Grapefruit Lavender Jam

vintage fruits

About a week ago, I bought a huge bag of grapefruits because they were on sale. I don’t even know why–I think I was grocery shopping hungry which is always a bad idea. Anyway, I ended up with 6 pounds of grapefruits and no ideas. I just made a marmalade, and I don’t really need any more, and grapefruit curd isn’t shelf stable for very long. So, I made up an idea for a grapefruit jam. A bit of googling told me that grapefruit jam is a thing, so I decided to go for it. I really love to add herbs to fruity jams, and I think the sharp taste of grapefruit is a little much on its own, so I chose lavender to add some extra dimension.

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The only skill that this recipe requires that we haven’t talked about before is how to “supreme” a grapefruit and get all the pith/seeds out neatly so that you’re left with membrane-less segments. (I totally just learned it was called that, don’t worry.) If you’d like, you can watch this video to learn how.

Once that’s done, it’s basic jam-making.

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Grapefruit Lavender Jam: (yields about 3 half pints, maybe 4)

4 pounds whole grapefruits, cut into segments, including the juice.
2 cups sugar
1 pack liquid pectin
1 Tablespoon dried lavender flowers

First, simmer the jars and lids that you plan to use for your jam.

After you’ve supremed the grapefruits, put them in a pot with the sugar and bring it to a boil. Add the lavender and the pectin and boil for 10-15 more minutes, or until the jam coats the back of a spoon and passes the plate test. (Spoon some on a plate and let it cool, then tilt it. If it moves in a sheet, it’s ready. Ladle the hot jam into hot jars, place the lids on top then gently tighten the bands. Process in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes.

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This is how I take pictures of things, in case you ever wondered. It’s a miracle I haven’t toppled off of my chair and into whatever I’m photographing.

Pear Vanilla Jam

serving

I’ve been pretty heavy on the pears this winter, haven’t I? First, I made a Vanilla Pear Aigre-Doux, then the Swiss Chard Pear Gruyere Tart, and now a Pear Vanilla Jam. I’m not going to promise that I’m done with pears, but I’ll try to lay off in the next few weeks. In my defense, I had a half-eaten box of Harry and David pears dropped in my lap by a coworker’s family last week, so I felt like making jam was really my only option.

harry and davidI had never really considered making jam out of pears before, but I read a little about it and decided that you’d really need another flavor, like vanilla or cardamom, something to take control. Pears are such a delicate flavor; a jam with just pears would sort of be taken over by the necessary lemon juice. For this jam, I think it’s necessary to spring for real vanilla beans rather than using vanilla extract. With the beans, you get that great speckly look, and the taste is just vanilla, without the sharp alcohol taste of an extract.

pears and vanillaThis jam is tasty on toast with butter. It does get overwhelmed easily as it’s not too sweet and the flavors are pretty subtle, so I don’t know if it would even hold up against peanut butter. Best enjoyed solo, I think. This recipe comes from Food In Jars, a canning blog that I love. It’s no nonsense, to the point recipes are easy to follow, and the ingredients are rarely too fussy to find at any grocery store at a reasonable price. You can type in almost any fruit and find a starting point to make your own jam. I only adapted this one slightly, using a little less sugar than the recipe calls for and adding some lemon juice.

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Here’s the recipe (adapted slightly from Food In Jars):
yields about 5.5 half-pints

4 pears, thin-skinned, diced–no need to peel
2.5 cups sugar
juice of half a lemon
2 vanilla beans, scraped
1 pack liquid pectin

6 half-pint jars, lids, and bands

Start by setting a boiling-water canner to boil with your jars inside. In a small saucepan, simmer your lids and bands.

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, bring the diced pears, sugar, vanilla bean scrapings and hulls, and sugar to a boil. Boil hard for about 5 minutes, or until the pears are soft enough to smoosh with the back of a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat and use a potato masher or pastry cutter to mush up the fruit a little more. Then add the pectin, stir it in well, and bring the jam back up to a boil, stirring periodically. Test the jam for gelling after 8-10 minutes of boiling. To test, place a spoonful of jam on a plate, then place it in the freezer for a few minutes. Take it out and tilt the plate. If the jam is still runny, keep boiling and test again later. If it looks like jam, you’re done!

