Linda Zeidrich

Mango Jam with Cayenne and Black Pepper

It may be safe to say I'll never make another jam without adding some chile peppers to it. I'm addicted. I'll even go as far as to say that I like jam better when it has a hint of the other side of sweet, an afterthought of calm warmth in my mouth. This morning when I woke up earlier than normal (after going to bed much later than usual), instead of feeling groggy and somewhat fuzzy, I felt invigorated and inspired.

My hands are on the mend, and after cleaning up a few dishes from a small dinner party last night I turned to the mangoes that were meant both for mango lassis and frozen storage for future smoothies. All of a sudden, I found a pot of jam on the stove and an excellent breakfast in my belly comprised of mango pits gnawed as clean as cobs of corn.

mango cutting

Mangoes appear to be perfectly in season, and I say this purely based on flavor and not any previous knowledge of when exactly a mango tree is actually prolifically in season. Mangoes are also dirt cheap right now, and armed with the previously culled and stored knowledge that they are a fruit very sensitive to pesticides (and thus rarely sprayed), I usually enjoy the non-organic variety of this fruit. I commonly see the larger, human-heart sized blushing green variety I presume come from Hawaii, but when I find good prices on the smoother fleshed, slender yellow "champagne" mangoes, I get really excited and sometimes go overboard on purchasing them. They taste like exotic peaches, impossibly smooth and slippery in your mouth, and completely without the fibrous tendencies of the more common mangoes. They are mango sophisticates.


I had a couple of varieties of mango already in my possession, and the jam bug hit as I began cubing them up for the freezer. Last week, I moved a jar of cayenne peppers I had dried from my garden last Summer, and I figured mango jam would do well to include that deep, red friend. I also used a combination of orange and lime juices, predominately because I didn't have more than a single lime. I made the most of it by zesting it and including that zest towards the end of the jamming stage. Multiple spoonfuls of boiling jam pot goodness, and this image of Tigress's pepper spiked preserved kumquats, had me also reaching for the pepper grinder...

lime zest

Mango Jam with Cayenne and Black Pepper (inspired by Linda Ziedrich, Hungry Tigress)

my yield was 3 half pints and 1 3/4 pint jars
  • 2 lbs. mango, peeled and diced
  • 2 cayenne peppers, stemmed and roughly chopped (I left the seeds in)
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  • enough juiced orange to equal 1/2 c. when added to the lime juice
  • coarsely ground black pepper to taste,
  • 3 c. (574 g.) sugar (I used raw sugar)

Combine the mangoes, cayenne peppers, lime and orange juices in a preserving pot and cook gently over medium low heat until the mangoes soften and are tender. After they have softened, mash lightly with a masher then add sugar. (Taste, and if it isn't hot enough for you, add more cayenne pepper or powdered cayenne pepper.)

Increase the heat to medium, stirring frequently to make sure all the sugar has dissolved. When sugar has dissolved, raise the heat to medium high, add several grinds of coarse black (tellicherry) pepper and boil until a spoonful of jam mounds up when placed on a chilled dish. Stir in the lime zest.

Ladle jam into sterilized and still hot jam jars (use pint, 3/4 pint, or half pint jars), and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

mango jam with cayenne and black pepper
mixed app iPhone pic homage to Tigress...

This chile spiked mango jam has a nice soft heat balanced with peachy sweetness. I can't wait to eat it on grilled cheeses and with cheese (which is my new favorite way to eat jam, I think). It may make a nice seltzer drink, or when thinned, a terrific sauce for vanilla ice cream or a topping for some rich, creamy cheesecake. Half the fun of making a new jam is deciding what to lop spoons of it onto!

