Green hot sauce.

Serrano and jalapeno peppers

If you have ever thought of pepper-spraying your entire family, but didn’t have the nerve, well, I have an idea for you.

We are now in my very favourite time of the year, because it’s still hot enough to run around without sleeves but the produce is at its most awesome, and I can’t stop blowing my paycheque on ridiculous quantities of stone fruit, tomatoes, and peppers. Nick swore out loud on Sunday when I decided his penance for a weekend camping trip was to Tetris the hundred pounds of farm market bounty I’d managed to lug home into the fridge; there is simply no more room, and I can’t stop. It’s too good. It’s all too good.

“You have to do something about this,” he said, shoving the door closed. “No one needs this much damn zucchini.”

Well, I beg to differ. Let’s not even talk about everything that’s suddenly ripe in the garden. Nick certainly doesn’t want to talk about it.

So, because I am responsible and have an unlimited tolerance for a humid, sweltering apartment, I have been canning the many things I brought home, because the only thing that makes Nick happier than a fridge that won’t close are cupboards that can’t contain the groceries. I made hot sauce. It’s basically sriracha, but green.

We all paid a little bit for this, but it was worth it. Open a window if you do this; if you have a camp stove or a barbecue with a side burner, then cook this outside. Or, if everyone you live with is being a real jerk about the harvest season, then reduce a pound and a half of hot peppers with all their seeds right smack in the middle of your 900 square-foot apartment and listen to them whine and whine and whine.

They’ll forget all about it when they’re spooning green gold onto their sausages come February.

Note: Ideally you will make this using a food mill. If you don’t have a food mill, start by seeding the peppers (if you don’t want this hot-damn hot), then process in a blender or food processor before proceeding to the simmering/reduction stage. The finished product is not too too hot; it’s flavourful with a nice, slow burn.

Green hot sauce

Homemade green hot sauce

(Makes about five 250mL/1-cup jars.)

  • 1 1/2 lbs. serrano or jalapeño peppers, or a combination
  • 1 lb. onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 heads garlic, cloves separated and peeled
  • 3 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 3 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp. Kosher salt

Remove the stems from your peppers and chop them roughly. Throw them into a heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pot (such as enameled cast iron or stainless steel) with all the other ingredients, and bring them to a simmer over medium-high heat.

Cover, and cook for 15 minutes until soft.

Meanwhile, sterilize 5 jars in a large stock pot; you’ll want to boil the jars in water that comes to about two inches over the tops of the jars. Boil for 20 minutes.

Remove the chilies from the heat, and spoon the peppers and liquid into a food mill positioned over a large glass bowl. Process through the food mill until there’s nothing more running through. Scrape the bottom of the food mill into the bowl.

Pour strained pepper mixture back into your pot, return to medium heat, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until reduced by about half.

Spoon into sterilized jars and wipe the rims with a piece of damp paper towel. Tap the jars to dislodge any trapped air. Place sterilized lids on top, then screw on the rings; you want them just tight enough that they’re closed, but that you could still unscrew using your thumb and finger. Process the sealed jars in boiling water for an additional ten minutes. Remove using canning tongs and let cool for 24 hours. Check that jars are sealed, and then store sealed jars in a cool, dark place. Spoon the vinegary, garlicky pungent stuff over February’s wintry food and relive the magic of a fridge brimming with life.

finished sauce

A perfect day for pickle-making.

Today we made 47 jars of pickles with Nick’s sister and brother-in-law. I haven’t had homemade pickles since my grandmother made them – it’s been too many years. And I hadn’t made them in the meantime because they are a lot of work, and because I had somehow elevated pickle-making to an “I’m a grown-up!” status symbol and I hadn’t felt competent enough with my canning pot to do that yet.

We brought home 12 jars of pickles, which should just about get me through the year if Nick only has one per jar.

This feels like an achievement, especially after buying so many disappointing jars of commercial dill pickles for so many years. I am crossing “make pickles!” off my life’s to-do list, and making plans for next year’s batch.

This was a pretty thrilling sight. I don’t think I would have enjoyed doing it alone, but four people made quick work of 40 pounds of pickling cukes – we took the afternoon, and there was plenty of time for a leisurely dinner and a bowl of ice cream afterward. It was easier than I thought it would be, and I recommend you try it, especially with an eager group to help.

