Friday, April 23, 2010

Strawberry, Rhubarb and Lavender Jam

Okay, so major props go out to my husband, Joe, who pretty much did all the prep-work, dishes and cleanup for this recipe (and also these spicy beans). Only he knows how much being a part of this
Click for tigress can jam food blog challenge
means to me, and would basically make the whole batch, while I dictated from the couch, nauseated and exhausted.
I was amazed at how quickly we went through the first batch of strawberry jam; and because Floridian strawberries were shamefully rotting in fields due to a cheap influx of California strawberries, we decided to make more strawberry jam. We were careful to purchase local strawberries, though for the price I can't imagine the farmer made much profit. If only more people supported, or were even aware, of the locavore movement, such wasteful tragedies would not happen.
The rhubarb was thrown in just for fun, and lavender was the only herb from our herb garden that survived this Florida's winter.

5 1/2 pint jars, lids and rings, sterilized
2 # strawberries, hulled and halved
1 # rhubarb, chopped
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 1/2 cups sugar
2 TBSP lavender, minced

Add strawberries, rhubarb, lemon juice and sugar in a pot. Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer. Cook down until syrupy, skimming off foam as it collects. Mine took about 40 minutes. At the last minute stir in lavender, ladle into jars and process 5 minutes.

The jam is classic, with a perfect "set". The lavender tricks your taste buds into thinking you may be eating honey. We had it on crackers with cheese and it was delicious. I could also well imagine it on pancakes or waffles. It is very sweet, though. If I made it again I might cut down the sugar and use pectin.

Joe & Elle's Spicy Green Beans

I made these with pretty much one intention for their destination: as swizzle sticks for Bloody- or virgin ;)- marys. Here it is:

4 pint jars, lids and rings- sterilized
2 1/4 cups white vinegar
2 1/4 cups water
2 TBSP pickling salt
1 1/2 # green beans
1 onion, quartered
4 cloves garlic, sliced
4 hot dried chili peppers
4 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp peppercorns

Trim beans; bring water, vinegar and salt to a boil. Divide beans, onion, garlic, chilis, mustard seeds and peppercorns among the jars. Fill with brine and process 5 minutes.

Pickled Jalapenos and Jalapeno Jam Fail

So, I'm getting pretty good at this pickling thing, and I love that I can use a basic 50/50 water to vinegar ratio and add whatever spices strike my fancy. I busted out these pickled jalapenos just like an old pro:

4 1/2 pint jars, lids and rings- sterilized
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
1 TBSP + 1 tsp canning salt
1 TBSP sugar
4 cloves garlic
12 peppercorns
12 jalapenos, sliced

Bring vinegar, water, salt and sugar to a boil. Cover and set aside. Divide garlic, peppercorns, and jalapenos into the jars. Fill jars with brine and process 5 minutes.

The jam, however, is a very different story. All I can surmise is that I did the "cold plate" test incorrectly. I dutifully put the plate in the freezer before I began the jam. When I thought it may have reached the proper consistency, I removed the plate and placed a drop on, then pushed my finger into it. No wrinkle. Cook some more. Again, no wrinkle. Several times I did the test, as the jam was becoming more and more thick. But still no wrinkle. Finally, the jam turned brown and I ended up with what was, essentially, jalapeno hard-rock candy.
Upon recollection, I should have placed the test jam BACK into the freezer for a minute, before performing the push-through. Other things could have gone wrong, as well, and if you have any suggestions please let me know! I really want to be able to do this!
I should have thrown it out then and there, but being a stubborn Capricorn I processed it anyways. The end result (only 2 small jars by the time I cooked it down that far) was so utterly disgusting and inedible that I really would have thrown it out- jars and all. My husband, though, would not let those two jars go to waste, and decided to clean them out. I wasn't around for it, but he tells me it took three minutes in the microwave just to get the substance malleable enough to put down the drain.
No big loss, and better luck next time!