Adendum to Jamming and a Special Thanks

I don’t go on my Facebook account very often.

Mostly I use it to promote classes I am teaching and now to promote my blog.  I check into my account about once every two weeks or so.  I’m glad I did this morning.  The jam recipe I included in the last entry?  It was missing an ingredient — the lime juice, which is important not only as a flavor element, but as the acid that makes the jelly safe for hot-water bath processing.

What does FB have to do with this?  Well, a dear friend of mine shared my blog through his FB, which was a great surprise.  And then two of his friends had comments about the blog, one of which was about the food safety of the recipe.  Without Angela Mazur’s comment, the recipe may have made some people ill, which would have been horrible!

Thing was, I just made a batch that morning and failed to bring the recipe card to the computer with me, and typed in the recipe from memory.  I won’t make that mistake again!  The blog entry has since been updated!  Thanks again to Angela.

Jamming

Jam and jelly was always a preservation area that alluded me.  Admittedly, I didn’t put much effort into it, because my mother-in-law is a jammer, extraordinaire.  She showed up every year at Christmas time with a trunk full of strawberry jam, and raspberry jam, and peach preserves.  But my own history of jams that didn’t set up is really what made me stop trying.

A couple of years ago, my husband encouraged me to make Sweet Tomato Jam.  He found the recipe in one of his cookbooks and it sounded good to him.  Honestly, it sounded disgusting to me, but I made it anyway because it was one of those years we had tomatoes coming out of our ears — I had quite a few volunteer cherry tomato plants come up and they were very prolific, so I adapted the recipe to use up the excess.

Well, it didn’t set up.  I was dejected, and all “I told you I can’t make jam.”  But rather than waste these jars of jam, I called my mother-in-law and she encouraged me to re-cook the jam with some pectin and talked me through the process.  It worked!  And the resulting jam was really tasty!  On a whim, I added it to my entries for the Middletown Grange Fair and it was judged a Best in Show (in a four way, with three other jams)!  Lesson learned: if it doesn’t set up on the first try, cook it again.  Oh, and trust my husband’s ability to judge a recipe.

This year I have made all sorts of jams and jellies, from combination berry to an unusual cilantro-garlic jelly.  I think it is a condiment that will pair nicely with grilled fish, chicken or pork.

Cilantro-Garlic Jelly

  • 1 C cilantro, chopped, including stems
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 t black peppercorns, crushed
  • 1 hot pepper, sliced
  • 3 C boiling water
  • the juice of two limes, strained
  • 2 C sugar
  • 2 T powdered pectin
  1. Combine cilantro, garlic, peppercorns and hot pepper in a heat-proof bowl and cover with 3 1/2 C of boiling water.  Cover the bowl and let steep over night.
  2. The next morning, strain through butter muslin (or a piece of an old sheet) in a fine sieve. Do not press.
  3. Mix the pectin with 1/2 C sugar and set aside.
  4. Measure 3 cups into a medium pot, along with the lime juice.  Add the sugar pectin mixture.  Bring to a boil.
  5. Add the remaining 1 1/2 C of the sugar and bring to a boil that cannot be stirred down over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute.
  6. Remove from the heat and let rest for 4 minutes.  Skim foam.  Pour into sterile canning jars and process.

A special thanks to Angela Mazur who caught a MAJOR error in this post, that has now been revised!

Preservation Class Post Script

Many thanks to all who attended class on Wednesday evening!  It was great to have so many people who are so interested in the ancient art of lacto-fermentation!

To answer three questions that have come by email, that may interest more of you:

1. What was the name of the farm where you get your dairy?  My regular source for dairy is Freedom Acres Farm in Honeybrook, PA.  They have 100% open door policy and will answer questions and show you around.  The phone number is (610)-273-2076.  Tell them Natalie sent you!

2. Can I use they whey left from cottage cheese making?  Well, that depends.  If you used the “quick-set” method by adding vinegar to the heated milk, the answer is no.  If you cultured the milk to make it set, then yes.  The problem is that the vinegar will kill the good and the bad bacteria, therefore no lacto-bacilli in the whey.  The whey that I used in class is the by-product of yogurt making, which is loaded with good probiotic bacteria.

