pear jam with fresh sage & honey

oh my, i almost missed my own can jam selection month! it seems that fall is almost everyone’s favorite time of year by the response to the november selection of fall only type fruits like apple, pear, and quinces. it’s mine, too. this is a lovely, delicate and floral preserve that i hope you enjoy. equally nice with a nice triple cream brie, walnuts, and crusty french bread or your morning toast.

pear jam with fresh sage & honey (makes 10-11 eight ounce jars)

7 lbs ripe bartlett pears

juice of 2 lemons

4 c sugar (i use organic cane sugar)

3-4 tbsp local honey

2 -3 tsp aged white balsamic vinegar

1 small bunch fresh sage

peel and core pears. chop into small dice and place in large bowl with lemon juice, turning and covering pears with juice as you cut. add sugar and mix. cover and place in fridge overnight. place in large pot and simmer for about 20-25 until pears are almost translucent. puree with an immersion blender until a small amount of pear pieces remain. simmer for about 15 minutes until thickened. remove from heat. add honey, vinegar, and sage. taste after 2 minutes to test sage infusion – and every minute thereafter until desired level of flavor is reached. be careful, it can get strong quickly.

process for 10 minutes in a water bath.

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november can jam!

how honored i was to be asked by the tigress herself to choose the secret ingredient for the november can jam. what a great month/time of year for canning – such transition! here in texas, we can be slightly ahead of much of the country due to our, ahem, warmer weather. today a few jackets and sweaters have come out of summer’s hiding due to a ‘cold’ front that blew through last night: it is 78 degrees today and it’s got me dreaming of chili. go ahead and laugh – we’re used to it. just remember that when you take a trip to texas in august and it’s 95 degrees with 99 percent humidity, there may be a snicker or two if you complain about it.

but today it’s a chilly 78 degrees and i’ve got fall fruit on my mind. mostly fall pie-type fruit. namely………..

apples, pears, and quinces!

yes, ladies and gents, the november pick for the can jam includes these three beauties, anyway you like ‘em! with herbs or warm fall spices, all jellied up, au natural or even pickled (gasp!). these three fruit are related, kinda like second cousins really, in that they all produce fruit called a pome. if you want to know more about the exocarp, mesocarp, and endocarp of this type of fruit, feel free to click here. it’s very interesting reading, but after awhile my eyes started glazing over. there has always been some confusion or another between whether the quince was an apple or vice versa. like the apple and pear, quince has been used for centuries in the making of wine and other liquors, for medicinal purposes, and for just plain ol’ eating out of hand.

remember the rules, folks and be sure to post your november can jam recipe between sunday november 14th and friday november 19th at midnight. i am so looking forward to each and every post to expand my canning repertoire.

good luck!

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apple hatch pepper chutney

i love, love, love the sweet and heat that happens when fruit and chiles meet. and since chiles are on the menu for this month’s tigress can jam, they simply had to go the way of sweet and heat as far as i’m concerned. we don’t grow hatch chiles in austin, or even texas for that matter. they can only be grown in a place called hatch, new mexico. think of it like true champagne which only comes from…well, the champagne region of france. otherwise it’s contraband champagne, otherwise known as, sparkling wine. but we have adopted the hatch chile as one of our own here in texas. we just love chiles!

but we do grow ourselves some apples here in texas, which may surprise you. this chutney is made from the cameo variety picked in medina, texas at love creek orchards. i came up with this recipe with influences from so many sources i couldn’t even begin to give credit where it’s due. i guess that means it’s mine now. and dude, you have to have this with a big chunk of excellent aged cheddar or a thick cut pork chop if you’re so inclined.

apple hatch pepper chutney (makes about 8 or 9-8 ounce jars)

6 c peeled, cored, chopped tart sweet local apple (i used cameos)

2 c roasted, peeled and diced hatch chile peppers

1 c chopped onion

1 cup peeled, diced tomatoes (no need to seed them)

1 1/2 c golden raisins

1 clove garlic, minced

2 1/2 c white distilled or cider vinegar (just make sure it’s at least 5% acidity)

2 c light brown sugar (sweeten to taste)

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

put all ingredients in a big ol’ pot and simmer, reducing liquid and softening fruits and veggies until desired consistency. there’s really no wrong way to this, folks. place in sterilized jars and water bath process for 15 minutes.

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texas peach pickles

at last glimpse, our heroine had just started a preserves company called ‘confituras‘ and she was about to embark on a long, arduous journey that would take her to parts unknown. well, my friends, i am here to tell you about the great beginnings my journey has enjoyed. firstly, my time at the farmer’s market has exceeded expectations so much so that i am pinching myself weekly. it has been a near sell-out every week. and, beginning in a few weeks, i will start at the triangle farmer’s market on wednesday afternoons. secondly, the food community here in austin has been supportive in ways that i would have never imagined, both in coming to buy my confituras at the market and encouraging other like-minded folks to do the same, and in the press i have received thus far: first this lovely blog, then this one, then this other one. then edible austin got a piece of me, then our local newspaper. holy smokes, people! you sure know how to make a girl blush! and lastly-my friends and family, many of whom have been long-standing guinea pigs testers and tasters, volunteers, web designers, label makers, sous chefs and the best cheerleaders a girl could have.

