Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Word on Preserves

I think that it is worthwhile to take a bit of this blog to answer a few questions that I am frequently asked, since I would bet that for 20 people who have a question only one or two ask it. Feel free to continue asking questions, I have really enjoyed receiving the emails and will do my best to answer or find out an answer for you. So. . . a word on preserves. .

What is the difference between Jam and Jelly?

Jams and Jellies are both usually made from a combination of fruit, sugar, and pectin. With jelly the fruit chunks are strained out making for a smooth consistency, while jams keep the fruit chunks in, making for a textured consistency. Some people make jam using fruit juice, thus eliminating the messy, sticky, time consuming, step of straining. Lucille's Kitchen Garden makes all of our products from scratch, which means that we start with a pile of fruit and a bag of sugar and move on from there.

What is a preserve and how is it different from jam or jelly?

Preserves, such as our Apple Pepper Preserve, are basically chunks of fruit in a sugar syrup. The fruit chunks can be large, like my mom's, Special for Sick Days peach preserves, where the peaches are whole slices or they can be small like those found in marmalade. Some people would argue. . .really. . . people can get pretty heated over this subject. . .that marmalade is a separate category, however for simplification purposes we will put them in the category of preserves, though, they do use pectin. In our Apple Pepper Preserve we keep the apples a medium, bite size and chop the peppers really fine, because most of our customers use it as a sauce, and would prefer a full bite of apple to a full bite of pepper.

  • What makes Lucille's Kitchen Garden jams, jellies, and preserves different from commercially produced products?
Where do I begin? Probably the best way to illustrate the difference is the same way that we compare products at the grocery store and the statement that if your eight year old can't read the ingredient, then it probably isn't something good for you to eat. Here is a label for pepper jelly that is commercially produced and available in most grocery stores:

  • Ingredients: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup,Sugar, Water, Grain Vinegar, Jalapeno Peppers, Pectin, Citric Acid, FD & C Red # 4

  • Here is our label: Ingredients: Sugar, Peppers, Vinegar, Pectin, Lemon Juice

We use no color additive and we sweeten with sugar. The reason for that is that sugar is . . well . . sugar. The processing is relatively simple dating back to Napoleon's time. We believe that the natural fruit colors are beautiful and need no enhancement. There are two things that make sugar sweet, fructose and glucose. Every cell in the body can absorb glucose, while the liver is required to do all of the absorption for fructose. There have been enough studies to show that fructose is the greater villain of the two. High fructose corn syrup is a much cheaper sweetener developed in the late sixties. The process is very complicated and involves genetic modification. As evidenced by it's name, it relies on much higher levels of fructose to sweeten. High fructose corn syrup also diminishes your feeling of being full which has linked it to the obesity problem in the United States. It is also my opinion that it diminishes, rather then enhances the flavors of fruit in jam. If you would like more information concerning high fructose corn syrup here is a link to an interesting article http://www.westonaprice.org/motherlinda/cornsyrup.html

We also use only locally, sustainably, or organically grown produce in our products, which lowers the food miles and the negative ecological impact that food production can have. This and the fact that our products are made in small batches is reflected in a small way in the price and an enormous way in the flavor.

OK. . off my soap box and on to a great recipe that I tried this weekend. It originated as a Panini dipping sauce and after scavenging the fridge and trying everything in sight, fruit and shrimp to name a few I dub this the Everything Dipping Sauce. Try it the next time you have friends over and let me know how you liked it!

Lucille's Kitchen Garden Everything Dipping Sauce
2 TBS Lucille's Kitchen Garden Green Pepper Jam
1TBS Stone Ground Mustard

Mix it up and serve!

Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. Doug Larson

Spring seems to be a resistant guest this year. While the weather man has said not to bother shoveling this last batch of snow, I think the mail man would not appreciate my waiting. As I procrastinate this task, I am put in mind of a week ago when the sun was shining and I was itching to get down to some serious grilling. A friend of mine was in town for the weekend and I was able to convince him to make his famous, fall off the bone ribs. While his method is not barbecue in the strictest sense of the word, I think that it works well for cold weather grilling, as it does not require as much time on the grill. He simply rubs the rack of ribs down with a dry rub and wraps them tightly in tin foil. The ribs then go into a preheated oven of about 250 degrees and cook for four to six hours, depending on the size of the rack. The important thing is to make sure that they have an internal temperature on the thickest portion of 155 to 165 degrees. Start your coals about a half hour before the ribs are done, so that they are white hot when it is time to place the rack of ribs on the grill. While my friend loves to cook the ribs, he asked me to make the sauce that he then spread on the ribs while they grilled to crispy in all the right places perfection.

I used my family's favorite sauce recipe to make Raspberry Ribs. This sauce will work with any method of grilling that you prefer. I leave you with my raspberry grilling glaze recipe and hope that you enjoy it with friends as wonderful as mine!

Lucille's Kitchen Garden Raspberry Ribs
1Jar Lucille's Kitchen Garden Raspberry Pepper Jam
2 Tbs olive oil
2 large cloves garlic
1/2 Tsp liquid smoke
1 Tbs Worchestire sauce
2Tbs Irish Whiskey (I like Jameson)

  • Heat oil in sauce pan on medium high
  • Remove skin, crush, then rough chop garlic cloves and add to oil
  • Allow the garlic to cook gently in the oil for about two minuets. The garlic should brown slightly on the edges, and stick slightly to to bottom of the pan, but not fry. Turn down heat if necessary.
  • Add Irish Whiskey and scrape the chunks of garlic loose in the pan.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients starting with the jar of Lucille's Kitchen Garden Raspberry Pepper Jam.
  • Turn heat down an simmer for fifteen minuets, stirring occasionally. You can use the sauce immediately, or cool and refrigerate it to use in the next couple of days.