Cranberry Pear Conserve with Ginger recipe and a canning swap

I can think of fewer places I would rather be on a chilly November afternoon than sipping tea and chatting with girls who have gathered together to swap jam, jellies and preserves.

That was how I spent part of my Sunday past, enjoying the warm hospitality of my good friend Melanie, while the boys stayed home to rake leaves. Clara came too, sitting primly on the sofa in her party dress and nibbling crackers so neatly that my heart swelled with emotion at the thought of all the tea parties we have ahead of us.

It was delightful to be a guest for once, and the practical aspect of the swap made it a not-to-be-missed event on my calendar. Read on for a few photos from the swap and a recipe for Cranberry Pear Conserve with Ginger, my contribution to the table.

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Small Batch Pear Cranberry Compote

Written by Marisa of Food in Jars.

By the time November rolls around, the abundance of summer is well behind us. No more mountains of peaches and plums at the farmers’ markets, just pumpkins, potatoes and hearty greens. It’s enough to make a preserver hang up her canning pot until spring.

However, I’ve found that if I spend just a little bit of time searching out ingredients, there’s still a world of delicious things just waiting to be cooked up and put into jars.

All photos by Marisa

Chief among those this time of year are pears and cranberries.

Not only do they both come in a world of varieties, but they make such excellent sauces, jams and butters. I like to cook with thin-skinned pears like Bartlett, Bosc or Anjou pears, because they don’t need to be peeled before cooking.

This is the first year that I’ve combined the two, and I must confess, I’m smitten with the result. This preserve is halfway between a sauce and a butter, making it good both for stirring into yogurt or dolloping atop a short stack of pancakes (or, if I’m being entirely honest, eating straight out of the jar).

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Healthy Winter Breakfasts (Recipe: Maple Vanilla Roasted Pear Parfait)

Eating seasonally can be difficult in the winter, especially if you live somewhere that is covered in snow for 4 or 5 months out of the year and all that’s available locally are potatoes, squash and apples with a long storage life.

Adding berries and tomatoes is much easier in the summer when they’re available straight out of my own garden, just beyond the back door. At the moment, my gardens are buried under three feet of the white fluffy stuff, and it’s likely I won’t see the dirt until sometime in March. However, even amidst the winter wonderland, there is hope for a healthy, ready-to-start-the-day breakfast that will give you the energy and courage (or is it insanity) to head out and embrace the cold.

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Canning 101: Fruit Butter (Recipe: Rhubarb-Pear Butter)

Every summer I gravitate toward making fruit butters instead of jam. Don’t get me wrong, I love jam, but the sugar-free, pectin-free, concentrated flavor of a fruit spread has a greater draw.

Despite the warm days, I’ll let a pot of ripe fruit simmer down to a sticky and sweet mess on the stove, pair it with a spice just for fun, add a natural sweetener if needed and jar it up for winter.

It’s the perfect way to capture the essence of summer and store it on my pantry shelves.

So, what IS a fruit butter anyway?

Jam expert Marisa McClellan gives this description in a recent Q & A on making butters:

“A fruit butter is named as such because it mimics the smooth spreadability of softened butter. It is cooked low and slow for a number of hours, in order to evaporate the excess liquid, concentrate the fruit flavors and intensify the innate sweetness in the fruit. Thanks to this concentration, it typically contains a minimal amount of additional sweetener.” [Read more…]

Spotlight Ingredient: Oats

It is safe to say that oats are among the favorite grain choices here in North America. They are an absolute staple in our house, reinventing themselves through granola, muffins, scones, summer fruit crisps, and much more. Easy to source, affordable and nutritious, oats of every variety should be stocked in your pantry!

Oats don’t have their germ and bran removed during processing, and so they bring you the nutritious rewards of the whole grain to be enjoyed a myriad of ways. A source of both protein and carbohydrates, oats offer a reliable source of energy, making them an ideal choice for breakfast.

I was raised on porridge and now my boys and I enjoy it every weekday morning. I’ve even been known to pack a baggie of quick oats with me when I travel! At home, a turntable on our dining room table holds glass jars, each housing an assortment of oatmeal toppings: toasted almonds, golden raisins, wheat germ, organic honey, golden flax seed, and dried cranberries.

The garnish may vary, but hot oatmeal in the morning is our constant, and we wouldn’t change for all the Kellogg’s in the world.

Let’s take a quick look at the types of oatmeal and a few extra special recipes featuring it… [Read more…]