Cherry Wine Jelly

So, there may have been a bit of a cherry wine catastrophe.  It turns out that cherries are significantly less sweet than strawberries, and as such, don’t need a final injection of acid blend (whatever that is).  That’s right, the cherry wine Peter spent so much time making turned out sour, and not in the refreshing manner of sour beers, more like “oh god this wine is turning to vinegar”.  Peter tried drinking it for a while, but eventually gave up.
But what on earth does one do with half a batch of sour wine?!?  Well, I finally have an answer to that: wine jelly.  I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it sooner, but after trying to heat it up like mulled wine (a disaster if there ever was one), it finally dawned on me that lots and lots of sugar was the only way to go.  In case you are the kind of person that likes following reputable recipes, I point you HERE.  Otherwise, read on.

Usually I try to follow canning recipes even if I plan to keep the final product in the fridge, but in my excitement to finally enjoy consuming the cherry wine, powdered pectin was purchased instead of liquid.  Who cares, you might think.  Well, apparently these things make a difference, if the doomsday comments of the above recipe are any indication.  Instead I gave up all semblance of following orders and made up my own version, based on the general guidelines for using Pomona’s Universal Pectin with fruit juice.  Sort of.

Cherry Wine Jelly (using Pomona’s Universal Pectin)
(Makes 4-5 half-pint jars of jelly)
2 cups sour wine
1/4 cup reduced sour wine (from the rest of the bottle)
1 3/4 cups sugar
1.5 teaspoons calcium water
1.5 teaspoons pectin powder

In case you try to use a non-sour wine, instructions seem to suggest adding lemon juice.

  1. Begin by pouring out 2 cups of wine from 1 bottle of wine and set aside.  Reduce the rest of the bottle of wine to about 1/4 cup.
  2. Mix the sugar with the pectin powder and set aside.
  3. Combine the 2 cups of wine with the 1/4 cup reduced wine and the calcium water in a pot and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the sugar/pectin to the hot wine mixture and stir for 1-2 minutes until the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Bring the mixture back to a boil and then remove from heat.
  6. Pour wine jelly into sanitized jars (boil jars in a hot water bath for 5 minutes or so), close the lids, and let sit on the counter until room temperature.
  7. Put the wine jelly jars into the fridge.  You may have to wait 24 hours for the jelly to set properly.  I eat the cherry wine jelly on toast like any other kind of jam, but it would also be wonderful served with cheese.  Or you could eat it on top of foccacia (see photo below) topped with olive oil, cheese, and rosemary.

Bonus recipe: sugar cookies that don’t need to be chilled!  I made these for my lovely physics ladies this week with a touch of sprinkles, cinnamon sugar, or shredded coconut on top.  In case you were worried, they accumulated quite a few compliments.

Cardamom Pluot Jam

In what has been a mad rush to can every fruit and vegetable in sight before the scary Santa Barbara winter drives us all inside (hoping we don’t drown in the impending winter floods), I somehow forgot about plum jam until last week and was a bit irked that there were no plums left to be had.  Fortunately, it was not a total loss, because one stall at the farmer’s market sells an absurdly large number of pluot varieties that seem to be available for nearly half the year.   What is a pluot and how is it different than a plumcot?  While wikipedia will tell you more about this than any sane person would like to know, the salient point is that, by combining plum and apricot genes, new fruit with a multitude of colors are possible.  New colors means awesome-looking jam.  I couldn’t pass up awesome-looking jam, now could I?  A very kind lady handing out samples of pluots pointed me toward the Dapple Dandy pluot variety, saying that they make a lovely pink jam.  I added two dark-skinned pluots to the mix, and the result was a deeply pink-purple jam with a serious kick of cardamom.

Cardamom Pluot Jam (adapted from Canning for a New Generation)
(Makes 5-6 half-pints of jam)
4 pounds of ripe pluots
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon ground cardamom

To make the jam:  Prepare the pluots by pitting them and cutting them into small pieces.  Mix the plums and sugar in a large pot and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.  You’ll probably want to stir the mixture frequently, as the fruit has an annoying tendency to stick to the bottom of the pot.  After 5 minutes, separate the pluot pieces from the juice by using a slotted spoon and transferring all the pluot pieces to a separate heat-proof bowl.  Try to keep as much of the juice in the pot as possible, perhaps spooning some back into the pot from the bowl of pluot pieces.  Bring the juices back to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes to thicken the juices into a syrup.  Then add the pluot pieces back to the pot of syrup, along with the lime juice and cardamom and bring the jam to a simmer for about 15 minutes.  You can test to see when the jam is thick enough by putting some on a plate you’ve stashed in the freezer and then returning said dab of jam on said frozen plate back to the freezer for a minute; the dab of jam should be thickened.

To can the jam:  Follow the detailed canning instructions in the post on dilly beans, with the following specifications.  When the jam is done cooking, pour it into sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace.  Since jam is sticky and has a tendency to get everywhere, don’t forget to wipe the rims of the jars before putting on the lids.  To process the half-pints of jam, boil them in a hot-water bath for 5 minutes.

