WINTER HAS ITS BOUNTY OF FRUITS AVAILABLE FOR MAKING PRESERVES. How about pears, mandarin oranges and cranberries? I put together this combination the last week of December, just before we set off for the desert. I still had about 4lbs. of late harvest pears from our tree that needed to be used, a pound of some sweet little mandarins, some sparkling apple and pear ciders, and a cup of fresh cranberries left from the holidays. Delicious on toast or a big spoonful on plain yogurt.
Pear, Mandarin & Cranberry Preserves
Yield: About 5 half-pints3 cups sparkling pear cider 2 cups sparkling apple cider Peel from 4 small meyer lemons (use vegetable peeler) 2 whole star anise 1– 2″ cinnamon stick 3 3⁄4 – 4 lb. firm ripe pears, peeled & diced 1 lb. mandarin oranges peeled & chopped; reserve thin peel from 4 oranges to add to cider mixture 1– 5″ vanilla bean 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, 1 tsp. reserved 12 oz. sugar (or more to taste) 1 c. fresh cranberries
Combine cider, star anise, cinnamon stick, and citrus peel in large non-reactive pan; bring to boil and reduce to 2 cups. Remove spices and peel. Add pears, chopped mandarins, vanilla bean, 1 tsp. of thyme leaves and sugar. Bring to boil and reduce heat to gentle boil and cook until fruit is soft. Remove fruit and reduce liquid to about 2 cups. Add back fruit; add cranberries and cook until cranberries pop and mixture is thickened to your liking. Add reserved thyme leaves. Taste at this point and if too sweet, add lemon juice 1 tbsp. at a time. (I used all 4)Jar, seal and process 10 minutes.
Cooking the pears and mandarins with the reduced and spiced cider.
Another winter winner is sweet and savory Fig & Red Onion Jam.
Place chopped figs in pint jar or bowl and add enough brandy to cover figs. Let stand 6-8 hours or overnight. Drain figs and reserve brandy.
Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium high heat; when oil is shimmery, add onions and toss to coat with oil. Add salt and continue stirring onions until they are wilted. Sprinkle with the sugar and cook about five minutes until onions are lightly carmelized. Cover pan and cook five more minutes. Remove lid, add 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar and cook another five minutes, stirring occasionally. Add figs, thyme leaves, stir to combine; reduce heat to medium, cover pan and cook 5-7 minutes until figs have softened. Remove lid and add reserved brandy and cook until mixture is thickened and onions are very soft. After 10 minutes taste for seasoning and add pepper, and additional vinegar and salt as needed. The goal is slightly sweet with a tang of the vinegar. Continue to cook the final 5 minutes to jam-like consistency.
Place in jars and store in refrigerator up to a month (this cannot be water bath processed).
Serve at room temperature spread on small toasts topped with a thin slice or dollop of fresh goat cheese, sharp white cheddar or some Beemster Gouda. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves.
If you have the itch, there is no excuse for leaving preserving to summer months.