Canning & Cleaning

I’m back–but not for long.

Believe it or not, we’re still getting back on our feet after the whirlwind that was my family reunion. The main floor of the house is back to order, but do not, do NOT open any of the bedroom doors upstairs.

Well, at least I thought the main floor was back to order, until I went hunting for a cooler on Sunday morning to pack a picnic for us…

To my shock and chagrin, when I slid our our ancient blue cooler from the crawlspace under the stairs and popped open the lid I was greeted with a horrible smell of rotting food and an assortment of fuzz-covered leftover containers.

It didn’t take but a second to realize that this was the odds and ends from our family picnic nearly three weeks ago…!

How it never got attended to is beyond me, but somehow it got emptied out of the car, ignored, and eventually shuffled under the stairs by someone who was probably just trying to be helpful.


I refrained from photos. You’re welcome.

Really I’m just popping in to let you know about a Canning 101 series that is happening all this week over at Simple Bites

  • On Friday I asked the question “Why Do You Can?” and received some highly poetic answers. I loved reading every one.
  • Saturday brought Canning 101: The Basics. All canning novices, start here.
  • We jumped in with both feet on Monday to talk about Home Canned Tomatoes, and today’s post is all about Fruit Butters.
  • Still to come…pickles, peaches, cherries, jam, and an introduction to lacto-fermenting! I know, I’m excited, too!

See you there.

PS. Many of you have been asking if there is going to be another UtHC Virtual Jam Swap this fall…Although last year’s event was a wonderful success, I’ve made the very difficult decision to not host a virtual swap this year.

There are many reasons. Thanks for understanding.

Stocking the Jam Pantry 2009

Photo by Ian of Coco Bean

There are some events that go out the window when one is days away from a major move and then there are a select few that cannot be missed.

Case in point, I was packing boxes and deep cleaning my pantry during Cupcake Camp Montreal and nary one crumb of cupcake did I taste. A few weeks earlier, however, I managed to organize and host my annual Jam Swap, which I’ll share more about later in the post.

Stocking the jam pantry must happen, no matter how busy we are.

But first, back to the bit about pantry cleaning.
I made a serious of discoveries that inspired a mini series on Twitter and while normally I wouldn’t bother to discourse about the contents of my pantry as I empty & pack it, I felt there were lessons to be learned along the way. Really, these are pearls of wisdom.

  • ( Hubby’s pantry tip) There is no such thing as stale marshmallows. (Or rather “MarshmalLOW”, as they ceased to have individual status long ago.
  • For the love of Pete, don’t store those gorgeous organic black raspberry preserves so deep in your pantry you forget about them. *Sniff* (This was a particular bitter pill to swallow, as the whole lot ended up in the garbage.)
  • Your friends are never going to like those Thai Tom Yum Spiced Peanuts, so stop stocking them & serving them at parties.
  • Nestea? The best before date is 2005. First and last time I’ll buy it. Really, do yourself a favor, skip it & make sweet tea from scratch.
  • Items NOT to buy in bulk: tapioca pearls, dried kaffir lime leaves, bran…bulghur. Who am I kidding?? NO ONE eats that much bulghur.
  • Items to stock up on: Whole wheat couscous, Nutella, olives, black fig tapenade, dried cranberries and…jam.

Jam? Oh that’s right, I hosted my annual jam swap a few weeks ago and never told you about it. This was separate from my Virtual Swap, although the two events were just days apart. (If you’re wondering, yes, it got a little confusing organizing the ‘real’ swap and the ‘virtual’ swap.)

It was a wonderful success, thanks to all who participated and brought their stellar jams. Here are just a few of the flavors that left us weak in the knees…
Pineapple, Rhubarb and Tonka Bean Jam, Pumpkin-Apple Butter with Vanilla Bean, Plum & Pomegranate Jam, and beloved classics like Strawberry, Black Currant, and Grape Jelly.

A ‘scone bar’ was provided as the vehicle for the jams we tasted; and taste we did – for almost two hours!
The dining room table groaned under the weight of all the jam jars, but was soon relieved of its burden as the actual swap took only a few minutes.

Yours truly making my jam selections. Photo by Ian of Cocoa Bean

Local bloggers, Ian and Christie of Coco Bean were kind enough to accept my invitation to the swap and let’s just say that as soon as I knew Ian was coming, I almost left my camera at home. You’ll understand why when you see his shots. He’s a very talented photographer and one that I was more than happy to defer the task of documenting the event.
As it was, I kept busy enough warming scones, making coffee, cuddling my boys, chatting with guests and tasting jam; my camera was hardly touched all morning. I snapped a few shots, but Ian really captured the event.

