Category Archives: Jams

Luscious Lemon Curd

Homemade Lemon Curd
Homemade Lemon Curd

I adore lemon curd – luscious lemon curd –  that wonderful balance of lemon’s acidity and tartness with the sweetness of sugar. I love it so much that it’s a staple in my refrigerator.

Lemon Curd with Vanilla Greek Yogurt
Lemon Curd with Vanilla Greek Yogurt

Not to be confused with lemon pie filling, which is a different recipe altogether, this versatile heavenly creation known as lemon curd has so many uses – sandwiching cakes together, spreading on scones and biscuits, filling cookies, eclairs, macarons, and tarts, stirring into (or topping on) Greek yogurt for quick parfaits, as a topping on gingerbread or pancakes and, well, you get the picture – uses of lemon curd are limited only by your imagination, creativity, and your love for this divine creation!

Lemon Curd on Scones
Lemon Curd on Scones

Oh, heck, if I’m being honest, I have been known to eat it by the spoonful straight from the jar!

Homemade Lemon Curd
Homemade Lemon Curd

Lemon curd is made with only four (4) ingredients – lemons, sugar, eggs, and butter. While the basic ingredients won’t vary, the amounts of each used and the methods for making curd may differ.  Some cooks favor using only egg yolks, others claim best results using whole eggs, and then there is me who uses both egg yolks and a whole egg. Some wait until after the curd is cooked before adding the butter and lemon zest while others include these at the beginning of the cooking process. Some leave the zest in; others strain it out after the cooking process is complete. Some will cook the curd in a pot directly over the heat while others use a double boiler.

Fresh Homemade Lemon Curd
Fresh Homemade Lemon Curd

I have been making lemon curd for years and have tried different methods of cooking it and different amounts of the core ingredients. The recipe I am including with this posting is the result of many testings which allows me to share my tips for successful lemon curd making.

Lemon Curd Tart
Lemon Curd Tart

Lemons
Always use freshly-squeezed lemon juice – never bottled – for making lemon curd. Choose lemons that have a little spring to them when gently pressed – these will yield more juice than a lemon that is rock solid hard.

Wash the lemons really well in hot, soapy water and scrub them with a vegetable brush to remove any wax that is often applied to lemons before they reach the supermarket shelf. Rinse the lemons really well and dry them.

How many lemons will be required for this curd is difficult to say with certainty because it depends on the size of the lemons and how juicy they are.  The aim is to get ½ cup minus 1 tablespoon of juice (i.e., 7 tablespoons) AFTER it has been strained and the pulp and seeds removed. I can usually extract this amount of juice from 2½ to 3 average size lemons.

Use a lemon zester to zest one of the lemons, ensuring the lemon is blemish-free (now you understand why it’s important that the lemons be thoroughly scrubbed clean – the zest is going into the curd). This should yield about 2½ teaspoons of zest. This zesting process will release the wonderful aromatic oils from the lemon and will enhance the flavor of the curd. When zesting the lemon, take care only to remove the thin outside yellow skin of the lemon and not the underlying white pith which is bitter.

Lemon Zest
Lemon Zest

Cut the lemons in half and squeeze them to extract the juice. Strain the juice through a very fine wire mesh sieve to remove the pulp and seeds. Measure out 7 tablespoons of juice after this process, not before.

Eggs
I have made curd using just egg yolks, just whole eggs, and by using two extra-large egg yolks and one large whole egg.  I find the latter is my preference. I like the lemon curd to be soft but not overly runny or too thick – it should more or less stay in place when a dollop of it is added to the top of yogurt or dropped on to a scone, for example. My experience with making the curd using only egg yolks is that some of the soft texture of the curd is lost and it’s more of a gelatin-type texture and consistency. Using all whole eggs resulted in a curd that was too soft and runny for my liking, most likely because there was too much egg white added.  However, when I use two egg yolks along with one whole egg, the consistency is a lovely satiny creamy texture that is neither too runny or too solid.  The one egg white adds just enough fluidity to produce the desired consistency.

The problem that often occurs with adding egg white(s) to a curd is that the whites, or parts of them, coagulate before being fully incorporated into the curd meaning they go from liquid form to a solid. The whites cook faster than the yolks so, no matter how much stirring, one can still be left with little bits of the coagulated egg white in the curd because, once they have turned into solid mass, they can’t be liquefied again. This is easily remedied, however, by straining the cooked curd through a fine wire mesh sieve to remove any little bits of egg white remaining. You would think the thickened curd would not drip through the sieve but it does! Don’t skip this step.

Lemon Curd with Greek Yogurt
Lemon Curd with Greek Yogurt

Sugar
I have made the curd both with regular granulated sugar and with caster sugar which you may know by any of the following names: Fruit sugar, instant dissolving sugar, berry sugar, or super fine sugar. This sugar is super-duper fine. It dissolves much faster than granulated sugar and is commonly used in making simple syrups used in cocktails because it leaves no “gritty” texture at all. Regular granulated sugar works fine in lemon curd. The caster sugar does, however, provide a smoother textured curd so, if absolute perfection in this regard is your goal, I recommend using the caster sugar.

