Peach Sriracha Butter.

One of the surprising blessings that came along with having children was getting to know my neighbors.  I live in a small neighborhood of about 3 streets wide, a collection of maybe 100 homes that before kids I knew nothing about.  Introverted by nature, I politely went about my day coming to and fro without much interaction with the community around me, exchanging a few pleasantries maybe but not really knowing anyone personally.  Kids changed that.  Suddenly, you begin to run into the same people while running after a toddling youngster: you discover that your kids play well with their kids, you are on a first name basis with every dog on the block, and you find that the people around you are really interesting and creative and lend a huge impact to your daily life.

Monday I spent part of the morning with a few lovely women as our children played hard together.  There seems to be an unstated rule that conversation can be quickly interrupted for any number of reasons, which is actually quite nice.  It frees you from the rigor of conducting yourself in a more proper manner; I've never felt like I've been very good at moderating the flow of conversation, so stopping one abruptly to run after a child and then starting up a new one suits me pretty well.

My friend Susan is a musician and we got to talking.  She was saying how she had material that had been on hold since before her son was born (5 years) and how she should never do that because it interrupts the process.  I immediately thought about my own creative processes.  If I don't take the time to document something that really inspires or excites me within a day or so of making it, I just let it go.  "Of the moment" is so much part of the thing that makes my writing mine, makes it relevant to me as I look back on it.

It's really not so unlike preservation as I capture that split second that the food goes in the jar, I also sieze the feeling around it - the light in the kitchen creating pictures that echo the weather outside and even the time of day I had the time to muster the thoughts to the page.  Making that time seems ever more difficult as the summer is in full swing and there are so many things that just pop up on a day to day basis.  Prioritizing my online life falls to the back of the line, even when there have been so many things worthy of sharing.

peach sriracha jam.
Food in Jars' Peach Sriracha Jam (Honey Sweetened Peach Chutney) I made last week.

The summer is the heaviest preserving season, and traditionally I think I've been much more creative than I've been this year.  Short both on time and money, I didn't overdo or overthink my pantry shelves.  I have smaller batches and just enough based on what was eaten most heavily last year.  Where I used to make the time to stand stirring the pot with excess, I now stirred it with just enough - thankful for it and happy I knew where to turn for solid recipes when I didn't have the wiggle room for experimentation.

I got peaches at two different times, and split both with  neighbors.  (You can read about the first peach adventure here.)  Quickly enamored of the honey-sweetened peach chutney that Marisa McClellan posted on her site Food in Jars, I turned to her latest book as the peaches softened and I felt guilty just eating them all standing alone over the sink.  I made the small batch last week and was totally addicted.  I had exactly 2 lbs. of precious peaches left, and got to thinking that making the recipe into a more homogenized butter might be a pretty swell idea.  It takes a little longer for the boiling butter to thicken and it spatters up the stove something terrible, but all in all I think it's worth it.  It's like a spicy peach ketchup, and I've been trying it on everything.  And, just as you'd suspect, it is good on everything.

peach sriracha butter.

Peach Sriracha Butter (adapted from Marisa McClellan's recipe in Preserving by the Pint)
yields about 2 half pints
  • 2 lbs. peaches, pitted and pureed (I used a Vitamix, but you could use a regular blender)
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 c. Sriracha sauce
Combine the peach puree, sugar, and lime juice in a preserving pot (I used a 3 quart shallow saute pan, despite the spattering issue).  Over medium high heat, cook and stir frequently until the butter reduced and thickens, 20-30 minutes.  You should be able to draw the spoon through the butter and the trail doesn't fill in quickly.  Just before hitting the right consistency (aim for a thick ketchup), stir in the Sriracha and bring back to a simmer until thickened.

Pour into sterilized jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Does anyone ever remember tossing out a bottle of Sriracha?  It seems to just last forever, and then disappear...

Peaches have now come and gone.  I really shouldn't dare make any more sweet preserves for the year,  but have enough extra for gifts and special occasions.  I have too many open jars of jam floating around the fridge in a never-ending tetris game of space.  I'll have to invite a lot of the neighbors over to help me polish them off!

