Hey folks, it’s been awhile since I wrote a post, but I’m back.

I’ve been hard at work getting things going to sell this delicious jams. I’m currently looking around for commercial kitchen space to rent. But, once I’m done with that and I get my food processor’s license, I should be in pretty good shape to start selling things.

I might even get things to market before the holidays. We’ll see…

The name for these tasty little treats is going to be quince & apple. Here’s the proposed logo:

But, in the midst of doing all this I have found time to make one jam that I really liked: Seckel Pears with Honey and Ginger.

I’ve always loved Seckels the best of all the pears because of their size, texture and flavor. They’re tiny, so they’re adorable. They’re more firm than Bartletts, but less so than Boscs. And, they have a strong pear flavor which carries some spice notes along for good measure.

So, I thought this recipe would be really good, with the honey and the ginger playing off of the Seckels’ spice overtones.

The method for this recipe is really quite simple.

Peel the pears (this is really annoying, just as a heads up).

Then, you cut ’em up, mix ’em with sugar, honey and grated fresh ginger, bring them to a simmer and put them in the fridge over night in a ceramic bowl with a parchment lid. The next day, you bring them mix to a simmer and add apple jelly for pectin content.

Simmer, reduce and can.

Here’s the final result:

Also, I wanted to thank another blogger at Straight from the Farm who put up a really nice post about my Ground Cherry Chamomile Jam and I wanted to congratulate another reader, Kathryn, who adapted the recipe to win second place in her local CSA recipe contest.

Go team david matthew readers!

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Tomato Peach Jam

August 27, 2008

Our neighbors and friends Graham and Rhea went out of town last week and left Clare and I in charge of watering their garden.  A risky proposition given our track record, but, fortunately, nothing catastrophic happened (aside from the installation of a satellite dish in the middle of the yard, but I don’t think we were to blame for that).

In return for not raining a vegetative pox down upon their plot, we got to pick and eat what was ripe and ready, quite the treat in the middle of August.

This is just the time in Wisconsin for that delicious treat, the Sungold Tomato. Small, round, orange and amazingly sweet, Sungolds, every year, make real for me the fact that tomatoes are fruits. Fortunately for me, my wise neighbors had planted a veritable host of Sungolds and I was transported.

“The fountain sprang up and the bird sang down … Till the wind shake a thousand whispers from the yew”

Using my greatest powers of restraint, I managed to usher the tomatoes home to safety without eating them, a trecherous ten yard odyssey, and proceeded to ruminate what I could make with these little globes of heaven.

Geez, someone’s feeling like an ex-English major today.

There’s a tomato farm in Brooklyn, WI, Tomato Mountain, that makes a bunch of sauces, salas and such for sale at markets with their produce and they make a Sungold Preserve. I thought first of them, but their preserve doesn’t really get my motor runnin’, if you know what I mean. So, I looked up tomatoes in Ferber and most of her recipes call for green tomatoes. She has one for ripe tomato jam with vanilla, but I just couldn’t get into it. It took me a while to do so, but I eventually settled on Tomato Peach Jam. Both are sweet, juicy and a bit musky. Good enough for me.

And they make peach salsa right? So, what the hell.

The next step was to draft a recipe.

I didn’t want either flavor to dominate because they both have so much to offer. Interestingly, there’s a classic french tomato preserve using red tomatoes with cinnamon in it, but I didn’t want to add spices, herbs or influences for the same reason. So, I decided half and half tomato and peach would work.

Ok, so I had my flavor profile in place and so I just needed to work out the texture. In both her tomato and peach jam recipes, Ferber calls for peeling and seeding the fruit. Ok, easy enough. Peaches apparently have enough pectin to make a jam on their own, but not so much with the tomatoes. Her recipe calls for the addition of Green Apple Jelly to enhance the pectin content. So, I decided that I’d use half of what she called for in her tomato recipe in my tomato peach recipe. After a day or two of work, I had that all set.

