Eating like a farmer means preserving fruits and veggies when they are comin' in hot and heavy from the fields, so you can save + savor the bounty all year long. So while pickling, fermenting, kombucha-making, and jamming are all the rage these days - let's be clear that these methods of food preservation have been going down in farmhouse kitchens for a long, looooong time.
So let's talk about jam. I won't claim to be an expert jam-maker, but I DID manage to make 200+ jars of small-batch jam for our wedding guests back in 2014, and no one perished from botulism, so I suppose that's something... right? And while entire books (and great blog posts, like this one) have been written about jamming, I'm going to briefly summarize the basics + share some tips and tricks I've developed after countless hours jamming out over the stove. Keep scrolling for a recipe (adapted from Serious Eats) for sunshine in a jar... aka Apricot Jam.
PECTIN, SUGAR AND ACID
- Pectin is a carbohydrate that helps to ‘set’ jam. It is particularly concentrated in the skins and cores of fruit. I should note here that I do not add store-bought/commercial pectin in my jam recipes, and instead rely on the naturally occurring pectin in fruit + lemon juice for acidity to help the fruit set. Pectin, whether naturally occurring or added, requires heat, sugar, and acid to activate.
- High/Moderate Pectin Fruits: blackberries, citrus, cranberries, gooseberries, pears, plums, quinces, sour apples
- Low Pectin Fruits: apricots, blueberries, figs, grapes, peaches, pears, raspberries, strawberries
- Low-pectin fruits benefit from lemon juice to boost the acidity and setting of the jam. Unripe fruit will also increase acidity. Avoid making jam with overripe fruit, because as fruit ripens the pectin begins to break down.
- My rule of thumb for the ratio of fruit / sugar / lemon juice:
- Weigh your fruit. Take half the weight of the fruit and use it as your sugar measurement. Use as many ounces of lemon juice as you used pounds of sugar. For example, if you are making strawberry jam with 4 lbs strawberries, use 2 lbs sugar, and 2 ounces of lemon juice.
GENERAL TIPS + TOOLS
- Any time you are preserving food, it's super important to use sterilized jars. You can sterilize jars by putting them in a 225F oven for 20 minutes. Once sterilized, turn the oven off and leave in the warm oven until the jam is ready. Jars and lids can also be boiled for 10-15 minutes in a large saucepan of water, then dried in the oven at a low temperature.
- Use a non-reactive pot like stainless steel, enamel, or copper when making jam.
- This jam-making set is a GAME CHANGER (and I really, really wish someone had told me about it back in 2014 when I was making 200 jars of jam by hand with some very un-efficient equipment)
- Use tempered jars that can withstand the temperatures involved in sterilizing, jam-making and storage.
PREP + COOK TIME:
- 6 lbs firm-but-ripe freestone apricots (such as Blenheims), halved and pitted
- 3 lbs sugar
- 3 ounces fresh lemon juice
- In the non-reactive saucepan that you plan to make the jam, combine apricots, sugar, and lemon juice and mix until all the sugar is moistened. If some sugar remains dry, allow to macerate until fruit has released enough juices to moisten sugar, 5 to 15 minutes. At this point, you can blend the fruit-sugar mixture with an immersion blender if you woul like the finished jam to have a smoother texture. For more rustic jam with pieces of fruit, leave as is. Set a small plate in the freezer.
- Plae the pot on the stove and heat over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until sugar is melted and mixture starts to bubble, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Heat apricot mixture over medium-high heat, stirring with a flat wooden spoon as needed to prevent burning, until jam starts to foam, about 15 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring to prevent burning, until foaming has subsided, about 15 minutes longer; scrape any foam off jam surface with a stainless steel spoon as needed.
- Taste the jam (carefully.. it's HOT!) - there should be a balance of sweetness and tartness. Make small adjustments (ie more sugar or lemon juice) if needed.
- Continue to cook until bubbling has slowed and jam looks glossy and jam appears thickened around the edge, 10 to 15 minutes. Lower heat as necessary to prevent scorching. Turn off heat and set a dollop of jam on the small plate waiting in the freezer - allow it to sit in the freezer for a few minutes. The jam is ready once it holds together wrinkles when you push it with your finger. If jam is too runny, return to heat and cook, stirring frequently and repeating the spoon test every 5 minutes, until jam passes the "wrinkle" test.
