We’re Jammin’!

With plentiful summer fruits in market bins and baskets around the country right now, the craving to preserve it for winter is high on my list. I have a terrific recipe from my friend Therese’ mom for raspberry plum jam and I make plenty of it during these warm months to nourish us throughout the year. A spoonful on toast, mixed into yogurt or baked into thumbprint cookies brings back the feeling of a warm summer day.

PLUM RASPBERRY JAM

Equipment:

1. 6- 8 oz canning jars with sealable lids
2. Canning pot with rack and lid or a stockpot large enough to hold 10 jars
3. Enamel or copper sauce pot that is wide and shallow, Le Creuset works well
4. Wide mouth funnel
5. Canning jar tongs, regular tongs, ladle

Recipe:

4 cups chopped plums

2 cups raspberries

4 1/2 cups sugar

Lemon juice if desired

Wash the fruit well. Pit the plums and roughly chop – I use the Cuisinart for this task.

IMG_0264IMG_0265

I put the berries through a food mill to get rid of the majority of the seeds but you don’t have to do that if you don’t mind the seeds.

Meanwhile, wash the canning jars and put in a canner or large soup pot, cover with water and turn on high heat. You will need to bring to a boil then boil for 10 minutes to sterilize. Put the lid on to make this go a little faster.

IMG_0259

Put all the fruit into a wide, shallow saucepan. Turn heat to medium high, bring to a simmer and cook the fruit down a smudge, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. IMG_0261

Add the sugar all at once and stir well to incorporate; keep stirring until it all dissolves. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a brisk simmer stirring frequently and skimming any foam off the top; if you don’t skim the foam your jam won’t be as clear and may have pockets of white foam that gels into it.

IMG_0262

Keep an eye on the mixture, stirring frequently so it doesn’t cook down too much and scorch on the bottom. Gradually you’ll notice the color and viscosity change and you may catch a glimpse of the bottom of the pot as you stir through the jam. It’s getting close!

IMG_0267

By now your jars should be done with the 10 minute sterilization. Hold them in the hot water until the jam is ready. Bring a kettle to the boil, put the sealing lid inserts in a wide, flat pan and pour boiling water over them.

IMG_0258

Pull the jars out of the canning pot, emptying out all water and place on a clean surface. Using a wide mouth canning funnel, ladle the jam into the jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace at the top – no less and no more. Put the sealing lids and rings on and tighten then put the full jars back in the canner making sure each is covered by at least 1/2″ water. Bring back to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. This is called processing and makes the jam shelf-stable for at least 6 months or more.

When your timer goes off, pull the jars out and place on a tray or tea towel to cool down. It can take up to 24 hours for the jars to seal and when they do you may hear a “pop”.

Label and put the jam away for a rainy or snowy day. Rest easy knowing that, just like the squirrels, you’ve done your part to store up supplies for the winter ahead.

Bowled Over

Meal bowls are an easy way to get dinner on the table in a jiffy. In my recent article on Zester Daily  I explore the topic and give some recipes using seasonal ingredients and tips on how to creatively repurpose leftovers into yummy bowls for every meal of the day.

IMG_1845

This savory yogurt bowl doubles as a fantastic dip with pita chips or crudités.

Green grass and springtime

I was lucky enough to go on a tour recently of Bellwether Farms sheep creamery. The Callahan family has been making a variety of dairy products using both sheep and cow’s milk for almost twenty years on the property. Some of their most popular offerings are ricotta, creme fraiche and fresh and aged Italian style cheeses such as pepato and crescent.

During my visit, cheesemaker Liam Callahan was making a batch of ricotta in two 250-gallon steam kettles. Here is the moment the mixture started to form curds.IMG_1798

The ricotta is ladled into baskets and left to drain before packaging.

IMG_1805

The sheep milk ricotta (they make jersey cow milk version as well) is luscious and creamy without a hint of the grittiness often found in commodity ricotta. Once home, I set about creating a simple pasta that highlights this delicate cheese and incorporates the bounty of spring produce at the market now.

IMG_1838.JPG

Bow tie pasta is cooked with shelled English peas and asparagus then drained – be sure to save a little pasta water for the sauce!

IMG_1839

The drained pasta is mixed with the veggies, Meyer lemon zest, ricotta and grated Parmesan. A splash of pasta water creates just the right texture while the ricotta melts in to the ingredients resulting in a light, creamy sauce.

IMG_1840

Buono Appetito!

