High Bush Cranberry and Jalapeno Jelly


High Bush Cranberry and Jalapeno Jelly

High Bush cranberries, or Virburnum trilobum, grow wild in New Brunswick and while aren’t actually a part of the cranberry family, their bright red berries create a stunning jelly like their buddy the low bush cranberry. I was lucky enough to harvest some ripe and ready berries from my friend April‘s country home. While one baby played in the grass, two kids chased ducks and chickens and with one baby on my back, we yanked and pulled and snipped those berries off the tree!

Thanks to some very helpful blogs and websites, I was able to put it all together to create a superb sweet and spicy jelly. Akin to a pepper jelly, it’s is incredible on a cracker with cheese, slathered on your grilled cheese or melted and used as a glaze for meat.

While this recipe is a bit time consuming with two different straining mixtures, the results and delicious and you have plenty of jars to show for your effort. The juice yield from your cranberries will vary on the ripeness of your berries. Any extra juice can be stored in your freezer or added to another fruit for a multi-fruit jam. Or, if you’d love to give this jelly a try but aren’t in a high bush cranberry growing zone, stop by our Etsy shop where this and other preserves are available for purchase.


High Bush Cranberry and Jalapeno Jelly

Yields: 6x250mL jars

Recipe inspired by: The Kitchen Magpie and Taste of Home

8 cups high bush cranberries, picked over and cleaned

3 cups water

3 chopped jalapenos, seeded and ribs removed (or not, if you like it really spicy)

1 cup vinegar

7 cups sugar

2 pouches liquid pectin


1. In a large pot, gently boil cranberries and water together for about 15 minutes, crushing with a potato masher to release the juice. Pour mixture in a jelly bag and measure out 3 cups of juice. Clean out your large pot.

2. In your clean pot, pour your 3 cups of juice and diced jalapenos. Bring to a gentle simmer until jalapenos have softened. Pour through cleaned out jelly bag or through a double-lined cheesecloth in a colander and measure out 3 cups of juice.

3. In your pot (no need to clean it out), add cranberry-jalapeno mixture, vinegar and sugar and bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and add in two pouches of pectin and return to heat, giving it a hard boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and pour into sterilized jars with 1/4″ headspace and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath.




High Bush Cranberry and Jalapeno Jelly on Punk Domestics

Preserving Tradition: Part II

Guyanese Fruit Cake

I’m very excited to follow-up on this post from mid-September about a family tradition of a rich and dense Guyanese fruitcake. I decided to up the baking time by a couple weeks in case baby makes a timely appearance and I was just so excited to see how this cake would work out. While the cake recipe comes from Canadian Living I was able to nab the original recipe, which was really helpful as it turns out there is not one but two different kinds of icing!

According to the recipe, various dried fruits are pulsed in the food processor and soaked in rum for almost 2 months, stirred daily and continuously topped with rum. Life got in the way and the mixture was lucky to be stirred once a week, but I always ensured it was covered in rum.

Here is the entire recipe, mostly from Canadian Living with some family adaptations to the icing.

1 3/4 cup raisins

1 3/4 cup currants

1 1/2 cup prunes

1/2 cup candied mixed peel

2 1/2 cups rum

1 3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup butter

3 eggs

1/2 tsp almond extract (I used my homemade cherry pit liqueur a la What Julia Ate)

2 cups all purpose flour (I made mine Gluten Free using this flour blend mixture from Land O’ Lakes)

1/2 cup chopped almonds

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp each ground cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup chopped red glace cherries

Roll/Tube of Marzipan

3 cups icing sugar

1/4 cup water

1/8 tsp almond extract

1. In a food processor, pulse dried fruit together until it forms a thick paste. Move to a deep bowl and stir in 2 cups of rum. Cover and let sit for up to 2 months. Stir occasionally and add more rum to keep the fruit mixture covered. This step was covered in this blog post.

2. In a heavy saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of brown sugar and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Do not add water. Stir frequently and let it come to a boil for 1 minute. While it’s considered the “burnt sugar” step, I stirred frequently and moved quickly so it wouldn’t have an acrid, burnt flavour. Once it’s boiled, move fast and pour it into your dried fruit/booze mixture. It’ll harden quite quickly, which is alright. Stir to break up chunks.

Getting there…

Next, boil for 1 minute and move quickly to pour into dried fruit mixture.

3. Mix flour, baking powder, spices and chopped almonds together. Set aside.

4. In a deep mixing bowl, combine the butter and remaining brown sugar until creamy. Add eggs in one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Add in extract.

Eggy, Buttery, Sugary Mixture

4. Carefully stir in half of your dried mixture, stirring until well incorporated before adding more flour mixture.

Nearly There.

