Four words: plum jam sans pectin. Enough said.

I’m on a canning frenzy.  I love the sound of the “ping” as the jar seals.  It is the most rewarding sound ever, and makes standing in a kitchen for a sauna forgettable, especially as the temperatures outside approach 100 degrees F.  In fact, I think it was hotter in the kitchen than it was outside.  But I digress.

I think an intervention may necessary soon because the pantry might soon be filled with canned jams, chutneys, and pickled vegetables.  It is as if there was a Y2K nearing and I’m stocking up for the unknown.  It’s out of control.  I spend my time off canning.  I just can’t stop.  I still have a refrigerator full of mangoes, strawberries, and figs that I just picked up from the local farmer’s market ready to be preserved.

I am addicted to canning.

Plum Jam Sans Pectin

1 pound of black plums, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch dices (about 2 cups)
1/2 large lemon, zest and juice
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter (reduces the foaming)

Put a few small ceramic dish into the freezer.

In a large, non-reactive saucepan, combine the chopped plums, zest and juice of one lemon, sugar, and butter. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. [Taste the mixture, and adjust the sugar to your liking.  I prefer a little more tartness to my jam.]

Continue to stir occasionally as the fruit begins to breakdown, reduce and thicken, about 20 minutes.  As soon as it thickens, start to test the preserves for the jellying point.  Dip a large spoon into the mixture and hold it over the pot, and observe the syrup dripping off the spoon.  If it holds onto the spoon and *slowly* drips back into the pot, then it has reached the jellying point.

Take out one of the ceramic dishes from the freezer.  Ladle a small teaspoonful of the jam onto the cold dish and put it back into the freezer for one minute.  Remove the dish from the freezer and draw your finger through the jam.  If the jam does not close up the channel, then it’s ready.

If processing, pour hot preserves mixture into a hot, sterile 1/2-pint glass canning jar, filling jar to within 1/4-inch from top; wipe rim and seal jar with lid. Put jar in water-bath canner or on rack set in a deep kettle and cover with hot water by 1 to 2 inches. Boil and process in a boiling water bath, covered, 10 minutes. Transfer jar to a rack using tongs and let cool completely. Store in a cool, dark place, up to one year.

If you are not interested in canning, ladle jam into clean jars and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Makes 1 half-pint jar.

Black Mission Fig Preserves with Rosemary and Port

I planted a black mission fig tree two years ago and have been waiting patiently for a plentiful abundance of figs to make jams, fig newtons, and other delicious figgy things.  The first year was a bust because it only produced a handful of figs, of which all were ravished by the birds.  Damn you, birds!  This second year has been promising.  I was so excited when the tree produced enough figs to make fig jam this year!  Unfortunately, it’s not enough to make other figgy things, but heck, I’ll take anything right now.

I searched through what felt like a hundred recipes for fig jam, fig preserves, fig marmalade, and finally came across the one.  I mean, how could you go wrong with rosemary, PORT, and figs all in one bundle of joy??  All I could think about with this jam was it all over grilled pork chops.  Yum.  Now can you imagine this slathered over a grilled thick-cut pork chop?

Black Mission Fig Preserves with Rosemary and Port (adapted from Food and Wine)

5 cups black mission figs, stemmed and cut into 1/2-inch dices
3/4 cup sugar
Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
2/3 cup port
1 6-inch rosemary sprig, minced
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

In a large, nonreactive saucepan, toss the fig pieces with the sugar and let stand, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the sugar is mostly dissolved and the figs are juicy.

Add the lemon zest and juice, rosemary, salt, and port and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Simmer the fig jam over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the fruit is soft and the liquid runs off the side of a spoon in thick, heavy drops, about 20 minutes.

If processing, pour hot preserves mixture into a hot, sterile 1/2-pint glass canning jars, filling jar to within 1/4-inch from top; wipe rim and seal jar with lid. Put jar in water-bath canner or on rack set in a deep kettle and cover with hot water by 1 to 2 inches. Boil at 180 to 185 degrees F, and process, covered, 10 minutes. Transfer jar to a rack using tongs and let cool completely. Store in a cool, dark place, up to one year.