Some talk about cherries.

On Friday evening I went with Grace to her mother’s house to pick cherries, which we did quite successfully last year, and which we were determined to do quite successfully once again.

This year, the cherries returned in abundance! I think we must have gotten to them a little later this year, because by the time we arrived the cherries on the main tree had darkened until they were almost black. They had a caramel taste to them, and they begged me to eat so many of them, and I did.

What squishy feelings come from eating too many cherries all at once.

They became jam, sort of, and a lovely dark sauce for steak, and a tart that sparkled like something much more valuable than the sum of graham crackers, cherries, sugar, and rum.

I even tried to paint one of them. Tried being the operative word, and maybe my evil beast of a high school art teacher was right – I don’t apply myself or seem to care, and all I’ll ever have is wasted potential, especially with this attitude.

But what did she know, anyway? I really, really care about cherries.

There aren’t really recipes for any of the dishes that wound up – there is for the jam, and it comes from David Liebovitz, and even he claims there’s no real recipe. Mine didn’t set, which is just as well, because now I have six jars of cherries in a rich rummy caramel, and that’s just fine. They will be lovely in ramekin-sized cobblers come Christmas.

And the steak. You ought to know all about this.

When you pan-fry a steak, right after you move it to a foil-covered plate to rest, while the pan’s still hot, dump a cup of cherries per person into it, let them melt into the meat juices, and when the pan looks dry, deglaze with a splash of balsamic vinegar. Add chili flakes if you feel like it. You’ll know when it’s done – the sauce will be sticky, not runny, and will smell fantastic.

And the tart. There’s nothing to the tart.

Macerate two pounds or so of cherries in about a half a cup of sugar  and a quarter cup of your favourite rum or bourbon, and give it 30 minutes, or 60 if you’ve got ’em. Bourbon’s better, but sometimes you’re out because it’s hot and you like bourbon and lemonade almost better than anything in the world, and my goodness your liver must be tough. Is it hard around the edges? Fine work. Really well done. What?


Tart. Take a tart pan. Pack it full of one cup graham cracker crumbs mixed with a quarter cup of melted butter and two tablespoons of brown sugar. Bake at 400°F for ten minutes. Remove from oven, and cool.

Fill with cherries. If you have a lot of liquid, thicken it on the stove with a bit of cornstarch. If you don’t, that’s fine too. I just poured it back over the cherries.

Serve immediately to salivating guests. Pile so much whipped cream on top.

Tomorrow I’m going to a blueberry festival at work and should have a flat or two to do something with, and then Grace and I are going on a pink wine picnic followed by berry picking on Sunday. So much excitement! I can’t wait to tell you all about it. But for now, think about cherries. I still am. If for no other reason than they’ve permanently grubbied my fingernails and I’m painfully self-conscious about it.

Burdock pickles.

Right now, at this very moment, I am making the brightest-tasting tart ever to be enjoyed in February, but there’s a lull in the process as my crust and my custard are cooling. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

I say that a lot. I said it about the burdock. So, lest you think I am being evasive and not sharing the magnificent joys of burdock root, I pickled it. All eight feet, which amounts to three little jars of spicy, garlicky pickles, all cooling on my windowsill.

They’re a lot like carrot pickles, which is exciting. Actually, they’re a lot like David Liebovitz’s carrot pickles, because I adapted the recipe from his site. Except that instead of two cloves of garlic smashed, I used four whole cloves of garlic per jar, and instead of cider vinegar, I used rice vinegar and a tasty drop or ten of mirin. ALSO, they’re spiced with one minced hot red pepper, and not fennel. Pretty good, at least based on the initial round of tasting – once they’ve stewed in their juices for three to six weeks, I am sure they will be awesome.

So there you have it. Follow through, late as usual, but enthusiastic nonetheless.

These are a few of my favourite things.

It’s persimmon season. Did you know that? Have you ever tasted a persimmon? They look like orange tomatoes with floppy hats and they’re almost too sweet to eat. Fortunately, it’s also cranberry season.

I would have offered you a recipe for cranberry sauce with persimmons, but, to be honest, I’ve noticed that everyone’s own recipe for cranberry sauce is the best and I am sure my own mother would chime in here with reasons why I’ve done it wrong. Cranberry sauce is cranberry sauce, so just do what you’ve always done and it will be marvelous, even if all you do is open a can and plonk the stuff onto a plate, can-rings and all. But chutney.

