Green Tomato Preserves with Ginger and Apples

I came into a lot of green tomatoes this year as the frost approached. There’s no sense leaving them on the plant once a frost is on its way, so Clare and I and the neighbors picked all we had still on the vine and now I have the charge of making them taste good in jars. I’ve got about ten pounds.

Ok.

There are several recipes from Ferber, but they all sounded kinda wierd. 

Green Tomato and Cinnamon?

Green Tomato and Apples and Orange?

Green Tomato and Pumpkin?

Green Tomato and Veal Kidneys?

Ok, I made that last one up, but ew, right?

So, I decided to try Green Tomato and Ginger.

And then, as I was cooking, I was smelling the preserves and I thought to myself, “Hmm.. this smells great, I smells kinda like apple cider.”

Apple cider you say? Well, that was enough to convince me to cut up some Honeycrisp I bought at an orchard last week and toss ’em in the pot.

I like the end result. It’s got a nice smell and flavor and I really like the color. The tomatoes got much darker as they cooked.

Here’s the method.

Wash tomatoes.

Cut tomatoes into wedges and mix with an equal amount of sugar and juice of a lemon.  

Let macerate overnight. Bring to a boil the next day and return to fridge overnight.

The next day (day three by now), add medium dice apples and return to a boil.

Simmer and reduce until you achieve the desired set.

Here’s my end result:

Ok, here’s the next thing. 

I only used half the tomatoes and I’m needing to get going on the second half and I want your input.

So, vote for one of the two options below and I’ll make the winner:

Seckel Pears with Honey and Ginger

Hey folks, it’s been awhile since I wrote a post, but I’m back.

I’ve been hard at work getting things going to sell this delicious jams. I’m currently looking around for commercial kitchen space to rent. But, once I’m done with that and I get my food processor’s license, I should be in pretty good shape to start selling things.

I might even get things to market before the holidays. We’ll see…

The name for these tasty little treats is going to be quince & apple. Here’s the proposed logo:

But, in the midst of doing all this I have found time to make one jam that I really liked: Seckel Pears with Honey and Ginger.

I’ve always loved Seckels the best of all the pears because of their size, texture and flavor. They’re tiny, so they’re adorable. They’re more firm than Bartletts, but less so than Boscs. And, they have a strong pear flavor which carries some spice notes along for good measure.

So, I thought this recipe would be really good, with the honey and the ginger playing off of the Seckels’ spice overtones.

The method for this recipe is really quite simple.

Peel the pears (this is really annoying, just as a heads up).

Then, you cut ’em up, mix ’em with sugar, honey and grated fresh ginger, bring them to a simmer and put them in the fridge over night in a ceramic bowl with a parchment lid. The next day, you bring them mix to a simmer and add apple jelly for pectin content.

Simmer, reduce and can.

Here’s the final result:

Also, I wanted to thank another blogger at Straight from the Farm who put up a really nice post about my Ground Cherry Chamomile Jam and I wanted to congratulate another reader, Kathryn, who adapted the recipe to win second place in her local CSA recipe contest.

Go team david matthew readers!

Maple Nectarine

The other preserve that I worked on this week is a Maple Nectarine Preserve.

Pretty straightforward stuff here:

Cut up nectarines.

Bring to boil with sugar, maple syrup, and lemon juice (and Bourbon).

Transfer to ceramic bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Bring back to boil, reduce, check set and put into jars.

As you can see, I’m experimenting with different jars to see what shape I want to sell the preserves in. The little one would be part of a sample set of, say, 5 different preserves.

A tasty little treat from the waning days of summer.

Figs Preserved in Honey and Bourbon

Yesterday at this time, my thermometer read 91 degrees. Today? Try 55. That’s right friends, fall is on its way.

I always feel a mixture of sadness and excited anticipation as the seasons begin to change. I wonder if I got everything I could have out of the season we’re leaving, but look forward to the rituals and unique pleasures of the one to come.

And while I feel this everytime a season fades, I somehow seem to feel it most keenly as summer turns into fall. I hate to wait another year for tomatoes, ripe to the point of bursting, to hang heavy on the vine, but can’t wait for the apples ripening on the tree, as crisp as a late September morning.

And so, with this whistful mood in tow, I set out to make a preserve that seems to me to be a perfect reflection of this time of year: Figs Preserved in Honey and Bourbon.

My goal with this preserve was not a jam or a jelly or even a traditional preserve. Instead, I wanted the figs to hold their shape and the honey-bourbon syrup to remain just that, a syrup, and not fully set up. The idea here is both that the figs are the focus and that I wanted something that would compliment a different set of foods.

Think vanilla ice cream and cheese cake, not toast and waffles.

Also, doesn’t a fig dripping with honey and bourbon just make you want to fall over in excitement? Well, it does me.

Here’s how it all played out.

First, I bought some Black Mission Figs. If you get them at the grocery store, be sure to check them carefully for signs of mold, as figs are extremely perishable.

I washed, stemmed and quartered them (except for the giant figs, which I sixthed). I put them into a ceramic bowl with the sugar, honey, lemon juice and one vanilla bean, split lengthwise.

