Berry Delicious

Ah summer. The sun is shining and berries are ripening everywhere. Even my first-year blueberry bushes are bearing big sweet fruit! I don’t think I’ll be getting enough fruit at any time this summer to do anything but graze and enjoy, but since blueberries are one of Boy’s favorite fruits, I decided I ought to make a good blueberry jam. I’m a bit odd when it comes to blueberries; Fresh or frozen, they are up in my top ten favorite fruits, but cooked, there is something about the way the flavor changes that I usually can’t stand. The goal here is to come up with a blueberry jam that I’ll eat too. For those of you who don’t care for the narrative, the recipes are at the bottom.

On a quick trip to the grocery store I got lucky and found big bags of blueberries for only a dollar each and I quickly picked up about 4 quarts worth of berries, thinking I’d make the Boy something delicious. At home I tragically discovered a jam jar shortage meaning I wouldn’t be able to make all the jam I meant to. Two and a half quarts of berries went into the freezer for later use and one and a half went into a stock pot along with a pint of frozen cranberries and a quart of sugar. At this point I had a moment of panic because it looked like I’d added way too much sugar even though I’d done my research and confirmed how much sugar I wanted to use, so if it looks like you berries are disappearing under and snowy avalanche of white sugar, don’t freak out. Do what I did and add about half a cup  of water. This added just enough liquid to saturate the sugar without making the pot soupy. I zested a lemon into the pot as well, stirred well, and left them all to macerate for an hour or so.

Macerate. Macerate. Macerate. What is maceration and why do we do it? Maceration is the process of softening or breaking down a fruit using a liquid. In the case of fresh fruit, it is it’s own liquid, drawn out with the help of a sugar. This makes the jam more flavorful and gives it a more even texture without having to cook it for a long time. After macerating for an hour or more most of the sugar should have dissolved. My liquid was still a bit grainy, but not to worry.

Over medium high heat the remaining sugar quickly dissolves and the berries begin to burst. Be careful to watch your pot though as these berries really like to froth up and can even boil over. Take a wild guess how I found that out.

Add pectin once your fruit has come to a boil then simmer for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You can add a pat of butter to reduce foam, or skim it off. I didn’t bother this time since it seemed to settle out with a little patience. Once you jam has simmered for long enough, fill it into 16 four ounce sterile canning jars and process in a boiling water bath. The four ounce jars only need 5 minutes in the boiling bath, but half pint and pint need 10 minutes. I had one pint jar full that wouldn’t fit in the canner, so I decided to inversion can. It is something I have been doing my whole life either for small batches or for the jar that won’t fit in the bath. Important is just to keep these jars in the fridge instead of on the shelf. However this method isn’t recommended for putting up jams because it isn’t as clean or effective. Case in point would be the afore mentioned jar which burst the ring right off the moment I tried to turn it over. Since the glass was in tact, I was able to save most of the jam and decided to make ice cream with it. For the ice cream, I creamed together one egg plus a yolk and half a cup of sugar and a pinch of salt then slowly whisked in 2 cups of heavy cream. I dropped in a split open vanilla bean and slowly heated these over medium-low heat, constantly stirring. Eventually as the custard came closer to a simmer it became thicker, though more like the texture of a rich soup than on true egg custard. I poured this into a tupperware and set it in the fridge for about 2 hours to cool. I probably should have waited even longer, but I was impatient. Into the ice cream maker went the cooled custard (minus the vanilla bean which I popped in my mouth to suck on while I waited) and about half the jam. As the ice cream started thickening, I added some fresh blueberries from my bushes and blackberries that needed to be used up. Twenty minutes later there was ice cream! Sure I could eat it now, but I wanted blueberry-cranberry swirls too! In the same tupperware I used to chill the custard earlier, I layered ice cream and jam and put the whole thing back into the freezer for half an hour.

Then, voila! Swirled berry ice cream!

Blueberry Cranberry Jam

Yields 7 pints of jam Ingredients:

  • 6 cups blueberries
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1/2c. water (optional)
  • 1 package pectin

In a large stock pot, combine berries, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add water if your sugar is dry and white. Macerate for 1-2 hours. Set on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to make sure the pot does not bubble over. When fruit mixture comes to a boil, add pectin and simmer for 15-25 minutes. In this time, sterilize jars and lids and bring canning bath to a boil. Fill jars and process for 5 minutes for 4oz jars and 10 minutes for 8-16oz. jars. Cool and confirm the seals then jars may be stored at room temp for 1 year.

