Monday, January 10, 2011

Jamming for the Holidays

Oh dear, where did the time go? I can't believe I let two months pass without posting a new entry on this blog. I feel like I've cheated on blogging but the truth is, things got pretty busy over here.  My parents were here for most of November and we had so much fun taking them around. Not to mention, I was very happy cooking for four, sometimes six, rather than two. Many dishes were made and in time, they will be shared.

Towards the end of their visit my spouse visa also got granted. Because I am now allowed to work in Australia, I have been on hyper job-hunt mode. With that, cooking and blogging have been relegated (hopefully only for the time being). Having said that I am determined to get back into it. I guess I just need some time to re-adjust my daily schedule especially because the priority did moved from experimenting and documenting experiments, to the more serious task of securing employment. Then the holidays came and went and just like that, we are well into the New Year.

I'm happy to say that I'm getting my groove back. Throughout this period, we've still had some great dinners, sumptuous breakfasts and other experiments. Having had a full week, I was extremely delighted to find time in the kitchen. Some may get this and some may find it strange but for me, being in the kitchen is truly a release of stress, tension and even a bad mood.

Falling under "other experiments" are the jams I made as Christmas gifts. One day I read a recipe for banana-mango jam from the issue of Yummy magazine that my mom brought from the Philippines. I was so intrigued, I decided to make something of the bananas that needed to be consumed before going dark. I didn't have mango though but I had apricots and passionfruit. I simply used those fruits in place of the mango and voila, I amazed Mr. P and myself with a delicious concoction that went so well with goat cheese and toast. It was really good!

Right about this time, we were thinking of gift items for the family members we were going to be seeing over the holidays. Mr. P promptly suggested that this could be it. I thought about it and decided it was a great idea to go with homemade gifts this year. I remembered an Ina Garten recipe that combined strawberries and basil. But, for the second jam that ws to go into the basket, I really wanted to use sage. My basil plant was still a baby and yet I had sage growing like a weed in our balcony. I tested both anyway and confirmed that this fruit-herb combination would work. Recipes all set and off I went to buy the ingredients, containers, and packaging supplies. It was time to jam.

Unfortunately, I don't have photos of the jams themselves but I have photos of how I intended to pack them up for gift-giving time. We were quite happy with the look and even happier to know that the recipients and their families truly enjoyed these little concoctions.

With this experiment done, I really would like to venture into making more interesting combinations later on. I guess with anything else in life, it's just a matter of finding the perfect match.

Banana-Passionfruit-Apricot Jam 
(adapted from Pixie Sevilla-Santos' Banana-Mango jam recipe in the Sept 2010 issue of Yummy Magazine)
4 cups of sugar
1 1/4 cups water
1 kilo of the fruits, combined (I think I had 4 bananas, 3 apricots and 3 cups of passionfruit pulp)

Cook the sugar and water until it reaches the soft ball stage (to test, drop a small amount of the boiling syrup into cold water, if you can gather the strands into a soft ball, you are there). This takes about 8-10 minutes of rapid boiling, or if you are using a thermometer (I didn't) it should be at 112C.

Once you've reached this stage, put the peeled and sliced bananas and apricots into the pot. Add the passionfruit pulp. Boil for about 15 more minutes until it reaches a jam-like consistency. Take note that while it is hot, it may seem runny. Once the jam cools, it will set more.

Strawberry and Sage Jam
1 kilo of fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
4 cups raw sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
rind of 2 lemons
5 sage leaves

Combine all the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil, stirring consistently. Once the strawberries break down, lower the heat and add the sage leaves. Continue to boil slowly until you reach your desired consistency. The flavour of the sage will gently infuse into the strawberry mixture.

For both recipes, pour the jams into sterilised jars while hot and seal tightly. Put the sealed jars into a pot filled with water and bring to a boil. Let them sit in the boiling water for 10-15 minutes. This process will give your jams a long shelf life.

I hope this is just the start of some unlikely but lovely matches to be made in my kitchen!