3. If I am making pickles, how do I know when they are finished?  In addition to the bubbles that will make any spices float up and down, you can tell by the color. These are freshly packed cukes in the brine:Image

After 3-4 days, the color will turn, and they will turn a more olive green:

Image

I hope that helps!

Abundance of Berries

I don’t want to jinx anything, but we are having a great year with “s-berries” and “r-berries.”  An old farmer’s superstition prevents me from naming these little red gems of late spring/early summer, however, we are having a great year!  We have harvested more than we can eat, and the past few weeks have been extremely busy, what with the end of school and a quick 1,400-mile round trip to my son’s graduation from Boot Camp, so I haven’t been jamming anything yet.

Yet.

So what have I been doing with all of these berries?  Freezing them.  Freezing berries is just about the simplest preservation there is.  Wash the berries.  Drain them as best you can and then lay them out in a single layer on a towel until they are completely dry.  Put the berries on a cookie sheet in a single layer, and put them in the freezer.  In about two hours they should be frozen enough to remove from the tray and put in a plastic storage bag.  Remove as much air as possible and seal.

I’m not sure exactly how long they will keep in the freezer because we usually run out in March, so 9 months, anyway. What to do with frozen berries?

  • Make smoothies, and freeze the remaining smoothie for popsicles.
  • Add a handful to plain yogurt and make your own fruit and yogurt.
  • Defrost them and cook them into jam/preserves.
  • Eat them as a snack on a hot day.
  • Cook them into your oatmeal on a cold morning.

If you have more ideas, leave them in the comments!!  Happy Berries, everyone!

Anticipation

I am ready for this school year to end. I am tired of attempting to teach a bunch of high school seniors who are ready to graduate. It’s all about prom and dresses and limo and the week at the shore following. Yes, you read that correctly, week at the shore following. No matter that we will be finishing units, taking unit tests, and preparing for final exams (although we have taken to calling them assessments here). And I have piles to go before I sleep, so to speak. Much grading to do, much whining to listen to.

But that’s all OK. I can deal, because last week I received an email about opening day at our CSA at Fernbrook Farm. It is only a day away! Forget Memorial Day weekend. For me, the start of summer is marked by going to the farm for the first day of the season. We like to go early in the morning, when everything is still wet with dew, and the sun is not too strong. We pick our U-pick crops, get our produce from the “shop” and then mosey around to say hello to the animals. It is a slow time, and I enjoy that very much. My daughter sometimes gets frustrated because I chat with everyone who wants to chat (She reprimanded me once, about talking to strangers). Why is she in a rush? Because visiting the goats, sheep, and chickens always comes last.

After six years, the farm has become as comfortable as a second home, and tomorrow I look forward to a kind of homecoming. While I haven’t received the weekly email as to what I can expect this week, my guess is that my share will include bunches of greens, maybe some spring onions (scallions), and hopefully some “s-berries”! So what do I do with the abundance of greens? I start making Kim Chee, a spicy Korean ferment. It is an easy way to stretch the life of your greens. While most people think of Kim Chee that is made with Napa Cabbage, I have found that just about any firm green works well.

Kim Chee
Napa Cabbage, or other firm green (such as bok choy or mustard or collard greens), shredded
3-6 cloves garlic, chopped
3-4 T fresh ginger, grated
1-3 T Korean red pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes)
2-3 scallions, sliced
2 T salt (non-iodized), or 1 T salt and ¼ C whey

1. Put all of the ingredients in a large, sturdy, non-reactive bowl and mis thoroughly. Pound for 10 minutes. When I first started fermenting vegetables, I pounded with an old potato masher. You can use a boiled rock, or wooden block. I have a plunger from my Squeezo that works very well.
2. In a sterile quart canning jar, tightly pack the pounded ingredients. It is VERY important to leave one inch of space at the top of the jar. Do not try and squeeze in more than that. If you have too much to fit in the jar, use a second jar.
3. Secure the lid firmly, but not super tight.
4. Leave in a warm spot for 2 or 3 days, until bubbles start to form. Move to cold storage. This will keep in your refrigerator for months, if it lasts that long!