And with that, I had myself a proto-recipe, all you really need to get the process of trial and error moving.

The first step was to peel the peaches and tomatoes. To do this, you need to score the flesh, blanch the fruit for just a few seconds in boiling water and shock it in ice water.

In the tomatoes, the skin wrinkles and the flesh softens, allowing the easy removal of the seeds.

As you can see, I used both Sungolds and a meduim sized tomato called Taxi to bulk up jam.

I peeled and seeded everything, cut the peaches into sections, mixed the fruit with sugar and lemon juice, put it into the ceramic bowl that is getting the greatest workout of its life this month and let it sit overnight in the fridge.

On day two, I brought the whole mix to a boil and reduced it until it started to take on the proper consistency. At this point, I added the apple jelly/pectin stock and kept simmering until it set up how I wanted it to.

I canned it and let it cool on the counter.

Easy.

The resulting jam is unique but I really like it. It’s not so much a breakfast with waffles jam. It plays better with a robust baguette or sourdough and some good cheese. With the tomatoes, it is certainly bridging the savory sweet gap and it needs to be used as such.

Enjoy!

Tomato Peach Jam

3# ripe peaches

3# ripe tomatoes (Use sweeter, juicier tomatoes, like Sungolds, not sauce or paste tomatoes, like Romas)

Juice of one lemon

4# sugar

1# (1 pint) Green Apple Jelly

Sources

Peaches – Kokopelli Produce

Tomatoes – Graham and Rhea for Sungolds and Happy Valley Farm for Taxis

Green Apple Jelly – Me

Sugar – Shur Fine Can Sugar

Lemon – Harmony Valley Fruit CSA

Feeling bolstered by my success with the strawberry jam repair, but mostly because I can’t stick to recipes for very long, I decided to freestyle my next jam. I had bought a bunch of ground cherries at the market from a very friendly young farmer whose name I don’t know without any real idea of what I was going to do with them. And because ground cherries don’t really grow in Alsace, where Ms. Ferber lives and works, she wasn’t much help.

Ground cherries (also called Cape gooseberries) are unique because, while they are eaten and used like other fruits, in addition to being sweet and tart they also contain umami. Umami is the “new” flavor “discovered” in Japan and is often described as meaty, brothy or just plain “deliciousness.” In fact, when I gave Clare a ground cherry to taste, she said, “It tastes like meat.” This is not entirely surprising because ground cherries are closely related to tomatoes and tomatillos, both of which are rich in glutamic acid, the source of umami.

So, I wanted to find something that complimented the uniqueness of the flavor, but didn’t mask or hide it. I’m not sure if other people have this ability, but I can kinda “visualize” a flavor as a sort of three dimensional object and get a sense of its geography. I’ll use this if I want to brainstorm flavor combinations to see what flavors fit, like a when you’re putting together a puzzle, trying piece after piece. Well, I did this with the ground cherries, thinking about what would fill out the picture and before long I settled on chamomile. I can put words to why I think they work together (the musky, floral aroma of chamomile, reminiscent of honey, and its slightly bitter infusion balance the sweet and tart elements of the ground cherries, while providing a rich canvas on which the cherries’ umami can play out), but the real reason I chose the combination is that they just “fit.”

Ok, enough theory, back to the jam.

Once I’d decided on the components, it was fairly easy to put together a recipe. I started with a basic ground cherry preserve that I found here and pulled out a technique for adding chamomile from Ferber that she uses in a Mirabelle Plum and Chamomile Jam. I worked the two together and off I went.

Here’s how it went:

First, I husked the cherries and washed them.

Then, I made a syrup with sugar, some water and lemon juice. I added the husked berries, brought them to a boil and simmered for five minutes.

The cherries burst, one by one, and turned a beautiful translucent, releasing their seeds into the syrup. I put the cherries into a ceramic bowl and stored them overnight in the fridge with a parchment lid.

