Food styling and photos: Brooke Echols
With more Alabama residents staying and working at home this past year, many of us turned to growing our own food and then figuring out what to do with what our gardens produced. Many, predictably, turned to home canning fruit jams, jellies, preserves and marmalades. “Oh, my goodness, everyone wanted to grow a garden and then everyone wanted to know how to can,” says Angela Treadaway, regional extension agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Her office was overwhelmed with calls and hundreds of people registered for the system’s online virtual workshops on canning and food preservation.
Why is making your own jams and jellies better than store-bought? “Because you know what’s in it,” she says. “There are no preservatives, and the freshness of it… there’s really no comparison.”
“The biggest problem is getting jars,” Treadaway says. The surge in home canning in 2020 led to a shortage of jars and lids in stores and online. “I hope it’s been solved by now.”
Some of her most-asked questions on jelly and jam-making:
If mold appears on the top of my jelly, is it OK to scoop it off and use it?
No, that’s not a good idea. If it’s on the top, it’s in the whole product. It’s best to toss.
What about paraffin wax to seal my jars?
This is not recommended and does not meet USDA standards. Even though the lid may seal, it’s not a permanent seal.
Do I need a water bath canner?
You can use a large stock pot as long as it’s tall enough to have an inch of water at the top. You can use a towel or a rack on the bottom to hold the jars.
For more help, including video tutorials, visit: aces.edu/blog/category/food-safety/. The Extension System also offers “Tuesday Table Talks” workshops on the first Tuesday of the month on its Facebook page at facebook.com/acesfoodsafety. You can reach Angela Treadaway at 205-410-3696. – Lenore Vickrey
The Buttered Home
Some of our favorite things are always made better by jams, jellies, marmalades and chutney! Biscuits, fried veggies, cornbread, you name it! Heck, you can drizzle some pepper jelly over cream cheese and eat it on a cracker, and it will be one of the best things you will ever eat!
What if we took that sweet concept and made it savory? This Bacon Chutney recipe does that and it will be all you ever wanted and MORE! Chutney is different from jam. Jam has only one means of preservative and that is sugar. Chutneys are cooked and preserved with some savory ingredients along with the sweet. For example, jam is sugar-based with granulated sugar and/or pectin. Chutney’s base does include sugar, but also incorporates some type of vinegar. For this recipe, we use apple cider vinegar. We love this chutney on fried squash and zucchini! Truthfully, it’s also great on a cracker or just by the spoonful. Give it a whirl today and see what we mean. A little twist with a whole lot of flavor!
1 pound of bacon, cut into small pieces
1.5 cup chopped onion
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup brewed coffee
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
Cook bacon until well done. Drain using a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel. Reserve 1 tablespoon bacon grease in large skillet. Heat skillet and grease and add in onion, garlic and red bell pepper. Cook for 5 minutes on low/medium heat, stirring often to prevent garlic from burning.
Add apple cider vinegar , brown sugar, syrup and coffee carefully to onion mixture. Bring to a boil and scrape the pan to deglaze all those yummy bits of bacon. Continue to boil for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add bacon and lower heat to low for just a slight simmer. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30-45 minutes until it begins to thicken. You will know when it is ready as most all of the liquid has evaporated and you are left with a thick syrup consistency.
Allow to cool and transfer to an airtight container. I love keeping mine in a jelly jar in the fridge. Allow to cool completely and store in refrigerator for 1-2 weeks, if it lasts that long!
Cook of the Month
Sharon Tucker, Cullman EC
Sharon Tucker created her winning recipe for Bacon Jam when she was invited to a party and needed to make something for a charcuterie board (a wooden board or platter with an assortment of meats, cheeses and often nuts, fruits, pickles and other condiments). She decided to make Bacon Jam, so she went online for a recipe and found six. “I wrote down everything that was the same and that was different in each one,” she says, and then she created her own version by picking and choosing the ingredients she liked. Plus some extra touches, like the cocoa. “One recipe called for coffee,” she says. “Well, I hate coffee but cocoa complements coffee, so I used that instead.” She’s also a fan of balsamic vinegar, so that went in, too. So she took her newly created Bacon Jam to the party “and everyone loved it!” She’s emphatic about the need to use three pans while cooking the bacon: “You need one for crispy, one for chewy and one for ‘just right.’” Sharon uses cast iron skillets for her perfectly cooked bacon, and advises to keep an eye on it when it’s cooking to avoid burns. Describing herself as a creative person, she keeps busy as a hairdresser, substitute teacher and photographer in and around Cullman. “And I love to cook!”