Lemon Curd on Biscuits
Lemon Curd on Biscuits

Method
Making a quality lemon curd takes time. This isn’t something I’d recommend starting 10 minutes before the curd is needed. I know some cooks do make the lemon curd in a pot directly over the heat source. However, I don’t go that route because it is very easy to scorch the curd with the amount of sugar in it and I think it cooks the curd too quickly causing potential curdling as it’s more difficult to regulate the heat.

My preference is to use a double boiler. If you don’t have one of these sets of pots, simply set a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water and “simmering” is the operative word.

It’s very important that the top pot/bowl in the double boiler not touch the water in the bottom pot. Before beginning to cook the curd, I recommend setting the pot/bowl over the water and lifting it to check to ensure the water is not in direct contact with the top of the double boiler/bowl. The curd cooks from the steam heating the top saucepan of the boiler, not by contact with water. About 2” of water in the bottom of the pot is all that is required. Heat this water to the simmering point (around 200°F) and do not let it boil as this will cook the eggs in the curd too fast. This is when curdling can occur and the mixture will become lumpy and lose its smooth texture. The water should be kept at this temperature throughout the cooking process.  I recommend periodically lifting the top of the boiler to ensure the water is not boiling. (Note that temperatures for the simmering water may need to be adjusted according to altitude.  The important thing is that the water not boil.)

I add the lemon zest at the beginning of the cooking process because that’s when I think the zest can do the most to enhance the flavor of the curd. Some cooks add the zest at the very end after the curd has cooked. However, in my opinion, that’s too late for the zest to release the lemon’s flavorful oils and to have much impact on infusing the curd’s flavor.  Some might argue that having the lemon zest in the curd during the entire cooking process could lead to a bitter taste in the curd. However, I do not find that to be the case as the curd is cooked gently and ever-so-slowly and away from the direct heat source. Simply stir the lemon zest into the sugar then whisk in the lemon juice.  Mix the egg yolks and the whole egg together in a small bowl, using a fork to lightly break them up. Whisk the eggs and softened butter into the sugar-juice mixture. Place this pot/heatproof bowl on top of the pot of simmering water.

The mixture needs to be stirred regularly as it cooks – lemon curd is not something that can be left unattended on the stove to do its own thing.  A whisk or a wooden spoon can be used to stir the curd. Be patient. Very patient. This cooking process can take 20-25 minutes for the curd to thicken. Resist the urge to increase the heat to speed the cooking process along. The curd, when cooked, will coat the back of a wooden spoon. But, the most accurate test is to use a candy thermometer – the curd is cooked when the temperature reaches 170°F.

The curd needs to be strained through a very fine wire mesh sieve to remove any bits of the coagulated egg white along with the lemon zest. The zest has done its duty by releasing flavor into the curd. There is no harm in leaving the zest in the curd; however, if the goal is to have a perfect satin finish to the curd, the bits of zest gotta go! In my view, it just really is not all that pleasant to be enjoying the creamy curd and suddenly bite into a chewy piece of lemon zest!

Luscious Lemon Curd
Luscious Lemon Curd

Color and Texture
The color of the cooked curd should be a natural brilliantly bright sunshiny yellow. The color comes from the egg yolks, lemon juice and, to some degree, from the lemon zest. The texture of the perfectly cooked curd should be silky smooth, very creamy, and the curd should bear a slightly glossy sheen.  Lemon curd will thicken slightly more as it cools.

Sunshiny yellow lemon curd
Sunshiny yellow lemon curd

A true curd does not have any thickening agent (e.g., flour or cornstarch) added to it. The egg yolks are what naturally thickens the curd. This is a key difference between lemon curd and lemon pie filling. Pie filling has a more gelatin-like consistency and is thickened with either flour or cornstarch. In contrast, lemon curd is softer, smoother, and of spreading consistency. Lemon curd also has a more intense lemon flavor than does the filling for a lemon pie.

Lemon Curd with Biscuits
Lemon Curd with Biscuits

Storage
Transfer the strained curd to a hot sterilized jar.  Immediately place a piece of plastic wrap on the exposed surface of the curd in the jar, pressing it gently to ensure it is in direct contact with the entire surface of the curd. This will prevent a skin from forming on the curd as it cools.  Let the curd cool to room temperature then remove the plastic wrap, cover tightly with jar lid, and store in the refrigerate for up to a week….if it lasts that long! Now, where’s the spoon…………

A spoonful of lemon curd
A spoonful of lemon curd

[Printable Recipe Follows at end of Posting]

Luscious Lemon Curd

Ingredients:
¾ cup caster* sugar or granulated sugar
2½ tsp lemon zest
7 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained (apx. 2½  – 3 lemons, depending on size)
2 extra-large egg yolks
1 large egg
3 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature

Method:
In bottom of double boiler, bring about 2” of water to the simmer point (around 200°F). Maintain the water at this simmer point over medium-low heat.  Place sugar in top of double boiler or heat-proof bowl.  Mix in the lemon zest.  Whisk the lemon juice into sugar.

