Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bananas in a jam

It's UFO time again - this morning I opened the door to my freezer and out tumbled three packages, only two of which I could identify because I had the clarity of mind to write the contents on the wrapper. The third package...a total mystery. Feeling the contents, I thought they were brat sausages at first, but remembered distinctly looking through the freezer several weeks ago for some and not finding any. Chorizos perhaps? Nope. When I unwrapped the solid, slightly bent, brown items from the plastic bag they were hiding in, I laughed out loud: they were bananas!!

I tend to buy bananas with the utmost sincere intention of eating them. I'll eat one the day I buy them, perhaps another one the next day, and then I forget about them. Three days later on the counter, they've turned brown and ripe and there is no way I can stomach the mushy contents. Why is it that bananas in the store are green, solid and weeks away from being edible and yet, when you bring them home, they go from green to overripe practically overnight? At that point for me they are too mushy, soft and squishy to eat without gagging.

Frugal (read: cheap) as I am, I can't face throwing the bananas away so I throw them in the freezer instead. Within no time they're frozen solid. The skin will turn a dark brown hue but the flesh will stay golden yellow. These bananas work great for last minute banana bread, oatmeal cookies or anything else that benefits from bananas.

Now.....I'm not a big banana bread fan. For one, I have yet to find a recipe that pleases me to the point where I feel I am truly eating banana bread and not some cardboard concoction with a vague hint of stale bananas. But here I am on a Sunday afternoon with only ten pounds of roasted peppers to can and now, with twelve frozen bananas on the counter, slowly thawing in a puddle of banana juice. Since I'm going to be running the canner anyway, I tried to find a recipe for these bananas and guess what? I found one for banana jam......yummie!!

Pectin and I are not great friends: undoubtedly not pectin's fault but mine, for not being more attentive. One day it will set the jam, another day it just makes it into a pourable sauce. Today's batch turned into a slightly thick, lovely sweet banana sauce. Beautiful on toast and a gorgeous addition to vanilla ice cream!

Banana Jam
10 to twelve bananas, very happily ripe but not brown on the inside
1/4 cup of bottled lemon juice
6 cups of sugar
6 oz of liquid pectin

Mash the bananas, add the lemon juice and the sugar and slowly bring up to a boil. (You may want to puree the mush with an immersion blender for a smooth consistency). Bring up to a rolling boil, where the bubbles will continue to surface even though you stir constantly, for an entire minute, then take the pan off the stove, stir in the pectin and put it back on the stove, stirring and boiling for another minute. The sauce will be rather thick and will burn easily, so keep that spoon going!

In the meantime, have your jars, lids and rings ready to go. Ladle the sauce in the jars, leave a 1/2 inch of headspace, adjust lids and rings and process in a hot boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

Once opened, refrigerate the jar. This quantity will make enough for 7 half pint jars.


Monday, September 06, 2010

Peaches and Cream Pie

It's peach time. Actually, it's been peach time for quite a while and I've been working my way steadily through various pounds of Red Haven peaches that I picked at Kelley Orchards, here in Payette. First I canned them in a star anise/cinnamon syrup, then I gave a whole bunch of them away to the people at work but I still had some left to play with.

Just like with the chard, there comes a point where you're peached out. You look at your counterspace where these sweet, fuzzy, juice fruits are sitting, just waiting to get used up, begging to be canned, eaten, frozen, dried or pickled. Imploring you that their whole purpose of growing was to serve you, the perky peach processor, and fulfill the lofty goal of feeding you, your friends or for lack of better, your chickens. And all you can do is shrug your shoulders and turn a blind eye. Because, like I said, there comes a point where you're peached out.

But you also know that there comes another point, probably three months down the road, where it's cold, dark and windy out there, where you long for summer, for warmth and for fresh produce. And you guiltily remember those peaches...yup, those golden, juicy, sweet peaches. And you beat yourself up for letting those last ones on the counter go to waste. You scold yourself for not putting them up, for not eating them, using them in some way, shape or form.

So....in order to prevent that, I'm back at doing something with the rest of the peaches. And by golly, browsing through Natashya's Living In the Kitchen With Puppies (check out her recipes and fabulous photography!) I came across a mention of Peaches and Cream Pie. Whoa! I'm not usually one for peach pie but, in this case, it sounded wonderful. I sent a quick email to Natashya for some guidance and she kindly sent me the link to this website for the recipe.

I followed the recipe, substituting the tapioca for cornstarch and, since I don't have permission yet to re-post it, I'll just leave you with the link and a picture. Since pie crusts and I have this awkward love-hate relationship, I was hesitant to make my own but since the pie recipe is followed by a Favourite Pie Crust recipe, I just had to try. And I am glad I did! This is going to be my new pie crust recipe, it's fabulously easy and it was love at first sight. I had enough for one large pie and leftover dough and filling for a small one. The big one went to a dear friend whose father was visiting, the small one I ate myself. Wow! The Red Haven peaches are not overly sweet and gain some from the sugary crust and sweet whipping cream. This pie is perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.