Beverages, Canning, condiment, Recipes

Vanilla-infused Cranberry-Rhubarb Butter and Syrup: Update

I wanted to make this “happy accident” again to give as Christmas gifts, so here is an updated version of the recipes, which does not include cranberry sauce! Since cranberries and rhubarb are not in season simultaneously, one or the other of them (or both) will most likely be frozen when you make this preserve. I froze cranberries last year at Thanksgiving-time to use in this recipe, and I also always freeze rhubarb for pies throughout the summer. However, I still had rhubarb in the garden last week, so I was able to use fresh stalks this go-round for this recipe. But frozen rhubarb works perfectly well as I discovered last year.

Ingredients:

9 cups cranberries (mine were frozen)

9 cups sliced rhubarb (fresh or frozen)

4 cups water

4 cups sugar + ½ cup sugar, kept separate

2 vanilla beans

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Slit the vanilla beans and scrape the tiny black seeds into the pot. If your beans are fresh, throw the pods in too, just remove them before straining.* Place the all the ingredients except the ½ cup sugar in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until cranberry skins have burst and rhubarb is soft.

Line a colander or strainer with cheesecloth (personally, I prefer nylon tulle—it has smaller holes and is easier to deal with after you’re done—just rinse it out, wash it, and use it again!). Pour cranberry-rhubarb mixture into the strainer and just leave it for an hour or so. You can stir gently, but avoid forcing solids through the cheesecloth or tulle.

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After the dripping has stopped, pour off the syrup you’ve gathered. (If any tiny cranberry seeds have found their way through, you might want to strain through another cloth, but it isn’t necessary.) Pour the fruit syrup into a clean pan and heat until boiling, lowering to simmer for 10 minutes. You should have about 4 cups, or 2 pint jars worth. This can be poured into sterilized, hot jars, capped, and canned in the water bather canner for 15 minutes, adjusting processing time for your altitude. This syrup is delicious in cocktails or non-alcoholic spritzers. You get the tartness of cranberry and rhubarb, the sweetness of sugar, and the floral scent and flavor of the vanilla beans. It is good stuff!

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If you want to use the syrup for pancakes, boil it down a little longer until it is thicker and reduced to the consistency you prefer for pancakes or waffles. If it isn’t sweet enough for you, you can add agave nectar or non-high-fructose corn syrup to the mixture (about a cup per 4 cups of fruit syrup), which will also thicken it more. Bring back to a boil, and can the syrup as directed above.

Now, for the cranberry-rhubarb butter. A word about fruit butters might be in order here. A fruit butter, such as pear butter or apple butter, is a smooth, thick, rich concoction you can spread on toast, or a bagel, or anything else you choose (a cracker with a slice of tart cheese, or a schmear of cream cheese, perhaps). Generally, the fruit is cooked and strained or pureed and cooked down some more until it is concentrated flavor. Oh, my, I do love fruit butters! I make pear butter when I can get pears, and I make apple butter every year from my garden apples. This cranberry-rhubarb butter is just as thick and delicious, but you don’t have to cook it down for very long the way you do pear or apple butter. I am guessing that the abundance of natural pectin in both fruits, and the fact that you’ve strained off some of the juice, have something to do with this.

Now, you could just skip the next step, the second straining, and can this mixture as jam. It would need to be cooked down a little more, until it is thick and glossy, and then it could go right in the sterile jars and be processed for 10 minutes in the water bath canner like any other jam. However, rhubarb can be fibrous, and cranberry skins can be tough even with long cooking, so running the mixture through a strainer is a good idea. And what you end up with is so smooth and delicious, it really is worth the trouble.

So, for cranberry-rhubarb butter, run the mixture through a chinois (also known as a China cap colander) or a Squeezo strainer, or whatever sort of straining device you have. I use a chinois, which I call a cone colander when I’m not being all fancy-like. This gets out all the rhubarb fibers and tough cranberry skins. (I saved this roughage though to eat like cranberry sauce with roast chicken. I don’t really mind the occasional tough skin or rhubarb string.) What you will end up with in the pan or bowl after straining is thick and smooth pulp.