Strawberry Jam

One of the plants I thought of growing in my garden was strawberries, but then I had flashbacks of pulling slugs off strawberry plants and trying to drown said slugs in beer.  Somehow this seems way more humane than killing them in salt.  After all, wouldn’t you rather die drunk? Of course slugs probably wouldn’t be too much of an issue here due to a serious lack of rain, but somehow it still seems like too much work to grow my own strawberries when I can get fresh strawberries from the farmer’s market year-round.  Unfortunately, the farmer’s market strawberry quality does seem to vary over the course of a year, so I thought it only right to try making one of the strawberry recipes from Canning for a New Generation before the strawberries lose their summer integrity.  Canning for a New Generation has a whopping 9 canning recipes involving strawberries, from the simple strawberry jam (I thought I’d start off easy) to strawberry syrup and beefed-up jam versions with lemon or thai basil, in case I get bored. One warning though, while the ingredients in this jam are simple and few, the cooking takes a while (so don’t pull an Anna and neglect to read the whole recipe through before you begin).

Strawberry Jam (from Canning for a New Generation)
(Makes about 4 half-pint jars of jam)
3 pounds of strawberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Grated zest from 1 lemon

To make the jam:  Prepare the strawberries by washing them thoroughly, cutting off their tops, and cutting them into small pieces.  Mix the strawberries and sugar in a pot and bring to a simmer for 5 minutes.  It’s probably good to stir the mixture frequently.  I accidentally added the lemon juice and zest from the beginning, but the original recipe suggests waiting until the last step of cooking (which will be explained in a moment).  After the 5 minutes of simmering, fish out all the strawberry pieces with a slotted spoon or pour the entire mixture through a strainer, catching the liquid in a new pot or bowl.  Set the berries aside and bring the strawberry juice back to a simmer in the pot until it is reduced to about 1 1/2 cups of liquid, which may take about 20 minutes.  Then add the strawberries back to the pot, along with the lemon juice and zest if you’re actually intending to follow the recipe (I think I may just be allergic to recipes), and simmer for about 15 minutes more.  The jam is ready when you put a bit on a frozen plate, stick the plate with dab of jam back in the freezer for a minute, and the jam is somewhat firm.  Finally, skim as much foam off the top of the jam as possible (and eat it!), and then give the jam a quick gentle mix to distribute the fruit in the liquid before canning.

To can the jam:  Luckily the canning part is much easier.  See the detailed instructions for canning dilly beans, with the following changes.  Fill the half-pint jars with jam, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace at the top of each jar.  Process the half-pint jars in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

In case you want to can something from a reputable source and don’t want to invest in a canning recipe book, the author of Food in Jars has a blog of the same name.  It’s fun, and has another dilly been recipe I will be trying ASAP.

Nectarine Jam

Now that I have successfully canned my first jam, there’s no going back.  No more cursing myself for moving across the country only because I no longer go back to school with cans of strawberry freezer jam from a certain birthday buddy on the East Coast.  No more looking lustily at the $6-8 half-pints of homemade jam at the farmer’s market and lying awake considering how much money I’d have to make before that’s not just ridiculous.  I won’t lie, canning is one of those things that requires a t-shirt and shorts, some really peppy music, and a cold drink that, ideally, doesn’t take up too much space on the counter (if you, too, have a miniscule kitchen).  In my favorite lazy move of late, I decided to make my first jam out of nectarines because, unlike peaches, they don’t have to be peeled.  Peeling fruit is like ironing, it’s great if someone else does it for you, but is not something I ever do for myself.

If you don’t want to actually can some jam you can do the whole shebang in 40 minutes and put the jam in small containers in the freezer.  Since I save my freezer space for important things like bacon, chicken stock, cookies, 4 pounds of butter, ice cubes, and the odd bag of bread crumbs, I’ll leave freezer jam to someone else.

Nectarine Jam
(Makes 6-7 half-pint jars of jam)
4 pounds of ripe nectarines* pitted and chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

For cooking the jam:  In a large pot, mix the chopped nectarines, sugar, and lemon juice.  Bring the mixture to a simmer on medium heat and cook for about 25 minutes or until the juice has reached a more syrupy consistency, but the nectarines still hold some shape.  Since there’s no extra gelling agent the jam will stay loose.  You can test whether the juice has become syrupy enough by putting a dab on a plate that’s been cooled in the freezer.  Put the plate with dab of jam on it in the freezer for a minute; the jam should become a bit thicker.

For canning the jam: Follow the directions for canning from the dilly beans post.  You will need to prepare 7 half-pint canning jars.  Make sure to use new flat lids so that they seal properly.  Leave 1/4 inch of space at the top of the jars after filling them with the jam.  Process the filled jars of jam for 5 minutes in the water bath.

*Ripe nectarines can still feel rather firm and will have just a bit of give.  After feeling up and then cutting open 4 pounds of nectarines, I would say that large obvious soft spots are not a good thing but a slight overall softness is ideal.