In small bowl, lightly beat the 2 egg yolks and the whole egg together with a fork, just enough to break up the yolks and blend with the whole egg.  Whisk the eggs into the sugar-lemon juice mixture. Add the soft butter.  Place this pot or bowl over the simmering water. Stir the mixture continuously as it cooks until it is thickened and the temperature of the mixture registers 170°F on a candy thermometer.  Be patient as this may take 20-25 minutes. Make sure the water in the bottom of the boiler does not boil and stays only at the simmer point.

Remove curd from heat and strain through a mesh strainer to remove any of the egg white that may have coagulated as well as the lemon rind.  Pour strained curd into a sterilized bottle.  Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to prevent it from forming a skin on top. Cool at room temperature. Remove plastic wrap. Cover jar tightly and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Yield: Apx. 1 cup

*caster sugar may also be known as fruit sugar, berry sugar, super fine sugar, or instant dissolving sugar.

Note:  Altitude may affect the temperature at which the water reaches the simmering point. The important thing is that the water in the bottom of the double boiler does not boil or touch the top of the double boiler/heatproof bowl during the cooking of the curd.

Luscious Lemon Curd

Yield: Apx. 1 cup

Sweet and tart, this luscious lemon curd is a wonderful addition to scones, parfaits, and pastries

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup caster* sugar or granulated sugar
  • 2½ tsp lemon zest
  • 7 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained (apx. 2½ - 3 lemons, depending on size)
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature

Instructions

  1. In bottom of double boiler, bring about 2” of water to the simmer point (around 200°F). Maintain the water at this simmer point over medium-low heat. Place sugar in top of double boiler or heat-proof bowl. Mix in the lemon zest. Whisk the lemon juice into sugar.
  2. In small bowl, lightly beat the 2 egg yolks and the whole egg together with a fork, just enough to break up the yolks and blend with the whole egg. Whisk the eggs into the sugar-lemon juice mixture. Add the soft butter. Place this pot or bowl over the simmering water. Stir the mixture continuously as it cooks until it is thickened and the temperature of the mixture registers 170°F on a candy thermometer. Be patient as this may take 20-25 minutes. Make sure the water in the bottom of the boiler does not boil and stays only at the simmer point.
  3. Remove curd from heat and strain through a mesh strainer to remove any of the egg white that may have coagulated as well as the lemon rind. Pour strained curd into a sterilized bottle. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd to prevent it from forming a skin on top. Cool at room temperature. Remove plastic wrap. Cover jar tightly and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Notes

Please be sure to read entire blog posting that accompanies this recipe as it contains important information and tips on successfully making lemon curd.

*Caster sugar may also be known as fruit sugar, berry sugar, super fine sugar, or instant dissolving sugar.

Note: Altitude may affect the temperature at which the water reaches the simmering point. The important thing is that the water in the bottom of the double boiler does not boil or touch the top of the double boiler/heatproof bowl during the cooking of the curd.

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Luscious Lemon Curd

Luscious Lemon Curd

Blueberry and Grand Marnier Jam Recipe

Blueberry Jam
Blueberry and Grand Marnier Jam

On my stove today was blueberry jam….but not just any jam…Blueberry AND Grand Marnier Jam!  Blueberry and orange are a great flavor combo so why not add a little kick to the jam by adding an orange-flavored liqueur. This does add a level of richness and flavor complexity to the jam.

Blueberry Jam
Blueberry and Grand Marnier Jam

My berries came from the Tryon Blueberries U-pick in North Tryon, PEI.  These are high bush blueberries and picking them is quick and easy since the vines are loaded with large flavorful berries. No need to get down on the hands and knees to pick these blueberries!

High Bush Blueberries
Tryon Blueberries U-pick Field
Blueberries
High Bush Blueberries

It takes probably no more than 10-15 minutes to pick a 5-pound box or bowlful and that’s generally from only 4-5 bushes.

This is an easy jam to make. I do use liquid pectin in the jam which gives it a soft set.  I find blueberry jam takes forever to cook and thicken if I don’t use pectin.  This is still a soft consistency jam that spreads easily and it is jam packed full of summer flavor!

Blueberry Jam
Blueberry and Grand Marnier Jam

The berries need to be slightly crushed so that their juices get released quickly as this jam does not cook long.  Only crush a few berries at a time, using a potato masher, and make sure they are in single layers as you crush them so that each berry gets broken open.  There is no need to purée them as the idea is for the jam to still have some texture to it and not be completely smooth like a jelly.

Adding a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon rind provides an additional flavor boost to the jam.

Blueberry Jam
Blueberry and Grand Marnier Jam

This is a super easy and quick jam to make. It is especially good on biscuits, scones, and toast.  It’s also quite delightful dolloped on top of custard or Greek yogurt for a simple and quick dessert.

