Apricot Jam (3 intriguing ways!)


So, (surprise, surprise) things don’t seem to be slowing down around here!  Despite the fact it is summer, we just seem to have more things we want to see, do, and eat!  We were at the farmer’s market last Sunday and I noticed that apricots are in season.  For some reason I thought it would be later!  Well, the guy said it was time, so we bought 25 pounds of apricots.  As I look back at the blog though, this is the exact same time as last year.  I posted Apricot Rosemary Jam on July 25th, so I guess we are right on schedule!  Between the time we bought them and when we made the jam, we ate a whole lot of apricots and also took out the pits… and were left with approximately 12 pounds of apricots.  So, we made four small batches of jam!


As pleased as I was with the interesting herbal quality of the Apricot Rosemary Jam, I wanted to try something new this year.  One of my other favorites from last year was the Heirloom Tomato Basil Jam, but I didn’t love how long that recipe took to make.  So, this year, I decided to try Apricot-Basil Jam to try to get the best of both worlds.  As I mentioned in last year’s post, apricot jam is one of my favorites because it retains so much brightness in the flavor.  It is also very, very easy.  The prep is simple and quick and those are all important elements for those of us who enjoy preserving, but don’t have loads of time.  This is a fruit worth preserving!


I also happened upon a great magazine this summer that I want to share with you.  Better Homes and Gardens produces some Special Interest Publications that seem to be seasonal in nature.  I saw that this year they have a Canning: preserving, freezing, drying edition of their magazine this summer (supposed to be displayed until September 9th and is $9.99).  It is a great guide to the basics of preserving.  The magazine is affordable and contains so much great information as well as both traditional and innovative recipes.  If you are curious about preserving food and want to learn more, but don’t feel like buying a bunch of books, this would be a great first step in learning more!  As I was flipping through the magazine I saw that they created some fantastic variations to try.  They were making peach jam and some of their variations were quite nice: cardamom-peach, sweet basil-peach, bourbon-peach, and chipotle-peach – intriguing, no?  Based on their great ideas, I decided to follow their example and try some of these variations for our apricot jams.

Without further ado, Apricot Jam 2013!

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Apricot Jam

yield: makes 7 half pints

6 cups (3 lbs) apricots (halved and pitted)

6 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Mash apricots, not necessary for them to all be the same size.  Place apricots, water, and sugar in a non-reactive pot and bring to a boil.  Stir fruit mixture regularly.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes, until fruit thickens and runs slowly and thickly off back of spoon.  Remove pot from heat.

Ladle jam into half-pint jars.  Wipe rims of jars with wet paper towel, apply lids and rings and process in your boiling water canner for 5 minutes.

Remove jars from pot.  Let cool.  After about 20 minutes, turn jars upside-down to disperse fruit.  When jars are cool enough to handle, test seals.  If seals are good, store jars in a cool, dark place.  If any of the jars did not seal, place those jars in the fridge and use within a month or two.

apricot jam with cream cheese on crackers (clockwise: apricot-rye whiskey, chipotle-apricot, sweet basil-apricot)


Sweet Basil-Apricot Jam:  Prepare as directed, except stir in 1 cup chopped fresh basil after skimming off foam.

Apricot-Rye Whiskey Jam:  Prepare as directed, except stir in 1/2 cup whiskey with the sugar, apricots, lemon juice and water.

Chipotle-Apricot Jam:  Prepare as directed, except stir in 2 tablespoons of finely chopped chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce with the sugar, apricots, lemon juice and water.


Classic Strawberry Freezer Jam

After two years of making jam, I am poised to make some changes this year.  I love the process of canning, but I realize like beet salads, not all jams are equal.


Over the past few years I have been canning classic strawberry and raspberry jam, among other things.  Since strawberries are usually the first berries to ripen each spring those are the ones I start with.  As I see that strawberries are starting to show up in the market, I need to be honest with myself that I have not been totally pleased with my past results.

