Getting figgy with it

I was blessed this summer to get my hands on both green and black fresh locally grown figs…Yipee!  Of course I was eager to make some of my wildly popular Orange & Fig Jam.

Oranges and Figs

Locally grown Riverside oranges and fresh green figs!

The fig season is relatively short but if you are lucky enough to have access to these beauties I urge you to make this lovely Orange & Fig Jam.  I have used both black mission figs and green figs to make this jam and have had beautiful results with each.  Just an FYI – black figs will make a bit darker jam and are usually a bit sweeter than the green.  And don’t worry figs are easy to freeze until you are ready to use them. Well then…let’s get figgy with it!

Orange & Fig Jam (yield 6 half pint jars)

4 cups chopped fresh figs
4 large oranges (peeled and divided)
1/2 cup water
6 TBSP lemon juice
1/2 cup orange juice (optional)
grated orange zest
4-5 cups granulated sugar

First, pulse the oranges in your food processor for a minute or two so that they are finely chopped.  Then combine the oranges and figs with 1/2 cup water, lemon juice and orange zest in a large dutch oven or wide pot.  Cover and simmer fruit for 20 minutes.  Uncover and mash fruit further if necessary to eliminate any large chunks.  Add sugar. Increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a boil. Continue to boil and stir until gel stage is reached.

Important! Taste your jam before it has reached the gel stage! If it needs a bit more sugar, go ahead and add that additional 1/2 cup or a whole cup (as needed).  As I mentioned before, black figs tend to be a bit sweeter than green figs so let YOUR taste buds decide. Also if you want your jam to be a bit more “orange-y” or if it tastes to “figgy” then feel free to add that lil bit of extra OJ.

orangefig

You can’t get any fresh figs?  Bummer!  But don’t worry I have also used dried black mission figs to make this jam. Your jam will be much darker but still taste fantastic! Here are some pointers for substituting dried figs-

  1. Take 6 dried figs and simmer them in 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup orange juice for about 30 minutes to rehydrate them.  Let them soak up the liquid. After the figs have cooled, finely chop them. A mini food processor works well too for this! You should have 1 cup of fig goop.
  2. Use 6 oranges instead of 4 and definitely add the 1/2 cup of orange juice mentioned in the recipe above.
  3. Go easy on the sugar.  Don’t use more than 4 cups. Really. Dried figs have a much more intense flavor and are way sweeter than fresh figs.
  4. If your jam is too sweet or too, um, figgy then add another chopped orange and/or more OJ to balance out the flavor.

    Orange & Fig Jam

    Serve Orange & Fig Jam with goat cheese for an easy party appetizer.

Have fun!  You can then pair your Orange & Fig Jam with goat cheese for an easy and fab-u-lous party appetizer.

Orange Fig3

A blue ribbon winner at the 2015 California State Fair!

 

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No Fail Orange Marmalade

I have found that people either love Orange Marmalade or really dislike it.  I used to fall into the latter camp; however, I wound up marrying a marmalade lover.  Opposites attract, right?  My husband likes to bring me a large bag of fresh oranges from the fruit stand (it’s close to Home Depot naturally) and sweetly ask that I make a batch of Orange Marmalade.  Of course, I can’t say no!   So I used to sigh dramatically, even pout a little and then let the bag sit there for a few days.  Eventually I would get around to dealing with that bag of oranges because I felt sorry when I caught him looking around the kitchen for newly canned jars of orange-looking jam.  I was also tired of tripping over the hefty 25 lb bag of oranges.

Citrus image

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I just didn’t get the appeal.  I mean marmalade has rind in it and orange rind is bitter.  Ick. And Orange Marmalade takes a little bit more effort to make in comparison to, let’s say, a berry jam.  Which accounted for my rather dramatic sighing. It was just a lot of work and I didn’t even like Orange Marmalade.

My grandmother, Etta, made marmalade every year and always used the recipe on the box of MCP brand pectin.  But I didn’t want to use pectin so I struggled.  Some batches would fail miserably and end up thick & sticky (too much sugar or overcooked). Some batches were just bitter and awful tasting and I had to toss them and start over.  More pouting and sighing.  I finally began looking for a new recipe.  And….wow!  I quickly discovered that there are a whole lotta recipes out there for making ‘traditional’ Orange Marmalade.  After experimenting with several different ones, I ended up piecing together my own Orange Marmalade recipe using tips and techniques that I learned and read about.  And guess what?  I figured it out!  Whoohoo!  This recipe does take some planning and effort but it hasn’t failed me yet.  orange

Note – This recipe makes a sweet marmalade.  So if you like the bitter rind and you’re looking for a bitter Orange Marmalade, move on my friend.  Just keep on clicking…this ain’t a bitter recipe.  Got it?