5. Stir in dried fruit/burnt sugar mixture and chopped glace cherries.

6. In a double parchment paper lined, 9″ springform pan, pour your fruitcake and smooth top. My pan was non-stick, so I only lined the bottom of the pan, but if need be, line the entire cake pan with parchment paper. Nothing would be worse than waiting this long and working this hard to have your cake stuck to your pan! Bake at 300 degrees for 3 hours, covering with tin foil in the last hour if your cake is getting brown too quickly.

Ready for the Oven.

7. The cake is ready when it begins to pull away from the sides and a toothpick comes out clean. Leave it to rest about 10 minutes before poking holes in the cake with a skewer and brushing more rum on the cake. Leave the cake to rest in the springform pan for a full 24 hours.

8. After the cake is rested and removed from pan, top the cake with a layer of marzipan. I cheated and bought some premade marzipan that was rolled on the top.

Marzipan Layer.

9. Fill the sink with hot water, spoon 3 cups of icing sugar into a pot and gently rest in the hot water. The heat will help cook off the flavour of the cornstarch (or so says my family recipe!). Stir in 1/4 cup warm water and a splash of almond extract. Stir until smooth and while it’s still warm, spoon over the top of the cake, not worrying whether some glaze falls on the side of the cake.

10. Cover the top with parchment paper and then tin foil. The cake can be stored at room temperature for 3 months in an air-tight container, or freezes really well.

Ice Ice Baby

So there you have it! It’s a fair amount of work, but the results are impressive and the taste is incredible. Plus, the bulk of my Christmas baking is now complete.

Preserving Tradition

As a perpetual graduate student, I’ve had plenty of years to reflect, study and ponder new ideas and one area I often return to is the role of narratives in our lives. Narratives help define who we are and how we translate that to others. In times of tragedy, in times of joy and in the mundane day-to-day activities, our stories help root us to a particular time and place. These narrative traditions often come up with family and friends, when we  gather to recount tales, share our hopes and envision our futures.

Family traditions around food is just one way that narrative gets told, even if no story accompanies the meal. A simple dish, rooted in tradition and history conveys a story and helps remind us of our origins. A dish of pasta, a bowl of chowder or  fresh-baked bread are just examples of food that are imbued with memory and are so powerful that the initial aromas are enough to transport you to a certain time and place and hold memories of people who share in those traditions.

One such tradition in my family, that I fear is at risk of getting lost, is my Aunt’s fruit cake. I have no idea how she makes it and I’ve yet to receive the recipe, but I’ve found something similar and I’m determined not to let this tradition fade away. Fruit cake is controversial in that you either love it, or you hate it. Frankly, what’s not to love? It has dried fruit, lots of booze, a thick layer of icing and is so rich you can only eat a small slice. It’s the epitome of the holidays – excess, indulgence and richness. Growing up, I remember receiving fruit cakes almost every year and while my brother and I would let out a collective groan, when I was preparing for my wedding, this cake was the first thing that came to mind.

While I was married only 8 years ago, handing out wrapped pieces of fruit cake was definitely a dying tradition and yet, sharing that family tradition with my guests felt important and I was thrilled my Aunt spent months preparing, baking and wrapping slivers for our guests. Suddenly, it felt important to share those family traditions with others. Since then, I don’t recall ever having her fruit cake and I missed the dark, dense cake. Each year, I vow to make it and stumble upon a recipe way too late, forgetting how long the cake needs to steep and develop flavours.

But not this year. This year, I’m on it. This year, I’m getting started on keeping up the tradition and learning more about how my aunt got this recipe. It’s not your typical fruit cake, in fact, it’s a Guyanese fruit cake. My grandmother, born in then British Guyana, brought several Caribbean inspired recipes with her when she moved to Canada and I grew up on the tradition of Pepperpots, Goat Curry and Oxtail Stew. Guyanese fruit cake was no exception, except that was one thing our family never made, leaving it to my Aunt to supply us with our Christmas treat. I’m excited to let the story develop and upholding the cake tradition, sharing it with my own children and telling them the story of their Great-Aunt’s enduring kindness, how their Great-Grandmother bravely followed her heart and voyaged to Canada and how their own Mama was taught as a child that food has the power to convey love, compassion and community.

Here’s part one of Guyanese Fruit Cake that begins its initial process of hanging out in a boozy bath for the next couple months. I’m following this recipe, exactly. It comes from Canadian Living, that had a special on fruit cakes in the December 2009 issue and is called Rheanna’s Gramma’s Guide Cake.

Dried Fruit Goodness

Dried Fruit Puree, Ready for a Booze Bath

Like preserves that need time for flavours to develop and mellow, this dried fruit and rum mixture will need until mid-November for the best possible flavour. I hope by that point, the next member of the family will be here to partake in the family tradition. I hope to teach him/her about their family and the roots that hold them in a community of love and adventure.