Blueberry Preserves

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OMG friends! I missed posting here! It’s been rough few weeks!

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It so happened that a mishap occurred with my laptop….it “somehow” got drowned from the bottom and stopped working! Yes, I nearly crumbled into nothingness when I turned on the laptop and it made this whirring sound. My heart sank knowing something was terribly wrong! The screen was black. I almost collapsed thinking of the many photos saved on it! Can they be retrieved somehow? What about my computer time? Sure, I could have used one of the backup units, but somehow I felt I needed to wait till mine got at least some sort of a CPR.

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Long story and ordeal cut short, my laptop did get fixed. Although it took a bit of time (partly because I was too busy preparing for my extended family’s visit and work to bug my husband to do something about it), the unit is back to action – thanks to my brother and my husband!

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So, I couldn’t think of any better recipe to post but a wonderful, delectable, vibrant, fresh from the garden to a jar, blueberry preserve!

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Yesterday, we had gone blueberry picking. We picked several pounds and after freezing most and saving some for eating fresh, I used up a bunch to make two 16-oz jars of delicious preserves.

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If you can get past the beautiful hue of the preserve, I assure you that you will be greatly rewarded by the taste of the spread on a lightly buttered toast or spread on a split muffin or scone! Yummmm….so what are you waiting for??!! Grab the few things you need to start twirling the kitchen, will you!

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Bright and Sunny Blueberry Preserve

  • Servings: two 16-oz jars
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Ingredients
3 1/2 cups of crushed blueberries
2 tablespoons sure-jell low-sugar pectin
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup stevia
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Preparation:
1. Prepare the fruit by crushing rinsed blueberries. Scoop 3 1/2 cups of the crushed fruit and pour into a small sauce pan.
2. Place over medium-low heat and add the pectin.
3. Stir the pectin into the fruit and cook for about 5 minutes.
4. Add the sugar and stevia and continue cooking the fruit for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
5. The fruit may start to bubble and froth up. Stir in the butter to help reduce the froth.
6. While the fruit is cooking, place the two jars in a medium pot of simmering water and warm for about 5 minutes.
7. Remove the jars from the water, letting all the water drain out. Scoop the cooked fruits into the jars, leaving about 1/4 inch of head space. Place the lid and the ring and lightly tighten the lids.
8. Place the jars back into the pan with hot water and simmer for about 10 minutes. Make sure the water mark is well below the lid.
9. Remove the jars from the water and transfer the jars to the refrigerator to cool.
10. Check for seal after about 24 hours. You will see that when properly sealed, the lid will be slightly depressed down.

Enjoy!

Easy Summer Berry Preserve

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Warm weather is here and that means strawberries! Bright, red, juicy berries so full of flavor and nutrition that you can enjoy in many ways! That brings me to canning!

I have long admired the talent, passion and patience of folks who make it their summer mission to not only source season’s freshest produce, but also take the time to prepare and preserve them for months to come! When we visited our friends last winter, we had the opportunity to sample some homemade jams and preserves! They tasted so pure and delicious! Best of all, they were free of commercial preservatives and had significantly less added sugar. My friend insisted it was so simple to make! OK!

Since then, I sort of dabbled with the thought of trying my hands at making some homemade jam myself but kept putting it off! So, when the strawberry season came around, I just had to take the plunge! So, we went to the local farm to pick some berries. Ahh….what an enjoyable experience! From toddlers to grandparents, it was an afternoon of fun for everyone!

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After a bit of crawling around on piles of hay and red fingers, I managed to keep the family working long enough to pile on about 10 lbs of berries! That was the easy part! Seriously! The hardest part is setting aside the time to sort through, rinse, hull, blot and prepare the fruits!

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Since this is the first time making preserves, I wanted to make just enough to fill a few 16-oz jars!

After seeing how much added sugar is in a traditional homemade or store bought jam/preserve, I wanted to control the amount of sugar in my recipe. I heard from a fellow shopper in the pectin aisle that stevia has a weird taste and flavor and she uses raw turbinado sugar to reduce the amount of added sugar. After a bit of contemplation and a quick Google session, I decided to try a combination of few sweeteners – raw turbinado, stevia and regular refined sugar! So, after grabbing a small jar of pectin (for low/no sugar recipes), a large bag of stevia (swallow) and a pouch of turbinado, I raced to get a few canning jars! Armed with a dozen Canning jars, I started to feel like a pro!

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Once you clean and prepare the fruits (or if you are lucky, recruit family and friends to do it for you!), rest of the process is very quick and easy.

After a few minutes of cooking, you are ready to scoop into sterilized jars and seal for later! See, I told you the cooking process is easy!