1½ pounds bacon (high quality), cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil (as needed for moist onions)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon bacon drippings
1 tablespoon black pepper
2 large sweet onions, halved and sliced
1/3 cup American Honey Bourbon
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (less if you’re heat sensitive)
11/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Cook bacon over medium heat in 3 batches, one tender, one crispy and one in between. Remove bacon and set aside. Use bacon drippings, olive oil and butter to sauté onion with black pepper until caramelized, stirring often. Don’t over-cook onion. Spoon out excess oil. Add bourbon to caramelized onions to deglaze pan. Add brown sugar, cocoa, cayenne pepper and garlic, stirring well to coat onions add bacon pieces and cook until thick on a low simmer about 10 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar, stir until well blended and simmer a few more minutes. Serve warm. Pairs well with feta cheese.
Strawberry Margarita Marmalade
6 cup strawberries, sliced + 1 cup sugar
Orange peels, several
Box of Sure Gel
Sugar, to taste (amount recommended in the Sure Gel instructions)
Slice 6 cups of strawberries, mix with 1 cup sugar, cover and store in the refrigerator overnight. Boil canning jars and lids to sanitize. Juice (reserve juices) and finely slice the lime, lemon and orange peels. Simmer until tender. When the peels are tender, add the sugared strawberries to the pot. Cook for approximately 15 minutes so the fruit will reduce. Then following the Sure Gel preparation instructions, combine the remaining sugar and the gel. Heat until the juice sheets off a large spoon. Remove and fill jars, place lids snugly, wait until cool. Makes twelve 4-ounce jars.
Keith Ford, Boaz
Not-Too-Sweet Pear Jam
7-8 cups ground pears (about 12 pears)
3-4 cups sugar
2 apples, reserve peelings
1 teaspoon vanilla
Peel and grind pears in food processor in two or three batches. Pour into saucepan, add sugar, boil 8-10 minutes. Make a bag of cheesecloth, add apple peelings, tie with kitchen string, add to pears and boil 3 more minutes. Remove peelings, which have provided natural pectin to help the jam jell. Add vanilla and stir well. Pour into sterilized jelly glasses. Fills nine 8-ounce jars.
Dewana Green, Baldwin EMC
Easy Fig Jam
2 small boxes Jello (choice of flavor)
3 cups ripe figs, mashed
3 cups sugar
Mix all together, stir while you bring to a boil in a heavy pot. Boil 4 minutes while stirring. Skim off top, if needed. Pour jam in sterilized jars and seal down. Makes 8 half-pint jars. Cook’s note: strawberry Jello makes the figs taste like strawberries were used. I have used less sugar and boiled it a few minutes longer; but be careful, it will be too thick.
Ida Thomas, Joe Wheeler EMC
Kentucky Jam Cake
¾ cup vegetable oil (can substitute 1 cup shortening)
1 cup sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup blackberry jam
1 tablespoon cocoa
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar, gently packed
¼ cup milk
3¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Cream the oil with sugar. Beat in the eggs one at a time; add jam. Mix dry ingredients together. Add half sugar mixture, half of buttermilk and dry ingredients. Blend all well. Add remaining half and blend again. Bake in three 8-inch or 9-inch round pans which have been sprayed with vegetable spray. Line bottom of each pan with wax paper. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-35 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake. Let cake cool in pans for 10 minutes after removing from oven. Then, remove cake from pans and allow to cool on wire rack. Frost cake as soon as it is cool.
Melt butter, add brown sugar. Boil; stir 1 minute or until slightly thick. Cool slightly. Add milk; beat until smooth. Add confectioners’ sugar until spreading consistency. Frost cake completely.
Peggy Key, North Alabama EC
Themes and Deadlines:
June: Blueberries | March 5
July : Cucumber | April 2
August: Seafood | May 7