Recent Preserving (Part 2)

It seems whenever Friday afternoon rolls around I become nostalgic in a way, for the way things were before I had my own family and the weekend loomed like a glittering jewel before me.  A good part of my single life, I held 2 jobs - and there were plenty of weekends spent working I'm sure, but in retrospect I had this miraculous thing called "free time" which seems to come with alarming infrequency lately.

Sunday afternoon, I got a couple of pounds of gooseberries from Klee's.  I made the time to work them into jam right away Monday morning since they were pink and soft.  They were mixed varieties, that when commingled with sugar transformed into a singular flavor that I still can't describe.  They are tropical I swear, a Midwestern answer to passionfruit.  My little tester jar of gooseberry jam the other week told me I should stop shy of the 220 degree gel point, so I boiled to 118 degrees and was rewarded with a softer set.  I'm going to write down the recipe, since it bears remembering my process. 


Gooseberries are naturally high in acid.  Green gooseberries higher of course than those that are picked and allowed to blush - but with the blush their tartness mellows just a bit and makes a "prettier" finished preserve.  There really aren't a whole lot of gooseberry jam recipes out there I noticed in my digging.  Even the county extension website was vague (and why don't those conventional sources use weights?? This plagues me:  I am a scaling addict.).  To be extra "safe", I added the juice of a half lemon.  There is definitely enough natural pectin that you should never dream of using a box of liquid or powder.

Gooseberry Jam 
yields about 4 half pints (I got 3 jars and one mostly full to eat now)
  • 2 lbs. gooseberries, tops and tails trimmed
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
Combine the gooseberries and water in a large preserving pot and smash casually with a masher to crush most of the gooseberries.  Heat over medium heat and cook until the gooseberries break down a little, about 10 minutes.  Then add the sugar and lemon juice, increase the heat to medium high and continue cooking, stirring regularly, until you reach your desired firmness - about 118 degrees as I mentioned above.  You'll feel the thickness of the jam increase as you stir, and the jam should sheet nicely off the spoon you are stirring with.

When the jam is ready, pour into sterilized jars, top with lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

gooseberry jam.
This week, I also did pickles.  My mother-in-law wanted a dozen jars and bought me a half bushel of cucumbers at the farmer's market on Tuesday.  By Tuesday evening, I had done 22 quarts (losing one to a broken jar).  I used my Gram's pickle recipe, misjudging the amount of brine I'd need two times, causing me to pause and make more.  That worked out all right, especially with a new baby walker anxious to try out his new skills at my feet in the kitchen.  Maybe I'll always associate his first steps with a mountain of pickles; that's kind of a nice thing.

This recipe is the only pickle that tastes like a real dill pickle to me.  The recipe is in my book

By late evening, I had the pickles mostly done.  I had about 5 pounds of cucumbers remaining and I was too tired to think about more pickles.  They sat for 2 days in the fridge before I put them to their final rest in jars.  I tried two kinds of refrigerator pickles that I'd not made before.  The first were these turmeric spiked whole dills that Ivy recommended.  I used the recipe as a template, since I was low on fresh dill.  I used Spice House pickling spice and extra dill seed.  I used Bragg's cider vinegar even though I "killed" it by heating it to a boil.  I love the taste of Bragg's so much that any other vinegar doesn't taste like vinegar to me.  A half recipe of the brine filled two quart sized jars just fine.

refrigerator pickle
This Weck jar is slightly bigger than a quart though, I think... 

I sliced the remaining pickles to 1/8 inch on my mandoline and made a big jar of refrigerator pickles.  I got the recipe from my Parents, who had gotten it from someone in the '90's.  I remember the plastic pail of bread and butter pickles as being too sweet and kind of flabby, not really my favorite things 20 years ago.  But I modified the recipe and so far I think they are one of my favorite pickles ever!  In part, because I left out all traces of celery seed.  There aren't many things I dislike, but I've come to the realization that celery seed is kind of one of them. 

