JAM! (And canning.)

Ok, it’s been a loooong time, but I’m back and ready to post about something AWESOME: Making Jam!!

JamPic

I’ve always been interested in making jam – it makes for such a nice, personal gift – and I fondly remember when my dad used to make it when we were little. I just wasn’t sure how it was done and the task seemed a little daunting.
Let me start off by saying this: It’s actually not hard! The more complicated part is the canning – but even that is actually pretty cool and fun.

After some quick Google searching (gotta love Google) I came across a really helpful blog post by a woman who enters her jam in competitions. She includes some great in-depth information about what to do, a bunch of progress photos, as well as a more concise recipe section at the bottom of the post (also included at the bottom of *this* post). But I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you read her entire post before attempting the recipe – it’ll make the process SO MUCH EASIER. And you’ll learn a lot of really valuable stuff for future canning endeavours.

Since this was our first time making jam we wanted to try something super simple, so we chose pectin-free peach jam. Pectin is that powdery stuff that helps to thicken jams & preserves… but we were able to achieve a thick yet spreadable consistency by just being patient and spending a little more time slowly boiling down/’reducing’ our concoction. (Note: You can’t rush this process since you could risk burning your jam – and it tends to spit all over the place when you turn up the heat… Yes, I tried…). I like my jam a little softer/more spreadable anyhow (I’d rather my jam doesn’t come out of the jar in chunks), so this turned out perfectly:

jampic2SO! Let’s get down to business.

Here’s the quick version of the recipe we found online:

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds of fresh Peaches
  • 3 cups of Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 cup of Water

Instructions

Prepare the jars for canning
    1. Wash jars and bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse
    2. Place jars inside a canner filled with water, bring to boil.
    3. Boil jars for 15 minutes to sterilize.
    4. Place lids and bands in warm water, do not boil. Leave until ready to use.
Peach Jam Recipe:
  1. Rinse the peaches under cool running water.
  2. Place whole fresh peaches in a pot of boiling water for 2 minutes.
  3. Remove and place in a sink with cold ice water.
  4. Peel peaches, remove the pit, slice in half, then into quarters.
  5. Slice each quarter into 2 or 3 chunks.
  6. Place cut peaches in bowl and toss with lemon juice.
  7. Place in food processor and pulse into small bits but do not liquefy.
  8. Place a saucepot on stove, set to medium heat.
  9. Add water, then sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  10. Add peach pulp and continue to stir until it thickens.
  11. As it thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking and burning.
  12. When done, ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
  13. Remove air bubbles, wipe rim, add lid and band. Finger tighten.
  14. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner or according to the time for your altitude.
  15. Remove from canner, and place on folded towel for 24 hours in a draft free location.
  16. May be stored in a dark cool place for a year or longer.
  17. Enjoy

We took some video footage of our experience making the jam and put it on Instagram – but I’ll include links to them here as well:

Part 1

Part 2

Before you try out the recipe, you may be interested in reading about the simple modifications we made, making our life a little easier:

  • Except for the jars and fruit, you probably already have everything you need at home. We didn’t buy a canner, rack, special measuring utensil, can remover (to protect hands from the hot water) or funnel. If you want to, though, Canadian Tire offers a kit for $50 or a tool kit without the canner and rack for $16. Instead, we used two pots, a ruler, rubber gloves from the dollar store, and made a funnel from the top end of a plastic bottle. Our 12-pack of adorable bitty 125 mL cans came from Loblaws for about $12. (I’m a tad peeved since I just spotted the same pack available for $7.79 on Canadian Tire’s site – but what can ya do? We were already at Loblaws for the peaches so getting the jars there was convenient.)
  • Not enough big pots? No problem. I didn’t have an extra pot to boil the peaches in (to remove the skins) since my 2 big pots were already in use sterilizing the cans, so I put them in a big bowl and poured hot water from our kettle into it. I placed the bowl in the sink and then added a second kettle of boiled water to loosen the skins a bit more. Worked like a charm.
  • You can play around with flavours. We decided to take out some peaches and add in a mango for a slightly different flavour. Why not? Worked out well (since the overall fruit weight was still the same). You can try all sorts of fruit combos – have fun with it!
  • You don’t have to take recipes too literally. I don’t own a food processor yet, so we carefully pulsed the fruit in the blender (making sure we didn’t completely liquify it – we wanted some little fruit chunks still visible).
  • Oops. I forgot to toss the lemon juice on the sliced peaches so I added it into the blender and mixed it around with a spoon. This was ok since I worked quickly with the peaches, but if you let yours sit on the counter for a while they may brown – the lemon helps prevent this.

