Monday, October 19, 2009
Putting Food By
I looked in our freezer yesterday and was astonished to see how much I'd managed to squirrel away over the summer, from berries to rhubarb to stocks (fish, chicken and corn), as well as tomato sauce (roasted and smoked) and corn. Yippee! Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans, resident chef at the Montavilla Farmers' Market, has been a busy bee this summer, too, and says it's not time to hang up the apron just yet.
For those who preserve the bounty of summer, it's time to sit back and admire the fruits of your labor. How did you manage to put up that many jars of jam? And how quickly will your family devour every last bit, enjoying the slice of summer you managed to stow away? At this point in the season, you can relax, take a well-deserved breath, and count your inventory.
Or maybe you're one of those people who had the best intentions—you thought about making jam or pickles or even chutney, maybe even bought the produce—but the project never seemed to gel. You ate all the peaches instead of peeling and jarring them, they were just so darn good. And it seemed much easier just to throw the berries into the freezer rather than labor over a hot stove in the sweltering heat. (Bravo to you, now you have a stock of perfect berries to sooth the wintry blues.) But now you pine for a stocked pantry. It really would be nice to have some condiments on hand for holiday entertaining…
Well, fear not, the preserving season is far from over. In fact, some of my very favorite personal pantry items are made with the bounty that is just coming on. And thanks to our temperate NW climate, our growing season extends longer than it does in many areas. This increases the opportunity to preserve by both length of season and variety of product that our farmers are able to grow. (I just got a bag of pickling cucumbers from the market on Sunday—I could hardly believe it, I thought the season was long over!) So suit up and get back in the kitchen…come the holidays, you'll be glad you did.
Vanilla Pear Jam
Adapted from Perfect Preservesby Nora Carey
Makes 1 1/2 qts.
This jam is sweetened by the natural sugars in the pears and fruit juice. No additional sugar is required. It is perfect over pancakes, French toast or waffles, or use it to top ice cream or pound cake. Served with a biscuit and whipped cream, it makes a fun fall shortcake.
5 lbs. pears
Grated zest of 1 lemon plus 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 qts. unsweetened apple, pear or white grape juice
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Peel, quarter, and core the pears. Chop the pears into small cubes and toss them in a bowl with the lemon zest and juice. Set aside.
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, combine the fruit juice of your choice with the vanilla bean. Reduce the liquid by half over moderate heat. Remove the vanilla bean from the reduced juice. Add the pears and their liquid to the juice and bring the mixture to a boil over moderate heat. Cook the jam, stirring frequently, for 30-40 minutes, or until the jellying point is reached.
Spoon the jam into warm sterilized jars and seal. Process jars of jam in a boiling water bath (where the water just covers the tops of the jars) for 10 minutes. Let cool. Check the seals and store up to 1 year.