Category Archives: Preserves

Super-Easy & Pectin-Free Bumbleberry Jam!

Bumbleberry jam goes great on toast!

Ever since I figured out how to make jam, I’ve been making batch after batch of fruit jam. Why? Because homemade jam tastes WORLDS different from any store-bought jam! It’s just packed so full of flavour, that you don’t feel like you’re eating jellified sugar as with some packaged jam — homemade jam is worth the VERY small amount of time it takes to make. And you don’t even have to decide on one fruit; you can mix up a number of berries and make Bumbleberry Jam!

I’m mixing up blueberries and blackberries today, to make my own version of bumbleberry jam. And, to make it even easier, I’m leaving out the pectin too. All you really need to make this jam is berries, sugar, and a dash of lemon juice! (Not even water.) I like to make pectin-free jam as it’s one less packaged thing I need to add to my food (I told you I was a hippie-in-the-making!). It does result in a slightly looser-set jam, but I’m quite ok with that. You could also add fruit pectin via apple cores (I use this when making apple jelly) or lemon seeds (I have still to use this tip) but it’s also quite ok to leave out the pectin entirely; you just have to the berry and sugar mixture to a jammy stage (I’ll explain more on this later).

Let’s get to making us some homemade jam!

 

BUMBLEBERRY JAM

This berry jam contains only a few ingredients, and is easy to spread on toast or to mix in with yoghurt. 

Ingredients

  • 4 1/2 c. mixed berries (I used blueberries & blackberries. You could also add in raspberries if you wanted to.)
  • 2 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients together and place over medium heat. 

  2. As the sugar melts and the juices of the berries are drawn out, mash the berries so that only some whole berries are left. 

  3. As the mixture becomes more liquid, bring to a boil, and keep at a boil. 

  4. When the mixture reaches the "set" or "sheeting" stage (see below for more info), remove from heat and pour into a sterilized glass jar. 

  5. Let cool, and store in fridge. Will keep for a few weeks. Enjoy it spread on toast! 

Recipe Notes

If the jam starts to smell caramelized, you've overcooked it. But not to worry -- add a dash of water to thin it out and call it 'caramelized bumbleberry jam'. Whose to know that you didn't do it deliberately? ūüôā

I mentioned about how you need to boil the mixture until it reaches a jammy state. When that happens, you can safely say that your jam will have ‘a good set’; in other words, it will be jam-like, instead of a runny sauce. How to know when it has reached this stage? Place a small dish in the freezer. Pour a small spoon of the hot jam mixture onto the plate. Swipe your finger through the mixture. Does the jam run together to become one blob again, or does it stay separated into two blobs? If it doesn’t run together again, then it’s a good set! Another way to measure if a jam will have a good set, is to take a wooden spoon and let the jam mixture run off the side. Does it run off in several rivulets? Not done. Does it run off in one thick drip? Then it’s “sheeting”, and it’s going to have a good set! One warning: better to undercook than overcook. This particular jam (with blackberries) tends to be prone to caramelizing, so again, better to undercook than overcook. A slightly saucy jam is better than a solid lump of candied berries! FYI, you can always save an overcooked jam — just heat it in the microwave, add a bit of water, stir, and you’ll have a looser jam (perhaps not properly set, but good enough to spread on toast!).

You might look at this recipe and think, wow, that’s a lot of sugar! Don’t worry, it won’t over-power the flavour of the jam at all. I usually use the 1-1 rule (1 c. berries to 1 c. sugar) when making berry jams (especially strawberry jam), mostly because I use them to stir into my morning yoghurt to make homemade fruit yoghurt (topped with homemade granola, of course!). You can use less…but it won’t taste as good and it won’t set as much (lots of sugar in integral to get jam to thicken. Not enough sugar and you’ll end up with berry sauce). While normally, I’m all for making a recipe healthier, I suggest trying this one as is before trying to reduce the sugar. Even if (and I don’t think this will happen!) you didn’t like it, ANYONE you know will be happy to eat your homemade jam!

As I said, I like to use this jam to stir into my morning yoghurt, but it’s equally delicious on toast, or between cake layers, or to top a jammy cookie (make a pie crust, cut into cookie-sized circles, top with jam, and then top with crumble topping. Bake, and enjoy!). Let me know how you end up using this delicious jam!

Next Post: I’m working on fine-tuning my Best Ever Macaroni Salad. I thought I had gotten the details right, but then it mysteriously disappeared from the fridge when I got up to snack on it at midnight. The DH had a slightly guilty but satisfied look on his face, so I take it that the recipe is a hit!¬†

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday!

Better-Than-Store-Bought Cranberry Sauce

Pour it out or spread it on!

