Out of any season, I love, love, love how fall smells the most. I love the cinnamon and warm baking apples, roasting nuts, crisp, bright citrus mingled with cloves, the smokey burning leaves. They are some of the most comforting scents, cozy and homey, and they permeate everything like the best aromatherapy you can imagine.
The two preserves I made recently represent two of the most popular profiles this time of year–warm and spiced, and tart and citrus-y–but each offers a slight twist on the traditional.
The first is a variation on a riff of a traditional Jewish Passover dish called charoset or charoses, normally an uncooked mixture of apples, honey, nuts, cinnamon, and sweet red wine. Conveniently this also happens to taste exactly like all the delicious, warm, spiced flavors of fall, no religious affiliation needed.
I’ve spread this on a piece of whole grain bread instead of jam and stirred it into oatmeal, and imagine a beautiful jar and a bottle of wine would not be unwelcome as a hostess gift (do people still give those?).
On the other end of the spectrum of fall flavors, this cranberry conserve tastes like all the crispness of fall contained in a little jar (given my love of all things tart and sour, say cherries, rhubarb, and plums, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that cranberries are also a favorite).
In this conserve, oranges are used whole–that is, skin and all–for a slightly bitter note under the sweet and sour of simmered cranberries and a bit of texture with the crunch of nuts (any you like–walnuts, almonds, or pecans would be traditional, but pistachios would be colorful and tasty as well). It’s amazing as an accompaniment to any upcoming turkey dinners you might have planned, but also delicious on a cream scone or warmed slightly and spread on a ham sandwich.
Either of these can be canned, but they can also easily be refrigerated if you aren’t comfortable with the process, or just don’t want to spend the time. It is nice to pop open a jar of fall flavors come mid-January though!
This recipe is very slightly adapted from here. What I particularly love about working with cranberries is that they have enough natural pectin to make a good set without cooking too long or dealing with additional pectin. The apricots could also be substituted with other dried fruit–I happened to find some dried mandarin oranges that I used in place of half the apricots and they added nicely to the orange flavor. Just be sure to keep the total amount of dried fruit to 1 cup or less.
1 whole orange, washed, chopped, seeds removed
3 cups water
6 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over
3 cups sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
If canning, prepare 5 to 7 1/2 pint jars in simmering water.
Chop the orange into small pieces, leaving the peel on. Combine the orange and water and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 5 minutes.
When the peel has softened, add the sugars, cranberries, and apricots. Return to a boil, and boil hard for about 10 minutes.
Cook to your preferred set (you’ll see it start to thicken significantly after boiling), remove it from the heat, and stir in the chopped pecans. Funnel into jars.
In canning, fill the jars to 1/4 inch headspace, clean the rims, top with hot lids and bands, and process in boiling water for 15 minutes.
Autumn in a Jar
The original recipe from one of my favorite canning blogs Food in Jars uses grape juice, but I actually couldn’t find a small bottle of grape juice at the store, so I went back to the traditional red wine (not that I found a small bottle of wine, but I figured working through the remaining wine would be more fun than grape juice). Either works, but really, if there’s any season to be a little indulgent with your wine intake, this is it.
8 cups apples, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups sweet red wine (I used a meritage)
1 cup honey
1/2 cup sugar
1 lemon, juiced
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped
If canning, prepare 4 to 6 1/2 pint jars in simmering water.
Combine apples and wine in a large pot and simmer over high heat for about 15 minutes, or until the apples are tender and the liquid has reduced. Mash about 2/3 of the apples, or to your desired consistency (I liked this with a little texture).
Add the honey and sugar, and let the jam cook on high until it’s quite thick (around 220 degrees if you have a thermometer). When the jam has reached your desired consistency, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the lemon juice, cinnamon, and nuts.
If using within a few weeks, funnel into jars and refrigerate. If canning, funnel jam into jar leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims, apply lids, screw on bands and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (starting your timer when the pot returns to a rolling boil).