When I was younger my Mom would make jam. It seemed very laborious: sterilizing, special equipment, possibility of jars blowing up, wax seals, sweating, etc. I used to see jam in the store and think why not just buy it? Well we all know the answer to that, it just doesn't taste as good. That all said I still wasn't prepared for the full on jam making undertaking.
Welcome to my life freezer jam. So much easier, and in my opinion tastier. Because you are not cooking the fruit the jam can't be stored at room temperature, instead you store it in the freezer (hence the name). When you take a jar out to be used it can be stored in the fridge for up 6 weeks. I guarantee it won't be around that long anyways. It is still a good idea to use smallish containers, the 1 liter jar may be a little much jam for 6 weeks.
This all started when we went out to my uncles house to check on things while he was away, AKA pilfer his raspberry bushes. Hudson had a great time insisting on holding the bucket while eating like crazy. There was still more than enough berries to make jam with.
You need to add something to help gel the jam, I bought a package at the grocery store specific for freezer jam. There are a few kinds out there. I chose this one because I liked that the fruit to sugar ratio was a little higher. It is no secret that there is a lot of sugar in jam. It helps to preserve the jam along with making it taste sweet. Freezer jam has less sugar than regular jam, gotta' like that. I also find that freezer jam tastes more like the actual fruit because it isn't cooked. You do have to use great tasting, ripe fruit though because there is less sugar and cooking to hide behind.
glass or plastic containers with tight fitting lids (you don't need anything fancy)
4 cups of fruit
1 1/4 cups of sugar
I used raspberries so to prep them I just mashed them in a large bowl with a potato masher. I left some bigger chunks though. If you are using other fruit like strawberries or blueberries just chop finely (don't puree). Stir in sugar and let stand for 15 minutes. Slowly sprinkle in gelling powder while stirring for 3 minutes. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir again for 1 minute. Add jam to jars, leave enough room for expansion. It's ready to eat! Can be stored in the freezer for up to a year.
Your package might be a little different, but that is the jist of it. My package called for 1 1/2 cups of sugar, but I reduced it (of course) and it still turned out fine and was plenty sweet. You don't want to play around too much as the gel to sugar ratio is important. It was so easy from start to finish maybe 30 minutes, are you kidding? I didn't have time to make my jam right after picking so I froze the berries. It had no adverse effects on the final product just thaw your fruit before using. Blackberries are in season now, so get picking and jamming.
I can imagine opening a jar on a dark winter morning and being reminded of that perfect summer night picking berries and my son's chubby, berry stained fingers and cheeks. It doesn't get much better than that.
Our strawberry plants have gone wild. We didn’t even plant them; they were here when we moved in. Over the last week conditions have been just right to provide about 2-3 cups of fresh berries every couple days. I love strawberries, favourite berry hands down. I like them all but blackberries, raspberries too seedy, and blueberries, well they are OK. I think my son is on my side too. He loves running out to the patch to pick and eat, although he had not yet mastered the difference between ripe and not ripe. He doesn’t seem to mind the green ones though.
Strawberries out of the garden are a whole different animal then the imported variety from the grocery store. So sweet, tender and real tasting. The berries and the growing season don’t last long so I wanted a way to enjoy them just a little longer. I found this recipe for Strawberry Conserve, sounded just right to me. Conserves are sort of like a whole fruit jam, in this case whole fruit in a light syrup. The lemon rind provides pectin to help naturally thicken the juices, as strawberries are low in pectin.
4 cups fresh strawberries (about 1 pound), halved
1/2 cup super fine sugar
Peel (with white pith) of 1/2 lemon
Combine all ingredients in a heavy, wide pot. Cover; let sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. The berries will ooze and sugar will dissolve.
Bring strawberry mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring gently, until strawberries are just tender, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer strawberries to 1 pint jar. Continue simmering liquid until it thickens into a syrupy consistency, 3-4 minutes. Discard lemon peel and pour syrup over strawberries; seal and let cool to room temperature. Chill for up to 1 month (Adapted from Epicurious).
I used less sugar then the called for 2/3 of a cup, I thought the result was the perfect sweetness. I also simmered the liquid a little longer as it wasn’t that thick after the 1-2 minutes the recipe suggested.
The fragrance and colour alone was enough to get real excited over. The taste? Perfect, garden fresh strawberries at a whole other level. Now what to do with Strawberry Conserve (or in the words of my husband; I am confused about what this is)? Well it would make a great topping for Greek yogurt, vanilla ice cream, angel food cake, pancakes, waffles or oatmeal. I also think it would be amazing on a nice slice of multigrain baguette with some goat cheese (I am actually drooling thinking about this). Endless possibilities. I might just drink it, ha.
If you can get your hands on some fresh BC grown strawberries or if your plants are going wild, get on it. Save some of the goodness for a little longer, although I am not too sure this is going to last long. Maybe you have someone around that would enjoy the spoon like someone I know.
I went to the Comox Valley Farmer’s Market on Saturday with a friend, her twin boys and my son….all in the same vehicle. Car seats galore. It was an action packed ride that included a lost apple and a foot stuck in the door handle, but we made it. Once there it was great. I love seeing what people actually grow (I try not to compare it to my first-timer veggie garden). The boys enjoyed the musical entertainment, snacks and helium balloons.