My idea of jam making has changed so much in the past few years. I used to think that I could only make jam with fruit that I'd grown myself and in huge batches - probably reminiscent of the way my family preserved jam when I was growing up. Thanks to so many small-batch preservers, I've made stellar little 4 jar experiments with supermarket fruit that have slyly surprised me with their deliciousness. I've grown bold, adding herbs and spices to things I'd never considered, thanks to so many of my favorite preservers - maybe I will make it my 2012 mission to add chiles to everything I pop into jars.

mango jam with cayenne and black pepper

Fall Preserving: Grape Jellies and Other Tales of Grapeness

You may remember that this year I've been so inspired by Linda Ziedrich and her book The Joys of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves that I've made nearly all of my jams and jellies this year without commercial pectin. I love the textures of these preserves so much more than their boxed pectin counterparts, and because they usually have less sugar, the flavor of the fruit really seems to shine through in an exotic way.

I have loved her book so much, that all season I felt like I first procured the fruit, and then turned to the section discussing the fruit to decide what to do with it. When I got a half bushel of Concord grapes from my Parents, I had already earmarked enough grapes for one batch of boxed pectin-free jelly, an amount for drinking vinegar, and some for grape molasses.

I have never really heard of grape molasses, never have I tasted it or do I have any idea what the finished texture should be like. In fact, my finished product is still in a bowl in my fridge (about a week now), since I am still unsure what to do with it. It's riddled with tartaric acid crystals, but it is also thickened, almost "pulpy", and painfully grapey. There is no added sugar, so the grapeness of the grapes is just really intensified and luxurious. Just lifting the lid makes the air feel purple.

I may take it out later today and boil it down a little more, I may can some of it into small jars for gifts - or I may just keep it all in the fridge and commit to eating it over the next 6 months myself. Yesterday, I cooked down a grocery bag full of Cortland apples and turned them into sauce, I'm waiting until tomorrow to can it all. If I can find a definitive authority on the acidity of the Concord grape, I may add some to my pints of applesauce. The idea of purple applesauce is very exciting to me!

an old French food mill that my Mom gave me: how I derived my grape must for the grape molasses, since I have no fruit press.

With several fruits I've worked with this Summer, I've made a drinking vinegar that I have been in love with. So far the cherry vinegar is my favorite, but I have a feeling this grape vinegar will take a close second after I strain and sweeten it. I have used the same method for each fruit or berry, one outlined in the River Cottage Preserves Handbook. I don't cook down it into a more syrupy vinegar, instead I barely heat it - just enough to fully dissolve the sugar. Since I use raw apple cider vinegar, I am able to keep it raw this way. It's great on salad, but I have to admit, I really have just been drinking it 2 tablespoons at a time in sparkling water. (The elderberry version, I save for when I feel a cold coming on. I'm convinced that it shortens the duration of a cold or prevents it from fully forming altogether. When I took it 2 times a day after my first cold of the season was underway, my cold was gone completely after 2 days. I'm not making it up... and I hope it wasn't a fluke!)

To make it, soak 2 1/4 lbs. of fruit or berry in 2 1/2 c. of raw cider vinegar for 5-7 days. Strain out the fruit (I press it to get all the juices). For every cup of vinegar, add 1 c. of sugar and heat just enough to dissolve the sugar. Yes, it is sweet, but you don't need much to flavor a drink or a vegetable, and you can comfort yourself with the idea of consuming raw, healthful vinegar.

With the molasses and vinegars done, I turned to the natural pectin of green apple to make a spectacular small batch of grape jelly. The flavor is so clean and it's so gently sweet that I can't help but be smitten. I have a precious 3 jar batch, plus just a tad shy of a 4th full jar of runover. The set can only be described as lovely and old fashioned. I'll have to grab more grapes next year, since I prefer this tenfold over conventional high-sugar box-pectin grape jelly.

natural pectin grape jelly.

With just a few pounds of grapes remaining, I made this grape focaccia from Mostly Foodstuffs. I had been looking forward to it, and I wasn't disappointed. It's better than any focaccia I've ever eaten; I was addicted to the sweet/salty/grapey combination, and how it all pulled together so well because of the rosemary. It was also the fastest yeast dough I've ever made. It may require your lazy attention for the first 30-40 minutes of it's life, but it is so self-sufficient it practically makes itself. If you can get your hands on a cup of Concords, make it while you can!

