The Best Jumbleberry Jam Evah

Jumbleberry Jam is my absolute favourite.  It is hard to come by and so when I do I stock up and make it last for as long as I can, scraping the very last skerrick out of the jar and even using my fingers to wipe up the last drip from the plate before putting the dirty dishes in the sink.  Why is it so hard to come by?  Because I make it myself, that’s why.  Truly, it is the best. My grandmother taught be how to make jam when I was very little.  I remember her melting wax in a small pot to pour over the top of the finished jarred jam to create an airtight seal for preservation and storage.  I use the 2 piece lids with the wax seal on the outside but otherwise our techniques are pretty much the same.  This is how we do it.

Step 1 – You’ll need to set up a hotwater bath canner, like this one, to process the jarred jam which will seal it and keep in shelf stable for up to (or even longer than) 1 year. image You also need some sterilized glass jars to put the jam in, and 2 piece lids to seal the jars.  I handwash my glass jars well in hot, soapy water before putting them in the boiling-water filled canner to keep hot and sterile while I make the jam. image It is important to put the hot jam quickly in to hot, sterile, jars and then back in to the hot water canner to keep bacteria at bay.  I find it easy to keep every clean, hot and easily accessed by doing it this way.  I remember my grandmother used to keep her clean jars in a low oven to keep them hot while preparing her jam, but she didn’t process them in the water canner the way I do (she used the melted wax to seal the jars, remember?) If you are nervous about using a hot water canner, don’t be.  Here is a link to some more info if you need to do some research before going any further.

Step 2 – Pick, wash, sort and crush your berries.  Any berries you like are fine.  I like to use a variety to make my Jumbleberry Jam normally strawberries, blueberries and blackberries.  Today I used strawberries we picked locally from the most fabulous organic farm back in May, some of which I froze in preparation for today’s Jumbleberry Jam making event.  Yes, it is really so good I plan well ahead.

image    image

The blueberries are fresh from the farmers market.  The blackberries are boringly from the supermarket.  It is totally ok to mix and match. You’ll need 5 cups of crushed berries to make 5 large jars of Jumbleberry Jam.  What I do is put the cleaned berries in a large pyrex jar and use a potato masher to crush and measure the berries at the same time (clever, huh?).  Just keep adding different berries until you get to 5 cups of crushed berries. imageStep 3 – Once you get to 5 cups put the crushed berries in a large saucepan over high heat, add a packet of powdered pectin and 1/2 tsp of butter to the pan and start stirring.  Pectin is a naturally occuring substance found in ripe fruits that can be added to jams and jellies to help them set.  You can find it at the supermarket.  There is also a low sugar version you can try but I’ve only ever used the full-monty, regular version.

image

Not at all certain why this picture is sideways. My apologies.

Step 4 – Bring the berry mix to a rolling boil while stirring all the time.  A full rolling boil is when the bubbles won’t dissipate even when you stir it.

Step 5 – Use the large pyrex jug to measure out 7 cups of sugar.  I use regular white sugar but you can use organic, or even brown sugar if you want.  Understand though that it is a lot of sugar.  A LOT.  That’s the truth about jam and it will shock you and make your teeth itch just to look at it, but 7 cups of processed white sugar is what you use.  Pour the whole amount of sugar in to the pot and keep stirring.

image

Truthfully, this is a pic from when I made Strawberry Rhubarb jam a few weeks ago. I forgot to take a pic of my cooking Jumbleberry Jam today. Is much the same though – you can see all the sugar going in.

Keep cooking and stirring over high heat and bring the berry and sugar mix back to a rolling boil.  Boil hard for 1 minute.

Step 6 – Pour cooked jam in to the hot, sterile, jars and put the filled jars back in the hotwater canner to keep hot.  I like to use a pair of rubber tongs to llift the jars in and out of the water, and a funnel to ladel the hot jam in to the jars. image Wipe the rim of the jar with a wet paper towel before fitting the 2 piece lid on.

Step 7 – Once all the jars are filled lower the rack back in to the hotwater canner and bring the water back to a boil.  Process the jars in the boiling water for 5 minutes.  Remove them and let them cool on a wire rack. imageimage

As the jars cool you will hear the lids ‘pop’ as the changes in pressure create the airtight seal.  I’ve never had a jar fail to seal before but the way you test it is by pressing gently in the centre of the lid.  If it pops up and down then the seal did not work and the jam must be kept refrigerated and eaten first. image Step 8 – Voila!  The best homemade Jumbleberry Jam Evah!  Don’t forget to print up some cute labels for your jars.  Believe me, after a few months you will absolutely forget what kind of jam it is that you made and you’ll be glad you did. Homemade jam makes wonderful gifts (I think) for teachers, babysitters and friends who need a boost.  I hope you try it.  Making jam is easy, satisfying and a delicious treat.