Chutney is something else. It’s far more versatile, and the reason I like it better is that it’s something you can eat with cheese. In these chilly, early-winter months, I like nothing more some nights than to put on a holiday movie and eat a loaf of bread and a bit of very good cheese with warm chutney. A fresh bottle of Beaujolais doesn’t hurt either.

Chutney is sweet and savoury, and goes well with meats and cheeses and fishes, and it’s a lovely colour and a great gift item. People don’t make it like they make jam, so it’s a nice thing to offer as a hostess gift, or to give to someone you quite like. Or, you can make a whole bunch of it and just keep it all for yourself, and that’s fine too. It’s not greedy.

This is my chutney recipe, and it makes somewhere around a ton of the stuff (actual amount: about five cups), but I can it. You don’t have to do that, if you don’t want – just make a little bit and stash it in the fridge if all you want is enough for you. But the ingredients are cheap, especially if you received a bag of glowing orange persimmons from your boss, who received them as a gift from someone’s garden somewhere close by. Even if you didn’t, persimmons are very reasonable. And use rosemary. It’s a December herb – you can even buy it now, tied up like little Christmas trees, each sprig like an exaggerated branch of pine.

Anyway. Chutney.

Cranberry persimmon chutney

(Makes about five cups.)

  • 1 1/2 lbs. diced persimmons
  • 1 lb. fresh cranberries
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. orange zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice (from one large navel orange)
  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (Ooh – or dry red wine!)
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary

If you want to can this stuff, use the procedure for shorter time processing at Epicurious. Okay. Good.

So. Heat up your olive oil on high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Stir in your cranberries and persimmons, and reduce to medium. Add orange zest, juice, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 40 to 45 minutes, until berries have popped, persimmons have turned to mush, and the whole mixture resembles a loose cranberry sauce. It should not be smooth, however. Nobody ever liked a smooth chutney.

Stir in rosemary, and check your seasonings. I added more pepper, because I like it, and a pinch more salt. You can do whatever you like.

Taste. It’s good, right? I know.

Simmer for five to ten minutes, and then spoon into jars. If not canning using high heat, seal them tightly and throw them in the fridge. If canning, process as usual.

Serve with very good, very creamy cheese. This is a tart, sweet, herbacious thing, and you may be unsure about the combinations at first read, but I promise that once you plop this stuff onto a crusty piece of bread with all that very good cheese (I’m thinking something strong, like Roquefort or Gorgonzola, or something creamy, like Camembert), you’ll see what I mean when I say that this is one of my favourite things, made from a few of my favourite things.

Also, I’m sorry. I’m having a hell of a time trying to upload images, so there aren’t as many pictures this time as I’d have liked. It’s still two weeks until someone comes to install the cables that’ll give us proper Internet. I’m doing what I can with stolen signals. Anyway. Time to go buy some cheese. This chutney’s not going to eat itself, you know.

Strawberries. Vanilla beans. Burning. And I am not allowed to can anymore.

So, this week I was going to tell you all about bountiful harvests and glorious home-cooking, but everything kind of went to hell and I’m going to be out of town for a few days and I decided that there was no point in cooking and The Three Lions Café on Broadway at Ontario makes a fantastic order of bangers and mash and Kayla, the waitress there, is pretty much my favourite server ever and since everything I was doing at home this week made me tired or marred me, I decided to quit and let someone else do the cooking. And the pouring, of course, which is why I feel infinitely better. That, and Kayla’s impression of a dying giraffe. Awesome.

But, anyway.

Remember a couple of days ago when I was all, “DIY revolution!” and “Canning is cool and fun!” and it seemed like I was finally getting into a Gen. Y-groove, with all the frugality and doing-it-myselfness? Well, fuck that shit, if I may put it delicately. Last night I burned my face off. And it sucked. And I cried a little on the kitchen floor, face to the cool laminate, and then realized that I burned myself for what amounted to three cups of strawberry vanilla bean preserves. Beyond fantastic (the preserves), for the record, but it’s hard to look past the fact that my right eye is basically a giant scab. A face scab. SUPER sexy. I’m sure in two weeks when I’m less deformed I’ll call this a battle scar, but for now, I hate everything. Except my strawberries. I’m not mad at them … just … disappointed. I was really hoping they would amount to more.

