Elevating the Loquat

I had no idea what a loquat was, until we moved to Texas and I discovered a loquat tree in our backyard. Unfortunately, the squirrels got to them before I knew exactly what I had in my backyard. So all last year I researched and planned, and found a million wonderful canning recipes for loquats that I was just dying to try.

And then, we moved. We moved before our loquat tree bore any fruit this year, and that made me sad. Now what was I going to do with all these wonderful recipes? You can’t usually buy loquats in the grocery store.

And then I met our new next door neighbor, Nikki. Nikki, who happens to have a loquat tree in her back yard that produces more fruit than she can eat. So she let me raid it for my own nefarious purposes. This was my haul:

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Despite their name, loquats are more closely related to apples than anything else. They taste like a plum and an apricot had a baby. And, since they are an asian fruit, I decided to go for broke and make a Chinese five-spice preserve.

Chinese Five Spice Loquat Preserves

Ingredients:

  • 4 Pints loquats (about 6 cups)
  • 4-5 C. granulated sugar
  • 1 C. water
  • 3 tsp. bottled lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger

Step 1: Prepare your jars, lids, and canner. If you have never canned before, see the tutorial here. Throw a couple of ceramic plates in the freezer. You’ll need them to test for gelling later.

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Step 2: While your lids and canner are heating, slice the loquats into thin slices. The loquats have a large seed in the middle (sometimes t hey have more than one). I find it easiest to slice around the middle of the loquat long-ways, and remove the seed before slicing.

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also, loquats turn brown once sliced, so unless you work very quickly (or you are lazy, like me) I’d recommend sprinkling some lemon juice over the sliced loquats as you go.

Step 3: Add the sliced loquats to a deep pot. Pour in the water, sugar, lemon juice, and spices, and bring everything to a boil. I added 4 C. of sugar and then tasted it for sweetness. 4 C. was enough for me.

blog 107Once everything comes to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer it for about 25-30 minutes. Stir it frequently to keep the bottom from scorching.

Step 4: Once the preserves have simmered away for 25 minutes, take one of your plates out of the freezer. Spoon a little of the preserve on the cold plate, and put it back in the freezer for a few minutes. Take it out again and push your fingernail against the side of  the pool of preserve. If the surface wrinkles, it’s done! If it doesn’t you can either cook it for five minutes more, or add a Tablespoon or two (go with two) of powdered pectin to the mix. I didn’t do either of these things, and my preserves were a little runny. They still taste good, though.

Step 5: Once your preserves are ready, ladle them into 1/2 pint jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. This recipe made 4 1/2 pint jars for me.

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Add the lids and screw bands and proccess the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. let them sit for 24 hours, then store them in a cool dark place.

These preserves almost remind me of spiced peaches. Almost. I’ve been eating them stirred into yogurt, but they’d be good on just about anything.

If you have access to a loquat  tree, or access to a friend who has access to a loquat tree, tell them you’ll give them a jar if they let you pick as many as you want. You won’t be sorry, and neither will they.

The Wife

P.S. Is it weird that rainy days make my kitchen look super-yellow? It’s not really that yellow, I promise.


Winter Canning: Banana Sauce

I love to cook and can (duh.) but in the Winter, canning sometimes falls by the wayside.  I can dried beans in the Winter to replenish our supply, but other than that, there’s not a whole lot of produce begging to be canned.

So when I ended up with a batch of dangerously ripe bananas for the second time in two weeks, I started to investigate whether or not it is feasible to can bananas.

As it turns out, there are ways to do it, and this is one of them. I found several recipes for banana jam, banana’s foster jam, or brown sugar banana jam. So I combined them all to make what I call a sauce: it’s looser than a jam, and is meant to be spooned over ice cream or cake. Or anything, really.

And I have to tell you, the result of this experiment is a caramel-colored jar of banana heaven. Rum extract and cinnamon give it the classic “banana’s foster” flavors, and ripe bananas boost the flavor even more.

So if you end up with a bunch (ha!) of ripe bananas, think about mixing up a batch of this sauce.