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Potato – Potahto

I like to grow potatoes.  Have you ever tried?  I’ve found them to be the easiest, most low-stress, set-it-and-forget-it vege to grow and for that reason alone I will always have potatoes growing in my garden.  Truly, potatoes are da bomb!

The weather this weekend was so gorgeous I was able to get out and plant some stuff.  Onions, garlic, broccoli – and potatoes!  But there is a technique of sorts to planting potatoes that may not be obvious so I’m going to show you.  It is super easy and will produce more potatoes than you would typically get if you just stuck the seed potatoes in the ground.  Here goes.

First, you need a deep pot or container in which to grow your potatoes.  My raised vege garden is only 6″ tall and is nowhere near deep enough for lots of potatoes so I went out bought one of these Smart Pots.

Smart Pot.  Source: Amazon

Smart Pot. Source: Amazon

I’m OK admitting it isn’t the pretties of pretties but I have found it to be affordable, reuseable, perfect for growing my potatoes and easy to add an extra drip irrigation line for easy watering.    The sides and base are porous which allows water to drain well and for the air to get to the roots.  Potatoes like water but don’t like to be soggy so having a well draining pot hooked up to drip irrigation made it all very automatic with no further intervention from me – perfect!

I bought my seed potatoes from my favourite local nursery, Pike Family Nursery in Ballantyne.  I love the people in there.  So helpful and friendly.  And they sell the organic seed potatoes I like.

Organic Russian Banana potatoes - my fav kind

Organic Russian Banana potatoes – my fav kind

I had so much luck last year with this variety.  I planted just 3 of the seed potatoes in the Smart Pot and grew pounds of potatoes.  They were so yummy roasted alongside roast chicken but would have been perfect for potato salad, too.  Kids loved harvesting and eating them.  Win-win-win all around.  So I’m planting them again this year.  This is what the seed potatoes look like.

This is what the seed potatoes look like.  See the shoots coming from the eyes?  I could actually cut this one in half and make two plants if I wanted to - just make sure there are at least 2 eyes per potato piece when you plant.

This is what the seed potatoes look like. See the shoots coming from the eyes? I could actually cut this one in half and make two plants if I wanted to – just make sure there are at least 2 eyes per potato piece when you plant.

Next, take your Smart Pot and fill it about 1/3 full of soil.  Then place your seed potatoes in a circle towards the outside, maybe 2″ in from the edge (you can cut them in half if you want so they go further), then cover them with more soil.  Kinda mound it up a bit, and then water well – but not so it is soggy, although the Smart Pot wil drain away any excess so there is less of that to worry about here.

Planted seed potatoes.  See how the bag is not full?

Planted seed potatoes. See how the bag only has a few inches of soil in the bottom?

Then after a week or two you’ll start to see green shoots appearing through the soil.  Let them grow a bit more, and then cover those new green shoots with more soil, allowing just the top green leaves to poke out of the top.  Then wait another week or so for the shoots to grow some more, then cover those new stems leaving just the top leaves poking out the top … and so on and so on until your pot is finally full.

What you’ll find is that all those shoots you have buried will produce more potatoes, potatoes you would not have grown if you had just put the seed potato in the top of the filled Smart Pot.  Clever, huh?  Late spring your pot will start to look like this.

Potatoes starting to grow, early May 2014

Potatoes starting to grow, early May 2014

By late summer you’ll be able to start harvesting.  You don’t have to dig them all up at once, just take the ones you want to use right now and leave the others alone to keep growing/store underground for a little longer.  They do fine just sitting there waiting for you to do something with them.

Some of our 2014 potato harvest, late August 2014

Some of our 2014 potato harvest, late August 2014

I didn’t bother peeling them to eat as the peels were so thin and tender.  We mainly ate them roasted after tossing in olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook at 400*F for 20-25mins or until golden brown and a little crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

Chicken schnitzel dinner made with homegrown potatoes and carrots.  Broccoli was roasted along with the other vege - yum!

Chicken schnitzel dinner made with homegrown potatoes and carrots. Broccoli was roasted along with the other vege – yum!

I’m already looking forward to more potatoes from my garden.  Do you grow potatoes?  Any tips you’d like to pass on?