Start with 5 lbs. of fresh oranges (about 20).  I recommend using Valencia oranges. Valencias are thin-skinned and super juicy.  The variety pictured below are Cara Caras which are also very sweet and have a lovely blush colored fruit. Blood oranges and Sevilla oranges are also popular to use for marmalade but Valencias are more readily available in Riverside County.

Orange Marm 1

Cara Cara oranges are in season from November to January in Southern California.

Wash and slice the oranges in half. Go ahead and peel the oranges and place the segments in a large storage container.  Don’t toss the peels because you’re going to use them!   Place the orange segments in a large storage container.  Add 1 cup of granulated sugar to the oranges.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Orange Marm 2

The sugar will macerate the fruit and soften the pulp. Don’t skip this step!

You still have those orange peels, right?  Now are we are going to cook 2 or 3 of them. These will be those lovely pieces of rind “floating” in your golden marmalade.  Because a marmalade isn’t a marmalade unless it has rind in it!  So put the peels in a small sauce pan and add enough to almost cover the peels.  Bring the water to a boil and cook for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from heat and cover with a lid.  Just let these rest for a while and cool down.

Orange Marm 3

A traditional marmalade has small pieces of rind and fruit suspended in the soft jelly.

Next, you will cut the cooked rind into sections or strips.  The rind should be soft and pliable. Flatten a  section on your cutting board and scrape off the white, bitter-tasting pith. Try to remove as much of the white pith as you can.  Finally cut the rind into small strips.  Some people like long, thin strips in their marmalade but I like to keep the pieces small. Store the rind in a storage container until you are read to begin cooking your marmalade.Orange Marm 5

Okay! Are you ready to begin cooking?  If so, get out your large dutch oven or stock pot. Dump in the macerated oranges and add 6 cups of water.  Go ahead and add your orange rind pieces. The amount you toss in is up to your preference – try starting with 1/4 cup. Add more if you are just plain crazy about orange rind.  Bring the mixture to a boil over a medium-high flame.  Then reduce heat, cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes.

Orange Marm 6

A mixture of bright orange Valencia and pink Cara Cara oranges.

After the orange mixture has cooked for 30 minutes, remove it from the heat and let it sit and cool down.  I usually cook my marmalade in 2 steps.  After it has cooled down, I will cover it and let it sit in the refrigerator over night.

Don’t want to wait? Or are you done waiting?  Add 1/2 cup of water and 6 cups of sugar to the cooking pot. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir the mixture frequently until it has reached the gel stage.  Skim off any foam.

Ladle your marmalade into clean, glass jars.  If you are going to can your jars, process them for 10 minutes using the water-bath canning method.

Orange Marm 9

Lovely golden-sweet Orange Marmalade!

Now I realize this recipe takes some time but it’s worth it.  My marmalade always turns out and I no longer dread making it. So just plan ahead and make the jam in steps. Good luck!

 

 

 

Let the holidays begin!

DSCF4774 (2)I was feeling festive tonight and invented a fabulous new cocktail!  I do enjoy a good red wine but my “go-to” cocktail for a girls’ night out is usually a Cosmopolitan.  If you’re a cosmo drinker then you will certainly enjoy this Sugar Plum-tini using Etta Mae Gourmet’s Sugar Plum Jam.

Sugar Plum-tini

3-4 oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
2 TBSP Sugar Plum Jam or other tart berry jam
1 1/2 oz vodka
1 oz Aperol or other orange liqueur

First, stir the jam into the grapefruit juice and make sure it is thoroughly combined.  Next, fill up your cocktail shaker with ice and add the vodka, Aperol and the juice.  Shake vigorously and pour into a martini glass.  Enjoy!

My Sugar Plum Jam is a delightful combination of sweet cherries and tart cranberries with a hint of cinnamon. Perfect for the winter holidays!

 

 

Rise & Shine…Let’s get baking!