The combination of rosemary and Concord grape was such a revelation to me that I immediately soaked the last of the grape concentrate I had already made in the fridge with 3-4 large sprigs of rosemary needles. I let it sit another 24 hours before making it into a conventional, high sugar jelly. I wasn't sure I'd like it as well after having such a spectacular luck with the boxed pectin-free jelly, but I did. It was very sweet and the texture was different, but it did taste like rosemary in that resinous, "what is that flavor" kind of way. I got 8 jars, too... perfect for gift giving (with some aged Wisconsin cheddar, I think).

Concord Grape and Rosemary Jelly (adapted from the Certo liquid pectin insert)
7 half pints, plus runover
  • 4 c. Concord grape concentrate (made from 3-4 lbs grapes, steamed and strained through a jelly bag)
  • 3-4 large sprigs of rosemary, needles removed
  • 1 pouch liquid pectin
  • 7 c. granulated sugar (1341 g.)
Stir rosemary needles into the grape concentrate, and let sit for 24 hours to infuse. Strain out the needles.

Sterilize jars (I used 8 half pints). I like using the oven for sterilization now - I put the clean jars on a baking sheet and slip it into the cold oven. Heat the oven to 250 and hold for at least a half an hour. Then, I grab the jars a couple at a time as I'm filling with a potholder.

Put the grape concentrate and sugar into a preserving pot. Heat and stir over medium high heat until the mixture comes to a rolling boil. Add pectin, and return to a boil for exactly one minute. (Refer to insert instructions.) Quickly ladle into sterilized jars, add lids and rings, and process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes. Remove to a resting towel, and do not disturb for at least 24 hours.

Interspersed with all the grapeness, I also managed to work my way through a bushel of tomatoes last week. I didn't need to worry about quarts of whole tomatoes or pints of spaghetti sauce, since my Mom did both of those for me. I felt like I had those tomatoes to really do whatever I wanted with, and since they were canner's seconds, I was just a little at the mercy of the big, watery, tomatoes. I settled on well-cooked-down things like another batch of my favorite Tomato Jam, a 3/4 batch of Classic Tomato Ketchup (a first for me, and I loved it!), and I made the last 8 lbs. or so into a mildly spicy vegetable "Bloody Mary Mix" which worked well with the consistency of my tomato variety. It seemed like a busy preserving week, but I was happy with everything, and my shelves feel considerably more full.

What continues to stand out to me is that Concord Grape and Rosemary Jelly, and I think in the depths of Winter I can probably make a plain focaccia bread and slather it with the jelly to reminisce the flavor of this Fall's flavor epiphany.

Preserving Sour Cherries.

I really never got addicted to sour cherries until 2 years ago. I popped a couple into my mouth at the West Allis Farmer's market, and my life was forever changed. I'm not really sure why I never ate them before, or sought to look for them. They were something rare, something I never grew up eating.

Last year, I missed the fleeting season altogether - in part because I didn't go to many farmer's markets because I joined a CSA, and in part because the season was not prolific due to our extremely rainy Spring. I made my last jar of tart cherry jam last longer than I should have but by the time July rolled around, I started perusing the Wisconsin Cherry Grower's site nearly daily, paranoid that I was going to miss them again and my memory of tart cherry jam was going to have to hold me for another year.

All of a sudden, there was a cherry explosion. I first saw tiny crates at the Farmer's market last Tuesday, little ruby drops of North Star and Montmorency varieties - gems that put Wisconsin on the gourmet foods map. There really is nothing like a sour cherry, nothing that approximates it's piquant sweetness, and popping the first handfuls into my mouth fueled my growing cherry appetite even more.

When Peef and Lo asked if I'd be interested in getting a substantial amount of cherries from Cherryland's Best, I originally thought I'd split some with another food blogger. But the longer our discussions went, the more we all decided that we could each manage to make 27 lbs. of cherries into something. The way I downed my first little basket, I wondered if 27 lbs. would actually be enough. I imagined myself to sleep by pitting cherries until my fingers hurt, waking early so excited for Wisconsin sour cherries and the task to preserve them all.