When Life Gives you Lemons … Bonus Round

From the When Life Gives You Lemons … Drink Limoncello Series.

Part 6: When Life Gives You Lemons … Make Lemon Curd from the Leftover Limoncello Lemons.

or How to Make Lemon Curd.

You thought I was done with the whole lemon thing, didn’t you?  Well, honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever be done with the lemon thing.  There is just so much to love about lemons. But I thought to add one more Bonus Round to the series.

If you do decide to make your own limoncello (and I hope you do) you may find yourself with a mountain of naked lemons.  Lemons that you took much time and care to grow and nurture only to find that it was just their peels that was needed to make the, admittedly awesome, limoncello I’ve been rabbiting on about for so long.  Such a waste to not have a purpose for the rest of the lemons, right?  Again, you can go back to squeezing lemon juice over everything in sight (lemon juice is great as a cleaning product, too.  Here are 24 Things You Can Clean With Lemon) but my favourite thing to do is to turn them in to lemon curd.

Naked lemons.  Kinda sad, right?  (pic from oddlovescompany.com)

Naked lemons. Kinda sad, right?
(pic from oddlovescompany.com)

Ina Garten has a great recipe here but I feel there is a lot of equipment I have to wash up once done (food processor, saucepans, extra mixing bowls).   I’d rather take the easy way out and do it all in one bowl in the microwave.  I’m afraid I wrote this recipe down from a library book and have lost the citation.  Let me know what it is if you happen to know it.

Lemon Curd – Microwave

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice (juice from 6-8 lemons)
  • 3 lemons, zested
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted.

Directions

  1. In a microwave safe bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until smooth.  Stir in lemon juice, zest, and butter.
  2. Cook in microwave for 1 minute intervals, stirring after each minute until mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  3. Remove from microwave and pour in to small sterile jars.  Store for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator.

    Delicious Lemon Curd - one of my favourite things ever

    Delicious Lemon Curd – one of my favourite things ever. (pic from Liren@KitchenConfidante.com)

I’ve never had it last longer than 3 weeks because it has all been eaten up so fast but I would imagine it would keep like any other butter product, even longer in the freezer.  It is heavenly on crepes and toast, in tarts and jelly rolls, between mini merigues topped with softly whipped heavy cream, or as a filling for lemon bars.  So many uses!  But for me, I find it most delicious when eaten straight from the jar with a spoon.  Yum!  Another great gift for those you love.  Make some lemon curd.  I promise you, you won’t regret it.

When Life Gives You Lemons … Drink Limoncello

From the When Life Gives You Lemons… Series

Part 5: When Life Gives You Lemons … Drink Limoncello

or How to Make Your Own Limoncello

Finally, we are here at the good bit!  Now that you have successfully grown bushels and bushels of beautiful lemons what are you going to do with them all?

Lovely lemons in a basket

Lovely lemons in a basket

Quite the high class problem, I’ll admit.  Of course there are myriad options when it comes to using lemons as they are just so versatile.  Lemon chicken, lemon meringue pie, lemon curd (a favourite of mine), salmon with lemon, capers and rosemary, spicy lemon garlic shrimp … the list goes on and on.  But my favourite thing to do with lots of lemons, particularly Meyer Lemons, is to make Limoncello.

Limoncello di Capri.   'Nuf said.

Limoncello di Capri.  ‘Nuf said.

Limoncello is an Italian lemon liquour produced mainly in Southern Italy but particularly in the area around the Bay of Naples and the Amalfi Coast.  It is made by steeping the lemon peels in alcohol for quite a long time, then mixing the resultant yellow liquid with a simple syrup made from sugar and water.  It is traditionally served ice cold as an after dinner digestif and is quite simply, heavenly.

There were stores everywhere in Capri selling Limoncello, stores literally packed to the rafters with the sweet little bottles.  Clearly, some were more tourist cliche than Southern Italian chic but charming none the less.

Tourist cliche

Tourist cliche

Limoncello for sale

Limoncello for sale in Capri

Quick Quiz: What is my favourite way to enjoy limoncello?

Is it –

  1. Ice cold straight from the freezer?
  2. Mixed with ice and soda?
  3. Drizzled over vanilla icecream or lemon sorbet and fresh strawberries?  or
  4. All of the above?

That’s right!  All of the above.  You’ve gotta try it.

OK, recipe time.  I like to use Giada de Laurentiis’ recipe here.  She has a bunch of videos on how to make it, too, so you can’t go wrong.  It is so simple.

