Monday, December 13, 2010

kicking out the holiday jams

Christmas is going to be very different in the Cericola household because my mom and I made the executive decision to forgo gift-giving this year. Money's tight for everyone, and we're all fortunate enough not to need anything, so why not take a year off from presents? My grandmother protested a little, but I'm downright delighted.

Venturing out on Fifth Avenue on my lunch break last week, I was surrounded by a crush of people hefting shopping bags with a slightly crazed look in their eyes. After I elbowed my way free, I couldn't help but smile. I don't have to make a list, re-think the list, find cute wrapping paper, figure out how to ship gifts home, worry about my credit card bill, and on and on and on.

Like rethinking the traditional Thanksgiving Day feast, there is something liberating about celebrating the holidays without shopping. Instead, my family will do a cookie exchange after Christmas dinner. Everyone will bring a dozen or so cookies, and take home a plate of treats, and no one will have to hunt for a gift receipt later on in January.
Other homemade gifts aren't out of the question. I decided to bust out the canning set and went a little jam-crazy last weekend, cranking out jars of shelf-stable preserves for co-workers, friends, and gift-loving types like my grandmother. It was a fun way to spend the afternoon, much less stressful than navigating Fifth Avenue or the aisles of Target during holiday crunch-time. And homemade gifts always feel more special, at least to me.

I decided to make three different types of jam: slightly spicy pear cardamom ginger, tangy grapefruit cranberry marmalade, and an apple honey lemon jam that kind of reminded me of a Hall's cough drop. But in a good way.

Like a squirrel gathering acorns before winter, seeing the colorful pile of jars on my kitchen counter makes me feel hopeful and prepared for the year ahead, whatever it may bring. At least we'll have jam, right?
Grapefruit cranberry marmalade
Adapted from Brooklyn Supper. My fruit was pretty tart, so I added some honey at the end for extra sweetness. Adjust as you see fit.
(Makes 6 ½ pint jars)

2 14 oz. packages of fresh cranberries, picked over and rinsed
6 ruby red grapefruits 
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup water (if needed)
3-4 Tbsp. Pamona’s Pectin powder mixed with 3-4  Tbsp. calcium water (or regular pectin)
1/3 cup honey
pinch of salt

Using a sharp pairing knife, peel the rind off the grapefruits, leaving the white pith attached to the fruit. Then peel the pith off of the fruit. Cut the rind into thin strips and reserve. Supreme the grapefruits into sections over a large bowl, catching any juice. Squeeze the remaining membrane over the bowl to get all of the juice. Set aside.

In a non-reactive pot or dutch oven, combine the grapefruit rind, sections, and juice. Simmer for 15 minutes. Then add the cranberries, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer for 2 hours, stirring frequently.

Put a teaspoon in the freezer. When the marmalade has cooked down considerably and is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, add the honey and pectin. Bring the jam up to a boil, and then turn the heat off. Place a small amount of jam on the frozen spoon and see if the jam runs slowly down the spoon when the spoon is tilted. If it is weepy, add another tablespoon of pectin and calcium water, bring back to a boil, and then turn off the heat and test again. Keep doing this until your jam is just right.

Meanwhile, wash 6 1/2 pint jars, lids, and rims in hot, soapy water then sterilize them by placing them in a large pot of boiling water. Let them boil for five minutes, then remove them from the water and let them dry.

Fill your jars with jam, wipe the rims, and screw on the lids. Put the jars back in the boiling water and let them boil for 15 minutes. Carefully remove them, and set them aside. You will hear the lids pop as they seal. (I love that part.)
Pear cardamom ginger jam
Adapted from Food & Wine, with the addition of ginger, just because I had some on hand. The original recipe says it yields 2 1/2 pint jars, but I found it made double that amount. I think this depends on the size of your pears.

4 lbs. ripe Bartlett pears—peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 cups sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled
1 Tbsp. honey

In a large glass or ceramic bowl, toss the pears with the sugar and lemon juice. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Put a metal spoon in the freezer. Transfer the pears and their liquid to a wide, heavy pot and bring to a boil. Put the crushed cardamom in a tea ball and add it to the pot, along with the ginger. (I did not have a tea ball, I just fished out all of the pods and the ginger in the end. It's more time consuming but works just fine if you're careful.) Cook the pears over high heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid starts to thicken and the pears become translucent, about 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.

Transfer one-third of the pears to a food processor or a food mill and puree until smooth. Add the puree to the pot. Boil over moderately high heat, stirring, until the jam is very thick, about 5 minutes. To test the jam, drop a small amount on the chilled spoon and freeze for about 30 seconds. When you tilt the spoon, the jam should be thick and run down the spoon slowly. If the jam is runny, cook it for a few minutes longer, then test again. Remove the tea ball (or cardamom pods and ginger) and stir in the honey.

Ladle the jam into three clean, 1-pint jars and let cool completely. Tightly close the jars and store the pear jam in the refrigerator for up to 2 months. Or, make the jam shelf-stable by placing the jars back in the kettle of boiling water and process for 15 minutes.

Apple lemon honey jam
Adapted from Food in Jars
(Makes 7 pint jars)

12 cups peeled, chopped apples
2 cups lemon juice
1 cup honey 
5 cups sugar
1 envelope of liquid pectin (or 2 Tbsp. Pomona's Pectin with 2 Tbsp. calcium water)
zest of three lemons

Fill a large pot with water, then boil your jars, lids, and rings for five minutes.

Place a teaspoon in the freezer. Combine the apples and lemon juice in a large, heavy-bottomed pot (an enameled Dutch oven works well here) and cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until the apples have broken down. When the consistency is a nice, chunky applesauce, add the honey and sugar and stir to incorporate.

Bring the fruit to a boil and cook for at least five minutes at a roll. Add the pectin and boil for a few minutes more, to active the pectin. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon zest. Place a small amount of jam on the frozen spoon and see if the jam runs slowly down the spoon when the spoon is tilted.

Fill the jars, wipe rims, apply the lids bands. Put the jars back in the pot of boiling water for fifteen minutes.


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your post today, and yes, Santa can take the year off...we're all grown-ups now. It's good to know what is the most important thing about the holidays: family, friends and jam!

Unknown said...

Homemade gifts are so much better, too bad I can't convince the rest of my family of that. I would love to get a basket full of jams and cookies.

Daniel said...

For those of you in mixed relationships, these would make interesting latke dips.

Lisa said...

Anony: Well said!

Tender Branson: I feel the same way. Maybe next year you can get them onboard?

Daniel: Ha, yes that's true!


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