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Archive for Jam-Peanut Butter

TIP OF THE DAY: Try Arrope

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Arrope syrup. There’s also an arrope
preserve with pumpkin (see photo below).
Photo courtesy Miel de Palma.

 

Arrope (ah-ROE-pay), a cooking and condiment syrup, is a product that few of us have in our kitchens. Yet, if you’re a serious cook (or eater), it’s an ingredient you should know about.

If your parents are serious cooks/eaters, it’s an idea for a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day gift—so much tastier than another scarf or tie.

And if no one cooks, there’s a delicious arrope pumpkin preserve, a recipe that derives from the ancient use of arrope to preserve or stew fruits. The pumpkin is cooked in the arrope until it is candied. It’s delicious as a sweet-and-earthy bread spread or a condiment with creamy goat’s or sheep’s milk cheeses (see photo below).

In fact, when you go to purchase arrope, you need to be specific. Otherwise, you can easily be sold the preserve instead of the syrup, or vice versa. Tip: If the word “pumpkin” appears, it’s the preserve.

WHAT IS ARROPE

A reduction of grape must, arrope is a condiment that dates to ancient Rome, where it was called defrutum or sapa. It survives as a gourmet Spanish condiment. The name comes from the Arabic word rubb, syrup.

 
Arrope is closely related to saba (also called sapa, mosto d’uva cotto and vin cotto). This group comprises ancient precursors to “modern” balsamic vinegar, which appeared in the 11th century.

So if you’re a balsamic vinegar fan, chances are good that you’ll be happy to discover arrope.

 

Like honey* and saba, in the days before sugar was widely available arrope was used to add sweetness. Today it is used in everything from drinks to salad dressings to sauces to desserts (try it with fruit salad or drizzled over ice cream). We use it as a glaze for roast poultry and meats. It easily substitutes in cooking for sweet wines such as sherry and marsala.

As civilization embraced massed-produced foods over artisan products in the latter half of the 20th century, the craft of making arrope—which involves carefully cooking down the must into a syrup over a period of weeks—has almost disappeared. It survives among a handful of artisan producers, carrying on family traditions. (Before modern times, arrope was made by the cook of the family.)

In Spain, the few remaining artisans produce arrope syrup (grape must reduction) and preserved pumpkin.

While it’s no leap to combine arrope in Spanish recipes, you can port it over to any cuisine—just as with Italy’s saba and France’s verjus.

 

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A Spanish cheese plate with typical condiments: fig cake, fresh figs, and in the back, a bowl of arrope preserve with candied pumpkin.

 
*Honey is sweet and syrupy straight from the hive (or straight from the hive and pasteurized). Arrope and saba are cooked to develop sweet-and-sour flavors including notes of cooked caramel.
 
HOW ARROPE IS MADE

It starts with a large quantity of grape must, freshly pressed grape juice that still contains all of the skins and seeds and stems. The must is very flavorful with high levels of sugar.

  • The fresh-pressed grape juice can be strained and sold as verjus, where it is used instead of citrus juice or vinegar.
  • Or, it can be cooked down into arrope or saba.
  • To make arrope, the must is boiled until the volume is reduced by at least 50%, and its viscosity is reduced to a thick syrup. There is no added sugar or pectin.
  • Saba is similarly boiled down into a syrup.
  •  
    Ready to try it? Check at your local specialty food market or order it online:

  • Arrope syrup (grape must reduction)
  • Arrope with pumpkin (preserve)
  •   

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    FOOD FUN: Beer & Beer Nuts PB Sandwich

    Beer Nuts and PB Sandwich. Photo by
    Theresa Raffetto | Peanut Butter & Co. Food
    styling by Matt Vohr.

     

    For your St. Patrick’s Day consideration, how about a PB and Beer Nuts sandwich with your beer?

    Beer Nuts is a brand of peanuts with a sweet-and-salty glaze. They don’t contain beer. Rather, they were marketed as a more glamorous accompaniment to beer than the ubiquitous salted peanuts.