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Put that strained pulp (I got about 5 cups) back in a large pot, add the reserved ½ cup sugar if the mixture is too tart for you (or more, if you prefer a sweeter taste; ½ cup was perfect for me) and heat to boiling. This stuff is really thick, so as soon as it starts to blurp, turn the heat down, and do stir continuously during the heating up process and until the butter reaches a lower heat; otherwise, it will stick and scorch. Cook the butter on a low heat at a constant simmer until it is very glossy. This should only take about 10 or 15 minutes, stirring frequently. The glossiness means that all the sugars have amalgamated, and the pectins have been concentrated, and you will have a nice, thick, rich spread when it comes out of the jar.

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Spoon your cranberry-rhubarb butter into sterilized, hot jars, leaving a ½ headspace, cap, and process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes, adjusting processing time for your altitude.

I got 5 half-pint jars of cranberry-rhubarb butter, most of which I will give for Christmas gifts, but at least one jar will be served with Thanksgiving dinner, because it is perfect for that meal.

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Recipe Notes:

*My vanilla beans weren’t fresh, and I learned something. If the beans smell a bit alcoholic, that’s the pod. Scrape the inside of the bean and use that, but discard the pods. The inside is still perfectly fine. My beans were a year old, but had been kept tightly wrapped in a Ziploc plastic bag and in a jar in the fridge. Obviously, you don’t want to use anything that’s moldy or weeping liquid.

With these amounts of fruit, etc., my yield was 2 pints of cranberry-rhubarb syrup, 5 half-pints of cranberry-rhubarb butter (with a small dish leftover to enjoy NOW!), and a pint-sized tub of roughage to eat like cranberry sauce with roast chicken (pic below).

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I hope you’ll freeze some rhubarb and/or cranberries this year to try this recipe. It really is amazingly good. Happy jamming!

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Beverages, Canning, condiment, Desserts, Recipes

Berry Recipes

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It is berry season for all those berries that grow on canes.  I have raspberries, boysenberries, blackberries, and Loganberries in the garden, and they bear in that order.  The raspberries are almost finished (until fall, when another variety will start to bear), the boysenberries also are nearly done, and the blackberries are just getting started.  Loganberries will start ripening in mid-to-late August.

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I’ve posted berry recipes before, but I’m gathering the links together for you, so you can more easily find what you might be looking for.  In some cases, you might have to scroll down (or read down) to find the recipe at the end of a post.

Blackberry Cordial and Syrup

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I just made a batch of blackberry cordial and a batch of mixed berry cordial (Logan berries, raspberries, boysenberries, and blackberries), and the mixed berry cordial is delicious.  This recipe will work with any berry juice.

Raspberry Cordial, Jam, Vinegar

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And a reason to make blackberry jam or jelly, Blackberry and Wine Poached Pears

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And a recipe to use your berry-infused vinegar in, Berry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

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And finally, since I just made a different version of blackberry syrup, I’m going to post the recipe here, with a few notes.

Blackberry Syrup

4 cups of blackberry juice

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of agave nectar/syrup

Simmer the blackberry juice and sugar together for 8 minutes, then add the agave nectar and boil for 2 more minutes.  Keep at a low simmer while ladling into hot, sterilized jars (pints, quarts, or half-pints) and add flats and rings.  Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

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Note:  My old syrup recipe, in the first link above, called for light corn syrup, a cup.  This recipe makes delicious pancake syrup (or it can be used in cocktails or spritzers), but with the concerns about corn syrup today, I went looking for a new recipe.  I found the one above that uses agave nectar, one cup, and it’s really good.  However, when I compared calorie and sugars numbers between corn syrup and agave, I was somewhat surprised.  Light corn syrup contains 5 grams of sugars per tablespoon and 15 grams of carbohydrates.  Agave nectar contains 16 grams of sugars and 16 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon.  Of course, corn syrup is problematic for other reasons, but if you’re just counting calories, it’s a bit of surprise that the syrup made with corn syrup has fewer calories than the one made with agave nectar.

