The Joys of Jam!

I love color.  I like to fill my house with color! I think my favorite color in a window is cobalt blue.  Oscar Wilde, my favorite 19th Century  Irish playwright and aesthete once said, “I fear I will never live up to my cobalt dishes.”  I think it was actually decorative urns to which Wilde referred.   I would have to agree with the great intellect.  Cobalt does delight the senses.  The featured image is my kitchen window.  It looks to be a setting sun outside, which gave the blues an extra boost of color.

Speaking of color, I like color in my foods.   Jams are a good example of a colorful food.  While jams, that wonderful concoction of sugar and whole fruit, may not appear to be useful beyond peanut butter and jam, bread and jam, jam glaze, etc., for some, I think they can be used every day in a myriad of recipes.  I like to create jams.  I am less inclined toward jellies, made of fruit juices and sugar, though they make wonderful sweetener for, say, tea!  This week, I created a new jam.  I give my jams weird names.  Actually the names derive from the acronym that comes from the main ingredients, like “CAOS,” pronounced, chaos, is my cranberry-apple-orange-spice jam that I make in November when cranberries come to the grocery.  My CAOS graces the holiday table, and goes splendidly with turkey and its trimmings.

“FAJ” and “FOJ,” pronounced fahje and foeje, are my fig-apple jam and fig-orange jam.  They pair nicely with brie and other buttery cheeses.  I think I’ve written about these previously.

To assure that I measure fruits, sugar, and other ingredients going into the jam, I look at other recipes.  My latest is called, APOS, and now I’m sorry I didn’t arrange those letters differently, because some use a similar acronym derogatorily.  Going forward…APOS is apricot-pineapple-orange-saffron jam.  I followed a recipe for apricot jam.  First, you should know that my freezer is full of apricot pulp.  My mother has a prolific apricot tree.  She picks and cleans the apricots.  She adds a “produce protector” with dextrose, ascorbic acid, and citric acid, so that the fruit keeps its brilliant orange, and she adds some lemon juice and freezes in jars.

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I thaw the jar and mix my “jam.” For APOS, I used this quart (453.59g) of crushed apricots, and chopped up enough fresh pineapple and  two whole oranges to make eight ounces (226.80g) of additional fruit.  To which I added four cups (860g) sugar, and two ounces (56.70g) of lemon juice and four good pinches of saffron (about 20 threads for stigma).  Saffron is a rare and fragrant spice.  Each flower of the crocus produces three stigma and must be harvested by hand.  I visited Spain 15 years ago, and I still hang on to the saffron I purchased there.  Luckily, my mother’s friend, who lived in the Middle East gifted some.  I am using that now.  Here it is cooking down to a thickened state.  Notice the saffron threads imparting their brilliant color to the already colorful blend of apricot, pineapple, and naval oranges.

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While the jam thickens, jars must be cleaned and sterilized.  The rings must be clean, and the lids must be covered with hot water to soften the rubber seal.  Pour the boiling jam into the prepared jars, and the lid-ring must be adjusted to fit properly.  Lower each jar into a boiling water bath canner where the water covers the jars by two or more inches (5.08 cm).  Place the lid on the canner, and begin the count (15 minutes) once the water comes back to a boil.   Consult your canning guide for best results.

I tested the jam with silky goat cheese, and it did not disappoint.  It went well on a freshly baked slice of sourdough, too.  I think it’s a keeper.  bread

Jams are a must when you present a meat and cheese board.  We like a meat and cheese board when we’re watching a movie on the television.

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On this particular board, I used whole figs in place of the jam (What was I thinking?).  My husband loves kippered snacks (herring), which is great with cream cheese and crackers.  Eat this kind of meal slowly so that you know when you’re full.  Otherwise, it’s easy to stuff yourself, because everything is fresh and flavorful.

I’m off to visit my mother for her 90th birthday.  My sisters and I are preparing a great feast.  Perhaps I’ll share.  Thank you for reading.

Mother’s Visit

My 90 year old mother had not seen our new (to us) home since we moved to a different town, so she wanted to make the 18-hour drive to see us and arrived on Monday, March 9, 2020.  Luckily, her 82 year old husband and 70-something brother were along to do the driving. My mother makes a great drill sergeant,  so she “supervised” the trip.

They arrived the day after my friends left our house for their weekend visit.  Most interesting, also, it was when the COVID-19 stories began to surface in a serious way.  We went out to eat on the day they arrived, but after that, the university where I work and which was in spring break mode, began to think about what to do with 20-thousand-plus students.  Administration decided to extend spring break one week, and then we’d work on turning all of our classes into a virtual format.  Suffice it to say that I have been conducting meetings and teaching schedules in a virtual format called, Zoom (c).  It’s been an interesting way to do business.

My mother likes to eat, though she eats very little save sweets and starches.  The second night of her visit, I fixed grilled chicken and pesto pasta.  I’m still using the 30-plus small containers of pesto that I made last summer from a prolific basil plant.  The lovely thing is that pesto, when prepared and frozen properly, looks as green and lovely thawing from teh freezer as the day you put it in.  I simply seasoned the chicken thighs with seasoned salt and garlic powder, and grilled until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F (75 degrees Celsius).  I cooked the pasta until al dente and tossed it with thawed pesto.  I sprinkled it with a little more Parmesan after I served it.  We had a added roasted Brussels sprouts and crusty bread and enjoyed it with a sparkling Cava.  My mother mostly ate the bread with lots of butter.  Last fall, Dale and I took a sparkling wine and Cava tasting class at K-State’s College of Health and Human Sciences’ Hotel and Hospitality department. It was a good lesson.

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Last December when I was home, in Western Colorado, I had noticed a perfect wasps’ nest.  I showed it to my step-father and told him all about such wasps (Bald-faced hornet, actually) being the best of architects!  Low and behold, unknown to me, he had cut it down and presented it to me as a gift.  Please understand that these hornets leave the nests in the cold of winter, but to make sure, I stuck it in the freezer for 24 hours.  Then it became a decoration.  The nest now hangs from my living room ceiling.  Look at its beauty!  The queen builds this paper nest going round and round.  While she builds the walls, she builds the comb, which will hold the workers.  It’s perfect, as many things in nature are.

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Interestingly, we discovered a yellow jacket nest in our yard.  They build underground, and they are perfect until an opossum came along and tore it out.   They like to eat the larvae.  That’s another story for another time.

Well, it was a great time with mother.  I am 63 years old, and she still feels the need to tell me that I’m cooking wrong, cleaning wrong, and she has opinions about my behavior.  She did like the variety of birds feeding at my various feeding stations, so that was entertaining.  Here’s another thing that makes mother think that perhaps I was switched at birth with her “real” daughter, because her own daughter would have better sense.  While she was visiting, I created my seasonal centerpiece.  I found the idea somewhere, but I can’t remember, but the idea is not mine.

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Dale drew the horrified faces on the little guys.  Well, as always, thank you for reading me.