This is the burn, fresh. I wanted to show you it fresh because it's kind of gross now, all brown and scabby, like a crusty birth mark.
This is the burn, fresh. I wanted to show you it fresh because it's kind of gross now, all brown and scabby, like a crusty birth mark, but puckered and shiny.

At this point, I can’t help but think that I sure sound like a whiner. Time to switch gears, perhaps, and tell you all about the strawberries and the vanilla beans?

Sure thing.

And here you go.

About a month and a half ago, I stumbled across  I Have a Knife and a recipe for Homemade Strawberry Vanilla Bean Preserves. Good stuff, this, and I was saddened to have only seconds before completed a batch of my own strawberries, sans vanilla bean. Well. There’s a market in Surrey near my parents’ house that sells exceptionally fresh produce, and they just so happened to have a few local strawberries left. I bought some, intending to make something out of them, and then forgot about them. Until last night. I’m going away this weekend and didn’t want to see them die – I needed to do something with them. And I have vanilla beans.

I halved Knife’s recipe, as I only had about four cups of berries, but I’ll give you the full thing. The full recipe should make about six cups of jam. I’ve tweaked this some, so I’m including those adjustments here.

Strawberry Vanilla Bean Preserves

  • 8 cups strawberries, hulled, rinsed, and sliced
  • 4 cups white sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

I keep linking to Epicurious’ Procedure for Shorter Time Processing, but that’s because I like it and it works. Prepare the jars in this way.

In a large non-reactive or stainless steel pot, mix together strawberries, sugar, vanilla bean, and vinegar. Mash with a potato masher, and cook over high heat. You’re going to want to bring these to a boil, and keep them boiling aggressively until they reach 220°F on a candy thermometer, which is the temperature at which the jam will gel. It should take between twenty and forty minutes depending on the size of your pot and the depth of the berries in the pot.

Remove the beans, and pour the mixture into your prepared jars. Do not allow a large dollop of boiling water to assault your face as you remove the jars from their own aggressive pot of water, or you will feel a tremendous amount of pain, and you will say the kind of swears that even truckers will hesitate over, lest they seem uncouth. And then you will sob on your floor for a few minutes, and your version of Nick will be all, “You’re not allowed to can anymore.” Because he doesn’t care a whack about revolution, DIY or otherwise.

Process as per Epicurious’ instructions.

And you know how I know they’re awesome? When I stumbled home this evening, I found myself a tad ravenous, as one gets, and the only thing that could fill the void was dessert. And it’s too late to make pudding, so I am, as I write, spooning fresh strawberry vanilla bean jam into my mouth from the jar, and it is divine. I imagine that it will age well, given a few weeks or months, and then I will like it even more. Too bad I only have two jars.

Dark red.Also, don’t be wary about the vinegar. I promise you, you’ll like it. Vanilla can add a cloying sort of taste when added to stuff that’s already on the sweet side, and the vinegar is a nice counterbalance to that. You’re not actually going to taste vinegar, or even sour. The vinegar will add a bit of depth, umami, if you will, and will do little more than linger in the background, preventing the sweetness from taking off and/or seeming fluffy and excessive. It grounds it. It’s almost smokey, but it’s so subtle that anyone who doesn’t know it’s an ingredient will never know it’s there. I’ve never lied to you before.

And don’t give up on canning. I won’t. I’m just going to buy a much smaller pot and tongs that don’t slip and drop hot glass bombs that injure my face with their fallout. In the meantime, America? I’m coming back. And Trader Joe’s? Please have your shelves stocked. Back in a few days!

Beet pickles, zucchini relish, and my fingernails are still stained purple.

Rose gave me a bag of zucchini this week, and a five-pound bag of beets. And that’s quite a lot of produce, especially around here, where there’s just the two of us, and two very small apartment-kitchen counters, and all our dishes were dirty. So I didn’t cook it all right away, and by Saturday it was time to deal with it all, lest it perish and disintegrate in the crisper. And I really like beets and pickles. And relish.

So I’m giving you two recipes today, because it’s been a busy food week. Yesterday there was pattypan squash and soufflé and we picked blackberries, and today I made jam. Tomorrow, tomato sauce and something to do with strawberries. Here are Saturday’s recipes.

