Cantaloupe – Peach Preserves and Boozy Fig Jam

I have a confession to make: I’m not a gardener. Plants and I simply don’t mesh. There are all these studies out there saying gardening is good for you, how digging in the dirt leads to a strong immune system and a better mental health… But alas, despite to being born to avid gardener parents, I was definitely endowed with a brown thumb… or two. My aunt, whose apartment looked like a jungle full of luscious green foliage plants, used to say that the secret is to talk to your plants. It was an interesting theory… but the more I thought about it, the less I was sure I was buying it. I mean, I talk to my kids, and have been doing so for years… prattling on and on about how to behave and what I thought they should be doing and why. In the end they pretty much always did what they wanted anyway. So if the offspring, flesh of my flesh and blood of my blood don’t listen, why should I believe some shrubs from the Home Depot would?!

But talking or not talking method aside, I’ve tried many things to overcome this shortcoming: I tried to buy hardy plants, supposedly able to withstand unintentional manhandling. I tried to water them more and water them less; give them attention, or give them space and let them do their thing… but “their thing” in my care always seemed to just be dying. Sometimes fast and sometimes slow, but eventually I always managed to kill them all. They say the first step to overcome anything is to embrace the truth, so I may just as well come out and say it like it is: Hi, I’m Daniela, and I am a prolific plant killer. I’ve come to terms with this; in fact, we all have. Instead of flowers, Mr. Photographer buys me chocolate, and if he does bring me a potted plant from time to time, we have an unspoken agreement it will be up to him to take care of it for me. I enjoy admiring its beauty from a safe distance, casting furtive glances at it from the other room, but won’t dare to come much closer.

I rather stick to doing what I’m good at, which is processing the fruit of edible plants somebody else managed not to do in. I enjoy walking through farmers markets on lazy Saturday mornings, looking at all the beautiful abundance Mother Nature decided to give us, touching and smelling it, and then bringing some of it home and transforming it into something else. And this weekend, we’re jamming, which is probably my most favorite way of succulent produce transformation. Jam making is easy, relatively fast, and I get to play and come up with new and unusual yummy combinations. Plus, my men like pancakes 🙂 Here is a glimpse of what I made: The first one is a peach and cantaloupe jam, which turned out the most beautiful sunny yellow color. It’s also a little runnier (probably thanks to the cantaloupe and its high water content), and therefore awesome to spread on crepes. The boozy fig one is the real winner though. Sweet and a little tart, with just a hint of cinnamon. I threw in some fresh lemon peel and divided the brandy in half – half was poured into the fruit right at the start and left to macerate, and the second half I added at the end of cooking (I didn’t want all that boozy goodness to evaporate!) We tried it right away on some grilled cheese sandwiches, and although it may seem like an odd combination, it was delish! If you decide to only try making one jam this year, this should be it!

img-2016-08-28-6404

Cantaloupe – Peach Preserves and Boozy Fig Jam

Cantaloupe – Peach Preserves

(makes about four ½ – pint jars)

  • 450 g (1 lb.) peeled and seeded cantaloupe, diced
  • 450 g (1 lb.) yellow peaches, stoned, peeled, and diced
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ cup (125 ml) fresh orange juice
  • 300 g (10.5 oz.) granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground anise
Method:
  1. Process the cantaloupe and peaches in a food processor or a blender. Pour the mixture into a deep saucepan.
  2. Add in the remaining ingredients, and bring the fruit to a boil. Cook, stirring almost constantly, for about 20 minutes, until the jam thickens to your liking. (For more info about how to know if the jam is ready, see this Mirabelle Ginger Jam post).
  3. Ladle the hot jam into clean ½ – pint glass jars, leaving about ¼ – inch space at the top. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands. Process the jars in a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes.
  4.  Remove the jars from the water and let them cool upside down. Store the jam in a dark, cool place for up to a year.

img-2016-08-28-6410

Boozy Fig Jam

(adapted from http://www.epicurious.com; makes about six ½ – pint jars)

  • 2 kg (4 lbs.) fresh purple figs, divided
  • zest from 1 organic lemon
  • 10 tablespoons (about ½ cup) fresh lemon juice (to taste)
  • 4 cups (about 800 g, 28 oz.) granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (about 175 ml) brandy or cognac
Method:
  1. Process half of the cleaned and stemmed figs in a blender. Cut the remaining figs into ½ – inch (1 cm) pieces. Transfer all the figs into a deep big saucepan. Add in the sugar, lemon juice & zest, cinnamon & salt, and half of the brandy or cognac. Mix together, cover, and let stand at room temp for 1 hour.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil, and cook, stirring often, for about 30 – 35 minutes, until the jam thickens, breaking up the large fig pieces into smaller bits. Add the remaining brandy or cognac at the end. Remove from heat.
  3. Ladle the hot jam into clean ½ – pint glass jars, leaving ¼ – inch space at the top of the jars. Remove any air bubbles and wipe the rims with a clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids; apply screw bands.
  4. Process in a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes. Cool jars completely turning them upside down. Store in a cool dark place for up to a year.

