Smoked Cherry Jam

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In July of this year, my husband and I had the pleasure of experiencing a bit of Montana. It’s been on our travel bucket list for years, specifically Glacier National Park, which did not disappoint.

Our home base was the Lodge at Whitefish Lake, and we had a few outstanding meals at their restaurant. To start off our last meal before flying home, we ordered a charcuterie and cheese platter. There was elk sausage, prosciutto, artisan cheeses, pickled vegetables, pears and more, but what really got my attention was a cherry jam of sorts, pictured here on the Montana-shaped board. It looked like perhaps it was made with dried cherries.

On the menu it was referred to as a chutney, made with Montana’s famous Flathead cherries. But it was not savory enough to be a chutney in my book. The cherries were soft, in a not-very-sweet syrup, and had a smoky punch that really took me by surprise.

I knew when I got home I’d try to replicate this condiment. I decided to use my stove-top smoker and seriously smoke fresh cherries.

It worked really well. Here is the jam paired with goat cheese on a cracker.

Smoked Cherry Jam

1 pound cherries, firm and unblemished
2 tablespoons cherry wood, pulverized
16 ounces cherry or pomegranate juice
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
Pinch of salt

Rinse the cherries, and dry them. De-stem and pit the cherries.


Prepare a stove-top grill and use cherry wood.


Place the pitted cherries in the grill, start up the heat, and when you see smoke, cover the grill and lower the heat. You’re not trying to cook the cherries, just add smoke flavor to them.


The cherries smoked for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees; I used a convection setting. I just wanted to dehydrate the cherries a bit. It took 2 hours.

Meanwhile, add the juice and sugar to a pot large enough to hold the cherries. Stir till the sugar is dissolved and reduce the mixture until syrupy. Depending on the juice, you might have to adjust the amount of sugar. I wanted a syrup consistency, but not a super-sweet syrup.

Let the syrup cool slightly, then add the lemon juice, chipotle powder, and salt. Stir well, then stir in the smoked and somewhat dehydrated cherries.

I paired the condiment with goat cheese, brie, apples, fresh cherries, and rosemary crackers.


The jam was delicious with brie.


The smokiness was spot on. I just love this jam!


I can really see the jam being paired with roast pork or turkey. It would be fabulous with duck or brisket.


The pairing possibilities are endless, really. It takes a little work to make this jam, but so worth it!

Chutney

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I truly love condiments, especially those seasonally-based, like chutneys. And, because I love to “play” in the kitchen and use whatever ingredients I have on hand or am in the mood to use, I wanted to show how easy it is to make your own chutney sans recipe.

It’s about creating a chutney that you love, customizing the ingredients to your tastes, according to the seasons. Indulge. Chutneys are fabulous.

I have an actual recipe following this “primer” of chutney making below, but seriously once you make a chutney, you’ll see how creative you can be and how well they turn out. A recipe is not necessary.

Create Your Own Chutney

A chutney is about combining fruits – the sweet factor, and aromatics – the savory factor, and then adding seasoning and flavorings.

The sweet-savory ratio is important, however. I use about 2/3 fruit to 1/3 aromatics in my chutneys. You don’t want it all fruit, or it would be a jam.

I season the chutney according to my tastes and the time of year. There are spicy fall and winter chutneys, and there are light, vibrant chutneys you can make for spring and summer appearances as well. (Like my Strawberry Onion Chutney.) It’s all about seasonal ingredients.

Fruit:
You can use fresh fruit: apple, pear, mango, apricot, plum, cranberries, strawberries, peach, etc.
And you can use dried fruit: cranberries, cherries, figs, apricots, raisins, dates, blueberries, etc.
A combination of fresh and dried makes a nice consistency, like pear-dried fig, peach-raisin, apple-dried apricot. Using three fruits works really well, like apple-mango-dried cherry. Or cranberry-apple-date. You get the idea.

If you’re using dried fruits like raisins or cherries, you can soak them in port or fruit juice first to soften them and soak up the flavors, then use it all in the chutney-making process.

Aromatics:
I always use a combination of fresh onion, garlic, and sometimes shallots and fresh ginger. You definitely need onion; the rest is optional.

Sugar:
There is always a sweet component in chutney to balance the aromatics. If you’re using tart cranberries, you would definitely need more sugar than if you were using, say, ripe peaches or strawberries. You can use brown sugar, white sugar, turbinado sugar and so forth. Liquid forms of sugar don’t work well in chutney, because they’re too, well, liquid. A prepared chutney is soft, but not a pile of syrupy mush. But you can add a teaspoon of maple syrup or boiled cider.

Seasonings:
Except for salt, you don’t have to season a chutney at all, although I happen to love black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne.

For fall and winter chutneys, I like them full of flavor – especially when they’re going to be served alongside fairly bland meats. The choices are vast, depending what you want your chutney to taste like.

I, personally, love that what curry powder adds to a chutney. But separately, you can use cumin, cardamom, coriander, etc. A cinnamon stick adds flavor while the chutney is cooking, but ground cinnamon can be used as well. And nutmeg, cloves, and allspice are always yummy. Think of them in an apple-pear-dried fig chutney served with a pork loin. YUM.

Another fun ingredients are small pieces of crystallized ginger.

You can also add ground chile pepper, like ancho or even chipotle powders, to a chutney. And also adobo or adobo powder – especially if you’re making the chutney for a Southwestern-inspired meal.

