Meyer Lemon Vanilla Bean Champagne Preserves

June 18, 2013

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I don’t know what has gotten into me recently. I think it is just pure laziness. I haven’t posted for quite some time and don’t really have any good reason as to why I haven’t. I wish I could say it was because I had been whisked off to some exotic locale, or maybe that I had won an immense lottery jackpot and was busy out spending it all. But no. Nothing like that. Just lazy I think. It’s not like I haven’t been in the kitchen. Oh, believe me I have and I actually managed to get a picture or two. I just haven’t gotten around to writing any of it up. But I woke up this morning and thought perhaps I might want to get with it again, so I thought I’d start with this lovely Meyer Lemon Vanilla Bean Champagne Preserves recipe.

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Meyer Lemons aren’t available for long in this neck of the woods, so when I spied them in the store a couple of weeks ago I snapped them right up! Meyer Lemons, which originated in China, are a cross between a regular lemon and a Mandarin Orange. This results in a somewhat sweeter, really vibrant tasting lemon without the acidic aspect. They are a gorgeous golden-yellow colour, kind of like egg yolks and have a much thinner skin than regular lemons. I love them and have made quite a few yummy treats with them in the past during their window of availability, like Meyer Lemon Curd and Meyer Lemon Creme Mini Tarts. Now I’m sure you can make these preserves with regular lemons if Meyer Lemons aren’t around, but if you can get them, give them a try.

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These Meyer Lemon Vanilla Bean Champagne Preserves came out wonderfully! I don’t know how they wouldn’t have considering all of the delicious ingredients that went into them. I’ve told you how delicious Meyer Lemons are and hello?….Champagne?! We love LOVE Champagne in this house! And just think, this recipe only calls for one little old cup. Sooo…you’ll most likely have to finish off the rest of the bottle since Champagne is so difficult to store and you wouldn’t want it to go to waste. But back to the preserves… beautifully golden hued and flecked throughout with vanilla, we’ve been gobbling them up at an astonishing rate! Mostly spread on toast, but last night my husband warmed it up just a bit and put some over vanilla ice cream (YUM!) which got me to thinking about what other sorts of interesting things you could enhance by adding a bit of those preserves. Then I remembered a bar we went to in New York city that serves Jammy Cocktails. That’s right, you get your choice of vodka or gin on the rocks and then they give you a big spoon full of jam to stir into that drink. How refreshing! Now that the humid Virginia summer has kicked into gear, I think I feel a Meyer Lemon Vanilla Bean Champagne Cocktail coming on right about now…

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Meyer Lemon Vanilla Bean Champagne Preserves

recipe slightly adapted from: Jelly Toast

Yield: 2-3 1/2 Pint (8 ounce) jars

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 lbs of Meyer lemons (about 8 small) scrubbed
  • 1 cup of champagne
  • 1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice (from about 4 lemons)
  • Granulated sugar (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 Vanilla Bean

Directions:

Thinly slice Meyer lemons removing seeds and stems.

Place a small plate in the freezer to test the jam’s consistency later if desired.

Fill a large pot with tap water. Submerge three 1/2 pint jars and their lids, making sure they are completely covered by the water. Boil the water.

In a non-reactive pan, place lemon slices and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Drain off water.Repeat this step one more time. Allow lemon slices to cool for several minutes.

Place lemon slices in a food processor and pulse several times to break up pieces. Leave the pieces as chunky or as fine as you desire.

Using a kitchen scale, weigh the lemon mixture. Return mixture to the large pot. Add the same amount of granulated sugar as you had lemon pieces (weigh the sugar to the exact same weight). Add sugar to the pot with the lemons.

Add 1/2 cup of lemon juice, and 1 cup of champagne and the seeds from one vanilla bean to the pot and bring to boil.

Allow to boil over medium/high heat (taking care that the heat is not too high or it will caramelized your preserves) until the preserves reach the gel point (220 degrees on a candy thermometer). This will take about 10-15 minutes. Watch the preserves carefully.

