Thursday, October 18, 2012

Big Batch Cranberry Sauce

It's that time of year, and I've hoarded all I can manage of local cranberries.  Last year I did well, making it to August with one last gallon of cranberries sitting lonely in the freezer.  I'm already worried this year that I won't have enough for my own basic survival needs.  I have obsessive thoughts of cranberries pouring into every fall recipe, and, no kidding, I've had recent dreams about that cranberry-simmering moment when the first berry pops in the pot.  In the fall, that little pop is as satisfying as hearing a jam jar lid seal.  That pop is precious.  I told you I'm obsessed.

If you've not tried making your own cranberry sauce, you must do so right this second.  It's fall and the cranberries are plentiful.  Don't worry about messing it up.  It'll either under-gel or over-gel if you do-- either way it'll still taste good.  Oh, and the sauce I make includes whole and chopped cranberries and gels rather solid.  Stop reading now if what you want is the jelly you can see through with no chunks.  I'm a fan of the chunks.  Please don't quote me out of context on that one.

The recipe here is for a relatively large batch of sauce.  You'll end up with about a dozen pint-sized jars.  If you decide to make a smaller batch, lessen the boiling time.  Half a batch of the recipe below should be boiled for about 15 minutes.

Here's what you'll need:

5 Lbs of whole cranberries (fresh or frozen)
10 cups of water
15 cups of sugar

Place half of your cranberries in a large stock pot with the water and turn on the heat.  While you're letting that heat up, chop the rest of your berries in a food processor.  How much you chop them is up to you.  Pour those berries into the pot.  Stir berries in with the water occasionally until it comes to a boil.  Boil, while stirring, for 6 minutes.  Add the sugar and stir it in thoroughly.  If you're like me, you'll be impatient about watching the pot until it boils, so you might as well get another batch of jam or pickles started, or make some coffee while you wait.  Still, keep an eye on the pot so nothing burns to the bottom.

Once your sauce comes to a boil, stir it regularly for about 20 - 25 minutes.  The 20-minute-mark is crucial in terms of waiting for that gelling point.  If you feel better using a thermometer, make sure it reaches 220F and stays there for a few minutes.  I also have several small plates in the fridge upon which I administer is "gelling test," which I am famously terrible at.  When I feel most confident that the sauce has created a "sheet" on the plate, rather than several "drips," I call it good and turn off the heat.  Much like jam, use a large spoon or skimmer to remove whatever foam might have appeared on the top of your sauce.  Fill hot jars with the sauce to about 1/8th inch from the top, cover them with hot lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Great for your Thanksgiving turkey or as a condiment to your turkey sandwich all year long.      

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fantastic Fryeburg

This year's Fryeburg Fair was amazing for both Above the Dam Jam and me personally.  I met so many new friends, reunited with many old friends and family members, and reminisced with several former students and colleagues from all over New England.  I talked canning with hundreds of foodies, connected with other local jammy businesses, and created new business relationships along with way with individuals, New England kitchens, and local specialty shops.  I can't say enough about how awesome the week was.  Having said all of that, by far the best part of the week was sharing it with so many family members who also spent time at the fair.  Hope to see you all again next year!

These beef cows were raised by my brother Ed and our cousin Ron, with most of the work load resting on the shoulders of my niece Sage and our cousin Cory, both who showed cows all week.
Sage:  The Cow Whisperer.  She won like a zillion awards showing cows, as well as they even made up a special award for her overall participation and helpfulness as a 4H member and farm kid.  This one's heading to college for agriculture next fall.
My cousin Allison hung out at the barn, working through the week at the fair, as well as keeping up with her own school work.  Don't worry, I checked.  She was getting it done!
Make sure you pick up this year's Christmas tree from our Meserve cousins at Boiling Spring Tree Farm in Dayton.  This tree was raised up onto its own platform to show it off as a winner at Fryeburg.  

Joe took time off from work to be up in Fryeburg with me.  He loved every second of it and was super supportive.  Lucky to be in love with a man like this one!
Every day I had relief from family members who stopped by to let me take a break for a bit.  When Aunt Carol and my mom showed up, Auntie took the money, while my mom "worked the floor" (her words!).  Those ladies can sell pickles!  Also note the amazing set up Joe spent hours-into-days building for me out of planed wood that came from farm trees our cousins cut down years ago.  Our. Display. Rocked.  I can say so since I really had little to do with it.

These girls were so incredibly patient throughout what ended up being a crazy week mostly spent without their mother.  They traveled back and forth to Fryeburg quite a few times, and of course we toured the fair scene, experienced fair food, and even had one or two fair meltdowns.  All in all they were terrific.  This pic is actually taken on our last trip home from Fryeburg after an apple picking stop on the way.  Glad to be home with them now!