Jam Session Preserves: Sweet flavors of summer can be yours all year long with these updated canning recipes.

August 07, 1996|By JeanMarie Brownson | JeanMarie Brownson,KNIGHT-RIDDER TRIBUNE

For jam- and preserve-makers, summer never bids farewell. Our mouths water with the thought of transforming its riches into translucent jars of goodness to savor long beyond the season.

Unlike our grandmothers, who preserved fruits and vegetables out of necessity, today's cooks have the option of canning small batches to capture those irreplaceable tastes of summer.

And, if you don't intend to preserve the fruits for pantry storage, ,, you can simply refrigerate most jams and preserves for up to several weeks in the refrigerator or several months in the freezer.

Nicole Routhier, author of the new book "Nicole Routhier's Fruit Cookbook" (Workman, $24.95), is among the preserving devotees.

"Preserving at home offers unlimited variety, the chance to customize your canned goods, and the satisfaction of producing healthful, delicious foods with surprising ease," Routhier writes.

"I make my own preserves and relishes because they taste better, have less sugar and salt, and usually cost less than most commercial brands."

Fortunately for novices, fruits also are among the easiest foods to preserve.

You need little more than a few jars and lids and a large kettle.

And there is nothing quite like filling the house with the aroma of simmering berries and peaches to slow down the fast pace of modern life.

Charie MacDonald, chef-director of Beautiful Food Inc., looks forward to making preserves, jams, jellies and marmalades every year.

MacDonald follows two rules when deciding which fruits to preserve: Don't make anything you don't want to eat, and don't tell your friends and family how much sugar goes into making the delicacies.

MacDonald says great fruit is the key to success. Though she no longer picks her own fruit, she does seek out the best from local farms and farmers' markets.

"If the fruit is not absolute perfection when you eat it, it won't make great preserves."

L Berry preserves of any kind are among MacDonald's favorites.

"A combination of older berries and fresh, barely ripe berries works best," she says.

"There is more flavor in the older berries but more pectin in the newer berries. Avoid berries with a white tip because the finished jam won't have a real rich color. Also, the older the berry, the faster it will cook, because it doesn't contain as much water -- so pay attention."

Because successful, stress-free canning depends on timing, we offer here a brief guide to preserving the fruits of summer -- from proper equipment and recipes to step-by- step instructions and tips.

For more information, Alltrista Consumer Products Co., the marketer of Ball brand and Kerr brand home canning products, offers a toll-free hot line for consumers in a jam with their jam. Call (800) 240-3340 for answers to home canning, freezing and dehydrating questions, or to order the latest edition of the "Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing and Dehydration" ($5.95, including shipping).

So preserve away and capture summer in a jar.

Peachy recipes

Cookbook author Routhier suggests spicing up this fruit butter with 1/2 teaspoon each ground ginger and nutmeg added to the pulp during the second stage of cooking. We added 1 large habanero chili pepper, split in half, for a slightly piquant spread.

The preparation time is 30 minutes and cooking time is 50 minutes.

Peach butter

Makes 5 cups

5 pounds fresh peaches

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 cups sugar

Heat a large pot of water to a boil. Score an X on both ends of each peach, then drop it into the boiling water for 30 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peaches to a bowl of cold water. When they are cool enough to handle, peel, pit and slice the peaches. (You should have about 10 cups of sliced fruit.)

Combine sliced peaches, lemon juice and water in a large saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the fruit is quite soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool the fruit slightly and then puree it in a food processor. You should have about 6 1/2 cups puree.

Return the puree to the saucepan and add the sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until the mixture is thick and creamy, or until a spoon drawn through the mixture leaves a clean line at the bottom of the pan, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Pack into sterilized jars according to the manufacturer's directions and process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Or pack into freezer containers and freeze up to several months. The butter also can be refrigerated several weeks.

Per 2 tablespoons: 50 calories, 0 milligrams sodium, 0 milligrams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 0 grams protein.

-- Adapted from "Nicole Routhier's Fruit Cookbook"

Here the whole strawberries are left to stand overnight with the sugar to draw out their juice and toughen them so they will stay whole when cooked. These preserves are terrific eaten on biscuits, toasted bread or ice cream, or swirled into whipped cream for a quick strawberry fool.

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