A dedicated group of would-be canners braved the heat and gathered to glean some wisdom from seasoned canner Nadia Hassani during last Wednesday’s gourmet jam class. Nadia is the author of Spoonfuls of Germany, a gourmet German regional cookbook and a food enthusiast friend of Phoebe Canakis of Phoebe’s Pure Food (who has taught several classes during our cooking class series.)
The class began with Nadia dispelling a few urban canning legends: while many recipes recommend using firm, under ripe fruit, she recommends using fruit at the peak of its ripeness for optimum flavor. She also mentioned that some instructions suggest adding butter to reduce any foam that may form on the surface of your jam or jelly, but she advises against this. Foam surfaces due to impurities, so it’s best to just skim it off rather than adding in butter, which can turn rancid within a few months.
Next, Nadia sampled her Blueberry Chutney made with fresh homegrown blueberries, cranberries and an assortment of spices. It was served atop slices of country wheat bread paired with a fresh chevre cheese. “Keep your recipes simple with just a few strong flavors or spices,” Nadia advised. She graciously shared the recipe with the audience, and allowed us to share it here as well.
- 1 quart fresh or frozen blueberries
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup port wine
- ½ cup dried cranberries, preferably unsweetened
- ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds, whole
- ½ cinnamon stick
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
- ¼ teaspoon chili flakes, crushed
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped candied ginger
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Wash, drain and sort the blueberries. Place them in a heavy large saucepan with all the other ingredients and mix well. Slowly bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered, stirring regularly until the mixture thickens and the spoon leaves a trace, for about 1.5 to 2 hours. Towards the end, stir often to make sure it does not stick to the bottom.
- Remove the cinnamon stick and fill the piping hot chutney into jars with bands and new lids. Process in a boiling water bath.
Then she went on to sample her peach amaretto jam, a delightful shade of pink. “Add the alcohol in at the end, once you have finished cooking the jam in order for the amaretto flavor to be strongest,” Nadia recommended. A participant asked if the alcohol was necessary or could be substituted. “The alcohol is the conduit for the amaretto flavor,” Nadia explained. “You could also use an extract, but it would have to be in a much lower quantity,” she explained. The peach jam samples and recipes also made their way around to all the participants, along with the recipe.
- 4 pounds ripe juicy peaches, white or yellow (do not have to be freestone)
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 package Sure Jell for less or no sugar (pink package)
- 3 cups sugar
- ¼ cup amaretto (almond-flavored Italian liqueur)
- Wash the peaches and cut an X into the bottom of each peach. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop the peaches into the boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon and let them cool.
- Remove the skins and the stones. Mash the peaches with a fork and place them in a heavy large saucepan. Stir in the lemon juice.
- Mix ¼ cup of the sugar with the Sure Jell and add it to the peaches. Mix well and bring to a full rolling boil that does not stop bubbling when stirred.
- Add the remaining sugar and stir well, also scraping over the bottom of the pan, to fully dissolve the sugar. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the amaretto.
- Fill the piping hot jam into sterilized jars placed on a damp kitchen towel, leaving about ½ inch headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp paper towel to remove any drips. Place the lids and the bands on the jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
- Let cool and set for 24 hours without moving the jars.