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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pear, Lemon and Cardamom Jam

Whenever I'm on my own for a meal, or going out with my best girl friends, I always opt for "Non-Dwayne Foods." This usually means Thai, Vietnamese or Indian food. Mr. Dwayne's palate has stretched considerably in the time we've know each other. Still, most highly flavored ethnic foods are right out.

One of my favorite quick meals is banh mi at Huang Lan Sandwiches in South Sacramento. (#7 - Grilled Pork - $3!) These are the freshest, most flavorful and most affordable sandwiches in town. These sandwiches are the sole reason I learned to eat jalapenos! I've learned to love the heat! They are hot, sweet, sour, creamy, crunchy, fresh and savory - practically every flavor at once. Add a Vietnamese iced coffee and you have a very nearly perfect meal.

Whenever I visit Huang Lan, I check to see if there are bags of produce hanging around. I think that some family members must have fruit trees. They don't usually sell produce, but every now and then there are fruity treasures tied up in plastic bags and sold at rediculous prices. I've scored kumquats, persimmons, Asian pears and now, Bartlett pears. I bought two plastic bags stuffed with pears for $1.75 per bag. I didn't weigh them, but I'm thinking they were close to 8 lbs. total. I can't know how these pears were raised, but they were local and they were bumpy and flawed enough to make me think no one was fussing over them too much.
I've had a recipe for pear and cardamom jam on my favorites list since last year. I figured this was my big chance. As usual, this recipe is a combination of several that I read. My sniffer told me to up the ante on the lemon, and I'm glad I did. The subtle sweetness of the pears is a perfect back drop for the lemon high note. The fragrant cardamom comes through at the finish. It is delicious with mild cheeses such as cottage cheese or ricotta. I think it would make a superb cheese cake topping.

Three out of three tasters agree - eye-rollingly good.*

I'm excited that the pear and apple seasons are just getting started. I have become much more efficient at processing these kinds of fruits. For this jam, I peeled the pears and used my V-Slicer to slice strips of pear right off the core. It went super fast! I then ran my knife through the pear sticks in the opposite direction and came out with a nice uniform dice. I don't think I will core and slice a pear or apple again!

Pear, Lemon and Cardamom Jam
4 lbs. of peeled and chopped pears
1/2 cup lemon juice
zest of one lemon
4 cups sugar
6 cardamom pods

Prepare boiling water bath, jars and lids. Place several spoons on a saucer in the freezer.

Combine the pears, lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar in a large pot. Place the cardamom pods in a mortar and pound them lightly to open the pods and release the seeds. Place the pods and seeds in a wire mesh tea ball or in a sachet made out of cheese cloth. Add the cardamom packet to the fruit. Bring to a boil. Continue to boil, stirring occasionally. When the jam begins to thicken and approach 220 degrees, begin to test by scooping a small amount onto one of the frozen spoons. Place the spoon back in the freezer until no longer hot but not cold. If it mounds up and does not run easily off the spoon, it is done. I've also learned to taste the jam for the mouth feel. I've come to like a softer set and rarely progress to a jam that sets up as a solid.

When the jam has thickened to your liking, remove the cardamom packet. Remove the pot from the heat and skim any foam. Carefully ladle into hot, prepared jars. Leave 1/4 inch head space. Check for bubbles and use a bamboo skewer or chopstick to release the trapped air. Wipe the rims and top with lids and rings. Process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and allow the jars to remain in the boiling water bath for 5 minutes then carefully remove to a towel lined tray. Allow to come to cool overnight before labeling for storage.

Makes 3 pints.

*One of the tasters was me.

10 comments:

  1. Out of curiosity, are there any types of pear that work better for this than others, taste / texture-wise? I live on the east coast, but can probably find an approximation of what you used sometime in the next month or so. Thanks!

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  2. Chris - thanks for considering this recipe. I haven't tried it with pears other than Bartlette, but I have done it with ripe pears and less ripe pears. Bartlett pears are soft and juice when ripe. They actually have a pretty short window before they move into over-ripe. The pears you see in this post were perfectly ripe - tender, sweet and juicy but with no brown spots. When I made this same recipe with Bartlett pears that were still sort of green and hard, it still had a good flavor but almost had the texture of a relish rather than jam. The pears didn't have enough juice to cook down properly. That being said, my guess would be to use softer pears that are nicely ripe. Hard pears such as Bosc would be good for flavor but less good for texture. Let me know how it turns out.

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  3. I wonder if substituting ground cardamom for the pods would work out okay? I'm going to try it this afternoon, but use it sparingly, maybe 1/2 tsp.

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    1. I haven't used ground cardamom in this recipe, but I have used it in other liquids, such as a chai mix. I found that the ground cardamom becomes heavy and sinks to the bottom making a muddy, if flavorful, deposit. I'm responding a little late, so if you have tried it, please let me know how it came out.

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    2. Hi Susan - I did use 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom and it came out fine if not as flavorful as the pods or a full tsp. might have. But I didn't have any issues with a muddy deposit on the bottom. I think frequent stirring in the last minutes keeps it suspended. Thanks!

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    3. That makes perfect sense - just as stirring after a bit of a rest to distribute fruit before bottling. Thanks for letting me know!

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  4. Susan - just wanted to let you know I took this jam with me to a work party to go with cheddar cheese and crackers/french bread. It was a huge hit and my boss even said "Quit your job and just make jam. This is amazing!" So thank you! Jenn

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    1. Yay! You just made my day! Thank you so much for trying it out and letting me know!

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  5. Do you not use pectin in this recipe?

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    1. I didn't. You could adapt this recipe to fit the proportions of the commercial pectin you want to use. I did the old fashioned way - just cooked the heck out of it.

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