Last weekend the first gooseberries arrived at the market. They were the bright green, super tart, barely ripe berries that make exceptional pectin.
Homemade pectin is a very useful pantry items as we go into the stone fruit season. Cherries, apricots, plums, peaches, nectarines are my favorite of all the summer fruits, so I go into full on preserving mode, putting them up in any and every variation. Sadly, these fruits lack natural pectin, which is not an issue for chutney, salsa, pie filling or fruit in syrup. But jam? confitures? That’s tricky…
I do this preserving for the art, the connection to some ancient way, long before grocery stores and boxes of pectin. I want to take the magic ingredients of fruit, sugar and heat and make something amazing. So I make my own pectin. It’s ridiculously easy. Four pints of gooseberries produced 32 ounces of pectin and that will get me through the season. I plan for four ounces of homemade pectin per batch of jam, presuming three pounds of prepared (peeled, diced, pits removed) fruit in each batch.
Along with those gooseberries at the market were fragrant, beautiful local raspberries. I’m an addict when it comes to raspberries. I just can’t walk away from them. Raspberry jam may be the simplest to make, but I like it most for the aromas in the kitchen. It’s intoxicatingly sweet and floral and I stand over the bubbling fruit and inhale.
I have been anticipating this batch of raspberry jam for nearly a year. Last fall, while at Kate Hill’s Camont, for Grrls Meat Camp*, I found a gorgeous bottle of violet liqueur. I was drawn to it as much for the color as the possibility of the flavor, and knew it would find a place in fruit preserves. Indeed, it’s remarkable, and while I know you may not have access to a liqueur like this one, you will find all sorts of interesting flavors if you go poking around at the liquor store. Just substitute any liqueur in equal amounts.
Of course, there’s no reason you can’t make this, or any other liqueur, yourself… but that’s another post for another day.
Today, it’s all about gooseberry pectin and raspberry preserves, two preserving projects in season now.
* Grrls Meat Camp is moving stateside this year – October 25-28 near Chicago, IL. Check in at Kate’s website for more info.
Makes 8 four ounce jars
4 pints gooseberries, slightly underripe is fine
4 cups water
3 T Gin
Put the gooseberries and water into a heavy preserving pan and cook at a slow simmer for 45 minutes.
Strain in a jelly bag or through three layers of cheesecloth. Drain for six hours.
Reheat the pectin, bringing it to a simmer and skimming any detritus. Prepare the canning pot with boiling water and sterilize the jars.
Test the set of the pectin. Drop 1 tsp of pectin stock into 3 Tablespoons of gin. It should form a ball, if, instead, the pectin disperses into small clumps, cook it for another ten minutes and try again.
Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.
Can’t find gooseberries? Use 8 cups of prepared green apples, not Granny Smiths, but apples that are unripe. Cut them up, then put core, peel, everything into the preserving pan and proceed with the recipe.
Raspberry Violette Preserves
This preserves is full of raspberry seeds. I like ‘em. If you don’t, run the berries through a fine food mill and reduce the sugar by 1/2 cup. Your yield will be slightly less.
Makes 3 half-pint jars
3 pints of ripe raspberries
3 c sugar
Juice of one lemon (not Meyer)
1 oz. Violette or other liqueur
Select berries picked in dry weather, not in rain (the ones picked in the rain will be more delicate and will fall apart quickly.)
Buy organic berries.
Do not wash the berries – you will wash away the essence. This is why it is critical to purchase raspberries from the best farmers, people you trust.
Right in the preserving pot, stir together the berries with the sugar and lemon juice gently but thoroughly. Allow this mixture to macerate and combine for one hour.
Turn the heat on under the pot and slowly raise the temperature, stirring all the while. It will take about one hour to come to a good sturdy boil and thicken.
It’s the simplest of all preserves, elegant and richly raspberryish. But it’s also very easy to burn. And it’s easy to take off the heat too soon.
So stir away, and get to know your preserves. Watch how the bubbles change in character. How the sound of the spoon along the bottom of the pan changes as the preserves thickens.
When it’s where you want it to be (do you like your jam runny? it’s YOUR jam!) add the liqueur.
Stir well, then turn off the heat and ladle into jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Wipe the rims and place the lids and rings.
Process for 10 minutes in a waterbath.