Gel point can also be tested by placing a small amount if the finished preserves on a frozen plate. (My preferred method.) If the preserves thicken and wrinkle when you run your finger through them on the frozen plate, it is done. If it remains runny, continue to cook for several more minutes.

When the desired consistency is reached, ladle the jam into jars. If your plan is to scarf down all of these preserves immediately, just put the lids on and place the jars in the refrigerator. If you would like to save one or both for later, screw rims onto jam jars. Using tongs, pick up the full jam jars and place them back into the boiling water for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, remove the jars and place them on the towel. As they cool, you should hear a ping type noise which tells you the jam jars are sealed. When you push down in the center of the top of the jar, there should be no click noise. Make sure the lids are sealed tightly.

If you are using Weck jars with a glass lid, once the jar has been filled you place the rubber ring and glass top on the jar and secure it with the metal clips. Process the jar in the hot water bath as described above. Let jar cool completely and then remove the metal clips. If a proper seal has been established you should be able to lift the jar by its lid and the lid should remain firmly in place. If the lid comes off, don’t despair. You’ll just need to store that jar in the fridge and eat it up much sooner than you thought you would be.
The preserves can be stored for up to one year.

Serve on toast, scones, English Muffins, over ice cream, stirred into yogurt or in a refreshing jammy cocktail!

Enjoy!

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Quick & Easy Meyer Lemon Curd

June 2, 2012

Meyer Lemon-palooza continues…As you all most likely know by now, after many months of searching, I finally came across some Meyer Lemons and bought a whole slew of them! I made Meyer Lemon Pudding Cakes and Meyer Lemon Cream Mini Tarts. Both were stunning if I say so myself. And I still had some gorgeous Meyer Lemons left. (told you it was a really big bag…) So I went ahead and made up a batch of good old Meyer Lemon Curd.

I found the recipe on Craving Chronicles and it really did live up to its name. It  was very quick and easy and delicious to boot! It made about 1 1/2 cups of a delightfully sweet yet tart spread. Veritable sunshine in a jar I tell you!

Delicious smeared on scones, added to your morning oatmeal or yogurt, or simply eaten by the spoonful! I must admit, when I made up this curd, I did have another dessert in mind that uses Lemon Curd as one of its ingredients. I mention that just as a teaser, because I’ll be posting about that fabulous creation next time. Check back soon! In the meantime, get your jars of Meyer Lemon Curd ready to go!

Quick & Easy Meyer Lemon Curd

recipe from: Craving Chronicles

yield: about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • zest of 2 Meyer lemons
  • 1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice (about 3-4 large lemons)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces

Directions:

Add all ingredients except butter to a saucepan over Low heat. Whisk to combine. Add butter. Continue whisking gently but constantly, heating slowly, until curd thickens and reaches 160°F on an instant read thermometer. Remove from heat.

For the smoothest curd, pour through a fine mesh strainer. Transfer to a storage container. Cover and refrigerate overnight before use. Curd keeps up to 1 week in the fridge.

Enjoy!


A Tale of Two Apple Butters – Tipsy Sweet & Drunken Granny

November 14, 2011

Did I mention that apples were my favourite fruit? Yup, they sure are and they are now in season! My favourites are the apples that are very crisp. I really hate a mushy apple (sorry Red Delicious… you are right out! ) I prefer Honey Crisps, Jonagolds, Winesaps…. you get the picture.

There’s plenty to choose from at the markets now and I am in heaven! I have never made Apple Butter, so bolstered by my recent preserve making successes, I decided there was no time like the present and got to it. I read over the River Cottage Preserves Handbook and decided to use their recipe for Cider Apple Butter, but with a bunch of extra spices and some extra booze thrown in. No not Jack Daniels, but I can understand why you might have guessed that particular spirit. I used a bit of Calvados that I happened to have on hand. I also used Hornsby’s Cider which is a dry hard cider. The “dry” bit that I’m referring to means that in most of the natural sugar has been fermented out as the cider is made. Other brands of dry cider easily available include Woodchuck or Strongbow. If you wanted to use a non-alcoholic cider, remember that you will likely need to reduce the overall amount of sugar in the recipe, due to the sweetness of the unfermented cider.

