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Healthy Whole Grain Southern Style Skillet Cornbread

Whole Grain Skillet Cornbread
Whole Grain Skillet Cornbread - Cornbread this good does not last long

Now is the time for a nice pot of soup with a piece of warm cornbread. I used to avoid cornbread, but now I allow myself to have a portion. My assumptions about what makes a healthy diet have been challenged lately. First I read about the need to eat beans daily (Blue Zone Diet). I just read an older research article in American Society for Nutrition that describes the healthiest Mexican adults as the ones that eat a traditional diet with ~47% of their energy intake from maize and maize foods, and 4% from Beans.  Did they say 47% Maize?  That's a lot of corn! How can that much corn be good for you? Then I remembered that cornmeal can be a whole grain food (if it has the germ included), and in fact my favorite cornbread recipe from Ruth Reichl's The Gourmet Cookbook uses 100% whole grain stone ground cornmeal, and a hot skillet. I thought I would share my favorite delectably healthy recipe that goes so well with a pot of beans or soup. I will also share some variations, and recipes for different sized skillets.

 

Skillet Cornbread Recipe adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

 

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If you would like to download the Whole Grain Skillet Cornbread recipe without pictures click Download Cornbread Recipe

 

Special Equipment needed: a well-seasoned 9 to 9 1/2-inch cast-iron skillet, or 10 to 10 3/4-inch cast-iron skillet.

 

Ingredients for 9- to 9 1/2-inch cast-iron skillet (serves 8):

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground, medium-grind

2 tablespoons sugar (optional)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 3/4 cups well-shaken buttermilk

1/2 stick to 3/4 (4 to 6 tablespoons) butter, softened



Ingredients for 10 to 10 3/4-inch skillet (serves 12):

2 cups yellow cornmeal, preferably stone-ground, medium-grind

3 tablespoons sugar (optional)

2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

2 cups well-shaken buttermilk

3/4  to 1 stick (6 to 8 tablespoons) butter, softened

 

Variations:

  • For Southern White Cornbread (the way my Grandmother Low made it) substitute white cornmeal. In the heat of summer my grandmother would cook her cornbread on a griddle (like pancakes) and this way would not heat the kitchen so much.

 

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Heat with the skillet on the oven's center rack for 30 minutes (If you are pressed for time you can heat skillet in the oven for 10 minutes and finish by heating the pan on the top of the range until the added butter is browned).
  1. Stir together dry ingredients: cornmeal, sugar, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
  1. Whisk together eggs and buttermilk in a medium bowl until blended.
  1. Add the butter to the hot skillet in oven. You want the butter to sizzle and brown around the edges and begin to foam (brown butter). If you used less butter, try to leave a slight coating of butter on the bottom and sides of the skillet so that the cornbread won't stick. If you used more butter, try to leave about 1/4 cup butter in bottom of skillet.
  1. Pour the brown butter into a heat safe measuring cup or small bowl, and return the skillet to the oven (alternately keep it hot on the range). Whisk the warm butter into the egg and buttermilk mixture.
  1. Stir cornmeal into the buttermilk mixture, combining until just evenly moistened.
  1. Remove hot skillet from oven and scrape batter into hot skillet and bake until golden - 17 to 25 minutes. Serve in skillet for a more rustic presentation and to keep bread warm, or alternately cool bread slightly and turn cornbread onto a serving plate.

 

I like the cornbread you make
"I like the cornbread you make."

 

The Professor's Rating

The Professor gave this 4 stars, saying "I like the cornbread you make. It tastes sweet." (I did not add any sugar) Fresh cornmeal with fresh butter naturally tastes sweet without added sugar.

 

 Corn and Cornmeal Demystified

 

Jam scientist's notebook What is the difference between maize and corn? Maize and corn are one in the same.

Is Cornmeal good for you? In whole grain form (with the germ), corn is healthy and full of nutrients. Corn is high in fiber and is good for digestion, has B vitamins, and has 10 times more Vitamin A than other grains. Corn contains antioxidants. Corn flour is a naturally gluten-free food.

What are the different types of corn?

Dent Corn - field corn is also called dent corn can be yellow or white (Zea mays indentata). Tortilla chips, snack foods, and masa can come from yellow dent corn or white dent corn. This corn is dry-milled for human consumption when dry and has a dent on the end of each kernel. Dent corn has higher starch content and lower sugar content than sweet corn, so is not good to eat fresh. Yellow cornmeal generally had a sweeter and more pronounced flavor, whereas white cornmeal is generally smother textured and subtler in flavor.

Flint Corn - Indian corn or calico corn, with multi-colored kernels. Flint corn (Zea mays indurata) is named after its hardness (like flint rock). It has less soft starch, more protean, and a lower glycemic index than yellow or white dent corn varieties. Recently heirloom varieties are starting to be grown and milled for use in cornmeal, hominy, tortillas, chips, masa, and so on. Different heirloom corns have distinct flavor profiles. Blue corn is part of this group and is said to have a nuttier taste than dent corn.

Sweet Corn - Sweet Corn grouped into three categories: standard corn (normal sugary), sugary enhanced, and supersweet corn. Standard corn has an especially short shelf life. My grandmother would say to pick it and run to cook it in boiling water to save its sweetness. Sugary enhanced corn is known for having a sweet flavor and somewhat longer shelf life. Supersweet corn is the sweetest of the sweet corns, and also has an extended shelf life.

Popcorn - To pop corn one needs a special kind of flint corn with extra hard hull (Zea mays everta), which has been dried to around 14% moisture. There are many varieties of popcorn, but there are two main shapes. One type looks more like a Mushroom, and is used for caramel corn, and other type looks like a snowflake shape is what the general used with buttery popcorn. Popcorn comes in a different sizes, and colors.

Nixtamalized corn -Long ago cooks in Guatemala found that boiling dried corn in alkali water removed the kernels' skins and produced softer and stickier dough that will hold together better when cooked. Food scientists now call this process nixtamalization. Whole corn that has been nixtamalized is called hominy or posole. Nixtamalized, ground, and dried corn is called masa or corn flour. Masa is sold at most Latin American groceries.

This nixtamalization process increases the availability of natural protein and niacin found in the corn, and so helps prevent pellagra.  The process also drastically reduces the toxins that can be found on moldy corn. Mesa is used to make corn tortillas, chips, tamales and other specialty and ethnic corn foods. Likewise, Southern corn grits are made from ground hominy

Regular cornmeal vs. Stone ground

Regular cornmeal, is ground rather finely between metal rollers and is

Regular degerminated cornmeal
Regular Degerminated Cornmeal

degerminated, so is not a whole grain. Regular cornmeal will be all one color without flecks of lighter germ. Regular cornmeal will last about a year if tightly sealed.

Stone-ground Cornmeal
Stone-ground Cornmeal

Stone-ground cornmeal, often has a coarser texture and normally has its germ intact, so it is whole grain, and usually retains more nutrients. Stone ground cornmeal can be identified by its lighter colored germ flecks interspersed throughout the meal. Stone-ground cornmeal will last about three months. For longer storage one can tightly seal and freeze the meal to last about a year.

What kind of corn would healthiest Hispanics eat with a traditional diet?

A traditional diet would include nixtamalized corn, in the form of posole or mesa made from flint or dent type corn. Of course, originally it would be made from flint (Indian) corn.

Northern vs. Southern Cornbread

Southern Cornbread - Southern cornbread is what we have made today. It is thinner, crustier, and more savory than northern cornbread. It is traditionally made with white cornmeal with no flour or sugar. Yellow cornmeal may be used for more "corn-like" flavor if desired. Baking the cornbread in a greased, preheated cast-iron skillet produces a crunchy, golden crust. It may also be cooked like a pancake if preferred. If sugar is added it is added in spoonfuls, not cups. If flour is added, very little is used. This cornbread normally accompanies soup, beans, stew, or greens.

 White Cornmeal
White Cornmeal

Northern CornbreadNorthern cornbread is sweeter, and tends to add comparatively large amounts of sugar using cup measurements. Northern cornbread rises higher and is more cake-like, and generally uses yellow cornmeal. White all-purpose flour is often added in equal amounts to the cornmeal. It is normally baked in a baking pan, or in muffins tins. It is sweet enough to be eaten alone, or to double as a dessert. Most cornbread boxed mixes are of northern type.

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The Jam Scientist

Gingerbread Spice Quick Drop Cookies - all the rich spices of gingerbread without all the work!

Cookie jar full of Gingerbread Spice Quick Drop Cookies
Cookie jar full of Gingerbread Spice Quick Drop Cookies

All the delicious taste and fragrance of gingerbread without all the work. I made 5 dozen of these soft, chewy, quick drop cookies, loaded with ginger and cinnamon, during the long Thanksgiving weekend. Grandpa, The Professor, and the whole family love them; by the end of the weekend, they were all gone!

I love the flavor of gingerbread, but I don't want to spend all day making it. I adapted Better Homes and Gardens' Ginger Cookies recipe to include all the rich spices of gingerbread, and included an option for a smaller sized batch at the end of this post, but honestly, these cookies will go so fast I would suggest baking the full batch size to avoid disappointment. When I checked for similar recipes online I was happy to find my recipe was comparable to the Test Kitchen's Molasses Spice Cookies, so you know it has got to be good!