Makes three 1/2-pint jars.

Grilled Salmon Burgers with Cream Cheese and Pickled Red Onion

I was craving lox and bagels schmeared with cream cheese, capers, and pickled red onions from this food stand at the SF Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, but I was also craving a salmon burger.  So I thought I’d combine the two into one and created a salmon burger with cream cheese.  It was the perfect compromise :)

Grilled Salmon Burgers with Cream Cheese and Pickled Red Onion (pickled red onion adapted from Rick Bayless’ Authentic Mexican)

1 1/2 pounds fresh wild salmon, skinned
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 large tomato, sliced
1/2 cup cream cheese
2 tablespoons capers
4 crusty, hamburger buns, lightly toasted
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat outdoor grill to medium high heat. [You can also cook this indoors on a skillet.]

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese and capers. Mix thoroughly, and set aside.

Blanch sliced red onions in a small saucepan of boiling water (enough to cover the onions) for about 30 seconds, and drain in a colander.

Return them to the saucepan, and add the cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and just enough cold water to cover the onions.  Bring to a boil over high heat and simmer the onions for 1 minute.

Transfer the onions and brine to a glass jar and chill.  The onions will turn pink and will get crisp as they cool.  This can be stored in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.  [This process can be done a few days ahead if pressed for time.]

Finely chop the salmon into 1/4-inch dices and place into a medium size mixing bowl. Add to it the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly to combine. Form 4 patties, and drizzle each with extra virgin olive oil. Flip and repeat. [I prefer the chunkier texture of salmon. Conversely, you could also cut the salmon into large chunks and throw it into a food processor and pulse to a coarse grind meat.]

Cook the burgers for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes or 4 to 5 minutes on each side, for medium or well-done, respectively.

Arrange the burgers with sliced tomatoes, pickled red onions, and caper-cream cheese slathered onto your favorite hamburger bun.

Are you sitting down for this??… Grilled barbecue potato “chips” with creamy chive dip!

Remember when I said my new favorite guilty pleasure was the grilled salt and vinegar potato chips?  Well, those were so last week.  Outta style, outta mind.  My newest favorite guilty pleasure is the grilled barbecue potato “chips” that I made tonight.  After we consumed a large bowl of the grilled salt and vinegar potato “chips” last week, my partner suggested doing a barbecue-flavored one.  It was a brilliant idea.  So here is my latest and greatest creation…

Warning: these are highly addictive!

Grilled barbecue potato “chips” with creamy chive dip

1 pound yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 cups water
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon bacon salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/8 teaspoon ground mustard
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
4 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

Bring potatoes to a boil in a medium saucepan (water should cover potatoes; add more water if necessary). Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer potatoes until just fork tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well, and gently toss with oil.

Combine the greek yogurt, chives, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Preheat grill to medium-high. Grill potatoes in a single layer until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Dust with barbecue-flavored seasoning before serving, and toss to coat.

Serve grilled barbecue potato “chips” with the prepared creamy chive dip, or on its own.

Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Salt and Vinegar Potato “Chips”

This has to be my new guilty pleasure!  OMG, it’s such a burst of salt and vinegar flavor in my mouth.  I’ve always LOVED salt and vinegar potato chips, but I haven’t had a bag of chips in so long.  So when I came across this recipe, I just knew I had to make them soon.  Well, I’ve made these twice and with every bite I take, I mouth out how “these are the best things ever!”  Martha Stewart is a genius.

Grilled Salt and Vinegar Potato “Chips” (slightly adapted from Martha Stewart)

1 pound yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
2 cups white vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Bring potatoes and vinegar to a boil in a medium saucepan (vinegar should cover potatoes; add more vinegar if necessary).  Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer potatoes until just fork tender, about 5 minutes. Let potatoes cool in vinegar for 15 minutes (original recipe calls for 30 minutes, but we found it to be way too vinegary).  Drain well, and gently toss with oil, salt, and pepper.

Preheat grill to medium-high.  Grill potatoes in a single layer until browned on both sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.  Sprinkle with salt before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

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