Part of my personal ethos is that if I go to the time and effort to make something, and I am still thinking about the store-bought inspiration, something is wrong…  I am in favor of preserving the best of the season, but not if the end result is something just sort of okay.  It seems like a crime to take beautiful, ripe berries and cook them into something that does not resemble those fresh beautiful gems.  So, last year I changed things up and made both classic canned raspberry jam, as well as two different recipes of freezer raspberry jam (one with Pomona’s Universal Pectin and one with Certo Sure-Jell).  The whole family had a clear favorite of these three and agreed that it rivaled the delicious store-bought version that our family enjoys (Our favorite local store-bought jam: Sunfresh Freezerves).  My kids loved the most classic homemade freezer jam recipe, made with liquid pectin, and our homemade jam was happily consumed all year long… lasting our family through April of this year (we make lots of cream cheese and jam sandwiches)!

This year my plan is to cut out making the jams that lose the beauty of the original fruit and instead only make the berries into freezer jam that will be gobbled up by the family… Because, after all, that’s the point, right?  And just for the heck of it we’ll start the freezer jam extravaganza with strawberry jam this year.  Hopefully I can make enough freezer jam this season to get us through next May!  We’ll see, we will have one more sandwich eater this time around!  (Note:  I still plan to do traditional canning this season, but only with fruits that work well with this process.)

Freezer jams are extremely easy to make.  They take about half the time of the cooked method, and result in a softer set, fresh fruit taste.  They do require a lot of sugar, so look for Sure-Jell for Less or No Sugar Needed Recipes, if you are looking to limit the amount of sugar used.  I am using the Sure-Jell Certo recipe for Quick & Easy Freezer Jam.  Although I try not to use any added pectin in my cooked jam, I have had my best results using liquid pectin in my freezer jam.  When making freezer jam, as with any jam (and especially with strawberries), it is important to measure exactly, otherwise your jam may not set correctly.

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Classic Strawberry Freezer Jam


2 cups crushed strawberries

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4 cups sugar

1 pouch liquid pectin (Certo)

Wash and rinse plastic containers with tight fitting lids.  Use 1 to 2 cup size containers.

Wash and cut up berries, discarding stems.  Crush berries 1 cup at a time, using a potato masher for best results.  If using a food processor, pulse to a very fine chop.  Do not puree.  Jam should have bits of fruit.

Measure exact amount of prepared fruit into a large bowl.

Measure exact amount of sugar into a separate bowl.  Stir sugar into prepared fruit.  Mix well.  Let stand 10 minutes; stir occasionally.  Stir pectin into lemon juice in a small bowl.  Stir pectin mixture into prepared fruit mixture.  Stir constantly until sugar is completely dissolved and no longer grainy, about 3 minutes.  (A few sugar crystals may remain.)

Pour into prepared containers, leaving 1/2 inch space at top of container for expansion during freezing; cover.

Let stand at room temperature 24 hours until set.  Refrigerate up to 3 weeks.  Or store in freezer for up to 1 year.  Thaw in refrigerator.


January Giardiniera


Do you remember when summer was in full bloom and it was difficult to believe that grey winter months would eventually and inevitably arrive?  Here we are in the post-holiday winter and I have been smugly cracking open preserves right and left, in an effort to breathe a little summer color and flavor into our January doldrums.  This is the time that I feel I should take some good notes about what we are enjoying and using up, so that when canning season arrives again, I will know what the favorites of 2012 were.  So far my list includes raspberry freezer jam and fig preserves (of course).  Also, after a busy December of gifting and parties, I see that my pickle  supply is totally gone!

Giardiniera is the official name for a mix of spicy pickled vegetables with Italian roots.  This is a recipe I have been wanting to try for awhile now.  I have purchased mixed vegetable pickle products from the grocery store before and not been terribly inspired, but the idea of making my own intrigues me.  The vegetables typically included are carrots, celery, bell peppers and cauliflower, making it a perfect mid-winter project – just the thing to tide my canning interests over until warmer weather arrives!


