Blog Archives

Nectarine Raspberry Preserves

Okay, the other day I related my canning adventures…Today I broke into the nectarine preserves. (By which I mean, I opened them, not that I busted the jar or anything.)

Oh. My. God.

Unfortunately, I didn’t even use anything like a proper recipe–I started with the one from The Art of Preserving, and then kind of improvised from there. (By the way, improvisation is something to be wary of in home canning in a water bath, which can only be done with high acid foods.  I sort of went on the theory that if you can make preserves out of raspberries, and you can make preserves out of nectarines, then combining the two shouldn’t be an issue, right?  As usual, the disclaimer: please don’t read this blog, decide to do what I did about pretty much anything, and then blame me if you get sick. Do your own homework! I’m a musician, not a CDC worker.)

Just for those who are not canning-obsessed: Jam is a process that causes the fruit to break down and gel, either from its own natural pectin or from added commercial pectin. Jelly is like jam, only strained and clear. Preserves are pieces of whole fruit suspended in syrup, and actually a lot easier to make because you don’t have to worry about jell points and stuff.

Nectarine Raspberry Preserves

  • Pit and quarter–or eighth–about 3 lbs of nectarines. (This was a pain in the tail, because the pits all split open.)
  • Place in a non-reactive metal bowl with about 3 cups sugar. Let sit overnight in fridge.
  • Here you have choices: most intelligent non-lazy recipes tell you to drain off the syrup from the fruit and boil it for half an hour or so, and then to re-introduce the fruit for another ten minutes. I found only one recipe that told you to just dump it all in a pan and boil it for 30-40 minutes or so, so naturally that’s the one I used, because I didn’t feel like getting my strainer all sticky.
  • Five minutes before the end, throw in a cup of raspberries, 2 tbs lemon juice, and a splash of brandy.
  • Using a slotted spoon, divide the fruit among 5-6 sterilized half pint jars. (More or less.) Fill with syrup to about a quarter inch from the top. (Leaving the head space is important.)
  • If you have enough leftover syrup, pour this into another half pint jar or so; otherwise just save in the fridge.
  • Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Wow.  I mean, just, wow.  You could probably do this without soaking the nectarines overnight–and this does make for a runnier syrup than you’d have if you drained and cooked it down before adding the fruit, or if you didn’t soak them–but the syrup is one of the best parts, so I am happy to have it.

And by the way–if you don’t feel like fussing with the hot water bath, just make the stuff and refrigerate it. I can almost guarantee it won’t go to waste, because it’s seriously delicious. imagine this over vanilla ice cream…(or yogurt, I guess, but ice cream would be my choice.)…or in a shortcake kind of situation…or in a trifle…

I am imagining those things too…while I sit there with the jar in one hand and the spoon in another.

Seriously, you gotta try this stuff.

Advertisements

Blackberry tea cake

I found a bag of frozen blackberries in the freezer this evening.  They’d been there a while, and honestly they were a little freezer-burned.  But I figured what the hey, it was a chance to try a variation on my Berry Easy Muffins recipe.

Click on over there, if you’re interested at all–it’s a really easy recipe that uses baking mix (alias Bisquick or some other brand, or for really nice results, make your own!) (In fact, the heck with the pre-made processed lots-of-preservatives-for-endless-shelf-life ones, just make your own to begin with!), milk, egg, oil, and sugar, plus some fresh or frozen berries or cut up fruit.  Highly flexible, easy to vary.

Here’s what I did:

*****

Blackberry Tea Cake

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a bowl, mix:

  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup milk or water (or maybe yogurt? I did milk)
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Add and mix just till blended:

  • 2 1/2 cups baking mix
  • 1/2 cup (or less, depending on sweetness of berries) sugar

Last thing, add 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blackberries. (If frozen, do not thaw them first.) Mix just till berries are incorporated.

Put batter into greased 9×9 baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees about 30 minutes. (Maybe a few minutes less if using fresh berries.)

*****

This was delicious.  (Okay, I could taste the freezer burn a little, but not much!) The little bit of vanilla and lemon gave the cake part really nice flavor; almond might have been nice too.  Because I make my own baking mix, I could make it with a lot of whole wheat flour, which flies pretty well around here.  Definitely, give this a shot!

How To Shop Your Local Farmers Market

Last Saturday morning I visited the Downers Grove Farmers Market.  I wish I could compare it to other markets I’ve been to, but I blush to admit that I had actually never gone shopping at a local farmers market before—I, who have a username like “greenmom,” had never been to a farmers market.  Sort of embarrassing.  So I figured I’d better head out there to one.

 (Not by way of excuse but explanation—my problem isn’t the going, it’s the timing; I never seem to remember on Thursday morning that it’s actually Thursday morning, know what I mean? I’ll go, “Oh right, I wanted to hit the Burr Ridge farmers market Thursday of this week, what day is it? Oh crud, it’s Friday already, now I have to wait till next week…”  I have the same problem remembering to take the garbage out to the curb for pickup, which is why I’m glad my husband takes care of that aspect of home life.)

