So many fall flavors, so little time. *sigh* There’s so much to look forward to about the early fall harvest, and maybe the greatest first-world injustice is how quickly fall is here and gone. Maybe that’s why the frenzy for autumnal flavors hits as soon as the clock strikes September. IMHO, this is what makes canning and preserving a superpower: With some good ole fashioned canning know-how, it’s as close to freezing time as it gets. Make an abundance now, share them and hang on to them all year round. Today, I bring you three recipes to binge, share and stow in abundance.
Like the sound of Apple Date Butter, Carrot Cake Conserve and Pear Vanilla Jam?
Think about what you love in a jam. Perfect set, perfect spreadable consistency. To get that just right, it’s a delicate alchemy between the moisture in the fruit and two setting agents: pectin and sugar. Every cook has her own opinion about how they play into recipes, but I’m personally fond of the all-natural approach taken by Marisa McClellan, canning teacher, cookbook author and brains behind the Food in Jars blog. Her method for preserving the flavors of the season uses only natural sweeteners instead of refined sugars, resulting in a jar dominated by the flavor of your preserve, unobscured by heaps of sugar and additives. You don’t have to be health-conscious to appreciate the subtle sweetness of Marisa’s recipes, either. They just taste like preserves ought to taste.
Like the idea of enjoying real fall flavors all year round?
I met up with Marisa at a cooking demonstration she led in Oakland. She smelled up the room with a batch of Strawberry Cocoa Jam (scroll down for the recipe). She was nice enough to sneak us three of her snuggliest fall recipes from the third in her series of canning books, Naturally Sweet Food in Jars, to share with B+C readers. In her recipes, she throws out all the guesswork and writes in a way that total novices can understand.
Her recipes use smaller amounts of natural sweeteners like maple sugar and syrup, coconut sugar, dates, agave, honey and fruit juice, combined with all-natural pectin. They’re yours in a print-friendly download below!
Let’s be real — canning is no small undertaking. If you’re gonna go to the effort, half the fun is making enough for your friends to enjoy with you. Do ‘em up right with some custom-made jam labels! With your download, you get printable labels for your jars, custom-made by B+C. So, help yourself! They’re guaranteed to up the cute quotient of your jars, and they’re completely free to download because we <3 you.
Some already have the names printed in a cute scripty font, and others have room to write them in yourself. Print these on card stock and tie onto the jar with baker’s twine, or even better, print them on sticker paper and affix to the jar snap lid.
Marisa agrees; presentation is everything.
“Whenever I’m giving jam as a gift, I like to pair it with something that they can take action on, whether that’s a scone mix, a waffle mix or a nice loaf of bread,” Marisa said. “It just depends on what I’m giving; sometimes it’s a vintage spoon tied to the jar with ribbon or a cutting board.”
Noted. Okay, so there’s no wrong way to enjoy these recipes, but there’s definitely a few right ones.
Apple Date Butter
The dark, mellow sweetness of the dates is all the sugar this recipe needs, making it a delicious topping for biscuits, cookies or, as Marisa suggests, a peanut butter sandwich. Adorable and genius.
Carrot Cake Conserve
With a name like that, hoarding would be a sin. And while there’s no stand-in for a slice of carrot cake, this recipe makes it possible to tone down the indulgent factor and still get those hearty flavors. Sharpened by lemon and lightly sweetened with honey, this recipe makes for a wholesome breakfast atop a bran muffin or a nutty whole grain bread with cream cheese spread. Throw in some mulling spices and you’ve got yourself a hit.
Pear Vanilla Jam
Just imagine what smells will be wafting out of your kitchen once you throw that whole vanilla bean into the pot of simmering pears. Marisa serves this honey-sweetened jam as an appetizer with a creamy brie or triple creme style cheese, and we might also work it into an entree by using a spoonful to dress smoked pork or duck.
PERSONALIZING A RECIPE
“To make a recipe your own, play around with the spices and flavoring elements. Try adding cocoa; try substituting cinnamon for cardamom,” Marisa says, but leave the main ingredients be. Marisa has taken special care to get that balance between acid, sugar and moisture in her recipes, so she doesn’t advise playing around with the framework of her recipes.
To learn more about how to convert your recipes into naturally sweet recipes, Marisa covers that in her book, Naturally Sweet Food in Jars.
Finally, I’ll leave you with one of her signature recipes, Strawberry Cocoa Jam. Imagine everything you love about a chocolate-covered strawberry, and take it from someone who returned shamelessly for seconds, thirds and fourths: This stuff is GOLD. All in all, it took her about an hour to make. It’s high in fruit, not in sugar, and an excellent way to get your sweet fix.
strawberry cocoa jam
copyright Marisa McClellan; from “Naturally Sweet Food in Jars”
THIS IS NOT your average strawberry jam. It is rich, dark, and is at its most delicious when served with croissants, brioche, challah, and other tender, buttery baked goods. If you’re looking for a more virtuous serving suggestion, try it swirled into oatmeal or spread atop homemade waffles.
Makes 8 (half-pint/250 ml) jars
- 4 pounds/1.8 kg strawberries, cleaned and chopped (about 10 cups)
- 21/2 cup/375 g coconut sugar, divided
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 3 Tablespoons bottled lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon calcium water
- 1 Tablespoon Pomona’s Pectin powder
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
Prepare a boiling water bath canner and 8 half-pint jars.
Combine the strawberries, 11/2 cups of coconut sugar, vanilla seeds, lemon juice, and calcium water in a large, nonreactive pot. Give it several good stirs to help combine the ingredients and dissolve the coconut sugar.
Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Once the fruit boils, reduce the heat to medium-high and continue to cook at a low boil until the strawberries break down and the volume in the pot has reduced by one-quarter. Depending on the water content in the berries, this will take 15 to 25 minutes.
While the fruit cooks, whisk the remaining coconut sugar together with the cocoa powder and the pectin powder. Once the necessary amount of reduction has occurred, stir in the sugar, cocoa powder, and pectin mix. Return the jam to a boil and cook for an addition 3-4 minutes.
When the jam is finished cooking, remove it from the heat. Funnel it into the prepared jars, leaving 1/2 inch/12 mm of headspace. Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Note: If your cocoa powder is really clumpy, push it through a fine mesh sieve before combining it with the pectin.
What the heck counts as a non-reactive pan? Why do jars have to be sterilized? Find out in Marisa’s Intro to Canning Online Class and watch her take it from the top.