Category Archives: condiment

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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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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agarita jelly

you know that saying ‘well, it’s five o’clock somewhere”? i am going to try to weave it into this post to convince you that i have made the deadline for this month’s can jam. but i really have. really. you see, i am sitting on an island in the middle of the pacific ocean, namely the big island of hawai’i and i am so many hours behind you it isn’t even funny. right now, where i sit,  it’s nine pm. and on the east coast, it’s three in the morning. the next day. wherever else you are in the states, i am sure you are sleeping. but wait, it’s friday night–some of you may be out for a drink. so, to put it all in a nutshell (or a seashell): i am in the states, it ain’t midnight yet, and it is the day before the deadline (no matter what anyone says) for posting this month’s entry of canned goods. and the ingredient for this month is berries.

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i had never heard of agarita berries until a few years back when i was reading an article on regional foods of texas. they are plentiful and native to the southwest: from the texas hill country (west of austin) all to way to parts of arizona. back in the day, folks used to make jelly out of anything they could squeeze a drop of juice outta. the berries preserve well in jellies, chutneys, you name it and were often served with meats. these here were gifted to me by my neighbor whose mother has a property full of them out in blanco, texas. lucky me. when i went to do a search on how to make jelly from them i found nothing. well, that’s not entirely true. the freesteader libratarian and texas bowhunter forums had both mentioned agarita jelly, but no recipe was found. so i made one up following the ratios from pomona’s pectin. you have to introduce some sort of pectin to this jelly; the berries themselves have virtually none. the flavor is difficult to describe. it is fairly tart, like rhubarb, but earthy and grassy all at the same time. i made a simple and straightforward batch of jelly for my neighbor and his mother: they both said it was exactly right. i’ll take their word for it.

agarita jelly (makes about 4-5 half pints)

note: this is a lower sugar version-sweeten to taste. the fact that you can control the sugar is the good word about using pomona pectin.

3 lbs agarita berries, picked through, sorted, and rinsed

enough water to cover the berries  (about 3 cups)

1/4 c lemon juice

4 tsp calcium water (if you don’t know what this is, look at the pomona pectin website)

4 tsp pomona pectin powder

1 c honey

1 c granulated sugar

put berries and water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. lower heat and simmer, covered for about 10-15 minutes. stir and mash berries (i used a potato masher) and cook 5 minutes more. pour into a jelly bag or over some dampened cheesecloth in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl to catch the juice. allow to drain for at least 2 hours. you should have about 4 cups of juice. add a little water if you are short. it will be ok.

pour measured juice into a saucepan and add lemon juice and calcium water and slowly bring to a boil. meanwhile, in a small bowl, thoroughly mix pectin powder with your granulated sugar. add sugar/pectin mixture to boiling juice, stirring vigorously for 1-2 minutes. add your honey to taste. pour mixture into prepared jars and process for 10 minutes in a water bath.

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pickled red onions

pickled onions finished

i am a fan of quick. and i’m not talkin’ highly processed or convenience foods. now, i’m not knocking busy folks who need to buy a pre-chopped onion every now and again, but for me chopping the onion is a process that takes me from an over-stimulating day to a place of zen. i’m a strange one that way. so what we’re talking about here is a quick pickles. canned, or water-bath processed pickles are a wonderful thing, but sometimes you lose quality and crunch factor with this method. plus you have to wait days to weeks for the pickles to be ready. if you have never done this, it is virtually impossible to slave over a hot canner, then wait up to two weeks to taste the results.

pickled onions raw

if you are a fan of grilled, smoked, caramelized, braised, broiled or roasted meats or vegetables like we are, you need to make some pickled onions. they are the perfect balance to the char or caramelization that occurs with any of the above cooking methods. i could also see this as the perfect companion to anything warmly-spiced (think cumin or cinnamon scented savory dishes, like the pork carnitas below), or anytime you want to add a brightness to a dish. this is such a simple way to punch up so many foods, i think i’ll keep  a jar of it in my fridge all summer long.