Jam and Biscuits
Blueberry and Grand Marnier Jam on Biscuits

[a printable version of recipe follows at end of post]

Blueberry and Grand Marnier Jam

Ingredients:
4 cups crushed high bush blueberries (apx. 2 lbs)
3¼ cups granulated sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 – 85ml pouch Certo liquid pectin
¼ cup Grand Marnier liqueur

Method:
Wash berries.  Using a potato masher, lightly crush berries to release their juice, mashing about one cup at a time, single layer.

In bowl, mix sugar and spices together.  Stir in lemon rind.

Place crushed berries in large pot.  Add the sugar-spice mixture and lemon juice. Stir well and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring to prevent scorching. Once boiling, boil hard for 1 minute, stirring continuously.  Remove from heat and add the pouch of liquid pectin along with the Grand Marnier liqueur.  Stir for 5 minutes, skimming off any foam that may form.  Ladle into hot sterilized jars, filling to about ¼” from the top of each jar. Wipe each jar top. Cover jars with heated lids and screw on bands fingertip tight.  Store jam in refrigerator or cold room. For greater longevity, process in a hot water bath, following canner manufacturer’s directions.

Yield:  Apx. 7 half-pint jars

Blueberry and Grand Marnier Jam

Yield: Apx. 7 - 1/2-pint jars

A quick and easy-to-make jam that is flavored with spices and Grand Marnier liqueur

Ingredients

  • 4 cups crushed high bush blueberries (apx. 2 lbs)
  • 3¼ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 - 85ml pouch Certo liquid pectin
  • ¼ cup Grand Marnier liqueur

Instructions

  1. Wash berries. Using a potato masher, lightly crush berries to release their juice, mashing about one cup at a time, single layer.
  2. In bowl, mix sugar and spices together. Stir in lemon rind.
  3. Place crushed berries in large pot. Add the sugar-spice mixture and lemon juice. Stir well and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring to prevent scorching. Once boiling, boil hard for 1 minute, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and add the pouch of liquid pectin along with the Grand Marnier liqueur. Stir for 5 minutes, skimming off any foam that may form. Ladle into hot sterilized jars, filling to about ¼” from the top of each jar. Wipe each jar top. Cover each jar with heated lids and screw on bands fingertip tight. Store jam in refrigerator or cold room. For greater longevity, process in a hot water bath, following canner manufacturer’s directions.
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Blueberry Jam
Blueberry and Grand Marnier Jam

Gooseberry Jam

My grandmother had two small fruit-bearing bushes at the edge of her garden – a black current and a gooseberry.  Both were good producers despite their relatively small size and age.  I remember helping her to stem and tip the berries before they were made into jam. Every year, she would make a small amount of black current jam and the same of gooseberry, both of which would be very judiciously produced throughout the year as these were considered very special jams.  One did not eat these jams at the same rate as the more common strawberry and raspberry jams were consumed! I loved her black current and gooseberry jams!

Gooseberries are not altogether commonly found on PEI. However, Belangers U-pick near Hunter River has a small number of gooseberry bushes and I was fortunate enough this year to get enough to make a batch of gooseberry jam and the beautiful blush-colored gooseberries yielded me a stunning deep red-colored jam that has an almost translucent texture.

Gooseberries

Gooseberries

The only deterrent to gooseberries is that they have to be “tailed and stemmed” meaning both tips and stems have to be removed before doing anything with them. While this is a bit of a tedious and time-consuming task, it’s a small price to pay for a berry that yields such a tasty jam! Because of their small size, it takes a lot of berries to yield any amount of jam so that’s why jams such as black current and gooseberry are more rare and are thus often referred to as specialty jams.

Typically, in a berry jam, it is cup-for-cup,  sugar to berries.  However, with gooseberries, I find that the resulting jam is quite sweet so I reduce the sugar by a third of a cup.  This small reduction is not enough to make a difference to the jamming ability of the berries but it does reduce the sweetness just a bit. While my grandmother would never have put a splash of liqueur of any kind in her jam, I do add a couple of tablespoons of orange-flavoured liqueur in mine to deepen the flavour.  This is an optional ingredient but, nonetheless, good. The idea, of course, is moderation so only a couple of tablespoons will do and it’s not so much that you can taste the orange liqueur in the jam as it is the complexity and depth of flavour the liqueur subtly contributes to the jam.

Gooseberry jam is a thick jam and it is very easy to overcook it and end up with a jam that is so thick, it is hard to remove it from the jar.  Therefore, take care when cooking not to over cook it.

To test for jam “setting”, I recommend using the “chill-and-wrinkle” test.  Place 2-3 saucers in the freezer and, as the jam is nearing the end of its expected cooking time as indicated in the recipe, remove a saucer from the freezer and place 1 – 2  teaspoons of the jam on it.