For my first batch ( yes there will be a second…hence the tale of two butters thing in the title) of hard cider apple butter, I used my favourite Honey Crisp apples.The apple butter was very easy to make. The most difficult bit was all of the paring and coring in the beginning. I guess if you have a food mill or sieve to strain the cooked mixture through, you don’t even have to worry about doing that prep work and can remove the peels and seed etc. after cooking. I decided that it would be easier to just spend a bit of time with the apples beforehand. It was worth the effort. My Tipsy Sweet Apple Butter has a great flavour and perfect spreading consistency.

I must say though, this batch was really sweet. I know, I know…its Apple Butter, which is generally sweet. But I thought I might like a more tart version. Since the butter was so easy to make, I got to work straight away on my second batch, in which I used Granny Smith apples.

These apples are not an apple I would reach for if I was just eating one for a snack. But I knew they have the more tart flavour that I was looking for. I also reduced the amount of sugar from 2/3 cup per cup of apple pulp to 1/2 cup sugar per apple pulp. The only other change to the recipe was that I went a wee bit heavier with the cinnamon and upped it to a full teaspoon. This Drunken Granny Apple Butter was exactly what I was looking for. Great flavour, but not as sweet as my Tipsy Sweet variety. I decided to include both recipes since I know everyone’s taste varies and this will give you some options.

So I’m counting my apple butter making foray a success. We do have quite a bit of the stuff now (look out friends and family…there may be some Christmas Apple Butter coming your way), but we’ve been steadily using it up. We’ve been eating it on toast, in oatmeal, straight out of the jar.

And oh…I was inspired to make some lovely biscuits to spread it over.

Stand by for that Peter Reinhart biscuit recipe…it’s a winner. But I don’t know which one was the star of the show, the biscuit or the scrumptious apple butter. Hmmm….let me take a few more bites and I’ll consider. 🙂

Tipsy Sweet & Drunken Granny Hard Cider Apple Butters

yield: Five 8 oz. jars

ingredients for Tipsy Sweet:

  • 3 lbs. 6 ounces of Honey Crisp Apples, peeled and cored
  • 2 1/2  Cups Dry Hard Cider
  • 1/2 Cup Calvados Apple Brandy
  • Turbinado Sugar – 2/3 cup per cup of apple pulp
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds removed
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

ingredients for Drunken Granny:

  • 3 lbs. 6 ounces of Granny Smith Apples, peeled and cored
  • 2 1/2  Cups Dry Hard Cider
  • 1/2 Cup Calvados Apple Brandy
  • Turbinado Sugar – 1/2 cup per cup of apple pulp
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds removed
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Fill a large pot with tap water. Submerge five 1/2 pint (8 ounce) jars and their lids, making sure they are completely covered by the water. Boil the water.

Wash, peel and core the apples. Chop them into big pieces. Place in a large pan with the cider, 1/2 cup of apple brandy and 2 cups of water. Cook gently until soft, then remove from heat.

Drain liquid from apples. Place softened apples in blender or food processor to puree. Measure the volume of fruit pulp and return it to the pan. Add 2/3 cup sugar if you’re making Tipsy Sweet or 1/2 cup sugar if you’re making Drunken Granny (I used turbinado, but you can use granulated if you prefer) for every one cup of apple pulp. Add the cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, lemon juice and vanilla bean to the apple pulp and stir to combine.

Slowly bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Then turn the heat up to bring mixture to a rapid boil for 15-20 minutes, or until the mixture reaches your desired consistency. Remove vanilla bean prior to placing in jars.

Remove from heat and ladle apple butter into sterilized jars. Using tongs, pick up the full jam jars and place them back into the boiling water for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, remove the jars and place them on the towel. As they cool, you should hear a ping type noise which tells you the jam jars are sealed. When you push down in the center of the top of the jar, there should be no click noise. Make sure the lids are sealed tightly. Once jars have been opened, refrigerate.

