Memories of Summer in Every Jar of Peach Jam

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“By all these lovely tokens September days are here, With summer’s best of weather And autumn’s best of cheer.” ~ Helen Hunt Jackson

Every year we make up a batch of jams and preserves so that we can capture the taste of summer in a jar. When we taste the sweet peach jam on toast, even in the dead of winter, we remember the fresh, juicy peaches of summer. We remember sunny days and lazy afternoons. We remember picnics in the park, sailboats dancing across the water, and children playing in the yard. Each bite brings back a moment that we will not forget.

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This was my first year making Peach Jam. The Niagara peaches are so full of flavour and when they are in season, I cannot get enough of them.

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I found this recipe in the Canadian Living Test Kitchen book called The Complete Preserving Book. It is an excellent source of information for those who are new to jam making and preserving since it contains sections on canning basics, equipment and techniques.

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When I took a bite of the fresh-baked scone covered in peach jam, I just smiled and remembered. So long summer… till we meet again.

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“One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Peach Jam

Makes about 5-6 1 cup jars

Ingredients:

6 cups sliced and peeled fresh peaches
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 package light fruit pectin crystals (49 g)
3 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Directions:

In a large Dutch oven and using a potato masher, crush peaches. Measure 4 cups of fruit.

Add lemon juice. Mix pectin with 1/4 cup of the sugar, stir into the peaches. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring often.

Add remaining sugar, return to full rolling boil. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.

Remove from heat and skim off foam.

Fill hot 1-cup (250 ml) canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch (5 mm) head space. Cover with prepared discs. Screw on bands until resistance is met, increase to fingertip tight.

Boil jars in the canner for 10 minutes.

Turn of heat. Uncover and let jars stand in the canner for 5 minutes. Remove jars from the canner and transfer to a cooling rack. Let cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours.

Recipe from-The Complete Preserving Book-by the Canadian Living Test Kitchen

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Holiday Gifts from my Kitchen-Port Wine Jelly

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We are rushing about getting ready for the holidays. I have been shopping and wrapping, baking and planning, decorating and sorting. Through all of the rushing around I have started to feel the excitement of the season. People around me are in a festive, giving mood. Holiday lights are twinkling in the night sky and memories of Christmases past are rushing through my head.

Every year around this time I have great intentions of making some homemade gifts for family and friends. It seems so much more meaningful to receive something that has been made especially for you. This holiday I have made a few things including this sumptuous jelly.

I started early and made some of my sister’s Port Wine Jelly. Whenever I have been fortunate enough to receive a jar of this jelly from my sister, I have treated it like a special treasure. It has a rich dark flavour that works so well with cheese tray or meat. Everyone in my family loves it, so it disappears quickly.

I asked my sister to share her secret to making such a wonderful product and she said to be sure that you use a good quality port. That sounded pretty easy to me, so I set out for my local liquor store and found some Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage port. I am happy to say that the results are exactly as I had hoped.

I cannot wait to share these little jars of rich, dark, ruby-red jelly with my family and friends this holiday!

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Port Wine Jelly

Makes 8 -8 oz. jelly jars

Ingredients:

4 cups port wine (use a good quality port for best results)
6 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
12 oz. liquid fruit pectin

Directions:

Sterilize 8 jars, rings and lids by placing them in a large saucepan. Fill with water up to a minimum of 2 inches above the jars, and boil for 10 minutes. Leave in the hot water until you are ready to fill them.

In the top of a double boiler combine port, sugar cinnamon and cloves. Place over rapidly boiling water and heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

Pour port mixture into a pot and over direct heat continue to heat. Add the pectin and bring to a rolling boil. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Skim off any foam that has risen to the surface.

Ladle jelly into the sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch of room at the top. Put the lids and rings on the jars and place the jars in the sterilizing pot making sure that they are covered with water. Boil for 10 minutes.

Remove the jars from the pot with jar tongs and let cool on a wire rack. The tops will pop as they seal after the heat bath.