  Best Little Jam House

 

Ingredients

4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour 

4 teaspoons ground ginger

2 teaspoons baking soda

1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt (omit all added salt if using salted butter)

1-1/2 cups, 3 sticks, unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup light or dark molasses

3/4 cup sugar for dipping (Turbinado sugar or coarse sugar is preferable)

 

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack(s) to middle position(s) and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg and salt; set aside.
  2. If using standing mixer fit with paddle attachment, or use electric mixer, in a large mixing bowl beat butter on medium-low speed until butter is whipped, about 30 seconds. Add the 2 cups sugar a little at a time on medium-high speed. Beat until combined and light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Reduce speed to medium-low; beat in eggs, vanilla, and molasses until combined.
  3. For Standing mixer: Reduce standing mixer speed to low setting; add flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl. Give dough a stir by hand to ensure that no flour remains at bottom of the bowl. Dough will be soft.
    • If not using a stand mixer: beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour mixture by hand.
  4. Scoop dough using a size #70 cookie scoop (1.25 inch diameter) rounding the top to approximate a ball, or shape dough into generous 1-1/4 inch balls. Roll the top of ball in the 3/4 cup sugar.
    #70 scoop delivers uniform cookies
    #70 scoop delivers uniform cookies
  5. Place 1-1/2 inches apart on a parchment lined or ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. If baking two sheets at a time: start cookies on the top rack and half way through baking move to the bottom rack, while reversing position of baking sheet from front to back during the move. Add the second sheet half way through the first bake onto top rack. Otherwise, cookies baked only on the hotter bottom rack may not develop the attractive cracks.
    • If baking the cookies one sheet at a time: Bake on the middle rack only, but reverse position from front to back half way through the bake. Cookies should develop attractive cracks on top.
  7. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned and tops are puffed. Cookies should look somewhat under baked (do not over-bake). Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies (60 cookies) if using#70 scoop, or hand rolling a 1-1/4 inch ball.

 

5 dozen cookies are just too much? Here is a smaller batch size:

Makes 2 to 3 dozen depending on ball size, just follow the directions above.

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

1-1⁄2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon salt (omit all added salt if using salted butter)

3/4 cup (1-1⁄2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup light or dark molasses

1/2 cup sugar for dipping (Turbinado sugar or coarse sugar is preferable)

IMGP9179

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The Jam Scientist

The flavor of freshly baked gingerbread in a jar - Easy Apple Gingerbread Spice Jelly

Gingerbread Spice Jelly made with rich spices and molasses - the flavor of freshly baked gingerbread.
Gingerbread Spice Jelly made with rich spices and molasses - the flavor of freshly baked gingerbread.

It is easy to make, can be done in less than an hour, and has the flavor of freshly baked gingerbread! This recipe turned out sooo good I thought twice about releasing it on the internet. Maybe I should keep this recipe for myself. In the end I decided to share. I hope you and your family enjoy it as much as my family does.

Gingerbread is a wonderful seasonal treat; even Starbucks releases a limited edition Gingerbread Latte.  Most gingerbread flavored products are, like gingerbread, delicious.  But some are.... well...sad. 

I ran into a jelly made with gingerbread flavored tisane. It sounded intriguing, but I was a little shocked by the thought of making a jelly with just sugared and flavored water. I thought I could do better. After all, the ingredients and spices in gingerbread are no secret, and using the full gallery of gingerbread spices and molasses in an apple jelly foundation should give a nice rich taste. I thought the only trick would be getting the spice amounts correct.

There was another problem though. I also needed to tackle how to use apples juice as the fruit base. Buying apple juice by the jug is notoriously difficult to work with because pectin destroying enzymes are added during the juice manufacturing process, and those enzymes would also inactivate the boxed pectin I would add to make the jelly. I needed this process to be easy enough for beginners. Extracting clear juice from fresh apples is difficult. Unprocessed apple juice is not available in many areas, so that wouldn't work. I wondered if using apple juice from frozen concentrate might work.  I was absolutely thrilled to find that juice made from frozen concentrate jells easily!!! After some experimentation I believe I got this new recipe spot-on. It is easy to make, can be done in less than an hour, and has the full fledged flavor of gingerbread!

First, I will be sharing just the recipe for making the jelly.  If you need information about the basic canning process please click here for Canning Instructions from Virginia Tech.

If you would like to print this recipe without all the pictures please click Download Apple Gingerbread Spice Jelly Recipe

 

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Apple Gingerbread Spice Jelly

 Author: A Best Little Jam House Exclusive

Recipe type:

Jelly

 

Serves:

10, 8-oz jars or half- pints

Prep time: 

10 minutes

 

Headspace:

1/4 inch

Cook time: 

20 minutes

 

Processing:

10 minutes

Total time: 

40 minutes

     

 

 

made with rich spices and molasses

 

Ingredients:

16 ounce frozen concentrated apple juice (the type that calls for addition of 3 cans water)

1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 teaspoons cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 Tablespoons molasses (unsulfured)  

2 Tablespoons lemon juice (1 small lemon)

 2 packages (1 3/4 ounces each pack) fruit pectin

8 cups sugar 

 

Instructions:

  1. Sterilize jars and prepare lids per manufacture's instruction.
  2. Add apple juice and 2 1/2 cans (not 3 cans) water into a wide-bottomed pan, or a preserving kettle. Add spices, molasses, lemon juice, and dry pectin. Stir frequently while bring contents to a boil.
  3. Add sugar all at once and stir well.
    Add sugar all at once
    Add sugar all at once
    Bring contents to a full rolling boil.
    Boil for one minute
    Boil for one minute
    Boil for one minute and check the set. When jelly mixture sheets from a spoon. Remove from heat; skim off foam after cooling one minute.
  4. Ladle hot jelly mixture immediately into hot,
    1/4 inch headspace
    ¼ inch headspace
    sterile jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; add two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.
  5. Jelly will last at least one year.

Note: Processing time given is for 1000 foot elevation and below. If you are working at a higher elevation click here for information about needed time adjustments.

I suggest you label your jam jars. One may simply write on the lid, or you may download my personal Christmas labels by clicking Download Gingerbread Spice Jelly Christmas Label. My labels have a larger label for the lid and a smaller label for the front of jar. One just needs to write in the canning date, cut out, and glue the label on the jar.

 

gingerbread Spice Jelly Label

 

The Professor's Rating

The Professor gave it 5 stars. " This makes my mouth happy.... This is good! We could sell this!... Are you sure you want to put this recipe on the web? I don't know if I remember what gingerbread tastes like... This is as good as the blueberry grape jelly" (one of his favorites).

 

Gingerbread spice jelly on hot biscuits
Gingerbread spice jelly on hot biscuits

 

Apple Gingerbread Spice Jelly Demystified

How do I know this recipe is safe? pH and Heat

pH  - To be safe from botulism bacteria growth and its food poisoning toxins, the pH of canned goods must be below 4.6 (one wants to stay below pH 4.4. to be on the safe side). The pH of apple juice ranges from 3.35 to 4.0. We also added Lime juice with pH of 2.0 - 2.35. Testing the pH of this jelly it was pH 3.1 - well within the safety zone. However, low pH does not affect yeasts and molds.

Heat - Processing the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes is enough heat to kill actively growing bacteria and prevent yeast and mold growth under normal sanitary circumstances. This is how we control the yeasts and molds that were not affected by the lower pH.

Why did the recipe call for frozen apple juice?

Enzymes -When consumers buy apple juice in a jug they do not want the juice to turn into apple jelly in the container; they want a nice clear, thin juice instead of a viscous, cloudy liquid. To accomplish this one of the things manufacturers do is add enzymes that destroy the pectin. Most enzymes can be inactivated by heat. Therefore, we used concentrated apple juice that was heated in order to evaporate water, and thus the pectin destroying enzymes were inactivated by the heating process. If you live in an area where truly fresh pressed apple juice (that has had no enzymes added) is available one could use 7 cups of fresh pressed cider instead if you prefer.

 

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The Jam Scientist

My advice: brine your turkey (or that pork loan), but skip all those complicated recipes - easy is best!

My advice: brine your turkey, but skip all those complicated recipes - easy is best!
My advice: brine your turkey, but skip all those complicated recipes - easy is best!

Brining makes an enormous difference in succulence - no exaggeration!

Disclaimer - I have an opinion!

This does not need to be a big production or a big expense. You know me, I will write 1500 words about all the ways you can get apple sauce just the way you want it. I am not afraid of extra steps if it delivers a better product, but all things being equal, simple is best. Some people would consider it heresy to say this, but I do not recommend brining with anything but a salt solution. All the additives and spices I see recommended on the web just add cost, time, and stress with little benefit. Spices add little in a quick brining. Spices are best added later as a rub. Also, a salt solution discourages growth or microorganisms, so I don't want to dilute my solution with things like apple juice. I want the protection of the salt solution working for me without interference.  Also, I am not afraid to use sugar, but I don't want sugar where it is not needed. I want succulence not sweetness in my turkey, so I add no sugar.

Did I mention I don't bother with anything but salt in my brine?

Where are you going to brine that turkey?

One problem in brining a turkey is that it takes up a lot of fridge space. I use my canning pot to hold my turkey upright (breast first facing down), but I line the pot with a large food safe heavy duty plastic bag (such as turkey oven roasting bag) that I pull tight around the bird to cover as much of the bird as possible with brine.  You could use just a brine bag, but I would double the bag it for your protection. As long as the breast portion is covered in brine you will be in good shape, because the dark meat has more fat to protect it during cooking.

