Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pineapple Jam And The Grammer Squad

Recently I had a request for a simple pineapple jam recipe. I had made some early on in the summer, but had not taken pictures of the process. However, I did have one of the finished product.
I love pineapple jam. It's not something I would eat everyday so I can it in the cutie patootie 4oz jars that Ball makes. Smear it on toast or a bagel with cream cheese and it makes a fantastic snack. I would venture to guess that it would make a great appetizer mixed in with cream cheese or even possibly goat cheese, and some crushed red pepper flakes or, maybe just ground red pepper instead and slather that on a crostini. Nom nom nom. Oh, oh! I just made a batch of bacon jam this morning. I bet those two would play quite well together on the same snack table. Great. Now I'm super hungry and writing horrible run on sentences. Again. I best hurry and jot this recipe down so I can raid the pantry before the grammer squad hauls me off.
First, a note about pineapples. I firmly subscribe to the Alton Brown school of thought involving kitchen gadgets. You don't need them. Seriously, just a waste of perfectly good kitchen space that might be better suited for say, stashing all those home made canned goodies you've made. That being said, I do not own a pineapple corer and, my drawers- kitchen drawers, not to be confused with my undies thank you very much- are all the happier for it.
Simply take a super sharp knife and slice the bottom and the top portions off. Standing the pineapple up, run your super sharp knife from top to bottom, taking the tough peel off. Working all the way around the pineapple, try to get as many of the "eyes" off with the skin as possible. Go back around the fruit and cut off the individual eyes that were missed the first time.
With the fruit still standing, slice it in half from top to bottom. Take each half and half those from top to bottom. Now, the hard core is exposed in small sections running down the length of each quarter of pineapple. It's easily removed by running your knife just beneath the core, top to bottom once more.
I was more than a little uneasy when I set about doing this the first time. But, after you've got one under your belt you'll be a pro.
You'll need roughly four cups finely chopped, peeled, cored fresh pineapple. After all that knife work you could use your food processor to make quick work of the chopping. Go easy on that pulse button though. Remember, jam is known for having small chunks of fruit suspended in it. Try not to puree the pineapple.
In a large saucepan combine your pineapple, 2 1/2 cups of sugar, 1 small lemon seeded and thinly sliced, but not peeled, 1 cup of water. Over medium heat, stirring constantly, bring to a boil. You'll continue stirring like mad till the sugar dissolves and the mixture thickens, roughly 15 minutes. Have a saucer stashed in the freezer to check the gel test. If it passes remove from heat and skim off any foam.
Ladle your hot pineapple paradise into sterilized and hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Take a wet paper towel and wipe the rims clean. Center the lids and screw the bands on till resistance is met, then a scosh more.
Place in your boiling water bath canner and process for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and let sit for 5 minutes. Then carefully remove jars to a dish towel lined counter and leave undisturbed for 12 hours.
See? Nothing to it. The hardest part about making this jam is getting to the actual fruit itself. Just remember to make sure the knife you're using is super sharp and that will make your job much easier.

Pineapple jam
yields 6 4oz jars, or 3 8oz jars

4 cups finely chopped, peeled, and cored fresh pineapple
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 lemon seeded and thinly sliced with the skin still on
1 cup water

1. Prepare your canner, jars, and lids.
2. Mix all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stirring nearly constantly till sugar dissolves and mixture is thickened. Once it's reached the gel stage remove from heat.
3. Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rims clean. Center lids and screw on bands till resistance is met. Then tighten a scosh more.
4. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove lid and let sit for 5 minutes. Then remove and leave undisturbed for 12 hours.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Crime Scene Cherries

I missed out on the early cherry season this year, but managed to get my paws on about 6 lbs a few weeks ago. As I finished pitting the cherries Hubby walked in from work and asked me how many bodies had I dismembered and, where had I hidden them. It was true. Not only was I splattered head to toe with dark red stains, but so were the walls, my 1940's formica top table, the floor, and inexplicably, my daughter, Joss. I think she may have been playing under the table at some point. It was reminiscent of crime scene photos from some gang's bloodbath. *shudders*
I deposited my 10 cups of cherries into my cast iron dutch oven followed by 5 cups of sugar. As I was giving a gentle stir, the phrase "visions of sugar plums" kept dancing through my head. Except, they weren't sugar plums, silly me, but sugared cherries. And, oh, so pretty!

I covered the dutch oven and did the refrigerator rearranger dance. Once I'd successfully managed to find a place for the cherries to chill overnight, I did the same.
The next day during my allotted canning time, the natives' nap time, I brought the macerated cherries to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. After giving my arms a good workout on the stirring, I brought my plate out of the freezer to see if the cherries would pass the gel test.
Here's how the gel test works. Spoon some onto the plate and push your finger through the middle of it. If it wrinkles then it's at a good gel stage. If you're using a candy thermometer this is around 220 to 222 degrees F. Don't worry if your hasn't reached the gel stage yet. Pop another plate into the freezer and try again in two minutes.

After the gel stage has been reached, ladle those plump preserves into sterilized jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace and, make sure to wipe those rims nice and clean after removing the air bubbles.
I found several recipes with processing times ranging from 10 to 30 minutes. To be on the safe side, until I could verify which was the proper processing time, I went with the half hour. I've gotta tell you, it's been hotter than the surface of the sun here in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area this past month. That half hour felt like an E.T.E.R.N.I.T.Y.

I canned three pints, one half pint, and two quarter pints. I like to do varying sizes in the case I'm the only one eating the cherries, or in the case I want to marinate chicken or pork. Other uses include, but certainly aren't limited to topping ice cream and chocolate cakes, garnishing cocktails, or eating straight from the jar. All are perfectly acceptable in my book.
So, get hopping and get your hands on some cherries ASAP. Sure, your better half might confuse your kitchen for a crime scene after pitting a few pounds of cherries, but you know it's worth it. And, they'll agree with you after having a taste. If they don't then you don't have to share.

1. Pit endless cherries, roughly 10 cups
2. Place in large pot and cover with 5 cups of sugar, stir in gently.
3. Cover and refrigerate overnight
4. Prepare canner, jars, and lids
5. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring frequently till gel stage is reached.
6. Ladle into sterilized jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles using a chopstick or your handy dandy Ball tool. Wipe rims clean with wet paper towel. Center lids. Screw on bands till resistance is met. Then, a scosh more.
7. Process for 30 minutes, or until I edit this post with a verified less time. Remove lid for 5 min. Remove jars and leave undisturbed for 12 hours.
8. Dance around the kitchen with jubilee, you know, cherries jubilee. What? Too corny? Probably. But, that's how I roll.