Enjoy!


Blueberry, Lemon & Chili Jam

August 11, 2011

I was so pleased with my Strawberry Balsamic Jam, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I was back at it again. For my second foray into the wonderful world of home-made jams, I chose Blueberry, Lemon & Chili Jam. The blueberries this year have been every bit as good as the strawberries and Jay and I both love spicy chili flavours as well, not to mention that there’s cilantro in this recipe too – another favourite – so I was really excited to try this jam out.

The recipe comes from the blog Local Kitchen. If you haven’t been by this site, you should definitely check it out, wonderful, interesting recipes with an emphasis on eating locally, sustainably and seasonally. Oh and you will find some beautiful photography there as well. This jam was actually quite easy to prepare. There was one little mishap when I rubbed my eye after having chopped up some jalapeno peppers and Habanero chili…I highly advise that you take every precaution to prevent that from happening to you. Otherwise everything was easy-peasy. I did get a bit nervous while the jam was cooking. It seemed like it was going to be outrageously spicy judging from the eye-watering fumes wafting up off of the mixture. However, once it had finished cooking and cooled down, I found that the sweetness of the jam really offset the spiciness of the chilis and you were just left with a little satisfying heat in the finish. Overall a great jam. Highly recommended.

Blueberry, Lemon & Chili Jam

recipe from Local Kitchen

yield: About 4 cups (or four .25 l jars)

Ingredients:

  • 7 cups blueberries, divided, rinsed & stemmed
  • 2 cups raw sugar (organic turbinado)
  • 2 medium lemons (preferably organic)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 small green jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped to yield 2 tbsp minced
  • 1/2 small orange Habanero pepper, seeded and chopped to yield 1/2 tsp minced
  • scant 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:

Combine 6 cups of blueberries and sugar in a large stockpot. Mix to coat berries and allow to macerate while you prepare the other ingredients.

Zest the lemons with a sharp vegetable peeler (taking care to remove only the yellow and not the white, bitter pith) and then cut the strips into a fine julienne. You should yield a generous 1/4 cup of zest (add more zest from another lemon if necessary).

Juice the lemons, straining out seeds & pulp (about 1/2 cup juice), and add juice & zest to the blueberries, stirring well.

Toast the cinnamon stick, either by holding with tongs over an open flame, or in a dry, heated skillet, for 1 to 2 minutes until fragrant and darkened.

With a potato masher, mash the blueberries until mixture is soupy and berries are well mashed.  Add cinnamon stick, chile peppers, and salt. Mix well and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until jam is thickened and begins to spit when you stir it, about 45 minutes (about 218 degrees F).

Meanwhile, sterilize your jars and lids.

Once you feel your jam has reached the correct consistency, either judging by the thermometer or place a bit of jam on a chilled plate, if it does not run down the plate when it is tilted, it is ready. Add remaining 1 cup of blueberries and chopped cilantro. Taste and adjust flavors; remove cinnamon stick.

Bring to a boil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes (to allow berries to heat through). Remove from heat and fill hot, sterilized jars to 1/4-inch head space; wipe rims, affix lids and place back in the boiling water in which your sterilized the jars for 10 minutes.

Remove filled jam jars from boiling water and allow to rest on countertop. Middle portion of lid will suck down as jam cools signaling you that jars have sealed.

Canned, store in a cool, dark spot for up to 1 year. Refrigerated, should last at least 1 month.


Strawberry Balsamic Jam

July 28, 2011

So, I  told you all about the delicious Struan loaves I baked and how Struan is the ultimate toasting bread. Believe me, ever since that bread has made its appearance, our toaster is working overtime! Slathering that crisp, toast with lashings of butter has been heavenly, but I decided we should really have some proper to jam to go along with it as well. I have never actually made jam at home. I only have a vague recollection of my mother canning when I was really young. Smuckers has been the main stay for most of my adult life. However, buoyed by my recent bread success, I somewhat anxiously decided to go ahead and try my hand at home-made Strawberry Balsamic Jam. Had I been thinking ahead, I would have called one of my closest friends, Theresa Storey, to find out all I would need to know about making jam. Theresa owns The Green Apron Artisan Preserve Company in Limerick Ireland.