Spiced Banana Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 10 ripe bananas, peeled and diced
  • 7 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. fruit fresh (optional)
  • 3 C. granulated sugar
  • 2 C. dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered pectin
  • 2 tsp. rum extract

Step 1: Dice the bananas and place in a large pot. If you are canning this, get your canner, jars, and lids ready. Sprinkled the lemon juice over the bananas and stir. I did not use fruit fresh for this recipe, not because I didn’t want to, but because I thought I was out. As it turns out, I had a whole new jar tucked away in my pantry. Oh well! If you are using fruit fresh, sprinkle it in with the bananas and lemon juice, and stir to coat the bananas.

blog 083Step 2: Add the sugars, cinnamon, and butter. Heat on medium until the sugar goes from this:

blog 084to this:

blog 085Step 3: Bring the mixture to a boil. Once at a boil, add the pectin. Return the mixture to a boil and boil hard for 2 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the rum extract. Let the mixture sit for about 5 minutes before ladling into hot jars.

Step 4: Fill the jars to 1/4″ headspace. Put on the lids and screw bands and place in the canner. Process for 10 minutes.

blog 086This stuff is to die for spooned over homemade frozen yogurt. in fact, it’s so good, I’m going to share my homemade frozen yogurt recipe on Wednesday! No ice cream maker required!

The Wife

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Christmas In A Jar

I have been posting the canned goods I’ve been making to give as gifts this holiday season. This particular recipe is not a gift. It’s too good, I am going to hoard it all for myself. But it would make a wonderful holiday gift, and the taste can only be described as “Christmas in a jar”. It is cranberry conserve, and while it’s best use is spooned over poultry, I am not above stirring it into yogurt, spreading it on toast, or eating it right out of the jar.

Conserve is a fruit preserve that includes nuts and dried fruits as well as fresh. It sounds like an odd mix, but I promise it is oh, so right. In this conserve I used pecans and dried apricots, but walnuts and raisins would be good, too.

This recipe is perfect for canning, and uses the boiling water bath method. It yields approximately 8 1/2 pint jars.

Cranberry Conserve

Ingredients:

  • 1 orange, seeds removed and chopped
  • 3 C. water
  • 6 C. fresh cranberries
  • 3 C. granulated sugar
  • 1 C. brown sugar
  • 1 C. dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • 1 C. pecans, chopped

If you are canning this recipe, assemble your canning supplies and begin to heat your lids and jars right when you start the recipe. Everything will be ready at the same time this way.

Step 1: Chop the orange into small pieces, leaving the peel on. In a stainless steel pot, combine the oranges and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 5 minutes.

Step 2: Once the orange peel has softened, add the sugars, cranberries, and chopped apricots (oh, yeah. Chop the apricots.)

Stir everything together and bring it back to a boil. Boil hard for about 10 minutes.

Step 3: If the gel is important to you, remove the conserve from the heat and test the gel. If it is not set enough for you, return to the heat and boil for another 5 minutes. If not (it wasn’t important to me), remove it from the heat and stir in the chopped pecans. Ladle it into hot jars.

Fill the jars to 1/4″ headspace, wipe the rims (this stuff is sticky!) , top with hot lids and screw bands, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Aside from being really beautiful in the jar, this stuff is good on everything. Spread some on a turkey sandwich. Dollop some over ice cream. The possibilities are endless.

The Wife



Christmas Gifts: Getting Started on Canning

I am giving home-canned goodies as gifts this Christmas. I figured I learned a new skill this year, I might as well use it to spend less money on Christmas. I finally landed on three things to put in baskets:

  • apple butter
  • lemon curd
  • cranberry compote

I’ll put a little bag of gingerbread cookies in the baskets too. But there’s not a whole lot of time left between now and Christmas if I’m going to be cooking and canning all this, so I started with the first thing on my list this weekend: apple butter.

But of course I couldn’t leave well enough alone. Why make plain apple butter when I could jazz it up a little? After scouring the internet (and my liquor cabinet) I decided on spiced apple butter with brandy.

You wish you were on my gift-giving list now, don’t you?

Brandied Apple Butter

Ingredients:

  • 5 Lb. apples (I used granny smith)
  • 1 1/2 C. apple juice or cider
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 1/2-2 C. brown sugar (depending on the sweetness of the apples. Taste-test this one)
  • 1 1/2 C. brandy

Step 1: peel, core, and chop the apples. If you have one of those spinning apple peelers around this should be easy. I don’t but now it’s on my list, because this task took forever without it.