I love homemade cranberry sauce! Growing up, my father was the one who made the cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving holidays, using only cranberries, sugar and water. My mother doesn’t like cranberry seeds in her sauce, so he has always been careful to sieve them out of the finished product. Love is in the little things sometimes, yes? Personally, I don’t care if there are seeds in my cranberry sauce. Or skins, for that matter. Makes it SO much easier to make! How much easier? Well, let me tell you!

So. Easy. You literally dump the ingredients in a pot, boil for 20 minutes, blend with an immersion blender, and bam, sauce! High in vitamin C, plus the added benefit of the fibre from the skins. If you’ve only ever had store-bought cranberry sauce, try this recipe — it’ll make you a believer in scratch cooking!

Let’s get saucy!

Easier-Than-Store-Bought Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 pkg. cranberries
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. water
  • 3/4 tbsp. lemon juice

Dump all the ingredients in a pot and heat over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the pot boils and becomes frothy, all the berries will have been cooked and will have split open. Remove from heat and blend using an immersion blender. Let cool — it will gel as it cools. Serve as a side with meat, or on toast points for brekkie!

You actually can leave out the lemon juice if you want, and reduce the sugar slightly, but I find the lemon adds a nice note. You could probably even stir in some lemon zest for a lemony tang. Or chunks of cooked apple for a cran-apple sauce. The possibilities are pretty endless! If you do add in a mix-in, leave a comment and tell us what you did; I’d love to hear!

This sauce will last for at least a week in the fridge, so it can be made beforehand, but fair warning, it disappears pretty quickly when people realize it can be used as jam! So I recommend on doubling the quantity, at the very least!

Next Post: Either Pumpkin Gnocchi or¬†fancy Drunken Cupcakes (with Bailey’s Irish Cream). Add in a salad and a glass of something you fancy and you’ve got yourself a date night special!

Purely Pear Sauce and The Joys of Eating In Bed

Pear sauce made with Bartlett pears…but pictured with Bosc pears. Because I ate all the Bartletts.

As I type this, I’m eating breakfast in bed. My breakfast? Freshly made pear sauce — fragrant and smooth and delicately-flavoured and just scrumptious! I’m spooning it up straight out of the jar, because I plan on eating the entire thing! Fresh pear sauce is so yummy. It’s just like applesauce, but…pear.

And have I mentioned how easy it is to make? So. Incredibly. Easy.

Pears were on sale this week and last week, so I had the DH buy lots so that I could make lots. I like to stir it into my homemade yoghurt sometimes, to sweeten it slightly, and add some fruit and fibre.

Want to make some yourself? Let’s! Be prepared though,¬†it’s jaw-droppingly easy.

Purely Pear Sauce

Ingredients:

  • a bag of ripe pears

Peel pears, and quarter them. Remove pits and stems. Place in a pan over medium heat. The pears will release enough liquid that they shouldn’t stick to the pan, but be sure to stir it occasionally. Once the pears are mushy and appear to be cooked through, you can either mash them with a potato masher, use¬†a stick blender to blend them in the pot, or blend them in a kitchen blender. And…done!

I know it seems too easy to be true — I was surprised myself. Even the DH didn’t believe the sauce only contained pears; he thought for sure that I had added in sugar. Nope! It’s Purely Pear Sauce!

I like to use ripe Bartlett pears for this sauce, and personally, I leave the skins on so that I get some extra fibre (and then just make sure to blend it extra well at the end). You can use Bosc pears as well (or any pear, really) but it will be a slightly different texture (a tad more grainy) and taste. That said, eh, use what you want! Life is too short to always follow the recipe. Tee hee!

Next Post: I made a great pea soup flavoured with ham bits for the DH. Should I post that? I think so! Or maybe something sweet. Mmm…I sure do love my baked goods!

Linking Up at Meal Plan Monday, and Happiness is Homemade!

Canning Pumpkin: From Gourd to Gourmet

homecanned pumpkin with textThings I have canned in the last year:

and now…PUMPKIN!

That’s right, I’m in the middle of making my own pumpkin pie, from scratch! I’ll share with you in a later post about the pumpkin pie, but here’s how to can your own pumpkin.

No preservatives, no added anything, just pure pumpkin!

Firstly, you need a pumpkin. I got this one when I went apple-picking with my family a couple of weeks ago. It was either going to be a jack-o-lantern or a pumpkin pie, and my tummy won the debate.

The pumpkin. I've heard that sugar pumpkins are good, but I just picked up one that wasn't expensive and looked cute. Meh. Good enough!

The pumpkin. I’ve heard that sugar pumpkins are good, but I just picked up one that wasn’t expensive and looked cute. Meh. Good enough!

You’ll also need a slow-cooker. Most people have one tucked away somewhere, otherwise they’re super-cheap on Craigslist.