Let the jam sit, untouched, for about a minute then gently push the jam with your finger to make a line through the center of the jam.  If the jam wrinkles slightly and stays in place (i.e., does not run back together after the finger has been removed), the jam is set and ready to bottle. This test may need to be done 2-3 times during the cooking process. Just remember to remove the pot of jam from the heat while conducting the test. If the first “chill-and-wrinkle” test is negative, return the jam pot to the heat, continuing cooking, and test again in about 3 minutes time or so.  Continue doing this until the jam passes the “chill-and-wrinkle” test.

I love this jam on toast, biscuits, scones, and croissants.  A dob of the jam on warm custard also makes a great dessert. Gooseberry jam also works well as a filler in thumbprint cookies or in anything where a sweet, showy red jam is desired.

I think my grandmother would be plum-delighted to know that I am continuing on with her tradition of making the cherished gooseberry jam…..even if I do add a splash of liqueur to the recipe!

Gooseberry Jam

2 lbs gooseberries (apx. 4 cups)
3 ⅔  cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 tbsp Cointreau

Wash gooseberries and remove tips and stems from the berries.

Place two or three saucers in freezer for use later in “chill-and-wrinkle” testing to determine if jam is set.

Place sugar and water in large pot. Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Then, add the gooseberries and Cointreau. Return mixture to a boil and cook rapidly, uncovered, and stirring occasionally for about 25* minutes or until mixture reaches the setting point.

To determine if jam is set, remove jam pot from heat and place 1 – 2 teaspoons of jam on cold saucer and swirl saucer around. Let jam sit, untouched, for about a minute, then gently push your finger through the jam. If the jam ‘wrinkles’ slightly and holds its shape (i.e., does not run back together after the finger has been removed), it is set and ready to bottle. If not, continue to cook mixture, repeating the “chill-and-wrinkle” test about every 3 minutes or so (always removing the pot from the heat while conducting the chill test) until the jam passes the “chill-and-wrinkle” test. Do not overcook as it will result in a very thick jam. Remove from heat and skim off any foam that may still remain. Pour jam into sterilized jars, leaving about ¼” headroom in each jar. Seal.

Store jam in refrigerator or cold room. For greater longevity, process in a hot water bath, following canner manufacturer’s directions.

Yield: Apx. 4 half pints

*Note that the 25-minute point is the stage at which the “chill-and-wrinkle” test should commence. It does not necessarily mean that the jam will be done in that timeframe. With jams, it is difficult to give a precise cooking time since various factors, including the pectin level of the fruit and heat level of stove, can vary significantly and may affect cooking and jam-setting times. This is why the “chill-and-wrinkle” test is the recommended method for determining jam setting.

Gooseberry Jam

Yield: Apx. 4 half pints

A deliciously rich deep red-colored jam. Serve on toast, scones, biscuits or croissants, in custard, or as a filler in thumbprint cookies.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs gooseberries (apx. 4 cups)
  • 3 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp Cointreau

Instructions

  1. Wash gooseberries and remove tips and stems from the berries.
  2. Place two or three saucers in freezer for use later in chill testing to determine if jam is set.
  3. Place sugar and water in large pot. Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Then, add gooseberries and Cointreau. Return mixture to a boil and cook rapidly, uncovered, and stirring occasionally, for about 25* minutes, or until mixture reaches the setting point.
  4. To determine if jam is set, remove jam pot from heat and place 1 - 2 teaspoons of jam on cold saucer and swirl saucer around. Let jam sit, untouched, for about a minute, then gently push your finger through the jam. If the jam ‘wrinkles’ slightly and holds its shape (i.e., does not run back together after the finger has been removed), it is set and ready to bottle. If not, continue to cook mixture, repeating the chill-and-wrinkle test about every 3 minutes or so (always removing the pot from the heat while conducting the chill test) until the jam passes the “chill-and-wrinkle” test. Do not overcook as it will result in a very thick jam. Remove from heat and skim off any foam that may still remain. Pour jam into sterilized jars, leaving about ¼” headroom in each jar. Seal.
  5. Store jam in refrigerator or cold room. For greater longevity, process in a hot water bath, following canner manufacturer’s directions.
  6. *Note that the 25-minute point is the stage at which the "chill-and-wrinkle" test should commence. It does not necessarily mean that the jam will be done in that timeframe. With jams, it is difficult to give a precise cooking time since various factors, including the pectin level of the fruit and heat level of stove, can vary significantly and may affect cooking and jam-setting times. This is why the "chill-and-wrinkle" test is the recommended method for determining jam setting.
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Gooseberry Jam
Gooseberry Jam

Crabapple Jelly

It’s apple season on Prince Edward Island and orchards are filled with trees bearing wonderful apples of so many varieties.  There’s nothing like heading to a U-pick orchard to pick your own apples.  I always pick several pecks each fall — in fact, sometimes it’s easy to get carried away and pick too many!  However, they do get processed into pies, crisps, sauces, and jellies.  Apples are very versatile!