I was more than surprised when my cherries came in and they were "processed". A food grade, white pail heavy with already pitted fruits in their own natural, accumulated juices. I drove my haul back home, cracked open the pail, shoveled a handful of tart cherries into my mouth. I was so happy, and I didn't have to pit anything! As soon as I gave my Kiddo lunch, I portioned off my plan of attack. In less than 24 hours, here is what became of the 27 lbs. of cherries:

3 lbs. for the Sour Cherry Jam
2 1/2 lbs. for Limey Rum Sour Cherry Preserves (inspired by Linda Ziedrich, recipe below)
1 lb. for the Bachelor's Jam
3 lbs. for dehydration
2 1/4 lbs. for vinegar
7 1/2 lbs. for quarts canned in light syrup, one jar lost to explosion :(
2 lbs. for cherry crisp
1 lb for fresh eating
just shy of 2 quarts of accumulated cherry juice

I haven't done too much fruit dehydration, and I knew I would be shocked at how much moisture is lost in the process. Of the 3 lbs. of fresh cherries, the finished weight of dried cherries was under a half pound. They are sweeter, and would remind me of a dried cranberry if I didn't know better. After drying them, I put them in the freezer just to make sure any extra moisture doesn't cause them to mold on me. I'll likely use some in my Stollen this year.

bachelor's jam.
I first read about bachelor's jam last year, and was fascinated with the idea of it. Fruit is layered as it comes into season with sugar and kept submerged in alcohol (I used brandy) until ready to use. The "jam" comes from stirring up the boozy fruits and straining them out of the alcohol - each to be used as a separate component to holiday entertaining I'd imagine. I can't wait to make cakes topped with the fruit, to taste the finished alcohol that right now I can only imagine as being extremely sweet.


I feel like flavoring purchased vinegar is totally cheating. I also feel like I have failed miserably at making vinegars, the only success being the blueberry apple variety. The beautiful vat of Lemberger wine that was gifted to me became plagued with black mold, the rhubarb version met the same demise. I still love the flavor of vinegar, especially Bragg's cider vinegar, and put the fruit to steep as recommended in Pam Corbin's River Cottage Preserves Handbook. Next week, I'll strain it, sugar it, and reduce it - where it will be a clever addition to pan sauces and maybe even yogurt. (Note: I decided not to heat the vinegar past the warming point, just enough to dissolve the sugar. This way, the Bragg's vinegar remains raw and healthful despite all of the sugar. It is delicious mixed with ice and seltzer as a shrub.)

the beginning of Limey Rum Cherry Preserves.

Inspired to make more boxed-pectin-free jams this year, I have been devouring the recipes in Linda Zeidrich's The Joys of Jams Jellies and Other Sweet Preserves. Sweet Preserves are something that I never really understood: too thin to be considered a jam, they sit clumsily on toast or pared up with nut butters. They are achingly sweet. I made a strawberry preserves not too long ago that seemed good, but on the sweet side. I felt that when the heat of Summer subsided, they would taste better. But then I made this sour cherry version of preserves - and now my opinions have changed.

Yes, it is sweet. But the texture and viscosity is so lovely that I think it has sold me on the idea of preserves. I used (by weight) raw sugar, which when I smelled in in tandem with the sour cherry, made me think it needed rum. And lime. Instead of lemon, I switched to lime, and in short order, my first tweaked preserves were born.

after boiling 5 minutes, and sitting 12 hours. or maybe a tad longer...

This preserves starts 8-12 hours before the canning process takes place. The sugar combines with the fruit and coaxes the gorgeous juices into being.

Limey Rum Sour Cherry Preserves (adapted from Linda Zeidrich)
my yield: 5 half pints
  • 2 1/2 pounds sour cherries, pitted, any juices saved
  • 5 c. sugar (I used 958 g. of raw sugar, converted by this site)
  • zest of one lime (I use the small, "true" limes)
  • 2 T. lime juice, from the zested lime)
  • 1/4 c. dark, spiced rum
In a large, non-reactive pot, combine the cherries, lime zest, and sugar and let sit covered for at least 1 hour. The sugar should have drawn out some of the juice.

Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring gently and occasionally, until sugar dissolves completely. Raise heat to medium high, and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat, and cover with a cloth. Let the pan stand at room temperature for 8-12 hours.

Set the pan over medium heat and add lime juice. Bring to a boil, and raise heat to medium high. Boil, stirring often (skimming any foam) until the syrup thickens a little. (I tested by using frozen plates - I boiled away for at least 35 minutes until I was happy with the thickness.) Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the rum.

Ladle into half-pint jars. Add lids and rings, and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Since I made these preserves early this morning, I used the skimmed foam (there wasn't much) with an equal part maple syrup for this morning's pancakes. For some reason, I still am not cherried out:

After breakfast, I debated what to do with most of the remaining cherries. I wavered between canning in extra light syrup or freezing, and the canning won out. There's something about seeing quarts of cherries on the shelf, I guess - and the bonus of having some light cherry syrup to contend with...

6 went in, 5 came out...

I talked to my Mom for a good amount of time today, and she was surprised I wasn't making any desserts. "No cherry pies?" I have a serious weakness when it comes to sweets. If I make them, I eat them, if I don't make them, I don't even really crave them. I asked my Husband if he would eat a crisp. "Like, an apple crisp?" he asked, oblivious of the huge white pail that was still sitting on the counter... "No, like cherry crisp," I stated, maybe just a tad annoyed. He said he probably would eat it, so that was the only extra push I needed to make it.

I forgot that I should never NEVER use tapioca flour to thicken pies/tarts/crisps and the like, since I absolutely detest the flavor it imparts. After the crisp baked the first time, I dismembered it crisp from filling and cooked the filling on the stovetop with more sugar to mask the flavor. I also added probably too much cinnamon. Then, I reassembled the crisp into a new, shallower pan, topped with additional crumble (I had only used half the amount the first time, and froze the rest), and re-baked for a half hour. I was much happier.

Have I eaten my fill of cherries yet? I'm not sure. I'm so thankful I have such beautiful preserves to take me through the winter, to give as gifts. And, I'm surprised that it didn't seem like so much work to get it all done in less than a day. Thank you Peef and Lo for thinking of me, and thank you Cherryland's Best for amazing fruit, and less work!

Strawberries. With Chiles.

Strawberry jam has never really been one of my favorite things, though the strawberry itself is. I I feel that not much can improve the natural sweetness of early Summer berries, and adding a boatload of sugar to jam boosts that sweetness to a level that almost makes my teeth hurt just thinking about it. Nevertheless, I make strawberry jam every year.

My strawberry season is late this year. My 16 quarts of Amish grown and picked berries were delivered to me last weekend by my Parents, who came to celebrate the Kiddo's birthday. The berries were close to the final picking, and were smaller than the first pickings, but they were sweet and delicious and I was thankful for them.

In the past, my strawberry jam was always made with boxed pectin, but as a recent convert to pectin-free jams I may just find that my stigma against strawberry jam is over. Although the sugar is still high, the soft set of the jam is much more desirable to me - and deciding to add some chiles to the jam pot tempers the too-sweet phenomenon with a deep earthy undertone.

I've seen a number of strawberry-chile recipes around, and originally thought I'd make this one: Tigress's Strawberry Chipotle jam. I do love chipotle, but thought that making a batch may limit my consumption and gifting options. Chipotle is a strong chile flavor, and although I love it, I wanted a soft, what-is-that? flavor. Ever remembering Rick Bayless's words declaring the stately Guajillo chile the "workhorse", I dipped into my large bagful and chose two brick red specimens to include.

