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Grape Jam

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My friend Gwen brought me a box of grapes from her back yard.

Grapes in a box

They smelled like summer and grapes and wonderfulness. The sweet, aromatic smell like a Concord grape, only green.

I tried two different methods for making jam, since I had so many grapes.

First, I separated and washed the grapes and slipped the pulp out of the skins. This released a lot of the juice, as well. The process was incredibly time-consuming and tedious.

Cooking the pulp

I set the skins aside to use later:

Grape skins

I cooked the pulp until the seeds fell out to the bottom of the pan, then put it through a sieve to get them out.

Then I added sugar to half the volume of the pulp, cooked to almost the jelly point, and added in the skins, then had to cook it again. I ended up having to add more sugar and I threw in some lemon to help the pectin set, as well. This ended up with a nice light, bright, very sweet jam.

Green grapes make a light red jam, which seems counter-intuitive but the color comes from the tannins in the skins, which turn red (like in a quince) when they are cooked.

After making the first batch, I still had a ton of grapes. I chose a less work-intensive method.

Macerated grapes

This time I separated and washed the grapes, then put them, skins and all, in a large pot with an appropriate amount of sugar (about 1/3 by volume) and the juice to two lemons. I let that macerate overnight.

Then I cooked it. When the grapes had pretty much fallen apart, I put the mash through the food mill to remove the seeds. This worked imperfectly, because some seeds were crushed and chunks sent through the mill, but better and faster than hand-skinning each seed by far.

Grape juice after milling

Then I cooked the juice to the jelly point (105C, which is actually 107C on my candy thermometer because of bad calibration).

Grape jam thickening up

This cooked the jam down by quite a bit; I started out with 7 quarts of grapes, then after milling I had just over 5 quarts of juice. In the end I got seven pints of jam.

Finished pints of jam

I ran out of one-cup jars and decided against buying even more of them. I had plenty of pint jars, which is a large jar than I usually use for jam, but with grape jam you almost expect abundance and a bigger container, anyway.

I would definitely do the second method again; it worked out very nicely with the combination of work and result. The first method produced a very nice jam, but was not incrementally better than the second.

White Nectarine Jam

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Nectarine Jam

This is like a little potted bit of summer. The delicate flavour of white nectarines in a jar.

White Nectarine Jam
(makes about 6 to 7 1-cup jars of jam)

About 1.5 kilos nectarines
800 grams sugar
juice of one small lemon (about two ice cubes worth of juice)

Blanch the nectarines by dipping them in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then dipping them into cold water to loosen the skins. Slip the skins off (preferably leaving as much of the pink flesh under the skin as possible for a more lovely pink colour). Cut in half, remove the pit, and then slice into pieces about the size you want in a jam pot (I did nice thin wedges).

Weigh out 1 kilo of the nectarine slices. Eat any left over to make sure the nectarines are are wonderful as they look. Don't just throw the extras in because the ratio of a jam recipe is delicate and messing with it causes jam failures.

Put nectarines, lemon juice, and sugar in a jam pot and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a glass or ceramic bowl, cool it down, and let it sit overnight in the refrigerator (24 hours is optimal; less is fine).

The next day, prepare your jam jars and water bath.

Sieve the juice from the fruit into the jam pot, and set the fruit aside. Heat the juice to 105C on a candy thermometer, which should be about five minutes of boiling. Add the fruit back in, reheat and boil for a further five minutes, until the fruit starts to turn translucent. If you don't like surprises, check the set of the jam. Remove from heat, skim any foam off the surface with a spoon (you can put the foam in an unsealable jar for later, or on a slice of bread for right away; it's not bad, it's just not pretty).

Ladle the jam into jars until they are full to 1/4" from the top, clean the rims, and seal in the water bath according to your elevation. If you have not quite enough for a full jar, do not process it but set it aside to refrigerate for immediate consumption. My partial jar didn't even make it into the fridge.

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Sweet Cherry Raspberry Jam

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Many years ago my mother sent my father out to get sour cherries, and he came home with sweet cherries. Lots of them. So she took our usual abundance of red raspberries and made a quantity of sweet cherry raspberry jam that has become legendary. It is quite possibly one of the finest red jams known to mankind.

Well, the other day I was walking into Trader Joe's and noticed a 3-lb container of sweet cherries on sale. I added in a few frozen packages of red raspberries (one of the fruits it is totally worth buying organic, by the way, because they absorb everything), and that evening I made up some jam.

Here's the recipe I used (I made two batches with my 3 lbs of cherries):

Sweet Cherry Raspberry Jam (aka Cherry-Berry Jam)

1 3/8 lbs cleaned and pitted sweet cherries
1 1/8 lbs frozen organic red raspberries
(or divide the fruit to get a total of 2 1/2 lbs of fruit in the proportions of your choice)

juice of one small lemon (two ice cubes of frozen lemon juice, in my case)
4 cups sugar
1 packet no/low-sugar pectin

Some recipes have you chop the cherries up, but I like how whole fruits feel in a jam. If you don't, this is the point where you chop up your cherries as you prefer them. The raspberries will fall apart in cooking any way you work it, especially if they have already been frozen, so don't bother spending too much time on them.

Put the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice into glass bowls and allow to macerate overnight. I prefer 24 hours.

The next day, prep your jam jars and water bath. Put the contents of the bowl on the stove and heat until sugar is dissolved in the juice. Mix in the packet of pectin.

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Heat to a simmer and hold it there for one minute. Then test your set, skim the top (I skim it into a jar to put in the fridge: it's just foamy, not bad), and ladle the jam into the pots, cover, and process.

Makes 7-8 one-cup jars of jam, depending on how enthusiastic you are about skimming.

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Cheddar Cheese: Unmolding

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Today, after a day and a half or so of pressing, with turns every 12 hours, it was time to take the weights off the cheese.

Lifting the weights off

I used a small weight to fit into the mold and help with pressing, and it made an impression. Maybe next time we make cheese I will carve a custom pattern plate for the top.

Now we spend several days regularly flipping the cheese as it air-dries. When it has a decent crust on it, we can wax it and put it away to finish curing.