and now on to more interesting things. i first saw this recipe for pickled peaches in the texas monthly in october of last year. ‘texas, our texas’ peaches may be small, but flavor trumps size and fredericksburg offers some good ‘uns. i have waiting patiently for almost a full year to make it. and although i have to admit that i have sneaked some from  the jar, the hardest part is happening now: i am awaiting the marriage of flavors that occurs in a jar full of fruit, vinegar, sugar, ginger, allspice, cloves, and cinnamon. and i will wait until thanksgiving. this is southern tradition, folks. the preserving happens at the peak of peach season. the enjoyment happens at a special place at the most special time of the year~the holiday table. it is also tradition to stud the peaches and preserve them whole but i decided on doing it my own way-a more conservative half peach swimming amidst it’s warm holiday spice soak.

texas peach pickles (makes 6-7 pints)

8-10 pounds small texas peaches, peeled, pitted, and halved

lemon juice or crushed vitamin c tablets for aciduation (to prevent browning)

1 quart distilled white vinegar

5 cups organic cane sugar

1 small knob ginger, peeled and left whole

whole cloves-5 for each jar plus a tbsp for the syrup

whole allspice-5 for each jar plus 1 tbsp for the syrup

cinnamon sticks-1 for each jar plus 4-5 for the syrup

place vinegar, sugar and spices in a large stock pot. heat until simmering to dissolve sugar. add peach halves, bring back to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes. turn off heat, cover and allow to stand overnight where the peaches will plump up and say howdy. sterilize jars and prepare canner and lids while you heat this mixture back up to the boiling point. add 5 or so whole cloves and whole allspice and hot peaches to hot jars. add 1 cinnamon stick to each jar and top with syrup and adjust for 1/2 ” headspace, removing any air bubbles as you go. process for 20 minutes in a hot water bath. wait until thanksgiving or christmas dinner to enjoy them!

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heirloom tomato jam

well, hello there. some of you playing along at home may be wondering “where did she go?”, “is she like other bloggers who simply got bored of her her own blog, got too busy, or just doesn’t give a hoot anymore?”. the short answer is no, the long answer, and since you’re still reading i’ll go ahead and assume you want the long answer, is that my blog has taken me to places unknown in my wildest dreams. you may have noticed many of the latest posts have been geared towards preserving and canning, for which i have discovered an unbridled love. each small batch of preserves i make is like a tiny art project, changing with the seasons.

soon we shall see if it loves me back. i am launching my new preserving business on september 1st, called confituras. which is spanish for confiture. which is french for delicious. i will make very small batch, locally sourced jams, marmalade, jellies, and pickles from the abundant local fruits, vegetables, and herbs found mostly here in central texas. my offerings will change with the seasons, as today i have pickled peaches and blueberries, lavender peach butter, prickly pear cactus jelly with fresh lime and the lovely heirloom jam you see below. tomorrow, i may have a completely different selection. if you’re in the austin area, i will begin selling my products at Barton Creek Farmer’s Market to start in a few weeks and, with any luck, become aligned with some CSA deliveries, local farm stands, small stores and coffee shops. my website is being built as we speak (www.confituras.net) but you can shoot me an email if you are interested in any of my confituras at: info @ confituras dot com


we served this tomato jam with a nutty, well-aged white farmhouse cheddar and almost died it was so good. a friend made a BLT with it. i think it would be fabulous on cornbread, or eggs, or roasted potatoes. you should definitely make this, but if you don’t have time, i can make some for you.

heirloom tomato jam (makes half pints)

adapted from white on rice

you can make this with heirloom or homegrown tomatoes, but try to avoid commercially-grown tomatoes due to their lack of flavor. you’re preserving something seasonal for a reason, after all, and who wants to preserve a mealy, insipid love apple? we have made this several times this summer with various types of tomatoes. each batch was slightly different in color and flavor, but always perfect in it’s variation.

2 pounds heirloom or homegrown tomatoes

1 cup light brown sugar

2 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or whatever herbs you like)

8 whole cloves

2 sticks good quality cinnamon

4 tsp aged balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp bottled lemon or lime juice*

place spices in a small piece of cheesecloth or tea ball infuser with all other ingredients in over a medium simmer, stirring frequently, for about 30-45 minutes until thick and jam-like (remember it will thicken a bit more as it cools so don’t overdo it). ladle into sterilized jars and process for 15 minutes in a water bath.

* although i usually shy away from bottled citrus juices, in this case the stable acidic amounts are a must due to the tomato’s unpredictable and borderline acidity. i found a good quality organic lemon and lime juice under the brand of santa cruz in my market.