If you don't have room in your fridge you can brine your turkey in a cooler generously filled with ice so the bird is covered top and bottom. If you live in a cold location (think Denver), and you have a cold garage (40°F or below), you could just brine the turkey in the garage.

 

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Ingredients for brine:

  • 2 gallons water
  • 2 cups course salt without additives (kosher or sea), or 1 cup fine salt.  I use 1 cup fine canning salt. It has no additives and is more economical than kosher, but use what you have. One may also use regular table salt if needed.
  • If you feel you want to use sugar, one can add 1 cup sugar

 

Instructions:

  1. Plan ahead thaw your turkey, or buy a fresh bird.
  2. Before brining, remove the giblets and turkey neck etc. Your parts to be used for gravy need to be removed now so they don't get too salty. You can make gravy ahead of time if you like.
  3. Mix the brine solution: Heat 1 quart of water with half your salt (and sugar if using) in the microwave until warmed enough to dissolve the salt. Stir warm solution until the salt has dissolved. Then repeat with a second quart of warm water and the other half of the salt.
  4. Add 6 quarts (1 1/2 gallons) ice water (or water with ice cubes) to the warm brine solution in a large container to dilute it to the proper strength and chill it. I don't want warm brine encouraging microbiological growth. Also, brine should be cold before adding the turkey, or the meat will absorb too much salt.
  5. Pour the cold brine over the turkey and make especially sure the breast of the turkey is completely submerged. 
  6. Pull the food-grade plastic bag, or brining bag, around the bird to envelop it in brine and refrigerate or chill for 6 to 24 hours. As a rule of thumb, you should brine your turkey 30 to 60 minutes per pound. If you don't overdue the brining time you can brine a Butterball type of bird (self basting type). Notes about self basting type turkeys: Butterball type birds have been injected with a salt solution already. Less time is best with this type so you don't get them too salty. Stick with 30 - 45 minutes per pound. I will add that one of my best turkeys ever was a brined self basting type bird.
  7. When time is up rinse your bird and towel dry. To get a crunchy skin you need to start with dry skin. America's Test Kitchen suggests drying the skin further by leaving the uncovered bird in the fridge overnight to air dry.

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The Jam Scientist

Apricot-Almond Chutney (Alternatives to Canned Cranberry Relish Continued)

Apricot-Almond Chutney
Apricot-Almond Chutney

This is great chutney without the smoked addition, but with smoked fruit and veg it will knock your socks off!  Yes, smoking adds that much flavor and complexity. This is absolutely my, and The Professor's, favorite chutney!!!  Either way, straight or smoked, everyone will consider you to be a domestic goddess.

 

Time out!  What is a CHUTNEY?

Chutney is a sauce or relish that often has both sweet and sour ingredients, such as fruits and herbs, often with spices or other seasoning.
 

This is a continuation of my first post about Alternatives to Canned Cranberry Relish, if you would like to see my first post click here.

This is not a canning recipe. In the future I would like to develop it further with an eye toward canning, but it was designed for a fresh batch.

If you would like to print the recipe without all the pictures please click Download Apricot-Almond Chutney

 

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Apricot-Almond Chutney

Source: Adapted from Chef Stephen Pyles, Star Canyon, Dallas, Texas

 

Servings: 12

Preparation time: 10 minutes, plus 1 hour soaking wood chips if smoking

Cooking time: 35 minutes, plus 30 minutes if smoking

 

Ingredients:

11 ounces dried apricots, diced 1 1/2 cup (if at all possible smoke them - optional)

1 small onion, thinly sliced or chopped (if at all possible smoke it - optional)

1  1/4 cup water

1 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup brown sugar

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon fresh ginger (peeled and diced very finely)

1 fresh ripe pear (peeled, cored, and diced into small pieces)

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (add at end)

1/2 cup blanched sliced almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped (add at end)

 

Instructions:

Optional smoking
Optional smoking- lower heat
  1. Optional smoking, place your apricots and onion in a pie tin with holes poked in the bottom to
    Smoking apricots after a BBQ.  Roll wood chips in aluminum foil.
    Smoking apricots after a BBQ. Roll wood chips in aluminum foil.
    allow the smoke to pass through and put it on the grill. Soak any flavor of wood chips (I used hickory wood chips) in cold water for at least an hour, and then roll them on a sheet of aluminum foil with multiple larger holes poked in the foil and put to the side of low charcoals on the bottom of the grill. I like to smoke ingredients after a BBQ so the coals will be manageable.  Just be sure to lower heat. Smoke the dried apricots and onion for 20-30 minutes.
  2. After smoking, Bring apricots and water to a boil in a small saucepan over Medium-High heat. Boil about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally until apricots soften and 2 tablespoons liquid remain.
  3. Add remaining ingredients, except almonds and cilantro to the pan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Meanwhile, lightly toast your almonds on a cookie sheet in a 350˚ degree oven for 3-4 minutes (watching all the while like a hawk). When slightly brown remove almonds quickly from heat.
  5. After simmering mixture, remove from heat and stir in almonds and cilantro. Serve as an accompaniment to sliced pork, beef roasts or poultry (especially if smoked). Extra chutney may be safely stored, covered, in the refrigerator for two weeks, or freeze.

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The Jam Scientist

Tart Honeycrisp Apple Cranberry/Cherry Conserve - Just in time for the holidays

Tart Honeycrisp Apple Cranberry/Cherry Conserve - Just in time for the holidays
Tart Honeycrisp Apple Cranberry/Cherry Conserve - Just in time for the holidays

But wait... What is a conserve?

The French would call it a jam with nuts.  However we are speaking English, and the English call jam with nuts a "conserve". It is traditionally made in the fall or winter, so it may contain some tried fruit too.  Our tart little conserve would work well as a condiment for meat or cheese; it could also be an alternative to cranberry sauce, (think Thanksgiving) or work as jelly (good as a topping for muffins).

First, I will be sharing just the recipe for making jam.  If you need information about the basic canning process please click here for Canning Instructions from Virginia Tech.

If you would like to print this recipe without all the pictures please click   Download Honeycrisp Apple Cranberry Conserve

 

Golden acorn logo!!! copy

 

Honeycrisp Apple Cranberry/Cherry Conserve

Author: Adapted from Honeycrisp Apple Cranberry Conserve Recipe from Little Jars, Big Flavors by Southern Living

Recipe type:

Conserve (jam with nuts)

 

Serves:

6, 8-oz jars or half- pints

Prep time: 

1 hour

 

Headspace:

1/4 inch

Cook time: 

1 hour

 

Processing:

5 minutes

Total time: 

2 hours

     

Ingredients:

3 cups apple juice (fresh pressed is best) 

3 cups cored and finely chopped Honeycrisp apples (unpeeled, about 3 large apples)

1/2 cup (lightly pressed) dried cranberries

1/2 cup (lightly pressed) dried cherries (tart)

2 sticks cinnamon

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Chop pecans
Chop pecans

2 packages (1 3/4 ounces each pack) fruit pectin (If you live in an area where truly fresh pressed apple juice is available, and are using that type, just use one box of pectin).

5 cups sugar                                   

Mix pectin with sugar and add sugar and pectin all at once
Mix pectin with sugar and add sugar and pectin all at once
Core and chop apples
Core and chop apples

 

Instructions:

  1. Sterilize jars and prepare lids per manufacture's instruction. 
    Ingredients ready to cook
    Ingredients ready to cook
  2. Measure apple juice and add to kettle. Add chopped apple, dried cranberries, dried cherries, and cinnamon sticks. Stirring constantly bring to a full rolling boil.
  3. Mix pectin with sugar. Add sugar and pectin all at once and stir well. Add nuts. Return mixture to a boil. Boil for one minute and check the set. (Do not skip this checking step - you may need to boil a second minute). When jelly mixture sheets from a spoon. Remove from heat; remove cinnamon sticks, skim off foam after cooling five minutes (cooling time prevents the berries from floating in the jar).
  4. Full boil - just smell the apples cooking
    Full boil - just smell the apples cooking
    4.  Ladle hot conserve mixture immediately into hot, sterile jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel; add two-piece metal canning lids. Process in a Boiling Water Canner for 5 minutes.
    Into the water bath for 5 minuts
    Into the water bath for 5 minutes

Note: Processing time given is for 1000 foot elevation and below. If you are working at a higher elevation click here for information about needed time adjustments.

Jam will last at least one year at peak quality.

I suggest you label your jam jars. One may simply write on the lid, or you may download my personal labels by clicking Download Honeycrisp Apple Conserve label My labels have a larger round label for the lid and a smaller oval label for the front of jar. One just needs to write in the canning date, cut out, and glue the label on the jar. If the jam will be used as Christmas gifts, The Graphics Fairy has some nice ideas for holiday labels  http://thegraphicsfairy.com/homemade-gifts-jelly-holiday-labels-reader-feature/.

Hors d'oeuvres of Canadian bacon, our conserve, and feta cheese on top of crackers
Hors d'oeuvres of Canadian bacon, our conserve, and feta cheese on top of crackers

The Professor's Rating

The Professor gave it 3 stars. It has a nice tart flavor that could take the place of cranberry sauce. Wonderful hors d'oeuvres (pictured above). FYI, The Professor is more of a fan of sweets rather than tart/sweet.

