Monday, July 23, 2012

Red Currant Jelly

I've been on a real jam kick lately. Every fruit I see, I think about turning it into jam. And since the market's overflowing with fresh local fruits these days it's really easy to just go crazy and buy too I end up with a lot of jam! For now it's mostly for me and the man and to give to friends and family but it might turn into a business someday...stay tuned!
So anywyay, last week-end I got some really beautiful bright red currants for pretty cheap, as soon as I saw them I knew I had to make jelly!! When I grew up we had a few bushes by the garden always full of those berries, and my mom used to make a good pudding with them. That would have been good, yes, but considering my latest obsession...

Making jam and jelly is really not that hard, it just takes time. And a good idea of how much sugar and lemon juice to use according to the amount of fruit...if you're using pectin, just follow the recipe, but if you want a good classic-tasting jam or jelly it's better to just let the fruit speak for itself with the sugar. There will be A LOT of it(sugar), but it's worth it in the taste! Usually it takes about 3/4 to 1 cup of sugar for every cup of fruit. Yes, that's a lot. It's jam, people!
Okay, back on the red currant jelly...

Those little things are very tart so there needs to be a good amount of sugar in there to make it tasty. Plus the berries have a lot of natural pectin so they need that sugar to concentrate that pectin and make the juice gel properly. It's a whole chemistry thing, I love it!
So, first of all, weigh and wash the berries and put them into a large pot (leave the stems! they have a lot of pectin too!). For every pound of fruit you'll need to add 1/2 cup of water. I had 2 pounds, so that's 1 cup water.

Simmer on medium while crushing the fruit to release its juices, for about 20-30 minutes, until the berries seem fully cooked and easily crushable... They will become colorless and the liquid will be like a syrup.

Pour that cooked fruit in a colander/seive lined with 3 layers of cheesecloth WITHOUT PRESSING ON IT and let it sit overnight. (I put it in the fridge because it's very humid here these days I didn't want to attract insects...)

The next day, discard the fruit and mesure the amount of juice. For every cup add one cup of sugar. I got 2 cups of juice, so 2 cups sugar. Also if you feel like it you can give it some spice, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and all-spice got into mine...subtle but brings it up a notch...
Bring that juice to a boil and cook until the gel test says it's, about 20 minutes.
To test for doneness, put a few plates in the freezer before you get started and to test spoon a bit of the jelly mix on one, leave it in the freezer for a few minutes and if you see that the sample is not dripping like water when you tilt the plate, but ressembles a jelly-like consistency on top, it's done. Here I have to apologize I didn't take any pictures of that process. Sorry.

When it's done skim the foam off, strain it again in a regular strainer to get the spices out, pour into hot STERELIZED jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. I'm not gonna get into the whole canning explanation...the web is LOADED with info on that subject!

When it's all done leave the jars cool 24 hours in a draft-free place. If afterwards there's a jar that didn't get sealed put it in the fridge just in'll stay good for at least a month!

Isn't it pretty?

I got a total of 6 cute little 125ml jars of that good stuff. I'm gonna have to make more because it's too good!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Strawberry-Plum Crisp

This is what summer tastes like! Fresh fruit!!
Strawberries are in season and I bought a load of them a few days ago to make jam, but even after a big batch I had a lot of fruit left. And I also had a few black plums lying around that were a bit to tart to eat raw but were getting a bit too soft... So I made a fruit crisp, one of my favorite dessert to eat AND to make, also a good way to save fruit that are about to die... There's no recipe, per say, only instinct and common sense!


For the fruit mix:
3 big black plums, thinly sliced (don't bother peeling them, the peel will get nice and soft)
About 3-4 cups strawberries (maybe 5, made 6 cups of fruit total), hulled and sliced in half if needed (I sliced the bigger ones in half, left small ones whole!=BIG strawberrry chunks!!)
1 cup sugar (more if you like it very sweet...)
3 TBSP cornstarch
1 TBSP lemon juice

For the topping:
2-3 cups quick oats
About 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup soft butter, unsalted
1 tsp chinese five spice
Pinch of salt

Mix all the topping's ingredient together until it clumps when you squeeze it. If it's to dry add more butter, if too wet add flour.
Mix all the fruit mix stuff, pour in a 8x8in. baking pan.
Spread the topping and press gently to make it even.
Bake at 350 on the middle rack for about 30 minutes, until it starts bubbling and the fruit is fully cooked (poke it with a fork, there shouldn't be any resistance!).

Grab a spoon and dig in!

p.s. starwberries are very juicy, so to prevent a mess in your oven put a sheet of foil on the bottom rack! This one didn't boil over but just in case... ;)