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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Small Batch Pectin Booster


Oy! It's June in California, soon to be July. Things have been coming into season, hot and heavy, since April. I've put up over 50 jars of jam in the last two weeks. Sometimes it feels like a long haul, but I feel so happy when I put those shiny jars in the basement. Next month it will be Christmas in July. Yeah. That's how I roll.


My stock of apple pectin from Bill's tree did not make it through this canning season, so I've been picking up apples and making small batches as needed. This works well and is less of a production than the big batch. If you are new to jam making and you want guaranteed success, use packaged pectin and follow the directions exactly. You will not be sorry. Works every time. But, if you have oddball amounts of fruit, not being married to the recipe is great. I have worked out a basic formula that is fairly reliable. If it comes out a little soft - Oh well. Pancake syrup!


So, here's the formula. One cup sugar per pound of prepared fruit, plus up to an additional cup of sugar, to taste. Add lemon juice. Usually, 1/4 cup per 3 pounds fruit. More to taste. If the fruit is high in pectin, such as blueberries or blackberries, you don't need to add pectin at all. If it is a low-pectin fruit, such as strawberries or peaches, add about 2/3 cup of this concentrated pectin for 3 pounds of fruit. Cook until it reaches a soft gel stage.


I've said it before and I'll say it again. I like a soft set. Please don't consider your jam a failure if it is a little soft. It will still be delicious. One of the reasons my jam is soft is that I use much less sugar than traditional jams, which used to be almost equal parts fruit and sugar. I really like it less sweet. That is why, when I do use commercial pectin, I use the pink stuff.


Here are a couple of examples of the two types of pectin. On the left, is plum and pineapple jam, made with commercial pectin. On the right is strawberry jam made with this pectin booster. For that recipe, I used 3 pounds prepared strawberries, 3 1/2 cups sugar, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 2/3 cup of this pectin. It mounds up a bit, but is really more like preserves - fruit suspended in a thick syrup. But, it still stays on your toast.

Small Batch Pectin Booster
4 granny smith apples
1 lemon
10 cups water

Wash and quarter the apples. Do not peel or core. Wash and slice the lemon into 1/4 inch slices. Add the fruit to a large stock pot and add 10 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a brisk simmer and allow to simmer for about 1 hour. The apples will kind of explode out of their skins and the liquid will begin to get a little thick. Strain through a cheesecloth-lined sieve. Let stand to drain for at least an hour. Place the remaining liquid in a smaller sauce pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until it is reduced by half. You should end up with 2 to 3 cups. Store in the fridge for up to one week or freeze for later use. Like my larger batch of pectin, I tend to use about 2/3 cup per 3 to 4 pounds of fruit.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Random Food Fridays - Roxie Ribs Beans



I grew up eating beans and cornbread. My father was born in Oklahoma and traveled across the country to California when he was 2 years old. His parents had been farmers, but when the war started Pappy went to the ship yards in Richmond. He went on his own and Grammy, one of her friends and their children came by car with all their worldly goods. I learned a lot from my Grammy's cooking style. I also spent a lot of time in their garden. I still dream about being in my grandparents garden. Like many people who have relocated, they grew the traditional foods they could not buy at a store. The okra flowers were beautiful, like yellow and maroon hibiscus. Fried okra, black eyed peas, musk mellon and all kinds of peppers were grown each summer. Their apricot tree was like a candy tree to me.


All of this is why beans are my ultimate comfort food. There are some tricks to making them good and digestible that are well worth learning. Dry beans are not a fast food. But, neither are they as hard as folks seem to think. It's weird to think that cooking an important staple food has become such a mystery in three generations.

Here are the bean rules:
1. Sort and wash. You do not want to bite a bean-shaped stone.
2. Soak. Overnight, or longer,  in cold water. Or, alternately, start with the beans in plenty of cold water, bring to a boil, remove from heat and let stand for one hour.
3. Drain and rinse. This removes many of the components that cause gas.
4. Cook to desired tenderness without salt or acid. These inhibit the absorption of water by the beans.
5. To further reduce gas, simmer with a piece of kombu. This is a type of seaweed.
6. To complete the protein, serve with grains of some sort.
7. The more you eat beans, the more your digestive system with adjust.
8. Beano works!


What makes these beans so flavorful is the use of smoked pork ribs. We have a little deli, called Roxie, a block from our house. They have a big smoker out in front and Wednesday is rib day. So good! We usually get a full rack and eat them for a couple of days, then I make beans with the few remaining ribs. If you are in the Sacramento area, do stop by Roxie. They make awesome sandwiches too.

Roxie Rib Beans
2 cups pinto beans
Water
5-6 meaty, smoked pork ribs
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp. chipotle in adobo sauce, chopped or mashed
1 clove garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can or jar of diced tomatoes
1/4 cup molasses
2 tsp. salt

Sort and rinse the beans. Place the beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water by at least two inches. Place in fridge and allow to soak over night. You can also do a quick soak by placing the cleaned beans into a large pot. Cover with cold water by at least two inches. Bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.

When ready to cook, drain the soaking water and place the beans in a large pot and add 4 quarts of water and the ribs. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover with the lid ajar. Cook the beans at a slow simmer until tender and the meat is falling from the bones. Remove the ribs bones and tear the meat off with a fork. Return the meat to the pot. Add the onion, chipotle, garlic and tomatoes. Simmer, uncovered, until the beans are very soft and the broth has thickened. Add the salt and taste.

This makes a big pot of beans. Serve with cornbread. I had mine with crackers today. (Too hot to bake in June!) Enjoy!