Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Alice Waters' Chez Pannise Turns 40

Here is Alice Waters' credo:
  • Good, healthful food is a right for all, especially children.
  • A civil society is one that cooks and eats together.
  • It all starts with respect for local, organic ingredients.
This is an excellent article on the history of Alice Waters and the organic food movement along with her current work with the Edible Schoolyard.

Read more:

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Peach Preserves

I made a visit to a neighboring suburban town to buy some eggs from our source. They also have an extensive garden and fruit orchard. So in addition to the 18 fresh eggs, I also came home with with a few pounds of green and yellow beans, some yellow cucumbers, and about twenty big, beautiful peaches that I decided would become my first attempt at peach preserves. Right on the heel of the apricot preserves the week before! But for this post I felt I should elaborate more about what I'm learning about canning and preserving.

I turned first to the bible of canning and preserving--The Ball Blue Book which had two recipes. But I was also intrigued by the Chunky Peach Preserves in Janet Fletcher's "Fresh From the Farmer's Market." So I ended morphing the three recipes.

Peach Preserves

  • 10-12 large ripe peaches
  • sugar
  • lemon juice - 2/3 cup (I only had half a lemon on hand so that's what I used)
Now, as for the sugar, Ball Blue Book calls for 6 cups which seemed like a lot to me. If you look online, you will find varying amounts in the recipes including some with no sugar. I will continue to experiment with the amount of sugar but for this batch I went with about 4 to 4 1/2 cups.

  1. Get a large pot of water boiling.
  2. As the water gets close to boiling, prepare a large bowl of ice water nearby.
  3. With a slotted spoon, lower peaches, a few at a time, into the boiling water and blanch for about 30 seconds.
  4. Transfer peaches to the ice water bath.
  5. When cool, lift out the peaches and peel away the skin.
  6. Cut the peaches in half, then fourths, then eighths, and then cut around the equator. The goal is to create chunks about 1 square inch each. Discard any blemished or bruised portions. Place the chunks into a large, non-reactive pot (glass or enameled cast iron).
  7. Add the lemon juice and sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  8. Let it sit for 12-18 hours or overnight. I did it overnight putting it in the refrigerator overnight.
Next Day:
  1. Slowly get the peach mixture to boiling, stirring frequently.
  2. Boil and stir frequently until the mixture is clear and the syrup is thick. The syrup should be golden brown.
  • If the syrup becomes too thick before the fruit is tender then add some boiling water (1/4 cup at a time).
  • If the syrup is too thin you can drain the fruit in a bowl and return the syrup to the pot and cook it until it thickens up.
  • A tip I have seen online is to spoon a bit of the syrup onto a small plate and stick it in the freezer for a couple of minutes to cool it. When you take it out it should jelly-like but still able to slowly flow when tilted.
Canning Process:

Once you have the preserves ready to get them into the jars start by sterilizing the jars by putting them into a dishwasher that sterilizes or put the jars in boiling water for 10-20 minutes. It's always a good idea to sterilize a few more jars than you think you'll need just in case. Place the lids in a separate pot of boiling water to sterilize.

When the preserves are ready, spoon them into a clean, hot jar within a 1/2 inch of the top. Wipe the rim clean with a towel dipped in hot water. Place lids on and secure tightly.

For long term storage, place the filled jars into boiling water that covers the jars by one inch. Boil 15 minutes for half-pint jars and 20 minutes for pint jars. Transfer with tongs to rack to cool. Sealed jars prepared this way can be stored in the pantry for up to a year.

This particular batch yielded four pints and a little extra.

If you are new to canning, Lehman's is a great place to get your supplies. They sell a canning starter kit where you can get the lid lifter, tongs, jar funnel, and other supplies that are essential to canning. I've also found some of these same supplies at garage sales and antique fairs.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Apricot Preserves

We harvested a number of pounds of apricots from our tree in the backyard recently. Apricots have a very short season and shelf life so it's good to have ways to quickly utilize them and preserve them. Visit the California apricot web site to find out more information about California apricots.

I decided to try my hand at apricot preserves. I did some searching online and ended up borrowing heavily from this site. Not being a big sugar fan, I like how this particular recipe is lighter on the sugar than other recipes. I also like my preserves with chunks of the fruit. So in my version, I added the apricots in waves of thirds. The longer they cook, the more they will reduce down. So by doing them in thirds, I am going for a mix of pure jam along with some nice chunks of fruit.

Apricot Preserves
  • 20-30 fresh apricots
  • 1 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
  • Melt the sugar and water in an enameled cast iron pot or other non-reactive pot and bring to a boil until clear and syrupy.
  • Meanwhile, cut the washed apricots in half discarding the pits.
  • As you cut up the first third of the apricots, add them to the sugar mixture and stir to coat them. The fire should be on medium low so that the apricots cook down but it should not be bubbling.
  • Add in another third of the apricots when they are ready. Stir frequently.
  • Add in the final third. Stir until they are reduced but still chunky. Total cooking time will be an hour or more.
  • Add in the lemon juice and stir.
Sterilize some jars and add the preserves following proper sanitary canning techniques.

I can't yet say how it tastes. I put them in the pantry to enjoy later.