My favorite local farm stand had beautiful Italian plums recently. I wasn’t sure how I’d use them, but I bought a whole bag just the same.

local Italian prune plums

local Italian prune plums

I decided to make homemade plum jam, but I didn’t want use a lot of sugar. It was just my luck that Kristen from the POM Wonderful company recently sent me some samples of their juice. Health benefits aside, the juice is truly delicious. And with the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) coming up, I figured it would be great to use pomegranate juice in the jam recipe and then have the finished product for my holiday cooking.

Pomegranates are one of the earliest known cultivated fruits and they are culturally important to many groups around they world. They have played a prominent role in Rosh Hashanah celebrations since ancient times, as they are typically harvested in the late summer/early fall, when Rosh Hashanah takes place. Pomegranates are considered a symbol of sweetness, fertility and abundance.

Pomegranates are fun to eat and I love adding pomegranate seeds (“arils”) to fall salads and other dishes. Pomegranate juice is even easier to use in recipes, though. It is very very high in healthy anti-oxidants and it quite naturally sweet. Using it in this homemade jam recipe allows you to add very little sugar compared to the sugar called for in many jam recipes.

I was happy to have great success on the first go with this pectin-free, low-sugar jam recipe (this is not always the case when I try something new!). It is tangy and very plum-y, perfectly (but not overly) sweet, and it’s delicious spooned over plain yogurt or cottage cheese. It is also great on toast…

pomegranate plum jam on homemade challah toast

pomegranate plum jam on homemade challah toast

…or used in in other recipes that call for jam. I made rugelach, traditional Eastern European Jewish cookies, filled with this jam for the Jewish New Year:

pomegranate plum jam rugelach

pomegranate plum jam rugelach

I did not peel the plums, and I don’t think you have to, though feel free to do so if you prefer.

Pomegranate Plum Jam Recipe
Makes about 3 cups

Ingredients:
10 plums, preferably the Italian prune variety, pitted and roughly chopped
1 cup pomegranate juice (I used Pom Wonderful brand)
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup organic sugar

Directions:
Place chopped plums and pomegranate juice in a heavy saucepan and turn heat on high. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the sugar and mix well.

Allow to cook for about thirty minutes, stirring occasionally to break up any large chunks of the fruit. As it cooks, the jam should become nice and thick. Without burning your tongue, taste a bit to make sure it is sweet enough for you. If not, add up to 1/4 cup more sugar.

When it is sufficiently thick and sweet to your liking, take your jam off the heat and allow it to cool before spooning into jar(s).

pomegranate plum jam

pomegranate plum jam

If you have lots and lots plums, you will want to scale the plum jam recipe up to suit your needs, and you will probably want to can some of it for longer storage. If so, you may proceed accordingly for canning. If you are not planning to can the jam, I would place what you will eat in the next month or two in the refrigerator and freeze the rest.

Related Posts I Think You’ll Enjoy:
Vanilla Plum Jam from Elana’s Pantry
Homemade Plum Jam from Recession Recipes
More Pomegranate Condiments From Pom Wonderful

Comments Off on Fresh Fig and Blackberry Tart

Fresh Fig and Blackberry Tart

I love tarts and pies but I hate making crusts. I find typical pie crusts difficult to get right, and even if a crust made with all natural fats and organic ingredients won’t really harm you, it’s not exactly health enhancing either.

One type of crust that I really enjoy making and eating, though, is a pie crust made from nuts. This is a trick I learned from the raw foodies out there. Crushing nuts in a blender gives you a flavorful and nutritious flour alternative that works great for healthy raw fruit desserts like this fresh fig and blackberry tart. It’s also a great pie crust alternative for those who eat gluten-free.

Raw Fig and Blackberry Tart from Healthy Green Kitchen

This is a raw vegan dessert, but it is delicious enough to serve to people of all dietary persuasions! It is also healthy enough to eat for breakfast…

I haven’t tried the raw fruit tart with other fruits, but you can feel free to experiment, if you like. Try other varieties of seasonal berries or stone fruits: whatever you enjoy. I think it would also be good with sliced apples (in fact here’s a recipe for raw food chef Annie Phyo’s raw apple pie, which I’m sure I’ll try this fall).