    In this concept, Peanut Butter & Co. founder Lee Zalben topped a piece of rustic whole wheat bread with his Smooth Operator creamy premium peanut butter, plus crunchy Beer Nuts.

    We prefer our PB with a kick, so we substituted his The Heat Is On peanut butter, blended with cayenne peppers, chili powder and crushed red peppers.

    The PB & Co. line is certified kosher by OU.

     

    MAKE YOUR OWN BEER NUTS

    Classic beer nuts are sweet and salty, but you can tweak the recipe to add additional flavors: cinnamon for sweetness or cayenne pepper for heat. You can use Beer Nuts on a PB sandwich, ice cream, salad, yogurt, as a soup garnish and in many other ways—including straight snacking, of course.

    Ingredients For 4.5 Cups

  • 4-1/2 cups raw, shelled peanuts
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 cup water
  • Optional spices: cayenne, cinnamon or other favorite
  •  
    Preparation

    1. BRING peanuts, sugar salt and water to a boil in a saucepan. Continue to boil until all liquid is absorbed, about 25-30 minutes.

    2. PREHEAT oven to 300°F.

    3. SPREAD nuts on lightly greased jelly roll pan; sprinkle with salt and optional spices as desired. Bake 20 minutes.

    4. REMOVE from oven, gently stir and sprinkle with more salt as desired. Bake for 20 more minutes. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Mold In Jelly & Jam

    Invader alert: white mold growing in jelly.
    Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    A couple of months ago, we noticed two cottony puffs of white mold growing in a jar of Smucker’s Concord Grape Fruit Spread. We wrote to Smucker’s asking if it was safe to eat, and what caused the mold. We got a response back, but it wasn’t to the questions we asked:

    Thank you for contacting The J.M. Smucker Company with your inquiry regarding Smucker’s® Concord Grape Jam. We greatly appreciate and value the input we receive from our consumers and take very seriously any comments pertaining to product quality.

    Your experience has been brought to the attention of our quality assurance department. We want to assure you that our products are made with the best quality ingredients available and by the most carefully controlled procedures known in the food industry.

    We appreciate the time required to share your comments with us. As a thank you, we are in the process of sending you coupons which you should receive in the mail within two to three business weeks. We hope you will use the coupons to again try our products.

    If you should have further questions or need additional information, please visit us at www.smuckers.com or contact us at 888-550-9555, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. eastern time.

    Sincerely,

    Susan
    Consumer Relations Representative
    Ref # 10145794

     
    We responded to Susan’s email with a second request to answer the questions and never heard back (nor, for the record, did we received any coupons).

    This week, mold appeared in a second jar of Smucker’s, the Red Raspberry Spread. So rather than try to re-contact the unhelpful customer service department at Smucker’s, we went online to search for the answers. Here’s an answer from the National Center For Home Food Preservation:

    Q. What do I do if there’s mold on my jellied fruit product?

    A. Discard jams and jellies with mold on them. The mold could be producing a mycotoxin (a poisonous substance that can make you ill). The USDA and microbiologists recommend against scooping out the mold and using the remaining jam or jelly.

    Gee, you’d think Smucker’s might have warned customers against eating jelly with white mold—especially because it may well not have been their “fault” (see the next section). Perhaps they can take the information we found and paste it into a helpful customer service response.

    Aside from the mold—and the lack of help from Smucker’s—the spreads were delish.

     

    HOW TO PREVENT MOLD FROM GROWING ON JELLY
    AND JAM

    Typically, jelly and jam don’t develop mold on their own, because of the high acid of the fruit and the preservative action of the sugar. But mold spores can sometimes enter a jelly jar via contamination from a utensil that was previously used on another foodstuff—the bread for example. A microscopic piece of bread with a mold spore can adhere to the spoon or knife when you spread the jelly on the bread.

    We refrigerate open jars, and we’re especially cautious of cross-contamination, using a separate spoon for the jelly. But it is possible that when we spread the first spoonful of jelly on the bread, it picked up a microscopic mold spore that got introduced to the jar when we went for a second spoonful.