First, beet pickles. Bittersweet spicy magenta pickles. Wonderful with crusty bread, soft cheese, and thin slices of raw onion, or between stained pink fingers, straight out of the jar.

Beet pickles

(Makes four to five 500mL/2-cup jars)

  • 5 lbs. beets
  • 3.5 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 sticks cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. whole cloves
  • 1 tbsp. whole green cardamom
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Boil whole beets, unpeeled, with tops and roots still attached, for 20 to 25 minutes. They should be just soft enough for the first millimetres of the prongs of a fork to just pierce the skin. Drain the beets, and dump them immediately into a sink full of ice water.

I want to say “shuck the beets.” Because shuck seems like the right word, though I don’t think it really is. You are going to peel the beets using your hands to strip the peels. Cut the tops and roots off, then strip the peel from each beet, pushing with your thumbs to rub the peel away from the flesh, then running a knife over any spots where the peel won’t tear away. I learned this week that I can record video using my camera, so I’ve taped a demo so you can see what I mean. I thought it was silent, so I didn’t bother talking.

Prepare your jars, using the Procedure for Shorter Time Processing.

Once the beets are peeled, cut them into slices, no thinner than 1/2 an inch thick. Set aside.

Beets. Resting.In a large stainless steel or otherwise non-reactive pot, combine your vinegar, water, sugar, spices, and salt. Bring to a boil, then add your beets. You’ll want to boil your beets for four to five minutes, just as your jars are about ready to come out of their boiling water and be filled.

Spoon beets into jars, and fill with liquid. Don’t worry about filtering out your spices. Add them to the jars too.

Once you seal the jars, process them as per the instructions linked above. Label them with the date you pickled, and be sure not to open them for six to eight weeks. They will need to soak up all that spicy pickle juice. And then they will be marvelous.

Beet pickles!Since the pot was boiling jars anyway, I also made five little jars of zucchini relish. Each jar held 250mL/2 cups. Easy, and very fresh-tasting, not too vinegary, and gently spiced.

This recipe comes from Epicurious, because I’d never made relish before and thought it’d be a good place to start. The Epicurious recipe makes ten jars; I halved the recipe because I only had half the zucchini. I didn’t peel it or seed it, because my zucchini were very small, with thin skins and soft seeds. Here’s my adaptation:

Zucchini relish

  • 2 lbs. zucchini, grated
  • 1 medium white onion, grated
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper

In a large bowl, combine your zucchini, onion, and bell pepper. Salt, and refrigerate at least four hours. Drain well, and rinse.

Once drained, put your vegetables into a large stainless steel or nonreactive pot.

Relish, pre-relish.Add your vinegar, water, sugar, celery seeds, nutmeg, and white pepper, and bring to a boil. Boil for ten minutes, and then place into prepared jars. Process as usual.

Zucchini relish.Give this a couple of weeks to sit in a cool, dark place, stewing in its juices. It will be very nice with burgers at the end of the summer, and meats and cheeses into the fall. And perhaps even the winter, if you don’t gobble it all up by then.

Peaches that taste like candy.

Dramatic peach.
Dramatic peach.

I only eat peaches in July and August. Those rock-hard tiny little yellow bullets of no flavour you get in stores the whole rest of the year? Those aren’t peaches. Peaches come from the Okanagan, and they are bigger than my two fists pressed together, and did you know that your brain is about the size of your two fists pressed together? I like my peaches as big as my brain, sopping and sloppy and juicy and sticky all over the place. And they taste like candy.

Smaller than is ideal but still fabulous.
Smaller than is ideal but still fabulous.

Peaches are my favourite fruit.

I was an infant in the Okanagan, and my mom told me that my first taste of solid food was a peach picked fresh from the backyard mushed up and thrust upon my tongue. And every time I bite into a peach, the taste surprises me, as if it is the first time I’ve ever tasted one, because I always kind of forget that peaches are peaches and not that strange fruit that comes in cans or those terrible little abominations available at Safeway in December.

Okanagan peaches have arrived, and this week I bought too many. Apricots too, but that’s another post. So we were elbows deep in sticky, and it was great, but a few of them had turned on me, started to get a bit smishy, and some of them were just not soft enough for me to get ravenous with. I salvaged a couple toward the end, sliced them and drizzled them with cream.