If it doesn’t matter to you that the tart is completely raw/vegan, you can substitute another sweetener for the agave; try honey, maple syrup, or organic (white or brown) sugar. You may want to add more (or less) sweetener depending on how ripe your fruits are.

You can use any type of nut to make the crust: I’ve had success with walnuts and pecans in the past.
The crust can be crumbly, so it can be a little challenging to keep the integrity of each slice when serving; chilling the crust in the freezer for 30-60 minutes before filling/serving can be helpful.

Fresh Fig and Blackberry Tart

Yield: Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

Filling:

*2 cups fresh figs, ends trimmed and sliced into quarters
*2 cups fresh blackberries
*1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped away or a dash of vanilla extract
*1/4 cup agave syrup

Crust:

*2 cups raw almonds, processed in a blender until they resemble a fine meal, or use 2 cups of almond "flour"
*4 tablespoons agave syrup
*1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
*2 pinches sea salt

Directions:

Filling:

1. In a large bowl, gently mix together the figs and the blackberries.

2. In a smaller bowl, mix together the vanilla seeds and the agave syrup. Pour over the fruits and allow to macerate for about 30 minutes.

Crust:

1. In a large bowl, mix together the crust ingredients. Everything should be quite crumbly and sticky and you should be able to form it into a ball; if not, add a bit more agave.

2. Press the crust ingredients into the bottom of a 9 inch pie pan or tart pan. Place in the freezer to chill for 30-60 minutes, or until just before you are ready to fill and serve the tart.

3. Remove the crust from the refrigerator and spoon your fruit filling into it; drizzle any remaining macerating liquid over the fruit.

4. Serve immediately or keep in the freezer for an hour or so; allow to thaw for a few minutes before slicing. If you don't finish it right away, this fruit tart will still be good for a day or two (though the crust will inevitably get soggy).

How to Preserve Herbs | Healthy Green Kitchen

As the summer begins to draw to a close, I still have a lot of beautiful herbs in my garden. I can’t possibly use them all in recipes before they become casualties of the first frost.

Yes, I could freeze some, and yes, I could tie some in bunches and hang them to dry. I will be using these methods with some of my herbs, but I thought I’d share some of the other ways I’m preserving herbs this year.

Preserving Herbs in Oil*
Here is an herbal oil I made with calendula (marigold) flowers (I used about 8 in this small 8 oz. jar), the peeled cloves from 1 head of garlic, 1-2 handfuls of fresh basil, and a small hot pepper (omit if you don’t want your herbal oil to be spicy) steeped in olive oil. I love this oil and have made it many times before; sometimes I also add a few sun-dried tomatoes.

basilgarlicoil

To reduce the risk of any mold forming in your oil, make sure your glass jar is very dry before you fill it with your herbs. The herbs you use also need to be very dry: moisture makes it more likely that mold will form. It is also important to make sure your herbs are completely covered by the oil; if not, some mold may form on any herb(s) exposed at the top. If you open your jar and notice that this has happened, discard the top layer of herbs and top off with a little more oil.

Allow to sit for up to 6 week to infuse. After this time, strain out the herbs and transfer your oil to a clean, dry jar. Herbal oils are wonderful in salad dressings, as well as drizzled over pasta, grains or veggies.

*Please note that according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, “Herbs and oils are both low-acid and together could support the growth of the disease-causing Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Oils may be flavored with herbs if they are made up for fresh use, stored in the refrigerator and used within 2 to 3 days. Fresh herbs must be washed well and dried completely before storing in the oil.” I personally have never had a problem preserving herbs in oil the way I described above, but it’s important to keep this warning in mind…Clostridium botulinum is nothing to food around with!