     

    A jar can get mold contamination from a spore of bread. Photo courtesy Peanut Butter & Co.

     

    So today’s tip is: Don’t double dip that spoon or knife. And toss out a jar with mold.

    WHEN YOU CAN KEEP FOODS WITH MOLD

    There are thousands, if not millions, of different types of mold, from beneficial ones like penicillium (which is used to make the mold in blue cheeses) to toxic ones. Experts warn that scooping out the visible mold is not a solution, since the mold shoots microscopic tendrils deep into the foodstuff.

    According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, you can save hard cheeses, firm fruits and vegetables by cutting out at least an inch around and underneath the mold spot. But the organization advises you to toss baked goods, bread, casseroles, grain, jams and jellies, legumes, meat, nuts, pasta, peanut butter, soft cheeses, soft fruits and vegetables, sour cream, yogurt and other foods.

    The list of what you can keep is easy to remember because it’s so brief: hard cheeses, fruits and vegetables. Bid adios to everything else.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Honey & Nuts Spread & Topping

    Homemade honey with nuts. Photo courtesy
    AppleTurnover.tv.

     

    Honey Nuts Cheerios, Chex, Shredded Wheat and Special K; honey nut peanut butter and honey-roasted nuts: Honey and nuts are a natural pairing.

    If you’ve got nuts and honey, you can take the duo one step further:

    Combine them into a delicious bread spread and dessert topping, as people in Greece, Italy and elsewhere in the Mediterranean have been doing for thousands of years.

    You can find jars of honey with nuts at stores that specialize in Greek and Italian foods, or in cheese shops. They are lovely gifts and stocking stuffers.

    RECIPE: NUTS & HONEY

    Ingredients

  • Any honey*
  • Any nuts*
  • Glass jar†
  •  
    *Quantities depend on how much you are making and the capacity of the jar(s). While the photo above is more than half nuts, think of using 2/3 honey to 1/3 nuts—or even 1/4 nuts, if you want just a little. While whole nuts look prettier, they are not as spreadable. So if your goal is to make a bread spread rather than a dessert topping, consider chopping large nuts.

    †If you’re making this for home use, you can recycle an empty jar. If it’s for a gift, look for a prettier jar.

     

    Preparation

    1. TOAST nuts in a hot, dry pan, keeping them moving until the aroma wafts up (how to toast nuts). Cool.

    2. LAYER the nuts and honey in a clean jar. The nuts may migrate to the top of the jar, but you can easily stir them prior to use.
     

    VARIATIONS

    If you like the combination, try different variations: sage honey with walnuts, orange blossom honey with almonds, and so on.

     

    Or buy a jar! Photo courtesy Moon Shine Trading Company.

     

    HOW TO ENJOY HONEY AND NUTS

  • As a bread spread
  • As a cheeses condiment
  • As a dip for pretzels, baby carrots, etc.
  • As a fruit topper
  • On ice cream and loaf cakes
  • On pancakes, waffles and French toast
  • Straight from the jar, on a spoon
  •  
    How would you use honey and nuts?
      

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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Jif Whips Peanut Butter & Chocolate Spread

    Style your own cookies with Jif Whips. Photo
    by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    We focus on specialty foods, so rarely name a mass-marketed supermarket product as a Top Pick.

    But Jif’s new Whipped Peanut Butter & Chocolate spread is just so yummy, special and, well, welcome, that it takes this week’s top honors.

    Everyone who loves peanut butter cups should run out and buy a tub, possibly several.

    The whipped PB spread, which also includes an unsweetened Creamy Peanut Butter variety, is spreadable, dippable, mixable, pipeable, frostable and topable.

    If you don’t want to do any of those things, just dip a spoon into the tub and enjoy!

    Read the full review.

     
    FIND MORE OF OUR FAVORITE PEANUT BUTTER BRANDS.

     

      

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