Berry Swirl Ice Cream

Yields 1 quart ice cream Ingredients:

  • 2c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 yolk
  • 1/2c. granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 1/2c Blueberry Cranberry Jam
  • 1/2 pint fresh berries (optional)

In a cold saucepan cram together yolk, egg and sugar. Split open vanilla bean lengthwise and add to pot along with cream. Turn on low heat and stir constantly heating liquid until runny custard forms. Scrape vanilla bean into the custard and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours. MAKE SURE YOUR ICE CREAM MAKER BOWL HAS BEEN IN THE FREEZER FOR AT LEAST 48 HOURS! Churn custard and 1c. jam in the ice cream maker for 20 minutes or until the right consistency is reached. Then, in a tupperware layer ice cream with remaining jam and freeze for at least 1 hour before serving.

Baked Tilapia and Citrus Fava Bean Salad

Sorry for the late post folks. I started classes a couple weeks ago and was studying for my first test when I realized that I had fallen behind on my blog. Luckily I have a delicious recipe that I’ve been wanting to share with you. The other night, I was walking through our Berkeley Bowl, the local independent grocery store when I got a craving for fish. The hot weather had me shying away from heavy foods, but I still wanted some protein, so I picked up some tilapia and fava beans to throw together a light and yet satisfying dinner. Though blood oranges are scarce this time of year, I had some in my fridge that needed to be used. You can easily substitute them with Valencia oranges, but avoid navel oranges as their uneven segments can be hard to supreme.

Citrus Fava Bean Salad

*Note: Make the salad first because it will take longer to prepare than the fish(done in under 20 minutes), which will get cold if you reverse the order.

Ingredients:

1lb fava beans
3 large blood oranges
1 grapefruit
½ red onion
5 sprigs cilantro
1 head butter lettuce

Directions:

1. Shell your fava beans, and par boil the beans. This only take a minute or two and you don’t want to overcook them. You just want to cook them long enough for the tough and bitter membrane around the beans to loosen and wrinkle. Remove the skins from the beans, and be careful not to crush them. Put the skinned beans into a salad bowl to cool and continue with the rest of the salad.

2. Using a sharp paring knife, cut the skin from the grapefruit, including all of the white pith and the outer membrane of the segments. Over the salad bowl with the fava beans, cup the fruit in your non-dominant hand and use the paring knife to cut the segments out of the membranes. drop the skinless segments into the bowl. Do this until you have nothing but the membrane in your hand. This method is called a supreme. Squeeze the remaining juice out of the membrane into a separate bowl and save it for the dressing. Repeat this step for the oranges as well.

3. Finely slice the red onion and mince the cilantro. Add these to the bowl.  Serve the mixture over butter lettuce and drizzle generously with the dressing below.

Blood Orange Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

½ c fresh blood orange juice
¼ c white vinegar
¼ c olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp honey
¼ tsp pepper
¼ tsp salt
zest of 1 orange

Directions:

Wisk together ingredients in a bowl or put them all in a jar to be shaken. I prefer the latter method, because then I can conveniently store the extra.

Baked  Tilapia

 

Preheat oven to 400°F

Ingredients:

1lb tilapia fillets (~4)
1 Meyer lemon
¼ tsp thyme
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Cover two baking sheets in aluminum foil (to make clean up easier) spread olive oil evenly across both pans and lay out tilapia fillets evenly. Sprinkle the fish with salt, pepper, and thyme. Be careful not to over-salt and remember you can always add more after its cooked.

2. Thinly slice garlic and lemon. Spread the slices across tilapia and try to cover as much of the fish as possible. Make sure the garlic is underneath the lemon slices otherwise it will burn. I also coarsely chopped the rest of the red onion from the salad and dropped it on the tray to bake. Just an idea!

3. Bake the tilapia until the edges start to brown and crisp (about 5-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish).

 

I hope you enjoy the recipe in the hot summer days we’ve been having. I’m certain I’ll be making it again before too long!