The following day, I returned the mixture to a boil, while preparing an infusion of chamomile. Once the tisane was properly steeped, I added it to the boiling jam and kept the whole thing at a simmer until reduced to a proper consistency. Interestingly, the jam had turned a brighter yellow overnight, as you can see in this picture.

The result is a delicious jam that tastes two parts ground cherry, one part honey, one part chamomile and a pinch of lemon. I gave some to Clare to taste and she said, “That’s really good. I was trying to have an open mind and I didn’t even need it!” I’m pretty sure that’s a compliment.

Here’s the final result:

I’m not sure what’s going to come next, but I’ll keep you posted.

Recipe

6 cups husked and washed ground cherries

5 cups sugar

1 cup water

Juice of one lemon

2 cups chamomile infusion

Combine sugar, water and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add ground cherries and simmer for 5 minutes, until most cherries are burst open. Transfer to ceramic bowl and cover with a parchment lid. Refrigerate overnight. Transfer back to preserving pot and return to a boil. Add chamomile infusion, simmer until proper consistency and can.

Sources:

Ground Cherries: Nice guy at farmer’s market who’s name I forget

Sugar: Shur Fine Cane Sugar

Lemon: Harmony Valley Fruit CSA

Chamomile: Willy Street Co-op

My first project has been a recipe straight from Christine Ferber’s “Mes Confitures,” Strawberry with Fresh Mint and Black Pepper. And while Strawberry and Black Pepper is likely on its way toward cliche-dom, I thought I’d give it a go. Strawberries are ripe and in season and I have ready access to fresh mint in my kitchen. Also, it’s a pretty straight forward recipe that I have all the equipment for.

The jam, while being easy, is not quick. In fact, it’s taken me a week to get the jams right. I picked up three pints of strawberries from the farmer’s market last Tuesday night, hulled and cleaned them when I got home and started them macerating with sugar and lemon juice overnight. Ferber is insistant on using a ceramic bowl and a parchment paper lid (she’s insistant about a lot of things) and I followed her orders like a good little cook.

The next day, I poured the mixture into a large pot, brought it to a boil, simmered for five minutes (skimming all the while) and returned it to the ceramic bowl to chill overnight. This step half-cooks the berries and dissolves all the sugar crystals into the strawberry juice drawn out during maceration. It makes a gorgeous, crystal clear, ruby red syrup and the berries are just tender.

On the third, and what should have been final, day, I strained the mixture through a chinois into another pot. I chose a smaller pot this time, reasoning that it wasn’t necessary to use the large one, as I was straining out the berries. Bad idea. Because the pot was taller than it was wide, it was very difficult to keep the syrup from boiling over while reducing it to the proper consistency. The end result was that it ended up not getting reduced enough, but more on that in a minute. One I had finished reducing it, I added back the berries and added the fresh mint and black pepper, returned it all to a boil for five minutes and canned it, thinking I was done.

Well, the problem was that it didn’t set up. Watch this video to see what I mean.

Who wants strawberry soup on their bread? Not me.

So, back to the drawing board. I thought about what to do and decided to just open the jars again, strain out the berries and keep reducing the syrup. I called my personal pastry consultant, Anna, and she thought it was a good idea too.

So, I strained the berries again:

Reduced the syrup and recanned. I’m confident it’s going to work this time because there’s a lot less water in the syrup. Look at the jars cooling from the first attempt (top) versus the second (bottom) and how much water has condensed in the first picture and how there’s none in the second. Water = not setting up. You can also see that the fourth jar is gone. That’s how much water cooked off.

So, that’s the first attempt. I just need to distribute them now and see how people like them!

Up next, Ground Cherry Chamomile Jam.

Sources:
Strawberries – Emerald Meadows Family Farm
Mint – My kitchen
Pepper – Matt Brown’s trip to India
Sugar – Shur Fine Cane Sugar
Lemon – Harmony Valley Fruit CSA