At some point during the day, no matter how crazy the day is, I realize how lucky I am to be able to teach what I love. Not only am I lucky enough to teach cooking at a school with a wonderfully supported program, I am also surrounded by equally food obsessed colleagues that are talented chefs in their own right. Besides the several food competitions for charity and amazing luncheons with homemade items that co-workers run, there are people who bake and cook for no reason, often for the whole staff. Last week, two very talented cooks provided scones and homemade jams for the staff to sample. It was such a beautiful spread of colorful fruits, it was hard to pick just one. I ate mine like a tasting flight, a little of each on a plate with a bite of scone.
The scones were provided by Patti, one of the most amazing bakers I have ever met. Every pay day, in addition to every holiday or teacher appreciation day, the 100 plus mailboxes are filled with some sort of amazing treat, everything from homemade caramel corn to giant cookies. I’ve heard she’s got a double oven and a pretty nice counter set-up at home but I cannot understand how she pulls it off. I do this professionally and I still can’t understand how she whips up hundreds of biscotti, muffins, cupcakes or brownies every other week in a home kitchen, by herself. Not to mention the time, money and care that goes into it. Ellen, another talented co-worker, was responsible for the preserves. Since the second I saw them I’ve had extreme jam envy! This stuff is seriously delicious and the way she packages them is so adorable and clever, they were just screaming out for a photo shoot.
Of the strawberry, raspberry, plum, peach, blueberry and orange marmalade varieties I tried, I couldn’t tell you which was my favorite. They were all equally delicious with different textures and tartness. I got to take home a special jar of pear, which I can’t wait to try. Although I’ve had all the jars and supplies for canning for years now, I use them all to freeze my garden goodies instead of really canning them. Seeing Ellen’s gorgeous jams has given me the caning bug again and this summer, I think I’m going to give it a try. Between my u-pick obsession and my backyard container garden, it’s going to be a busy Spring. Here’s a recipe from Ellen to get you started, I will be posting Patti’s scones next week. The preserves are the perfect excuse to eat 3-4 scones in one sitting!
Ellen recommends following any canning recipe exactly and to be very careful to keep your cooking equipment and area sterile to ensure safety.
SURE.JELL Peach Jam – Kraft Foods
4 cups prepared fruit (about 3 lb. fully ripe peaches)
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. EVER-FRESH Fruit Protector (optional)
1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine (optional)
5-1/2 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl (See tip below.)
BRING boiling-water canner, half-full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.
PEEL and pit peaches. Finely chop fruit. Measure exactly 4 cups prepared fruit into 6- or 8-quart saucepot. Add lemon juice and fruit protector; stir until well blended. Stir in pectin. Add butter to reduce foaming, if desired. Bring to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.
STIR in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
LADLE immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)
How to Measure Precisely
To get exact level cup measures of sugar, spoon sugar into dry metal or plastic measuring cups, then level by scraping excess sugar from top of cup with a straight-edged knife.
At altitudes above 1,000 feet, increase processing time as indicated: 1,001 to 3,000 feet – increase processing time by 5 minutes; 3,001 to 6,000 feet –