I came home with some rhubarb and cheese. I love rhubarb, probably because I like tart things. I don’t eat it that often, but have been thinking about it a lot because of the road-side signs advertising its availability. When I got home I did a quick Google search for recipes. I came across one for rhubarb chutney, sounded good but must involve some kind of processing or canning. Not so! It was actually quite easy and a way I have never used rhubarb.
Spiced Rhubarb Chutney
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon ground garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
4 cups 1/2-inch cubes fresh rhubarb
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup raisins
Combine first 8 ingredients in heavy large pot. Bring to simmer over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb, onion and dried raisins; increase heat to medium-high and cook until rhubarb is tender and mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.) Adapted from Bon Appetit.
I served it over barbequed pork medallions that I seasoned with a pinch of salt. The chutney had a very rich, spiced flavour that was very complex. The different spices would pop up in each bite. I reduced the amount of sugar because I like the tartness. I think it would also be good over chicken or on a multigrain baguette with a soft cheese.
I still had some left over rhubarb, so I decided to make the classic strawberry rhubarb crisp. Trying new things is good, but enjoying classics is still great too. My Mom used to make it for us. It always seemed close to my birthday (the end of May) maybe that’s why I have such good memories. Rhubarb also always reminds me of my mom warning us 1000 times that the leaves were poisonous (when she saw the rhubarb in my fridge from the market she thankfully reminded me again, for real).
Preheat the oven to 375°
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
2 cups sliced strawberries
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup oats
Combine white sugar, 1 tbsp flour and fruit in an 8x8 glass baking dish. Combine the rest of ingredients in a bowl. Use a fork to cut in the margarine. Top fruit with the mixture and bake for 45 min.
Serve alone or with vanilla frozen yogurt. I don’t need to tell you how good this was. To see the original recipe look here. I reduced both the brown and white sugar, the margarine, switched to whole wheat flour and increased the fruit.
Who wouldn't want their house to smell this good and who wouldn't want car seats three deep for a little adventure?
On Saturday night we got an invite to go fishing with friends the next morning...6:00 am morning. The invite was also extended to my 16 month old son...hmmm. The idea of a six hour boat trip with a busy, curious, very mobile boy, sounded a little like crazy. On the other hand we might be crazy to turn down an opportunity to head out with a knowledgeable guide, his fabulous wife and their super smiley little boy on a very sunny day. Before we knew it we were buying fishing licenses online, confirming life jacket weight limits and throwing food, drink and sunscreen into a bag.
Did we make the right decision? 100% yes. Our little boy was mesmerized by the boat, water, motor and birds (not to mention our friend's dog) and we caught a ling cod to take home. Hudson even got a lesson in fish bonking, he has been bonking everything since.
So what to do with fresh ling cod? Since I have some herbs in my garden they were going in, plus I bought some Panko crumbs a while ago that I have been wanting to use. Panko bread crumbs are Japanese and are more crisp and light than regular bread crumbs.
Preheat the oven to 400° F
6 pieces of ling cod around 4 oz (or other white fish)
1 cup Panko crumbs
2 tbsp each fresh chopped thyme, parsley and basil
1/2 tsp dried dill
1/2 cup 5% sour cream
1/2 cup light mayo
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Mix sour cream and mayo together. Stir together dry ingredients. Coat each piece of fish with mayo mixture. Dredge in bread crumbs. Bake for 15 min or until fish flakes.
This ling cod was sumptuous, no tears here for not catching a salmon. It was very moist and light. The Panko added a satisfying crunch. Ling cod may not look pretty (at all, scary teeth as an added bonus) but they have a place on my plate any day.
Ling cod is on the list of fish that can be higher in mercury, risk is minimized by keeping smaller fish. Mercury builds up over time in a fish's body, so the younger and smaller the fish the lower the mercury. As our guide Curt tells me: it also makes sense from a conservation point of view as the spawning female ling cod are the larger ones.
Baking fish on parchment paper does not require any added fat for cooking. Mixing the light mayo with light sour cream helps to cut down the saturated fat without losing any flavor. Fresh herbs increase flavour without adding salt.
What's better than a morning spent fishing the beautiful waters off of Campbell River? Maybe eating mouth watering fish on my sun soaked deck with my family. Thank you Coastal Wilderness Adventures!
My husband and I went out for what we dubbed the “last supper” while I was extremely pregnant with my son. We chose a five star, exclusive restaurant in Vancouver. We knew it was going to be the last time for a while that we would be able to enjoy a delicious restaurant meal, together, unhurried. The funny part is that I don’t actually remember my entrée (fish, chicken?) but I do remember that it was presented on a bed of amazing Swiss chard. It tasted so good that I would have taken more of it over dessert.
I am sure you are thinking only a dietitian would actually say that. Well…prior to that evening I didn’t have a lot of experience eating or preparing leafy greens. In my head it was all a pile of olive green mush. Pretty un-tempting.
Once the dust settled post baby I was ready to try making some at home. I was still skeptical: was it a pound of butter that made them so tasty, was it crazy pregnant food? I decided to start with this recipe for Sautéed Swiss Chard. Turned out fabulous, for real.
For bonus points beyond great taste, Swiss chard is low in calories, high in vitamin A and K as well as antioxidants vitamin C and beta carotene. Swiss chard can be grown locally so you can support your local farmer or try it in your own garden (reported to be one the easier veggies to grow).
I have also had some other leafy greens in my kitchen….but that’s for another day…
Tiffany McFadden, RD