 

 Honeycrisp Apple Cranberry/Cherry Conserve Demystified

 

Jam scientist's notebook coloredHow do I know this recipe is safe? pH and Heat

pH  - To be safe from botulism bacteria growth and its food poisoning toxins, the pH of canned goods must be below 4.6 (one wants to stay below pH 4.4. to be on the safe side). The pH of apple juice ranges from 3.35 to 4.0. The pH of dried cranberries has a pH of 2.8-3.0. The pH of sweet cherries is 3.8-4, but I used tart cherries, that should be on the low end, or a little lower. The end product should be between 2.8 and 3.4 - well within the safety zone. Low pH does not affect yeasts and molds.

Heat - Processing the jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes is enough heat to kill actively growing bacteria and prevent yeast and mold growth under normal sanitary circumstances. This is how we control the yeasts and molds that were not affected by the low pH.

 

Why did I mix the pectin with the sugar? or Why apple juice from store is hard to set into apple jelly:

Enzymes -When consumers buy apple juice they do not want the juice to turn into apple jelly in the container; they want a nice clear, thin juice instead of a viscous, cloudy liquid. To  accomplish this one of the things manufacturers do is add enzymes that destroy the pectin. Most enzymes can be inactivated by heat. Therefore, we attempted to inactivate the pectin destroying enzymes by bring our mixture to a boil before adding our boxed pectin, and we added two boxes of pectin to be on the safe side. If you live in an area where truly fresh pressed apple juice is available, and are using that type, just use one box of pectin because pectin destroying enzymes were not added to your juice.

pH and Gelling

pH is an important factor in the gelling of pectin. I had difficulty getting the original conserve recipe to gel.  I checked the pH of the conserve and found it to be 2.7. On the edge of being too low to gel. A pH range of 2.8 to 3.3 is needed to set the gel depending on the type of pectin. The most common cause of gel failure is not enough acid, but it is important to remember that too much acid also causes gel failure. The original recipe called for the addition of lemon juice, I have removed the lemon juice in the current recipe to moderate the pH. Cranberries are similar to citrus fruits in their tartness due to the natural fruit acids they contain, so we have enough acid from the cranberries without the addition of lemon juice.

Conditions for Gelling

pH of mixture

3.6 – no gel (pH too high)

3.4 – weak gel

3.2 - good gel

3.0 – good firm gel

2.8 - good gel

2.6 – weak gel –syneresis (liquid separated from the gel) may occur

2.4 – no gel (pH too low)

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The Jam Scientist

Home Canned Spiced Applesauce - Low Sugar, Tall Taste

Home Canned Spiced Applesauce - Low Sugar, Tall Taste
Home Canned Spiced Applesauce - Low Sugar, Tall Taste

A Best Little Jam House Exclusive

My go-to applesauce, sweetened with concentrated apple juice and less sugar. I generally make my applesauce using whatever apples are on sale. This week the produce market had Honeycrisp, and Granny Smith apples on special, but we could use any blend of sweet and tart apples that we like. This recipe is a staple. I made over 40 pints and it will not last the year.

Honeycrisp, and Granny Smith apples
Honeycrisp, and Granny Smith Apples

"I always have applesauce in my fridge...my go-to snack."
  Professional Tennis Player and Author: Sloane Stephens

 

 

If you would like to print the recipe without all the pictures please click Download Low Sugar Homemade Canned Applesauce

First, I will be sharing just the recipe for making applesauce.  If you need information about the basic canning process please click here for Virginia Tech's excellent booklet Boiling Water Bath Canning.

 

Golden acorn logo!!! copy

 

Home Canned Spiced Applesauce - Low Sugar

Recipe type: 

Sauce

 

Produces:

 8 pints or 4 quart jars

Prep time: 

2 hours

 

Headspace:

1/2 inch

Cook time: 

1 hours

 

Processing:

20 minutes in pint and half pint jars, 25 for quart jars

Total time: 

3 hours plus 30 minutes

     

Ingredients:

  • 12 pounds apples (half sweet, and half tart apples)
  • 3 inch cinnamon sticks (2)
  • 3 inches fresh ginger (sliced)
  • 1 cup water or apple juice (to keep apples from scorching while cooking)  
  • Zest and juice of two lemons 
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large can of frozen concentrated apple juice (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Core and quarter apples. Dip apples as they are quartered into a lemon/water solution of 1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons) in 4 cups water to prevent browning. After dipping transfer apples to cooking pot. One stock pot will easily hold 12 pounds of apples.
    Core and quarter apples
    Core and Quarter Apples
     
  1. Add cinnamon sticks, 3 inches fresh ginger (sliced thinly and in spice bag), water or apple juice, and zest of two lemons (chopped finely) to cooking pot.
  2. Let fruit cook for approximately 20-35 minutes, or until the fruit has broken down.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare jars in boiling water bath, and prepare lids per manufacturer's instructions.
  4. Remove cinnamon sticks and spice bag before puréeing or mashing.
  5. Use a food mill, potato masher (will produce chunkier sauce but you will need to take out skins), or fruit/vegetable strainer to mash or purée the fruit. I use a KitchenAid™ strainer attachment.
    Assembly order of KitchenAid strainer attachment.
    Assembly order of KitchenAid™ strainer attachment.
    KitchenAid Fruit/Vegetable Strainer Setup
    KitchenAid™ Fruit/Vegetable Strainer Setup
                                                         
    KitchenAid Fruit/Vegetable Strainer Top View
    KitchenAid™ Fruit/Vegetable Strainer Top View

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KitchenAid strainer removes peels and seeds.
KitchenAid™ strainer removes peels and seeds.

6.  After puréeing, return pot with sauce to the stove and simmer.

7.  Add lemon juice, salt, almond extract, concentrated apple juice (if using), half the sugar and stir well.

8.  Taste and adjust sweetness to your taste. You may want to add more lemon juice at this point to adjust sweet-tart balance.

9.  Ladle hot applesauce into your prepared jars to 1/2 inch head space. Remove air bubbles by sliding a small spatula or plastic knife, between jar and sauce; pressing gently on sauce to release trapped air. Repeat procedure two or three times around jar. Wipe rims, apply lids and screw on rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes for both half pints and pints, 25 minutes for quarts.

I suggest you label your jars. One may simply write on the lid, or you may download my labels click Download Spiced Applesauce Low Sugar round label 2. My labels have a larger round label for the lid and a smaller oval label for the front of jar. One just needs to write in the canning date, cut out, and glue the label on the jar.

 

For further information about making applesauce, and suggestions about how to customize your batch and avoid pitfalls click Home Canned Applesauce - What apples, in what ratios, with what amazing ingredients, in what style, and what pitfalls to avoid.

If you are looking for something a little different in applesauce click Canned Cranberry Spiced Applesauce - hands down absolutely the best applesauce I have ever eaten 

 

The Professor's Rating

The Professor gave it 4 stars.  "... Nice blend of flavors - I don't think it is too sweet."  

Just FYI - The Professor likes a sweet applesauce (so you may want to adjust). This recipe has a permanent place in the pantry.

 

Spiced Applesauce Low Sugar Demystified

 

How do I know this recipe is safe? pH and Heat

pH  - To be safe from botulism bacteria growth and its food poisoning toxins, the pH of canned goods must be below 4.6 (one wants to stay below pH 4.4. to be on the safe side). Sweet eating Apples generally have a pH of about 4.0.  Tart apples generally have a lower pH, typically a pH between 3.3 and 3.9. We also added some lemon juice to the recipe, so the sauce should be between pH 3.1-3.6, well within the safety zone.

Heat - Processing the jars in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes is enough heat to kill actively growing bacteria and prevent yeast and mold growth under normal sanitary circumstances in this thick sauce.

Why should I use 2 lemons?

One normally adds a tablespoon of lemon juice for each quart of sauce to prevent color changes from enzymes and to brighten the flavor.

Why work so hard to remove a few air bubbles?

Air left in the apple purée expands during processing and may cause the applesauce in the jar to overflow into the water bath, called siphoning. This is not dangerous, but this increases the risk of a jar not sealing, so one should be aware of this issue. You can reduce the chances of siphoning by applesauce, leaving ½ inch head space to make room for expansion during processing, and waiting 5 - 10 minutes with the heat off at the end of processing before removing jars from the water bath to allow pressure inside the jars to decrease.

Disclosure:

I received no compensation for appliances mentioned or shown in this blog.

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The Jam Scientist

Canned Cranberry Spiced Applesauce - hands down absolutely the best applesauce I have ever eaten

Canned Cranberry Spiced Applesauce - hands down absolutely the best applesauce I have ever eaten
Canned Cranberry Spiced Applesauce - hands down absolutely the best applesauce I have ever eaten

A Best Little Jam House Exclusive

This lovely pink applesauce has subtle complexity and sophistication that will be appreciated by adults, but is still enjoyable to children. I developed the recipe by happenstance. I generally make my applesauce using whatever apples are on sale. Last week the produce market had Honeycrisp, and Gala apples on special, but tart apples were over twice the price. I remembered I had some frozen cranberries in the freezer that might make up for my lack of tart apples. I decided to give it a try, and I am glad I did.  This recipe is a keeper!