Vinegar:
Any vinegar will work in a chutney. I love cider vinegar and red wine vinegar, but a white balsamic vinegar works well also. Nothing fancy is required.

Cranberry Apple Raisin Chutney

2 tablespoons grape seed oil
1 purple onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 12 ounce bag cranberries, rinsed, sorted
1 apple, peeled, cored, finely chopped
1 cup golden raisins, loosely packed
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cinnamon stick, optional
2 teaspoons vinegar

Add the oil to a hot stock pot and let it heat over medium. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, without allowing browning.

Give the garlic a stir into the onions, then add the cranberries, apple, and raisins. Stir together.

Allow to heat up, then add the sugar, cinnamon, curry powder, salt, and the cinnamon stick.


Stir well, then cover the pot, turn down the heat to a simmer, and let cook for at least 15 minutes. It will look like this.

Add a couple teaspoons of vinegar and stir in gently. Unless there’s excess liquid, remove the pot from the heat.

Let the chutney cool, remove the cinnamon stick, then store in sterilized jars.


It freezes well.

Not only does this chutney go beautifully with Thanksgiving turkey, but also with chicken and pork. Here I’ve served it with roasted pork and sweet potatoes.


As you can see, there’s a lot of leeway when creating a chutney. They can be simple or complicated from an ingredient standpoint, but they are very easy to prepare.

Chutney is also wonderful topping a baked Brie, and can be used in individual Brie and chutney bites.

Just remember to cook off any extra liquid over extremely low heat, and also don’t overstir. You want to see the beautiful pieces of fruit in your beautiful chutney!

Pear Liqueur Verdict

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I’m a terrible bartender. I have no idea why, but I am. So I was stumped when my pear liqueur I began last month was “done.” because I wasn’t sure what the heck to do with it. Although I love a cocktail, I don’t like strong drinks, so a pear martini was out of the question.

I checked out cocktails made with Poire William, and only found really complicated recipes that didn’t sound any good at all.

Then champagne came to mind. It’s a fabulous mixer, and bubbles are always festive and fun.

So I decided to try out the pear liqueur three ways. One with champagne, one with Amaretto (almond liqueur) and champagne, and one with Pama (pomegranate liqueur) and champagne.

The pear liqueur took on a beautiful amber color, by the way, perhaps from the cinnamon and cloves.
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No recipe is really needed for these cocktails, because to me it’s all about how sweet you want the drink. My pear liqueur recipe was made with vodka. But it’s definitely more a liqueur than an infused vodka, because vodka is strong and I wanted something more flavorful and sweeter.

So for the pear and champagne fizz, I used about 1 part pear liqueur to 3 parts champagne. Prosecco would work just as well.


The champagne I used was Sofia. I happened to have a carton of the mini champagne cans that come with a straw. I love to put these out for parties year round, and I much preferred opening up a couple of these than a whole bottle of champagne in the middle of the day for testing purposes.
SOFIA_Champagne_Francis_Ford_Coppola

For the pear and Amaretto fizz, I used about equal parts of each, then topped it off with champagne. It’s just a little more amber in color.
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Same for the Pama version, which not surprisingly came out a little more red.
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so, the verdict? terrible. I might have waited too long on the liqueur, because there is a strong bitterness that is probably from the cinnamon and cloves. I can’t even taste the pear. So I’m going to let my husband drink this, and go back to gin and tonics for now.

Spiced Pear Liqueur

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I’ve been making liqueurs for years, especially in the fall so that they are ready for gift giving at Christmas time. Initially inspired by this adorable book, I began by following recipes, and have since realized that recipes aren’t really critical at all when making a liqueur.
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This book is still available on Amazon. The author is Mary Aurea Morris, and it was published in 1999.

You have to decide on the spirit you want to use, decide on the sweetness level, and then the flavor. Vodka is my go-to spirit for most all of my liqueurs, because of its “neutral” flavor. When I refer to the sweetness of the liqueur, I’m of course referring to the amount of sugar. A simply infused vodka, for example, is to me a liquor, not a liqueur. A liqueur is sweeter, and much more to my liking.

Fruits are fabulous in home-made liqueurs. Since I started my blog, I’ve posted on black cherry vodka, and strawberry vodka. Hands down, my favorite of all time is the strawberry version.

But besides berries and cranberries, citrus fruits, pomegranates, and just about all tree fruits can be used. (note to self – peach vodka next summer!)

So this fall I decided to make a pear variety. The recipe is quite simple, and is definitely less expensive than the popular Poire William. But it will be about 6 weeks before the big reveal.

Spiced Pear Liqueur

1/2 cup sugar
Small handful whole cloves
Small handful whole allspice
2 cinnamon sticks
1 ripe pear, I used red D’anjou
Few pieces of orange peel
Vodka, approximately 3 cups

Place the sugar, cloves, allspice and cinnamon sticks in a large, clean bottling jar with a lid. Slice up the pear, avoiding the core, and place wedges into the jar. Add the orange peel.

Using a funnel, pour vodka until it reaches the top. I used approximately 3 cups. Shake well until the sugar dissolves. Then store away.


I’ve marked my calendar for 4 weeks to test out the liqueur, but I’m pretty sure another 2 weeks after that will be necessary.

note: The only disaster liqueur I’ve made is one with hazelnuts, and I’d even followed an exact recipe. I ended up with a bunch of soggy drunk bit of hazelnuts, and nothing to speak of as far as the liquid. Don’t bother.
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