I can't seem to keep my fork out of this jar.  After 2 days, the cukes are still pretty crisp.  I kind of winged the recipe, making just 1/4 of the brine (which was simply equal parts sugar and white vinegar, with the addition of 1 tablespoon of kosher salt), and adding a  half onion and extra brown mustard seed.  This recipe is so quick, just mix everything and pack it into a jar.  I'll give the proportions for a whole batch - but keep in mind it's pretty forgiving.  The cukes give off their own liquid when allowed to rest in the salted vinegar brine, so after a few more hours the jar above was completely filled with liquid.

Bread & Butter Pickles
  • 3/4 of an ice cream pail of thinly sliced cucumbers (remember when everyone ate ice cream from a gallon pail??) (I'd slice about 1/8 inch thick) 
  • 4 c. granulated sugar
  • 4 c. white vinegar
  • 1/4 c. salt
  • 1 1/2 t. turmeric (I added extra)
  • 1 1/2 t. mustard seed (I added extra)
  • 1 1/2 t. celery seed (I omitted it)
Combine everything in a large bowl (the ice cream pail if you are following the '90's approach) and mix well.  Place in the fridge and let sit for 4-5 days before eating if you can.  The pickles will last at least 6 months under refrigeration.  (I prefer to store in glass of course, I just mixed everything in a bowl and packed into the more-than-quart glass jar seen below.  I love that jar, my Mom gave me some honey in it once and I can't bring myself to give it back to her...)

bread & butter pickle

Part of the reason I might have a new-found love for these bread & butters is that I've been making single cucumber batches of James Peterson's Thai Cucumber Salad with Peanuts from his Kitchen Simple cookbook.  I am a voracious reader of cookbooks, and I think one of my favorite authors is James Peterson.  His books seem like friends to me, and the Kitchen Simple book in particular has become my trusted ally in quick summery eating.  His salad has equal parts sugar and rice wine vinegar (the unseasoned kind), some chile peppers and plenty of cilantro.  It's so good.  I'd imagine I could do up a quart similar to the bread and butters and munch on them for a month or so and I might just have to get more cukes to do that.

So what do I, "unemployed" for some 8 years already, do on a Friday evening now?  Afternoon has come and gone since I started writing this, and a spanakopita of sorts is just about to come from the oven, concocted of fresh chard and kale and some frozen spinach unearthed from the freezer.  The new baby walker opted out of a nap to practice his craft and is already asleep at 6 pm.  The window are flung wide open with the coolness of our most excellent summer weather ever.  I don't feel the pangs of sadness I once did that I don't do anything exciting come Friday night, instead I take pleasure in the hard work of the week and get ready for a country visit so I can hopefully bring some more work home with me.  It's really the best kind of life.

Mixed Citrus Marmalade.

I think I may have found the secret for bringing the sun back to our winter, and it's making marmalade.  I'm not talking about the sunny feel of the citrus or the sunny completion the finished preserves take on, I'm talking about the actual sun.  It's as if making a batch of this stuff actually worked as some variation on a rain dance, coaxing the sun from wherever it has mysteriously disappeared to the past several weeks.  I made this yesterday morning, and I've seen more sun streaming through my windows in the past 24 hours than in the past month.

marm jars

I've been patiently waiting to see organic blood oranges for about a month, and I just found them in my co-op last week.  I like to make at least one bright, citrussy thing in the winter, because it seems like there is all this time to fill - and there is no disputing that winter citrus is king of the fruit world.  Every November, like clockwork, I begin trying to squelch the absolute need I get for a good grapefruit, and by January they are hitting their stride.  Oranges seem to be reliably good from December on and I eat at least one a day, usually in my morning smoothie with plenty of ginger and sometimes some blueberry.  Cara Cara oranges pop up around January with their cross-flavor of sweet and tart; they're meaty and deep colored, but not as red as the blood orange.  Blood oranges appear last in my northern neck of the woods, and as Linda Ziedrich aptly said, they have kind of a berrylike essence.  I like that they aren't so sweet.  

blood oranges. 

And I like that I had my eye on a mixed citrus marmalade recipe in Diana Henry's new book Salt Sugar Smoke which focused on all my favorite types of citrus.  Her recipe called for Seville oranges, which I can't say I've ever seen here in Wisconsin.  I used navel oranges instead - and changed up her recipe a little in other ways too.  She used a method for making marmalade that I'd not used before: letting the peel soak in the citrus juices and water overnight before cooking down.  I like starting things the day before, so this was a favorable way to do things.  I'm not sure if it had much flavor contribution, but this turned out so well I'll likely do it the same way in the future.

