Monday, August 23, 2010
You Musk(melon) Make This Jam
Just made a little batch of this jam from odds and ends I had on hand that just happened to be called for in this recipe from Ontario blogger and locavore Sarah Hood, who adapted it from a Foodland Ontario recipe. It was my good luck to have stumbled across Sarah's blog when I had these ingredients all ready to roll. I'd bought a bunch of nectarines the weekend before at the farmer's market, and the grower had tossed in this adorable little muskmelon (I'm thinking a variety of honeydew) for free. This jam is so good that I literally caught myself eating it with a spoon.
I took Sarah's tip about the lemon zest and ran with it, and lazied things up a bit further than that, even, because I have no patience for pushing things through sieves or getting out a food mill. I used a whole lemon and reduced the amount of lemon juice added later, and took my stick blender to the apples instead of straining them. I also left out that second half-cup of water the recipe calls for, and that maybe cut down on the time it took, because I got a very firm set fairly quickly. As nearly always, I peeled nothing.
This recipe yielded me more than four but not quite five half-pint jars of jam.
1.5 cups tart apple, chopped (Granny Smith and Mitsy apples are out in Arkansas now)
One whole lemon, unpeeled, halved then sectioned, seeds removed
3/4 cups water
2 cups finely chopped muskmelon (canteloupe, honeydew, casaba, etc.)
2 cups finely chopped nectarines
1Tbsp lemon juice
3 cups sugar (raw, rapadura, whatevs)
Combine chopped apples, lemon pieces, and water in a large, non-reactive heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer until apple is soft, about 10 minutes. The lemon will have cooked down to the peel--remove the pieces of peel. Original recipe has you push the mixture through a strainer at this point. You could do that, sure...or you could do what I did, and take your immersion (stick) blender to it right in the pan, and puree the apple pieces. Worked a treat.
Add melon, nectarines, and lemon juice, and bring to a full rolling boil. (This is where I used to mess up a lot of jams, and I never could understand why my jams didn't want to set. I was too timid in cooking them. You want the stuff to BOIL. Hard. I realize now that this is why jam recipes always call for a "large" saucepan or pot--you have to allow enough room in the pot for the jam to really rock and roll and pop and splatter...in other words, boil.) Gradually stir in sugar until completely dissolved. Boil rapidly, stirring frequently, until jam stage is reached, about 20 minutes. You could speed things along here by adding pectin, but it's not needed.
To check for "jam stage," put a clean spoon into the mixture and lift it out, looking at the back of the spoon. You want to see the jam coming off the spoon in a solid sheeting action. Additionally, if you put a little plate or two in the freezer before you start, you can drop a blob of the jam mixture onto a frozen plate, let it cool, then run your finger through it. If a gap remains where you dragged your digit, it's jam. If the "trench" fills in, keep cooking. Or, you could be sensible and just use a candy thermometer and watch for the magic 220F. I haven't gotten sensible yet.
Once jam stage is achieved, remove from heat and stir jam for 5 minutes. I don't know why, but I did it, and it turned out perfect, so you just hush and do it, too. Skim foam if necessary (I didn't have to). Pour jam into hot, sterilized jars, adjust lids, and process in a boiling water bath for however long you usually do with jams...I did mine for 10 minutes before I noticed that this recipe calls for 5 minutes. *shrug*
This was my first time using these crazy little Italian jars, and I had to go to Facebook for help with the oddly translated instructions for getting the one-piece lids to seal. You have to put them in the water bath when the water is close to the same temperature as the filled jars, then bring it up to the boil, process, and then just take the canning pot off the heat and leave the jars in the water until it's all cooled. Kinda weird, but totally worth it for the cute factor of the finished product, I think.