I based the recipe on Linda Zeidrich's Strawberry Orange Jam in The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves. I altered her method a little, since I combined all the ingredients and let them sit at room temperature for about 24 hours. I think 12 hours would have sufficed. I didn't mash the berries until I began to cook them down. Curious as I am, I lifted the lid on the pot several times when the berries were relaxing. I knew orange and guajillo worked well on pork, and figured they could only improve berries too - but the seductiveness of strawberry-guajillo jam was too interesting for words. Spoons dipped in, I followed the mellowing process to discover the chiles adding the mildest bit of heat, but the strongest undertone of warmth. Indeed, the finished jam coated the back of my throat in coziness, a nice departure from the tongue-stinging bite I usually demand from chile. This is one recipe that I'll be making for a long time I think.

Strawberry Guajillo Jam with Orange (adapted from Linda Zeidrich)
my yield was 6 half pints
  • 3 lbs. strawberries, hulled
  • 1 medium sized orange
  • 2 dried guajillo chiles, stemmed (use the seeds as well)
  • 4 1/2 c. sugar
Remove the zest of the orange with a peeler, and slice into thin shreds. Squeeze out the orange juice and add to the berries in a non-reactive preserving pot. Chop the guajillo chiles into small pieces and add to the pot. Add sugar, stir carefully to combine, and let the pot sit covered at room temperature for 8-12 hours, or longer if you have to.

When ready to make the jam, heat the pot over medium heat and stir gently to fully dissolve the sugar. Raise the heat, continue cooking until the jam boils, mashing with a masher to break up the fruit as desired and skimming off the foam, until a drop of jam mounds slightly in a dish. (I had a number of dishes in the freezer to use as testers, but didn't use them at all. You can really feel when the consistency of the jam changes as you stir.)

Ladle the jam into sterilized jars, add lids and rings, and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath.

(I have not made my own pectin, which I plan on trying. This can be done with high-pectin fruit such as green apple or gooseberry. My jams boiled away for quite a while before reaching the jam point, the added pectin would reduce that. But like I've said before, if I'm rich in anything, it's time...)

after sitting overnight.

the finished jam. softly set, perfectly gorgeous.

I actually bought the Linda Ziedrich book I mentioned above for my Mom this past Mother's Day. I had rented and read it from the library, and figured that she and I both would enjoy the use of it in our own shared library. She brought it down when she came, and I hungrily reread the opening "Preserver's Primer" where Linda gives an overview of the history of preserving and the tables of pectin and acid contents of fruits. Then, I happily skipped to the recipes on strawberries, figuring to choose 2. Thinking of shrunken heads and whole fruit preserves, I made the extremely high sugar strawberry preserve recipe. I didn't add anything to her recipe, though next time I may like a little diversity. The berries did turn out well, very sweet, and I think this will be a case where I use the preserve in something else that tames the sweetness rather than to slather it heavily on jam.


I had just a little 2 oz. jar leftover that I could taste when fully cool, and it was still super sweet. the berries were a great texture, however.

Now 10 jars of jam are resting on the shelf, but my favorite strawberry preservation method is just to hull, wash, dry and pack the whole berries into quart jars and then freeze them. Of my more than 16 lbs of berries, 5 1/2 were made into jam, a pound or two disappeared in fresh eating, and the rest are frozen in the deep freeze. I can usually finagle a few frozen berries out with a butter knife for smoothies, or better, I defrost a whole quart. When the berries are still half frozen, I cut them in half or quarters, and sprinkle them with just a bit of sugar. Then, they taste like their true strawberry selves, even if not able to be spread thickly upon bread. (Though if the bread has cream cheese on it first, it will work in a pinch!)

It seems I can never appropriately judge the volume of a container; I can't tell you how much extra dish washing I have done because of this. I suspect I've lost a week of my time to poor judgement, but I find it kind of funny. Frequently I can be overheard talking to myself - congratulating myself on my great spacial handicap, but fortunately the errors in my judgement usually only pertain to volume.

When I add chiles to sweets or savories, it always proves to be good judgement, and makes up for any disheartening times I've had meanwhile. I'm imagining even now that a spoonful of strawberry-guajillo jam stirred into hot chocolate may be transcendent, though I will wait until Fall for that. Meanwhile, I'll wonder if there is anything that the Guajillo can't do. I'm not sure I love any other chile more.