BIG TIPS:

  1. If you don’t own a canner & rack and decide to just use pots like we did, make sure you put your jars into the water while it’s still cool/lukewarm – this helps prevent them from cracking. I also didn’t bring the water to a rolling boil since I didn’t want my jars knocking against each other – so you may want to keep an eye on that. Some people use a towel for the bottom of the pot and between the jars – that’s up to you. Ours turned out fine and they ALL sealed properly! It was SO satisfying to hear the lids ping shut after removing them from the water, indicating they were properly done. Woo hoo!
  2. You’re going to wonder when the mixture has boiled down enough, and when it’s ready to place in the cans. Here’s what you do to check: Spoon a little bit of your mixture onto a plate and let it cool a bit. Then, run a finger through the middle. There should still be a space where your finger just was. If the jam quickly goes back to fill that space, it’s not ready yet.

The jam turned out deliciously!!
We spread some on leftover biscuits we had from brunch the other day, and on some hot, slightly crunchy toast. Mmm!

I designed and printed sticker labels for the lids…
jampic4
… and then packaged the jars up in a fun way:

jampic3

Now they’re lined up for some special folks, and we can’t wait to make more batches to give as gifts to more people.

If you have any questions feel free to put them in the comments section below – I’ll do my best to answer them!

Mu(n)ch love,

A

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Unbelievably Simple King Crab Legs


I. love. crab legs. I used to only eat them at restaurants because I had no idea how to cook them myself, but I’ve learned they’re actually really simple to prepare! When you buy them, they’re already pre-cooked. Essentially, you just have to steam them in a pot to get them hot and ready to eat.

Here, I’m sharing a really easy recipe shown to me by my dad.

Check with your market when they’ll go on sale– I’ve seen them for half-price a few times a year.

** Big Tip: Have scissors handy to cut the shells open and get to the good stuff!

Unbelievably Simple King Crab Legs

  • approx. 1 kg frozen King Crab legs
  • 1/2 bottle white wine (Pinot Grigio if you have), OR 1 bottle beer
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/3 stick unsalted butter

In a large pot, melt butter on med-high heat.
Add Garlic.
After about a minute, add wine (or beer).
Add crab legs (may have to bend some to fit).
Cover, let simmer approx. 15-20 minutes.
Transfer crab legs into a big bowl, pour pot juices over.
Dig in!

Falafel Salad

Commonly eaten in a pita, falafels are super tasty and work fantastically as the star of a salad.

To prepare them at home, you don’t have to make the falafel mix from scratch– So far  I’ve found microwaveable pre-formed balls (top photo, from the Loblaws vegetarian section by the fresh produce) and a box mix that you just add water to and fry (second photo, from the Loblaws isles).

I prefer a bit of crunch to my falafel, so the fry mix was more to my taste (compared to the softer microwaved ones). The microwaveable falafels are definitely easier to prepare, but they’re both really simple. Choose which you prefer and just follow package instructions!

Tip: If you choose to fry your own, make sure the oil is *really* hot first, or else your falafels will just fall apart as they fry.

** As for the “salad” part, add whatever veggies you like!

In the top photo, I used lettuce, red pepper, yellow pepper and tzatziki.

In the bottom photo, I used parsley, carrot (just shredded on), tomato and tzatziki.

* You can find a super simple tzatziki recipe under the Tookies “Sauces and Dips” category.


Enjoy!

Egg “Muffins”

These yummy little things are a cinch to whip up, and you can customize them in all sorts of ways! They’re fantastic for breakfast or for a hearty mid-day snack. My dad invented them one morning and they’ve become a Sunday morning staple for our family. The great thing about them is that you can throw in whatever veggies, meat and cheese you have, as long as you’ve got eggs. Don’t underestimate the punch these little things pack, though– they’re quite filling!

Egg “Muffins” (the way I did them here)
(Makes 6)

  • 1/2 a tomato, sliced
  • 2 stalks green onion, chopped
  • cheese (amount and type is your choice– I used Old Cheddar here), thinly sliced
  • 6 cold cuts (I used smoked chicken breast here) (OR, you can even use smoked salmon!)
  • freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • 6 eggs
  • grease of your choice (oil or butter)– I use butter

Preheat oven to 300 F.
Grease each muffin cup.
Press 1 cold cut (or salmon) into the bottom of each muffin cup.
Crack an egg into each cup (don’t worry about keeping the yolk intact).
Place a tomato slice, and sprinkle some green onion, onto each one.
Ground some black pepper onto each one.
Bake until clear egg whites become white.
Remove from oven and add some cheese onto each one.
Bake again until cheese has melted and eggs have risen slightly.
Remove each egg “muffin” carefully with a fork & enjoy!

Prosciutto and Mozarella-Wrapped Lime-Marinated Asparagus

Great as part of any meal, this one’s so easy to do and so easy to remember. My dad introduced me to the idea, and I adapted it in my own way. The lime adds an unexpected and mouthwatering flavour. Paired with the Prosciutto and mozzarella, this combination will totally become a repeated recipe. (It has for me at least!)

