.

If you are left with a small amount of jam that does not fill a jar, pour it in a container and allow to cool before refrigerating.  This extra bit of jam is just as good as the stuff in the jars but will not keep as long.  It will stay fresh for 3-4 weeks in the fridge.

DO NOT PROCESS HALF-FULL JARS!

Carefully place jars in hot, simmering water.  The water should completely cover the jars by a couple of inches.  Bring water to a boil.

Once the water comes to a boil, set the timer for 10 minutes, cover the pot and allow jam to process.

Meanwhile, take a deep breath in and enjoy the fact that your kitchen smells like one big apricot!

After ten minutes, carefully remove the jars and allow to cool completely.  Jam takes about 2 weeks to fully set.  Jam will remain fresh for up to a year in a cool, dark place.

Enjoy on anything and everything!

Ball Recipe for Low-Sugar Apricot Jam

This recipe makes 2 8 oz jars.  I multiplied the recipe to accommodate 10 8 oz jars.  Do not multiply beyond ten jars or jam will not set as well.

*1 1/3 cup pitted and chopped apricots

*1/3 cup water

*3 tsp lemon juice

*1/ tsp butter

*1 1/2 TBSP Ball brand low-sugar/no-sugar pectin

*up to 1/2 cups sugar

In a large stock pot, combine fruit, juices and butter.  Gradually add pectin.  Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring frequently.  Add sugar and stir well.  Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring frequently.  Boil for one full minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.  Ladle into jars and process as above.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce


I LOVE cranberry sauce!!!!

Always have.

Always will.

If I am ever in need of an IV, just mash up some cranberry sauce and send it on through.

Cranberry sauce is really and truly my favorite part of Thanksgiving (and Christmas) dinner.   In fact, I will skip the pie and rum cake and enjoy a [large] second helping of cranberry sauce for dessert instead.

Here is a crude drawing of how my plate looks on Thanksgiving Day:

I’m surprised my teeth haven’t decayed by now.

My addiction welcomes all forms of cranberry sauce.

I like to cut the jellied version that comes in a can into thick slices and slurp them up in Hannibal-Lector fashion.

However, it is just as important for me to have the homemade whole-berry version at my disposal as well.

AND I HAVE THE BEST RECIPE FOR IT!  (Thanks to Martha Stewart)

Homemade cranberry sauce is neither as complicated nor as time consuming as you might think, so this year, invest a few minutes in some homemade Cranberry Sauce!

Cranberry Sauce

Serves 8…or 1 

*1 cup orange juice

*1/3-1/2 cup sugar

*1 bag fresh cranberries, rinsed

After rinsing the berries, check for any rotten, bruised or otherwise nastified berries.

Pour orange juice into a pot over medium heat.

Cook’s Note: Most recipes call for a cup of water and a cup of sugar which I think makes for a bland sauce.  Orange juice gives this sauce a lovely zing and depth of flavor!

Stir in the sugar.  I usually use closer to 1/3 cup of sugar.

But then again, I prefer my cranberry sauce to be on the tangy side.

So you decide.

Bring mixture to a boil, stirring often to keep the sugar from burning.

Once the mixture has come to a boil, add the cranberries.

Stir berries occasionally.

It won’t be much longer until you hear a “POP!”

This is normal.

You want the “POP!”

Just keep stirring, and it will be okay.

After about 10 minutes, the cranberries will have POP!ped themselves into a lovely red mush.

When the mush is the consistency of loose jam, turn the heat off.

Pour sauce into a non-reactive dish and allow to cool a bit before placing in the refrigerator.  Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

Devour by the spoonfuls.

I LOVE CRANBERRY SAUCE!

LEILANI + CRANBERRY SAUCE = TRUE LOVE

LEILANI & CRANBERRY SAUCE FOREVER

Ok, I’ll stop.

The Prickly Pear Jelly Adventure


Whenever I meet a person who is like a prickly pear, I want to run far, far away.

Whenever I meet a cactus full of prickly pears, I want to run at it with a pair of pliers because EUREKA!, I just found free fruit!

While driving through the hill country a couple weeks ago, my waste-not-want-not mind got to turning each time we passed by a cactus covered in red, plump prickly pears.  Here was all this lovely (and free!) fruit going to waste by the roadside and there I was powerless to save it!  But even if I did save those prickly pears from going to waste, I wasn’t sure how to use them.

Now, I had heard of prickly pear jelly before, but I had never even tasted the stuff let alone attempted to make it.  However, when it comes to free fruit, I am willing to try anything!

Inspired by my highfalutin idea, I begged Dave to pull over on our way home so that I could rescue some fruit…

When dealing with prickly pears, expect to get pricked.

I got pricked several times before I wised up and grabbed a pair of pliers from my trunk.

(Don’t I look like an Indian squaw picking cactus fruit?  I felt very Indian.)

The minute we got home, I tossed my bag of treasure in the fridge and began foraging the internet for prickly-pear jelly recipes of which I found a plethora.  In the end, I decided to use Root Simple‘s recipe since those people seemed to know what they were doing.  Besides, they claimed that their recipe was fool-proof and I just can’t resist those words.