Spring Pasta with Sheep’s Milk Ricotta

1/2 lb. farfalle pasta

1 c. shelled English peas

1 cup asparagus, woody ends broken off, cut in 1″ pieces

1 heaping teaspoon of Meyer lemon zest

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese and more for serving

1/2-12 oz. basket of Bellwether sheep milk ricotta

Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of fiercely salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and peas, stir and set your timer for 7 minutes. When the timer goes off, add the asparagus and set the timer for 4 minutes. Taste the pasta and vegetables for doneness then drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water as you go. Put the drained pasta and veggies back in the pot and add the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine and add a little pasta water, if necessary, to loosen the dish and create a saucy texture. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Divide amongst plates and pass extra Parmesan for the top. Yield: 4 servings

 

 

Citrus time

P1030804

The plethora of citrus fruit in market bins right now is inspiring. For ideas on how to use it all, check out my article on Zester Daily:

http://zesterdaily.com/fruit-wrecipe/zesty-citrus-fruits-brighten-winter-meals/

What to do with Hachiya persimmons

Any other fruit that looked like this would be tossed into the compost bin.

P1030783

 

Around northern California persimmon trees grow in backyards and gardens. The orange orbs continue to hang on the tree after all the leaves drop off, creating a skeletal and yet abundant image. Many people don’t like the taste or don’t know what to do with the prolific fruit.

P1030781

These Hachiya and Suijo persimmons are finally ripe enough to cook with after sitting in my garage for the last month. Since they are an astringent variety of this deep orange fruit, they can only be used when they are absolutely mushy.

 

One of my favorite ways to use juicy, soft persimmons is in James Beard’s boozy persimmon bread recipe. It calls for 2 cups of persimmon pulp, which is easy to scrape out by cutting off the top of the fruit and using a spoon to extract the pulp.

P1030787

I used six Hachiyas and three Suijos to get 2 cups.

P1030788

The recipe is simple to make, a basic quick bread with dry ingredients combined in a bowl and the liquids added all at once in a well made in the center. It makes a generous amount which you can divide into two loaf pans, six mini loaves or eight mini bundt cakes.

P1030795

The flavor is reminiscent of a fruit cake with a little taste of alcohol, bursts of dried fruit and the crunch of nuts.

P1030818

The recipe freezes really well too – here are my foil packages of persimmon bread ready to go in the deep freeze for enjoyment with a cup of tea or use as a hostess gift down the road.

P1030807

Persimmon Bread

Adapted from “Beard on Bread” by James Beard.

Yield: two 9-inch loaves or 6 mini loaves or 8 mini bundt cakes

3 1/2 cups flour, sifted

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 -2 1/2 cups sugar (I used the lesser amount)

1 cup melted butter, cooled to room temperature

4 large eggs

2/3 cup cognac, bourbon or whiskey (I like bourbon)

2 cups persimmon puree

2 cups walnuts or pecans, toasted and chopped

2 cups diced dried fruit or raisins (I like to use a mix of golden raisins and dried apricots, nectarines or dates)

Coat the inside of the loaf or cake pans with canola baking spray very well. Preheat the oven to 350. Sift the first 5 dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center then stir in the remaining ingredients, mixing completely until well combined. Divide batter among prepared pans. Bake in oven 1 hour for regular loaves and 40-50 minutes for mini loaves or mini bundt cake pans. Test for doneness with a toothpick, which should come out clean when inserted into the center. Cool on rack for 10 minutes then take out of pans and continue to cool to room temperature.

 

 

 

Festive last minute Thanksgiving desserts

If you’re not sure what to make for dessert tomorrow, check out my latest article on Zester Daily with recipes for delicious meal endings using seasonal ingredients:

http://zesterdaily.com/desserts-wrecipe/go-seasonal-4-refreshing-thanksgiving-desserts/

IMG_1343-2

Truffle time in Italy

IMG_1990

During a recent trip to the Le Marche region of Italy in the Apennine Mountains, I had the good fortune of crossing paths with some fresh truffles. The white ones (on the left sitting on the white napkin in the above photo) have a distinct yet subtle flavor and tender texture while the black ones are stronger and firmer. White truffles are lots more expensive than their black cousins at about $260 per ounce vs. $35 for the same volume of black ones.

IMG_1993

We visited the village of Acqualagna, the tartufo (truffle in Italian) capital of the area and went to a store that specialized in fresh truffles and products made from them.

IMG_1991

Black truffles were at the end of their season; they are mostly harvested in Le Marche in the late summer months. It was just the beginning of white truffle time, which will last until December. The store had truffle sauces, salts, oil, even chocolate infused with the aromatic fungi; it was quite a treat to experience such a place.

IMG_1210

Next we drove to Urbino, a classic Renaissance town with a thriving university. Amongst the ancient buildings and religious art were restaurants celebrating tartufo in all their glory.

IMG_1208

Although this plate of pasta doesn’t look like much, shaved white truffles were scattered in its buttery midst, creating one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten.

Many restaurants in the states will be hosting truffle dinners this fall. Check in your area and do partake if the opportunity arises. Here is a Yelp link to places in San Francisco that may have white truffles in the coming weeks:

http://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=white+truffles&find_loc=San+Francisco%2C+CA