Prosciutto and Mozarella-Wrapped Lime-Marinated Asparagus

  • 1 bunch asparagus, bottom ends cut off
  • 2 packages prosciutto (or the equivalent from the deli, about a pound)
  • mozzarella (buy a small ball, you may use it all)
  • 2 limes
  • olive oil (to drizzle)
  • black pepper (to taste)

In a small pot, put some water on to boil.
Place the asparagus upright (with elastic still on) into the water (only about half the asparagus will be submerged in water). Cook until softened and starting to sag over (but not mushy and overdone).
Meanwhile, cut mozzarrella into thick, long, rectangular pieces about as wide as asparagus is.
Lay out prosciutto slices and place a mozzarella piece on the end of each slice.
Once asparagus is cooked, lay flat (on a plate, cutting board, whatever) and squeeze lime juice liberally onto them. Turn them so that fully soaked. Let sit a few minutes.
Place each asparagus onto one mozzarella/prosciutto slice and roll.
Heat a large nonstick pan on medium heat and lay the rolled asparagus flat, prosciutto ends facing down (may have to repeat, depending on how big pan is). Turn so cooked all over and mozzarrella melts.
Drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with freshly ground black pepper.

Enjoy!

Cauliflower, Eggplant (Chickpea) & Tofu Curry


This week as I shopped for groceries, I tried to think of something new I could make. Somehow the idea for a cauliflower and eggplant curry floated into my mind, and I thought I’d give it a shot. When I got home, I smelled a bunch of my spices and set aside the ones I felt worked for what I wanted, and I decided on the ratios based on the taste I had in mind. I’d picked up some tofu for miso soup earlier, and the decision to add it in was totally last minute. All-in-all, it worked out quite nicely! My parents were scrambling for seconds from the pot after I gave them some to try.

A suggestion: Try adding half a can of chickpeas in with the vegetables. They’d go great with the flavour of this dish.– I wish I’d thought of doing that earlier!

Cauliflower, Eggplant (Chickpea) & Tofu Curry

  • 1 medium-sized eggplant, cut into ~ 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cauliflower head, cut into little “trees”
  • 1/2 can chickpeas (if you like)
  • 1 large onion, chopped roughly
  • 5 tablespoons sunflower oil + 2 tablespoons
  • ~ 250 g med-firm or firm tofu
  • 3 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 heaping tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup cream (I  used a 5% that “tastes like 10%”)
  • approx. 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch

In a large pot, heat the 5 tablespoons of oil (on medium heat). Add onions and stir.
Once onions begin to become translucent, add water, cauliflower and eggplant (and chickpeas if you choose).
Cover with lid until cauliflower softens (a few minutes).
Add the curry, coriander and garam masala and stir until everything is coated and yellow.
Cover and let steam for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add cream and salt & stir well.
Turn off stove and let stand on warm burner with lid on.

To prepare the tofu:
Drain the water, use a dish cloth to gently soak up excess water from the tofu.
Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a small nonstick pan over medium heat.
Cut tofu into 1 inch pieces.
Place tofo onto hot pan, sprinkle liberally with cornstarch, and cook until each side has a golden colour (4-5 mins each side).
** Be gentle with the tofu because it’s delicate and will break apart if handled roughly.

Next:
Stir pot well, add tofu, stir again lightly to coat and serve!

Goes great with Naan or on a bed of rice.

Yemista (Stuffed Peppers)

A traditional Greek dish, this recipe is fun and easy, yet still looks impressive on the dinner table. The recipe can be varied to your taste, so use this as a guideline.

Yemista (Stuffed Peppers)

  • 2 cups rice
  • 4 large peppers (colours of your preference)
  • approx. half a large bunch of fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lb ground meat (of your choice)
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil + 1 teaspoon
  • 1 stock cube (beef for beef meat, chicken for chicken)
  • 1.5 cups water
  • approx. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Cut tops off peppers and remove seeds inside. Keep the tops to cover them once stuffed.
Coat peppers lightly with the teaspoon of olive oil (as if greasing a pan). Place peppers into a baking dish.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Heat the 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet with high sides (or a medium pot) over medium heat.
Stir onion into oil (to coat), and cook until starts to become translucent.
Add pepper.
Add dill.
Add water.
Add rice.
Stir contents of skillet until mixed well and meat begins to cook.
Turn off stove and spoon filling into the peppers. Don’t pack tightly because rice will expand as it cooks.
Cover peppers with their tops and pour any remaining juices from the skillet into bottom of baking dish. Add some more water if needed until there is a total of 1″ of liquid.
Cover baking dish with aluminum foil (or lid if possible), and place in oven.
Cook for 30 minutes (or until rice is fully cooked), then remove covering and cook for another 10 minutes.
* Note, if you notice at any point that the bottom of baking dish gets dry, add 1/2 cup of water (to help rice cook).