The choice is yours:  both recipes make an excellent syrup for pancakes, cocktails and spritzers, or to drizzle over ice cream sundaes or mix up in a milk shake, or stir into some thick Greek yogurt . . . . What would you put it on?

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Beverages, condiment, Dairy, Desserts, Recipes, Side dishes

Making Buttermilk

Now, some of you might be asking, why would you want to do that? Well, buttermilk is probiotic. It’s a culture/ferment that uses lactobacilli to alter the chemistry of milk. I must confess, I do not drink the stuff, although my father loved it. One of his favorite snacks was a big glass of buttermilk poured over a bowl of cold, crumbled cornbread, with a couple of fresh green onions from the garden on the side. I never developed a taste for that dish, but I have learned that buttermilk in baked goods lends a lightness only rivaled by sourdough. And it is excellent in salad dressings, and as a marinade for chicken, so I’ve been told, though I’ve never done it. I’ve come to love the stuff, and I keep a small jar of it in my fridge at all times. I enjoy knowing I have something freshly probiotic to mix into a salad dressing, for instance. I’ll be sharing a couple of my favorite buttermilk recipes with you in future posts.

Making your own buttermilk is ridiculously easy. All you have to do is mix 1/3rd cup of cultured buttermilk from the store with 1 cup of fresh milk. Shake it up in jar with a good lid, let it sit at room temperature for 24 hours, and you’ll have buttermilk. On the left is the old jar, with what’s left of the buttermilk I made a couple of days ago, and on the right is the fresh batch that will be ready in 24 hours.

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You’ll know it’s ready when you tilt the jar and the buttermilk pulls away from the side of the jar. It will be thick and viscous.

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At this point, it will keep in the fridge for up to a month.

I’ve learned through experimentation that the more often you culture buttermilk, the tangier and thicker your buttermilk will become. Also, you can make buttermilk from milk of any fat content, but the more fat, the thicker the buttermilk tends to be. Buttermilk mixed into half and half or heavy cream will produce sour cream that is similar to crème fraiche. For that recipe, click here.  You can use this cultured cream just as you would any sour cream or crème fraiche, in dips, in baking, as a topping for baked potatoes or cheesecake!

Always save 1/3 cup of cultured buttermilk to mix with 1 cup of fresh milk for a new batch. Of course, you can double or triple these amounts, keeping the same proportions, if you wish to make a larger volume of buttermilk.

Check back with me in a few days for a recipe using fresh, homemade buttermilk.

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Beverages, Canning, Desserts, Recipes, Uncategorized

Blackberry Time

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It is blackberry time, and we are busy trying to get caught up with our picking after being away for five days.  And it rained all day yesterday, so if we don’t pick quickly, the berries will rot from too much moisture.  So, instead of an original post this week, I’m going to repost a recipe I shared last year, in case anyone else is dealing with an abundance of blackberries.  Just remember, the berries can be frozen (don’t even wash them unless they are dusty) in gallon freezer bags and juiced later.  They will render more juice after the freezing and thawing process.  This recipe came from my sister’s father-in-law, who went by “Tip,” thus the name of the recipe.  This stuff was a big hit at my 40th high school reunion last weekend!

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Tip’s Blackberry Cordial

9 cups blackberry juice

2 cups sugar

3 cups vodka or brandy

 

Bring blackberry juice and sugar to low boil and simmer for 8 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and add vodka or brandy. Pour into clean bottles (brandy or vodka bottles work well for this) and cap tightly. Stores indefinitely.

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Beverages, Canning, condiment, Recipes

Raspberries: Cordial, Jam, Vinegar

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Have you ever heard that expression “to warm the cockles of the heart”?  I don’t know where I first ran across it, but I suspect it was in Little Women, one of my favorite books as a child and still a favorite.  I have something to warm the cockles of your heart this winter (whatever cockles are or wherever they are—this stuff is sure to warm them), and it’s not hard to make:  raspberry cordial.