Step 2: Place the chopped apples into a deep pot. Pour the juice over them and heat to boiling, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 25 minutes. They should go from this…

…to this.

Step 3: If you want a smoother consistency, use an immersion blender to puree the apples. Don’t blend them until they’re runny, stop at smooth. Once the apples are the consistency you want, add the sugar and spices (taste and add more sugar if necessary) and bring it back up to boiling. Turn down the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, adding the brandy halfway through.

You can refrigerate this for up to two weeks, or you can can it. If you’re canning, do the following while step 3 is happening:

Wash and dry your jars, lids, and rings. Place the jars in your boiling water bath canner and fill it with water until it is at least an inch above the jars.

Bring the water (and jars) to a boil. Place your lids in a small saucepan and cover with water. Heat these just to a simmer.

Once the apple butter is done and your jars are boiling, remove the jars to a towel on the counter. Fill them with apple butter to 1/4″ headspace. Remove any air bubbles, then place the lids on the jars and tighten the rings to fingertip tight.

Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Let them cool on the counter overnight.

This is the first canning recipe that I devised myself. I’m pretty pleased with myself about it, too. It has a great spice to it (the cardamom really comes through) and the brandy adds some depth that it would lack otherwise. I hope these little guys last until Christmas; I only saved a 1/2 pt. for us, and The Renaissance Man has his eye on it!

The Wife


Preserving Week: Peach White-Wine Preserves

I made some yogurt this weekend, which can also be considered preservation. To top this yogurt, I made use of the abundance of peaches here in TX, and made a yummy peach preserve.

Peach White-Wine Preserves

Ingredients:

  • approx. 6 cups peaches, peeled and chopped
  • 2/3 C. white table or dessert wine
  • 2 C. sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 Tbsp. flex-batch pectin

Step 1: blanch the peaches, then peel and chop.

If you like chunky preserves, leave the peach pieces larger. If not, then cut them up more finely.

Step 2: Put the chopped peaches in a dutch oven. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Step 3: Once they have simmered, add the white wine and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Step 4: Next add the sugar and lemon juice and bring everything to a boil. Once boiling, add the pectin and boil hard for 1 minute.

Step 5: Skim the foam if needed, then ladle into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe the rims, place the lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Step 6: After processing, cool in an out of  the way spot for 24 hours, then store.

Make sure you use a sweeter wine; too dry a wine does not complement the peach flavor as well. This made 4 12 oz. (jelly) jars.

The Wife

BWB Canning: Blueberry Lemon Verbena Butter

I finished Marisa McClellan’s book Food in Jars in less than 24 hours. If you have never been to Marisa’s blog, you absolutely must go. It is beautifully executed and has tons of amazing recipes from granola, to this blueberry butter.

If I haven’t said it before, The Renaissance Man is addicted to blueberries. Ladies, if you need to find the way to your man’s heart, feed him blueberries. It worked for me.

I used Marisa’s recipe for blueberry butter. It is featured in her book, as well as on her blog here. Instead of lemon zest, though, I used lemon verbena. I think it lended a nice earthy note to this butter.

Blueberry Lemon Verbena Butter

Ingredients:

  • 8 C. pureed blueberries (approx. 8 pints)
  • 2 C. sugar
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 8-10 leaves lemon verbena, chopped

Step 1: Puree the blueberries. Dump them into a crock pot.

Blueberries in a black crock pot are hard to see.

Step 2: turn the crock pot on low for 8 hours. Put on the lid. After 1 hour, stir the blueberries and prop open the lid of the crock pot a bit.

Step 3: Stir every hour and monitor the consistency of the butter. When it gets almost to the consistency of pie filling, add the sugar, spices, lemon juice, and lemon verbena. Let it cook for one more hour.

Step 4: You can either leave the blueberry butter chunky, or stick an immersion blender in it to smooth it out. I used this as an excuse to pick up an immersion blender, since they are amazing and I’ve been needing one for a while.

Step 5: When the butter is almost done cooking, prepare your jars, lids, and BWB canner.