Limoncello Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 10 lemons (unwaxed, organic. Meyer lemons are best)
  • 1 (750ml) bottle vodka
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar (white sugar)

Directions

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use – maybe lemon curd).  Using a small sharp knife, trim away the white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith.  Place the lemon peels in a 2-quart pitcher.  Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap.  Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature.

Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.  Cool completely.  Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture.  Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight.  Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer.  Discard the peels.  Transfer the limoncello to bottles.  Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours.

Enjoy!

NB: I store my bottles of limoncello in the freezer.  They last forever in there, it seems.

Homemade limoncello - this is Giada's version

Homemade limoncello – this is Giada’s version

I love to make this for gifts as they present so very well.  A pretty bottle, a pretty label and a pretty swingtag with some suggested uses makes a perfect gift.  I like to use the tall glass bottles with the stoppers at the top, like these from World Market.

Perfect glass bottles for Limoncello

Perfect glass bottles for Limoncello

Now, what if you want to make the BEST Limoncello?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  While researching this post I came across another technique I’m dying to try used by Franny’s in Brooklyn.  The tutorial is irresistably entitled “How to Make the Best Limoncello You’ve Ever Had” – they’ve totally suckered me in.  Here, instead of peeling the lemons and steeping the peels in the alcohol, they suspend 2 whole lemons in cheesecloth above the vodka allowing the alcohol vapours to macerate the lemons to extract their oils without the bitterness of the pith.

Lemons suspended over the vodka to make limoncello.

Lemons suspended over the vodka to make limoncello at Franny’s.

Compelling, no?  Apparently, this is an old Sicilian technique.  I’m totally gonna try it.  Maybe I’ll do both versions and do a side-by-side blind tasting.  Sounds fun, right?  Wanna come to my house for a When Life Gives You Lemons … Drink Limoncello soiree?  I should make this an annual summer event.

The End of the Series

And thus concludes my When Life Gives You Lemons… series.  So, Dear Readers, what did you think?  Did you stick with me through the whole thing?  I really hope you have enjoyed the process as much as I have enjoyed bringing it to you.  I also hope you might try growing your own citrus and making your own limoncello!  I, for one, am looking forward to trying the new limoncello technique sometime soon.  Do let me know how your lemon adventures go!

The Anti-Valentine

Ugh, it’s Valentine’s Day

Are you in to Valentine’s Day?  Do you love the expensive roses, the sappy cards, and the calorific chocolates?  I’m afraid I’m not.  It’s not that I don’t like the idea of romance, and sweet gifts, and babysitters for the kids so the hubster and I can get some alone time.  I’m just not keen on, in fact really put off by, the whole Hallmark Holiday aspect of it all.  Scheduling romance for February 14th because Godiva wants to sell more bon bons just isn’t my thing, ya know?  As it turned out, February 14th happens to be our youngest’s birthday so VDay tends to be more about him than romantic notions in our house.  Works out perfectly.

But I have to tell you that it was quite refreshing to come across a like-minded somebody in Erica @ Northwest Edible Life.  I’ve been following her blog for a while now and I just love the no-nonsense approach she takes to raising her kids and running her home, growing her veges and raising her chickens, canning and DIYing, and all things I love to do, too.  If I’m honest I’d tell you she is something of a bloggy-crush for me… but perhaps I am oversharing (!!).  I do think she is pretty awesome though AND it turns out that she’s not so keen on Valentine’s Day either!  I’m telling you, we are kindred spirits.

Anyway, Erica wrote a funny post today describing her disasterous first Valentine’s Day date with her then-boyfriend, now husband, and how as a result they tend to stay in on Vday.  I’m sure I could have written that post myself.  But to follow up she offered the most fabulous sounding Anti-Valentine’s Day remedy that I just had to repost.  She calls it: The Bloody Valentine.

The Bloody Valentine pic from Erica@nwedible.com

The Bloody Valentine pic from Erica@nwedible.com

The Bloody Valentine

Makes 1 rather giant cocktail, or 2 petite pours.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 1.5 oz. freshly squeezed blood orange juice
  • .25 oz. blood orange liqueur
  • Several generous shakes orange bitters

Method

Shake all ingredients hard with cracked ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of blood orange peel.

Sounds divine, right?  And blood oranges happen to be one of my favourite fruits of all time.  Erica describes it as “..charmingly macabre” and “…all exotic citrus and smokey whiskey”.  I mean, it has got to be good, don’t you think?

So who’s with me?  Wanna take a stand against the VDay madness and enjoy a few Bloody Valentines with me this weekend?