Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2011's Best Jam

I go a little overboard with jellies and jams. I can’t seem to help myself. I start out in moderation. A few half-pints of your basic rhubarb jam starts the season off. Then I wonder what would happen if I extracted the juice from the excess rhubarb I have, then let lemon balm leaves steep in it for several hours. Answer: It makes a very nice subtly sweet-tart rhubarb lemon jelly.

I just can’t seem to keep my jelly simple. I’ll make a batch of plain old sour cherry preserves, but I've discovered that if I add a tablespoon of almond extract to the pot just before ladling it into jars, it tastes even better. I add cinnamon or chili powder to peach jam—just a touch. Sometimes my experiments fail miserably (chocolate sour cherry preserves sounded good in theory, but not so much in reality).

Last year I made several experimental jams and jellies, but the best one was the peach peel & pit jelly. Not only was it delicious on biscuits, but I felt good about using peels and pits thoroughly, squeezing one more use out of them, before they headed to the compost pile.

Raspberry Peach Jam
This year, I made 12 varieties: rhubarb-lemon jelly, sour cherry preserves, almond cherry preserves, chokecherry jelly (with almond), spiced peach jam, cardamom peach jam, cardamom plum jam, apple cider jelly, apple peel jelly, red pepper jelly, yellow tomato preserves, and raspberry peach jam.

The raspberry peach jam has been named this year's winner by an expert panel of judges (K and the girls). The yellow tomato preserves, sunshine gold with bits of lemon and orange, were surprisingly a close second.

The peach softens and mellows the raspberries a little bit, and adds a tint of gold to the berries.

Raspberry Peach Jam
(makes about 10-11 half pints)
About 1 lb. raspberries (I used three 8 oz. containers so that pureed, it equaled about 2 c.)
2 lbs. peaches (skinned, pitted, and pureed or chopped fine)
½ c. lemon juice
two boxes powdered pectin*
8 c. sugar
Puree raspberries, place in large pot. Puree peaches or chop fine, and add to raspberries. Add lemon juice and pectin, stir to combine.
Bring to a hard, rolling boil. Add sugar. Bring to a boil again. Boil hard for 3 to 4 minutes or so. Pour into sterilized jars, clean rims, add lids and rings, then process in water bath for 15 minutes.
* I’ve made this with one box pectin, boiled hard about 6 minutes, and it sets up as soft jam.

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