Halve, and scoop out the seeds. Reserve those seeds for roasting.

Halve, and scoop out the seeds. Reserve those seeds for roasting.

Home-Canned Pumpkin

  • 1 pumpkin
  • water
  • a slow cooker

Cut of the top of the pumpkin. Scoop out the seeds and reserve for roasting. Scrape the insides of the pumpkin until no more gooey innards remain. Peel outside of pumpkin. Chop into small chunks. Place 1/2 the pumpkin in the slow cooker (it’ll likely take two batches to use up the entire pumpkin) with about 1 c. of water. Cook on high for about 8 hours, stirring every¬†two hours. Once soft when pricked with a fork, blend using an immersion blender.¬†Then, it’s ready to can! ¬†

pumpkin peeled

To can, sterilize your canning jars. I just rinsed mine in water and popped them in the microwave for a minute. Then I filled up the jars with the pumpkin mixture, leaving about 1/2 cm room at the top of the jar. I screwed on the lids fingertip tight, and then placed them in boiling water for 20 minutes. Remove from water bath and let cool. You should hear the lids go ‘pop!’ at they cool and the seal sets. If the lid doesn’t pop, it’s not properly canned; but you can just put that jar in the fridge and use it up in the next week.¬†If¬†you follow this process though, you shouldn’t have any unpopped jars. And then you can store your jars in the cupboard and feel very pioneer-like! Or¬†take a photo and post it on facebook. #authentic #preservative-free #hipsterforlife

Chop into pieces, and pop into the cooker, with some water. And yes, those are some pickled beets that you see cooling in the corner. My mum told me I was "a real farmer's wife"! Incidentally, I live in the city.

Chop into pieces, and pop into the cooker, with some water. And yes, those are some pickled beets that you see cooling in the corner. My mum told me I was “a real farmer’s wife”! Incidentally, I live in the city.

I’ve got my second batch of pumpkin¬†in my slow cooker now, and the simmering pumpkin is making my home smell like pumpkin pie. I hadn’t realized that pumpkin, by itself and without any spices, actually has a distinct pumpkin smell. I reallllly want pumpkin pie now!

Boil to make sure they heat seal!

Boil to make sure they heat seal!

Which leads to me to my…

Next Post: Pumpkin Pie! And how to make it. Plus a fancy braided crust for that uber-Martha look. Bring on the (Canadian) Thanksgiving!

Making the Most of Leftovers: Easy Pickled Vegetables

Pickled veggies displayed prior to consumption.

Pickled veggies displayed prior to consumption.

Given that I’m not a morning person, I usually prepare the day’s lunches the night before. Tonight I was making Thai spring rolls, and had some sliced green peppers left over. And given that I have a waste not, want not philosophy when it comes to food, you know I had to use them up somehow. So I made some pickled vegetables!

Want to make some too? They’re the work of a few minutes only!

Easy Pickled Vegetables

  • 3 small carrots, sliced thinly
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1/2 green pepper, cut in thin strips length-wise
  • pinch mustard powder
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 c. white vinegear
  • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
  • pinch black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch of hot pepper flakes

Mix vinegars, water, and all spices (so everything but the veggies) in a bowl and heat in the microwave for 3 minutes. The pickling brine should be nice and hot when¬†you pour it over the chopped vegetables in a large bowl. Make sure to press down the veggies so that they all get bathed in the brine; I stirred and pressed down gently with a potato masher, repeatedly for about 5 minutes. Then I scooped the veggies¬†into sterilized jars, making sure to top up with brine to cover all the veggies in the jar. Let them sit for at least overnight. And then voila — condiment time!

Stirring the veggies with the pickling juice.

Stirring the veggies with the pickling juice.

I used these quantities and ended up with just the right amount to fill three half pint jars. Given that I fully expect to eat these pickled veggies within a few weeks, I only¬†sterilized the jars in the microwave. I’ll keep the jars in the fridge until used, but had I done a quick water bath, they would be properly canned and could stay on my cupboard shelves for several months. But they’re too tasty to last that long!

Now, what shall I use these pickled recipes on? I shall probably use it as a topping for veggie burgers, sandwiches, and salads. I’ve used previous batches on pizza, which was surprisingly delicious with crumbled feta. Mmm…now I want to eat! Maybe I’ll just eat one of the Thai spring rolls that I had leftover from tomorrow’s lunch prep. Yes, that’s what I’ll do!

Next Post: Cherry Pie, a la Francais! Followed by homemade copycat oreos. Chocolate-dipped copycat oreos. So. Good!

Post-Pub Edit: Do link-ups work? Bloggers say that they increase blog traffic, and hey, I’m all for that! So this is now my contribution to Christy Jordan’s latest link-up.