Recipe: Cranberry persimmon jam (small batch).

I know, I know, you’re probably tired of cooking for the holiday season already and the thought of doing more at this very moment doesn’t exactly inspire or thrill.  But, actually…this recipe pretty much cooks itself and the combination of ingredients is rather festive.  An added bonus: while it’s on the stovetop, your kitchen will smell delightful and afterwards, you’ll have something unique and special to serve up to your guests.

This jam isn’t subtle or summery in flavour – it’s full-on winter celebration, warmly spicy and rich.

Cranberry Persimmon Jam (small batch, yield: just over 2 cups)

12 ounces fresh cranberries, washed well (this year, I was so pleased to find cranberries grown in Canada – straight out of Nova Scotia!)

3 fuyu persimmons, peeled, mashed (a potato masher should do the trick, as will a hand blender)

1 heaping teaspoon ground cardamom

1 piece star anise

juice of 1/2 lime

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Throw all the ingredients into a large saucepan and stir together.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then immediately turn the heat to low.  You want a consistent low boil – if bits of cranberry and persimmon are festooning the frosty kitchen windows in a pulpy sort of garland and colourful hot fruit dribbles are being catapulted into your Christmas tree as it stands sedately in the living room, you’ve got it on too high.

It will take time to boil this all down – about one hour, more or less.  You don’t have be present the entire time, but you cannot forget about it for too long.  Every once in a while, in between topping up your wine glass and wiping the cranberry-persimmon spatter off the chandelier (because you accidentally had the mixture on too high when you first got started), you will have to stir it.  Just so the sugar doesn’t burn.  Trust me on that one.  Burnt sugar sets off the smoke detector.  And your neighbours really don’t like that when it’s only six in the morning.  But, that’s another recipe from another time….

When the fruit and sugar have cooked down and everything is all jammy and fragrant and you can’t resist taking a bit of a taste, then it’s time to remove it from the heat and pack it into clean mason jars.  Don’t forget to remove the star anise chunk or someone is going to get a tooth-destroying, aggressively licorice-y surprise when they bite down.

Seal and refrigerate the jars when the contents have cooled down and enjoy!  Try to use it all up within three or four days.  That won’t be difficult.

*I think you could substitute a good honey for the sugar without any problems.  I am going to try this next time, and I will update this post if I find that it works.

**I think cinnamon would be lovely with this as well.  I’m also thinking about a whole vanilla bean.  And cardamom pods, versus the ground stuff.  Hmmmm….

***You could definitely process this in a boiling water canner for longer, safe storage.  You could also increase the size of the batch.

****I took a photograph of the jam as it was cooking in the pan, but let’s just say I’m a tad better at shooting landscapes and flowers.  You know what jam looks like.  😉

What are your favourite recipes using cranberries?

 

 

 

Fireweed jelly.

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We recently travelled to northern Alberta and on our return trip, we stopped to harvest some fireweed flowers – I’ve had it in mind for a few years now to make jelly with them and finally had a chance to collect some nice bunches. Fireweed grows prolifically here in the south, as well, but you don’t often see it in the city – it seems that I spot it most regularly when it’s in a national park or on private land. Up north, it’s…free range. Or something like that.  😉

We have had the longest heat wave I think I can ever remember here on the Prairies, so to drag out the boiling water canner and make jelly in an already scorching kitchen wasn’t a prospect I was terribly keen on, but this jelly was sooooo worth it! I daresay I love the flavour more than the rose petal jelly I made a couple of years ago (do you remember that?). The fireweed does indeed taste a bit like roses, but it’s far fruitier – and how can you match that incredible colour? I was very impressed – this will definitely be on my list of must-makes every year from now on. The recipe I used may be found here; you have to make the juice first before getting started on the jelly.  Don’t omit the lemon juice, as it contributes to the vibrancy of the colour.

Have you tried any new canning recipes out this year? (Jam, jellies, pickles, chutneys, salsa…etc.). And if you don’t can, have you grown or eaten any new types of fruits and veggies that you’re now a big fan of?

Adventures in canning.

Well, I finally made myself return the boiling water canner and racks to their winter home high up on the top shelf of the pantry.

I did a LOT of canning this summer, and I’m not done yet:  once I can get my hands on a few bags of Meyer lemons, I’ll haul the canner back down for another round or two.  (There are a few canning projects that I simply must undertake every year, and making Meyer lemon jelly is tops on the list.  You would not believe how good it tastes).

