October 5, 2012

No-Peel Nectarine Jam

I don't know about you, but I prefer nectarines over peaches. In my experience, the odds of getting a mealy peach is much higher than getting a mealy nectarine. In addition, nectarines are awesome because you don't have to deal with peach skin, which tastes like dryer lint.

This was one of the few jam recipes I made this summer where I actually paid for fruit, but it only cost about $3 for 3 pounds. I bought approximately 9 rock-hard nectarines and threw them into a paper bag with an old banana to speed up the ripening process. Both bananas and nectarines are climacteric fruits, which means they release ethylene while ripening (and the ethylene from the over-ripe banana helps speed up ripening of the neighboring nectarines). 

I used the Ball recipe for peach/pear jam (4 cups or 3 pounds fruit, 5 cups sugar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and regular powdered pectin). I didn't peel the nectarines because I'm lazy and I couldn't find any skin in the finished product anyway.

I was pretty lucky with the store-bought fruit because not a single fruit was mealy. The jam tastes somewhat similar to apricot jam. In the future I want to try Pomona's Universal Pectin because I felt like the sharp nectarine flavor was a little diluted with all the sugar. In fact, next year I want to switch entirely over to Pomona's. Although my jam yield will be lower, I think I purchased almost 25 pounds of sugar this year just for jam recipes!

October 3, 2012

Autumn Olive Jam

I was surprised that there's really only one recipe for Autumn Olive Jam floating around on the internet. While the recipe from Dreams and Bones is perfectly fine, I didn't have no-sugar-added pectin on hand and I didn't want to make a run to the store just for that. Therefore, my Autumn Olive Jam is based on the Ball recipe for berry jams (5 cups of mashed fruit with 7 cups of sugar and regular powdered pectin).

First I washed and drained the berries. Then I cooked approximately 9 cups of berries with one cup water for about 5 minutes (or until mushy). 

This glop was run through my squeezo (see it in action here, or here) to remove the seeds and twigs. I only have the apple/tomato screen that came with the food mill and the sizeable Autumn Olive seeds were pushing it to the limit, but it still worked (eventually).

The seeds were incredibly clean after only one pass through the machine. Usually I run stuff through three or four times before this happens (must be the big seeds).

I think the color and texture may be a little off-putting (it kinds of looks like ketchup, or congealed blood), but it tastes good (tart and somewhat unique).  It's definitely a novelty jam, but I think some of my like-minded friends will appreciate a jar.

October 1, 2012

Foraging for Autumn Olive

I love foraging for free food, so I was intrigued when a friend mention that he had recently tried Autumn Olive berries. After a quick internet search (to learn how to i.d. the plants) I went to one of my favorite foraging locations to hunt down some free fruit.

Autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) happens to be non-native invasive species that was planted in the U.S. for erosion control and sometimes as forage for wildlife. It also happens to contain many times more lycopene than tomatoes. I didn't have a camera with me while foraging, but the leaves are metallic silver on the underside, making them fairly easy to identify. The berries also have little silver/gray scales on them when ripe, which helps distinguish them for all the other reddish berries out there in the fall.

I picked a little over a gallon, which took FOREVER! The majority of the Autumn Olive plants that I had found had a sparse sprinkling of berries...and I didn't know any better to look for better plants. It wasn't until I was almost ready to head home that I found the mother-load of berries on a tree that was smothered in them. All I had to do was put the branch inside my bag and strip the fruit of the branch.

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