Monday, August 21, 2006

Jam Fever

Apparently the PTBs (powers-that-be, for all you Angel fans) have decided that my purpose in life is to make jam. Because all I seem to want to do these days is make lovely, delicious confitures. This weekend I made a few types of raspberry jam, all of which are very yummy. Besides plain raspberry, I made raspberry with lemon verbena and raspberry with star anise. The plain raspberry is very tasty and raspberry-ish, always a good basic jam. But the lovely and surprising thing is how different and good the other two flavors are. The lemon verbena one is all summer, with tart raspberries and hints of fresh lemon taste and smell. The star anise one reminds me of fall, with its faint hint of licorice and an earthiness I didn't know raspberries had.

How could I afford to use so many fresh, delicate, expensive raspberries for jam, you ask? Why, I used frozen of course! Stealing the idea from The Great Alton Brown, I have discovered how good using frozen fruit can be when making jams and jellies. After all, they are picked at the peak of freshness then frozen, so sometimes they're even better than fresh, hassle-wise.

And since this was apparently not enough confiture making for me, I felt the need to try my hand at a pectin stock/green apple jelly. After trying to contact local apple farmers in Julian to ask for unripe apples, and being rudely shot down, I decided to try and make the pectin stock with granny smith apples. Basically, you take 4 lb of apples, slice them (leave seeds and skin intact), and simmer for about 30 min in just enough water to reach top (about 6-7 cups). Once done, place mash in colander and collect juice. Then place mash into jelly bag and strain more thoroughly to get all the juice/pectin out. Once done straining, boil on stovetop with sugar (3/4 to 1 cup sugar per cup of juice) and juice of 1 lemon per 4 cups juice. Let boil down and reach jelling point (approx half will evaporate), place in jars, process and cool. Tadaa! Now you should have homemade pectin stock to use in place of prepared pectin from the store.

Or at least that's the idea. I made it last night, and I'm still not sure how well each jar will set up. It was still runny last night, but the jars were pretty warm, so maybe when it cools all will be good? Well, if not I'll have very very sweet apple juice that's a little thick. Maybe I could just label it apple juice concentrate and nobody will know what it should be. Well, I did add a handful of tiny black corinth grapes (labeled "champagne grapes" at Trader Joe's) to one of the jars and then added apple jelly mix, so maybe I'll have a cool new jelly thing to try.

Of course, the real sad thing was having to throw away the beautiful apple mush! Okay, so maybe only I think it's pretty, but that's cause I see its potential...applesauce! Oh, if only I had a food mill. Or the KichenAid fruit/veggie strainer. Or a food mill. Or a... okay, so the real problem is I'm not sure what would be best. On one hand, the food mill is decades old and guaranteed to work...but hand operated. And the KitchenAid attachment would be shiny and new and mixer operated...but maybe not clean as easy or work as well at straining things like blackberries. Any suggestiongs, for anyone who might be reading and knows of these things?

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