Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tigress Can Jam - quincemeat preserves

Hard to believe but the year of Tigress's CanJam wonderfulness, set in motion by the brilliant Tigress, is drawing to an end... Her choice for this last month of all was dried fruit. It would normally never occur to me to use suchlike as an ingredient for something water-bath canned, since it is already shelf-stable.

My first thought was to use something exotic, like dried mango or papaya, but on further research, there was very little information about the acididty level of dried fruits. From what is listed here, it seems that as fruit dries, it becomes slightly less acidic than the comparable fresh fruit; raisins and dried apricots are both within the safe zone

Of course, chutney is the most obvious use, but with various other savory jars already in the pantry, and not being as much of a chutney enthusiast as my dear mother, I remembered a recipe in the back of How To Be A Domestic Goddess that seemed like a good starting place to riff off of. Nigella has a great enthusiasm for quince, and coincidentally there is still a small jar of quince still in the fridge (most all of the rest was properly canned, and is stored on the pantry shelves) as well as a half jar of spiced seckel pears.

After looking over the recipe for Quincemeat, the parts that seemed vital to me were the proportions, (more quince - less dried fruits), with an assortment of spices, and candied orange peel, as well as brandy, and either suet or shortening. The suet-free recipe on the previous page calls for apples instead, "...extra apples make up for the suet by keeping everything nice and moist", so extra apples it will be.

Okay, so the plan is to make a chunky-ish spiced mixed preserve. My first step (since there is one orange in the hanging basket next to the kitchen counter), is to peel and blanch twice the orange peel, then simmer it in a sugary syrup, to approximate candied orange peel. Actually making candied orange peel is not difficult, but takes rather a bit more time, and you'd want to use more than just one orange! I'll be making up a big batch sometime later this month, as it is a favorite holiday gift for my father. If all the marmalade from January had not already been eaten, that would be a good substitute.

Quincemeat Preserves
1 c cooked quince
3 preserved seckel pears
½ c apple
¼ c dark raisins
¼ c golden raisins
¼ c dried apricots
¼ c candied orange peel
3 T dark brown sugar
3 T dark rum
½ c spiced fruit syrup*
¼ t cinnamon

*leftovers from
preserved quince & pears
Prep all the jars and canning supplies, set canning water boiling

Chop all fruit, except raisins, into raisin size pieces

In a non-reactive pan, add liquids, sugar and spice to fruit.
Bring to a boil, and simmer till apple is cooked
(you may add more syrup if needed to prevent scorching)

Using the normal waterbath canning process,
fill jars
- ½" headspace - process 15 minutes
Yield: three 8oz. jars, 1 4oz. jar

Now the house smells amazing! Using the rose/quince and the spiced/balsamic/pears in addition to the dried fruit makes for a mightily aromatic preserve, rich and strange. In the interest of using what is here, I substituted rum for brandy. They're not the same, true, but for me, dark rum is a taste of wintertime, all on account of the rum balls that were an every year New Years confection.
This is my first original recipe for waterbath canning, but all the components are safe for canning*, and there is even some vinegar in the spiced fruit syrup, though not very obvious, it adds additional complexity.

*The acidity cutoff point for safe canning is 4.6...
apples 3.3 - 4.0
seckel pear 4.0 - 4.2
quince 3.1 - 3.4
raisins 3.8 - 4.1
dried apricots 3.3 - 3.5
oranges 3.3 - 4.1

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