Figs galore

It’s fig time here in northern California and by all accounts, this is a banner year for them. The tree in my backyard is producing lots and I have them spread around the kitchen waiting to be grilled, put in salads, blended into smoothies, stuffed with cheese and popped in my mouth.

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The variety of my tree is supposedly a striped panache; and while they do have the telltale dark red interior of that variety, there are, so far, no stripes. I’m also picking black mission, brown turkey and some mystery types from trees around the neighborhood.

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The other morning I made a chunky fig jam, which didn’t take long at all to put together. I chopped the figs in bite-sized pieces and combined them with sugar, lemon juice and vanilla bean seeds. The aroma was heavenly!

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Before too long, the mixture reached a perfect gel and was ready for jars.

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I’m looking forward to baking newton style cookies with the jam and swirling it into a pan sauce for duck and chicken, and I can’t wait to serve it with cheese and charcuterie, like the fantastic burrata platter I had today at Il Davide restaurant in San Rafael, California. Molto delicioso!

Fig Vanilla Jam

1 quart of fresh figs, rinsed, stems removed and coarsely chopped

2 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Seeds scraped from half a vanilla bean

Place all ingredients in a large, shallow, non-reactive pan and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer over medium heat until jam forms a gel. Ladle into sterilized jars and process in a canner for 10 minutes.

Yield: 4-1/2 pints

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July is plum time

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As an avid forager and person who hates to see food go to waste, I often pick WAY more plums than I can eat. Luckily I have a second fridge that has kept these beauties in tip top shape until I could get to them and my canner has been working overtime as jar after jar of jam, mostarda and chutney has gotten a dip.

I also had some apricots picked from a friend’s tree that needed using so I came up with yet another chutney recipe that would be a delicious addition to a cheese platter, condiment for a curry or spread for a sandwich.

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The recipe uses 3 1/2 lbs of fruit in total. I used a mix of 1 lb of apricots and 2 lbs of plums pitted and chopped and 1/2 lb fresh pineapple cubed.

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A combination of star anise, cinnamon sticks and fresh and crystallized ginger add hot, sweet and earthy flavors to the chutney.

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Perhaps the best thing of all about this recipe is it cooks in a crock pot. Just have your sterilized hot jars ready after the mixture has cooked on high for 3 hours, fill the jars and process for 10 minutes and

VOILA!

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Chutney to fill your shelves!

ALOHA CHUTNEY

1 lb apricots, pitted and chopped

1/2 lb fresh pineapple, peeled, cored and cut in small dice

2 lbs plums, pitted and chopped

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 cup cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons chopped, peeled fresh ginger

2 star anise pods

1/2 stick cinnamon

2 ounces crystalized ginger, chopped

1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper

Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on high for 3 hours, stirring once each hour. Fill sterilized jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace, then cap with lids. Process for 10 minutes in a hot water canner or store in refrigerator. Yield: about 7-8 oz. jars.

FERMENTING MADE EASY

Recently I was with my friend Karen Diggs, a fermenting guru, and she shared that she eats a little sauerkraut with every meal. I thought that was kind of extreme, but Karen believes in the healthful benefits of fermented foods so much that she invented this cool device called Kraut Source, which makes it easy and convenient to get fermenting using a wide mouth Mason jar. I decided to give it a try making pickles with the last of the small cucumbers of summer. First I made a brine using the recipe on the Kraut Source site and let that cool, then started packing the cukes, dill, spices, garlic and peppers into the jar:

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Next the Kraut Source device went on and was locked in place:

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Finally, the lid went over the top and I added water to the moat to help keep bacteria out:

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The pickles went into a cabinet in the kitchen for 7 days. I had tried making pickles before with somewhat moldy and mushy results; Karen’s invention solved that problem by keeping the ingredients below the brine. Another suggestion she gave is to add loose tea leaves to the bottom of the jar of pickles to prevent sogginess.

After 7 days, the pickles were ready. They were garlicky and sour and crunchy, just like the best deli pickles:

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Check out the Kraut Source site so you can sign up and get one of these useful and amazing devices once production is underway. In the meantime, read this post by Karen on 10 reasons to eat lacto-fermented foods.

 

 

DUNDEE MARMALADE

This winter our orange and lemon trees produced a bumper crop. What to do? Dundee marmalade was in the front of my mind. The recipe had been copied down from a cookbook at my in-law’s house in England and was steeped in authenticity. It’s time consuming to make but satisfying because the recipe makes a lot. Open the jar, spread some on toast and take a bite. Mmmm, like a mouthful of sunshine.

Equipment:

1. 10-12 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
-I have a French copper jam pot that I got years ago with a generous birthday check – a big investment but it gets tons of use all year
4. Wide mouth funnel
5. Canning jar tongs, regular tongs, ladle

RECIPE

3 lbs. oranges – any variety. The classic is Seville. 

3 lemons – I used Meyer lemons

3 sweet oranges – I used tangerines

5 lbs. sugar

2 teaspoons of treacle* or molasses

First, wash all the fruit really well and put an 8-10 quart stock pot. Add 3 quarts of water and cover. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and cook until all the fruit is soft, 30-90 minutes depending on fruit.

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Remove it to a strainer and set aside to cool. Keep the cooking water. Fill your canning pot with enough water to cover the jars, cover and get that heating up. It can take 30 minutes or more for the water to boil. In the meantime, wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water and rinse well. Put the jars in the canner and cover. When the water comes to a boil, set a timer for 10 minutes. Once the jars are sterilized, leave them in the hot water with the lid on while you finish the marmalade. Chop the cooled fruit into small pieces, scraping out the pits and adding them to the cooking liquid. Sometimes I chop the fruit in the food processor using on/off pulses; you don’t want the pieces to be too big as that will make the flavor very intense, but you don’t want the fruit to turn to mush either. In this particular batch, I chopped it by hand, which took about 20 minutes. Add the chopped fruit to the preserving pot.

Bring the cooking liquid to a boil over high heat until reduced by half, about 15 minutes. Strain the liquid into the pot with the orange mixture. Return to a boil then slowly and gradually stir in the sugar and then the treacle.

While the marmalade simmers, bring a tea kettle to a boil. Put the lids in a shallow, heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over to cover. Set aside.

Simmer the marmalade, stirring frequently until set. How to know when the marmalade is set comes with experience. Some liken it to the parting of the Red Sea, which means when your spoon goes through the fruit mixture, it leaves a path for a few seconds before coming back together. The fruit will have cooked down and reduced by 40-50% which could take up to two hours, depending on the width and depth of your preserving pan.

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Ladle the marmalade into the sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/2″ head space. Use tongs to put the lids on each jar and tighten the screw bands . Put the jars back in the canner; be sure water covers the jars by 1″, add boiling water if necessary.

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Put the lid on the canner, bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars from canner and allow to cool. It can take up to 2 days for the marmalade to fully set so don’t be discouraged if it appears runny initially.

Yield: 10-12 8oz jars

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*Treacle is a thick, black sugar syrup. Look for it in the English section of the grocery store or on Amazon.com