Friday, October 19, 2012


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As Sweet Preservation points out,  'A canning resurgence is sweeping the nation, as people everywhere bottle up the bounties of the season and celebrate an art that’s once again au courant.'

Canning and preserving are enjoying a strong rebirth, and in my book nothing really beats a traditional single fruit jelly.  Tried and true they should be a staple in your larder, not only because there really is nothing tastier than a sweet jelly on warm toast, but because they are also a wonderful base for so many other recipes, whether it be a sweet glaze on a tart or a cake, or a savory base for a meat dish or stew. That is why I chose to make a Nectarine Jelly with some of the bounty I received from the Washington State Fruit Commission.

While it is a bit of work to make the fruit juice required to create a colorfully translucent jelly, it is well worth the effort.To make good jelly, a proper ratio of fruit, pectin, acid and sugar is required; do not fret, it is not nearly as complicated as it sounds.

The fruit you choose to make into jelly provides the color and, obviously, flavor. It also furnishes some of the pectin and acid needed for a good set. So, an apple jelly will be golden, plum will be purplish, cherry red, peach peachy, and nectarines a mellow rosy-orange hue. Fruit used for jellies should be just barely ripe. Since they will be cut up, and/or mashed, fruits of all sizes and shapes can be used as long as you trim out the bad bits.

Pectin and sugar is the what causes the fruit to gel. Some fruits provide enough natural pectin, others require added pectin, especially when making jellies. Click here for an easy guide. Lemon juice is always a wise additive as it will help provide the acid also needed for a good gel.

When making jelly it is essential to whisk the powdered pectin into the fruit juice until it is completely incorporated, the pectin must be fully dissolved before adding the sugar. I always mix in the pectin when the juice is slightly warmed to facilitate its dissolving completely. Once the juice-pectin is completely blended it is brought to a hardy boil before the sugar is added. The sugar is always added all at once, which can be a bit scary your first few times, but have faith and just keep stirring.The sugar, too, must also be completely dissolved, or it can become granular as the jelly sits in the pantry. Not a complete disaster, crunchy jelly is, well, interesting and edible, but not really quite as satisfying.  Can you tell I've rushed a batch or two in my time?

Commercial pectins are made from apples or citrus fruit and are available in both the powdered and liquid forms. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions or tested recipes when using commercial pectin and remember, powdered and liquid forms of pectin are not interchangeable. When making this jelly you will use the powdered form.  

I make a homemade pectin which I use in jams and compotes,but using the homemade pectin can be a bit tricky. You need to be as fearless as Julia Child and not be tied to a uniform consistency, some jams will be thicker, some saucier, but I've found them all to be delicious.

There are modern pectin products available to use for making jellies with no added sugar or with less sugar than old-fashioned recipes. Specific recipes are included in the pectin packaging and if you follow them you'll become a jelly and jam making pro in no time, but if you'd like to try your hand at making your own pectin, click here to find out how.

I do use these new pectins when lowering the sugar or using honey in my jams because they will give you consistency and require less time, which I never seem to have enough of. There is no shame in not cooking a pot of jam down for hours and hours. 

This jelly recipe is the old fashioned kind, nectarine juice and sugar are the main ingredients, and it really takes two days to make, but the results are well worth the effort. On a cold winter morning the lovely fragrance of this Nectarine Jelly will start you off with sweet dreams of summery days to come. 



3 Cups Nectarine Juice ( 9 medium Nectarines)

1/2  Cup Lemon Juice

1 package powdered fruit Pectin

1 Cup Raw Sugar

4 Cups Granulated Sugar

1 teaspoon Butter


This will really be a two day process as first you will need to make the juice.  You are going to need a jelly bag, cheesecloth, or my favorite, a chinois for separating the juice from the fruit.

On the morning of the first day, wash and quarter your nectarines, you don't need to separate out the pits, they will add some flavor and pectin to your jelly. Then half your quarters and place everything in a large bowl, toss with the Lemon Juice and sprinkle with the Raw Sugar. Now, I use the Raw Sugar for the flavor as well as a bit of depth for the color, but if you only have granulated sugar in the pantry, you can certainly use that instead.  

Let this mixture sit for the day while you go to work, wrestle with the kids, clean the house, whatever your other responsibilities are.  If it is very hot you will probably want to let this rest in the refrigerator, if you are making this during a cooler time of year you may leave covered on the counter.

