Summer in a Jar

I feel as though I’m in produce overload right now. Everything seems to be ripening at the same time! Our CSA has blessed us with more cucumbers than two people can eat, so I HAVE to make pickles soon, and I’m getting at least three pounds off our green beans every three days. Oh, and the tomatoes started ripening – I picked 10 of them yesterday. We won’t even talk about the squash that just keeps coming.

And then we have the peaches and blueberries that we ordered. I put 15 lbs. of blueberries in the freeze and made a pie and a blueberry version of this cake, Still need to make muffins… maybe tonight after work. And I did can two batches of peaches – you know, so I can make things like peach pie and ice cream on dreary winter days. After all, it’s no secret that I love peaches. (So much so, that I asked for peach trees for my birthday this year! Here’s hoping they survive our Wisconsin winter!) And then I made jam as well.

What I love most about this recipe is the fact that it goes in freezer, which means it saves me a TON of time. I don’t have to bring a giant kettle of water up to a boil and spend hours processing jars. Simply peel and crush your peaches, cook for a few minutes and ladle into freezer-safe containers. Bam! You’ve captured summer in a jar, and left yourself some time to enjoy the little bit of summer that remains. (Or you can move on to the giant pile of green beans in the fridge.) 😀


Peach Freezer Jam

5 cups of crushed peaches, peeled and pitted*
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup low-sugar powdered pectin (I used the Ball variety, as the store was out of the Sure-Jel in the pink box.)
1/3 cup lemon juice

Wash, rinse and dry seven 8-ounce freezer-safe containers. (I use glass jam jars, and since I only had five 8-ounce jars, I filled one pint jar as well.) Set aside.

In a large pot, combine the fruit and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar and pectin. Pour into the hot fruit and stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture has come back up to a boil that you can’t stir down. Allow mixture to boil for 1 minute, stirring as needed to keep it from sticking. Remove from heat.

Ladle jam into prepared containers, being sure to leave at least 1/2″ headspace, and allow to cool to room temperature before freezing. Store in the freezer.

From Everyday Food Magazine, September 2011

*I slipped my peaches into a boiling water bath for a minute or so to remove the skins, then roughly chopped them. I crushed some of the peaches with my hands before they started cooking and then used a potato masher to mush them down further. As you can see, I left my jam rather chunky, but that’s just a personal preference. 

Click here for a printable version.


CSA Week #9

Check it out! It’s tomato season! And since I’d rather cook with tomatoes than eat them raw (unless we’re talking about a nice slice on a meaty burger), I was pretty excited to get “regular” tomatoes, rather than cherry tomatoes, in our CSA box this week.

So, what else was, there, aside from the tomatoes and sprigs of basil? Four ears of sweet corn, half a pound of green beans, two summer squash, two green peppers, two more cucumbers, and the world’s tiniest cantaloupe. (Corny joke of the day: Why did the melons have a big wedding? Because they were CANT-ELOPE! Get it?! Hahaha… OK. I’m done now.) 

The green beans are gone already, along with two ears of the corn and one of the peppers. I plan on cutting the corn off the other two ears and combining it with some lime juice, onion, black beans, tomato, basil and cooked chicken, and serving it for lunch in a wrap tomorrow. Sounds nice and refreshing to me. I really could use some new ideas for the cucumbers though. As much as I like them as refrigerator pickles, a little variety would be good. And I’m wondering if the summer squash would be an acceptable substitute for zucchini in fritters. Any thoughts on that?

And thanks to my wonderful friend, Janelle, I now have enough tomatoes to get some canned! She was nice enough to give me a giant grocery bag full, along with some jalapenos and green peppers. Sounds like a good thing for tomorrow’s to-do list.

Be sure to check out the “What’s in the Box” link party over at InHerChucks! Lots of great veggies and ideas.

Time to Jam!

Strawberries are one of those fruits that I just can’t get enough of. We picked 36 pounds of them this year (Andy is such a good sport about it!), and within a few days, we had eaten a third of them. No sprinkling of sugar, no baking them into a pie, no shortcake, nothing. Just stuffing them into our mouths, hand over fist. Yum.

