Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry


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White Peach Juice and Syrup

We bought a bunch of peaches with the intention of making some jam and peach butter. Making peach butter is easy because you don’t have to peal the peaches first. Pealing the peaches isn’t difficult per se, but it is time consuming and what I haven’t had in abundance lately is time.

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The next weekend when I finally had the time to prepare jam, the peaches were starting to descend into over-ripeness. Making Jam from over-ripe fruit is worse, perhaps, than making it from the under-ripe ones. In emergency mode (I end up in that mode quite often)  I decided instead to do something new: peach jelly.

I started looking around the internet for recipes for peach jelly. The ones I found mostly start with the words “take X cups of prepared juice…”. Well, that doesn’t help when I don’t know how to prepare the juice. So I had to look for recipes for peach juice, before I could find one for peach jelly.

But then again, considering my jelly didn’t set (for reasons I’ll describe below), I’m calling the result more of a “syrup”.

Due to luck of the draw, only white peaches ended up in my batch of juice, so I can call these things White Peach Juice and White Peach Syrup without any reservations.

White Peach Juice

  • White Peaches [1]
  • Water [2]

Rinse, pit and slice the peaches. Toss them in a stock pot like you just don’t care. Add enough water to fill the pot about half as high as the peaches. Cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Strain the fruit out of the juice using a sieve, and press the remaining fruit to extract all the liberated juice. Put it in the fridge, or drink it, or turn it into jelly or syrup or whatever.

Results

The juice is a beautiful ruby red color, almost reminiscent of cherries instead of peaches. The flavor, however, is all peach. It’s not sweet like bottled juice you’d get at the grocery store, but it’s good and refreshing nonetheless.

White Peach Jelly/Syrup

  • 3.5 cups white peach juice
  • 4.5 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 box Sure Jell pectin for low-sugar recipes
  • Juice of 1 lemon

I mostly followed an existing recipe, with the addition of the lemon juice. Bring the juice to a boil. Add 4 cups sugar and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly to prevent overflow. Add the pectin and remaining sugar [1], stir to mix well, and boil hard for an additional minute. Ladle into prepared jars and process [2]. I processed in the pressure canner at 6lbs for 15 minutes.

Results

Let me just put this out there: This recipe did not set. Instead of a white peach jelly, I ended up with more of a white peach syrup (just as tasty, but we use it in different ways).

Here’s an important lesson that I knew but completely forgot about: Pectin breaks down in high heat.  You can use the pressure canner, but it has to be done a special way: You put the jars in the pressure canner and bring it to a boil, but you keep the pressure regulator off so that pressure does not build up (and the temperature does not exceed 212 degrees). You would process for the same amount of time as you would with a normal water bath, 5-15 minutes depending on a variety of factors.

If you want to make syrup, leave out the pectin (and maybe boil it down a little longer). If you want to actually make jelly, don’t over-process like I did.

Ignoring the problem with the pectin, the end result was very nice. If it were a jelly, it would have more sugar than I normally like, but as a syrup it’s par for the course.

The color of the syrup was the same ruby color as the juice, and it has a great, light peach flavor. It’s sweet and wonderful. Here’s a picture of the syrup (right) with the peach butter from last post:

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Notes

  1. As always, I mix the last bit of sugar together with the pectin because it prevents clumping and I’m a major opponent of clumping.
  2. I processed this jelly at the same time as my peach butter, and did both in the pressure canner. I processed the jars at 6lbs of pressure for 15 minutes.


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Jam Recipe Ideas

In my last post I talked about what went well in 2012 and what didn’t go so well, and also outlined some of my plans for preserving in 2013. My plan, in a nutshell, is to make more of the things we like and try out some new recipes as well.

All winter I’ve been thinking about novel new jam and jelly combinations. I’ve been inspired, in part, by my new book and things I’ve browsed on Etsy and Pinterest. Also, some ideas came into my head from who-knows-where. Here’s a quick list of 10 recipe ideas that I might like to try this year:

  1. Cherry and Blueberry Jam : I can’t believe I didn’t try this combination last year when we were swimming in both of these delicious fruits. This year, it’s happening for sure, and in future years it’s sure to be a staple (since I now have 2 cherry trees and am planning to buy some blueberries). A little Amaretto, some vanilla and/or some chocolate (if I can get up the nerve to use chocolate in a jam again) would really make this combo pop. Some Pomegranate juice might really push the whole thing over the edge.
  2. Blueberry and Lemon Jelly : I’ve heard of Blueberry-Lemon as a common flavor combination. These two things, in a smooth clear jelly, would be a match made in heaven. There are a few things I could add to this to make it even more complex: Pomegranate, Cherry, Basil, Mint, Lavender or a little bit of my orange extract.
  3. Peach and Cherry Jam : These two great stone fruits definitely belong in the same jam together. I had intended last year to make a white peach and cherry jam, but the white peaches didn’t cooperate and I had to do something else with the cherries before they went bad. A decadent, chunky yellow peach and cherry jam would be awesome with maybe just a touch of amaretto or bourbon.
  4. Peach, Orange and Blueberry Jam : Am I crazy? I think a combination like this, or one with just Peach and Orange, would make a great combination. A little bit of orange juice and zest would help bring the chunks of peach and the whole blueberries together. Consider also with a touch of vanilla or cinnamon. Valencias will be in season at just the right time for this.
  5. Pear and Lemon : This seems like a great combination to me. Sweeten it with a little bit of honey? Add a little cinnamon or vanilla? This one has real potential.
  6. Blueberry and Pear Jam: This might even go well with apples instead of pears. Maybe a little bit of lemon or honey will help it out too. The problem is getting the good blueberries and the ripe pears together in the same place at the same time. Freezerman, to the rescue!
  7. Cranberry Apple Jam: Not a cranberry sauce with apple, but a full-fledged apple mixture with some cranberry added for color and tartness. This would go well with any of the fall seasonings: cinnamon, clove or ginger especially.  With only mild changes this recipe could become Cranberry Apple Butter, instead of a Jam. A splash of orange extract or lemon zest will really brighten this up either way.
  8. Orange, Cranberry and Pomegranate Jelly: I think this recipe has great potential to be similarly festive, but more bright and less homey than the apple variety above. Imagine some of this spread on a fresh-baked gingerbread cookie, or with a little fresh cracked black pepper on a nice, sharp cheese tray. If we boil out the cranberries in a little bit of water or clear apple juice, they’d be a perfect accompaniment to fresh squeezed orange and pomegranate juices, and a little bit of zest.
  9. Mulled Apple Cider Jelly: I did Apple Cider Jelly this year and it was a big hit. Next year I want to try a similar recipe but with mulling spices and maybe a little bit of bourbon (or spiced rum!) thrown in for good measure.
  10. Pina Colada : Pineapple, Coconut and maybe a hint of dark rum. This combination really speaks for itself and would help to bring a little bit of tropical beach to the long winter months. It also gives me an excuse to buy fresh pineapples and fresh coconuts from the store.  Another tropical drink favorite of mine, the Pain Killer, uses  pineapple, coconut, orange and is seasoned with just a little bit of nutmeg. That would be a great alternative recipe to try as well.


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Orange and Chocolate Jam

I really wanted to try something new, so I picked two recipes out of my book and presented them to my wife for a decision: Coconut Vanilla Jam or Orange and Chocolate Jelly. Somewhat unsurprisingly, she opted for the one with chocolate in it. WHO’D ‘A THUNK IT?

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I had a pile of oranges which hadn’t yet been eaten or cooked into some other concoction. I took the rest of my Navel oranges and a few Cara Caras and made the jelly my wife requested.

Orange and Chocolate Jelly

  • 1 3/4 lbs Granny Smith Apples
  • Water
  • Oranges [1]
  • 6 oz Extra Bittersweet Chocolate [2]
  • Sugar, divided[3]
  • Pectin Powder [4]
  • Lemon Juice [5]

Day 1: Rinse, stem and quarter the apples. Do not seed them. Put the quarters into a pot with a heavy 3 cups of water [6]. Boil for 30 minutes. Strain the juice out and refrigerate.

Day 2: Juice the oranges. Get a heavy 2 cups of juice[7]. Mix the orange juice, an equal amount of the apple juice from the day before, zest from two oranges, juice from 1 lemon and the sugar. Finely chop the chocolate and mix that in. Bring to a boil, stirring until the chocolate is melted. Let cool, preferably refrigerating overnight.

Day 3: Mix the pectin power with the remaining 1/4 cup sugar to avoid clumps. Add this sugar-pectin mixture to the juice mixture from the previous day. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring. Boil hard for 5 minutes, until set point is reached. Put into warm sterilized jars and process [8].

