Sometimes I slack. In the nearly two weeks since our Can-o-rama Cantacular, I've blog-slacked pretty hard. I've taken pictures, cooked like a banshee, thrown a dinner party or two but neglected to tell you about the first ever canning challenge, which is kind of a major oversight because the summer is rapidly declining and many of our preserving options are quickly fading into memory. And if we are going to make this a monthly thing, we need to get going now!
So before every single summer fruit is gone and we need to resort to pumpkin chutney (not this month...wait a few and it'll probably come up) here is the first ever challenge...and it is a wide open one:Summer in a bottle (or a jar)
That's right. Summer in a bottle. For those of us who live in a four-radically-different-seasons climate, summer is a short lived phenomenon that brings, in rapid succession, a burst of color and fruit and (most years) warmth and, from time-to-time, stifling humidity.
Some of you are lucky. You are heading into spring. And some of you live in places where it is warm year 'round. But here in Massachusetts the leaves are about to turn and summer fruits are about to give way to the apple, the storage apple, and then old storage apples until rhubarb and strawberry reappear next spring.
But before we let that happen, let's capture summer one last time.
Your challenge, to be completed by POSTED ON YOUR BLOG on Saturday October 3nd - anytime, is to make one or both of the following:
Summer in a bottle jam
Summer in a bottle liqueur
What does summer in a bottle mean? It means something that captures the flavor and aroma of summer for storage until the colder months, when a quick visual, olfactory, and taste reminder of the past provides a quick burst of hopefulness.
There are a few guidelines for this jam/liqueur:
- Use ANY fruit you like, as long as it is a summer fruit (no apples, pears, quinces, citrus etc)
- Buy the fruit at a local farmers market, find it in an orchard, buy it at a farmstand, pick it in your yard.
- The fruit must be from an area near your home, within 100 miles, preferably within 25 (bonus for anyplace even closer).
- You may mix as many summer fruits as you like. Your jam/liqueur does NOT need to be a single fruit.
- If you would like to add spices, herbs etc, make sure they are summer spices and herbs.
- If you are making liqueur, you will not want to drink your results for a couple months. So it is important to get it going as quickly as possible. You'll still want to document your process and your reflections on flavor in your blog.
- I have put together a quick reference page here - lots of books and links.
Posting on October 3rd:
If you have a blog, you may post ANYTIME on October 3rd. Please send me a link to your blog and I will add it to the challenge page and post your link in the comments section of this post. Eventually I'll get a links thing up and running so it will be easier for everyone. Give me a little while to get that going. I'm slow with tech stuff.
If you DON'T have a blog, don't worry. Send me a writeup AND a photo of your experience, and I'll post it on Cake and Commerce on October 3rd.
When you write up your post, use pictures, words, video, mime, whatever. You must wait until October 3rd to post - and then, if you feel like it, publicize it to everyone. It will take us a while to really get the challenge going, but the more who know about it, the better.
If, as you work on the challenge, you have questions or comments about recipes, ingredients, or process, post here. Anyone may answer questions. If the challenge merits a community, we'll make that happen. For now, I think it can be contained.
Notes about this month's recipe: this month is wide open. We aren't being creative or wacky or particularly earth-shattering in our choice as we are just trying to capture summer before it eludes our grasp. That being said, feel free to improvise on this recipes as much as you like. Make it yours!
The Summer in a Bottle Recipes:
Summer in a Bottle Jam - yields approximately 8 half-pint jars
Read this great guide from UGA before embarking on jam making. Lots of great advice on jar sterlization etc.
Special equipment: hot water canner; 8 half-pint jars, lids, and bands; wooden spoon; wide-mouthed funnel; ladle; tea towel
- 4.5 lbs summer fruit of your choice - feel free to mix fruits (approximately 10 cups or so)
- 2.2 lbs sugar (5 cups or so)
- 1.5 t citric acid OR 1/4 C lemon juice (citric acid does help preserve color)
- pinch of salt
- optional: 1 C fresh herbs, added 1 minute before end of cooking. For coarse leaves, like lemon verbena, simply soak leaves in jam for 1 minute, remove and with a rubber spatula, push jam stuck to leaves onto board and then back in canner. For herbs like mint, oregano or basil, simply chop and add just before removing from heat. Savory herbs should be used more sparingly - no more than .5 cup.
- pectin option: instead of using commercial pectin, use peels from 2 organic apples, add halfway through cooking; remove before canning. Not a necessary step.
Combine ingredients in heavy-bottomed pot. Mash fruits up. Allow to sit for 30 minutes or so. Bring to a boil, stirring to prevent sticking. As it thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. In about 40 minutes, jam will have thickened up considerably. Check temperature on candy thermometer for set (jam sets at 220 degrees F). You can also try the flake test (when it falls off the spoon, does it sheet off or are there many drops?) or the plate test (place drop on cold plate. Allow to sit for a minute. Push with finger. If wrinkled, it is done, if not, keep stirring) to check for doneness.
If you like a softer jam (as I do) don't heat it to 220. 218 will provide a fine, soft set.
When set, pour into clean jars, leaving 1/4" head space. Clean lip of jar and seal with sterile lid.
Process in hot water canner for 10 minutes. For full instructions on canning and processing, read this.
Optional: to make seedless, skinless jam, run through a foley mill or fine-mesh strainer just before set point. Return to boil and continue to cook until set. Process as usual.
Summer in a bottle Liqueur
- 3 C Vodka (or Grain Neutral Spirits, if legal where you live)
- 1.5 C summer fruit (if using peaches, skin them, cut them and seed them - leave skins on nectarines)
- 1 C sugar
- pinch salt
- 1 organic lemon peel, no pith
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- optional flavor: 1/2 t vanilla extract or 1/2 bean
- optional herbs: 1/4 C verbena, mint, basil, nepitella, etc
- optional spice: fresh chili pepper...mmmm.
Mash fruits and sugar and salt together and place in jar. Pour vodka over fruit/sugar mash. Stir in salt. Add herbs and flavor if using. Cover jar with lid or plastic wrap. Leave in cool, dark place for at least 4 weeks. Strain and allow to sit for another 2 weeks. Dilute with up to 1/2 C water, or to taste.
Use as a cordial, a mixer, or drink as is.
For more liqueur ideas, check out these sites:
Looking forward to seeing your results!