 

A bad woman can’t make good applesauce - Ozark proverb.

The fear seemed to be that a bad woman's sauce would not be tart enough.  We need have no apprehension  here. We will achieve that elusive sweet tart balance.

 

For further information about making applesauce, and suggestions about how to customize your batch and avoid pitfalls click http://www.bestlittlejamhouse.com/my-blog/2016/10/home-canned-applesauce-surprising-ingredients-create-your-own-signature-blend.html

 For another spiced applesauce recipe with low sugar and tall taste click here.

If you would like to print the recipe without all the pictures please click Download Cranberry Spiced Applesauce.

 

First, I will be sharing just the recipe for making applesauce.  If you need information about the basic canning process please click here for Virginia Tech's excellent booklet Boiling Water Bath Canning.

 

Cranberry Spiced Applesauce

Golden acorn logo!!! copy

Recipe type: 

Sauce

 

Produces:

 8 pints or 4 quart jars

Prep time: 

2 hours

 

Headspace:

1/2 inch

Cook time: 

1 hours

 

Processing:

20 minutes in pint and half pint jars, 25 for quart jars

Total time: 

3 hours plus 30 minutes

     

Ingredients:

  • 12 pounds apples (half Honeycrisp, and half Gala apples)
     12 pounds apples
    12 pounds apples
  • 3 cups of cranberries (one 12-ounce bag)
  • 3 inch cinnamon sticks (2)
  • 1 cup water or apple juice (to keep apples from scorching while cooking)  
  • Zest of one lemon 
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon 

Instructions:

  1. Core and quarter apples. Dip apples as they are quartered into a lemon/water solution of 1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons) in 4 cups water to prevent browning. After dipping transfer apples to cooking pot. One stock pot will easily hold 12 pounds of apples  
    12 pounds apples in stock pot
    12 pounds apples in stock pot
  2. Add cranberries, cinnamon sticks, water or apple juice, and zest of one lemon (chopped finely) to cooking pot.
  3. Let fruit and berries cook for approximately 20-35 minutes, or until the fruit has broken down.
    Cooked fruit and berries
    Cooked fruit and berries
  4. Meanwhile, prepare jars in boiling water bath, and prepare lids per manufacturer's instructions.
  5. Remove cinnamon sticks before puréeing or mashing.
  6. Used food mill, potato masher (will produce chunkier sauce, but you will need to take out skins), or fruit/vegetable strainer to purée the fruit and berries together.
     Fruit/vegetable strainer puréeing the fruit and berries together
    Fruit/vegetable strainer puréeing the fruit and berries together
  7. After puréeing, return pot with sauce to the stove and simmer.
  8. Add lemon juice, salt, almond extract, half the sugar and stir well.
  9. Taste and adjust sweetness to taste. You may want to add more lemon juice at this point to adjust sweet-tart balance (no bad women here).
  10. Ladle hot applesauce into your prepared jars to 1/2 inch head space. Remove air bubbles by sliding a small spatula or plastic knife, between jar and sauce; pressing gently on sauce to release trapped air. Repeat procedure two or three times around jar. Wipe rims, apply lids and screw on rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes for both half pints and pints, 25 minutes for quarts.

I suggest you label your jam jars. One may simply write on the lid, or you may download my labels click here to Download Cranberry Spiced applesauce round label. My labels have a larger round label for the lid and a smaller oval label for the front of jar. One just needs to write in the canning date, cut out, and glue the label on the jar.

 

The Professor's Rating

The Professor gave it 5 stars.  "... Perfect blend of flavors... The best I ever ate... I think the sweetness is just right...Can I have some more?"  

Just FYI - The Professor likes a sweet applesauce (so you may want to adjust). This recipe has a permanent place in the pantry.

 

Cranberry Spiced Applesauce Demystified

Jam scientist's notebook colored

How do I know this recipe is safe? pH and Heat

pH  - To be safe from botulism bacteria growth and its food poisoning toxins, the pH of canned goods must be below 4.6 (one wants to stay below pH 4.4. to be on the safe side). Sweet eating Apples generally have a pH of about 4.0.  Cranberry juice typically has a pH between 2.3 and 2.5. We also added some lemon juice to the recipe, so the sauce should be between pH 3.0 and 3.5 - well within the safety zone.

Heat - Processing the jars in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes is enough heat to kill actively growing bacteria and prevent yeast and mold growth under normal sanitary circumstances in this thick sauce.

Why did you only use the juice of only 1/2 lemon? I thought we were supposed to use two?

It is true that one normally adds a tablespoon of lemon juice for each quart of sauce to preserve to prevent color changes. Cranberries have a high concentration of ascorbic acid like citrus fruits do, so I did not need to add any lemon juice to this recipe. I added some lemon to brighten the flavor a little; but I did not need any lemon.

Why would I want ascorbic acid in my Applesauce?

Ascorbic acid helps control enzymatic changes in the sauce. Enzymatic changes are not dangerous, but can effect color click hear for Secrets for Canning Applesauce.

Why work so hard to remove a few air bubbles?

Air left in the apple purée expands during processing and may cause the applesauce in the jar to overflow into the water bath, called siphoning. Again, this is not dangerous, but this increases the risk of a jar not sealing, so one should be aware of this issue. You can reduce the chance of siphoning by removing air bubbles, leaving ½ inch head space to make room for expansion during processing, and waiting 5 - 10 minutes with the heat off at the end of processing before removing jars from the water bath to allow pressure inside the jars to decrease.

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The Jam Scientist

Home Canned Applesauce - What apples, in what ratios, with what amazing ingredients, in what style, and what pitfalls to avoid

 

Home Canned Applesauce - What apples. in what ratios, with what amazing ingredients, in what style, and what pitfalls to avoid.
Home Canned Applesauce - What apples. in what ratios, with what amazing ingredients, in what style, and what pitfalls to avoid.

Home Canning Applesauce Primer- use surprising ingredients to create your own signature blend

Making your own home canned applesauce is fun and easy.  Creating your own signature blend is simple by using unexpected ingredients and regional apple varieties. I'll help get you started. Do you want to make tart, sweet, sugarless, low sugar, or gourmet applesauce? Customize your batch to make it your own!

 

What Kind of applesauce do you want to make? It all starts with ratios.

Tart - Uses 75-100% tart apples and less than 25% sweet, and it is best to mix tart varies for a more complex flavor and better texture.

Standard -The basic mix for the standard applesauce is half tart and half sweet apples. This will give a nice balance between acid and sweet.

Sweet - Mix 25-50% tart and 50 - 75% sweet apples, or just use more sugar than the basic recipe.

Sugarless or Low Sugar - Use up to 3/4 sweet apples and 1/4 tart apples. Commercially, sugarless applesauce is often sweetened with concentrated apple juice, or concentrated white grape juice.

 

What kind of apples should I look for at the fruit stand?

First you don't need first quality; I basically buy what is on sale as long as they are firm. But some apples are extra special. Pink Lady and Ida Red are famous for making delicious pink apple sauce, but any apple with a red skin can be cooked with the skin on to make a pink apple sauce. I have named a couple of special heritage apples below for California and New England. There may be other little known, but excellent heritage varieties near you or for your garden.

There are hundreds of varieties of apples, but I am recommending a few below to give you a good starting point. For more information you might like to visit The Apple Works "Pick the Perfect Apple" Index.

Tart Apples Varieties:

  • Cortland (tart and tangy, very juicy)
  • Granny Smith is the standard (very tart)
  • Gravenstein (a tart heritage apple, regional to California, and available only in season July-August)
  • Ida Red (tangy and juicy)
  • Jonathan (tart, all purpose apple, crisp and juicy)
  • Pink Lady (zesty tart/sweet)
  • Stayman Winesap (tart, crisp and juicy with wine-like flavor that delivers great complexity)
  • Baldwin (tart heritage apple, regional to New England, and New York)

Stand Alone Varieties (good balanced of sweet-tart flavor):

  • McIntosh (use in both sweet and savory preparations)
  • Pink Lady (zesty tart/sweet)
  • Jonagold (sweet apple with just enough acidity)
  • Gravenstein (a tart heritage apple, regional to California, and available only in season July-August)
  • Baldwin (tart heritage apple, regional to New England, and New York)

Sweet Varieties :

  • Braeburn (Richly sweet/tart, very crisp and juicy)
  • Gala (sweet, yet with a lively kick, crisp firm and juicy)
  • Golden [Yellow] Delicious (sweet and versatile).
  • Honeycrisp (explosively crisp, sweet and juicy)
  • Jonagold (sweet apple with just enough acidity to appeal to a wide audience)

 

Look like a veteran applesauce maker by avoiding these rookie mistakes:

About Spices

I have found that spices in applesauce seem to intensify over time. My suggestion is that "less is more" when it comes to spice. Also consider using whole rather than ground spices, and remove the whole spices after cooking. To ease the removal of whole spices, try using a spice bag (bag made by placing spices into a muslin square and tying with cooking string).

About Sweetness

Applesauce will seem sweeter when tasted warm from the preserving kettle, and taste less sweet after the sugars in the jar equilibrate (in a few weeks).

About Additional Liquid

Different apples at different maturities can vary greatly in juiciness. If you are working with a juicy apple variety, take care not to add too much additional juices or brandy. We do not want the applesauce to become soupy. If your applesauce is too runny, just cook for a few more minutes.

