Carrot Cake Jam

picture570

Among friends and family, this is my most requested jam.  I keep cheerful little half-pint jars of Carrot Cake Jam on hand at all times, because it makes such a perfect hostess gift, teacher gift, get well soon offering, thank you acknowledgment… you get the idea.  I’m telling you, this jam tastes exactly like carrot cake, without all of the fat (and accompanying calories).  Mix a few tablespoons into a cup of low fat yogurt for a quick fruit dip, or spread it on toasted slices of Easter Bread.  You’re going to love this!

A note about color:  I add brown sugar to Carrot Cake Jam because I like the warm depth of flavor that brown sugar imparts.  I don’t mind the resulting, darker jam color.  If you’d prefer a bright orange Carrot Cake Jam, along with a lighter flavor, simply substitute the 2 cups of brown sugar for an additional 2 cups of white sugar.

picture565Ingredients (makes 9 half-pint jars)

3 cups finely shredded carrots (about 4 large carrots)

1 1/2 cups finely chopped, peeled pear (1 large or 2 small pears)

1 15 ounce can crushed pineapple in natural pineapple juice (do not drain)

picture5662 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

7 tablespoons powdered pectin

picture5672 cups dark brown sugar

4 cups white sugar

1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

Directions

Step 1) Combine finely shredded carrots, finely chopped pear, undrained pineapple, picture569lemon juice, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg in a large pot.  Bring to a boil while stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.  Stir occasionally.

Step 2) Remove from heat.  Mix pectin into 1 cup of white sugar, and add to pot.  Stir until pectin and sugar dissolve.

Step 3) Bring pot to a boil, stirring constantly.  Add remaining 3 cups of white sugar and 2 cups of brown sugar.  Stir over medium-high heat until the pot comes to a full boil that cannot be stirred down.  Boil for 1 minute, then remove from heat.

Step 4) Ladle jam into sterilized canning jars.  Wipe rims and cover with lids and bands.  Process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Let sit on protected countertop for 24 hours before giving as gifts (or eating with a spoon, right out of the jar!).

 

 

Cardamom Pear Jelly

picture828

“Cardamom Pear” or “Pear Cardamom?”

I’m going with Cardamom Pear as the name of this delightful, economical jelly.  On their own, pears have a mild flavor which is greatly enhanced by warm spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, and anise.  Whichever spice (or spice blend) you select will completely change the flavor profile of the jelly.  I’m partial to the exotic, chai-like qualities of cardamom, but feel free to substitute the spice of your choice.  Now, go get those pear cores you saved, and let’s get started!

picture028Ingredients (makes 8 half-pints)

30 pear cores

6 cups sugar

6 tablespoons powdered pectin

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

picture011Directions

Step 1) Place pear cores in a stockpot and just barely cover with water.

Step 2) Bring stockpot to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

picture014Step 3) Place a strainer in a slightly smaller bowl and line with a tightly woven, clean towel (or several layers of cheesecloth) as shown.  It is important that there is room in the lower bowl, below the bottom of the strainer, for juice to collect!

~

picture031Step 4) Carefully transfer the pear cores and juice into the towel-lined strainer.  Be careful to avoid overflow… you may need to ladle a few cups of juice out of the lower bowl and into a second bowl (for temporary storage) right away.  Be patient, and allow an hour or so for all of the pear juice to collect in the bottom bowl.

Step 5) Combine sugar, pectin, and cardamom.  Set aside.

Step 6) Measure 5 cups of pear juice, and bring to a rolling boil in your stockpot.

Step 7) Add sugar mixture to stockpot and, with constant stirring, return to a rolling boil.  This may take a few minutes.  After a rolling boil has been maintained for one, solid minute, remove jelly from heat.

picture042 (2)Step 8) Ladle jelly into sterilized, half-pint canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe jar rims clean, and top with lids and bands.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Jars of homemade cardamom pear jam make wonderful gifts.  Remember, making jelly is a fun and economical way to make use of fruit cores!

Pear Sauce

picture002 (2)I am fortunate to have family who live in the Deep South on a whole lot of land.  The combination of a long growing season and acres of organically grown fruit and nut trees is enviable (the snakes, not so much).  Lucky for me, I get the best of both worlds when my family comes North for a visit… food gifts delivered right to my reptile-free home.  Thanks, guys!

Not too long ago, I was gifted with a big box of crisp Asian pears.  This is the same variety of pear that is often sold individually wrapped in stretchy, protective mesh… these babies cost a fortune at the supermarket.  I was both gleeful and determined.  Gleeful because I appreciated the specialness of these pears.  Determined because they were already quite ripe, and I knew I didn’t have much time before their specialness might rot away.

The fastest way to preserve a whole lot of pears (or apples, for that matter) is to make sauce.  That’s precisely what I did with the ripest pears in the box, and what I will share with you today.  Homemade pear sauce is easy to make, delicious, and high in fiber.  It freezes well in containers both large and small (the latter being perfect for lunchbox treats).  Kids love pear sauce, as it is naturally sweet – there’s no need to add sugar or the high fructose corn syrup that often pollutes mass produced fruit sauces.

A quick note before we get started:  SAVE YOUR PEAR CORES… Put them in a covered bowl in the fridge.  We’ll make jelly out of them next time!

picture005Ingredients (makes about 18 cups of sauce)

30 large pears (any varieties)

1 tablespoon of Chinese five-spice powder

1/2 cup water

picture007

Directions

Step 1) Peel and core pears.  Save the cores!  Cut pears into chunks and add to large stockpot.

Step 2) Add 1/2 cup water to the stockpot, to prevent sticking.  Simmer pears over picture008medium heat with occasional stirring until pears cook down into a chunky sauce.  This will take 30 – 60 minutes, depending upon the water content and ripeness of your pears.  If the bottom of the stockpot begins to stick, add another 1/4 cup of water.

Step 3) Remove from heat and stir in Chinese five-spice powder.  Puree with an picture009immersion blender.

That’s it.  So easy!  Don’t forget to save those pear cores.  We’ll use them in two days!

Caramelized Pear Salad

picture229

I adore pears of all varieties, for they are both delicious and amazingly nutritious.  Pears are high in fiber, low in calories, and are a good source of Vitamin C.  Further, pears contain a class of phytonutrients, or natural  plant-based chemicals, called “flavonols.”  Flavonols have anti-inflammatory properties, function as antioxidants in the human body, and have even been associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  Sounds good to me.

picture223 (2)For this simple, ten minute salad, I used a few cute little Seckel pears.  Seckels have a yellow-green color with occasional streaks of pink or red, are juicy and sweet when ripe, and are about the size of a kiwifruit.  Feel free to use whatever variety of pear you prefer!

~

Ingredients (makes 2 entrée size salads)

6 cups fresh baby spinach, washed and dried

2 large or 4 small ripe pears, any variety, sliced

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons chopped raw almonds

4 ounces chevre goat cheese

picture224Directions

Step 1) Melt butter in sauté pan over low heat.  Add brown sugar.  Stir over low heat for one minute.

Step 2) Add pears.  Begin caramelizing over medium heat, loosening the pears often with a nonstick spatula.

picture225Step 3) After two minutes, add almonds to sauté pan.  Cook one additional minute, then turn off heat.

Step 4) Divide spinach between two plates.  Top each plate with half of the caramelized pears.  Drizzle pan drippings (delicious!) over each plate.

picture226Step 5) Divide goat cheese in half.  Spoon bite size pieces evenly onto each salad.

Done!

The creamy tanginess of goat cheese pairs wonderfully with both the sweetness of caramelized pears and the crunch of almonds.  Enjoy!