Short and Sweet: Spiced Cran-Apple Jam

One of the benefits of living in Oregon is our availability to fresh, tart cranberries.  Oregon’s coastal region’s moist bogs provide ideal conditions for the spindly, low growing bushes to thrive.

courtesy oregon cranberry growers assn.

 

Their juicy tanginess makes an ideal foil in sauces, chutneys and other condiments, in salads, and for baking.  I like to stock up on cranberries when they are abundant, from October to December.

 

I recently came across a forgotten bag of berries stuffed in the recesses of the fridge that needed to be either frozen or used up.  Here’s my ten minute solution:  a sweet and sour cranberry-apple jam that falls somewhere between jam and chutney.

cran apple jam

 

The jam’s spicy-tart bite is a delicious wake-up on morning toast, as an edge with peanut butter in a sandwich, and even as a mild condiment with curries.

 

Nice to know it is laced with B, C and E vitamins, too.

 

Spiced Cranberry Apple Jam

Ingredients

  • 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large Gala, Fuji, or Honey Crisp apple, peel, seed, chop
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • Pinch sea salt
  •  ¼ tsp five-spice powder, or cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeded, or 2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a medium pot, combine cranberries, apple, cider and vinegar, sugar, salt and five-spice and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. If using vanilla extract hold off until finish to add.
  2. Simmer over medium heat until cranberries begin to burst and jam thickens, 8-10 minutes. Just before removing from heat, stir in vanilla and simmer briefly. If desired, mash berries with a bean or potato masher, for more jam-like consistency
  3. Let cool, remove the vanilla pod. Transfer jam to a pint jar with the cinnamon stick if using.  Will hold in refrigerator 2 weeks or longer.  Yield:  2 cups

Pear Butter: Crazy Good

Using a slow cooker for jam is pretty unconventional, since popular wisdom leans toward cooking the fruit down rather quickly to maintain the fruit’s freshness and suspend it in sugar.

But these days I’m throwing out the rule book and giving my small crock pot a real workout. I’m also learning that using a slow cooker is not an exact science and there is a learning curve of sorts. In particular, the amount of liquid given off by ingredients is not always predictable. It’s reminiscent of recipes in old cookbooks that use the expression, “Cook until done.”

pear-butterIt seemed to me that winter pears should be the perfect candidate for my tiny crock pot.  Armed with a few lovely Comice pears and spurred by a bunch of different ideas, I formulated my approach and got busy. Several hours later I was completely enamored with the results.

In my small slow cooker set on low, I peeled, cored, and chopped 5 good sized pears, then added sugar, a little lemon, a pinch of coriander and cardamom.  Smuckers likes to tell us they use “a cup to a cup,” or equal amounts of fruit and sugar. But since I was not making enough for canning purposes, I decided to cut back and use an amount of sugar more suited to my taste.  Rather than 4 cups of sugar, I opted for 2 cups (which still seemed like a lot).

After about 30 minutes worth of maceration I kicked the temperature up to high.  I decided I would not cook it overnight in usual slow cooker fashion. Since ripe pears are fairly soft to begin with, it made more sense to keep an eye on it and cook until the fruit was soft and breaking down—and go from there. That took a little under 4 hours with the lid ajar to allow for moisture to escape. In spite of this attempt to reduce liquid there was an unbelievable amount left.  I tasted it and decided it was worthy of fine syrup status: excellent on just about anything from pancakes to ice cream. It was so good, I wondered if the fruit was worth saving—perhaps it had lost all flavor to the syrup? But I moved on.

The syrup was strained, 2 cups were decanted and set aside. I left small liquid puddles in the bottom of the pot to aid the fruit as the immersion blender was introduced to break it down into a smooth mass. In no time it was transformed from grainy chunks into a compelling, silky, slightly pink-tinged butter. When dropped from a spoon it held its shape naturally, but was not firm-set.

I could not have asked for more: the pears earthy perfumed flavors shined through gloriously. It was perfectly sweet, elegantly balanced with a whisper of citrus, and an exotic hint of coriander and cardamom.  Crazy good.

Pear Butter, Slow Cooked

Ingredients
5 large Comice pears, about 4 cups, peel, core, cut into chunks
2 cups granulated sugar
½ lemon, zest and approximately 1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
quick grind of sea salt

Directions

  1. Set slow cooker or  crock pot to low and add pears as they are prepped; then add sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice, coriander and cardamom. After 30 minutes, turn the heat to high; when mixture comes to a low simmer set lid to slightly ajar.  Cook for approximately 3-1/2 hours, until fruit is very soft and beginning to break down.
  2. Strain most of the syrup off the fruit and set aside for other uses.
  3. Using blender or hand held immersion blender, puree fruit until smooth and silky.  If desired, cook a little longer to eliminate any unnecessary liquid, about 30 minutes. Yield:  about 10 ounces.