Fruit Tarts with Olive Oil Crust

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These fruit tarts have been my go-to dessert this summer. The crust is a breeze to put together, and the fresh fruit is what stands out. The tarts are based loosely on my mom’s simple summer fruit pies, which we would eat all summer long, for breakfast lunch and dinner. She would fill a large cookie tray with a pie for a family of five. My family are just three, so a tart pan is enough for us. The premise is fruit in a single layer, which is then only sprinkled with a small amount of sugar. The thin layer of fruit cooks quickly, and the juices evaporate out and concentrate the fruit flavor.

The possibilities are many, and wilting fruit no longer good for eating out of hand is welcome. One was a mix of blueberries and black currants, tumbled out on to the pastry which I had spread with crushed lemon cookies. I added a quarter of a cup of sugar sprinkled on top, and some lemon zest. That is it. The idea here is to focus on the fruit, of course. I am always tempted to put whipped cream on something like this, but it’s often better on its own. Another good one was made with leftovers: a half jar of red currant jam and two cups of lingering blueberries. Only a tablespoon of sugar on top with this one, just for some gloss and crunch. The jam and blueberries were sweet enough.

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I adapted the pastry from this oil pie crust from King Arthur, only I used olive oil. I often use oil in baking and have made many olive oil crusts, and this is my new favorite. What I love about this particular oil crust was that it added a smidge of baking powder, which gave it just the lightness it needed. (I also like this one from the NY Times, tailored for more savory pies.)

You can play around with what fruit you put on–berries or stone fruit are both good candidates. Also, experiment with ground cookies or jam spread either under or over the fruit. Or both!

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Black Currant Jam

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Today I will be making this jam at the Rhinebeck Farmers Market, to demonstrate how easy it is to make a gorgeous jam from your local produce. If you see some black currants at your local market, I hope you try them out. They are an unassuming berry, that when allowed to shine reveal how very special they are. They’re like a good book–complex, deep, thoughtful. Don’t judge them by their cover!

Black Currant Jam

yield: A little over a half-pint

1.5 cups black currants (8 oz./220 g.)

1/4 cup water (1.7 oz./47 g.)

3/4 cup sugar (5 oz./150 g.)

1/4 of a medium-sized lemon, juice of

Basically, you want to buy one of those little green half-pint containers you see at the farmer’s markets and stands. Locally, Tousey’s sells them at the Kingston Farmer’s Market on Saturdays, and the Rhinebeck Farmers Market on Sundays. Their season is not long, so go out and buy some!

Clean the currants: Submerge them in a bowl of cold water so that all the leaves and loose sticks float to the top–remove this stuff. Then, drain them and spread them out on a cookie tray (with edges so they don’t roll away!) and remove as much of the stems as possible. The blossom ends are bumpy and still have some blossom on them. If they are big, I pick them off. Generally, I feel it all adds to the texture of the final product. Some folks like to put the currants through a food mill to have a smoother jam.

Cook the currants: Put them in a good jam pot, and add the water. Bring them to a simmer, and let them cook about five minutes to soften them. They will look glossy and beautiful. (This would be where you would want to pass them through a food mill, if preferred.)

Add the sugar and the lemon. Mix it all together; the sugar should dissolve quickly. Bring it back to a fast boil–don’t leave the pot! It will reach the gel stage quite quickly. It will bubble up high, then low, and the bubbles will be thick and glossy. A dip of a cold spoon will reveal thick drops that will slowly fall off the edges when done*.

Turn off the heat, let the jam settle for a moment until the bubbles subside. Then, ladle the hot jam into a jar using a funnel, and seal with a lid. It will keep in the fridge  for at least a few months, provided you use a clean spoon when you use it!

*Note: This is the mystery of making jam–when is it done? If you make enough jam, you will know. In the meantime, if it’s underdone you will have a soft jam that will go great with yogurt. An over done jam will be stiff, maybe burnt, so an under done jam is preferable. If you are interested in learning more about jamming (and canning!), I will be teaching three classes starting in early September at Ulster BOCES in Port Ewen. You can email me at halfpintpreserves AT gmail DOT com so I can keep you informed of the details, or you can navigate to my canning classes  page which will soon be updated.

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Jam-making demo, July 13, Rhinebeck Farmers Market

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This post is sadly a little late, and a little shorter than I hoped due to some internet bamboozling this week. That, and I’m adjusting to returning to full-time momming now that the school year is over. But here it is: tomorrow at noon, I will be at the Rhinebeck Farmers Market making some black currant jam. Come see how easy it is to make jam, chat about preserving & canning, buy some local fruits and vegetables, and enjoy my favorite market!

Review: Put ’em Up! Preserving Answer Book by Sherri Brooks Vinton

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Future pub pickles.

I’ve had this book,  Put ’em Up! Preserving Answer Book by Sherri Brooks Vinton, sitting next to my left elbow on my desk for quite a while now. It’s an in-depth Q&A book on preserving in all it’s forms: canning, freezing, drying, fermenting and infusing. It seems fitting to review this book now, at the beginning of my canning season. Brooks Vinton, author of two previous Put ’em Up books (Put ’em Up! and Put ’em Up! Fruit) is a tireless advocate for preserving local foods. She’s a long time believer, and it seems evident to me that she is on a mission to educate people about preserving.

This might sound obvious, but spend some time with the table of contents when you start this book. I’m a jump to the middle kind of reader and with this book you might get confused by an overload of (good) information. The contents really nicely organizes all the parts and chapters, so that it’s all very clear and easy to follow. Then you can jump to the fun stuff like recipes for Pub Pickles made with malt vinegar, and Avalanche Sauce, for when you have a ton of tomatoes to process, both earmarked in my copy for August.

I really like that this book tackles questions–there are so many questions with preserving, and canning in general. It’s great to have all those answers in one place, pleasantly addressed in a conversational tone.  It’s a book that provides a real service, and if you don’t have access to classes in your area, this is a great place to begin a preserving journey that usually starts with lots of questions.

I also feel it has a lot to offer the seasoned preserver. Sometimes you know things, but can’t quite articulate them. Although I have been doing jam-making demonstrations for years now (I will be jamming at the Rhinebeck Farmers Market this July 13), I am beginning to teach canning classes this year at Ulster BOCES, and it will be nice to review all of the questions I might have to field before I teach my classes!

Do you have any preserving questions?

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Back in March!