Ladle the jam into hot jars, leaving about a quarter inch of headspace. You should fill 5 jars and the 6th about halfway. For the half filled one, put a lid on it and put in the refrigerator to eat first. For the rest of the jars, wipe the rims, place the lids on top, gently screw on the bands, and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

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Pear & Vanilla Aigre-Doux

Jason has this theory that in order to convince people that he knows how to speak french, all that he has to do is omit most of the letters in a word, and say the rest while never fully closing his mouth. So, “bonjour” is “bohjuh” and “aigre-doux” (bitter-sweet) is pronounced “ahra duh.” This does not work, in case you thought it might. It just makes him look a little like he’s having a stroke. If you make this aigre-doux, you should totally pronounce it in a crazy way because you totally can. Because you made it.

This recipe came from a cookbook called The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant. I’ve never seen an aigre-doux (by that name) before this cookbook, and I’m really excited about this one. There’s also a butternut squash aigre-doux and a cranberry aigre-doux that I can’t wait to try.   The mixture of sweet and salty/spicy is really incredible, and I’m really excited to save it for winter.

Here’s the recipe:

from The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant; makes 4 pint jars or 8 half-pint jars 

1 1/3 cup white wine (the cookbook recommends a gewurtztraminer, which is what I used.)

1 3/4 cup champagne vinegar

3/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon honey

1 cup sugar

1 Tablespoon kosher salt

2 vanilla beans, split and scraped, then cut into small pieces

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns in each pint jar

5 bosc pears, peeled and cut into chunks

In a large pot, combine the wine, champagne vinegar, honey, sugar, salt, vanilla beans and seeds. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly, then turn the heat to low to keep it hot.

In a boiling water canner, simmer 4 pint jars or 8 half-pint jars and their lids and bands. Put the peppercorns in each jar, then pack in the chunks of pear. Ladle the hot mixture over the pears. Leave about a half inch of headspace in each jar, wipe the edges with a clean towel, then place the lids on top and gently screw on the bands. Process them in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes. Let them cool completely before testing the seals.

To serve, put the aigre-doux into a small pot and heat it slowly, stirring constantly. Allow the juice to thicken up and the pears to soften. Then, serve it over a strong blue cheese with some crusty bread. It’s like fall on a plate!

Simple Tomato Sauce

Let’s keep it simple today, what do you think? This is weeknight dinner. It’s the kind of thing that takes a little bit of work upfront but is totally worth it later. We’re making fresh tomatoes into a rich, tasty sauce that will freeze all winter and keep away the pre-made tomato sauce blues. Believe it or not, this is single dude food. It’s so easy, you’ll be amazed with your cooking skills. And so will everyone else!

Also–if you’re some kind of Italian cooking genius, I would stop reading. I made this up. I’m sure it’s all wrong.

You’ll need these things:

6 fresh tomatoes (I’m not actually sure what kind I used…)

3 cloves of garlic

1/2 small can of tomato paste (optional)

1 onion

dried oregano and basil

salt and pepper

red pepper flakes

(And pasta, of course. I’d also recommend freshly grated parmesan cheese.)

Here’s what to do with those things:

The tomatoes will need to be peeled. If you cut an X on the blossom end of each tomato, then dunk them in boiling water then into cold water, the peels should slip right off. Then, give them a rough chop (you can do this according to how chunky you like the tomatoes in your sauce to be).

Dice an onion and the garlic and brown them in a pot with a generous amount of olive oil. When they’re transparent and fragrant, pour in the tomatoes. (Disclaimer–this is where things get weird.) I totally used a pastry cutter (this thing) to break up the tomatoes a little more. I have no idea if this is an acceptable way to treat tomatoes. It’s usually how I break down fruit to make jam, so I figured it would work for tomatoes, too! It does the job.

After that’s done, add half the can of tomato paste, then the basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Here’s the scoop on tomato paste: it’ll help the sauce thicken faster. If you don’t have it/don’t like the way it tastes, your sauce will have to cook down for a much longer time to lose that fresh tomato taste and thicken up. I don’t mind the paste.

Simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally, for 30-45 minutes until it has thickened up. You’ll know when it’s time.

You can also add ground beef, carrots, or celery to this sauce if you want. I would just add them at the beginning (before the tomatoes).

Serve over hot pasta with grated parmesan on top! The leftover sauce will freeze well. It’ll also keep in the fridge for a week or so.