About Peeling

It is best not to peel the apples; cooking the fruit with the skin on boosts flavor and adds color to the sauce. Peels, especially tart apple peels, contain pectin that is released during cooking and produces a thicker, smoother textured applesauce.

One Flavoring to Avoid

One flavoring to avoid in canned applesauce is butter. Butter can go rancid during long storage.

Browning

The top of the applesauce in a jar can gradually turn brown if the sauce was not heated enough to stop all enzymatic reactions and if there was enough oxygen in the head space to react with those enzymes. The same problem can occur if air bubbles were not removed after filling the jar. This is not dangerous, but it is unappealing and something to be aware of. To control browning be sure to heat your purée to a simmer and keep it simmering during filling (this helps remove air). Also, ascorbic acid (in lemon juice) reduces browning, so don't omit it. Our basic recipe includes a tablespoon of lemon juice for each quart of sauce to preserve the apples’ color and to increase acidity.

Siphoning

Air left in the apple purée expands during processing and may cause the applesauce in the jar to overflow into the water bath. Again, this is not dangerous, but this increases the risk of a jar not sealing, so one should also be aware of this issue. You can reduce the chance of siphoning by using a plastic knife, or small spatula, to remove air bubbles from the jar before applying the lid. Take care to leave ½ inch head space to make room for expansion during processing. It is also not unusual for applesauce to siphon as the jars are removed from the water bath. To avoid this, one may turn off the heat and wait 5 - 10 minutes at the end of processing before removing jars from the water bath; this gives time for the temperature and pressure in the jar to equalize.

 

French, Country, or Gourmet Style Applesauce

Dark Sauces

Some might prefer a darker, thicker, somewhat caramelized sauce (half way to apple butter). Cook sauce longer after puréeing, and before adding sugar or spices. Cook on lowest heat, stirring all the way to the bottom of the pan, until you have a thick, spreadable mixture (this can take more than an hour).

Chunkier Sauce

One can use a food mill, potato masher or even just a large wooden spoon to smash apples (will produce chunkier sauce but you will need to take out skins), or mechanical fruit/vegetable strainer to mash or purée the fruit. For a medium chunky applesauce, mash or smash half the apples and purée the rest.

Gourmet Sauce

Gourmet style may use hard to find heritage, or regional specialty verities, or use secret varietal proportions, and/or special ingredients such as French apple brandy.

 

Instructions for water bath canning:

I will be sharing just the recipe suggestions for making the applesauce.  If you need information about the basic canning process please click here for Virginia Tech's excellent booklet Boiling Water Bath Canning.

 

If you would like to print this basic recipe without all the pictures please click here to Download Basic Recipe for homemade canned applesauce

 

Basic Recipe for homemade canned applesauce adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving:

One stock pot will easily hold 12 pounds of apples that will make 8 pint jars of applesauce or 4 quart jars. You can cut that amount in half if you would prefer a smaller batch.

  • 12 pounds apples (basic mix for the standard applesauce is half tart and half sweet apple varieties)
  • Not less than 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons) lemon juice (acid is needed to control enzymatic browning do NOT reduce).
  • 1 cup water or apple juice (to keep apples from scorching while cooking)  
    Apple juice added to keep apples from scorching while cooking
    Apple juice added to keep apples from scorching while cooking
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • 3 cups sugar (optional)

 

 

Optional Flavoring Possibilities for 12 lbs apples:

  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract — extract was suggested by Eldress Bertha Lindsay, one of the last surviving residents at Canterbury Shaker Village– stir into finished sauce
  • 3 inch cinnamon sticks (2) — cook with apples and remove prior to puréeing
  • 1-2 teaspoon ground cinnamon – stir into finished sauce
  • 3 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen) – cook and purée with apples
  • 12 whole cloves – cook with apples and remove prior to puréeing
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves —  stir into finished sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg –  stir into finished sauce
  • 3 inch piece fresh ginger, sliced – cook with apples and remove prior to puréeing
  • 3 teaspoons lemon zest – cook and purée with apples
  • 2 cups Red Hot candy – cook and purée with apples
  • 4 pieces star anise (whole) – for licorice flavor, cook with apples and remove prior to puréeing
  • 1 large can concentrated frozen apple juice — to reduce or eliminate refined sugar, stir into finished sauce before adding sugar
  • 1 large can concentrated frozen white grape juice — to reduce or eliminate refined sugar, stir into finished sauce before adding sugar
  • 1 small can frozen orange juice — to increase tang, stir into finished sauce
  • 1 cup cranberry juice— to increase tang and add color, stir into finished sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups Calvados apple brandy - (for adult applesauce) – stir into finished sauce

Many flavorings on this list came from CK Cooks: Homemade Applesauce post of Cook's Illustrated recipe.

Instructions and Method of Processing - easy to do:

  1. Core and quarter apples. Dip apples as they are quartered into a lemon/water solution of 1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons) in 4 cups water to prevent browning. After dipping transfer apples to cooking pot (add whole spices now if using).
    Dip apples into a lemon/water solution of 1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons) in 4 cups water to prevent browning.
    Dip apples into a lemon/water solution of 1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons) in 4 cups water to prevent browning.
  2. Let fruit cook with 1 cup water, or apple juice (to keep apples from scorching), for approximately 20-35 minutes, or until the fruit has broken down.
  3. Used food mill, potato masher (will produce chunkier sauce but you will need to take out skins), or fruit/vegetable strainer to mash or purée the fruit (remove any whole spices now before Puréeing or mashing).
    KitchenAid fruit/vegetable strainer
    KitchenAid™ fruit/vegetable strainer

4.  Bring puréed or mashed sauce to a simmer.

5.  Add lemon juice (to prevent enzymatic browning).

6.  Add salt, ground spices and sugar now if using.

7.  Taste and adjust spices and sweetness. You may want to add more lemon juice at this point to adjust sweet-tart balance.

8 Ladle hot applesauce into your prepared jars to 1/2 inch head space. Remove air bubbles by sliding a small spatula, or plastic knife, between jar and sauce; pressing gently on sauce to release trapped air. Repeat procedure two or three times around jar. Wipe rims, apply lids and screw on rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes for both half pints and pints, 25 minutes for quarts.

9.  Canned applesauce will last at least 1 year with high quality.

 

 For my own custom recipe using these principles click Canned Cranberry Spiced Applesauce - hands down absolutely the best applesauce I have ever eaten.

or

click Home Canned Spiced Applesauce - Low Sugar, Tall Taste

 

Disclosure:

I received no compensation for books or appliances mentioned or shown in this blog.

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The Jam Scientist

Pomegranate Jelly with Blended Habanero Chili - Hot and Sweet (It's Addicting)

Pomegranate Jelly with Blended Habanero Chili
Pomegranate Jelly with Blended Habanero Chili a Perfect Companion with Cheese

A Best Little Jam House Exclusive

If you like your jelly hot and sweet - this one's for you. This jam is quite hot - the perfect heat for firing up a cheese, or ham & cheese, sandwich with only a thin smear added. Use it more like a condiment - but watch out it's addicting!

"Sweet" Pomegranate in Spring
"Sweet" Pomegranate in Spring

It all started with this lovely young pomegranate tree that I have in my backyard. I chose it for its ornamental spring flours and fruit juice that is less pigmented, and therefore less staining on my kitchen counters. It is the "Sweet" variety. Yes, the fruit is sweeter than what you can buy in the supermarket. I have tried making the standard pomegranate jelly with its fruit before, but pomegranates have a subtle flavor (think apple jelly) - a little on the boring side. I decided to try to fire the jelly up - and boy did I!

If you are buying pomegranates at the market you will need 7 or 8 large pomegranates, or you can just buy bottled juice.

For information on how to seed and juice pomegranates see my post dated 10-20-16

First, I will be sharing just the recipe for making the jelly.  If you need information about the basic canning process please click here for Virginia Tech's excellent booklet Boiling Water Bath Canning.

For those new to canning, please note that it is important not to make changes to the recipe.  Proportions are important and must be maintained for success. It is also not advisable to double the recipe because larger volumes would slow evaporation and affect the fresh flavor we want.

If you would like to print this recipe without all the pictures please click here to Download Pomegranate Jelly with Blended Habanero Chili Recipe.

Pomegranate Jelly with Blended Habanero Chili

Author: Adapted from Betty Crocker's Pomegranate-Rosemary Jelly Recipe

Warning: Habanero chilies may look like cute little walnut sized pumpkins, but take care; Habanero chilies are extremely hot. One little chili will fire up a pot of  jelly to medium hot strength, and two will make a truly hot jelly.

http://www.bestlittlejamhouse.com/.a/6a01b8d2238f49970c01b8d229dcf1970c-pi

Recipe type:

Jelly

 

Serves:

8, 8-oz jars, or half-pints

Prep time: 

1  hour

 

Head space:

1/4 inch

Cook time: 

1 hour

 

Processing:

10 minutes

Total time: 

2 hours

     

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1 or 2 habanero chilies
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 to 1 1/3 packages (1 3/4 ounces each pack) fruit pectin
  • 5 cups sugar

Instructions:

1.  Set up your water bath canner, sterilize your jars, and warm your lids in a pan of warm water.

2.  Wearing protective gloves cut the tops off the chili(es) and remove the seeds. Take care NOT to touch your eyes.

3.   In a food processor, blend the chili(es) with the lemon juice until smooth.

4.  Measure sugar and set aside in a bowl (it will be added all at once later in the recipe).

5.  In a large saucepan, preserving kettle, or Dutch oven, cook the pomegranate juice, Habanero chili(es) with lemon juice, and pectin until the pectin has dissolved.  Bring it to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.

