Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

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The Jams

I’ve had little to write about cooking. I didn’t can last summer because of the move I was planning for the beginning of August. Because all of my early belongings needed to fit in my hatchback car, I didn’t make any elaborate recipes in Seattle. I had only rudimentary kitchen gear. I roasted lots of meats and veggies with some fresh herbs and spices, as the only equipment required for that is a pan.

The jams I made this summer were in small enough quantities, that I didn’t need to water seal them. I wanted to experiment with some different flavors. No one needs six or seven jars of a failed experiment.

I picked blueberries and black raspberries the same morning. I knew I wanted to use honey and lavender with the blueberries. For the black raspberries, I was thinking vanilla and lemon.

But I thought another woody spice would add some depth. Although I love cinnamon, I wanted something that would be less recognizable. I ended up with some peppery dry allspice.

First, the bad news, I didn’t measure anything. I just added ingredients to the pot until it tasted good. But I will tell you the process I followed for both of the jams and what I will do differently next time.

I washed the blueberries and tossed them into pot whole with a little water. I squeezed out a very generous amount of honey, by the looks of it about a half cup to around 6 cups of berries. I made a tea out of the lavender and strained out the blossoms.

After the berries cooked on medium heat for a while the berries started to break down and burst open and take on the consistency of a very runny jam. Then I adjusted all the flavors. I added more honey and sugar, the lavender tea, and the allspice until Jeannine and I thought it delicious.

Jeannine in a flash of inspiration pulled off a portion of the blueberry preserves and added some vanilla spiked bourbon. Both of the varieties of jam cooked until they thickened. Then we put them in jars for storage in the refrigerator.

I followed a similar process for the black raspberry preserves, only we strained out the black raspberry seeds. There I cooked the berries in water for some minutes to leech out as much of the flavor from the pulp and seeds as possible. Then we added the lemon, allspice, and vanilla, bean husk and seeds to taste.

Picture of black raspberry jam on the stove

All the lovely flavors! All of them!

I didn’t use pectin. This posed the biggest challenge for the seedless black raspberry jam. All the natural pectin in that fruit is in the pulp and seeds. Without them I was worried that it would never set.

That fear proved unfounded. In fact, the only thing I would do differently on all of the jams is cook them less, so that they would have set a little less tightly. In the case of the blueberry preserves, those were just a little more set than I would like for mixing into yogurt or spreading on waffles (my primary use of jams).

The black raspberry preserves were so set as to approach hard tack candy once refrigerated. In my concerns about the lack of pectin I significantly over cooked it. In both cases, there’s a moment were the liquid shifts from behaving like water to behaving like syrup. I think I should have pulled both of the jams off as soon as this transition happened. It’s that moment when abrupt stirring stops splashing up in tiny droplets.

Side note, we made these popsicles with the black raspberries. They were delicious. I will try making this with peaches soon. Partially because they will be good but also to ensure I use those stupid popsicle molds at least one more time. I hate buying kitchen goods that only do one thing. HATE IT.

The black raspberry vanilla popsicle

There were delicious. I am ruined for popsicles now.

Now that I have executed my experiments, I am ready to make larger batches next year and put some jams on the shelf for winter. I also anticipate canning more black raspberry pie filling next year. That process is a massive pain in the ass, but it’s a lovely thing to have black raspberry pie in December.

black raspberry and blueberry jams

Eating the jams on waffles is the best part.

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Black Raspberries: My Wounds Are Not From Branding Cats

Asynchronous communication and instant gratification makes nature’s ridged timing feel foreign. Strawberries gleam on the grocery store shelves at all times of the year. So, when black raspberries come in season the scramble to pick them in those precious few days is jarring. Maybe it’s that I grew up picking fruits and tending my grandmother’s garden, that I find this limitation reassuring. No matter what technology throws at us, black raspberries are only in season for moments.

Dale Stokes Berry Farm was just as lovely as I remembered it. The raspberry bushes were just as cruel as I remembered them. They give up their fruit but only after their thorns draw blood.

Two of us picked 13 pounds of berries in 2 hours. This was sufficient to make 2 batches of jelly, 3 quarts of pie filling, one pie with about 4 cups of berries left over to freeze.

One batch of jelly was made according to the instructions on the Sure-jell packaging. I went off the map with the second batch. Last year we tried out a sugar-free black raspberry chipotle lime jam. I wanted to repeat this, but I found that the link to the recipe is now broken (see last year’s blog here).

I purchased some sugar-free Sure-jell pectin. And while I followed the instructions in terms of how much prepared juice I used and cooking instructions, I made everything else up as I went. I used the juice and zest from about 2-3 limes, 6 dashes of cheyenne pepper, and one cup of orange blossom honey. Bear in mind that I was mostly tossing things in and adjusting by taste.

My concerns about the jelly setting up enough were valid. That quantity of honey is significantly less than what the Sure-jell package recommends. Like the dependencies between Elvis and The Colonel, pectin working with sugar is not to be underestimated in terms of jams and jellies setting. While the jelly is a bit runny, it won’t make your PBJ a total mess. Imma call this good enough. The coolest thing about drawing down the sugar in the recipe is the herbal notes in this jam shine through.

I prepped the pie filling in the same way discussed in last year’s blog. Only, I was completely prepared for the Clear-jel to behave very poorly. It didn’t disappoint. I settled on a process of moving the pot on and off the burner while violently stirring. This was after my efforts to find the right burner temperature were thwarted numerous times.

Later in the day we enjoyed the pie, while watching the World Cup at an English Pub. Somehow this seemed appropriate. It was wonderful. But I wouldn’t have expected to turn out any other way. Because black raspberries. 20150704-20150704-DSC_4889 20150704-20150704-DSC_4890 20150704-20150704-DSC_4882 20150704-20150704-DSC_4892 20150704-20150704-DSC_4893 20150704-20150704-DSC_4895