Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry


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Blueberry Lemon Jam

Our grocery store was having a sale on blueberries: buy one pint, get a second one free. Doing the math, unit price came down to about 2.50$ per pint. For that price, we got 6. We still have a quart of blueberry pie filling in our pantry, so instead of making more of that I decided to make something I didn’t make last year: Blueberry jam.

But…we also have a pile of lemons, and I have a great recipe in my book for a Blueberry Lemon Jam. That’s what I made. I’m very easily distracted.

Blueberry Lemon Jam

  • 4 Pints Blueberries [1]
  • 1 Cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Zest of 1 and a half lemons
  • 3 cups sugar [2], plus 1/4 cup
  • Half bag of Sure Jel Low-Sugar Pectin

Rinse the blueberries and pick over [3]. Combine blueberries, lemon juice, sugar and zest in a large pot. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, put in a glass or ceramic bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, return the mixture to the pot and boil. Mix the 1/4 cup sugar and pectin in a bowl, to prevent clumping, and add to the fruit mixture. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Ladle into prepared jars. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Results

The Jam seems maybe a little bit loose. A little thicker than a syrup, a little runnier than an average jam. It’s pretty good as-is, but I also wouldn’t be upset if it set up a bit more. Next time I’ll probably use the whole bag of pectin.

DSC_3360

I got about 8 pints of jam from the recipe, though the picture only shows 3. One didn’t seal so we put it in the fridge and started enjoying immediately. The flavor of the jam is very punchy. It has a rich blueberry flavor with a hint of tartness and brightness from the lemon. I suggested that it could maybe use more lemon zest, but Dana says it’s fine. I feel like the flavor is missing something (mint or cinnamon, maybe?), but overall it’s still a very tasty jam. It’s good on toast, but I think the real beauty of it will come on a bagel with a little cream cheese.

Notes

  1. The original recipe calls for 2 1/4 lbs of blueberries, 7 ounces of lemon juice, and two whole lemons, sliced thin and poached in sugar syrup. I weighed each pint to be about 10 ounces. Rounding up, the result is 40 ounces (2.5lbs). Rounding the 7 ounces of lemon juice up to an even cup also keeps the ratio very similar. Instead of using two whole lemons sliced, which I don’t like doing, I zested a lemon and a half. I figure the potency of grated zest would be similar in overall flavor to the two whole lemons. If the recipe doesn’t turn out, it’s not my fault because I was sort of following somebody else’s recipe.
  2. The original recipe calls for 4.5 cups of sugar, which might have needed to be rounded up because I increased all the other ingredients. But, since we have miracles like “powered pectin” here in the modern world outside Alsace France, I cut down the amount of sugar and let the pectin do the work of thickening the jam.
  3. I ended up having to discard several overripe or otherwise creepy berries along the way, so I tossed in an extra half pint of berries (which also needed a good picking-over). I think, in the end, the final quantity was still around 4 pints or just a little over.
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Flavored Liquor Scorecard

Dana and I don’t really drink too much. Because of that, we’ve got stuff in our liquor cabinet that’s been there for a long time and we haven’t planned to use in the foreseeable future. Repeating the mantra “waste not, want not” over and over in my head, we have started to turn some of this excess booze into some homemade flavored liquors. This year we’ve done small batches of several things, but next year we may take some of the lessons we’ve learned and try to ramp up to larger batches for gift-giving and drunk-getting.

How do you infuse liquor? The “recipe” is really simple: Take some booze. Cram flavorful stuff in there. Let it sit for a while. Strain the liquour out. The hard part is finding combinations that work, and deciding how long to let the mixtures sit before straining.

Here’s a scorecard of the things we’ve tried:

Cherry Rum

Stuff a pint jar with pitted sweet cherries. Top off with Rum. Let it sit in the pantry for about two weeks. I mentioned in a post a while back that this rum made a great mohito, but the reality is that I wish we had used vodka instead. We just don’t use rum enough (which, admittedly, is why we had such a big jug of it begging to be used). The color was a great deep red and the flavor was very cherry-full. I’m told that tart cherries work very well too, so if we can get our hands on some of those we may give it a shot.

Final Grade: B

Watermelon Vodka

We had a watermelon sitting around that we weren’t eating and it was quickly becoming over-ripe. So I chopped it up, stuffed some chunks into a pint jar and covered with vodka. We didn’t start with the best watermelon so the final product is probably not as good as it could be. The pink color of the vodka is great and the flavor does go very well with many mixers, but there is a certain off-ripe bitterness to it that you can definitely taste if you drink it straight. A little bit of simple syrup goes a long way to fixing this problem. I am encouraged to try this again next year with a better melon.

Final Grade: C

Grape Vodka

Like many of these other applications, we had some green seedless grapes laying around that weren’t being eaten as quickly as they needed. I cut several handfuls of them in half, stuffed them into a pint jar and topped with Absolut. The final product had a very feint greenish hue and had a good grape flavor. It was a little bit bitter, but mixed extremely well. We liked it a lot with some simple syrup and club soda.

Final Grade: B+

Apple Bourbon

When pick-your-own season started up, we were covered in apples. I took two 8-oz jars, put a single diced jonathan apple in each, and topped with bourbon. After sitting for a few weeks, shaking occasionally, I put it into a little flip-top bottle. The resulting liquor is much smoother than it was going in, but the apple flavor is very muted and subtle. I was hoping for something a little bit more obvious. Oh well. Next year I plan to make a much larger batch of this stuff, with different varieties of apples and a few other changes.

Final Grade: B

Homemade Limoncello and Apple Bourbon

Limoncello

The most complicated recipe on this list, Limoncello is made by steeping the lemon peels in alcohol instead of the flesh of the fruit. Then you finish it off with some simple syrup to give the classic sweet flavor. Most recipes call for a grain alcohol or an over-proof vodka, but we had regular 80 proof Absolut on hand so that’s what we used. Lemons are something we’ve had in surplus lately; many of our canning recipes call for lemon juice and I try to use fresh lemons instead of bottled lemon juice when possible (I usually go extra on the quantity, to make sure the pH is safe). Instead of juicing them and tossing them, I’ve been squeezing them AND peeling them before the final trip to the big compost pile in the sky (in my back yard). I’m told that a similar process is used to make home-made Triple Sec, and using something besides vodka could give us something closer to a home-made Grand Marnier. Maybe we’ll try something like that next. The final product has a great lemony flavor and a taste comparable to a store-bought variety or better.

Final Grade: A