Step 6: Ladle the butter into prepared jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. I’m using Weck jars here, and I had to increase the headspace to 1/2″ to account for the glass lids.

Step 7: Put lids and screw bands onto the jars (or lids and clamps, for the Weck jars). Place them into the canner and bring the water to a boil.

Step 8: Once the water is boiling, process the jars for 10 minutes. After the processing time is up, remove the jars and set aside to cool for 24 hours.

Serve this blueberry butter on biscuits, toast, or anything you’d put jam on.

I processed 8 1/2 pints of this blueberry butter and I guarantee it won’t last long.

The Wife

Oh, by the way, does anyone know how to get blueberry stains out of a wooden spoon?

BWB Canning: Spicy Corn Relish

Today’s the day! I have my very first canning recipe to post!

Trying my hand at boiling water bath canning was fun. Plus, my mom was here to help. Canning is a very process-oriented task, which I enjoy. Sometimes it’s nice to follow steps exactly and come up with exactly the product I was expecting.

My mom found this recipe a while ago and mailed it to me, but I didn’t get any canning supplies together until she and dad came to visit. And since she was the one who initially found the recipe, I thought it would be fun if she and I canned together.

My mom’s mom was a working mother, and did not can at home, but she had many aunts and other relatives who did, so she was familiar with the process. I (on the other hand) did not grow up with a canning mom (or relatives) but have done a lot of research. And I mean a lot.

I changed this recipe a bit. I like some heat to my relish, so I substituted a poblano pepper for green pepper, and changed up the spices. It made for a colorful, crunchy, sweet/spicy relish that I am looking forward to putting over my next batch of nachos.

Spicy Corn Relish

Ingredients:

  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, chopped
  • 3 ribs celery, chopped
  • 8 ears corn
  • 1 C. water
  • 1 C. white vinegar
  • 1/4 C. lime juice
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 2 tsp. dry mustard
  • 1 tsp. pickling salt
  • 3 Tbsp. corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp. cumin

Step 1: Chop all the veggies (except corn). Place them together in a large bowl.

Step 2: Husk and wash the corn. Remove the kernels from the corn cobs. Do not scrape the cob.

Step 3: Put the corn in a large stock pot with the water. Bring it to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer.

Step 4: Simmer, covered, for five minutes. Drain the water.

Step 5: In the same pot, combine the cooked corn and the other veggies. Stir in the vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, cumin, and lime juice.

Step 6: Bring to boiling and boil gently, uncovered, for five minutes. Stir together the cornstarch with 2 Tbsp. water. Add it to the corn mixture. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly.

Step 7: Meanwhile, prepare jars by washing and drying. Fill BWB canner and place jars inside on rack. Heat until almost boiling. Place lids in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then turn off heat and cover until needed.

Step 8: Once the jars are hot, leave them in the water until you are ready to fill them. When you are ready, drain the jars and place them on a towel to fill.

Step 9: Fill the hot jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace (space between the edge of the jar and the food). Using a canning funnel (and your mom) makes this step easy.

Step 10: run a plastic spatula around the inside of the jars to remove air bubbles. Wipe down the rims of the jars. Use a lid lifter (a stick with a magnet) to pull lids out of the simmering water and place them on the jars.

Step 11: Once the lids are placed, screw on the screw bands, just until fingertip tight (just until your fingers meet resistance when screwing on the bands).

Step 12: Place the filled jars into the heated BWB. Bring to boiling. Once at a rolling boil, let the jars process (boil in the water) for 15 minutes.

Step 13: After they have processed for the right amount of time, use a jar lifter (or tongs) to remove the jars from the canner. Place them on a towel in an out-of-the-way spot to cool completely (24 hours). Usually, if they are processed correctly, the jar lids will begin making a metallic popping sound as they seal. It’s a satisfying sound.

Step 14: After 24 hours, test the jars for a seal. If the lid does not give when you push on the middle, remove the screw bands. Gently try to lift the lid with your fingers. If it doesn’t lift, then you have a proper seal.

Don’t forget to label your lids with the product and date:

Store them in a cool dry place and enjoy the relish on burgers, nachos, or anything that needs a crunchy kick!

The Wife