Results

The resulting jelly is very rich and the bitterness of the chocolate almost overpowers the flavor of the orange. Almost. It’s still a good mixture but in the future I may tone down the amount of chocolate used. The chocolate did not incorporate into the rest of the mixture as well as I was hoping. Some bits of it absolutely refused to mix in at all and floated on top as solids. I skimmed most of that off, which further reduced the amount of chocolate in the final product (and it was still very rich!).

Here’s a picture of the chocolate orange jelly and the blood orange jelly, on toast. If they had been smashed into my face any harder, I’d have needed to call my dentist.

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This recipe, with some tweaking, is definitely a winner.

Notes

  1. I used a mixture of 4 Navels and 2 Cara Caras.  The original recipe called for, after the squeezing was over, 1 pound, 2 ounces of juice. Converted to liquid measure, that’s about 2 1/4 cups. When I squeeze the juice, I keep a lot of the pulp.
  2. The original recipe calls for “Extra Bittersweet” chocolate, 68% cacao or better. I only found a 60% and a bar of 100%, so I mixed them. However, a large portion of the chocolate did not incorporate well  and I don’t know if the 100% chocolate melts differently from the other variety. Also, the original recipe calls for 9 oz, but the damn bars are…you guessed it, 4oz each. I probably only used about 6 oz total, and the resulting jelly was so rich that 4 oz might have been okay.
  3. Her recipe called for something like 4 cups of sugar or more. F that. I used about three cups of sugar the second day and another quarter cup of sugar on the last day to help mix the pectin in.
  4. As usual, her original recipe didn’t contain powdered pectin. Just the juice from the boiled Granny Smiths. I wanted a thicker result so I mixed in half a bag of pectin powder.
  5. With the chocolate, which I’ve never used in jam or jelly before, I wanted to be safe and include a little bit extra lemon juice. However, I forgot to add it, and now the jars are sealed. I’m stupid. The oranges might be acidic enough to keep the botulism at bay, but I’m not taking any chances. We’re just going to have to eat all this damned jelly extra quick (I can just imagine how much we’re going to suffer). If you’re following along at home and you don’t want to die because you’re as stupid as I am, add the juice of one or two lemons.
  6. 3 cups, 1 oz. Eyeball it.
  7. 2 cups, 1 oz.
  8. I processed for 15 minutes.


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Blood Orange Jelly

Last time I made this recipe, I used a combination of Naval oranges, Tangerines and Lemons to get the amount of juice that the recipe called for. I didn’t have any Blood Oranges at the time even though the recipe I was following is titled simply “Blood Orange“. Instead I used what I had, and the results were great. It was bright, light, sweet, and very citrusy.

Things are slightly different now. I do have the blood oranges I need, but I don’t have any of the Granny Smith apples that the original recipe requires. It’s time to go a little bit off-road and create some ruby red Blood Orange Jelly.

Blood Orange Jelly

  • 4 cups fresh squeezed Blood Orange Juice [1]
  • Zest of two of those oranges [2]
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 packet Sure-Jel low-sugar pectin

Squeeze out the juice. Follow the general directions on the pectin packet [3]. Put into jars and process[4]. That should be more than enough direction for anybody who isn’t a complete wuss in the kitchen [5].

Here’s the pot full of beautiful ruby-red juice:

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And here’s the pile of zested and juiced orange remains, on their way to the compost pile:

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Results

The resulting jelly is deep ruby read and tastes great. I was expecting it to be the same breezy flavor as my earlier jelly with the Navels and Tangerines. This is not what it is at all. The flavor is deep, complex, mature, and amazing. It’s got a flavor that seems like it could be a mixture of navel orange and grapefruit, if grapefruits didn’t suck so bad, and with a couple other flavors mixed in too. It’s a little bit more full of a flavor than my earlier orange jelly recipe was, with a little bit more of the blood orange astringency at the end. It’s definitely a little bit more tart and less sweet.

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Overall this recipe is very good, and already a favorite of mine (I say that about all my jams!). I suspect that this great complex blood orange flavor will mix very well in other recipes that I am starting to imagine.

Moro Blood Oranges are not considered to be the tastiest of the various Blood Orange varieties. However, they do seem to be the only ones my local stores carry. If I can find some other varieties, I may revisit this recipe. Considering how great this recipe turned out with the Moros, I can only imagine how much better it might be with a more highly-regarded variety.