 

Advertisements

Peach Blueberry Mini Pies in a Jar

Summer is in full swing! The temps hiked up pretty high in the last couple of weeks, and we’ve had our share of awesome, sunny, rain-free days. I’ve heard some folks complaining it is actually too hot for them, which is a statement I don’t understand. Sometimes I wonder if I wasn’t a lizard in a previous life – I’m always cold unless it’s at least 80 degrees outside, and so these days I’ve finally had a chance to warm up a little. There is no such thing as too much heat or sunshine in my book – I mean, come on, you don’t need to shovel it, and it’s million times better than the constant rain clatter and the pressing feeling that the dark skies are going to fall and suffocate me any minute that I often get during Autumn and Winter. I guess I am just summer kind of girl. Plus, think about all the lazy days, beach vacations, hiking trips, picnics in the shade which we can enjoy. Pure bliss. Summer adventures usually mean we spend less time in the kitchen, but that doesn’t mean we can’t eat well, and there is definitely no need to give up dessert 🙂 Just look at these perfect mini-pies if you don’t believe me! They’re quick to make (you can even make them in advance, freeze them, and bake from frozen later), highly portable (excellent for all those picnics and potluck get-togethers), not to mention they’re cute as a button! And since you’re using just a small portion of pie dough for the bottom and another tiny cutout to top the fruit, there is a lot less crust compared to a regular pie. That may be a good thing or not, depending on how you look at it: sure, the buttery crust is awesome, but this way, a lot less of that butter will go to your hips, and any woman can tell you that’s a great thing 🙂 Portion control is key, especially during body-baring summer days! Oh, and another wonderful thing about these mini pies that I’m sure everybody can appreciate? Minimal cleanup! Please make sure to use canning jars to make these, and not just any glass jar, as canning jars are made to be able to withstand high temperatures. If you’re going to freeze the pies and bake them later, I’d still recommend letting them stand at a room temperature for an hour before baking just to be safe. I’d also use a little more filling than you think you should, because the fruit will cook down, and you still want them to look pretty and filled up… and why would you want to skimp on fruit anyway? 🙂 img-2015-08-08-0353

Peach Blueberry Mini Pies in a Jar

(recipe makes seven 1 cup servings, or seven ½ pint jars)

Pie Crust:

Here is the recipe I use (it makes two crusts for double pie), but you can use any of your favorite pie recipes. Pssst… store bought pie crust works just as well! For gluten-free alternative, please see Note.

Peach Blueberry Filling:
  • 1 kg (2 lbs.) mixed white and yellow peaches, pitted and diced
  • 1/3 cup each white and brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  •  ¾ teaspoon ginger
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons Crème de Cassis (optional)
  • 1/6 cup tapioca starch
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons cream (or 1 small egg) – for egg wash
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar – for sprinkling the tops of the pies
Alternate Streusel Topping:
  • ¼ cup each brown sugar and all-purpose flour (if baking for gluten-sensitive people, sub gluten-free flour for all-purpose flour)
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons oats (if making the dessert for gluten-sensitive, make sure the oats are gluten-free)
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

img-2015-08-08-0346

Method:
  1. Wash and dry ½ pint (1 cup) wide mouth canning jars.
  2. Roll out chilled pie dough. With a small biscuit cutter, cut out small circles for bottom of your pies. With a jar lid, cut out big circles to top your pies. Place the circles in the fridge to firm up, covered with a dish towel.
  3. Prep the filling: In a bowl, combine peaches, sugars, lemon juice/zest, tapioca and spices. Toss in the blueberries and add the liqueur, if using. Let the mixture sit for couple of minutes.
  4. Place one cut-out circle on the bottom of each jar. Dock the dough with a fork. Using a slotted spoon, fill the jars with fruit, filling to the brim (I used about ½ cup per jar). Dot the filling in each jar with ¼ tablespoon of butter.
  5. Prepare the top crust for your pies: Using cookie cutters or a knife, make slits in the dough, so the steam can escape during baking. Place the cut-out circles on top of the filling, and press firmly to seal.
  6. Alternatively, you can use Streusel Topping to sprinkle over the filling: Combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon, cut in cold butter, add oats, and combine. Chill before sprinkling over the fruit filling.
  7. If using the cut out pie dough to top the fruit, brush pie tops with cream/egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Place the jars on a  baking sheet and put them into the refrigerator while preheating oven to 375 °F (190 °C).
  8. Bake the pies for 15 minutes until the crust begins to brown. Cover with tin foil and bake for 15 – 20 minutes more until the filling bubbles and the tops are nice golden brown. Let cool before serving.
  9. If you wish to freeze the pies for later use, assemble them and screw on the lids. They will keep in the freezer for up to six months. When ready to bake, let them sit out at a room temperature while preheating the oven to 375 °F (190 °C). Bake the pies for about 50 minutes until golden.

img-2015-08-08-0351

Note:

You can make the pies gluten-free by substituting Bob’s Red Mill Pie Crust Mix for the flour when making the pies. You can also forgo the bottom crust, fill the jars with fruit filling which is naturally gluten-free, and sprinkle the modified Streusel Topping over the fruit.