Crab Apple Jelly
Crabapple Jelly

For apple jelly lovers, now is the time to make that rich  red crabapple jelly that is so flavorful.  The apples I used in the recipe I am sharing today came from Arlington Orchards in Arlington, west of Summerside, PEI.  I knew by the color of them that they would make a good jelly.  They are the Dolgo Crabapple variety.

Crab Apples
Crabapples

Now, apple jelly is not particularly difficult to make but it is a lengthy process and does take a bit of skill and know-how to get it cooked to the correct jelly state.

First, you have to wash and cut off the stem and blossom ends of the tiny apples.  Then, they have to be cooked to the “mushy” stage.   I take a potato masher and mash down any remaining chunks of apple after cooking as I find this helps the mixture to drip better once it is in the jelly bag.  The “mush” (pulp) gets bundled into a cheesecloth bag, tied, and hung over a bowl or pot to catch the juice dripping from the cooked apples.    I use a double weight of cheesecloth because I don’t want any apple seeds or pieces of apple peel coming through.  The objective is to have the juice as clear as possible so it does not make a cloudy jelly.  The aim is to have a transparent jelly.

Clear, transparent jelly
Clear, transparent jelly

The time-consuming process is waiting for the juice to slowly drip from the pulp in the jelly bag– it takes several hours and I usually leave it overnight.  The bag has to get suspended to allow the juice to slowly drip out.  I concoct a really “sophisticated” outfit for this — I simply hang the jelly bag on to a broom handle and suspend the broom between two chairs with a bowl or pot placed under the bag to catch the juice.  Really high tech, don’t you think!  Nevertheless, it works and gets the job done.

Once it’s apparent that there is no more juice dripping, discard the contents of the jelly bag. Measure and pour the extracted juice into a stock pot.  Add the sugar and lemon juice and start the cooking process.  I add sugar at the ratio of 3/4 cup sugar to 1 cup extracted apple juice.  Place 2-3 saucers in the freezer — these will be used to test the jelly’s state of “jellying”.  Once a small sample of the jelly is put on a cold saucer, placed in the freezer for a minute, removed, and starts to “wrinkle” when pushed gently with a finger, it has reached the jelly stage and is ready for bottling.

I don’t process my jelly in a hot water bath because I have a cold room in which to store the jelly over the time I plan to keep it on hand.  However, if you don’t have a cold room or space in the refrigerator in which to store the jelly, I recommend processing it in a hot water bath following the directions provided from the manufacturer for your canner.

Crabapple Jelly

Ingredients:

4 lbs crabapples
7 cups water

Granulated sugar (see Method below for amount)
3-4 tbsp strained fresh lemon juice
1 tsp butter

Method:

Wash apples.

Remove stem and blossom ends from apples.

Leave apples whole. Place in large stock pot.

Add the water.

Cook for approximately 40-45 minutes or until apples have softened and begun to break down into mush.

Gently mash any large chunks of apple with a potato masher.

Place a double weight of cheesecloth in a large colander.

Place the colander over a large pot.  Pour the apple pulp into the cheesecloth-lined colander.

Let mixture drip for about 20 minutes or so to get some of the initial juice out of the pulp.

Gather up the ends of cheesecloth and tie tightly with an all-purpose twine or heavy string, making a loop by which to hang the jelly bag to allow the juice to drip out.

Hang the jelly bag on a broom handle and support the broom between two chairs. Place a large pot or bowl under the jelly bag to catch the juice as it drips.

Allow this to drip on its own for several hours (i.e., at least 3-4) or overnight, until no more juice is seen dripping through. Resist the urge to squeeze the jelly bag to hasten the juice flow as this could cause some of the apple pulp to escape the bag resulting in a cloudy juice and jelly.

Place 2-3 saucers in the freezer. You will need these to test the jelly for “jellying” status.

Place six clean one-cup mason jars upright in a large pot. Cover jars with water and heat to 180°F to sterilize the jars. Keep jars hot until ready to use.

When jelly bag is done dripping, discard bag and apple pulp. To determine the amount of sugar needed, measure out the extracted juice and add ¾ cup of sugar for each cup of juice.

Pour juice into pot.

Add the lemon juice and sugar to the extracted apple juice.

Stir to dissolve sugar.

Add 1 tsp butter to reduce foaming.

Bring mixture to a rolling boil.

Continue to boil over medium high heat for about 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, then test for status of jellying.

To test for jellying, remove one of the saucers from the freezer and place a couple of teaspoons of the jelly on it. Place the jelly in the freezer for one minute. Remove it from the freezer and push the jelly gently with a finger. If it wrinkles, it is done.

If it doesn’t wrinkle, keep cooking the jelly, testing every 5-6 minutes until it is done. Do not overcook.

Skim off any foam that may still remain on top of the jelly.  Bottle jelly hot into sterilized jars, using a funnel, leaving between ¼” – ½” headroom .

Heat jar lids and immediately place over hot filled jars. Finger tighten a rim onto each jar.  Allow jelly jars to sit at room temperature for several hours to set then store in cold room or refrigerator.  Alternatively, process in hot water bath following canner manufacturer’s directions.