Notes

  1. It took me just shy of 6lbs of oranges to get enough juice, and it took me about an hour to squeeze it all out. My $%&! oranges were sort of small and stingy with the juice. The oranges were acidic enough that, I hope, additional lemon juice was not needed. I didn’t add any.
  2. I zested two oranges with the microplane into the jelly concoction, but I used a vegetable peeler to save most of the rest of the zest from the remaining oranges and put them into a large quart jar filled with vodka. Look forward to a Triple Sec recipe in the next few posts.
  3. Mix the pectin with some of the sugar in a bowl, and stir together to prevent lumps. Add the juice, pectin and sugar to the pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil hard for 1 minute (boiling to the point that stiring it doesn’t make the bubbles go away). Put in jars and process.
  4. I processed for 15 minutes
  5. Every time I go into the kitchen I get so overwhelmed that I fall to the ground and cry. Everything is so bright and so hot. I don’t know what I’m doing. I mask my debilitating lack of skill and confidence by hastily writing an awkwardly unfunny blog. Also, I’m sorry about calling anybody a wuss. You’re probably not. You could probably beat me up in a fight. Please don’t fight me.


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Chicken Rollups with Cider Jelly

So now you’ve got a pile of Apple Cider Jelly laying around the house. So you think to yourself, “self, what can I do with all this delicious jelly in the next 5 minutes before I drink it all with a straw and throw myself into the abyss of diabetic coma?” I like this stuff on toast, or on english muffins. I haven’t tried it yet, but I strongly suspect it would be great mixed in with some oatmeal, warmed up and poured onto pancakes, and maybe even used to dip some maple flavored breakfast sausage.

Problem is, all these are breakfasty options and there are a dozen more hours in the day where I could be forcing cider jelly into my gaping maw if I could find the correct vehicle for it.

Enter wife. Dana has a much more practical and homey approach to cooking than I have, and she’s been working to perfect a great recipe for chicken rollups. In the most recent incarnation we added some of my cider jelly and true love was born.

Chicken Rollups with Cider Jelly

  • Chicken Breast, cut into rectangular chunks
  • A tube of ready-to-cook crescent rolls (We used Pillsbury, because it was on sale)
  • Brown Mustard
  • Cider Jelly
  • Smoked cheese (we used a smoked gouda, but we’ve used applewood smoked cheddar in the past)
  • Salt, pepper, and spices or whatever. Whatever you think tastes good on chicken.

You know how big your favorite brand of crescent rolls are, right? Cut your chicken breast into chunks about that same size. You want the chunks to fit nicely into the middle when it’s all rolled up. Doing the math, you’ll need as many chunks as you have crescent rolls to fill (We’ve found 1 breast of chicken is enough for a tube with 8 crescent rolls).

Cook the chicken in a fry pan with a little oil, salt, pepper and whatever spices you like. Dana likes onion powder.

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Separate the crescent rolls. In each, put a piece of chicken, a slice of cheese, a squirt of mustard and a small dollop of cider jelly. Roll up, and arrange on a baking sheet. Bake according to the directions on the tube (the chicken is already cooked, so you only need to bake the pastry). Remove from the oven, cut into bite-sized peaces AND DEVOUR THEM.

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In the time before the cider jelly I’ve made a mustard cream sauce for dipping. With the jelly, I don’t think it’s necessary (probably can’t hurt, though).


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Apple Cider Jelly

In two previous posts I made a Clementine Jam and an Orange Jelly, both inspired by recipes from my new book. In both cases I made some adaptations to the original recipes, including the addition of some powdered pectin.

This time I decided to follow a recipe from the book as closely as I could without decreasing the sugar or increasing the pectin or doing anything besides making minor adjustments. Christine Ferber’s original recipe, titled “Cider Jelly with Vanilla” required the use of vanilla beans, which I did not have so I substituted with a very light splash of vanilla extract. The remainder of the recipe was followed as faithfully as I could manage.

Cider Jelly with Cinnamon

  • 1 3/4 lbs granny smith apples
  • water
  • 5 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 1/4 cups apple cider [1]
  • Juice of one lemon

Rinse the apples, quarter them. Stick them in a pot with 3 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain.  Refrigerate the juice overnight.

In a large [2] pot, mix a heavy 2 cups [3] of the apple juice from the first day, the cider, the sugar and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil and continue boiling, stirring, for 10-15 minutes. Check that the jelly has set up enough. Immediately put into warm sterilized jars and process [4].