DSCF4716 (2)It is finally getting a bit cooler in Southern California and I’m loving it! When the summer temps are hitting 100 degrees I have no desire to turn on the oven so I was relishing the opportunity to bake something.  A coffee cake sounded like a good start for a chilly autumn morning.  Here’s my recipe for an easy & moist coffee cake (using Etta Mae Gourmet jam!) that you can make in a cast iron skillet. Since I’m a sucker for a good cheese danish, I added a topping to this cake using brown sugar and ricotta cheese.  Yummy!

Rise & Shine Coffee Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spread a thin layer of vegetable oil in your cast iron skillet or cake pan.

Ingredients:

1 box of yellow cake mix (reserve 1/2 cup of dry mix for the topping)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup of your favorite Etta Mae Gourmet berry jam
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ricotta cheese

First, don’t forget to reserve 1/2 cup of the dry cake mix!

Next, in a large mixing bowl combine the cake mix, eggs, buttermilk and vegetable oil.  Stir well and pour the batter into the oiled skillet or cake pan.  Drop spoonfuls of the jam in the batter. I used Etta Mae Gourmet Raspberry-Plum Jam for this cake but feel free to experiment with your favorite flavors.

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Drop spoonfuls of jam in the batter

Now find that 1/2 cup of dry cake mix that you were saving and add in the brown sugar and ricotta cheese.  Blend the ingredients very well.  You will now drop spoonfuls of this gooey mixture over the cake.  Try to distribute it as evenly as possible especially around the edges of the pan.  The sides will rise up during the baking process.

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Adding the gooey topping

Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes.  Let the cake cool completely before serving.

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Hot outta the oven!

Enjoying the last of the golden days of summer

DSCF4538Can you hear that ticking sound? That’s the sound of the last days of summer ticking away!  In an attempt to hold onto summer, I tried to can it this week. The local fruit stand had boxes of beautiful plums so I carted one home and got busy peeling and chopping. The result was a gloriously sweet Plum Jam.  I added a dash of ground coriander to give it an extra zing.  So yep, I canned summer in a jar.

Plum jam is super easy to make.  Here’s the recipe if you want to capture the last days of summer in a jar.

Plum Jam

Summer in a jar!

             Plum Jam (aka Summer in a Jar!)

8 cups chopped & peeled plums

1/2 heaping tsp ground coriander

2 tbsp lemon juice

3 cups granulated sugar

Combine the plums, coriander and lemon juice in a large pot.  Simmer on medium heat. When the fruit is boiling add in the sugar. Keep cooking the jam and stir stir stir until the jam has thickened.  This will take about 30 minutes.  Cooking Note: Near constant stirring is important with this recipe (especially toward the end) to prevent your jam from sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.

It’s a blue ribbon day!

Ribbons

I’m feeling pretty blue today because I received my packet of ribbons from the 2015 California State Fair this week. Of course that meant it was time for a photo shoot.  I am ridiculously excited that my jams scored so well in this prestigious canning competition.  Here are the results for the jams that I entered-

Berry Lemon Jam / First PlaceEMG Winners2

Orange & Fig Jam / First Place

Bananas Foster Jam / First Place

Spicy Peach Jam / First Place

Peachy Orange Conserve / First Place

Sweetheart Strawberry Jam / Second Place

Thank you, judges!

14 Days of Valentine’s

EMG Valentines spooning

Photo for Day #3 – Spooning leads to jamming

 

EMG Valentine Day1 revised

My new Sweetheart Jam made with strawberries, sparkling wine and dried hibiscus flowers. Perfect for your valentine!

Think the holidays are over? Well, think again. Its early February and we already have Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras looming large on the horizon. Call me a foolish romantic but I have really gotten into Valentine’s Day for the past several years. I am not sure how or when it got started but at my house we celebrate the “14 Days of Valentine’s Day.” Starting on February 1st, I leave a small handwritten note or a silly gift or do something out of the ordinary for my hubby to let him know thatEMG Valentine 24 carrot “he’s my valentine.”

EMG Valentines Pucker up

Photo for Day #4 featuring Lemon Vanilla Curd. Deliciously tart to make your valentine pucker up!

EMG Valentines PB&J

Nothing belongs together better than good ole PB&J Day #2

I was gearing up for V-Day 2015 and thought about applying the idea to my jam business. So I hereby introduce to you – The 14 Days of Valentines with Etta Mae Gourmet.” A new photo each day featuring EMG jam.  Here’s a sampling of what I’ve done so far.  That’s amore!