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NOTE ABOUT TASTE/TEXTURE: After opening many a jar of store-bought jelly and preserves, the look of this preserve closely resembles other low-sugar versions you get at the store. It’s not as “glossy” looking as regular sugar versions, but I didn’t mind it much. It tastes great and most importantly it was a winner with my kids!

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This recipe is a winner even for the most challenged cook! So, give this a try and see for yourself! You still have a few days left of the strawberry season in your local area, so make it a berry fun weekend!

Easy Summer Berry Preserve

  • Servings: 3 16-oz jars
  • Print

Ingredients
4 cups of crushed fresh berries
1/2 cup refined sugar
1/2 cup raw turbinado sugar
1/2 cup stevia
3/4 cup water or strawberry juice
6 tablespoons fruit pectin for low/no sugar recipe
1 teaspoon butter, optional
3 16-oz canning jars with lids

Preparation
1. Wash the canning jars and the two-part lids with dish soap and warm water. Bring a large, wide pan of water to a low simmer and place the jars and the lids. Keep them in the water till the preserve is ready to be poured in.
2. Scoop the crushed berries, sugars and water into a large, heavy bottom pan and place over medium heat.
3. Add the pectin, while continuously stirring so as not to allow the pectin to clump up.
4. Stir in the butter. Increase the heat to medium high and bring the mixture to a rolling boil.
5. Continue to maintain the boil for 2-3 minutes and turn off heat.
6. Using tongs, carefully remove one jar at a time and spoon (or funnel) in the hot preserves, leaving about 1/4″ – 1/2″ space at the top. Using tongs, remove the flat lid from the water and place on the jar. Wipe away any spills from the rim and sides and seal using the lid rings. Repeat with remaining preserves.
7. Place the filled jars into a water bath with boiling water for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, wipe down the jars and place in the refrigerator.
8. Check for seal after about 24 hours. Lid should not have any bounce when you press on top. Your bottled preserves are ready for storage or giving away as gifts.

Seeni Sambol (Sri Lankan Onion Confit)

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Seeni sambol is a very common accompaniment on many a breakfast table in Sri Lanka. My first childhood memories of this pungent, yet extremely flavorful spread goes back to our annual family pilgrimage to Kathirkama temple (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kataragama_temple). We went on this trip with several extended families and we all brought all necessary provision for preparing our meals. Seeni sambol was a must have! My grandma and other ladies brought their versions of this popular relish because it kept fresh without refrigeration for the week-long trip (or was it 10 days?) – thanks to the tamarind pulp and ample amount of oil in it. For breakfast, we were served this with rotis (flat breads), string hoppers, puttu or just plain freshly baked crusty bread (we called them “roast paan” – “paan” being a Portuguese word referring to bread)! Oh, the memories of childhood!

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Regardless of any variation, the shining star in this dish is PLENTY of onions! A popular variation to an otherwise vegan dish is the addition of dried Maldives fish (which is really bits of dried tuna). Growing up, we kids would usually picked this out but as I grew older, I have come to enjoy the subtle flavor imparted by the fish. To think of it, I would like to make a version with a bit of shrimp paste one of these days! Hmmmmm…

Back to the dish, so, yes, be prepared to peel and slice plenty of onions. Other than that, there is no other prep work. So, the time you save prepping ingredients….well, you will need that for the cooking process! Just saying.

Seeni sambol (Sri Lankan Onion Confit)

Ingredients
5 to 6 cups of thinly sliced onions
3″ piece of cinnamon, preferably Ceylon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 sprig of curry leaves
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly bruised
4-6 pods of green cardamom, crushed
1 tsp salt
1 to 2 tsp cayenne, or per taste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon of tamarind paste
3 tblsp oil (another tablespoon more if needed)
2 tblsp sugar

Preparation
1. In a large wok or heavy bottomed pan, heat oil.
2. Add mustard seeds and let them pop. Now, add onions and begin to sauté.
3. After about 3 minutes, add remaining ingredients except tamarind and sugar.
4. Continue to cook under medium low heat until onion begins to caramelize and become sort of pulpy and glazed. This should take about 20 minutes. Remember to stir well every few minutes as this recipe uses less oil and onion tends to stick to the bottom of the pan as it begins to caramelize. While stirring, just scrape up any bits of stuck-on onions. 🙂
5. Now, add tamarind paste and sugar and continue to cook for another 10 minutes. The end product should be a beautiful golden brown confit.

If you use more than 4 tablespoons of oil (like how my grandma used to make and ahem…my mom continues to make!), at the end of the cooking process, excess oil will separate from the onion mixture. This is one of the reasons seeni sambol keeps for several days without spoiling. 🙂 I use as little oil as possible without sacrificing too much flavor and taste! I think you will enjoy this recipe. Try it with a slice of toast, as a spread for a sandwich (mozzarella melt anyone?) or as in the picture below as a filling for baked empanadas! Yum!

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