Preserving Summer Bounty

Summer offers a plentiful bounty of wonderful fruits.  And since we all know that winter is just around the corner, we must make this bounty last longer.  The best way to do that is by preserving it.  Preserves…..  such a big category.  One can preserve almost all kinds of foods.  There are several methods to keep food over long periods of time.  Prior to the invention of refrigeration, this was the only way to extend the life of food.  Our forefathers salted, brined, pickled, canned and smoked food in order to keep it longer periods of time.  All of these methods are a lot of fun to do and keep us connected to our past.

I remember as a little girl watching my Grandmother and my Mother make jams and jellies.  I sat in amazement that they could turn fruit into such wonderful spreads.  This summer my niece, who also has these memories of her Grandmother (my mother), asked me if I would show her how to do it.  I was very touched and delighted to spend the day with her.  We had so much fun!

I searched my cooking magazines and cook books and came up with a menu that would show her the variety of foods that could be preserved using a water bath method that can be done easily.


There are jams, jellies and preserves.  Jellies have only the juice of the fruit and no pulp.  It is made by straining the cooked fruit in a cheese cloth to only collect the liquid.  Don’t squeeze the cheese cloth or the juice will become cloudy.  The difference between jams and preserves is the size of the fruit.  Jams have more crushed fruit.  The crushing also helps develop the natural pectin in the fruit.  Preserves are either large pieces or the whole fruit.

The important thing in jams is the ratio of fruit to sugar.  The sugar is what is going to make the jam come together.  My mother’s recipe is equal parts of berries and sugar with the juice of 2 lemons.  You can make jam without sugar, but you need to use pectin to make it gel. Macerate (combine and leave standing at room temperature) the sliced strawberries with the sugar for at least an hour.  Bring to a boil in a large pot.  Let the mixture simmer until it reaches the soft ball stage (235 degrees F).  You can also check by placing a drop of the jam in a glass of cold water and it should stay together in a soft ball.  Another trick is to place a plate in the freezer when you start and place a large drop of the jam on the frozen plate and it should hold together if it is at the right stage.

Sterilizing the jars is very important. If any bacteria is introduced to the jars, it will spoil the food and can be very dangerous.  The Mason jars can be sterilized by boiling the jars and the lids.  They must also be processed and sealed.  The jars can be sealed with wax or using the tops from the mason jars and a water bath that will create a vacuum seal.  The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great source of information.  Their website is

For the peaches, we tried a variation on a recipe that came out in one of my magazines.  It is a peach preserve that is infused with  tea.   It sounded a little strange at first, but it was so good.  We peeled the peaches by blanching them in hot water first.  The ratio was 5 lbs of fruit to 4 cups of sugar.  I think that a little bit of ginger and lemon juice would have been a great addition to it.

We were so pleased to see how productive the day had been once we got everything into the water bath.

And then, the Bounty of Summer:

Stay tuned for the pickles we made…..for another post.


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Blackberry Compote

A very simple dessert is poached berries.  It is simple but at the same time it can be very elegant.  You can flavor the fruit with a number of spices.  The blackberries looked wonderful and I decided to poach them with some star anise and some cinnamon.

I placed the berries with the spices in a small saucepan and added a splash of orange juice and a couple of tablespoons of honey. Simmer them over a low heat until the berries are soft but not mushy.

Serve warm with honey flavoured Greek Yogurt.  It’s a great last minute treat that everyone will enjoy.

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Flan is a very traditional Mexican dessert.  In fact there is a custard like dessert in most cultures.  France has it’s Creme Caramel, Italy has it’s Panna Cotta even Japan has an egg custard.

I have had flan all my life, but I never made it myself.  I was asked to take flan to a party and panic set it….     I had to call home and get advice.

What I found out was that, as most traditional recipes, there are sooooo many ways to make it.  Here is the most simple one I have found.

I also was serving this for many people and did not have individual dishes so I had to do it on a greater scale.  It looks much better done individually.


1 cup sugar for caramel

6 large eggs

1 1/2 14oz. cans of sweetened condensed mik

1  14 oz can of milk

1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  You could use 6 individual ramekins or 1 large oven proof dish.

Pour the sugar in a warm pan over medium heat.  Stir the sugar until it turns brown and becomes a caramel.  Pour a few tablespoons into each ramekin and swirl around.  Be patient with the caramel. It takes some time to brown and melt.  Don’t be tempted to add water, it just slows the process down.  also it’s best to make it in a teflon pan.  After you have finished, you can boil water in it to melt the leftover sugar and add soap and clean that way.  Hey, clean up is important.  Don’t I wish I had someone that would clean up after my cooking…those were the days.

With a mixer combine the eggs and the milks with the vanilla.  Blend smooth.  Pour in the ramekin and place them in a larger pan with a water bath of 1-2 inches.  Bake for 50 mins and check to make sure that a knife comes out clean.  When I did it in the larger pan, I sprinkled cinnamon on top because it looked bare.  Can’t have a naked flan, now can we?

To serve, run a knife around the edges and turn onto a plate.   I don’t know why, but the caramel magically sticks to the custard and what is left over is a syrup.  The top of the custard gets a saturation of the sugar mixture that makes it yummmy.

I did not really know how easy it is to do.  It takes no time to put together.  It may be my new dessert.