Results

Because it uses the full sugar content and has no powdered pectin, the jelly is extremely rich and not as thick as I normally like. The jelly was thicker than I expected it to get from this setup, just not as thick as I normally make with the boxed pectin powder. Now I have a much better baseline for understanding her recipes going forward.

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I started with a good quality cider (it was actually the store band, but was so much better than I would have expected).  The vanilla flavor is subtle and is a great accompaniment to the cider flavor.

Notes

  1. Her original recipe being metric, the real equivalent quantity is 3 cups, 2 oz of the cider. A light 3 1/4 should be fine. Somewhere, the engineer in me is preparing a treatise on significant digits.
  2. I initially used a pot that was way too small, and it boiled over. I said some curse words, had to stop and clean off the stove, burnt the crap off my finger, and eventually got a bigger pot. Don’t be like me, kids.
  3. Again, the real value was “2 cups, 1 oz.” Just eyeball it. What’s the worst that could happen?
  4. I processed for 15 minutes.


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Orange Jelly

After making my by first batch of Clementine Jam with Cinnamon and Vanilla, I was emboldened to try a few other new recipes from my new book. I decided to take a stab at the “Blood Orange” recipe, with regular Navel oranges because that’s what I had.

Orange Jelly

  • 1 3/4 lbs Granny Smith Apples
  • Heavy 2 cups of Orange Juice (2 cups, 1 oz.  Eyeball it)
  • zest from 1 1/2 oranges
  • Water
  • 4 2/3 cups Sugar
  • Juice of 1 small lemon
  • Powdered Pectin

Day 1: Rinse the apples. Quarter them. Put them in a pot with a heavy 3 cups water [1]. Bring the pot to a boil, and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Strain out the juice (she strains twice, with damp cheesecloth). Refrigerate over night.

Day 2: Juice the oranges, and measure out a heavy 2 cups of orange juice [2].  Mix the Orange juice, an equal amount of the apple juice from the first day, the sugar, and  the lemon juice in a pot [3]. I zested 3 orange halves at the last minute and tossed it into the pot as well [4]. I also added my remaining half bag of pectin, just to make sure it set properly. Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring, and boil hard for 10 minutes. Remove the seeds if you added them, and then put the jelly in jars and process them.

Here’s a picture of my recent creations, from left to right: my clementine jam, a jar with some orange zest infusing in booze, and my orange jelly.

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Results

The jelly turned out very nice. The set was just about perfect, although there were some small clumps of undissolved pectin in the finished product. The flavor was very bright and orange-ish, without any discernible bitterness. I’ve already tried it with butter on toast, and it was wonderful. I suspect it will go great with some cream cheese on a bagel, or as part of a glaze over chicken.

I didn’t do as good a job skimming the foam off the top as I should have, so some of that ended up in the jars, along with the clumps of pectin. Mulligan. Obviously it’s all edible, but it does detract from the clear, sparkling beauty of the jelly, if you care about that sort of thing. The little bits of zest are visible, and create a great effect.

Possible Modifications

This was a very simple recipe and sometimes simplicity is rewarded. However, there are some things that I think could be changed in future batches, if I were the experimental type:

  • Obviously, do this with blood oranges for the original intended results.
  • Some flavorings that (i think) may go great with this are: fresh crushed black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, “apple pie spice”, etc
  • Some fruits that may go well with this are: Other citrus (lemon, lime, tangerine, grapefruit), cranberries, pineapple, pomegranate, blueberry
  • Various flavored liquors and flavor extracts (vanilla, triple-sec, cranberry or pomegranate liquor, etc)

Notes

  1. She says 3 cups, 2oz. 3 1/4 cup should be fine and easier to measure. I think that the granny smith apple juice is supposed to be the primary source of pectin, since she doesn’t use any powder.
  2. Her original recipe called for 2 3/4 lbs of oranges to get 2 cups, 1 oz juice. I needed an extra orange, two tangerines, and two lemons to get to the necessary amount.
  3. She also takes the orange seeds, puts them in a cheesecloth bag, and includes that during the boil for flavor. I didn’t have cheesecloth bags, so as a substitute I put the seeds neatly into the compost pile.
  4. her recipe called for two whole oranges, thinly sliced and candied to be added. Instead, I added zest from some of the oranges, and used zest from the remaining fruits in a jar with some good vodka or rum. After soaking for two weeks, I’ll use this mixture as orange flavoring or as the starter for Triple Sec.