July 2011

Foamy jam and how to remove it

Posted on July 30, 2011 at 10:44 am in

While making a batch of fig jam this morning, I had a strange crossover between my love of making food and my love of drinking really good beer.

I have seen people dealing with an excessively foamy pint by… well, never mind what they did to kill the head, but the thought that struck me is that the foam on a pint is very similar to the foam on jams. It’s a froth of proteins, sugars, and other impurities.

Fat is the enemy of foam. It kills foam on a pint very handily. Many jam recipes say to add a tablespoon of butter to jam to kill the foam, but others then caution that the long term stability of dairy is questionable, as well as making your preserves non-veg*n friendly.

I added half a teaspoon of olive oil to my fig jam (7 jelly jars now cooling on a cookie rack) and it killed the foam while not adding any dairy to the recipe.

Amazing how knowledge from one area of your life can help out in another area!


Blueberry fruit butter

Posted on July 29, 2011 at 7:32 am in

Fruit butters are extremely easy to make in your slow cooker and you can use any fruit to make a butter. Use this recipe and technique to design your own – substitute your favourite fruit for blueberries.


  • Blueberries – 5 pints / 10 cups / 2.25 litres / about 3.5 lbs / about 1.75 kg, preferably fresh
  • Lemon juice – either fresh squeezed or bottled. 1/4 cup.
  • Water – 1/2 cup
  • Sugar – 5 cups
  • Seasoning – 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves

Pick your blueberries or buy them from the store. It’s better to use freshly picked if you can. If using fresh, wash them thoroughly and pick through for mushy berries, twigs, bugs, and the other stuff you don’t want to be eating!

Mash the blueberries as much as you care to – the mashing will affect the cooking time, which isn’t so much of an issue with this method, as well as the texture – I prefer it a little chunky, so I didn’t worry too much about getting the berries reduces to a paste. If you prefer smoother, you could process the berries in a mixer or food processor.

Place the fruit, water, lemon juice, and sugar in your slow cooker. Put the lid on the cooker and prop it open slightly – you can use a spoon, pencil, or splatter guard, whichever you prefer, so long as one corner of the lid is open to allow water to evaporate. Put the cooker on the longest cooking setting and walk away. That’s right – just walk away!

When the cooker stops cooking and switches to “keep warm”, give the fruit butter a stir and check for consistency. If the consistency is what you want, you’re done! If you want a thicker butter, hit the “cook low and slow” button again and walk away. The butter is ready when it’s how you want it to be, which is the beauty of making it yourself.

If you want to put the butter up on the shelf, prepare your jars and lids and hot water bath process for 10 minutes (below 1000ft above sea level, check with USDA guidelines for extra processing time above 1000ft).

Yield – between 2 and 4 cups, or between 4 and 8 jam jars, depending on how thick you like it. I doubled the recipe and cooked it quite thick which gave me a yield of 9 jam jars or 4.5 cups of fruit butter.

You can use this same technique to turn any fruit into a butter. Enjoy!


Blueberry pie filling

Posted on July 21, 2011 at 8:33 am in

Part 2 of my short series on blueberries – pie!

7 cups blueberries, washed and sorted
1 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup ClearJel
2tbsp lemon juice

12 drops blue food colouring
4 drops red food colouring
1tsp grated lemon zest

Prepare your jars and lids in the usual way.

Half fill a large stainless steel pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. Add blueberries for 1 minute to blanch, drain, then return them to the pot. Cover the pot to keep them warm.

Combine the sugar and ClearJel in a large stainless pot. Whisk in 2 cups / 500ml of water, add food colouring if using, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and boil gently while stirring until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Stir in lemon zest if using, add the lemon juice and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the blueberries and any juice until they are well incorporated into the mixture.

Ladle the pie filling into jars leaving 1 inch / 2.5cm head space. Remove any air bubbles, adjust head space if necessary by adding or removing filling. Wipe the rims of the jars with a paper towel that has been sprayed with white vinegar. Lid, band, and hot water bath process for 30 minutes. At the end of the 30 minutes turn off the heat, remove the lid of the boiling water bath canner and wait for 5 minutes before gently removing the jars to a cookie rack.

Cool on a cookie rack overnight, remove the bands, label the jars, put them in your pantry, and enjoy blueberry pie!

Yield: about 4 pint / 500ml jars.

A note on ClearJel: it’s worth using it instead of any other option. Yes, it’s more expensive than, say, corn starch, but ClearJel is specifically formulated to work with pie fillings – repeated heating does not cause the ClearJel to break down into liquidy mush.


Blueberry Syrup

Posted on July 19, 2011 at 5:17 pm in

Blueberries are in season just now, so get out there and pick some yourself!

Once you have a ridiculous amount of blueberries, what can you do with them? Well, I am here to help with a short series, starting with blueberry syrup.

Prepare your jars and lids by thorough washing with soap and hot water. I also boil the jars for 10 minutes which sterilises them.

6.5 to 7 cups of fresh blueberries, washed and sorted
4.5 to 7 cups of sugar OR 3 cups of natural frozen fruit juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh or bottled

Mash the blueberries with a hand held masher, food processor, hand blender, or whatever other method you want to use. The hand masher can be very cathartic if you need to work off some stress. Just saying.

Add the lemon juice to the blueberry mush, bring it to a boil and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes – they should be nice and mushy. You now need to make a choice – bits, or no bits? If you want to have a completely smooth syrup with no bits in it, you’ll need to strain the mush with a jelly bag, cheese cloth, or whatever. If you are not bothered about bits, as I am not, you can just move on to the next step.

Add all the sugar in one go. If you need to control added sweeteners, use the fruit juice concentrate instead of table sugar. I added 5 cups of sugar, and am extremely pleased with the result. Bring the blueberry mush and sugar to a boil for about a minute and keep an eye on the texture – you’ll want the syrup to still be a little liquid-y when you put them in the jars as they get some extra cooking time during the hot water processing. Over-cooking at this point could result in a blueberry candy rather than a pourable syrup!

Fill your jars – either pint or half pints – lid, ring, and boiling water bath process for 10 to 15 minutes*. Remove the lid of your BWB processor, wait for 5 minutes, then lift the jars out of the BWB and place the jars on cookie sheets to cool overnight.

Pour over pancakes or waffles and enjoy.

*as usual this is the time for 1000 feet above sea level or less. If you are above 1000ft, please check with the USDA processing guidelines for how much extra time you need to add.

Yield: with 5 cups of sugar I got 4 pint jars, or 8 jelly jars. With 7 cups you should get about 5 pints or 10 jelly jars.


weekly links

Posted on July 8, 2011 at 12:47 pm in

Hyperpalatibility is a real problem.

More ridiculously bad science/hysteria against healthy food. Folks, healthy food includes fat.

Interesting Christian perspective on food stockpiling. The comments are wonderfully spiritual – stockpiling against contingencies doesn’t just mean *your* contingency: it means you can help your friends, neighbours, or families, when the s*** hits the fan.

This article thoroughly grossed me out.

Think you know all about cholesterol? think again.