I had a few canning firsts this year, including the batch of lilac flower jelly that I made in early summer (as you’ll recall in this post).  I also tried lemon balm jelly, because for some strange reason I put three lemon balm plants in one of my community garden beds, and of course – cue the laughter from everyone reading this – they grew to insane proportions and tried to suck the marrow out of the universe.  (I thought maybe our wonky weather would keep them down to a dull roar, but apparently they thrive on wonky.  Ah, the delights of the mint family…).  Fortunately, I REALLY like lemon balm tea.  You also need a good pile of leaves to make jelly, so that’s one of the things I did.  I used my standard recipe for making floral jellies and then when I wasn’t watching (first rule of canning:  you ALWAYS have to watch!), I cooked the mixture beyond the gel point and now I have jars of jelly that you can’t spread on toast without a heavy machine operator’s license and the use of a road paver.  Uh, oops.  It tastes mighty fine, though…you just have to wrestle it out of the jars.

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The lemon balm that ate the world.  I know we’ll meet again.  Next spring, probably. 

Another new venture was far more successful.  In July, my hubby and I went out to a u-pick farm in Lacombe, nearly 200 kilometres northeast of Calgary.  You have to go out early to pick what we were after:  haskaps (also known as honeyberries, the edible fruit of certain species of honeysuckle) get a bit mushy at high temperatures and become nearly impossible to remove from the branches.  The farm’s owners were scrambling to remove debris from a huge hailstorm the night before and setting up several carloads of people in an adjacent field, where they were picking buckets of huge red strawberries.  We were the only ones out with the haskaps, and after we helped one of the owners pull the bird netting off of a row of the shrubs, I got to work.  This was my first time picking haskaps, but I was prepared for their soft texture:  you don’t yank them off and throw them in buckets as you would with most berries.  They have to be finessed in such a way with gloved fingers (it’s very important to wear the gloves) so that you don’t squish them and then you lay them gently in flat boxes, being careful not to pile too many on top of each other.  While there are haskap cultivars with berries that are less soft than others, I found that in the building heat, they pretty much juiced themselves even with my careful preparation.  I picked almost six pounds of the beauties and most of them were turned into the most incredible jam I’ve ever tasted.  They have a flavour reminiscent of the best blueberries you’ve ever eaten, but tangier.  And waaaaaaaay better.

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I guess I was so busy “finessing” the berries off the shrubs that I forgot to take any decent photos.  Sorry! 

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 I did manage to capture a view of how easy these shrubs are to access for harvesting.  You can sit down to pick the berries and there’s no need for a long reach.

We also picked sour cherries at a farm outside of DeWinton, south of Calgary.  Sour cherry jam is another annual must-do project of mine, but this year I used a low methoxyl pectin and let’s just say, it is necessary to add more sugar than I did.  You may be able to cut it in other recipes but sour cherries are…well…sour.

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I’m reminded that I have a few containers of sour cherry pie filling in the freezer.  Mmmmmmm….

The pectin fared awesomely in the Saskatoon (serviceberry) jam I made – without all that sugar, you really get walloped with the gorgeous sweet-almondy flavour.  I usually make Saskatoon jam (I’d argue about being too lazy to strain the seeds out but I’m too lazy to argue) but maybe next year I’ll change it up and go with jelly.

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Ho boy, now I’m thinking about the saskatoon tarts they make and sell at the u-pick farm.  Now I won’t be able to sleep tonight…I’ll keep getting up to check the fridge to see if a tart has magically appeared. 

Then, there were our foraging trips…one of which lasted a lot longer than intended because we got turned around and then there was some scrambling down hillsides and some swathing through heavy brush and mistakenly ending up on private property (shhhhh)….ahem.   We came out of that with a big bag of chokecherries and rose hips.  The chokecherries ended up in a combo with peach juice and the rosehips in a vitamin C knockout with raspberry juice, and let’s just say we don’t have any jars of those left.  They were worth every spiderweb in my hair and all the scratches on my arms!

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Rosehips

Chokecherries

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Did you do any canning this year (or are you still planning any canning projects)?  Whether or not you make them yourself, what are your favourite jams and jellies to eat?  What about pickles and chutneys?