Tuesday, September 22, 2009

On the up side...

It's not all doom and introspection around here. There's other stuff too. Like jam. Lots of jam. My friend Danielle is a raspberry fiend. In fact, she harbors a not-so-secret desire to own and run her own u-pick berry farm. I like raspberries a lot. All berries, really. But if I'm completely honest, I'm more into strawberries and blueberries than raspberries. Raspberries, though delicious, have seeds that get stuck in your teeth and won't come out not matter how much you pick at them. This little annoyance keeps me from loving them as much as I might. It doesn't keep me from picking them, aparently. Eight more quarts came home with me last weekend. Getting up early to pick raspberries and chat with your friend is a great way to spend a weekend morning. There are all kinds of things you can dream while standing in a quiet field, supplementing your breakfast, that you can't dream anywhere else.

And what to do with all those berries? Well, I already mentioned the jam. It's official. Everyone is getting jam for Christmas, because there is NO WAY I can eat all that jam before next year. I mentioned the Raspberry Custard Kuchen last time, and this time I can highly recommend the Chocolate Raspberry Blondie Bars from Vegan with a Vengance. I had a few friends over this weekend and I think they each ate 4. I tell you what, skinny girls put away more food than anyone I've ever seen, except possibly a teenaged boy.

Can I also suggest Raspberry Jalapeno Jam? It's something I've been wanting to make ever since I had my first San Diego Bagel from Collegetown Bagels in Ithaca. It's a bagel with cream cheese and raspberry jalapeno jam. Delish! So I found a recipe, and I made some.

Mine isn't as spicy as I'd like it to be. It's not spicy at all, actually. I probably should have left the seeds of at least one of jalapenos in the jam.

Raspberry Jalapeno Jam

5 cups crushed raspberries
6 cups sugar
½ cup cider vinegar
1 pouch (3 oz.) liquid pectin
½ of a red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
½ teaspoon butter (optional, to reduce foaming)

Makes approximately 8 8-oz jars

1. Prepare canning equipment. (See below.)
2. Place berries, vinegar, pectin, butter, and peppers in a large stock pot. Bring to a rolling boil over high head, stirring constantly.
3. Add sugar. Return to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for exactly one minute. Remove from heat. Let cool for 5 or 10 minutes, skimming off any foam and stirring occasionally.
4. Ladle into jars. Carefully wipe the rims and threads of the jars before putting on the tops.
5. Process 10 minutes.
6. Enjoy the sound of the tops popping and the deep, deep red jars.

To prepare canning equipment:
1. Wash and sterilize the jars, tops, and rings. I do this by hand washing them, then putting my jars on a jelly roll pan and placing the pan in a cold oven. I heat the oven to “warm” and I TURN IT OFF.
2. Place the tops in a heat-proof container and pour boiling water over them. The tops must be unused. The boiling water prepares the adhesive. Let them sit until needed.
3. Fill your canning pot half or three-quarters filled with water and bring to a boil.
4. Measure out your sugar into a separate bowl and have at the ready.
5. Have lots of towels and pot holders within arms’ reach.

Things to know about canning:
1. You must follow the recipe exactly. This is science, not art. Not following the recipe can result in as little as runny jam or as much as botulism. Don’t mess around.
2. You must use new jar tops every time. The rings you can reuse (and in fact, you can take them off the jars once they are canned.).
3. When you tighten the rings on the jars, only tighten them until the point that you would screw the lid on any other jar in your fridge. This is called “fingertip tight.” Do not tighten the lids further after you have taken them out of the water bath. This could interfere with the canning process.
4. After you have processed the jars, you will hear them pop. Let them cool a few hours and then press gently on the tops. Any tops that spring back have not sealed properly and must either be re-canned with a new lid or refrigerated.

Ideas for use from Holly:
1. Warm some brie, spoon the jam on top, sprinkle with toasted slivered almonds, and serve with crostini
2. Spread a little on a slice of flourless chocolate cake (or unfrosted brownies), serve with a dollop of whipped cream
3. Mix a 1/3 cup of the jam with 2 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar and use as a glaze on chicken or pork
4. Mix it with some minced garlic, a little salt, pepper, thin slightly with some cider vinegar and toss with chicken wings (you will want to roast the wings to near doneness--then apply this glaze toward the tail end so as to avoid too much crunchy blackening)
5. Make a grilled cheese with some wholegrain bread and sharp white cheddar and add a little layer of the jam
6. Make a sandwich with turkey, arugula, Jarlsberg cheese, and spread a little jam on the baguette
7. Spoon it over cheesecake
8. Serve with panko crusted shrimp
9. And the easiest, dump it on a block of cream cheese and serve with some whole grain crackers

I can pers0nally vouch for the various combinations with cheese, and I can't wait to try some others!

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