It’s Farmers’ market season and there is a dearth of fresh fruit everywhere going cheap. What’s a girl to do? Get creative in her kitchen of course.
Ontario may be a part of the Great White North but for part of the year she produces an abundance of berries and stone fruit. Many farms, some organic and some conventional, exist outside of the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) with the Niagara region being renowned for its wine and peaches (amongst other things).
Jams, cakes and scones can all be made with fruit but a quick jam, sans canning, is a great way to make good use of the abundant fruit during this time of year.
Canning requires precision and technique – who wants to get botulism from improperly preserved produce? But I’m not talking canning so as to stock up for the winter. Forgo the official canning process and use the quick cook method instead to turn your fruit into tasty spreadable treats.
- Cut fruit into bite-size pieces and place into stainless steel pot.
- Add sugar. This is personal. Apparently there is a rating as to how much sugar classifies a jam versus a jelly versus a spread. Canning authorities will have you believe that a whole field of sugar cane is needed in order to set the jam. Fruit in season is sweet enough. Add a little natural sweetener of your choice i.e. coconut sugar, muscovado sugar, honey, etc.
- Cook on medium heat to loosen up the pectin (usually found in the skin of a fruit). The pectin is what helps set or gel the fruit spread. I like to use agar agar as well for extra gelling action. Using vanilla flavoured agar (as easy to find as the plain agar) is an ideal choice in this situation.
- When fruit mixture is bubbling and the fruit is softened (5-10 minutes depending on your heat source) turn heat to low and mash the mixture with a potato masher. Continue on a simmer until most of the liquid disappears and the mixture starts to thicken.
- Remove from heat and place in clean glass container. Herein lies the tricky part. Good canning theory states that the jar should be sterilized and the product canned immediately with some head space to prevent bacterial growth. Personally I throw my mixture into a clean jar and refrigerate. Consult a recipe book that specializes in canning or take a course to learn the proper method of safe canning procedures.
Properly canned/preserved goods should last a long time while this quick cook method does not. Eat within a week of making just to be on the safe side. (*Any product that looks or smells off should not be eaten-period.)
- Mix with some coconut milk and freeze into popsicle or ice-cube moulds for a frozen treat.
- Spread on toast.
- Spread between a layered cake and/or mix in with cake batter.
- Make sandwich cookies.
- Mix with melted dark chocolate for the ultimate anti-oxidant spread. However, refrigeration may set this mixture into a paste. In this case, use it as a filling for chocolate truffles.
- Mix into veggie burgers or serve as an accompaniment to a main meal. Peach chutney anyone?