A note on whole vanilla beans: When purchasing a vanilla bean, make sure it is soft and fresh, not old and brittle. The flavors are better and it is far easier to split.

Let these macerate in the bowl at room temperature with a parchment lid for one hour. The figs are soft and ready to give up their moisture (especially after being cut) and so we don’t need to do this step overnight.

Transfer the mixture from the bowl to your preserving pot and bring to a simmer. Return to the bowl, recover with parchment and let sit overnight in the fridge. During the process of transferring, simmering and re-transferring, be gentle with the figs, so as not to break them up into little figgy bits.

On day two, pour the mixture through a strainer (it doesn’t need to be real fine, as everything will be recombined in the end) and collect the syrup in the preserving pot. Get out your bourbon, pour yourself a glass, with an ice cube or two if you like, add some bourbon to the pot and bring to a simmer.

Once it comes to a simmer, you have two choices: burn off the alcohol or wait for it to simmer off. I chose to burn it off, mostly because it’s pretty fun, but for God’s sake, don’t burn your house down. Here’s what you can expect if you choose to stick a match (or birthday candle in this case) to it:

Yikes.

Once the syrup is reduced to the consistency you’d like, return the figs to the mix, return to a simmer.

Remove the vanilla bean halves and put into sanitized preserve jars. Cut the vanilla halves into as many jars as you have and put a piece in each jar for additional flavor and decoration. Here’s one of mine before the lid went on. You can see the vanilla bean sticking out some toward the top.

So, that’s the way to do it. Keep sipping your bourbon as you wait for your figs to cool and enjoy the last days of summer.

Figs Presevered in Honey with Bourbon

566 g (or 1 1/4 lb) figs

500 g sugar

400 g honey

Juice of one small lemon

200 g bourbon (1c, roughly) for the recipe plus 100 g bourbon for drinking

When choosing a bourbon, be sure to choose a real Kentucky Bourbon, not some “American Whiskey.” That’s right Jack Daniels, you can keep your Tennessee moonshine. As for how nice a bourbon to get, don’t go wasting a Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year, but don’t get something crappy like Old Crow or Rebel Yell. I went with Evan Williams, a mass market bourbon, which is decent. Also, it’s distilled in Bardstown, Kentucky and I am a decendant of William Bard, who founded the town with his brother David in 1782.

This following section has nothing to do with Figs and Honey, so stop reading if you like. It’s a bit of the legend surrounding my ancestor, William Bard, from the mythology of Bardstown. I found it on a geneaology website here.

<<The story is that salt being scarce at Pittsburgh, Bard proposed to three other men, Brown, Evans and Doe, to go down the Ohio river, on a flat-boat, to the salt licks of Kentucky. Doe’s wife went with them to cook for them. They landed near the site of Louisville, and then went to Drennon’s creek, twelve miles distant, where they built a cabin preparatory to beginning the manufacture of salt. The Does had with them an infant six months old. The party had not been many days at the salt licks when they were attacked by a band of Indians. Doe and his wife were both killed and Brown was severely wounded. Bard killed one Indian with his own gun, and with the gun of the dead man he shot another. These fatalities had the effect of intimidating the Indians, and they fled, leaving Mr. Bard with the wounded man and the helpless babe on his hands. He succored the child by chewing bread, that it might have sustenance. In the meantime, Evans made his way to the river in search of assistance. At midnight of the following night, the wounded man died. Bard then barred up the cabin and, taking the child in his arms, followed after Evans. He had gone only three miles when he was attacked by wolves. He escaped them by climbing a tree, where he remained until daylight. Resuming his journey, he soon afterward met Mr. Evans with a company of men led by Daniel Boone coming to his rescue.>>

That’s right folks, if it hadn’t been for good old Danny Boone, you wouldn’t have this here blog to read.

If that’s not a story worth a healthy measure of bourbon, I don’t know what is.

Drink up.

Ground Cherry Chamomile Jam

Feeling bolstered by my success with the strawberry jam repair, but mostly because I can’t stick to recipes for very long, I decided to freestyle my next jam. I had bought a bunch of ground cherries at the market from a very friendly young farmer whose name I don’t know without any real idea of what I was going to do with them. And because ground cherries don’t really grow in Alsace, where Ms. Ferber lives and works, she wasn’t much help.

Ground cherries (also called Cape gooseberries) are unique because, while they are eaten and used like other fruits, in addition to being sweet and tart they also contain umami. Umami is the “new” flavor “discovered” in Japan and is often described as meaty, brothy or just plain “deliciousness.” In fact, when I gave Clare a ground cherry to taste, she said, “It tastes like meat.” This is not entirely surprising because ground cherries are closely related to tomatoes and tomatillos, both of which are rich in glutamic acid, the source of umami.