6.  Add sugar all at once and bring to a full rolling boil while stirring constantly for 1 minute. Remove pot from heat, check the set. You can check set by using the sheet or plate test. If not set, continue cooking for 1 minute more.

7.  Pour jelly into half-pint (8 ounce) jelly jars leaving a 1/4 inch heads space.  This will make 8 jars. Wipe the rims of the jar and seal.  Place into a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

I suggest you label your jelly jars. One may simply write on the lid, or you may download my personal labels  Download Pomegranate Pepper Jelly round label. My labels have a larger round label for the lid and a smaller oval label for the front of jar. One just needs to write in the canning date, cut out, and glue the label on the jar. If the jam will be used as a Christmas gift, The Graphics Fairy has some nice ideas for holiday labels  http://thegraphicsfairy.com/homemade-gifts-jelly-holiday-labels-reader-feature/.

The Professor's Rating

The Professor did not originally like this jelly. The Professor has quite a sweet tooth and he normally uses a heaping helping of preserves in his plane yogurt every evening. Imagine his surprise when he tasted this HOT (I used 2 habaneros) jelly for the first time - He was not amused! So I had to get a little sneaky to get him to try it again. I smeared a modest amount as a base of his personal sized pizza - then topped it with Canadian bacon, basil, thyme, garlic, mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, and a little drizzle of olive oil over the top. He loved it  - 4 stars - saying "I really like this"! It has a place in our pantry!

Pomegranate Jelly with Blended Habanero Chili Demystified

Jam scientist's notebook coloredHow do I know this recipe is safe? pH, Water Activity, and Heat

pH  - To be safe from botulism bacteria growth and its food poisoning toxins, the pH of canned goods must be below 4.6 (one wants to stay below pH 4.4. to be on the safe side). Pomegranates are generally between pH 2.9 and 3.2.  Habanero chilies have a pH between 5-6, which is comparatively high. We added some lemon juice (pH 2.0 - 2.6) to help offset the higher pH of the chilies in the recipe, so the jelly should be between pH 3.0 and 3.4 - well within the safety zone. Pomegranates, with their rather low pH, make a good base for blending small amounts of higher pH ingredients or fruits.

Water activity - We also added sugar to this recipe. Salt and sugar "hold onto" water very well and therefor the water is not usable to bacteria for growth. The measurement of how much water is available for microbes' growth is called water activity or aw. A water activity of 0.85 or less is considered the safe cutoff level for deterring pathogen growth (however, yeasts and molds can still grow at at this level). Traditionally made jams (like the one we just made) have a water activity of between 0.75 - 0.80 - so we have additional protection from bacteria growth because of the sugar. Traditional jams will last almost twice as long as low sugar jams because of their lower water activity, and they are safe for longer times out of the refrigerator.

Heat - Processing the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes is enough heat to kill actively growing bacteria, plus kill yeast, and molds under normal sanitary circumstances. This is how we control the yeasts and molds that were not affected by the low pH or moderately low water activity.

Why in the world would I want to use such a hot chili?

There are two reasons I chose Habaneros. First, all chilies have a relatively high pH - if I added several larger, but milder chilies, I might need to add a cup or more of vinegar to try to get the pH into a safe range, and that would adversely affect the taste. Second, pomegranate jelly has a very mild flavor I wanted to liven up the jelly, but not overpower the pomegranate flavor. Habanero chilies have heat, but almost no identifiable flavor. 

Why did I give a range for how much pectin to use?

Pomegranates are a very low pectin fruit and have a reputation of being hard to jell. I would use additional pectin (1 1/3 box) if I were using traditional types of pectin. However, I would only use one box if I was using a low sugar pectin. Low sugar pectin tends to get somewhat granular if the amount used is too high.

 

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The Jam Scientist

Strawberry Jam with Fresh Mint and Black Pepper - Adapted from Christine Ferber's Strawberry Jam Recipe

I am fortunate to have found some Albion variety strawberries at the fruit stand this fall. I have wanted to try one of Christine Ferber's French jam recipes, and these fine berries will be the test subjects.  Albion strawberries are superb and worth the extra time and attention- perfect for French jam making and Christmas gifts! Strawberries have little natural pectin and this French style uses no added pectin, so you enjoy a more syrupy consistency.

French strawberry Jam (1 of 1)
French Style Strawberry Jam

First, I will be sharing just the recipe for making jam.  If you need information about the basic canning process please click here for Canning Instructions from Virginia Tech.

For those new to canning, please note that it is important not to make changes to the recipe.  Proportions are important and must be maintained for success. It is also not advisable to double the recipe because larger volumes would slow evaporation and affect the fresh flavor we want.

 If you would like to print this recipe without all the pictures please click here to Download Strawberry Jam with Fresh Mint and Black Pepper.

http://www.bestlittlejamhouse.com/.a/6a01b8d2238f49970c01b8d229dcf1970c-pi

Strawberry Jam with Fresh Mint and Black Pepper

Author: Adapted from Christine Ferber's Strawberry Jam Recipe

Recipe type: 

Jam

 

Serves:

 4 or 5 half pints

Prep time: 

24-48 hours

 

Head space:

1/4 inch

Cook time: 

30 minutes

 

Processing:

10 minutes in half-pint jars

Total time: 

24-48 hours plus 30 minutes

     

Ingredients:

  • 2½+ pounds fresh strawberries (2 1/3 lb after hulling and slicing)
  • 4 cups granulated cane sugar (825 g or 1 lb 13 oz)
  • 5 peppercorns - ground
  • 5 bruised mint leaves 
  • Zest and juice of one large lemon 

Instructions:

  1. Wash, dry, hull and slice your strawberries. Place the strawberries into a large non-reactive bowl (glass or stainless). Stir in the sugar and the lemon juice.  
  2. Let sit (macerate) 2 hours.
macerate
Start of Macerate

I know this looks like a lot of sugar, but it is a comparatively moderate amount as far as jam goes.The sugar added to the berries will pull  the natural juices from the berries and create wonderful flavorful syrup. The amount of sugar you add helps determine the amount of liquid in the final jam.

3.   Simmer strawberries in a wide-bottomed pan ,or a preserving pan, just until sugar melts- we don't want to cook them yet!

Simmer strawberries
Simmering Strawberries in Preserving Pan

4.  Pour strawberries into a nonreactive bowl . Cover with parchment paper and store in the refrigerator (macerate) overnight.

5.  Next day, or if you have time to wait, the second day (48 hours), pour the contents through a sieve to collect juice and separate berries. Bring just the collected syrup to a boil, skim, and continue cooking on high heat until a candy thermometer, or digital meat thermometer, reaches 221 degrees (The syrup will be sufficiently concentrated at 221 degrees [105 degrees C] on a candy thermometer).  

6.Meanwhile while the syrup comes to a boil set up your water bath canner, sterilize your jars and warm your lids in a pan of hot water.

7.   Meanwhile stir in ground pepper to the separated strawberries. I found it easier to just eye-ball a moderate amount of black pepper rather than separating out 5 peppercorns to be ground. Also, mash about 1/4 of the total berries - I used a potato masher for the job.

Ground pepper in strawberries
Ground pepper in strawberries

8.   Meanwhile while the syrup comes to a boil, bruise washed mint leafs by tapping the leaves quickly and firmly with wooden spoon until they become darker and floppier. Wrap mint in spice bag (I used a Tea Infuser ).

bruising washed mint leafs
Bruising mint leafs

9.   When the syrup reaches 221 degrees, add strawberries mixture with pepper and mint to the hot syrup to cook. Return mixture to a  boil on high heat. Boil the mixture for five minutes, stirring gently. Remove pot from heat. Check the set (it will be somewhat loose). You can check set by using the sheet or plate test. If too loose cook again and check every 1 minute and test it again. Take care NOT to over cook, or you will lose its fresh flavor.

(Below) The looser jam on left was cooked for 5 minutes, has a bright color, and tastes fresh with  fruit that still has texture.  The jam on the left was cooked for close to 10 minutes. It has a nice firm set, but is much darker and tastes somewhat caramelized. 

strawberry Jam group
Loose set vs. Caramelized

 9.   When set, let the jam cool for 5-10 minutes before ladling into 1/2 pt jars to prevent separating. Don't skip this step - or  strawberries will float to top of jar.

Note: Processing time given is for 1000 foot elevation and below. If you are working at a higher elevation click here for information about needed time adjustments.

10.   Pour the jam into sterilized jars with 1/4 inch head space. Transfer to boiling water bath for and process for 10 minutes if using half-pint jars or 15 minutes if using pint jars.

 

Ready to Jar
Strawberry Jam Skimmed and Ready to Jar

 Jam will last at least one year at peak quality.