Most of the work on this recipe is done at the front-end, simply chopping all the vegetables.  Giardiniera is a wonderful project to try with friends, as the work can be divided at the beginning and then the spoils can be shared as well.  Once made, these vegetables are delicious on an antipasto platter or right out of the jar.  (I doubt ours will even make it to a platter before they are eaten up!)  I invited a few friends over to try the America’s Test Kitchen D.I.Y. Cookbook version of Giardiniera.  We split up the vegetables so that we were all responsible for chopping one or two types prior to meeting up.  Then, once together, the pickling was a very straight forward process.  We quadrupled the above recipe which worked out well, allowing us each to take home four plus pint jars.



1/2 head of califlower (1 pound), cored and cut into 1/2-inch florets

3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick on bias

3 celery ribs, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces

1 red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch wide strips

2 serrano chiles, stemmed and sliced thin

4 garlic cloves, sliced thin

1 cup fresh dill

2 3/4 cups white wine vinegar

2 1/4 cups water

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt

Toss cauliflower, carrots, celery, bell pepper, serranos, and garlic together in large bowl until combined.  Transfer vegetables to jars with tight-fitting lids.

Bundle dill in cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine to secure.  Combine dill sachet, vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in large saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cover, removed from heat, and let steep for 10 minutes.  Discard dill sachet.  Return brine to boil.

Pour brine evenly over vegetables.  Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for 7 days before eating.  Pickles can be refrigerated for up to 1 month.

To Process for Long-Term Storage:  In step 1, don’t pack jars with vegetables.  Prepare brine as directed in step 2, then transfer vegetables to hot, sterilized 1-pint jars.  Pour brine, while still hot, evenly over vegetables, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace at top.  Process in water canning bath for 10 minutes.

Makes four 1-pint jars

Make today, enjoy in 1 week

Note: I decided to split our project into two batches to test some variations.  In one batch we omitted the serrano chiles in case our spice-sensitive kids might want to give these veggies a try.  Another variation we tried was white wine vinegar in one batch and white balsamic vinegar in the other, just for fun.  Crazy times around here!  In both, I split the amount of wine vinegar with distilled white vinegar, since I had lots of distilled white vinegar on hand and not as much white wine.  It worked fine.  I was so curious, I couldn’t even wait a week before breaking into these.  One of my jars did not seal, so I just opened it right up.  I tried the spicy white wine vinegar version and they are fantastic.  We will definitely be making these again!


Heirloom Tomato Basil Jam

The last preserves of the season… well, for this season anyway.  Tomato Basil Jam.

I read about this jam last year and have been intrigued by it ever since.  I wondered if it would taste good, if it would be tough to make, and if I could figure out what to put it on.  Well, it is delicious.  It was not too tough.  And like many of the more “decorative preserves” they go great with cheese and crackers, a component on an interesting sandwich, or simply on top of an english muffin… maybe not an everyday work horse, but since I enjoy eating these things, it works.  More importantly, in November, or January, or June when tomatoes are not in season this little number will provide a hit of late August sunshine that might be very welcome in any form.  Things have been very busy, so I almost didn’t write this one up, but I do like the idea of having a record here of what I made this summer and photos of heirloom tomatoes are simply good for the soul.  So here it goes.

I found these lovely heirloom tomatoes from our local farmer’s market and was given a deal because these were not even the most attractive of the bunch.  Keep that in mind when shopping for produce for jams – you want the fruit to be ripe, but it does not need to be beautiful!  The recipe I used is taken from Canning For A New Generation, by Liana Krissoff.  The thing that sold me on this recipe is the opening line, “There’s almost nothing more appealing than a toasted and buttered english muffin spread with the herbal sweet-tart goodness of tomato and basil jam.”  I mean, who wouldn’t want to make that?

Tomato and Basil Jam with Sherry Vinegar

3 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, cored, and diced

2 pounds Granny Smith apples, diced but not peeled or cored

1 lemon, chopped

2 cups sugar

1/4 cup sherry vinegar (7% acidity)

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil


Put the tomatoes in a wide, 6- to 8-quart preserving pan.  Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the juices cover the tomatoes, about 5 minutes.  Pour into a colander set over a large bowl.  Return the juice to the pan and add the apples and lemon.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Boil, stirring occasionally, until the apples are completely broken down and the peels have separated from the pulp, about 15 minutes.