She calls it "Nick's Good Morning Breakfast Marmalade", so named for Nick Selby who is a master jam maker and the English grocery and kitchen Melrose and Morgan, who gave her the recipe.  One taste makes me want to hop right over the pond to visit them in person, I'll tell you that.  My version strays slightly from the British originals, but it is still lovely.  Silky, barely set, and perfectly sunny in the deepest part of this never-ending winter.

citrus zest

Begin the day before, since the peel needs to soak for 8-12 hours.  I always weigh sugar in metric weights, so I can mix types and not worry about keeping track.  This one calls for 10 cups of sugar, which is ridiculous for my continuing quest at sugar consumption reduction, but it's absolutely worth it.  Use a raw sugar to feel a tinge less guilt.  Sharpen your chef knife to get the thinnest shreds of peel possible, and remember that organic citrus is best since you are eating the peels. 

Mixed Citrus Marmalade (adapted from Diana Henry & Nick Selby)
yields about 10 half pints
  • 1 pink grapefruit
  • 4 blood oranges
  • 3 navel oranges
  • 4-5 lemons total, divided (to equal 2/3 c. lemon juice and some zest)
  • 10 c. granulated or raw sugar (1916 g.)
Wash all citrus well.  Using a peeler, carefully peel grapefruit, oranges and 1 or 2 lemons (your choice), leaving as much of the white pith behind as possible.  Stack the peels and slice into thin shreds.  Put them into a large preserving pot (5 quart).

Next, juice all the citrus except the lemons into a large measuring cup.  Save the pulp and any seeds and tie them up into a square of cheesecloth.  After you have all the citrus juiced, add enough water to equal 10 cups and pour over the peel in the preserving pot.  Add the cheesecloth bag of pulp and seeds to the pot, stir well, and put a lid on it.  Let it stand 8-16 hours before continuing.

When ready to continue, prepare a hot water bath canner (and jars) and juice lemons to equal 2/3 c. lemon juice.  Measure out the sugar and have it standing by in a bowl.  Bring the preserving pot to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat and simmer, letting the peel cook until it is tender and the liquid has reduced by half (to 5 cups).  The peel will likely be soft sooner than the liquid reduces, so keep an eye on it and remove the peel with a slotted spoon or spider when it's done.  The whole process should take about 90 minutes.

After the liquid is reduced and the peel is soft, remove the cheesecloth bag and discard.  Stir in the lemon juice and sugar and stir to completely dissolve.  Bring back up to a simmer over medium high heat and skim any foam that forms.  After skimming is complete, add back the peels.  Stir frequently, and simmer until the marmalade gets to the set or gel stage (220 degrees, I let it go to about 223 degrees, it's not a heavily set preserve however.) Once it hits the gel stage, remove from the heat and let stand for about 10 minutes as you ready your sterilized jars.

Fill jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace and process in hot water bath canner for 10 minutes.  Remove to a towel lined counter and cool completely.


I left one jar uncanned to enjoy now, but the yield was right on.  I always have trouble distributing the peels evenly among the jars, but I suppose that's OK.  The peel of the grapefruit in particular adds a lingering bitterness that some might not love as much as I do.  When I consider giving away a few jars, I'll keep that in mind and hold back the ones for myself with the most peels!  Diana Henry said she reserves this marmalade specifically for morning toast, but I think the color and texture would be perfect to top a plain cheesecake or small tart.  I also think the thick syrup would be good mixed with seltzer water.  But I'll probably take her lead and hoard the jars for morning toast or other morning confections.  It's making me want to make a fresh batch of croissants or maybe some sourdough biscuits...

marm spoon

How not to can ground cherries.

ground cherries.

Sometimes, my mouth speaks before my head registers what is being said.  I'm also guilty of not being thankful on occasion, particularly when I'm hungry or tired.  A combination of these things were at play when my Mom informed me about a week ago that she was bringing me a peck of ground cherries.  "WHAT?" I had said, maybe too loud.  "I thought you liked them!" she said back.  And I do.  But a bit of sleep deprivation had maybe left me lackluster in wanting to experiment.  "What am I going to do with a peck of ground cherries?"