On their way into my mouth.

Peach feast.As for the rest, I turned them into jam.

Because it’s not as hard to do as you think, and because canning lets you enjoy peaches beyond August. And also, it’s trendy.

Peach Jam!

(six one-cup-size jars)

  • 4 cups chopped peaches
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 package original, plain, regular old pectin
  • 5 cups granulated sugar

You’re supposed to finely chop your peaches. I finely chopped most of the peaches, leaving a few larger bits in the mix, because I like it when there’s the odd chunk I can chew in jam. Once again, I followed the Procedure for Shorter Time Processing when it came to prepping the jars, because it worked and I don’t think there’s any reason to screw with a system that works.

Put your peaches, lemon, and pectin in a large pot over high heat, stirring frequently until it comes to a rolling boil.

A jam is born.Dump in the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Bring it back up to a boil, and then, when it’s boiling so aggressively you can’t quell it with a bit of stirring, set the timer for one minute, and stir constantly. Remove from heat and fill your jars. Process as usual.

Jars in the mist.Then, wait. The most satisfying sound in the world is the “pop” of the jar lids as they seal themselves shut. I had seven jars, because mine were slightly smaller than 250mL/1 cup, so once I’d heard seven little pops, all was right with the world. And then I napped. And it was good.

Seven cute little jars with fruity lids and I smile and smile and smile.
Seven cute little jars with fruity lids and I smile and smile and smile.

Let ’em sit for 24 hours undisturbed. It may take up to two weeks for jam to set, did you know that? If it sets right away, then feel free to eat it tomorrow, on a warm, buttered piece of fresh bread. Marvellous.

I’ll bet you take to the Internet to start looking at condos in Kelowna almost immediately after you’re done.

Canning: The Third Act. And it turns out that 10 years later, math can still get the better of you. Or, “Strawberry red currant jam.”

Pretty.So, a bijillion things happened this week and it was impossible to get to the currants any earlier than today, so you can imagine how much I had built it all up in my mind. Glorious red jelly, I’d imagined, spread all over the tops of little rounds of brie that I would bake in puff pastry – and then we got busy, and Nick’s sister Jess had a baby, and I ran out of jars and payday hadn’t quite happened and then I found myself in a copy-editing frenzy for my friends’ fantastic magazine on my day off and then there were shirtless French men on my deck painting and getting all aggro and asking me questions and my head was going to explode and then, AND THEN, when I finally squished all the juice out of the red currants, I measured and found myself with two cups. TWO. I did not anticipate this, and I calculated and estimated and everything. And I needed like seven cups to make jelly, so I defrosted all my strawberries from a month ago and made strawberry jam with red currants and was a little disappointed but holy crap. And then I burned my hand.


The whole thing ended in a twist? I know, I’m annoyed too. Luckily, the jam is delicious. And I’d had four beers for breakfast so I was in a good mood despite all the failing and French people yelling and the injuries so I totally didn’t even cry. Success? We don’t measure it with a very high bar around here.

Strawberry Jam with Red Currants

(Makes 8 to 10 jars.)

  • 5 cups crushed strawberries
  • 2 cups red currant juice
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 1 packet of Bernardin Original Pectin

Prepare your jars.

Combine strawberries and red currant juice in a large pan. Squish in your lemon juice. Add pectin and stir until dissolved. Bring to an aggressive, bubbly boil, and add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Bring back up to a rolling boil, and then set the timer for one minute, and stir your aggressive pot of molten strawberries while they boil furiously. Ladle into your prepared jars, and process as usual.

If, when pulling the jars out of the boiling water so you can put your jam into them, one splashes you, COOKING YOUR GODDAMN HAND, then feel free to shout swears as loud as you want, regardless of how many French men there are on your deck. They probably can’t hear you anyway, and if they can, whatever. THEY SPEAK FRENCH.

Oh – remember how I wasn’t sure if the raspberry jam was going to set? It did. Loosely, but it totally worked, so I am triumphant. So, I guess this concludes my series on canning. I made some scones though, and I’d like to tell you all about them – they’re the Starbucks vanilla bean scones, but better. They go great with either jam. You’ll love them, I promise. Here’s a sneak preview:

Vanilla scones with jam.

