June 21, 2018
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Cook’s Corner: Home-canned blueberry syrup captures summer in a jar

By Linda Cicero, McClatchy Newspapers

For a long time it seemed no one was canning anything anymore, and finding jars and other necessities took a hunt. This year, however, home canning has been declared one of the top food trends. There has been an explosion of cookbooks on the subject, and sales of home canning supplies are up 35 percent in the last three years.

I unpacked my much-used canning equipment after going blueberry picking with a friend. I love the flavor of my homemade blueberry syrup as well as the knowledge that it’s nothing but blueberries, sugar and lemon. I’ve also got some ready-made hostess gifts — for about $2 a pint jar. You’d pay twice that much in a store for half the syrup, and you’d be getting a lot of corn syrup and a little berry.

If you are new to canning, or simply are looking for new ways to put up whatever your garden grows, I’ve found three websites helpful:

CanningAcrossAmerica.com is a nonprofit collective of cooks, gardeners and food lovers “committed to the revival of the lost art of ‘putting up’ food.” There’s great information on getting started, intriguing recipes and cook-to-cook questions and comments.

FreshPreserving.com has some intriguing recipes and is a go-to source for harder-to-find equipment and supplies. (It’s sponsored by Ball.) Two extras I find essential are a wide-mouth funnel and a jar lifter for taking filled jars from a water bath.

SweetPreservation.com has recipes for canning stone fruit and lovely, free, downloadable label designs. There is also a helpful resource guide with links to other canning sites.

Blueberry syrup

Makes 5-6 pints

If you don’t have enough syrup to fill the final jar, refrigerate it and use within a month. Use canned jars within a year.

6 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

4-5 cups sugar, to taste

6 pint-size canning jars and lids, sterilized

Have boiling water-bath canner ready. Rinse fruit in cold water, removing any stray stems and blemished berries. Drain well. Reserve 2 cups berries. Place the rest in a food processor and pulse briefly (or mash with a potato masher). Place in a 2-quart saucepan with lemon juice and zest. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a low simmer and cook 5 minutes. Press cooked berries through a fine-mesh colander using the back of a wooden spoon to push through as much pulp and juice as possible. Discard dry pulp. You should have 4 to 5 cups thick juice. Return juice to pan and add an equal amount of sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, add 2 cups reserved whole blueberries, and cook 2 minutes. Divide syrup among prepared jars, distributing whole fruit evenly and leaving ½ inch of head space. Wipe any spills from lip of jars. Seal with 2-part canning lids and place in a boiling water bath that covers tops of jars by 2 inches. Boil 15 minutes. Remove jars from bath and turn upside-down for 1 minute. Turn upright and cool. Check seals. Variations: Other berries may be substituted or mixed with the blueberries. Recipe may be cut in half. You may substitute a heat-proof sweetener such as Splenda for the sugar. Syrup can also be put up in half-pint jars.

Per tablespoon: 23 calories (0 percent from fat), 0 fat (0 saturated, 0 monounsaturated), 0 cholesterol, 0 protein, 5.9 g carbohydrates, 0 fiber, 0 sodium.

Summer dessert

A Wisconsin reader sent me a fun little booklet put out by the Crave Brothers family farm in the south-central part of the state. The brothers make fresh mozzarella, French-style cheeses and mascarpone from the milk of their Holsteins ( cravecheese.com). I tried this quick and easy recipe for lemon tarts and am happy to pass it along as a perfect summer dessert.

Beth’s lemon mascarpone tarts

Makes 36 tarts

1 (16.5-ounce) tube refrigerated sugar cookie dough

1 jar (about 11.5 ounces) lemon curd

1 pound mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

1 pint fresh raspberries

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Slice cookie dough into discs ¼- to ½-inch thick. Slice each disc in half. Press dough pieces into bottom and up sides of greased mini muffin tin. Bake 8-10 minutes, until golden. Set aside to cool completely. Meanwhile, place lemon curd in microwaveable dish and heat until spreadable, about 40 seconds. Whisk it with the mascarpone until light and airy. Use a small cookie scoop to fill each sugar cookie tart with lemon mascarpone filling. Top with a fresh raspberry. Make ahead: Tarts can be made one day in advance. Store them in an airtight container. Filling can be made up to three days in advance. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Assemble just before serving.

Per tart: 155 calories (63 percent from fat), 9.6 g fat (3.8 g saturated, 1.5 g monounsaturated), 20 mg cholesterol, 1.6 g protein, 11.4 g carbohydrates, 0.5 g fiber, 62 mg sodium.

Sleuth’s Corner

Q: A favorite restaurant, Zims Bagel Bakery, closed. I loved their “yum yum” salad of sweet potatoes, apples, celery, raisins, curry and other things I can only guess. I begged for the recipe for years. Do you think you can help?

A: Perhaps someone from Zims will see your request. In the meantime, try the recipe I’ve spun from your description. I took some of the traditional ingredients for chaat, a potato-based Indian street food, added some elements of traditional American potato salad, and came up with a melting pot blend.

Curried sweet potato salad

Makes about 6 cups (12 servings)

2 large sweet potatoes (about 4 cups diced)

1 green apple, cored and diced

2 ribs celery, diced

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)

¼ cup chopped sweet red onion

¾ cup mayonnaise or plain yogurt

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 tablespoon brown sugar

½ cup dried cranberries or raisins or pomegranate seeds

½ cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted

Salt and pepper to taste

Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork and microwave until just tender but not mushy. (If you overcook the potatoes they will not dice.) Place in freezer for 10 minutes; this will help them hold their shape. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into ½-inch cubes. Place the apple and celery in bowl with potatoes. Sprinkle on lemon juice. Toss with the jalapeno and red onion. Whisk the mayonnaise with the curry powder and brown sugar, and toss with the salad ingredients. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight. Just before serving, toss with cranberries and walnuts. Add salt and pepper and additional lemon juice to taste.

Per serving: 183 calories (67 percent from fat), 14 g fat (2 g saturated, 3 g monounsaturated), 5 mg cholesterol, 1.6 g protein, 13.9 g carbohydrates, 1.9 g fiber, 97 mg sodium.

Send questions and responses to LindaCiceroCooks@aol.com or Food, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132. Personal replies are not possible.

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