Yield: 5½ – 6 cups

Crab Apple Jelly on Fresh Biscuits
Crabapple Jelly on Fresh Biscuits

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Zucchini Jam

Zucchini Jam on Tea Biscuits
Zucchini Jam on Tea Biscuits

Zucchini is one vegetable that seems to grow prolifically.  Come fall and many gardeners have an abundance of zucchini they don’t know what to do with.  Zucchini is actually a very versatile veggie that can be used in cakes, cookies, muffins, and jams.  I like to keep grated zucchini frozen and ready for use in various tasty baking products over the winter.  Another recipe I like to use zucchini in is this one for zucchini jam.  It is quite easy to make and is a great spread on toast, biscuits, or as a dollop on vanilla custard.  Its bright orange color makes it a showy jam.

Zucchini Jam
Zucchini Jam

Zucchini Jam

Ingredients:

6 cups grated zucchini (peel and seed zucchini before grating)

5 cups sugar

1 cup crushed pineapple, with juice

1 tbsp lime juice

3 tbsp lemon juice

1 (85g) orange jello

1 (85g) lemon jello

 

Directions:

Assemble ingredients.

1-DSC00692

Peel and seed zucchini.  Grate enough zucchini to make 6 cups, loosely packed.

Place zucchini and sugar in pot and boil, uncovered, over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in pineapple and the lemon and lime juices.  Bring to a boil.  Boil, uncovered, 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Skim off, and discard, any foam that may form.

Add jellos, stirring until incorporated and jellos are dissolved.

Pour into hot sterilized jars, leaving ¼” headroom on top of each jar.  Seal.

Store in refrigerator or, for longer storage, process the jam in a hot water bath, following the directions provided with your hot water canner.

Yield:  Apx. 7-8 half pints

 

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Pumpkin Jam

Pumpkin Jam

This year seemed to be a particularly good year for growing pumpkins on the Island.  Everywhere I looked I saw fields, bins, and wagons full of the bright orange pumpkins which are members of the gourd family.

Trailer Loads of Pumpkins at Kool Breeze Farm in Wilmot Valley, near Summerside, PEI

 

Bins of Pumpkins at Kool Breeze Farm

Funny how we can’t wait to display them on our doorsteps and in fall displays but, once the end of November arrives, we don’t want to see pumpkins hanging around as thoughts turn to Christmas decorating.

Pumpkins at Compton’s Vegetable Stand, St. Eleanors, near Summerside, PEI

 

Field of Pumpkins, Marshfield, PEI

So, wondering what to do with those pumpkins instead of throwing them into the compost bin?  Why not make a batch of old-fashioned pumpkin jam.  This isn’t an altogether common jam you are likely to find on many supermarket shelves.  Yet, it is a very tasty, economical, and versatile jam that only takes four ingredients — pumpkin, sugar, crushed pineapple, and jello.  This is a jam that my grandmother used to make every fall for her brother yet I don’t recall it ever being on her own pantry shelves and I’m not sure why.

The jam has a wonderful bright orange-yellow color.  In fact, I think it is more like a marmalade than a jam.  Regardless, it is very tasty on toast, biscuits, as a filling for cookies, and as a dollop on warm vanilla custard.

Pumpkin Jam on Biscuits

 

Pumpkin Jam as a Filling for Thumbprint Cookies

Pumpkin jam also makes a wonderful Christmas gift.  Add a batch of freshly made biscuits, package it attractively, and it makes an ideal gift for the foodie on your Christmas list or for that someone who has everything and wants no more knick-knacks to clutter up his or her life.

To make the jam, select a pumpkin that is more oblong than round in shape.  I visited my local vegetable stand and they told me these are “jamming” pumpkins.

Pumpkin for Jam

Cut the pumpkin open and remove and discard the seeds and pulp.

Split Pumpkin Ready to be Seeded

Cut the pumpkin flesh into finely diced pieces and place in pot.

Diced Pumpkin

Add the sugar to the diced pumpkin and let the mixture sit overnight.  The sugar will draw the juice out of the pumpkin.

Adding Sugar to the Diced Pumpkin

In the morning, drain and reserve the juice from the pumpkin.

Draining the Juice from the Pumpkin

Boil the juice for 20 minutes over medium heat to form a syrup.

Syrup for Pumpkin Jam

Add the drained pumpkin to the hot syrup.

Adding Pumpkin to Hot Syrup

Over medium heat, cook the pumpkin until it starts to become transparent, approximately 20-30 minutes.

Cooking the Jam

Add the can of crushed pineapple and its juice to the jam.

Adding the Crushed Pineapple to the Pumpkin Jam

Add the jello to the jam.

Adding the Jello to the Pumpkin Jam

Bring jam to a boil over medium heat.

Cooked Pumpkin Jam

 Meanwhile, sterilize the jars.

Sterilizing the Jars

Fill the sterilized jars.

Bottling Pumpkin Jam

 Place warmed lids on the hot jam bottles to seal and fingertip-tighten the rims to the bottles.