Dump the tomato solids into the bowl and place a sieve over the bowl (I didn’t have one of these, so I used my colander.)  Pour the apple and lemon mixture into the sieve and press as much of the juice and apple pulp through the sieve as you can.  Discard the solids in the sieve.

Rinse the preserving pan and pour the tomato mixture; add the sugar and vinegar.  Bring to a boil over high heat and boil, stirring frequently, until a small dab of the jam spooned onto the cold plate and set in the freezer for a minute wrinkles when you nudge it, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the basil.  Fill jars and process in water canning bath for 5 minutes.

Makes about 4 half pint jars.


And the Winner is…

When one of my best friends got married seven years ago, her 92 year-old grandfather spoke during the wedding and he stole the show.  He gave some wonderful marital advice that Gus and I refer to to this day.  He spoke with fifty years of marriage under his belt and he said something to the effect of, “For a marriage to last, there are three things you need to say to your partner.  Hopefully the first one is easy and you say it often, ‘I love you.’  The second one can be a little bit more tricky, but is still very important, ‘I’m sorry.’  And the third can be downright maddening, but is probably the most important of all… ‘You might be right.'”

So honey, “You might be right.”

When I decided to try making pickles this summer, you might remember that my husband’s one request was that we please try a few different recipes in small batches, versus going whole hog down the road of one untested recipe and then not liking it, but having a massive amount of jars sitting waiting to be consumed or not (I assume this was his thought process).  Although I followed his advice, I did think it was rather silly, because of course all the pickles would be delectable.  Well, it turns out I was wrong… and this was a good idea.  I tried three recipes and there is a very clear winner!  Yippee!  The one that I thought would be the best, was not, in fact it was not good at all.  But I still call the event a success, because one of the recipes turned out very well.  It is a classic dill style and has just the right amount of tart, dilliness to enjoy many different ways.

So, as promised, here is the recipe for the very clear winner, Spicy Dill Pickles.  The recipe I used was from Tart & Sweet, by Kelly Geary and Jesse Knadler – a wonderful cookbook that takes urban canning to the next level with innovative recipes and great instruction.  This particular recipe is very straightforward and easy.  With pickling, since you add your spices to the jar itself, you can play with how spicy to make your pickles or omit a spice completely if it is not to your taste.  So satisfying!

Spicy Dill Pickles

4 cups white vinegar

2 cups water

1/4 cup kosher salt

4 1/2 pounds Kirby cucumbers, ends trimmed, quartered into spears

Per Jar

3 cloves garlic

3 dill heads or 4-5 large dill sprigs

2 hot peppers, such as habanero or serrano

1 tablespoon yellow mustard seed

1 tablespoon brown mustard seed

1 teaspoon dill seed

1 teaspoon black peppercorns


Bring the vinegar, water, and salt to a boil in a medium nonreactive pot.  Stir to dissolve the salt.

Place garlic, dill, peppers, and spices in each hot jar.  Pack cucumbers in as tightly as possible without crushing.  Pour in boiling brine, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Make sure the cucumbers are submerged in the brine.

Check for air bubbles, wipe the rims, and seal.  Process for 15 minutes, adjusting for elevation.  Yield 4 quarts.

Note: I brined the pickles overnight and kept my pickles whole as they were on the small side.  I also used pint jars versus quart, so my yield was 8 pints.  I will try these again next year, but I might also try fermenting a batch to see how they compare!

