honey jam

Bosc Pear, Bearss Lime, Vanilla Marmalade Recipe

For the last several weeks in the jam kitchen I’ve inhaled the steam of lime, pear and vanilla bean condensing into marmalade. I’m deep in producing several hundred jars of my Bosc Pear Bearss Lime Vanilla Marmalade. Say that fast three times in a row! It is a soft, sweet, and warm marmalade with little zaps of sour and bitter interjected when you bite into the lime rind. I love sampling this preserve to people. And it makes a lovely gift, orange jelly dashed with wisps of green lime rind.

Originality in preserves is a fickle creature. It’s easy to end up muddling flavors in the name of creativity. A cook I know has a thing about cinnamon. “Overused!” she cries. That’s usually my sentiment on vanilla in preserves. Vanilla falls so gracefully into so many flavor brainstorms. Oranges with plums and cardamom, oh, and then I’ll just tie the whole thing up with vanilla! But this bossy, know-it-all voice in my head always interjects, hey lady! that’s the easy way to bring a jam flavor together. In my imagination where ingredients have personalities, vanilla is a sound manager type, someone who takes the tart voice of a blueberry and in the name of balance just mutes the fruit’s special zip right out. But sometimes vanilla in a preserve is more than a tidy bow on top of a flavor and sometimes vanilla steps out of character and lets all the ingredients inside sing at the top of their lungs together.  That’s how I think of Bosc Pear Bearss Lime Vanilla Marmalade. The (Persian) Bearss Lime by the way is the very pretty name for the lime you commonly find at the grocery store. Also, Bosc Pear season is winding down here in the Pacific Northwest so grab those pears soon. Allow almost a week for them to ripen in your home so they are drippy with flavor for the marmalade. Lastly, feel free to substitute another pear for the Boscs if they are unavailable.

Bosc Pear Vanilla Lime Marmalade

2 lb 14 oz Bosc Pears (make sure they are very ripe)

1 lb 1 oz Limes (allow them to ripen to a nice gold-green color at room temperature)

2 lb 8 oz Blackberry Honey

5 oz Lemon Juice, strained

1 vanilla bean pod

Day 1:

Make the pear juice. Cut pears into eighths, place in non-reactive pot, cover with water to one inch above fruit. Pears should float freely in water. Bring to a boil, turn heat to low-medium, cover, and maintain a lively simmer for 3 hours. Check on the fruit every hour. Use a spoon to press on the cooking pears. When the liquid has become slightly viscous pull the pot off the heat. Place a metal mesh strainer over a non-reactive bowl and pour pears and water through the strainer. Cover straining fruit with a lid or plastic wrap and allow to drip for 12 hours.

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While the pears cook in water, prepare the limes. Working lengthwise (as though you were making lime wedges), cut limes into quarters. Working widthwise, cut each quarter into thin slices. Your slices should look like tiny pie slices. Place sliced limes in non-reactive cooking pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, lower heat to lively simmer and cook limes for 5 minutes. Drain and discard the lime cooking water. Return the lime slices to a non-reactive pot and cover with water to one inch above the limes. Bring the pot to a boil, lower the heat, cover and cook the lime slices at a lively simmer until the fruit is softened, about 35 minutes. Pull the pot from the heat and let rest 12 hours.

Day 2:

Cut the vanilla pod in half lengthwise. Scrape out the bean’s contents and deposit them along with the scraped pod, strained pear juice, lime slices and their cooking liquid, honey, and strained lemon juice into an 11-quart, non-reactive and wide preserving pan like an enameled Dutch oven or—if you have one—a copper jam pan. If you do not have a large pan, split the mixture in two and cook in your standard stock-pot in two rounds.

Over high heat, bring the pot to a boil. The mixture will cook at a high heat until it sets. I like to determine set by having several spoons ready on a plate in the freezer. Cooking times vary depending on the pan and your stove. The cooking mixture will proceed through several cooking stages. When it reaches the foaming stage start to run a heatproof spatula along the bottom of your pan. Don’t over-stir! This slows the cooking process. As the foam disappears, the bubbles get smaller, and the sound of the pot changes to a low, dull roar, stir more often to prevent sticking.

Test for doneness by pulling the pot off the heat and placing a small bit of the mixture into one of your frozen spoons. Allow the spoon to cool in your freezer until the underside feels “room temperature”. Tilt the spoon. If the mixture has formed a skin and moves sluggishly down the spoon then the marmalade is set and done. If the mixture runs down the spoon easily, return the pot to the stove and continue boiling. Remove the pot from the stove each time you check the set. Check the surface of the jam in the pot after it’s rested off the stove for several minutes. If you notice a skin has formed on jam’s surface, this is another sign the marmalade has set.

If you are canning the marmalade, follow the jar manufacturer’s instructions or if you want to eat your marmalade right away, simply extract the vanilla bean from the mixture and place in glass jars and let cool. Store marmalade in the refrigerator if you aren’t canning it. You can eat the marmalade immediately, but I recommend waiting a couple weeks. The flavors continue to develop and will be in full display several weeks after you make the marmalade.  

In the Pots Volume II

I am on the bus heading back to the jam kitchen after volunteering a couple hours for the orchard work party at my community garden. I have a plot in Seattle's original 'P-Patch'. Picardo it's called and it's first letter is the origin of the 'p' in 'p-patch'.