Label the jars and store in a cool, dark place until ready to open. Refrigerate, after opening.

Preserving the Taste of Summer in Mixed Berry Jam

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What are your favourite flavours of summer?

My favourites are:

the taste of a ripe tomato, fresh off of the vine;
grilled corn on the cob,
peaches and nectarines on the day that they are just ripe enough to be sweet, but not too ripe,
fresh salads filled with seasonal fruits and nuts,
watermelon,
fresh lemonade,
grilled chicken,
and most of all
fresh berries

When the season starts to change I will miss those summer treats.

One way that our ancestors were able to stretch their fresh fruits was to preserve the taste into jars of jams and jellies. You can open a jar in the dead of winter and still taste the wonderful fruit like it was the day you canned it.

I have wonderful memories of homemade jams from my childhood; memories of an older aunt who loved to cook. I remember her making luscious fruit jams and spicy chili sauce every summer. She was very generous with her cooking. We had a large family for which she would whip up sensational meals because she loved feeding a crowd. I miss her.

Everyone has a childhood memory or two that is related to food. We remember those wonderful days when we taste the dishes that our mothers, grandmothers, aunts or uncles used to make.

For me, making jam is like making a jar of memories.

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Mixed Berry Jam

Makes approximately 9 -500 ml or 1 cup jars

Ingredients:

9 cups mixed berries (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, mulberries)
1/3 cup lemon juice
4 1/3 cups sugar, warmed
1 tbsp. plus 2 tsp. pectin

Directions:

Remove stems, stalks, leaves and any blemishes from the berries. If the berries are sandy or gritty, wash then gently under cold water. Be sure to drain them well in a colander.

Place the berries and lemon juice in a large pot and gently cook for 10 minutes. Add the sugar and stir over low heat for 5 minutes, or until all sugar has dissolved.

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Boil for 15 minutes stirring often. Remove from heat.

Add the pectin and return to the heat. Boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Remove any scum from the surface with a spoon or ladle.

Pour immediately into clean, warm jars leaving ¾ inch headroom, and seal. Turn jars upside down for 2 minutes, then invert and let cool. Label the jars with the name of the jam and the date. Store the jars in a cool dark place for 6-12 months. Refrigerate after opening for up to 6 weeks.

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Recipe adapted from Jams and Preserves by Thunder Bay Press.

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote with Mint

This has been a wonderful week filled with family celebrations.

Both my mother and I are born in June so we were planning to celebrate our birthdays together, as we usually do. What we did not expect was that my grand-daughter would come a few weeks early and we would have a precious baby girl to celebrate with us.

I spent most of my birthday helping my daughter while she recovered in the hospital. I was able to hold my grand-daughter for hours, to sing to her and talk to her and to celebrate her birth. I could not have dreamed of a more wonderful gift.

One of my favourite memories of when my daughters were young is how we would go strawberry picking in June with my sister and her daughters. The girls would eat more berries than we could pick but we had lots of fun. Then we would cart berry covered girls and the baskets of fruit home and promptly start making jam.

One of my favourite things is the unique flavour combination of strawberries and rhubarb. This year I made a strawberry and rhubarb compote. This delightful, fruity topping can be served on ice cream, as a cheesecake topping or in crepes that are topped with a dollop of fresh whipped cream. Any way that you choose to enjoy this recipe I hope it will remind you of this wonderful time of year.

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote with Mint

Ingredients

3 cups 1/2-inch-wide pieces fresh rhubarb (cut from about 1 pound)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1-pint container fresh strawberries, hulled, halved
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Directions

Combine rhubarb, sugar, and 1/4 cup water in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Bring to simmer, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Simmer gently until rhubarb is tender but not falling apart, stirring occasionally, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in strawberries. Transfer to bowl and stir in mint. Chill until cold, about 1 hour.

Use in your favourite recipe as a topping or crepe filling.

Recipe from Epicurious.com