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Rosca de Reyes

The Rosca de Reyes is the traditional bread that is eaten for the celebration of the Three Kings on January 6th.  The Three Kings are Gaspar, Melchor and Baltasar.  The classic beverage that goes with this is a steaming hot Mexican chocolate.  What a wonderful child friendly dinner.  Each person cuts their slice and hidden in the bread is a plastic or porcelain baby Jesus.  The person that gets the toy is responsible for hosting a party on the 2nd of February, the “Dia de la Candelaria”.  Hey, it can’t be bad to have holiday celebrations from December to February!!!


The traditional song is below, with it’s English translation.

Ya vienen los Reyes Magos
ya vienen los Reyes Magos
caminito de Belén
olé, olé, Holanda y olé
Holanda ya se ve

Cargaitos de jugetes
cargaitos de jugetes
para el Niño de Belén
olé, olé, Holanda y olé
Holanda ya se ve

Qué cargados van
qué cargados van
los camellos rebozan jugetes
para el Rey de los cielos
que está en el portal

Que está en el portal
que está en el portal
los camellos rebozan jugetes
para el Rey de los cielos
que está en el portal

Como el camino es tan largo
como el camino es tan largo
pide el Niño de beber
olé, olé Holanda y olé
Holanda ya se ve

No pidas agua mi vida
no pidas agua mi vida
no pidas agua mi bien
olé, olé Holanda y olé
Holanda ya se ve

Que los ríos vienen turbios
que los ríos vienen turbios
y no se puede beber
olé, olé Holanda y olé
Holanda ya se ve

Dicen que nació
dicen que nació
sin pañales ni ropa ninguna
y la misma luna sábanas de Dios

Sábanas de Dios
sábanas de Dios
sin pañales ni ropa ninguna
y la misma luna sábanas de Dios.

The Wise Men are coming
the Wise Men are coming
on their way to Bethlehem
olé, olé, Holy land and olé
Holy land can be seen.
Carrying lots of toys
carrying lots of toys
for the Child in Bethlehem
olé, olé, Holy land and olé
Holy land can be seen.

What a load they carry
what a load they carry
the camels bearing all the toys
for the King of Heaven
that is in the portal.

That is in the portal
that is in the portal
the camels are loaded with toys
for the King of Heaven
who is in the portal.

Since the journey is too long
since the journey is too long
the Child asks for water
olé, olé, Holy land and olé
Holy land can be seen.

Don’t ask for water my love
don’t ask for water my love
don’t ask for water my dear
olé, olé, Holy land and olé
Holy land can be seen.

The rivers are turbid
the rivers are turbid
and you can’t drink its water
olé, olé, Holy land and olé
Holy land can be seen.

They say He was born
they say He was born
without dippers or cloths
but  the moon is God’s bed sheet.

God’s bed sheets
God’s bed sheets
without dippers or cloths
but the moon is God’s bed sheet.

In Mexico there are so many great bakeries that make super Rosca.  I really don’t make it,  yes, yes…I know… But here is a really nice recipe from Ingrid Hoffman.  She does a really wonderful job with it.

Three Kings Bread: Rosca de Reyes
Recipe courtesy Ingrid Hoffmann, 2008

Prep Time:35 minInactive Prep Time:1 hr 0 minCook Time:40 min
8 servings

1 (1/4-ounce) packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup dried figs, cut into strips, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup candied orange peel, cut into strips, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup candied lemon peel, cut into strips, plus more for garnish
1/4 cup chopped candied cherries, plus more whole for garnish
2 tablespoons light rum
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs, divided
In a small bowl, combine the yeast and warm water; stir to blend. Let stand until the yeast comes alive and starts to foam, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Put all of the candied fruit in small bowl and drizzle the rum on top. Let stand for 15 minutes to 1 hour to infuse the flavor.

In a small pot, warm the milk over medium heat. Add the sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl, mix 3 1/2 cups flour, 2 eggs, yeast mixture, milk mixture, and the rum soaked candied fruits, mixing very well until the dough gathers into a ball. If the dough is too wet, Add additional flour, a little at a time, if needed to form a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it’s smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Put the ball of dough back into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set aside in a warm spot to rise for 1 hour.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead on a lightly floured surface. Using your palms, roll the dough into a long rope. Shape the coil into a ring, sealing the ends together. Insert a little doll or coin into the bread from the bottom, if desired. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Carefully transfer the dough ring to the prepared baking pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl with 1 tablespoon of water to make an egg wash, and brush the top of the bread. Decoratively garnish the top of the bread with more candied fruit and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the cake is golden.

Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Cook’s Note: Let your guests know there is a little doll or coin inserted inside.

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Empanadas de Manzana

Fall is in the air.  The weather is quite crisp.  It is time for something comforting to the soul.  How about using these wonderful apples in something sweet and filling.

ApplesEmpanadas de Manzana—-Apple Turnovers

2 apples chopped into small pieces
juice of 2 lemons
1/4 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
your favorite pie pastry
beaten egg for egg wash

Mix apples with juice, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Roll out pastry and cut into 4 inch circles.   Brush egg wash over edges and fill with apples. Fold pastry over and seal the edges.  Brush with egg wash and place in a 375 oven until brown.


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