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Preserving Summer Fruits: Jams, Syrups And Apple Butter

A few weeks ago, we pickled vegetables to preserve the flavors of summer. Today, it’s fruit’s turn!

berries on a table at the bloomington farmers market

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

If you find yourself with a bucket-full of peaches or berries, it can be tough to find ways to use them up before they take a turn for the worse. Pickling fruits and making jams and jellies are among the methods you can use to preserve that bounty to enjoy later.

A few weeks ago, we showed you how to pickle vegetables to start preserving the flavors of summer. Today, it’s fruit’s turn!

We talked with champion jam maker Barb Schaller and a couple of farmers who grow cantaloupe and raspberries.

In the kitchen, we’re taking seasonal fruits and dressing them up with flavored syrups. And finally, we’ll give you an idea for what to do with the gnarly apples that don’t look especially appetizing…apple butter!

Barb Schaller: Jam Maker Extraordinairess

If you find yourself with a bucket-full of peaches or berries, it can be tough to find ways to use them up before they take a turn for the worse. Pickling fruits and making jams and jellies are among the methods you can use to preserve that bounty to enjoy later.

barb schaller

Photo: courtesy photo

Barb Schaller has been submitting her goods to the Minnesota State Fair since 1981, and as she told me, there’s nothing like success to encourage a person. She has won numerous blue ribbons, including seven blue ribbons for her legendary bead and butter pickles.

We spoke with Barb Schaller, jam maker extraordinairess. She lives in Burnsville, Minnesota and is a regular fixture at the Minnesota state fair, where her jams, jellies and pickles regularly bring home blue ribbons.

More: Earth Eats’ Interview With Barb Schaller And Her Spicy Tomato Jam Recipe

Local Berries And Melon

We’re making some simple fruit syrups today to top some fresh fruit we picked up at the market. We talked with the farmers about the fruit we’re buying today.

Carl van Antwerp has been farming his whole life. We’ll be enjoying his cantaloupe with the thyme and lime syrup.

He says this is the first week for cantaloupe at the market. “We should have them into September. We start our plants in a green house, and then we transplant them into the field usually in early May.”

Carl says that his farm does occasionally spray for bugs, but he tries to not use any more chemicals than he needs to.

“Of course we have to fertilize them and irrigate them,” Antwerp says, “and we have to spray for bugs once in a while – no more than we need to, but we do sometimes.”

More: When It Comes To Pesticide Use, Not All Farmers Are Created Equal

Another vendor at the market, John Allen Flynn, forages for his berries.

“A lot of them I find on my farm,” he says. “Various ones I find on neighbors’ farms.”

He says the berries we’re buying actually came from where his son works. “They have a small pond, and he said they had some nice big blackberries, so I picked them there.”

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Making Simple Fruit Syrups

So now that we’ve got our berries and melon we’re going to make two sauces to drizzle on top.

When you think of herbs, you probably think of savory things. But, they’re also great to make syrups with. Today, we’re going to make two different syrups that you can use for breakfast or throughout the whole day.

Both of these sauces start with a simple syrup made with 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water. Bring this to boil on the stove and allow the sugar to dissolve. Then you’re ready to infuse the syrup with herbs and other flavors.

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Mint And Orange Syrup Over Raspberries

raspberries with mint and orange syrup

Photo: Andrew Olanoff (for WFIU)

Fresh fruit, especially if it’s a little under-ripe, can taste a little bland. You can use these syrups, spoon them over fruit while it’s still warm, and it will permeate the fruit. So if you have fruit that's a little bland, you can use these syrups all year round to bring back the flavor of summer.

Ingredients:

  • simple syrup (see above)
  • 1 small bunch peppermint
  • zest of one orange
  • juice of 1/2 orange
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Turn down heat on the simple syrup once sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add mint, zest, orange juice, and salt to simple syrup.
  3. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Remove big pieces of mint and drizzle over raspberries. Garnish with a mint sprig.

Thyme And Lime Syrup Over Melon

cantaloupe with thyme syrup and berries

Photo: Andrew Olanoff (for WFIU)

Chef Orr says the sandy soils here in southern Indiana produce great cantaloupes. Today we're eating this "perfect summer food" topped with thyme and lime syrup, garnished with flowering thyme, currants and gooseberries.

Ingredients:

  • simple syrup (see above)
  • 1/2 bunch of thyme (still on twigs)
  • zest of one lime
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Turn down heat on the simple syrup once sugar has dissolved.
  2. Add thyme, zest, lime juice, and salt to simple syrup.
  3. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Remove big pieces of thyme and drizzle over melon. Garnish with a thyme sprig and gooseberries.

Homemade Apple Butter

One more recipe to preserve the flavors of seasonal fruit…Chef Orr says he always makes apple butter from the apples that fall from the trees in his front yard. “Our apples are often wormy and knotted and a little gnarly. But they taste awesome!”

Watch: Ethnobotanist Gary Nabhan On Apple Varieties

This apple butter has more complexity to it than traditional apple butter, so you can use it for a lot of different things. This would be great with any kind of poultry. If you have a tart shell that’s pre-baked, you could fill that up with apple butter and then top it with fresh fruit of some kind. You can also use this to top pancakes, waffles and, of course: homemade buttermilk biscuits.

cooked apples in a pot ready to be pureed into apple butter

Photo: Annie Corrigan/WFIU

What you want when you’re making apple butter is a sweet/sour/tart apple, or you can do a combination of apple varieties.

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups apples (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 5 strips lemon zest
  • pinch salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Sweet Seasons spice blend (recipe follows) or cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • splash of cranberry juice

Directions:

  1. Bring apples, sugar, and spices to a boil
  2. Reduce heat and let simmer 30-45 minutes until apples are cooked down
  3. Puree in blender until smooth
  4. Store in an airtight container (make sure to label and date your containers!)

Sweet Seasons Spice Blend

  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 stick cinnamon (1/2″)
  • 1/2 teaspoon annatto seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon pomegranate powder
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 2 pieces star anise
  • 2 pieces cloves
  • 1 piece mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves

Grind fine in a spice blender. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

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Let us know how you like to preserve summer fruits. Leave a comment or drop us an e-mail.

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Earth Eats Staff

Earth Eats Staff is a weekly podcast, public radio program and blog bringing you the freshest news and recipes inspired by local food and sustainable agriculture.

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