As good as they were straight up, I knew that I wanted to make the summery goodness last a little longer. So after making pizza, shortcake and pie, and putting some on ice, I knew it was time for some jam. (Now, I’d never made strawberry jam before, but I knew we’d love it. And since we eat PB&J a lot, I knew it wouldn’t go to waste.) Andy was skeptical, advocating for more straight-up strawberry consumption. (I’ve talked about his feelings on “ruining” fruit before… strawberries, just like the mangoes, were made to be eaten, not sweetened and cooked into a jammy mess.)

Listening to canning jars “pop” and seal is one of the most satisfying sounds to ever come out of my kitchen! I love knowing that all of the time and effort was worth it. (Although, I have to admit, I was hoping that one wouldn’t seal just so I’d have an excuse to eat it right away…) I made two kinds of jam: a strawberry vanilla bean jam that doesn’t have additional pectin, and a strawberry blueberry jam with Sure-Jell. (The strawberry vanilla bean jam was the reason I busted out the canner and spent an evening boiling water, simmering jars and lids and heating up the kitchen during an unseasonably warm June. The sacrifices I make for food!) The strawberry blueberry jam was an experiment, as I didn’t have quite enough strawberries left after eating, so I filled in the rest with blueberries.

The biggest lesson I learned this time around? It’s probably not a good idea to try to cook two batches of jam simultaneously. You can only stir one batch at a time! Oh, and I need a bigger stove for projects like this. One canner, one pot with jars, one pot with lids and two pots with jam equals five items on the stove. A stove with four burners. (Andy did not seem amused when I told him I needed a bigger stove. Guess that’s something I should have mentioned BEFORE the kitchen remodel. Anyway…) 

Strawberry Blueberry Jam on the left, Strawberry Vanilla Bean on the right.

Strawberry Vanilla Bean Jam

1 quart of strawberries, rinsed, hulled and chopped
2 cups of sugar, divided
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
1 lemon, juiced

Toss berries in a large bowl with one cup of sugar and the vanilla beans and seeds. Cover and chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. (You can chill this up to 72 hours; mine hung out in the fridge for about 24.)

Prepare three jam jars/half pint jars for a water bath. (This means sterilizing them in hot (not boiling) water and keeping them hot till you’re ready to use. And yes, this recipe only makes THREE half pints. Now you see why I made two kinds of jam at once. No way was I dragging out all my canning equipment for three measly half pints!) 

Put the berries and remaining cup of sugar in a medium saucepan, discarding the vanilla bean pods. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium to medium-high heat. Then, simmer until the jam reaches 220 degrees. (I don’t know if mine ever got there. My candy thermometer wasn’t cooperating, and it was on the stove for FOREVER. Or 30+ minutes, if you’re going to be picky. But it tested “done” via the gel in the freezer test. And I was sick of stirring. And there was another pot of jam that needed attention. So I called it good.) 

Add the lemon juice during the final five minutes of cooking. Ladle the hot jam into the prepared jars. Wipe the rims of the jars down, top with lids and rings, then process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove processed jars from water bath and let cool completely. When jars are cooled and sealed (you’ll know when you hear the “pops” and the lids don’t push up and down), remove the rings. Label and store for a winter day, when strawberries are just a faint summertime memory. Refrigerate any jars that don’t seal and use within two weeks.

From Love & Olive Oil

Strawberry Blueberry Jam

1 box of Sure-Jell (pink box – no sugar added type)
4 cups of crushed strawberries
2 cups of blueberries (I used frozen ones, as I’m clearing out my freezer for this year’s haul!) 
4 cups of sugar, divided

Place fruit in a large sauacepan. Prepare jam jars/half pint jars for a water bath.

In a separate bowl, measure 3 and 3/4 cups of sugar. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar with the box of Sure-Jell.

Pour the Sure-Jell sugar mixture into the pan with the fruit and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. (Sure-Jell says the mixture should be at a full rolling boil that doesn’t stop in spite of stirring. Again, I’m not sure I achieved this, since my attention wasn’t 100% devoted to this batch of jam.) 

Stir in remaining sugar and return mixture to the rolling boil. Boil exactly one minute. (And here’s where I may have missed the timing again… does anyone know how critical this is?) 

Ladle the hot jam into the prepared jars. Wipe off the rims, top with lids and rings, and then lower into the water bath. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove processed jars and allow to cool completely before removing the rings. Label and store in a cool, dark place. Again, unsealed jars should be stored in the fridge and used within a couple of weeks.

Adapted from Sure-Jell