Preserving my local diet (Day 182)…

jams

It’s easy sticking to a local diet now that it’s summer and farmers markets are in full swing, but I know that all these juicy peaches, plums and berries won’t be around come January — they’ll be around in South America, yes, but because I’m restricted to Canada and the U.S. in everything I eat, I thought I’d take a couple hours to make some preserves.

Despite my penchant for all foods Indian, I’m not a big chutney fan, nor do I like the taste of pickled anything, so I’m limiting myself to jams. But wow — and please, excuse the lack of humility here — it just so happens, my jams rock! Of course I can’t take full credit: Miss Crunchy gave me the inspiration with her recipe for Cognac Vanilla Peach Jam, which is basically what I made, just without the booze (I couldn’t find organic cognac and wasn’t sure how my few teetotalling friends would feel about it).

Now, I must admit, I prematurely scrunched my face in panic upon reading through Crunchy’s ingredients list, especially when I came across the word pectin. Pectin? What the heck was that? Sure didn’t sound very natural or green to me … but actually, it is. So once I got over that mental hurdle, I picked up all the other necessities and went about blanching (another term that freaked the bejeebus out of me) my fruit. About halfway through the recipe, I basically started guessing everything, boiling and stirring the globby mixture until it looked like it wouldn’t kill me or make me barf if I ate some of it with a piece of toast.

As I poured it into the sterilized jars (again, my sterilization technique would surely flunk me right out of any medical school), I thought, “All right, it’s OK, it’ll taste like crap, but that’s fine, that’s what experimental cooking is all about.” But then I let it set overnight and tried a tentative spoonful of it the next morning on a rice cake with some almond butter and it actually tasted great! The vanilla beans made a huge difference and the tartness really came through, unlike so many of the over-sweetened commercial brands on the market.

In the end, my Peach, Yellow Plum and Vanilla Bean jam was almost entirely organic, local and stored in reusable mason jars. So as of today, I’ll be preserving whatever I can if it means less time in an 18-wheeler to get here come winter.

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16 Responses to Preserving my local diet (Day 182)…

  1. GreenYogini says:

    Sounds delicious! But, while I hate to rain on your jelly parade, how is sugar either organic or local??? It’s highly refined, and that’s after being transported who knows how many miles. Real cane sugar comes from the tropics (somebody correct me if I’m wrong here), and I’m not sure where beet sugar comes from (which is why I looked it up in Wikipedia, below), what the growing process is, or whether it’s locally available in stores.

    I’ve noticed, though, that most sugar in stores does not contain labeling about where it’s harvested from. Some sugar says “Real Cane Sugar” or “100% Cane Sugar”, but I’ve never seen anything labeled “beet sugar”…maybe everything else is beet sugar in disguise?

    Based on the Wikipedia entry below, though, I’d suspect that the *most* local sugar (though none of it is truly local to we northerners) is probably the beet sugar grown in northern Europe and the northern U.S. Is this worthy of being your next green challenge change?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugar

  2. Lissa says:

    Great post! I actually spent a bit of time last night thinking over your contributions to my own greening — blogged about here, and am pleased this morning to see an entry about food preservation. (I canned three pints of dilly beans on Sunday — this coming weekend it’s time for plum jam and dill pickles.) I’ve never thought of adding vanilla bean to a jam recipe — I may have to try that!

    Also, can I ask what your source is for local sugar? The best I’ve been able to do is organic less-processed cane sugar transported from Florida and bought in bulk in a satchel of my own.

  3. Andrea Daoust says:

    Hey Vanessa If you want some more Jam jars I have tonnes that a neighbour gave me. If you want them they are yours!! That sounds like really awesome Jam!!! Just a hint – they would make EXCELLENT christmas gifts for those you love – and economical too!

  4. Vanessa says:

    You’re right — the sugar isn’t technically local, although I did use much less of it than the directions recommend and it was organic at least. Thanks for the shout-out, Lissa!

  5. Pretty says:

    I am pretty sure that there are really old fashiony recipes that you can make with no sugar and all, you cook the fruit much longer. However, you might then have to freeze it or something, which is sort of counter productive.

  6. alottaerrata says:

    Once the jars are opened, will you need to refrigerate them?

  7. Rhett says:

    It wouldn’t surprise me if you could use some sort of honey to replace the sugar. Or perhaps malt syrup or something. As for cognac, if it’s from Cognac, I’m pretty sure it’s organic.

    Blanching freaks the bejeebus out of you? Sometimes, I forget the blessing that was being raised in a family of amateur gourmet chefs.

  8. Molly says:

    The US is one of the top ten producers of sugar, so it’s possible your sugar fits your definition of local. I live in Louisiana, and it’s easy to find Louisiana sugarcane products here. Sugarcane is also grown in Florida, Texas, and California. Beet sugar is grown in much of the US midwest. Bigger brands like Domino buy their sugar from multiple sources, so there’s no way of knowing the origin.

  9. Hellcat13 says:

    Hee, I love the background shot of Sophie licking her lips. It’s also reassuring that I’m not the only one whose cats think it is perfectly acceptable to use the kitchen counters as a path through the kitchen.

  10. I made ketchup today from scratch. Come over and we can find stuff to dip in it. No name writing though :)

  11. pat farquharson says:

    Well done!!
    Jam doesn’t need to be refridgerated when open. I grew up in a time when there were no fridges and jam was plentiful! Just eat it!

  12. ClareSnow says:

    >reassuring that I’m not the only one whose cats think it is perfectly
    >acceptable to use the kitchen counters as a path through the kitchen.

    Doesn’t every cat use the kitchen counters as a thoroughfare? :)
    Its the best place for a snack too. Sophie knows this coz she’s licking her lips after her snack (was is peaches). When I’m cooking and need to leave the room for some reason, I have to cover everything unless I want to find it gone when I come back.

  13. Rachel says:

    I loooove preserving! I need to find some recipes that aren’t jam though, so I can preserve things like peach halves, tomatoes, etc. I don’t really eat much jam, and I hate to make things with so much sugar.

  14. Nice work! I scored about 10 lbs of peaches from a co-worker yesterday who has an orchard in Eastern WA (organically grown, no less), so I’ll be working on some more Peach Cognac and Vanilla this weekend since my husband has been eating it like there’s no tomorrow.

  15. Pierogi Queen says:

    Congrats on your success with the jam, hopefully it did set ok, sometimes peach jam has a tendancy to not set. I love the idea of keeping things local and organic when possible.
    My only concern since I am not a cat person , is the trail of cat litter and feces on the little kittys paws as it walks across the counters. My daughter used to have a cat and after cleaning itself (everywhere) and walking across the counter and nibbeling on food left there for dinner, I left the house and had dinner elsewhere. I explained what I had seen and the reason for my departure and she admitted she had not thot about the chain of events like that and since she had a small baby and did not want to expose the baby to cat litter and the rest, she agreed to remove the cat to the outside of the house to live.

    Sorry for the lecture.

  16. SOG knives says:

    SOG knives…

    Interesting ideas… I wonder how the Hollywood media would portray this?…

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