It was a good thing, this farmer’s market. I was surprised at how much non-fruit-or-veggie stuff was there for sale—seemed like everything from gourmet dog biscuits to made on the spot fresh donuts to breads and cheeses to locally made soaps and cosmetics were there.  We got a bag of mini-donuts that were literally moments out of the hot oil. (Yeah, oil. I know. What can I say, I cracked. And they were delicious.)

Some things I learned:

  1. Shop around.  If the first produce-selling stall has green peppers and lettuce and sweet cherries, odds are good that the next 4 will have variations on the same fruits and vegetables.
  2. Not everything is necessarily grown locally.  If a farm is selling beautiful huge rosy beefsteak tomatoes when you know perfectly well the ones on your bush at home are still little green globes about 2cm in diameter, ask where they grew their tomatoes.  (On the other hand, going to the farmers market and buying tomatoes grown in Arkansas is a good bit less carbon-footprint-y than going to the grocery store and buying tomatoes grown in Chile, know what I mean?) I found some that were grown in southern Illinois, no doubt hothouse, but very reasonable and very good.
  3. Go with a budget.  Better still, go with exactly as much cash as you are willing to spend that day.  And have some idea of what you want to get before leaving the house—don’t be inflexible, but also don’t go thinking “wow, I’ll just buy what looks good!” It all looks good.
  4. The next time you go, start off to the left first, since last time you ran out of your budgeted cash well before you got to the last third of the stalls.
  5. Free samples.
  6. Bring your own produce bags, or be prepared to schlep home a whole bunch of those annoying plastic grocery bags.  Unfortunately, your string bags won’t help you here, because produce is a little messier than stuff you get at the store. (My experience with making produce bags is in a subsequent post.)  Do a Google search for “reusable produce bag” and you’ll get places like www.reusablebags.com, www.ecobags.com, www.3bbags.com, and many more. Bear in mind—for farmers market shopping almost any mesh or muslin type bag will be fine.  If you want something to use in a grocery store, it needs to be fairly transparent so that the scanners can read it. This topic will get its own post eventually…

To find your own local market, if you don’t know already where they are, check the web– www.localharvest.org has a pretty good search engine, as do http://apps.ams.usda.gov/FarmersMarkets/ and  www.farmersmarketonline.com –for that last one, you need to scroll down to find all the markets; the list that comes up first has only featured ones, I think; it also appears to have more info and be more up to date than the localharvest.org site.  What’s kind of cool is that since the days rotate around with a different market in a different place every day of the week, if we suburbanites are lucky we may be able to go any day we want and even hit a lot of the same vendors who cycle around the different markets all week.

Happy munching! (The donuts were worth every fat-laden calorie, too…)

–J

Fruit in the homemade yogurt

Okay, so here (greenmama.dreamwidth.org/3862.html ) I talk about how to make your own yogurt in the crockpot.  Easy, fun, and if you’re not all Buy Organic Milk like me it’s probably way cheaper than the store-bought stuff, especially if you go through it at your house like we do here. 

This is just an easy addendum recipe that I tried last time I made the stuff: the next challenge after making homemade yogurt is of course to flavor it.  The easiest way is honestly to just drizzle a little honey and cinnamon, or maple syrup, or hell even chocolate syrup over it.  Yummers.

But I really was curious about trying to do the whole fruit yogurt thing.  So this is what I did:

Place in a bowl a pound of fresh-frozen fruit. (I used triple berry mix.)  Sprinkle maybe 1/4 cup sugar over it  and maybe a tbs. lemon juice (opt) and stir. (Different fruits and different tastes will obviously have different ideas here about how much sugar to use, and whether to use the lemon juice!)  I also add a sprinkle of cinnamon to it.  Just let it sit there at room temperature until the fruit melts and gets all mooshy with the sugar. 

That’s it.  Easiest thing in the world.

This stuff was amazing–just perfectly sweet, incredibly fruit-y.  Very runny, of course, and you could cook it over the stove and mix in a little cornstarch-or-flour-and-water mixture to thicken it, but for my purposes it really didn’t need it.  I honestly don’t know if it would work the same with fresh fruit, and I’m inclined to doubt it, because I suspect it’s part of the frozenness that breaks down the fruit enough to behave like this.  But honestly, when I get fresh fruit I’m not likely to cook or moosh it up; we eat our fresh berries straight.

Drizzle to taste over your (strained and thickened) yogurt.  Or…well, you can also stand over the bowl with a spoon, like I did, but that sort of defeats the purpose. 

Alternative: mix to taste with the yogurt and then freeze in an ice cream machine for frozen yogurt.  This should be delish.  Try it with raspberries, and then drizzle a little chocolate sauce over it when you serve it.
 
(EDIT: Just to note, I probably won’t actually mix and store the fruit and yogurt together, although once the yogurt is strained well it’s fairly easy to do that.  I’d rather just keep plain gurt in the fridge and have an assortment of things to treat it with, way more flexible…)

Man, this weight loss thing stinks…I mean, yes, it’s working, but I just once want to have a Big Pig Out, eat as much as I want of something…anything…

–J