Please visit Coco Bean for a stunning recap of this fall’s jam swap. The photos are not to be missed, including a sweet mother-son moment. I’m really not used to being on the other side of the camera! Thanks, Ian!

Thanks to all who helped make the swap happen and to all who participated.
Until next year!

UtHC Virtual Jam Swap ’09 Round-up!

Photo by Cheri of Kitchen Simplicity

It is here! The round-up from Under the High Chair’s very first Virtual Jam Swap!

Exactly five months ago I put out the call for you to send me your jam for a friendly virtual jam swap. Not knowing how you would respond, but with the honourable goal to ‘inspire and be inspired’, I waited for the submissions to come in for my first ever blogging event.

Ever so slowly, during the heat of July, they started trickling into my inbox. By autumn and the peak of harvest, I had a nice tidy number of contributions. I finally put a deadline for submissions, which lit a fire under a handful of you, and the last jam was swapped just a few days ago.

I was very impressed and thrilled to have twenty-five submissions. 25 scrumptious, sophisticated and stunning submissions.
You all should be proud of yourselves, this is one impressive jam party.

Thank you, thank you, to each and every one of you who contributed your jam or jelly and took the time to help make this event a success.

Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to this year’s participants…

The talented Cheri from Kitchen Simplicity gets us off to a rip-roaring start with her sophisticated Grapefruit Cranberry Marmalade. A stunning result from a simple recipe, this marmalade would make wonderful homemade Christmas gifts.

Apple Pie Jam is usually teeth-achingly sweet, but Kim from Flavorista wisely modified the recipe – including doubling the apples – and gave us a yummy Apple Pie Jam no pantry should be without!

Those super-gals at Flavorista have been busy! Contributor Tracey submitted this Apricot Jam, a tribute to childhood summers spent canning along side her mother.

Cookie Baker Lynn took full advantage of her thriving blueberry patch this summer and jarred up some sophisticated Lemon Blueberry Preserves. Luckily for her family, they will be enjoying the flavours of summer all winter long.

Hulling ground cherries is indeed a labor of love, but I’m sure my fellow Montreal blogger, Candace of Cheese and Olive would agree that it is well worth the effort. Her recipe for Ground Cherry Jam is one I’ll be bookmarking, making and swirling into homemade vanilla ice cream next summer.

The very creative Cheryl of Backseat Gourmet used a children’s book as inspiration for her original Coconut Jam. Now this would be the ideal recipe if you got the canning itch during the winter when all the fresh fruit is hard as rocks.

My last-minute contribution to this swap was a Quebec Pear and Rhubarb Butter with Honey & Green Cardamom. Fruit butters have been an attractive option for me this year as they are sweetened by the slow-cooked fruit and not by a pile of white sugar. Of all the spreads I’ve made, this is my favorite!

Raise your hand, if you’ve experienced a jam malfunction! Fortunately, the lovely Melanie from Beck and Call has worked out all the kinks for us in her recipe for Spiced Plum Jam. The addition of fragrant cloves and cinnamon makes it sound all Christmas-y. Sounds like a great gift idea to me.

If you’ve been searching for a low-sugar, no commercial pectin jam recipe, Robin from Hippo Flambé delivers with her tempting Traditional Strawberry Jam with Cointreau & Drambuie. Thanks, Robin! I’ll have mine drizzled over vanilla ice cream, please.

I sighed with envy and my mouth puckered (in a good way) reading about Julie’s Nanking Cherry Jelly; don’t ask me why, but it seems so romantic to have a cherry tree in your backyard. The ever-industrious author of Dinner with Julie wasn’t about to let hers go to waste and the cherries went from tree to table before the birds even had a chance to eat them.

Following in her mother’s jam-making footsteps, Michele from Chocolate Teapot recreated a favorite jam, Peach and Apricot, and learned a lot along the way. Sounds like you are on your way to a long and happy life of making jam, Michele!

Lisa from Feeding My Curiosity is a girl after my own heart. Not only did she use the. most. adorable. jars ever, she also incorporated my favorite vice into her recipe for Red Pepper Jam with Tequila. (hint: it’s not the peppers).

Thanks to Flavorista contributor Barr for giving me a use for ALL my mint! Every summer my mint patch takes over, but now I can help keep it in check by making Barr’s Mint Jelly. Now I just need a side of lamb for my freezer!