Preserving Herbs in Vinegar
I also love preserving herbs in vinegar and I make several batches of herbal vinegars every summer. Here is a strawberry lemon balm vinegar I made several weeks ago. To make it, I combined 2 cups of clean, dry, organic strawberries from my garden with 2 cups of lemon balm leaves in a 1 quart jar, and then filled the jar with apple cider vinegar (I use organic unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, but any kind will do).

strawberrylemonbalmvinegar

Besides being easy to prepare and surprisingly tasty, herbal vinegars are also quite nutritious because vinegar extracts minerals, including calcium, magnesium and iron, from the plants you use to make your preparation.

When you make herbal vinegar, there is pretty much no chance of contamination: vinegar is a great preservative and the acidity keeps out any potentially dangerous bacteria. I like to use plastic lids when making herbal vinegars (vinegar can eat away at the underside of the metal ones); if you don’t have a plastic lid, just put a piece of plastic wrap under your metal lid before screwing it on.

After giving your herbal vinegar 4-6 weeks to chill out in a dark place, strain out the herbs (and whatever else you’ve used in there: in this case strawberries- you can eat them but I am not sure you’d want to!) and pour the vinegar back into a glass jar where it will keep pretty much indefinitely (or at least for a year or two). Use anywhere you would use vinegar: in dressings, over cooked greens, etc.

Preserving Herbs in Sugar
I learned about making herbal sugars from Nigella Lawson’s book: How to Be a Domestic Goddess. I have kept rosemary sugar in my cupboard for years: I like to add a teaspoon or so to batches of homemade tomato sauce as well as meat stews. I recently made some with basil in addition to rosemary and I plan to use it the same way.

rosemarybasilsugar

Other herbs that can be used to make herbal sugars are mint, thyme and sage, as well as lavender. Adding a vanilla bean to a jar of sugar is also a great idea (though I doubt very much you have vanilla beans in your garden). For a subtle herbal touch, you can add just a few sprigs of your preferred herb to a jar containing 2-4 cups of (preferably organic) sugar. Or, if you are looking for more herbal flavor, you can use more of the herbs and bruise and chop them before adding to the sugar. These sugars last for a long time, especially if you are like me and you don’t use sugar all that much.

Sugars made with sweet herbs and edible flowers are also lovely- here is a sugar I made from finely chopped lavender leaves. Like a vanilla sugar, I think it will be nice in tea, or perhaps I will use it to flavor winter porridge or mix it into plain yogurt.

lavendersugar

Preserving Herbs in Honey
Honey is a another wonderful preservative and is great for making tasty preparations that can be used in cooking or as medicines. I keep a large jar of garlic cloves infused in honey in my refrigerator all winter long- when I’m feeling like a cold is coming on, I try eat a clove every hour until I’m feeling better.

hyssopgingerhoney

I also like to preserve herbs such as lemon balm and anise hyssop in honey. Above you see an herbal honey that I made by combining these two herbs with some ginger. To make it, I chopped all the herbs fine, placed them in my jar, and then filled it to the top with honey (I prefer to use honey that is raw and local, but any kind is fine). Like the other herbal preparations, you should allow your herbal honey to infuse for 6 weeks or more before you use it. Herbal honeys can be used for their yummy flavor on toast, in tea, or they can be taken by the spoonful as medicines for sore throat and other ailments.

Preserving Herbs in Salt
This method is new for me this year, and I am trying it with shiso leaves and basil. Doing this is very simple: you just make alternating layers in a jar of herbs and coarse salt. Put a thicker layer of salt on the bottom of your jar and at the top, but between each layer of herbs, you just need enough to cover the leaves of the herbs you are using. I’m going to store my jars of salt preserved herbs in the refrigerator, and I plan to use both the herbs and the salt in recipes.

shisosalt

I imagine that after the herbs have infused in the salt for a while, you could also pulverize them together and use as a seasoning. This is true of the herbal sugars, as well: feel free to blend them up to make sprinkling into recipes easier.

Next week I’ll talk about preserving fruits…so stay tuned!