Some time ago, I posted an old recipe for blackberry cordial, which is a wonderful, mildly-alcoholic beverage appropriate for an aperitif or dessert drink.  Just this past week, during a two-day berry-processing fest, I decided to try the recipe with raspberries.  And I am here to tell you that it was a complete success.  I’m so excited to share this and two other recipes with you.   Following the cordial recipe, I have a recipe for raspberry jam using the pulp left over from juicing, and a recipe for raspberry-infused vinegar, should you have more leftover pulp than you need for jam.

Now, a caveat.  This cordial recipe makes three 750 ml. bottles of cordial, with some left over in another bottle.  (If you choose to drink the leftovers rather than bottle it, who am I to judge you?)  It is entirely possible and as easy as . . . well, pie . . . to cut this recipe down, should you not happen to have access to enough raspberries to make 9 cups of juice.  Simply divide the recipe by 3, and you only need 3 cups of juice, about 3/4 cup of sugar, and 1 cup of vodka.  Simple.  And lest you worry that you need fresh raspberries to make this luscious drink, let me reassure you.  I made it using my frozen berries.  In fact, frozen berries render more juice than fresh berries do.

What I cannot tell you is the volume or amount of frozen berries you’ll need if you are buying them frozen from the store.  I used about 2 gallons of my frozen berries to make 9 cups of juice.  I used the leftover pulp to make jam, and oh boy, was it good!  So don’t throw that pulp away.  I have two more recipes to help you use every last bit of those raspberries.  I’m guessing that you’ll need about 3 or 4 large packages of frozen berries to get 9 cups of juice.  Look at the volume listed on the packages, if you’re buying frozen raspberries, and try approximate at least two gallons of berries.

There are other recipes out there for similar drinks.  Most of them require a long infusion time and several steps to come up with a drink that is safe for consumption.  Because this recipe calls for pasteurization of the juice, it is safe to drink immediately, and the flavor is exceptional.  I hope you enjoy this, as well as the blackberry cordial.

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Raspberry Cordial

9 cups raspberry juice (cook berries for 5 minutes, then strain through cheesecloth-lined colander to remove seeds)

2 ½ cups sugar

1 cup vodka

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Bring raspberry juice and sugar to boil; reduce heat and simmer for 8 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes.  Add vodka and mix.  Cool to room temperature and bottle in clean bottles with tight-fitting lids.  (Old, clean liquor bottles work well.)  Stores indefinitely.

Raspberry Jam

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To each cup of raspberry pulp and seeds left from straining the juice, add 1/2 – 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice.  (Please notice that this is substantially less sugar than is required for a recipe that uses commercial boxed or bottled pectin.)   To 3 – 6 cups of this mixture, add one cup of apple pectin stock.  Cook on medium high heat until pulp is glossy and thick, about 20 min. (Taste frequently to test for the level of sweetness that you want, and add sugar as needed.)   Test for doneness by placing a dab on a plate that has been in the freezer until well-chilled.  Replace plate in freezer for a minute, then check to see if jam is firm.  If so, spoon into sterilized jars, seal,  and process in water bath for 5 minutes.

Raspberry-Infused Vinegar

If you have more raspberry pulp than you want to convert to jam, or less than you need for a good batch of jam, try an infused vinegar.  This is so easy, it’s ridiculous.  Just fill a pint or quart jar 3/4 full of raspberry pulp and top off with white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or your own homemade apple scrap vinegar.  If you use homemade vinegar, store your infusion in the fridge; if you use store-bought, you can leave the infusion in a cool, dark place.  Because there is no way to test the acidity of your homemade vinegar, it’s best to be safe and keep it refrigerated.  Let it sit several weeks, then strain through several layers of cheesecloth and bottle.  Voila!  Raspberry vinegar (or blackberry vinegar, should you make the blackberry cordial).  I did both, during my recent berry-processing marathon.  Raspberry infusion on the left, blackberry on the right.

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May the cockles of your heart be warmed this winter with berries.

All original text, photographs, and the cordial recipe are copyrighted and may not be copied or reproduced without the author’s permission. 

 

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