We tied everbearing raspberries together, weeded the blueberries, currants and gooseberries and some folks pruned the stone fruit trees, which unlike apples and pears, adore a summer pruning. Then everyone harvested what was ripe on the bushes and trees. I ducked out for that part to visit my plot. I picked tomatoes, summer squash, beans, shiso, thai basil, and broccoli. My dear partner Amy met me up there and she weeded, watered and helped harvest. Now she's hauling the veggies up to our home while I return to the jam kitchen to finish my three day weekend of jam making.


Saturday was Strawberry Blackberry. Yesterday was Nectarine Blackberry and today, Monday, is many, many jars of Blackberry Prune. Lots of blackberries! I bought 80 lbs of them on Saturday and my sole mission of the weekend has been channeling blackberries into 100's of little glass jars.

Back to work!

Transient
Transient

Distracted and Recipe Writing

This is an odds and ends post I think. It's Sunday evening. I've spent the day by myself both resting and doing laps around the house, laundry, defrosting sweatbreads and lamb tongue for dinner, dishes, napping, drinking a glass of mead, and costing out jam recipes I made last year. On Thursday I started a big feeling post about my mother's land back in Vermont. It's the farm I grew up on. I've had the property on my mind for years, but only very recently did I start sharing my dreams and designs for the property with my mother. She is a wonderfully practical woman so I have always thought that I needed a business plan and financial backing before I could come to her with my ideas. She is also (I am learning) very supportive and interested in putting the Vermont land she lives on back to work. This is a very big deal and it involves an intimacy with my home and my mother that is all new to me. Writing about a possible business with my mother back on the land where I grew up is a ball of emotion on the large side. For now the whole thing is sitting in my draft box so I can think more. I had a torrid love affair with a box of Seville oranges and my new copper jam pan.IMG_0690

Now my mind just skitters about. I look online at prices for commercial kitchen rentals here in Seattle. I continue to contemplate whether or how to start producing jam commercially on a level that allows me greater selling opportunities rather than continuing with the grassroots-friends-and-family-suggested-donation approach I currently take. In my head I imagine all the math I must do to establish how much every angle of a micro-jam business costs. Last weekend, I looked at the recipe for Blackberry and Damson Plum with Lemon Basil. Using conservative, ie, high, prices for the fruit, honey, and jars, I came up with a rough cost of goods per jar. Just for the ingredients I calculated a $4.67 cost per 6 oz. jar. I know that's a high price, but I actually found the numbers and their tangibility encouraging.

Then my brain ratcheted to another ongoing question of mine concerning the jam I make. What are its uses again? I spent the next couple days eating jam on toast. People tend to imagine bread first when they think of jam. I rarely eat jam on toast so I wanted to experience my preserves in their natural habitat. At first I loved my morning plate of bread slices, each adorned with a different jam flavor. Good stuff I thought, but by day three, the sweetness of the jam got insipid and I found myself heading for the tartest flavors I could find amongst my stores.

Once I ran out of bread I turned to my two current favorite cookbooks for thinking about fruit and cooking, Pam Corbin's Cake Handbook from the River Cottage Handbook series and Nigel Slater's Ripe. The recipes for Seville Orange Polenta Cake and Banana Bread in the River Cottage Cake Handbook stuck out to me. I decided to combine them into a cake. For my first take on this idea I used a Banana Bread recipe subbing preserves for the mashed banana. Testing out different kinds of honey last year I accumulated more batches of lemon marmalade than I could eat which made it the natural choice for the cake.

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How did it turn out? I am terrible at answering this question. At work it's my job to decide if something tastes "right", but when it comes to eating food at home I am so much less picky. Even more so when tasting sweets. I adore cake. Almost anything baked and sweet I love. Taste Notes, here goes: (Oh, I frosted the cake with a combination of creme fraiche and lemon marmalade.) Taste was good, sweet!, definitely lemony with a touch of that marmalade bitterness. I found the texture disarmingly soft, a zero-to-one-chew-needed-before-swallowing kind of softness. Keep in mind, this was my reaction after eating the cake several hours after it came out of the oven. The cake's mouth-feel improved and all the flavors integrated more by day two. By day four the cake was gone. I think it hit its peak on day three. This isn't unusual for cakes. At my work we currently bake a molasses spice cake that definitely improves with age. I want to make my Marmalade Cake again, tweak it some, maybe you'd like to work on it too? Here is my recipe for now:

Citrus Marmalade Cake

Sift together the following and set aside: 3 cups almond flour + 1/8 t salt + 1/2 t baking soda

Combine the following in 1 bowl and once mixed add to dry ingredients: 1 c citrus marmalade + 1/4 c honey + 4 eggs + 1/2 c yogurt + dash of vanilla extract + zest from 2 lemons

I baked this is in two cake pans in a 325 degrees Fahrenheit until done. Isn't that a maddening direction? Til'Done! No, but seriously my baking times will differ from yours and yours and yours. Just make sure to peep in the oven after 15 minutes and move the cakes around to ensure even baking. It's almond flour and honey so be extra vigilant, these ingredients brown quickly. These cakes should not take longer than a 40 minutes to bake.

Let the cakes rest for several minutes before you pop them out of their pans and place them on cooling racks.

While they rest, mix together the Citrus Marmalade Frosting: 2/3 c creme fraiche + 1/3 c citrus marmalade + 1/4 c honey.

Once the cakes cool completely, ice them up! Remember, this cake improves with a little rest time. Taste it over several days and see how it changes.

Refrigeration isn't necessary, just store covered in a cool place.