Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Chai Pear Jam--The Last Jam You'll Ever Need

It's fall!! Well, fall-ish here in Dallas. However, I'm determined to make some fall flavors, for crying out loud, whether it's almost 80 degrees outside or not. It is delightfully rainy here today, however, and seemed like a good day for more canning!! So off I went to Half-Price Books with a list of cookbooks I'm trolling for (found some treasures--I'll do a favorite cookbook post soon), then to Elliott's Hardware for canning supplies. Btw, if you need anything hardware, grilling, plumbing, canning, etc... and are in the Dallas area, I would highly recommend Elliott's over the big box stores. It's got a mom and pop feel, really knowledgeable associates, and the best canning aisle I've seen in DFW yet.

Anyhoo, on I went to Trader Joe's to see what looked good in the produce. They had an abundance of sinful-looking organic pears, so I picked up five or six. Yum.
I'm a big fan of pairing fruit and tea flavors, and I've been doing it for a long time. For my sister's wedding last April, I made passion tea-infused panna cotta with raspberry coulis and a green tea panna cotta with a pureed mango sauce. Hang on, I'm trying not to salivate on the keyboard. So what tea goes with pear? I pulled out all the boxes of tea in my beverage cabinet, sniffed around, and settled on chai. Just to be safe, I consulted a couple of websites and cookbooks on ratios for pear/sugar/acid to make sure the jam would set and be safe for water-bath canning in terms of acidity. (The National Center for Home Food Preservation is an excellent such guide. Lord knows we don't want to hand out botulism for Christmas.)

To start, I peeled the less ripe pears with thicker skins, and cut pear into dime-sized pieces. While I did this, I put equal parts water and brown sugar (1 1/2 cups each) with three chai tea bags to simmer into an infused syrup.
I could have just licked that pot, but I restrained myself, removed the tea bags, and added the pear, a splash of vanilla, 3 T bottled lemon juice (for consistent acidity), a pinch of salt, and the zest of one lemon.
I let this cook down until the pears were getting soft and then ran my immersion blender through it to break up some of the fruit but not all. After I got it jarred up, I put the jars to process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (some sources said five minutes, some said ten, so I opted to go the longer route).

This made three half pints and two quarter pints. I will be eating it spread on some banana bread tomorrow and trying not to just bathe in the stuff.

For when you get immersed in fifth-grade math homework and neglect your jam for a moment, this little scraper (got mine at Bed, Bath, and Beyond) is a miracle that will help salvage your jam pot.

Ya know. Because it just wouldn't be the house of a recent grad and mom if I weren't simultaneously making jam and dinner, continuing to dehydrate herbs in mad batches, trying to keep the cat out of the dog food, and dredging up the secrets of equivalent fractions from remote corners of my fried brain. I hope you're all planning on cooking something yum for yourselves soon!

Chai Pear Jam recipe after the break...

Chai Pear Jam

5-6 ripe pears (about seven cups) Peel most, especially the less ripe ones. I left the thin skin on the very ripe ones, but you can peel them all if you wish. 
1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
3 chai tea bags
zest of one lemon 
3 T lemon juice (bottled)
1 t vanilla
pinch salt

Put the water, brown sugar, and tea bags on medium heat to simmer for about 10 minutes until the sugar melts. Taste periodically and remove the tea bags when you're happy with the flavor. Add all other ingredients, and stir over medium-ish heat for about an hour until the pears are soft and enough of the liquid has evaporated to thicken the mixture. Use an immersion blender to puree some, but not all, of the fruit (you could put 2/3 of the mix in a blender if you don't have an immersion blender--just be careful to vent the top so hot liquid doesn't coat your ceiling). While the pears cook, sterilize your jars and rings and put the flat part of the lid into warm water to soften. Remember to keep the environment as sterile as possible! Fill your jars to about the bottom thread, leaving about a half inch head space, poke out air bubbles with a chop stick, wipe lip of jar, apply lids (remember, don't screw them super tight), and submerge into a boiling water bath for ten minutes.
This is really good on Banana Yogurt Bread, over yogurt with some granola for breakfast, and as an ice-cream topping among other things.