Happy Pickling!

my grandmother, pickles, and a good secret

My grandmother passed away two years ago this week and I feel like I am saying goodbye all over again.  She was a phenomenal, modern woman whom I loved dearly and had a great impact on my life.  She was smart and sassy and loved her independence.  She could be a bit prickly, and was not your typical grandma.  Despite this, she baked birthday cakes and pies for our family gatherings.  She made delicious airy waffles and something amazing that we call “cheese puffs” in my family, that only came out on holidays.  Since my grandmother’s death, I have been in possession of her cooking file, a bulging binder that is filled, past full, of recipes and personal notes.  It has felt too intimate for me to really look through this piece of her over the past two years – but it sits in my pantry and waits for me; waits for the right time.  Lately, I find myself thinking about her and wondering things that I now cannot ask, and it is probably a perfect place for me to go hunting to find some answers, culinarily speaking at least.

The ladies in my family love a good secret.  They relish knowing a recipe (waffles, chocolate chip cookies, pickles) and keeping it special by not sharing that recipe with friends, and barely with family.  On occasion, a trade has been made for someone else’s treasured recipe, but that has happened too frequently.  Growing up, I remember a family legend was to talk about how the secret ingredient of our prized waffles was marshmallow cream, thinking that anyone who was listening might try to duplicate this hallowed recipe and ruin their waffle maker by including this sweet and sticky ingredient.  I’m not sure anyone was ever really listening, but it made us all laugh.

That brings me to pickles.  For a woman who didn’t mind hard work and had perfected pie dough, I am perplexed by her approach to pickles.  She had a recipe for refrigerator pickles, that I have made, that is a bit of a scam.  (reader: surprised gasp!) I am not sure how much more I can say, for fear that I will be kicked out of my family for outing her.  But, suffice it to say, there is no canning involved and the cucumbers were already a bit pickled when she got to them.  This one recipe makes me so curious…  (I think it actually is another thing that has inspired me to learn how to preserve food properly.)  For a lady that was not outwardly daunted by anything, I sit here feeling that the reason she went to the trouble for this “semi-homemade” recipe is because it was a just a damn good secret.  That’s the kind of lady she was.

It is probably no coincidence that this is the week I have chosen to make pickles for the first time.  I have tried pickling other veggies (carrots, beans, and okra), but so far had felt daunted by traditional cucumber pickles.  If you look into pickles there are a few different processes you can try: brining, refrigerator, fermenting, canning, pasteurizing and all turn out a little differently.  Hearing that I was interested in adding cukes to the list this season, my husband tentatively asked if this could be a “test year” of small batches to try a few different recipes with the hope of landing on one that we love and might repeat in a bigger way next year.  (I assume that this is opposed to jar upon jar of pickles sitting in our pantry that we do not love.)  So that’s what I did.  I made three plus batches of cucumber pickles yesterday using different ingredients and taking copious notes on what I actually did since I cannot rely on my memory at this point.  In a few weeks, when we start cracking these babies open, I plan to report back to you which ones we love, and guess what… I’ll even share the recipe.

This goes against everything holy in my family and makes me chuckle about what my grandmother would think of this blogging generation and the ease of sharing information (and recipes).  On the other hand, it pleases me to share what I am learning and I know my grandmother would approve of that.

Author’s Note (added 01/07/13): Click here to see how the pickles turned out!

Apricot Rosemary Jam

Today is apricot rosemary jam day.

I made this jam last year and loved the herbal notes that the rosemary adds to the flavor.  It is wonderful over a bit of goat cheese or as a marinade for chicken.  Unfortunately for me, I made only enough to pass along for gifts and didn’t remember to keep even one jar for our house!  This past Sunday I bought 22 pounds of apricots from our local farmer’s market to make sure I made enough!  I am excited to report that the rosemary that I am using this year comes from our little garden.


The recipe I am using is inspired by a post from Food in Jars:(http://www.foodinjars.com/2011/07/urban-preserving-apricot-rosemary-jam/)

One of the reasons I like it is that it is very easy.  I am a bit of a lazy preserver, in that I don’t really relish the idea of extra work (as in, taking the skin off of fruit).  With apricots, all you need to do is pull them apart, take out the pit and you are good to go.  The other reason I like this recipe is that it is quick.  I made six batches (24 half pints) in about 3 hours, which is exactly how long I had since preschool camp this week is from 9:00am – noon.