pickled onions on carnitas taco

pickled red onions (makes about 2 cups)

adapted from david lebovitz and simply recipes

1 large red onion, sliced thinly

1 cup white wine vinegar

3-4 tbsp granulated sugar, or to taste

2 bay leaves

1/2 cinnamon stick

5 whole allspice berries

5 whole cloves

5-10 whole black peppercorns

pinch of salt

in a small saucepan, heat vinegar, sugar, and spices to simmering. add sliced onions and simmer gently for 30 seconds. remove from heat, transfer to a bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. place onions and pickling liquid in a glass jar. will keep and taste freshest in the fridge for up to a month.

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rhubarb jelly with lime and flor de jamaica

another month, another canning challenge. this is my second attempt at jelly-making and my first with pomona pectin. i am in love. talk about product performance-what a concept: this stuff delivers on it’s promise, which is to gel or set your mixture and not to add preservatives, additives or unneeded extra sweeteners. now, on to the jelly itself. this month’s challenge provided a choice between asparagus or rhubarb. since my last two canning choices were more of the savory variety, i decided on rhubarb.

now, i don’t what your experience with rhubarb is, but mine is nil. nada. nuttin’ doin’. never touch the stuff. actually, it kind of freaks me out. i mean, check out this creepy picture and tell me you won’t have haunting dreams tonight. i knew enough about it not to touch it while i was chopping it up; it stains everything it touches. being a nurse is handy as there are always a box of gloves hangin’ around for duties like this. as i was making pictures of it, i softened a bit toward it’s rugged good looks. the deep color and striations and such started to grow on me. i read sweet stories on the internets about fond memories of grandma handing her little ones raw rhubarb stalks dipped in sugar as a special springtime treat. all manner of people were baking it in pies and cobbler, stewing it to serve in a fool or with some delicious grilled or roasted meat product. these people must have known what they were doing, right? and no one was poisoned, once they figured out not to eat the leaves, right? right.

i followed pomona’s instructions for fruit ratio, pectin amounts, and the like. the flavor profile is way more hibiscus than rhubarb, most likely due to the fact that i did not get a whole lotta juice from those stingy stalks. i had to supplement much more with steeped hibiscus than i had initially planned. this beauty will most likely end up on my next cheese tray.

rhubarb jelly with lime and flor de jamaica (makes 7-8 half pint jars)

3 lbs rhubarb

a few large handfuls dried flor de jamaica (hibiscus flowers)

5 tbsp lime juice

2 1/2 c sugar

5 tsp calcium water

5 tsp pomona pectin

clean and chop rhubarb into 1/2 inch chunks, discarding any browned or leafy portions. (yes folks, the leaves are poisonous). place in a large pot with a cup or two of water and simmer until softened. add a large handful of hibiscus flowers during the last minute or so of cooking. the longer they steep, the darker the jelly will be. at this point, i whirled the mixture in the food processor but i wish i hadn’t. it became almost too thick to strain and i only got about a cup and a half of liquid through it. strain through multiple dampened layers of cheesecloth for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.resist the temptation to press on or push the liquid out. rumor has it that this will cause the jelly to become cloudy because, inevitably, some solids will end up getting through as well.

measure the amount of liquid strained and bring an amount of water that would bring this to a  total 5 cups. for example: my 1 1/2 cups of strained juice had me bringing 3 1/2 cups of water to a boil. add another large handful of hibiscus flowers to the boiling water for just about 30 seconds or so and strain through another few layers of cheesecloth. add this hot liquid to your juice. rinse out your pot, add the liquid, lime juice, and calcium water and bring to a boil. measure out your sugar into a bowl and add the pomona pectin, stirring well to combine. add the sugar and pectin to the boiling mixture all at once and stir for a minute or two until the pectin is well dissolved. bring mixture back to a boil and add additional sweetener if desired. if i had it to do all over again, i would have added some honey at this point to round out the sweetness.

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

i floated a few flowers on top  but most did not stay cenetered. i am ok with this.

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