The first thing I needed to do was husk them.  My Husband was going to help, but I took advantage of too hot, mid-90's temps to hole up in my air-conditioned kitchen a few days ago when he was at work and husked them all myself.  I wasn't working super fast, and fortunately the babe was fast asleep for most of the time; I'm not lying that it took a few hours.  Just how many pounds is a peck of ground cherries, you ask?  Almost 5 1/2.

Now if there were some information out there about canning ground cherries, that would be helpful.  I called our extension office, and was then referred to a Madison food safety specialist who couldn't tell me how to can them whole, which is what my Mom suggested that I do with them.  I thought that Google would be a help, but after quite a bit of searching, I didn't find much.  I did find that the ground cherry is a pretty healthful thing to consume, its naturally high levels of pectin are good at keeping cholesterol in check, and it is an excellent source of vitamin A.  My logic told me that if they were preserved in an extra light sugar syrup, they should be shelf stable... but please don't take my word on it, as I was not able to confirm it anywhere.  (For the record, I processed the pint jars in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.)

how not to can ground cherries.

I decided to raw pack the ground cherries, not remembering to take into account the likelihood of fruit float.  The combination of raw packing and using an extra light syrup increased the chances, and my 6 pints (which held all but about 1 1/2 lbs. of the ground cherries) all appear half full.  In the future, I will try to pack them hot, letting the fruit simmer for 5 minutes or so to release some of the liquid.  I might also do a heavy syrup despite all my attempts at lowering my sugar consumption.  I'm not considering this a total fail however, because the syrup turned a bright golden yellow, and I'm looking forward to the surprise of a delicious syrup when I open my first jar.


Before experimenting with canning whole ground cherries, I did do up a little batch of the Chai Flavored Ground Cherry Preserves I made last year.  I forgot how great it was - and I think this batch was even better because I used a premium loose chai tea.  On buttered sourdough toast, I can't think of a better way to welcome fall.

chai flavored ground cherry preserves.

So my week-long project of processing ground cherry is complete, and in retrospect, I feel kind of bad for wondering aloud why my Mom would grace me with so much of this beguiling little fruit.  As I sat peeling back their little parchments I had plenty of time to think - and plenty of time to appreciate my parents and how thoughtful they both are, even when I am tired and sometimes say the wrong thing.  The golden jars of ground cherries neatly tucked on the shelves will remind me to be thankful for so many things, the change in seasons, the quiet wholesomeness of working with my hands, the prosperity of Wisconsin's land in late summer.   Little fruits that grow in their own wrappers, appearing to take flight.

on wings.

Of Yellow Transparents and Dolgo Crabapples...

The other day my friend Deena told me (that one of her friends told her) that with kids you could do all of the same things as you could do without kids — it just now takes twice as long, and is half as fun.  I'm not sure about the half as fun part, but boy does the twice as long ring true.  

Last Saturday, I bartered a pan of cinnamon rolls for some overripe (but still sauce worthy) Yellow Transparent apples from Klee's Out on a Limb Acres.  Standing out in the orchard, the baby resting in the shadow of an apple tree, chatting with Omer about things was just about the best way to spend a Saturday morning, and as I had suspected even before leaving home, I was inspired by the ripening orchard and came home with more than I figured on.  All in all I've been pretty good this year about not over-preserving especially the sweet spectrum of things.  But when my new orchardist friend was telling me about Dolgo crabapples, how beautiful the jelly is that they make, how he used to help his grandmother pick them for preserving and ate so many in their un-sugared tart state:  I just had to get some to play around with.  One smell of them sealed the deal.

dolgo crabapple

Then I ate one fresh from the tree.  Though super tart, once my mouth was accustomed to it I could really taste how they could be transformed into something amazing, if not just eaten plain as Omer did as a child.  They were beautiful looking as well, like near red balloons when freshly picked.  As they sat around my house for a few days, they seemed to deepen in color.  They infused the lot of my preserving this week with their cheerful bright pink.  