The Second Act: A raspberry jam success story. (I think.)


Every couple minutes, the lid on another jar pops and seals and my heart fills with joy. Now the only concern is whether or not the jam will set, because I got too excited and misread the recipe, and then when I went back and reread it I was all, “that can’t be right,” and even though I didn’t really know what I was doing I scoffed and decided I could do better … but the leftovers are firming up nicely so hopefully that’s a good sign. I now have eight jars of raspberry jam, and there aren’t enough exclamation points in the world to convey how excited – no – how ebullient I now am. Ebullient means enthusiastic or BUBBLING OVER WITH JOY, all caps. I know you probably know that, but I had to look it up to double check and it’s my job to know words like that, so, you know. Anyway. It’s like when you figure out how to do something you used to think was impossible, like merging onto the highway, only it turns out you can totally do it and then you’re just so full of pep that you can’t stop beaming or asking for high-fives. Except better, because I still don’t really know how to merge onto the highway without braking.

Like I said, I’ve never really done this before. I’ve hovered close by while my mom canned things or pickled stuff or turned fruit into jam, and I watched my grandmother from the stool I’d perch on across the counter top on the other side of the kitchen, but I never really got all that helpful over it. I think that’s because the last time I saw either of them can anything I was much smaller and far more likely to drop hot things all over myself and everyone. I think it’s also quite a pain in the ass, this canning business, and so after a certain point I suspect it became more trouble than it’s worth. And the mess gets everywhere, and it’s sticky.

The recipe I used comes from The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving via Epicurious, but I didn’t really read it all that closely and it turns out my way was way better, because if you follow this recipe, I think you’d end up with not very many jars of cloying red plonk. I’ll give you the recipe I thought I was using, but you may want to follow Epicurious’ Procedure for Shorter Time Processing because I am not very helpful as far as the technical stuff. There’s molten raspberry goo running down the side of my fridge.

Raspberry Jam

  • 4 litres/1 gallon/16 cups of fresh raspberries
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 4 cups granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 250°F. Place sugar in a pan in the oven, and bake for 15 minutes. Apparently sugar dissolves much quicker in the raspberry mixture when it is warm. This is true. The sugar disappeared in no time. Literally, seconds.

Put raspberries and lemon juice into a large stainless steel pot. Bring to a full boil over high heat, mashing berries with a potato masher as they heat. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Once the sugar is good and warmed, add it to the pot. It will stop boiling for a minute or two, but let it come back up to a boil. The recipe said that it should only take five minutes to form a gel, but I think that’s based on not nearly as many berries and way more sugar (by volume) than I used, so I boiled the berries in the pot for closer to ten minutes. To test whether the jam was thickening, and it’s hard to tell when it’s at a full-rolling boil, I took a small spoonful of jam and stuck it in the fridge for two to three minutes. If it was thick enough when it was cool, then that was good enough for me.

When satisfied that it’s thick enough, spoon the jam into your prepared jars – I used eight small jars of varying sizes, which held between one and two cups each. The recipe should make 10 one-cup jars.

The result was a jam that tasted like raspberries, not too sweet. There was just a tiny bit left over, and I ate it all with a spoon, and it was as bright and cheery as the fresh berries were, which is pleasing because it means that we’ll get to taste summer all year long. The best thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t make way too many jars that you’ll eventually throw out, and it’s manageable enough that you can make it on a tiny apartment stove (mine has only one large burner – the other three are the little kind, which makes it just slightly larger than the stove you get in those awesome plastic Fisher Price kitchens).

Raspberries, pre-jam.



Rolling boil.

Filling the jars.



By now, all eight lids have made their happy little popping noise, so barring a disaster or something, they should all be sealed. Now we wait – apparently I am to test these in 24 hours to be sure that they’ve sealed tightly. So think happy thoughts for my eight little jars. Tomorrow, or possibly the next day because I’m now out of jars and lids and everything, the challenge will be red currant jelly, which will be a different kind of experiment and though I haven’t decided if it’s going to be spicy habañero red currant jelly, plain-old regular red currant jelly, or something else, I think it’s going to be fun – I’ll tell you all about it very soon. It’s kind of like being an Iron Chef in your own kitchen, which is better because you always win and if you’re lucky you can still get someone else to clean up.