This is me NOT screwing up caramel apple jam.

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If I do something, and I screw it up, it bothers me FOREVER. I’m one of those mildly-OCD perfectionist people. I can tell a drawing won’t go well if the first line doesn’t come out right, so I toss the entire sheet of paper (environmentalists avert thine eyes). If I throw on a random outfit & something about it isn’t working for me, I don’t care if all I’m doing is going to the fruit market… my entire day will be messed up. If I screw up a recipe- whether or not it still tastes good, I go over & over in my mind what I did wrong until I make it again & redeem myself.

I sound nuts, right?

Anyway. Moving on. Look- it’s ice cream.

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Last fall I made caramel apple syrup. It was supposed to be caramel apple jam, but it was kind of a fail in that aspect. Not a massive fail, mind you, because what resulted was a beautifully delicious concoction my father nicknamed “apple pie in a jar.” He ate it right out of the jar, as a matter of fact. Devoured it. It was a much beloved creation, mistake or not. But it still sort of bothered me. It was so stupid to me that I screwed up such a simple jam, especially because it was something so dumb like forgetting to add the pectin… that I wanted to try it again this fall. Because not only was what I made not jam but it no longer existed anyway. The jars were long gone; eaten, emptied, washed out & re-filled with who-knows-what. All that remained were the memories, and questions like “When are you making that apple syrup stuff again?” And I was debating it, actually, since it was such a hit.

Then I found this recipe. ERMAHGERDS.

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How was I supposed to turn away from that!? It’s apple season! There are apples everywhere I look. I’m bombarded with apples every day; on Pinterest, on blogs, in the supermarket, at the Farmer’s Market, at the fruit market… they’re just all over the place. I got momentarily distracted from my Halloween bacchanalia for apples, and when I went to the farm to pick pumpkins & get apple cider donuts, it just boosted my apple-ness even further. And so of course, I thought this jam sounded especially glorious. And the best part? No pectin! So I wouldn’t have to worry about forgetting to add it again.

The other jam I attempted was yummy, even if it ended up as syrup. But this one is different. The vanilla bean & rum elevate this to a whole ‘nother level. It’s not like your average jam. It’s like a dessert in and of itself.

CARAMEL APPLE JAM WITH VANILLA BEAN & RUM (halved & adapted very minimally from Hitchhiking to Heaven)

Makes about 2-3 half-pint (8 oz.) jars, maybe with some overflow

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened homemade applesauce (store bought is okay, just get the highest quality organic one you can, making sure it’s unsweetened)
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (I used a little Himalayan pink)
  • 3 teaspoons dark rum (*optional)

Directions:

  1. If you don’t have applesauce on hand, make your sauce. Start by coring and slicing the apples; about 1 1/2 maybe 2 lbs of them- (don’t peel ‘em) and cooking them over low heat until they’re soft. I usually add about 1/2 cup of water to the pot so they don’t stick or burn. Cover the pot while the apples are cooking; they should be ready in about 20 minutes. Put the cooked apples through a food mill (use the medium screen if you have a choice) and, voilà, sauce!
  2. Prepare your jars and lids. Set them aside.
  3. In a clean, dry large saucepan, combine 1 cup of the sugar, the water, and the lemon juice. Pour the sugar into the pan evenly, rather than as a big lump to one side or something like that, because you don’t get to stir or shake the pan for the next step, which is caramelizing the sugar.
  4. Without disturbing the contents of the pan, bring the syrup to a boil and let it boil gently — adjusting the heat as needed — until it turns golden brown. Watch the mixture carefully and take it off the heat before it turns darker than you’d like. Mine was a nice light-brown color and smelled caramel-y.
  5. While the sugar is caramelizing, add the additional 3/4 cup sugar and the sea salt into a small bowl. Split your vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds from the bean into the sugar and salt. Combine well, then add the pod into the sugar, too. Set aside.
  6. When the caramel is ready, slowly add the applesauce and the rest of the sugar, vanilla bean and all, off the heat. Be careful- it WILL splatter! Turn the heat back up to medium-low and stir the mixture until the sugar and caramel completely dissolve. Then bring the jam to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, for 8-10 minutes. This is the part where you need to monitor the temperature — reducing it if necessary — and stir the jam steadily enough to keep it from attacking you. You will know the jam is done when it thickens up and your stirring spoon very briefly leaves a clear track at the bottom of the pan.
  7. Remove the jam from the heat, discard the vanilla bean, and stir in the rum. Ladle or pour the hot jam into your sterilized jars. Wipe the rims clean and add the lids. Process 10 minutes in a hot water-bath canner. Remove from canner, let cool and check seals after 12 hours. Any jars that aren’t sealed, pop in the fridge & use immediately.

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And this time it actually came out like jam, not syrup! Wonder of wonders, glory of glories. Hallelujah & all that jazz. It came out absolutely perfect.

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I know. Pancakes, ice cream, waffles, oat bran muffins, English muffins and yogurt will never be the same. Neither will oatmeal. I don’t even like oatmeal, but a little of this would upgrade that ish to something way more special. It even works with ham & pork chops (or so I’ve been told, I don’t eat pork chops); both as a glaze melted on top while cooking, or just on the side. It’s good on toast, too, but that seems so banal for a jam like this. This kind of a jam begs for something exciting; like fresh buttermilk pancakes. Or a golden vanilla pound cake. Or… over a homemade vanilla bean ice cream, like I did. Ohh, Rodelle vanilla beans, how I love thee.

HOMEMADE VANILLA BEAN ICE CREAM (courtesy of Epicurious)

Ingredients:

  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs

Directions:

  1. With a knife halve vanilla beans lengthwise. Scrape seeds into a large heavy saucepan and stir in pods, cream, milk, and sugar. Bring mixture just to a boil, stirring occasionally, and remove pan from heat.
  2. In a large bowl lightly beat eggs. Add hot cream mixture to eggs in a slow stream, whisking, and pour into pan. Cook custard over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until a thermometer registers 170°F. (Do not let boil.) Pour custard through a sieve into a clean bowl and cool. Chill custard, its surface covered with wax paper, at least 3 hours, or until cold, and up to 1 day.
  3. Freeze custard in an ice-cream maker, in 2 batches if necessary. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden. Ice cream may be made 1 week ahead.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, try this recipe for the ice cream. It takes a bit longer, but I’ve always had good results! I love me my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment, though.

And as far as the jam goes… you can also eat it right out of the jar. Which I’m not supporting of course… *ahem*

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37 comments

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