Placing Lids on Jam Jars

 

Pumpkin Jam

 

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Pumpkin Jam

By Barbara99 Published: December 1, 2012

  • Yield: Apx. 6 1/2 cups

A colorful, moderately sweet, versatile jam

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cut, peel, remove and discard seeds and pulp of pumpkin. Cut pumpkin into small diced pieces.
  2. Place diced pumpkin in large pot. Add sugar. Soak overnight.
  3. Drain pumpkin in colander, reserving juice.
  4. Return reserved juice to pot and boil for 20 minutes over medium heat.
  5. Add the drained pumpkin to the hot syrup. Cook over medium heat until pumpkin pieces start to become translucent, about 20-30 minutes.
  6. Add the crushed pineapple and its juice to the mixture. Stir.
  7. Sprinkle the jello over the mixture. Stir and bring mixture to a boil over medium heat.
  8. Sterilize the jars either by using the sanitizer setting on the dishwasher or by placing the jars in boiling hot water.
  9. Fill sterilized jars, leaving approximately 1/4" head room at jar top. Heat lids and place on jars. Fingertip tighten rims to jars.

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Strawberry Time on PEI

Fresh PEI Strawberry Jam on Tea Biscuits

There is nothing quite like the scent of newly picked strawberries straight from the field!  It’s a hallmark of Summer, particularly in climates with short growing seasons such as that on PEI.  Some years, we are lucky to get a couple of weeks out of the “strawberry season” but, this year, weather conditions have permitted it to be extended to about a month.

Fresh From the Field PEI Strawberries

I remember when I was growing up, the early morning take-offs to the nearby U-pick berry field so we would be in the line-up for its 6:00am opening for fear of not being in time to get the best “pickings” of berries.  Out would come the big, huge plastic bowls, hats, and bug spray and off to the field we’d go to get berries for eating, for jamming and, of course, “to put away” which meant crushing and freezing them for uses throughout the year.  There was no such thing as imported strawberries in the Winter from other countries as there is today….although I’ll argue those don’t have the flavour our local ones do!  Indeed, there would always be the “reviews” as to the quality of the berries – “they were so large, they had no flavour”, “they were so small, they were “poor” this year and not worth picking”, or “they had too hard a core in the center” – and, of course, the weather was never quite right for their growing no matter the conditions!  It seemed there was no “perfect” berry!  Yet, people picked pounds and pounds and buckets of them every year.  Going to the berry field was somewhat of a social event because that’s where everybody in nearby communities congregated in early July to get those berries!

I don’t freeze a lot of berries and take up freezer space with them but I do purée some for specific recipes I know I am likely to make throughout the year.  I freeze them in recipe-specific proportions and label them with the recipe name.  I like to make strawberry jam – sometimes I think more for the wonderful scent in the kitchen when it is cooking than for the need to have several bottles of jam available – although that’s a nice side benefit!  When I make my jams, I use smaller bottles – i.e., the 1-cup and ½-cup sizes.  These are ideal sizes for sharing and gift-giving and, let’s face it, who minds getting a treat of homemade jam.  Even if you make your own, isn’t it always nice to taste another cook’s jam?

I like strawberry jam on toast, scones, as a dollop on warm custard and, yes, even in my dark fruitcake that I make in the Fall.  But, one of the most marvelous ways to enjoy strawberry jam is on fresh homemade biscuits still warm from the oven.  For some reason, the flavour of strawberry jam always seems more true when the jam is served on a plain tea biscuit along with a nice cup of freshly brewed tea.  Perhaps this is why, of all the varieties of jams available, strawberry is typically the quintessential variety found on traditional afternoon tea tables.[easyrotator]erc_14_1342825771[/easyrotator]

 

Strawberry Jam Ingredients

The recipe I used to make strawberry jam this year comes from Anna Olson of the food network. This recipe does not make a large batch of jam – it yields approximately 6 cups.  It is a fairly sweet jam and I think the amount of sugar could be reduced by ½ cup to 3½ cups (instead of 4 cups the recipe calls for).  However, degree of jam sweetness is one of personal preference and much depends on the variety of strawberries being used and how much natural sugar the berries already contain.  This is not a super-thick jam and it does not use pectin.  I found I had to boil it longer than the recipe directions said.  In fact, I boiled it near an hour to get it thick enough for my liking.  The flavour is really good and authentic.  One thing I do is use a potato masher to crush up some, but not all, of the berries because I like some chunks of berries in my jam but not so many that it makes it difficult to spread.

Preparing Ingredients for Strawberry Jam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Strawberry Jam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bottles of PEI Strawberry Jam

One of my favourite pastimes is to relax and enjoy an afternoon tea.  No better way than with a cuppa, fresh tea biscuits, and newly made strawberry jam.  It’s a great way to enjoy the fruits of jam-making labour!

Fresh Strawberry Jam on Tea Biscuits

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today. There are lots of ways to connect with “the Bistro” through social media:

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