So, I wanted to find something that complimented the uniqueness of the flavor, but didn’t mask or hide it. I’m not sure if other people have this ability, but I can kinda “visualize” a flavor as a sort of three dimensional object and get a sense of its geography. I’ll use this if I want to brainstorm flavor combinations to see what flavors fit, like a when you’re putting together a puzzle, trying piece after piece. Well, I did this with the ground cherries, thinking about what would fill out the picture and before long I settled on chamomile. I can put words to why I think they work together (the musky, floral aroma of chamomile, reminiscent of honey, and its slightly bitter infusion balance the sweet and tart elements of the ground cherries, while providing a rich canvas on which the cherries’ umami can play out), but the real reason I chose the combination is that they just “fit.”

Ok, enough theory, back to the jam.

Once I’d decided on the components, it was fairly easy to put together a recipe. I started with a basic ground cherry preserve that I found here and pulled out a technique for adding chamomile from Ferber that she uses in a Mirabelle Plum and Chamomile Jam. I worked the two together and off I went.

Here’s how it went:

First, I husked the cherries and washed them.

Then, I made a syrup with sugar, some water and lemon juice. I added the husked berries, brought them to a boil and simmered for five minutes.

The cherries burst, one by one, and turned a beautiful translucent, releasing their seeds into the syrup. I put the cherries into a ceramic bowl and stored them overnight in the fridge with a parchment lid.

The following day, I returned the mixture to a boil, while preparing an infusion of chamomile. Once the tisane was properly steeped, I added it to the boiling jam and kept the whole thing at a simmer until reduced to a proper consistency. Interestingly, the jam had turned a brighter yellow overnight, as you can see in this picture.

The result is a delicious jam that tastes two parts ground cherry, one part honey, one part chamomile and a pinch of lemon. I gave some to Clare to taste and she said, “That’s really good. I was trying to have an open mind and I didn’t even need it!” I’m pretty sure that’s a compliment.

Here’s the final result:

I’m not sure what’s going to come next, but I’ll keep you posted.

Recipe

6 cups husked and washed ground cherries

5 cups sugar

1 cup water

Juice of one lemon

2 cups chamomile infusion

Combine sugar, water and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add ground cherries and simmer for 5 minutes, until most cherries are burst open. Transfer to ceramic bowl and cover with a parchment lid. Refrigerate overnight. Transfer back to preserving pot and return to a boil. Add chamomile infusion, simmer until proper consistency and can.

Sources:

Ground Cherries: Nice guy at farmer’s market who’s name I forget

Sugar: Shur Fine Cane Sugar

Lemon: Harmony Valley Fruit CSA

Chamomile: Willy Street Co-op

Strawberry Jam with Fresh Mint and Black Pepper

My first project has been a recipe straight from Christine Ferber’s “Mes Confitures,” Strawberry with Fresh Mint and Black Pepper. And while Strawberry and Black Pepper is likely on its way toward cliche-dom, I thought I’d give it a go. Strawberries are ripe and in season and I have ready access to fresh mint in my kitchen. Also, it’s a pretty straight forward recipe that I have all the equipment for.

The jam, while being easy, is not quick. In fact, it’s taken me a week to get the jams right. I picked up three pints of strawberries from the farmer’s market last Tuesday night, hulled and cleaned them when I got home and started them macerating with sugar and lemon juice overnight. Ferber is insistant on using a ceramic bowl and a parchment paper lid (she’s insistant about a lot of things) and I followed her orders like a good little cook.

The next day, I poured the mixture into a large pot, brought it to a boil, simmered for five minutes (skimming all the while) and returned it to the ceramic bowl to chill overnight. This step half-cooks the berries and dissolves all the sugar crystals into the strawberry juice drawn out during maceration. It makes a gorgeous, crystal clear, ruby red syrup and the berries are just tender.

On the third, and what should have been final, day, I strained the mixture through a chinois into another pot. I chose a smaller pot this time, reasoning that it wasn’t necessary to use the large one, as I was straining out the berries. Bad idea. Because the pot was taller than it was wide, it was very difficult to keep the syrup from boiling over while reducing it to the proper consistency. The end result was that it ended up not getting reduced enough, but more on that in a minute. One I had finished reducing it, I added back the berries and added the fresh mint and black pepper, returned it all to a boil for five minutes and canned it, thinking I was done.

Well, the problem was that it didn’t set up. Watch this video to see what I mean.

Who wants strawberry soup on their bread? Not me.

So, back to the drawing board. I thought about what to do and decided to just open the jars again, strain out the berries and keep reducing the syrup. I called my personal pastry consultant, Anna, and she thought it was a good idea too.

So, I strained the berries again:

Reduced the syrup and recanned. I’m confident it’s going to work this time because there’s a lot less water in the syrup. Look at the jars cooling from the first attempt (top) versus the second (bottom) and how much water has condensed in the first picture and how there’s none in the second. Water = not setting up. You can also see that the fourth jar is gone. That’s how much water cooked off.

So, that’s the first attempt. I just need to distribute them now and see how people like them!

Up next, Ground Cherry Chamomile Jam.

Sources:
Strawberries – Emerald Meadows Family Farm
Mint – My kitchen
Pepper – Matt Brown’s trip to India
Sugar – Shur Fine Cane Sugar
Lemon – Harmony Valley Fruit CSA