I like to think that I’m not the only one who eats jam with a spoon. I mean, it certainly looks like Kelsey, a.k.a The Naptime Chef, has been dipping into her gorgeous Eternal Summer Apricot Jam–and has nearly finished the jar! I certainly wouldn’t have been able to stop at just one bite.

If her vibrant photo doesn’t grab your attention first, Rumahama’s amazing recipe for Peach Brandy Jam will make you sit up and take notice. I’m loving this combination and have to agree with Ruhama when she muses about having to get into a toast habit.

Attempting to multitask while making jam for the first time may be not such a hot idea, as budding gourmet and green blogger Andrea of A.O.K (Okay with Andrea) recently discovered. Her Raspberry-Apple Jam recipe sounds delish, but did it make the cut? You’ll have to read about her misadventures to find out. Hey, there’s even a free wine tip!

Now I haven’t tried my hand at making marmalade yet, but Cathy’s mouth-watering Three Citrus Marmalade and reassuring step-by-step instructions leave me with no excuse not to. It’s obvious this author of Bread Making with The Bread Experience knows her way around canning as well as bread baking. She sure can dress up a jam jar, too!

Don’t you just love the flavour combination of this Plum Cinnamon Jam? Maria of Two Peas and Their Pod used her own backyard plums for this vibrant freezer jam. Now I’d love to try a plum-cinnamon fruit leather… Maria?

By the looks of things, Kimberly made a good move when she captured the essence of spring with this Rhubarb Jam. Her clear step-by-step instructions over at Flavorista had me salivating and I’ve vowed to turn more rhubarb into jam next spring instead of using it up in my usual steady diet of crisps and crumbles.

Gabrielle from Shop Wise Bags Innovative Gourmet rounded up the kids and went on a canning marathon. Among the bounty was Peach Raspberry Marmalade or ‘Killer Jam’ as it was nicknamed. Sounds killer good to me, Gabrielle! Way to get those kiddos in the kitchen.

Culinary Travels Of A Kitchen Goddess author George’s first autumnal preserve of the season was an apple and plum jelly which she named Early Autumn Blush. It gained its name because the jelly is a gorgeous pale rose colour, which reminded her of the pale red blush hue of the apples. Just gorgeous, George!

I would love to request a tutorial from Simona of Briciole, as she sounds like she has the fine details of jam making down pat. The colours alone on her Conserva di Frutta (fruit preserves) are stunning; I can only imagine how colourful they are on the palate.

Elizabeth from Guilty Kitchen doesn’t seem like your Jane-average canning woman and the Not yo Mama’s Apple Butter she submitted is sick –in the most awesome of ways. I’m loving this recipe and will definitely be trying it before apple season is over.

My mouth watered at this dark and seductive Bing Cherry Jam from fellow Montreal blogger, Elaine of A Series of Kitchen Experiments. Elaine & friends gobbled up this jam so fast there was none left to bring to my actual swap! That’s OK, it looks so good, we understand how it disappeared so quickly!

Kelly from No Empty Chairs showed us that a healthy choice can be great with her Low-Sugar Peach Butter. I’m ALL about the fruit butters, and this decadent recipe is on my short list for next summer.

All Jam Swap logos by Jessica Spring

That’s it!! Have you been inspired?

Please share your feedback, encouragement or questions in the comments section below. I’d LOVE to hear what you think….and if this is an event you would like to see happen again next year.

I’ve got this crazy idea in my head that I am going to attempt to can my way though this round-up next summer. Wouldn’t that be something?

I’d have to give up gardening, that’s for sure.

Quebec Pear & Rhubarb Butter with Green Cardamom & Honey

Obviously I’m getting addicted to this home preserving business.

Case in point, this Pear-Rhubarb Butter. Flashback to last week. It’s a chilly afternoon and I’ve got a million things to do. Both boys are napping and so after a few Tweets, I get cracking on the tasks at hand: folding laundry, answering emails, getting a leg of lamb in the oven—and cooking up some pears. Having sat way too long in the crisper, the pears are on the verge of going bad. The plan is to throw them in a pot and cook them down for a sauce for little Mateo.

Lo and behold, an hour and a half later, I’m sterilizing jars because I’ve got a totally divine pear & rhubarb butter that has been sweetened with honey and perfumed with green cardamom and I’ve GOT to can it. I absolutely have to put away a few jars for the winter; the housework can wait.
So crossing my fingers in hopes that the boys don’t wake up, I hastily can up a half a dozen jars, scrape the pot clean with a spatula and eat it.

