How-To: Preserve Any Fruit This Summer

Fruit Preserves

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.

Ingredients: 

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)

Method: 

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.

Blueberry & Cherry Pie with Pecan Pastry

For the seasonal baker, summer is an overwhelmingly bountiful time of year, lush with fresh and local produce. As the crops take their turns coming into season this year, I find myself feeling inclined to bake a dessert celebrating each one. And what I am discovering is that nothing showcases juicy fruit or ripe berries like a deep, double-crust pie.

Living among the rural farms of Midwestern Ontario means that everything comes to me a month after it hits the cover of Bon Appetit, but that hardly makes the harvest less exciting. First the rhubarb crops up around the yard, then some refreshing greens sprout in the fields. Before long summer hits and the berries are pouring in by the pint, and it is not hard to find a place to pick all that you can carry home.

Pecan Pie Pastry 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup pecans (approximately 58g)
2 1/4 cups cake and pastry flour (9oz)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
8 oz unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” cubes and very cold
5-6 tablespoons water, depending on humidity
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Method:

Combine the water and lemon juice in a small glass and place it in the freezer until the liquid is icy cold, but not frozen.

Toast the pecans at 350° F for 5 minutes, then allow them to cool completely on the tray. Take a wooden rolling pin or the bottom of a sturdy glass and crush the toasted nuts into a rough meal.

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add the nut meal and whisk to combine.

Add the cold, cubed butter to the bowl with the flour and toss to coat the pieces. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender, just until the largest bits are the size of peas. Pour the cold water evenly around the bowl and immediately toss with a fork to combine. The mixture will form small clumps, like cheese curds, and should appear slightly dry. Gather the clumps together and knead them a few times against the side of the bowl until you have the beginnings of a cohesive dough. Divide the rough dough evenly into two balls, then form into discs and wrap them very tightly in plastic wrap. Chill the discs for at least 1 hour or overnight before continuing with the recipe.

Blueberry-Cherry Filling

Ingredients: 

4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
3 cups fresh cherries, halved and pitted
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
6 tablespoons tapioca starch

Method:

Place the prepared cherries and blueberries in a large non-stick pan. Sprinkle the sugar over top, then add the vanilla extract and lemon zest.

Cover the pan with a lid and let it sit over low heat for 20-30 minutes, stirring gently but frequently, until the sugar has melted and most of the juices have run out of the fruit. The mixture should just be reaching a simmer at this point.

Sprinkle the tapioca starch over the fruit and stir gently until all the starch is absorbed. Allow the mixture to approach a simmer, frequently scraping the bottom of the pan to avoid burning. After 3-4 minutes, when the filling is thick enough that the fruit holds together and the liquid coats the spatula, remove the pan from the heat and let it cool to room temperature (the refrigerator may be used to speed up the cooling process).

Assemble and Bake: 

Roll out both discs of pastry into 12” wide circles. Fit one circle into a 9” pie plate and cut the other into 2” wide strips for a simple lattice top crust. Chill the pie plate (preferably in the freezer) and refrigerate the strips while the filling cools.

When the filling is completely cool, scrape it into the prepared shell and spread it evenly to the edges. Depending on the dimensions of your pie plate, you may need to reserve up to one cup of the filling in order to avoid over-filling the pie. Arrange the strips of pastry over top the filling in a lattice, then trim and crimp the edges.

Place the prepared pie on a level surface in the freezer for 20 minutes to re-chill the pastry after shaping. Preheat the oven to 400° F while you wait. Set the pie on a sturdy tray and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is bubbling. Use a pie shield in the last half hour to prevent the edges from over-browning. I like to broil my pies (with a pie shield on) for several minutes at the end of baking for an even golden color across the surface.

Store the pie in the fridge, and serve it sightly cool or at room temperature.