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zucchini marmalade

so the main reason i wanted to participate in this year-long canning challenge was to learn a few things not only about canning, jamming, pickling, etc. but also about the personality and behavior of the actors (aka produce) going into the jars. i have gardened for about fifteen years and some of these plant genera are still foreign to me. for instance, i had never heard the term ‘cucurbits’ in my life, although most in this family of plants are very familiar to me and i’m sure to you as well: summer and winter squash, cucumbers, gourds, and a whole mess of melons. this month’s challenge was to get one of these preserved in jars.

i knew immediately what i needed to do when this category was announced: correct that bad feeling i had when i made cucumber pickles last year. they were disgusting. i swore that i would remedy that when the opportunity arose the following summer. but when i went to the market looking for pickling cucumbers, wouldn’t you know it, there were none to be found. so in the meantime, my dearest friend, kathy, gifted me with what she referred to as a ‘steroidal zucchini’ from a garden she had been caring for earlier in the day (along with almost 10 pounds of figs–i know i choose my company well). she wasn’t kidding–look at this thing! it’s not the type of zucchini that tastes good in just a simple saute. this motha needed to be baked in a bread or….made into zucchini marmalade! ever since i came across the idea of making marmalade out of zucchini, i have been intrigued. the resulting concoction is a bright, sunny citrus spread with, yes the color of zucchini flecks but also the nutritional whallop of the squash. i used a full two-thirds of this in the double-batch i prepared using the recipe below. i feel healthier already.

zucchini marmalade (4 half pints)

adapted from dinner with julie and ball complete book of home preserving

2 lemons

1 large orange

1 medium-large zucchini (about 2 cups grated on large holes of a box grater)

2 cups water

4 cups sugar

wash lemons and orange well and grate using the largest holes on a box grater. place in a large pot or preserving pan with the water. peel some of the white pith from the lemons into large pieces and place in in the same pan (you will be removing these later, so size matters as you will have to fish them out).  simmer for about 30 minutes.

meanwhile, finely chop the flesh of the lemons and oranges (after removing any remaining pith and all seeds). remove the pith from the pot and add in the lemon and orange flesh and the grated zucchini. bring back up to a simmer and allow to slowly cook for about 20 more minutes. add in sugar and bring to a boil, taking care to monitor that the mixture doesn’t foam up and boil over. boil gently, stirring often so it doesn’t stick to the pan, about 30 minutes. check temp with a candy thermometer or, my preferred method is the wrinkle test to test for gel set.

ladle into prepared jars and  process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

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chicken fennel kebobs with tzatziki

to say that it is grilling season in texas would be somewhat incorrect–it is always grilling season in texas. we like our meat, we sometimes like to fetch it ourselves (aka hunting), and we like to cook it outdoors because it’s usually too hot to turn on the stove and, let’s face it, it’s the right thing to do. regardless of where you stand on charcoal or wood vs. propane, direct or indirect heat, or barbequeing vs. grilling, most everyone agrees that cooking outside kinda rocks.

this is a fairly light preparation and works well when you are feeling overwhelmed by the summer heat but have a hankerin’ for more than just another salad. the cool creaminess of the tzatziki compliments nicely the char and warmth of the kebobs. and, if you’ve never grilled fennel, oh boy. it becomes sweet and caramelized, all while still retaining it’s crisp nature. add in some sweet red onion with singed edges, moist and lemony chicken, wrap it up in a seared pita and top the whole thing off with a cool sauce and let the magic happen.

chicken and fennel kebobs with tzatziki (4 servings)

adapted from bitchin’ camero

kebobs:

2 lb boneles, skinless chicken breats, cut into large cubes

2 fennel bulbs, remove frond and stem ends, clean and cut bulb into 2″ pieces (reserve a few fronds for the sauce)

1 large red onion, cut into 2″ pieces

1 tbsp dried oregano

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp lemon juice

salt & pepper

tzatziki:

7 oz plain yogurt *

1 cucumber, seedless variety, or seed a regular one

1 tbsp chopped fennel fronds

1 large clove garlic

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp salt

*greek yogurt will make a particularly thick sauce or you can just drain regular full or lowfat plain yogurt for a similar effect.

prepare tzaziki first so the flavors have some time to develop–sometimes i’ll make this a few hours ahead. grate cucumber with a box grater onto a paper towel or cheesecloth. make a small package of the papertowel and twist the ends up, squeezing out any liquid from the cucumber. you may or may not be alarmed at how much liquid you can get out doing this–DO NOT skip this step. chop garlic and make into a paste on the cutting board with the salt, by smashing it with the side of the knife. place garlic/salt mixture in a bowl with the yogurt, cucumber, fennel fronds, and lemon juice. adjust seasoning to your preferences. in other words, taste it. if you like more garlic go for it, but remember the flavor will be more pronounced as it sits.

alternate placing chicken, fennel and onion pieces onto 8 separate skewers. sprinkle with oregano, salt & pepper, then drizzle with the olive oil and lemon juice. place on a (preheated-very important) medium-high grill and cook for a total of about 20 minutes, rotating skewers every 5 minutes or so. you want a nice char on all sides and the chicken to be cooked through. allow to rest for a few minutes before serving with tzatziki and grilled pita.

this goes really well with a glass of nice, dry french rose. but everything, including another glass of rose goes really well with a nice, dry french rose this time of year, doesn’t it?

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