After getting home Saturday afternoon, I steamed down 4 pounds of them right away and let the juice strain for jelly.  I'm quite sure I've never worked with a fruit with such a good amount of natural pectin, the juice was silky and thick, bracing to taste on its own, but really not unpleasantly sour.  I got to making the jelly yesterday and got almost 4 half pints... I may have over cooked it just a little, but I'm not worried about it since the flavor is so good.

crabapple jelly
crabapple jelly.

I still had quite a few crabapples left over, and I remembered my Dad saying how much he liked whole spiced crabapples that his grandmother used to can.  Never having tried one, I tried not to remember the awful, fake red spiced apple slices that I'm sure I've eaten on more than one occasion at a Friday night fish fry with endless salad bar.  I looked in my Ball book to see about that, and settled on a recipe that looked pretty straightforward and old-fashioned.  I added ginger and used powdered allspice after there were no allspice berries to be seen at my co-op this morning.  The result was amazing, just like I knew it would be... and not at all like those garish nibbles on the side of a Friday night salad plate.

spiced whole crabapples

Whole Spiced Dolgo Crabapples (adapted from Ball's Complete Book of Home Preserving)
yields 5-6 pints
  • 8 cups stemmed Dolgo crabapples, pricked with a fork (about 4 lbs.)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 T. whole cloves (place them in a tea ball, or tie in cheesecloth)
  • 1 t. powdered allspice
  • 2 fat coins of ginger, each about 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 3 c. water
  • 2 1/2 c. white vinegar
In a large preserving pot, combine spices, ginger, sugar, water and vinegar.  Heat over medium high heat, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer the syrup for 10 minutes.  Add crabapples and return the syrup to a boil, stirring very gently once in a while.  Reduce the heat and just simmer the crabapples until nearly tender, about 10-20 minutes.  (They might try to burst along the seam where you pricked them with a fork if the heat is too hot.  I aimed for "al dente" apples...)

Meanwhile, ready a hot water bath and heat freshly washed pint jars.  (I like to hold them in a 250 degree oven, and pull them out just prior to filling.)

When crabapples are tender, use a slotted spoon to pack them into hot jars, leaving a 1/2 inch headspace.  Ladle hot syrup into the jars to cover the apples, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.  Release any air bubbles and adjust syrup level accordingly. 

Apply lids and rings, and process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.  Remove the canner from the heat and let the jars stand in the hot water for 5 minutes before removing to a towel lined counter to cool completely.

spiced whole crabapples

Before I had even tackled the crabapples, I made my year's supply of applesauce.  Before a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of a Yellow Transparent apple:  so named for the pale yellow skin that looks nearly invisible.  I found a website, Orange Pippin, that lists apple varieties, tasting notes, and other attributes, and found that the Yellow Transparents are a good bet for sauce.  When I finally saw the apples in person, Omer explained that they are notoriously short lived, and when overripe, they can pop almost like a kernel of corn.  First, he had me taste an overripe apple, which was mealy and lightweight for its size.  Despite the negative marks against it, it did have good flavor, and when I then tried a perfectly ripe apple, I could see why people seek out this gem of a fruit.  

yellow transparent apples
Overripe on the left, perfect specimen on the right.

Fortunately, even the overripes were excellent for sauce. I added several crabapples to the pot as I started cooking them down to infuse the sauce with a little pink color; the extra pectin in the crabapples was just a bonus, and the finished sauce was sweet-tart and silky.  I added no sugar.


All told, I got 17 pints of applesauce, which I was very thankful for after not making any at all last year.  Not bad for a pan of cinnamon rolls!  I had my older son help me turn the crank on my Gram's old Victorio strainer, and after all of the sauce was finished and resting we helped ourselves to big bowls full of still warm fresh pink sauce.

So it's true it took me 4 days to work through what normally would have taken me about 32 hours or less, but it was still pretty fun.  Estimating the newest boy's sleeping pattern sometimes worked and sometimes didn't, and having an extra pair of hands to hopefully learn a bit about preserving and to help in the kitchen was nice too.  I sure hope both of my boys will grow up and be as excited as I am to see things growing and have the pleasure of preserving it!