How did I get so sidetracked that day?
It started innocently enough as a small over-ripe pear puree project. Upon discovering that it was way, way too sweet, my wheels started turning and ideas for jam started sprouting entirely on their own. I spied some frozen chopped rhubarb in the freezer and tossed that in the pot. There was no looking back as I added a few dollops of honey and some freshly ground green cardamom seeds.
Soon the house was filled with the most intoxicating aroma as what I can easily classify as the best fruit butter of my life bubbled away on the stove.

It seems like the best jams just evolve. This butter is complex; there is layer after layer of flavor when it hits the palate, and the fact that it is it is both tart and sweet makes for a whole lot of happy in the mouth. I only got five jars and I’m keeping them all. I’m selfish enough that I didn’t even consider bringing them to my recent jam & jelly swap with friends. Sorry people!

Speaking of swaps… this is my contribution to Under the High Chair’s very own Virtual Jam Swap 2009!

Submissions for this blogging event are now closed. Look for the full round-up this week with over 25 submissions from participants from around the globe!

Now onto the recipe. If you’re looking for a sugar-free, no commercial pectin spread, this is the fruit butter for you!

Quebec Pear & Rhubarb Butter with Honey & Green Cardamom

Note: If this is your first time canning, you may want to read my post An Introduction to Making Jam on Simple Mom.
Makes 6- 250ml jars

1 full 6-quart pot of pears, washed, quartered, stems removed
½ cup apple juice or water

Cook pears and juice in a covered pot over medium heat until they are mushy, stirring occasionally. Pass through food mill or medium-fine sieve. Return puree to pot (should be about about 6 cups)

6 cups chopped rhubarb, fresh or frozen.
½ tsp salt

1 teaspoon fresh green cardamom seeds, ground

½ cup honey

Cook on low for about 2hours, stirring often. Butter will thicken and coat the back of a spoon. Taste for desired sweetness and either can now, or continue to cook to desired consistency.

Meanwhile, prepare to can the butter.

Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Sterilize 6 250ml jars and screw lids by placing them in the dishwasher and running a cycle or boiling them in the pot of hot water for ten minutes. Keep the metal lids in hot water until ready to use.

Ladle the pear butter into hot jars, place a metal lid on the jar and screw the ring on tightly. Repeat with remaining jars.

When all the jars have been filled, lower them one by one into the pot of hot water. Water should cover the jars. Bring water to a boil and boil rapidly for 10 minutes. Working carefully, using a jar lifter, remove jars from water and place on a clean dry towel. Allow to sit undisturbed for 24 hours.

Store in a cool place for 6-12 months, but I doubt it will last that long!

UtHC Fall Bulletin

For starters, can we just take a minute to acknowledge the always-inspiring Gourmet Magazine and its immeasurable contribution to the culinary world?
Shocked and saddened were two words that popped up the most on Twitter this morning when news spread that the magazine was folding. It certainly impacted my day.

It will be missed.

Submissions have been streaming in for the UtHC Virtual Jam Swap and the good news is that if you haven’t yet submitted your entry to the swap, you still have a few weeks to do so!

It’s easy to enter:

  • Can it–jam or jelly, you decide.
  • Post it–on your blog or website
  • Link it– link to this post
  • Email it- send me the link & a photo

Deadline for submissions is November 1 and the roundup will be posted in mid-November.

Happy Canning!

It seems as though all my time twittered away has not gone unnoticed: last week the National Post’s food & drink blog, The Appetizer, named @HighChair (that’s me!) one of 15 Canadian Foodies on Twitter. How cool!

I had to pinch myself after reading a few of the other names that I found myself in the same category with: @BonnieStern, @coreymintz and *gulp* @lucywaverman.

“More deliciousness from Montreal.” NP said of my tweeting, which was nice to hear but left me feeling even more guilty over a certain rant on Twitter that occurred a few weeks ago.
Note to self: stick to food and the occasional mothering topics on Twitter–that’s why nearly 1000 people are following.

You can join in the fun by joining Twitter and following me here. If you enjoy reading UtHC, chances are you’ll love my latest obsession as it’s really a micro-blogging extension of UtHC.

Alright, just in case you’ve been listening to the rumors out there, yes, it is true that there is a new project in the works for me. Not necessarily for UtHC, but more for Aimee.
It involves food– which kinda goes without saying– the Internet and writing. What else can I tell you about it? Not too much just yet, but I can say that it’s going to be pret-ty darn exciting when it launches in early 2010.

Stat tuned for details. You’ll hear about it here first, I promise.