Baker’s Note: Although this recipe requires a few hours set aside, it is the perfect project for a morning or afternoon in the kitchen because the fruit needs only periodic stirring, leaving plenty of free time for other tasks.
Equipment: Dutch oven or large non-stick pan.
11-12 cups roughly chopped fresh or frozen fruit (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries etc.)
1 – 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (depending on sweetness of fruit)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract or the seeds of one vanilla bean
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Zest of 1-2 lemons (optional)
Place the fruit in a Dutch oven or a large, trusted non-stick pan. Pour the sugar evenly over top and turn gently with a spatula to coat the fruit.
For frozen fruit: Turn the heat to low, and place a lid over top the pan. Allow the fruit to thaw completely, while giving it the occasional stir.
Once the fruit has thawed, add the vanilla, lemon juice and zest.
Allow the fruit to heat gently over medium-low until most of the water is released, approximately 25-30 minutes.
When the fruit is swimming in its own juices, it is time to cook it down slowly until the water has evaporated and all that is left is the jellied pulp.
The reduction process can take anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours, and during this time you will need to stir the fruit to ensure that it cooks evenly and does not stick and burn. In the beginning, the mixture will require less frequent stirring, but as it thickens remember to concentrate on scraping the bottom of the pan often with a heat-proof spatula.
The preserves are ready when they are very thick and no liquid remains. You should be able to scoop up a little glob with a butter knife.
Store the preserves in the freezer if you plan to use them over the winter, or in the refrigerator for up to two months.