 

 

Orange Marmalade Glazed Pork Chops

Here’s a quick and easy way to dress up your pork chops.  Please forgive me for these terrible pictures but the lens kept fogging up on the camera tonight!  For this recipe I used thin sliced pork chops (because they cook faster and I had a hangry family to feed) but you can use a thicker cut.  Season the meat with herb de provence and sea salt.Pork #1

Then brown your chops in melted butter and/or olive oil.  I use a combination of both so that I get the best of both worlds – butter and olive oil!  Heavenly.

Are your chops lightly browned?  Now, it’s time to crack open a cold one.  A brewski.  Pour in about 1/3 of the bottle of beer. I used Amstel Light in this pic but any lager or pilsner will work. Don’t worry you can drink the rest while you fix dinner…one of the perks of cooking.    Pork #3

Let the meat simmer for a few minutes in the beer and then transfer to a plate.  Your chops should still be a little bit bloody and not quite done.  We will add them back to the pan to finish cooking once the glaze is ready.

And now on to the glaze.  Add about 3 tablespoons of Etta Mae Gourmet Orange Marmalade to the pan.  Pork #4Stir into the meat juices and scrape up those lovely bits that are stuck to the pan.  Cook the mixture down for a few minutes.  It should be thickening.  You can add the pork chops back to the pan now and finish cooking. Voila!  Glazed pork chops!Pork #6

Apples in January? Yes, if you hurry

Los Rios Rancho apple picThis past weekend was a beautiful, sunny one with the temperatures ranging in the mid 70s. Yes, this is January in Southern California. Plus it was a holiday weekend! My husband and I decided it was the perfect time to go check out the Wildlands Conservancy hiking trails at Los Rios Rancho in Oak Glen. If you’re not familiar with the Inland Empire area, Oak Glen is a small community located a few miles past Yucaipa in the San Bernardino mountains and its best known for its apples. Oak Glen is my apple mecca. Each fall I make at least one trip up there to purchase apples, fresh pressed apple cider, and sample the abundance of apple-flavored goodies. Apple nirvana.

I knew apple season was winding down so I was curious to see what varieties were available.  I envisioned a few bags of bruised and browned leftovers but that was not the case.  We visited Parrish Ranch and Los Rios Rancho late in the afternoon and both locations had a small offering of their late season apples.  I sampled the Granny Smith, Arkansas Black, Stayman Winesap, and Starkey Delicious at Rileys at Los Rios before buying a bag of each to make apple butter.  I find that a mix of different apples (both sweet and tart) makes a better butter.  Can’t wait to see how this new batch will turn out!

According to the Los Rios Rancho website, apple season extends from August to November.  The peak is in late September when a more extensive selection of varieties is available.  However, if you still have a craving for some crisp, locally grown apples hurry on up to Oak Glen to grab some late-season pickings.

Have you ever been to Oak Glen during the height of apple season?  Where is your favorite orchard?

Here’s a picture of the Apple Butter I made with the fall apples – Gravenstein, Spartans and Jonathans.  Yum!

Apple Butter

Apple Butter

Reading labels

Happy New Year!  Perhaps, like me, you resolved to eat healthier in 2015.  How is that going? An essential part of eating better is reading labels and ingredients.  How can you eat better if you don’t know what you’re eating, right?  So I decided to check out the jelly competition and see what ingredients the other jam-makers are using.  I noted the ingredients used in a well-known and much-beloved jam sold in most major grocery stores on the West Coast.  The first ingredient (thankfully) was fruit but the next items were high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup.  Fruit pectin and citric acid were also added.  Now pectin and citric acid are both naturally occurring substances and essential to making jam; however, to make jam on a bulk scale they must be added.  Pectin is the thickening agent.   I find that I need to use much more sugar when I use store-bought pectin to make jam but on the plus side, I get a greater yield of jam.   Hmmm….but it’s all about the flavor, right?  Absolutely!  So I focus on the flavor.  I believe that if you want great-tasting jam, you need to start with sweet, locally grown fruit.  I cook the fruit down so that you can actually taste the berries (or apples or oranges) and not a spoonful of fruit-flavored sugar.  Yes, Etta Mae Gourmet jams and preserves still have sugar but you won’t see high fructose corn syrup listed on my label.  Enjoy!

I have been back in the kitchen experimenting with some new flavors.  I will post updates soon! Here’s to a sweet year!1405484616091