At the end of the day transfer your bowl of fruit and juices to a stainless steel saucepan, add 1 and 1/2 cups of water  and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and crushing the fruit with a potato masher or the back of your ladle. Don't over cook as it reduces the strength of the natural pectin and will affect the flavor.  You just want the batch to be soft and juicy.

Transfer this mixture to your dampened jelly bag, a strainer lined with cheesecloth, or your chinois, set back over your large bowl and let the juice drip through over night. Do not squeeze the bag or press down the fruit as this will muddy your jelly.

The next day make sure your jars are cleaned and sterilized (you'll need 5 - 6 half pint jars) and your Hot Water Bath is ready to go.  To review your safe canning practices click here.

You should have 3 cups of nectarine juice. If for some reason you do not , boil a bit more water than what you need to make three cups and pour it over the fruit mixture letting it strain through to the bowl. 

Take your 3 cups of juice and put it back into the stainless steel saucepan.  Put the stove on medium heat and whisk in your box of pectin until it is completely dissolved. Add the teaspoon of butter and bring to a boil over high heat stirring constantly.  Add the 4 cups of granulated sugar all at once and return to a full roiling boil. Keep Stirring!

Once you return to that full boil keep it going for 1 minute longer, then remove from the heat. If you have any foam skim off, but the butter should help prevent this.

Pour the hot jelly into the hot jars leaving a 1/4 inch of headspace.  Wipe rims, screw on lids. Place in your Hot Water Bath, making sure your jars are completely covered with water.  Bring water bath to a boil and process for 10 minutes.  

Remove jars, cool, check your seal. Admire your handy work!

Store in a cool dark place for up to a year, if they last that long. 


Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Peaches have always been one of my favorite fruits. When you bite into a fresh picked summer peach and the juice runs over your tongue, well I find it to be one of the most satisfying natural sweets under the sun.

The Sweet Preservation website is Washington State Fruit Commission’s blog dedicated to the art of preserving fruit, and really is chock full of useful information. As an official 'Canbassador' for the Commission, I was awarded a box of stone fruit for preserving.  A number of peaches were in the mix, just as I had hoped.

My mother makes a wonderfully chunky Peach Jam in the traditional fashion (meaning heavy on the sugar). As the oldest of five, when I was young, this jam was so coveted that I would try to squirrel a jar or two away, hiding it in the back of the refrigerator so I wouldn’t have to share. I must admit those selfish tendencies still exist, and once you taste this Boozy Peach Sauce you might just be hiding a jar or two so you won’t have to share either.

Even if you haven’t done much jam, jelly or sauce making this recipe is easy; sweet summer fruit simmered in sugar and booze until they melt into a sauce. If you haven’t preserved fruit before, or would simply like to review safe canning practices visit Sweet Preservations’ link, Preservation 101.

You can swap the peaches for other stone fruits – think apricots, nectarines, yes, even plums. Use bourbon or rum in place of the brandy, depending on your palette and what is in the cabinet. You can peel the peaches if you like, but if they are well washed, there is really no need, just split, pit and cube them. If you use the hot water bath, this sauce may be kept on the shelf for up to a year. Otherwise, store it in the fridge for a month more or less.

Just a splash of this lusciously sweet treat turns ordinary vanilla ice cream into a heavenly dessert. Delicious warmed and drizzled over traditional pound cake, as a sweetener for your smoothies, or a glaze for your pork roasts, chicken, or duck: like many home preserves the possibilities are endless.

Boozy Peach Sauce also makes a wonderful holiday gift, but beware, one taste will have your family and friends begging for more.

I chose Christian Brothers Brandy for my Boozy Peach Sauce, mostly because it brought back
childhood memories of visiting the now shuttered Christian Brothers Winery in New York State.



6 cups chopped pitted Peaches

2 tablespoons Lemon Juice

2 cups lightly packed Brown Sugar

1 cup Raw Sugar

3/4 cup Brandy

1 tsp grated Lemon Zest


Prepare your boiling water canner. Sterilize jars, set lids in simmering water until ready for use. Set bands aside. 

When chopping your peaches, toss with Lemon Juice to keep from browning.

Combine Peaches, Sugars, Booze and Lemon Zest in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Boozy peaches cooking on the stovetop.
Lids and Hot Water Bath simmering away in the background.

Ladle hot sauce into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and re-measure headspace. If needed, add more sauce to meet recommended headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
Process filled jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude.

Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal.

Store in dark cool pantry for a year. Makes 3 - 4 pints.

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