Nothing makes me feel better than being busy in the kitchen. I love cooking for friends or even just making up something to post on my favorite Facebook page, Cooking and Coping Around the Virtual Table. Recently, I was in the mood for a hot dog, something that does not happen very often, and decided on adding mac and cheese and homemade pickled jalapenos. It wasn’t half bad, and it made for an interesting post. But I can’t cook for friends as often as I would like, making up silly and unhealthy things to eat isn’t always an option either. So, what’s a bored fellow to do?
Recently, I have been on a canning binge. I’ve made the aforementioned pickled jalapenos and my family recipe for chow-chow, but my favorite canning project is making preserves. I tried strawberries but didn’t get it quite right, way too watery. I have since realized that I like the fruit a little less cooked, so have to remove the fruit with a slotted spoon and continue cooking the syrup until it is thick enough. Next came blueberries and those were pretty darn good, but my favorite is pears. The recipe I use is very simple and doesn’t take much time at all. As a matter of fact, the only problem I have had is finding canning jars. Lots of other people much be in canning mode as well.
Seed and roughly chop ten pears, add two cups of water and four cups of sugar and the juice from one lemon. Now, all there is to do is simmer until thick, it usually takes about an hour (remember note above on thickening the syrup!). Canning anything sweet or sour is simple and safe. Submerge cans and lids in simmering water for ten minutes. Remove and fill with the hot preserves, seal tightly and simmer for ten minutes more. Remove, turn upside down and leave on the counter until cool. Watch for leaks. If you do not want to can, preserves will keep for a week or two in the refrigerator.
So, what do I do with my growing inventory of fruit preserves? Most of it gets given away to friends. Some ends up on the breakfast table with a toasted English muffin, but my all-time favorite is to serve pare jam on bruschetta. You often see bruschetta presented in restaurants that is nothing really more than toast. True bruschetta is grilled over a fire, not in a toaster oven. the best is over a wood fire, gas will do but it is not as good.
Grill thick slices of hearty bread, drizzle with your best olive oil, add a thin slice of prosciutto de Parma, and a spoonful of pare preserves. You will be amazed how delicious crusty, smoky bruschetta is with salty prosciutto and sweet pare preserves. The friends I have served it to have raved about it. It may sound a bit odd, but give it a try.