Mouth-watering collection of Green Apron's Jams and Jellies

Her family has been making and selling their award-winning jams for over 30 years and are listed in the Bridgestone Best of Ireland Guide. She even teaches a Home Preserving Workshop! A no-brainer huh? I know an expert! However, I didn’t decide to set out on my jam making odyssey until about 6 pm EDT. That meant it was 11 pm in Ireland and I didn’t think it would be prudent to call anyone for an instructional pep talk at that hour. I didn’t want to wait until the next day, for fear I wouldn’t actually go through with it and my mouth was really watering at the thought of the wonderful jammy toast I would be eating for breakfast in the morning. So, I did call my Mom to get all of her advice on the in’s and out’s of canning and searched around for recipes online.

Jars sterilizing

Hooked on this season’s strawberries, I knew I wanted strawberry jam. After much searching and nail-biting, I decided on the recipe. I really didn’t change much about it. I did increase the sugar. The original recipe called for 2 cups of sugar, but I chose to use 3 cups.

Strawberries macerating

I was anxious that the jam wouldn’t set properly with such a low amount of sugar and no pectin (sure-jell) added in. Robin, at A Chow Life, had even tried to assuage her readers fears about this jam not setting in her original post. She said that the addition of the lemon juice and a longer cooking time would do the trick for this jam – no extra pectin was needed. I should have listened. My jam set up like a champ!

I think it would have also done so without that extra cup of sugar. Next time I will try it with the 2 cups of sugar as stated in the original recipe. One other change I made was that I added 1 teaspoon of butter to the mix. I had read that this would cut down on the amount of foaming that occurred while the jam was cooking. I actually had very little foam at all. Indeed I didn’t need to skim the jam once. So my first foray into jam-making was a success and I’m already planning my next endeavour – blueberry I think. But in the meantime, excuse me while I ponder the possibilities over my scrumptious jammy Struan toast!

Strawberry Balsamic Jam
adapted from A Chow Life
makes 5 (6 oz) jars
Ingredients:
  • 3 lb. strawberries, hulled and quartered
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. butter
Directions:
Toss the strawberries with the sugar and lemon juice in a big bowl Let the mixture sit for one hour at room temperature until nice and juicy.
Fill a large pot with tap water. Submerge your jars and lids, making sure they are completely covered by the water. Boil the water.

Place a small plate into the refrigerator to chill. This will be used to test the jam consistency later.

On another burner, place the strawberry mixture,balsamic vinegar and butter into a pot and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Using a potato masher, mash the strawberries so they are not chunky, but fairly smooth. Boil, stirring frequently and skimming off the foam, for approximately 20 minutes. You can use a metal spoon to shave the foam off the boiling jam (it will not combine with the jam so it must be removed). Then, reduce heat and cook at a slow boil, skimming occasionally and stirring frequently to prevent scorching as jam thickens. This may take 35 minutes to 1 hour. Test the jam by placing a small spoonful of it onto the chilled plate and refrigerate 1 minute. Tilt plate and jam should not run down the plate

Drain jars on a clean dish towel. Ladle the jam into the jars leaving 1/4 inch room between the jam and the top of the jar. Remove lids from the boiling water with magnetic wand or canning tongs making sure you do not touch the outer rim of the jar and contaminate the sterilized jars. Screw rims onto jam jars. Using tongs, pick up the full jam jars and place them back into the boiling water for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, remove the jars and place them on the towel. As they cool, you should hear a ping type noise which tells you the jam jars are sealed. When you push down in the center of the top of the jar, there should be no click noise. Once they’ve sealed, tighten the rims and let the jam rest for one day before eating. (I actually gobbled mine down much sooner…no will power on the jam front I guess!)


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