I suggest you label your jam jars. One may simply write on the lid, or you may download my personal labels Download Strawberry Jam with Fresh Mint and Black Pepper round label My labels have a larger round label for the lid and a smaller oval label for the front of jar. One just needs to write in the canning date, cut out, and glue the label on the jar. If the jam will be used as Christmas gifts, The Graphics Fairy has some nice ideas for holiday labels  http://thegraphicsfairy.com/homemade-gifts-jelly-holiday-labels-reader-feature/.

The Professor's Rating

The Professor gave it 3 stars (he said maybe 3 3/2). He very much enjoyed the taste, but did not like the jam dripping off his toast. He preferred the American style jam I shared October 10, 2016. (Personally, I like a looser set and did not find the dripping bothersome - I liked the way it soaked into the bread). However, it tastes marvelous and earns a place in our pantry as a strawberry sauce. The mint and pepper is quite subtle, as I prefer when working with exceptionally tasty berries.  Some mint lovers might like to increase the mint.

  French Style Strawberry Jam Demystified

Jam scientist's notebook coloredHow do I know this recipe is safe? pH, aw, and Heat

pH  - To be safe from botulism bacteria growth and its food poisoning toxins, the pH of canned goods must be below 4.6 (one wants to stay below pH 4.4. to be on the safe side). Strawberries are generally between pH 3.0 and 3.9. We added some lemon juice to the recipe so the jam should be between pH 3.0 and 3.4 - well within the safety zone.

Water activity - We also added sugar in this recipe. Salt and sugar "hold onto" water very well and therefor the water is not usable to bacteria for growth. The measurement of how much water is available for microbes' growth is called water activity or aw. A water activity of 0.85 or less is considered the safe cutoff level for deterring pathogen growth (however, yeasts and molds can still grow at at this level). Traditionally made jams (like the one we just made) have a water activity of between 0.75 - 0.80 - so we have additional protection from bacteria growth because of the sugar. Traditional jams will last almost twice as long as low sugar jams because of their lower water activity, and they are safe for longer times out of the refrigerator.

Heat - Processing the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes is enough heat to kill actively growing bacteria and prevent yeast and mold growth under normal sanitary circumstances. This is how we control the yeasts and molds that were not affected by the low pH or moderately low water activity.

What is maceration?

The sugar added to the berries will pull  the natural juices from the berries and create flavorful syrup. This way you will not need to add water to the recipe, and will not dilute the taste. It is interesting to note that in this context the amount of sugar you add helps determine the amount of liquid in the final product and how concentrated the flavor will be. Also, macerating for longer periods of time helps the sugar inside the berries and sugar in the syrup equilibrate. This causes the berries to be less likely to float in the jar.

Why cook the juice first?

Heat is the enemy of flavor. By heating the juice first you quicken the cooking process for the berries and end up with a fresher tasting jam. By concentrating the juice (and concentrating the sugar in the juice) by evaporation we can get away with using less sugar in the recipe.

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The Jam Scientist

Strawberry Jam: It Isn't Just for June Anymore - Inaugural Issue of Best Little Jam House


 
Albion Strawberry Jam
Albion Strawberry Jam is the stuff that dreams are made of.

I have been waiting all year to make some fall strawberry jam. Strawberry jam is not just for June anymore. My preferred strawberry, 'Albion,' is a long and thin, day neutral strawberry  that begins showing up in the fruit stands toward the end of summer and availability should continue at least until end of October! You can smell  Albion's berry fragrance from ten feet away from the fruit stand, and when you taste them you won't forget the sweet surprise. Other day neutral strawberries may taste good, but Albion has spectacular flavor! 

Albion Strawberry Jam is the stuff that dreams are made of - perfect for jam making and Christmas gifts! I have adapted one of Christine Ferber's French strawberry jam recipes to produce a thicker, more American style jam by using commercial pectin. Strawberries have little natural pectin so one must either add pectin, learn to enjoy a more syrupy consistency, or cook them until they are somewhat caramelized. Don't worry; we will also make some French style jam in our next issue. If you don't have day neutral berries for sale in your area you can use frozen berries.

First, I will be sharing just the recipe for making jam.  If you need information about the basic canning process please click here.

For those new to canning, please note that it is important not to make changes to the recipe.  Proportions are important and must be maintained for success. It is also not advisable to double the recipe because larger volumes would slow evaporation and affect the fresh flavor we want.

 If you would like to print the recipe without all the pictures please click here Download American Style Strawberry Jam Recipe

Golden acorn logo!!! copy

                   Strawberry Jam Recipe

Prep time: 

24 hours

 

Processing time: 

10 minutes for half pints

   

Cook time: 

30 minutes

 

Yield:

4 or 5 half pints (half pints = 1 cup)

 

Total time:

24 hours, 30 minutes

   Head Space:  1/4 inch    

Ingredients:

  • 2½+ pounds fresh strawberries (2 1/3 lb after hulling and slicing)
  • 4 cups granulated cane sugar (825 grams, or 1 lb, 13 oz)
  • Zest and juice of one large lemon 
  • One pouch liquid pectin
   
Instructions:
  1. Wash, dry, hull, and slice your strawberries. Place the strawberries into a large nonreactive (glass or stainless) bowl. Stir in the sugar and the lemon juice.

 

Start of maceration
Let strawberries sit to extract juice

2.   Let strawberries sit (macerate) to extract juices - 2 hours, covered, at room temperature. Simmer strawberries in a wide-bottomed pan, or a preserving pan, just until sugar melts.

Strawberries in preserving pan.
Simmer strawberries just until sugar melts

3.   Pour mixture into a nonreactive bowl. Cover with parchment paper and store in the refrigerator to extract juices (macerate) overnight.

4.   Next day, pour the contents through a sieve or strainer to collect juice and separate berries.

5.    Bring just the collected syrup to a full rolling boil,and continue cooking on high heat until a candy thermometer reaches 221 degrees (The syrup will be sufficiently concentrated at 221 degrees [105 degrees C] on a candy thermometer).

Strawberry syrup boiling
Strawberry syrup boiling on high heat

6.   Meanwhile, set up your water bath canner, sterilize your jars, and warm your lids in a pan of warm water.

 7.    Stir one packet liquid pectin into the strawberries and quickly blend. Add strawberry mixture to the hot syrup. Mash about 1/4 of the berries. Return mixture to a boil on high heat.

strawberries and hot syrup
Blend strawberries and hot syrup.

8.   Return syrup and berries to a full rolling boil. Boil for just one minute, stirring gently. Check the set at one minute. You can do this by using the sheet or plate test. If the jam is still runny, cook another minute and test it again.

9.   Let the jam cool for 5 minutes before skimming off foam and ladling jam into hot jars. This cooling time prevents the berries from separating in the jar (this is important - otherwise berries will float to top of jar).

 

intensely flavorful Strawberry Jam
You won't forget the intensely flavored sweet surprise.

10.    Pour the jam into sterilized hot jars leaving 1/4 inch head space. Transfer to boiling water bath and process for 10 minutes if using half-pint jars, or 15 minutes if using pint jars.

Note: Processing time given is for 1000 foot elevation and below. If you are working at a higher elevation click here for information about needed time adjustments.

Jam will last at least one year at peak quality.

I suggest you label your jam jars. One may simply write on the lid, or you may download my labels here Download Strawberry Jam round label. My labels have a larger round label for the lid and a smaller oval label for the front of jar. One just needs to write in the canning date, cut out, and glue the label on the jar.

The Professor's Rating

The professor gave it 4 stars.  He ate a jar up in two days saying "that's good jam"... It earns a place in our pantry.

 

Albion Strawberry Jam Demystified

Jam scientist's notebook coloredHow do I know this recipe is safe? pH, Water Activity, and Heat

pH  - To be safe from botulism bacteria growth and its food poisoning toxins, the pH of canned goods must be below 4.6 (one wants to stay below pH 4.4. to be on the safe side). Strawberries are generally between pH 3.0 and 3.9. We added some lemon juice to the recipe so the jam should be between pH 3.0 and 3.4 - well within the safety zone.

Water activity - We also added sugar in this recipe. Salt and sugar "hold onto" water very well and therefor the water is not usable to bacteria for growth. The measurement of how much water is available for microbes' growth is called water activity or aw. A water activity of 0.85 or less is considered the safe cutoff level for deterring pathogen growth (however, yeasts and molds can still grow at at this level). Traditionally made jams (like the one we just made) have a water activity of between 0.75 - 0.80 - so we have additional protection from bacteria growth because of the sugar. Traditional jams will last almost twice as long as low sugar jams because of their lower water activity, and they are safe for longer times out of the refrigerator.

Heat - Processing the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes is enough heat to kill actively growing bacteria and prevent yeast and mold growth under normal sanitary circumstances. This is how we control the yeasts and molds that were not affected by the low pH or moderately low water activity.

What is maceration?

The sugar added to the berries will pull  the natural juices from the berries and create flavorful syrup. This way you will not need to add water to the recipe, and will not dilute the taste. It is interesting to note that in this context the amount of sugar you add helps determine the amount of liquid in the final product and how concentrated the flavor will be.

Why cook the juice first?

Heat is the enemy of flavor. By heating the juice first you quicken the cooking process for the berries and end up with a fresher tasting jam. Also, usually recipes using liquid pectin would call for 7 cups of sugar per batch. That much sugar would reduce the flavor of the jam because the berries would be more diluted. By concentrating the juice (and concentrating the sugar in the juice) by evaporation we can get away with using less sugar when using liquid pectin.

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The Jam Scientist