- Fit sterilized jars with a wide-mouth funnel. Ladle jam mixture into jars, leaving 1/2" headspace. Take a clean towel and wipe the rims of each jar. Put lids and rings on jars and tighten. At this point, jam may simply be kept refrigerated, up to 1 month.
- To process jars in a hot water bath: have a large stock pot filled with water and ready at a rolling boil by the time you are filling jars with jam. Place filled jars with tightened lids into the boiling water one at a time, using a jar lifter or tongs. Keep jars upright at all times. Add more boiling water, if needed, so that water covers jars by at least 2 inches. Increase heat to high and cover. Once water begins boiling, heat jars for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and gently transfer jars out of the stock pot and onto your counter to cool. Avoid placing jars on a cold surface or near a cold draft. Let jars sit undisturbed until fully cooled. Check to make sure all jars have sealed by pressing your finger to the middle of the lid (if sealed, the lid will not pop).
Stone fruit season is upon us in Santa Barbara, which means I'm finding every which way to use up bumper crops of peaches from the farmers' market. I love slicing peaches into salads (especially alongside fresh basil, cucumbers, and salty feta cheese), or simply roasting the halves slathered with honey and butter, with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. Here is my recipe for another fabulous peach-inspired dessert, a Cardamom Peach Crisp.
CARDAMOM PEACH CRISP
Serves: 8-10 people
- 3 pounds peaches, peeled and diced (6-7 peaches)
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch or tapioca powder
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- Juice of one lemon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
- Pinch of kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- PREPARE PEACH FILLING: In a 12” cast-iron skillet (or pyrex dish), mix together the sliced peaches, honey, brown sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom and a pinch of salt.
- PREPARE CRISP TOPPING: In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the oats, almond meal, almonds, brown sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. Mix in the cubes of cold butter and use your hands to blend the butter into the other topping ingredients, until only pea-sized pieces of butter remain. Stir in 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt, until the mixture is moistened throughout.
- BAKE THE CRISP: Dollop spoonfuls of the oat mixture over the filling and use your fingers to break up the mixture until it is evenly distributed. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the filling is bubbling around the edges and the top is lightly golden. Allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or plain yogurt.
Recently I spied a lonely bag of blood oranges languishing in the $0.99 "ugly" bin at the grocery store. Holding the bag up and inspecting it from all sides, I saw a few bumps and bruises... but nothing that a little love and creativity couldn't fix. So I juiced those puppies and whipped up a blood orange + chia seed pudding with pistachios and honey - and HOT DAMN it was good. See below for the (very simple) recipe... I recommend filling up a few mason jars so you'll have a few healthy + hearty breakfasts or snacks ready when hunger hits. Regular oranges would work beautifully if you don't have access to blood oranges.
It starts with little things like giving a second life to bargain bin oranges... but I hope to be better about embracing + celebrating the imperfections in the world, in others, and in myself. Embrace the bumps ya'll (because perfection is boring anyway).
BLOOD ORANGE AND CHIA SEED PUDDING
Fresh citrus, yogurt, and chia seeds make a healthy + hearty breakfasts or snack ready when hunger hits. Regular oranges would work beautifully if you don't have access to blood oranges.
Serves: Serves 2
- 1 cup plain yogurt, divided
- 1/2 cup fresh blood orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons honey, plus more for serving
- 1/4 cup chia seeds
- 2 blood oranges
- Chopped pistachios, for serving
- Whisk 1/2 cup of the yogurt, 1/2 cup blood orange juice, vanilla extract, salt, and honey in a medium bowl. Whisk in chia seeds, cover, and chill at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.
- Cut peel and white pith from the two blood oranges. Cut along sides of membranes to release segments into a medium bowl.
- Give pudding a good stir and divide between two bowls, creating layers with the remaining yogurt and orange segments. Top with pistachios and remaining orange segments, drizzle with honey, and enjoy!