The cherubs are on their way home, so quickly here is the recipe if you feel inspired:

Apricot Rosemary Jam (makes 4 half pints)

4 cups apricots (halved and pitted)

2 cups sugar

3 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary (or omit for traditional apricot jam)

4 tablespoons lemon juice

Mash apricots, not necessary for them to all be the same size.  Place apricots, sugar, and rosemary in a non-reactive pot and bring to a boil.  Cook for about 10 minutes, until fruit thickens and runs slowly and thickly off back of spoon.  Add lemon juice.  Stir to combine.  Remove pot from heat.

Ladle jam into four half pint jars.  Wipe rims of jars with wet paper towel, apply lids and rings and process in your boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

Remove jars from pot.  Let cool.  When jars are cool enough to handle, test seals.  If seals are good, store jars in a cool, dark place.  If any of the jars did not seal, place those jars in the fridge and use within a month or two.


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Jam Session

Gosh, I love this time of year!  Amazing produce is in high abundance and local berries can be found around every corner.  I feel so very lucky to have delicious food available year-round, but summer is such a satisfying time for the senses!  When spring and summer arrive, I am reminded how much better in-season fruits and veggies taste!  The berries I have been seeing lately are so beautiful.  So rich in color and flavor, and they smell divine.  If we can’t have fresh summer berries all year long, opening a homemade jar of preserves to enjoy on your morning toast is the next best thing!

Last year was my first year making jam and I am hooked!  I dove in after being inspired by a friend, K, who preserves an entire pantry for the year.  Hundreds of pounds of produce… I agree, she is amazing.  On a much smaller scale, I learned to can with a good friend, S, who was also a jamming neophyte and we felt our way together.  I highly recommend this route.  If you want to try it, find a like-minded friend who is also curious and just go for it.  It became a wonderful time for real adult conversation and each session we came away with a very satisfying product (a project with a beginning and an end – hallelujah!).  Last year at this time I was pregnant and I am pretty sure this whole thing started because of a nesting urge and a wish to control something.  Baby was due in late December, so I became a little manic about being “ready” for the holidays.  Man, was I ready.

In my quest to become a preserving goddess, I found a few books to help me on my way.  There are so many great books out there, these are just the ones I happened to pick up and can recommend to you:

Tart and Sweet, 101 Canning and Pickling Recipes for the Modern Kitchen, by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler:  I literally read this book cover to cover before bed it was so interesting.   I love the approachable way that they describe the chemistry involved in canning.  It is part manual, part artisanal food appreciation.   I would not recommend this be your only resource for recipes, but I really enjoyed it for its style and inspiration.


Canning For A New Generation, Bold Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry, by Liana Krissoff.  This book is a bit more traditional, but still meant for the modern canner.  I found the accompanying recipes for food dishes using the preserves helpful as well.

http://www.amazon.com/Canning-New-Generation-Flavors Modern/dp/1584798645/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  This is a canning bible to some.  Great resource to have on hand, but less fun than the others.


This week I’ve had a few jam sessions and I think I am up to about 30 lbs of berries (turned into freezer jam and small-batch canned jams)!  Raspberry jam is my favorite and oh-so-summery – I am feeling particularly inspired by the golden raspberries pictured above.  Aren’t they beautiful?  I chose to follow a pretty standard recipe from Tart & Sweet and am very happy with the results.

If you are interested, this is the perfect time of year to give canning a try!  I am happy to share any and all that I have learned and would like to pass on a few words of wisdom that were shared with me.

1)  Only can the best produce you can find.  There is no reason to go to a ton of work preserving the same stuff you can find year-round.  Can in-season produce, as it is cheaper and of better quality than what you can find at other times.

2)  Preserve things you like!  We go through jam like it is going out of style in our house, so we make lots of berry jam.  If you don’t eat chutney normally, don’t make jars and jars of chutney.  They will sit and sit in your pantry taking up precious real estate.  I’m not saying don’t experiment, that is part of the fun.  Just keep the way you and your family eat in mind, as you try new things.

Happy Summer!!