Prickly Pear Jelly: Round One

Full-Sugar Recipe

2 1/2 cups prickly pear juice  (*see below)

1/2 cup lemon juice

18 teaspoons pectin

5 cups sugar

Extracting the Juice:

Roughly 4 pounds or 20 prickly pear should render about 2 1/2 cups of juice.  Just pick more fruit if you aren’t sure you will have enough juice for a batch.

Choose prickly pears that are plump, firm and bright red.  If the fruit is squishy or has any signs of spoilage, leave it for the birds!

Thoroughly rinse the fruit in a large colander.

The recipe suggested holding the fruit over an open flame to burn off the thorns (or glochids), but I did not find this step necessary as most of them washed off during the rinsing.  Any remaining glochids were easily scraped off with the blade of a knife. 

Cut fruit into quarters, place in a large pot and add just enough water to cover the fruit.  Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.

Allow mixture to cool before pouring through a cheesecloth-lined sieve.  Gather ends of the cheesecloth and squeeze the last bit of juice from the fruit.  Set aside

Fill a clean sink with hot, hot water and add the jars and rings.

In a stockpot, bring prickly pear juice, lemon juice and pectin to a full boil over medium-high heat, stirring often to dissolve the pectin.

What does full boil mean?  Well, for starters, it does not look like this:

“Full boil” means that the liquid continues to boil even if you stir it.  In other words, it should look like this:

Keep juice mixture at full boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Tip: Use a timer!

After 3 minutes, add the sugar and stir to dissolve.

Bring back to a full boil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove pot from heat.

Remove jars from the hot water bath and shake off excess water.

Carefully pour the hot jelly into each jar.

Tip: Pouring is easier if you have a canning funnel, but since I don’t own one, I just used a ladle.

With a clean, damp cloth, wipe around the sides and top of each jar rim.  If any goo is left on the rim, the jar will not seal properly!

Press a canning lid directly on to the jar and tightly screw on a metal ring.  Next, carefully flip the jar over for a few seconds.

This is a trick I learned from the internet and though I’m not sure if this step was really necessary, I had to try it at least once.  (The jar sealed like a charm, though!)

Carefully place jars into a large pot of simmering water.

Tip: It is safer to use rubber-lined canning tongs, but since I do not own a pair, a large spoon and a steady hand did just fine.

Allow jars to “process” for 10 minutes before carefully removing them.  Set jars on a towel and allow jelly to cool and set for up to 48 hours.

Round One Results

Even before I poured my first round of jelly into the jars, I knew something was wrong.  First of all, the boiled liquid was too pale and too viscous.  Another problem was that the jelly did not set firm but instead remained loose like honey.

The flavor, however, was outstanding having just the right mixture of sweetness and tartness. While Dave and I were in the hill country, we sampled various fruit “honeys” (a blend of fruit and honey) which had a similar flavor to my not-quite-right jelly.  Therefore, I decided to refer to my first batch of jelly as “Prickly Pear Honey.”

Despite the positive turnout, however, I have a couple theories as to why my jelly turned out weird:

Theories As to Why Round One Turned Out Weird:

#1: The Temperature of the Prickly Pear Juice: After cooking the fruit, I cooled the pot and stuck it in the fridge without even straining the contents.  Since cactus can get slimy, the mixture was just that when I pulled it from the fridge.  And when I tried squeezing the cold excess juice from the fruit, it came oozing out of the cheesecloth like petroleum jelly.  As if all this wasn’t enough, I also heated the juice on the stove without letting it come to room temperature first.  I think the transition from really-cold to really-hot is what caused the mixture to be so thick and gummy.

#2: The Amount of Pectin: The recipe said to use “18 teaspoons exactly” but when I measured out my box of Sure-Jell, it only contained 16 teaspoons.  Even though I had another box of Sure-Jell, I REFUSED to break into it just for a couple measly teaspoons of pectin!

I am a woman of principle, after all!

#3 The Boiling Time: Boiling pectin for 5 minutes total seemed a bit extreme to me.  The low-sugar recipe from the same website required only half the cooking time.

In Conclusion

I decided that I needed to try making prickly pear jelly again, only THIS time, I would be a perfect angel and follow ALL of the instructions.  Thankfully, I discovered a fruit-laden cactus down the street from my house so I pulled out my pliers, picked a second peck of prickly pears and tried again!

Prickly Pear Jelly: Round Two

Low-Sugar Recipe

4 cups prickly pear juice

1/2 cup lemon juice

18 teaspoons low-sugar/no-sugar pectin

3 cups sugar

Mix pectin with 1/4th cup of the sugar and whisk into the prickly pear and lemon juices.  Bring mixture to a full boil (stirring constantly) and immediately add the sugar.

Bring to a full boil and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Repeat canning process as mentioned above.

Et voila!

Round Two Results!

As you can see, there was a dramatic difference between my two jellies:

My second try was more bright in color and more jelly-like in consistency.  It also had a more distinct prickly pear flavor.

Textures aside, I am very pleased with both of my prickly pear concoctions.

They are delicious, they are pretty and the fruit with which I made them didn’t cost me a dime!  Besides, they will both get gobbled up when all is said and done so I guess you could say I’m one happy “canner!”