Long overdue blog post, and homemade pomegranate jelly.

My apologies to my dear Hungry Foodies Pharmacy readers for it has been over a month since my last post. New life changes have kept me away from my kitchen. But I am now back in effect! I’m finished with my travels to Wisconsin for training, and I’m settling into my new job, new schedule, and new life.

I started my new job and I am loving every minute of it. I haven’t had an ounce of regret leaving my last job. Things have been extremely hectic with this new job because I was traveling to Wisconsin for three separate, week-long training classes every other week. This job requires that I become certified, which entails three exams and two projects that I must pass/complete before I can really delve into any major projects. So, I’ve been busily studying and working on projects for the last six weeks. I can happily report that I’ve passed two out of the three exams, and I am almost finished with my last project. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

One of the first things I wanted to make this weekend [that I had neglecting to do] was to remove the pomegranate arils from all the pomegranates off of our tree.  Our pomegranate tree did amazing this year!  In fact, it was almost a little overwhelming how many pomegranates we got this year.

What I was left with after removing all the arils, was bowls and bowls and b… you get the idea… of pomegranate arils.  But there also was what resembled a bloody murder scene with red pomegranate juice sprayed across the walls, window, countertop, and the floor.  It wasn’t pretty.

So I thought pomegranate jelly would be a great way to use/preserve the majority of our pomegranates. And not to toot my own horn… oh who am I kidding?  Of course I’m going to toot my own horn to say that this pomegranate jelly is to die for.  I’m just sayin’.

Stay tuned for a few other pomegranate recipes in the works!

Pomegranate Jelly

5 1/4 cups fresh pomegranate juice
1 packet plus 3 tablespoons less or no-sugar needed powdered pectin
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups sugar

Put a few small ceramic dish into the freezer.

In a non-reactive saucepan, heat pomegranate juice and lemon juice over high heat. Bring to a boil. Skim any of the white foam/impurities from the top. Reduce heat to medium-high, and add the powdered pectin. Whisk until all of the pectin has dissolved.  Add the sugar, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil while whisking until the sugar has dissolved.  [I prefer my jam/jelly a little more tart than sweet, so adjust the sweetness or tartness to your liking.]  Let it continue to boil for an additional two minutes.

Take out one of the ceramic dishes from the freezer.  Ladle a small teaspoonful of the jelly 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 jelly.  If the jelly does not close up the channel, then it’s ready.  [If you prefer your jelly a little more firmer, add a little more pectin.]

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 five 1/2 pint jars.

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.

Roasted Garlic, Bacon, and Onion Marmalade

For all the dog owners, if you didn’t already know, snail bait is EXTREMELY toxic to dogs (and cats).  Unfortunately, we found out the hard way, and one of our dogs ended up at the emergency vet the other night.  Bella, our pug, was tremoring and hyperactive, although she is always very hyper.  But this was unusual behavior for her.  She looked high.  I started to Google different search terms and found a hit for snail bait.  One website listed all the signs and symptoms of snail bait poisoning, and the first two matched what our pug was experiencing.  We called the emergency vet and immediately made our way there with our pug and the culprit… the box of snail bait.

The vet techs swooped up our pug from our arms and ran her back to the “hospital” without hesitation.  They put us in an exam room and we waited, and waited, and waited for the doctor.  It was only about 10 minutes before the doctor spoke with us, but it felt like an eternity.  We were extremely anxious, and wondering if *we* killed our dog.  It was the most nauseating feeling of not knowing what was happening or going to happen.  The doctor was very informative and patient with the number of questions we had.

With poisons and toxins, it is hard to predict the course of the illness, severity, and prognosis of the condition without knowing EXACTLY how much was taken.  At least with human ingestions, they can sometimes tell us exactly or at give us a close approximation of how much was taken, and we can predict (and I use that term loosely) the course of action with antidotes or supportive treatments.  Unfortunately, we had no idea how much of the snail bait Bella ingested.  So the doctor could not tell us what was going to happen, how long she was going to be sick, and if her clinical picture was going to deteriorate or improve.  The unknown scared the living hell out of us.  But the doctor reassured us that her and her team were going to do everything to stabilize her.

We waited around for about an hour until we got an update.  The vet said that Bella had calmed down with methocarbamol and diazepam, a muscle relaxant and anti-anxiety/sedative, respectively.  They provided her with fluids, oxygen, and diazepam as needed. They assured us that they were going to keep a close eye on her through the night.  They even let us say good night to Bella before we left the pet ER, since they had strict visitation hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

We left feeling comforted, at ease, and less anxious because we knew Bella was in good hands, if that makes any sense.  The staff were so friendly and informative, that we just knew they were going to provide excellent care for our little four-legged girl.  The vet called us the next morning and gave us an update that Bella was doing well, oxygenating, and less tremulous and anxious after a few more doses of medications.  She even told us that she might be ready to be picked up later that afternoon!  And we did!  I’m happy to report that Bella is back to her hyper and happy self :)

Fortunately and thankfully, I feel like we caught Bella’s signs and symptoms of snail bait toxicity early enough, albeit she was really sick and had to be hospitalized, has fully recovered.  The cost of the ER visit with medications, X-rays, oxygen, IV fluids, and etc costed us $2000, but well worth it to have our furry little girl back home with us!

We intentionally left our box of snail bait with the pet ER.  Never again are we going to buy that toxic stuff.  If you need snail bait, get the pet-friendly kind.  I hear there are home remedies, too, such as a pie tin filled with beer.  But we’ve decided to make friends with the snails and forego any kind bait, pet-friendly or not.

Roasted Garlic, Bacon, and Onion Marmalade

2 heads of garlic
3 slices bacon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 large yellow onions, sliced
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut off 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the top of the garlic bulbs using a knife, leaving the tops of the individual garlic cloves exposed. Place garlic bulb on top of a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to wrap the whole garlic bulb. Drizzle with two teaspoons of olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt, and wrap foil tightly. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until the feel soft when pressed.

Allow the garlic to cool enough so you can touch it without burning yourself. Use a fork or your fingers to pull or squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins. For large roasted garlic cloves, chop coarsely.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon slices and cook until the fat has been rendered, and the bacon is crispy. Remove bacon and place onto a paper towel-lined plate. Once cool to handle, crumble the bacon into coarse crumbles.

In the same skillet with the bacon fat, add the onions and saute until the onions are tender, about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to just medium to medium-low, add water, cover with a lid and cook until the onions turn an amber golden brown. You will need to stir occasionally, until done, about 45 minutes.

Add the crumbled bacon, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, thyme, roasted garlic cloves, salt and pepper, and deglaze the pan and cook until most of the moisture is gone. Once cooled, pour into a container and keep refrigerated.

Makes 1 1/2 cups of jam.

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