Family trip to Sekinchan

30th-31st January 2016

My favourite saying is “It is not where you go that matters, it is who you are with that matters”. And this family trip to Sekinchan was exactly it.

Throughout the weekend, there were big smiles on everyone’s faces and laughter so loud I think the other side of KL could have heard us!

My cousin (Jun Yi) and I really wanted to get the entire family together for a holiday, and I mean ENTIRE (all my cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents came along). We had to choose somewhere near enough so that my grandparents could join us.

The best solution was Sekinchan  – the outskirts of KL surrounded by acres of paddy fields, birds nest buildings and fishing villages.

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Paddy fields’ soil being rejuvenated by growing grass. This is basically a form of crop rotation with the purpose of improving the nutrients of the soil

Sekinchan – named “Land of Plenty” by the locals because Sekinchan is made up of acres and acres of paddy fields and a fishing village, which has AMAZING seafood btw. One of their most popular dishes is shark fin porridge.

Sekinchan is divided into 4 main areas – Site A, B, C, and Bagan. This was done back in 1953 to separate the villagers from the Malayan Communist Party Insurgents. If you’re interested in the history of the Sekinchan village, this article is pretty easy reading.

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The rice lost bit of its head because that is the bran that has been removed from the rice to make Embryo Rice

I highly recommend visiting the rice factory (only RM 5 and you get a little packet of rice as a souvenir).

3 of the many interesting things I learnt from the rice factory are:

  • Embryo rice –  It is a type of rice with the bran removed. It is perfect for people with digestion issues 🙂
  • Natural yam flavoured rice –  it actually exists without any added substance. Amazing!
  • The rice husk is then sent to orchards and farms to be used as natural fertiliser – No wastage! Love it!

Sekinchan is perfect for a short escape from the hustle and bustle and to reconnect with nature. My favourite part was an early morning walk along the paddy fields and river bank with my dad and sis.

We saw farmers working in the paddy fields and planting plants such as coconut trees, lady fingers, pomelo (inedible, hard ones) and nangka (jackfruit) to nourish the soil. When we were in Sekinchan, it wasn’t harvesting period so the farmers were growing these plants along the river bank and the paddy fields were filled with grass so that the paddy field soil has a chance to “rest” 🙂

One of my Papa’s dreams was achieved – taking his parents on a road trip. Even got my grandpa, Yeye to the beach. Overall, it was a successful holiday and many more memories made 😀

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Papa and Yeye (grandpa) on Pantai Redang

Mission accomplished!!

Xx

GK

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Traditional english cauliflower bake recipe

[Recipe] Creamy Cauliflower Cheese

18 January 2016 – Cooking fiesta with grandma

Another dish we needed to learn from grandma was “Cauliflower Cheese” – easy & low maintenance; perfect for a busy working day!

It’s a Traditional English dish that my grandma used to have with roast. As we learnt to cook Cauliflower Cheese, we were listened to stories that brought much laughter & tears ❤

 

img_3252_24661307505_oI found out that my dad won best chef of the year when he graduated. The funniest part, for me at least, was when he was happy and shocked to see her at graduation (it was a surprise!) but also worried about the state of his very messy apartment. He and his brother, Robert ran home and spent many hours cleaning up their apartment before allowing her to enter their apartment. Hahaha.. 
She also showed us this knife (picture above) that both grandma and dad have engraved with each other’s name. So cool!

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Handwritten tried & tested recipes

 My favourite part was going through her old box of handwritten recipes (some dating back to 1985! I was negative 8 years old). She is a self-taught cook and wrote her favourite tried & tested recipes on cue cards. These cue cards have been sitting in that box for quite awhile so the cue cards are now weathered and slightly stained. Looks super vintage!! 😀

Grandma’s Original Creamy Cauliflower Cheese Recipe:

Cooking time: 30 minutes  Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized cauliflower
  • 2 oz butter (55 grams)
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1/2 pint milk & water mixed (236 ml)
  • 4 oz grated cheddar cheese (113 grams)
  • 1 heaped tbsp plain flour

Method:

  1. Par-cook the cauliflower in water with a pinch of salt.
  2. Melt the butter in saucepan, add flour and mix until all lumps are broken down.
  3. Dissolve the chicken stock cube in 5 oz (147 ml) of hot water.
  4. Gradually add the water and milk liquid to the flour and butter and stir until smooth.
  5. Return to the heat and stir until it boils. (See picture below)
  6. Add cheese, taste and season with pepper, if necessary.
  7. Place the cauliflower into a dish and cover with the creamy sauce. Sprinkle with a little bit of cheese on the top. 
  8. Bake at 180 degrees celsius for 30 minutes or until slightly brown.
  9. Enjoy!!

My Health Notes:

I would omit the chicken stock cube unless you’re able to get something super natural without additives and preservative – do they exist?! I personally feel that this dish should be flavourful and salty enough with the cheese. Another suggestion is to use 5 oz (147ml) of natural chicken or vegetable stock 🙂

Xx

Generation Kitchen

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Step 5 – Creamy sauce almost done!

Easy short crust pastry recipe

[Recipe & Tips] Crumbly and Buttery Short Crust Pastry

18 January 2016 – Cooking fiesta with grandma

During my holiday back in Malaysia, my sis and I listed down a list of dishes we MUST learn from our grandma and her short crust pastry was top on the list 😀

Rule of thumb for yummy short crust pastry – 2 flour : 1 fat

(Fat includes butter, lard, vegetable fat, margarine – but I highly discourage margarine and vegetable fat as it is too high in omega 6 and not good for cardiovascular health)

Let’s not complicate things. Short crust pastry is relatively easy to make as long as you do not over knead, use cool water and cool hands and basically treat the fat and flour mixture with lots of TLC! ❤


Ingredients:

  • 2 flour : 1 fat
(I used 500g flour and 250g fat for 1 big pie and 1 medium pie – sorry didn’t measure)

Method:

(1) Rub the fat into the flour, using the tips of your fingers, to create a mixture that resembles breadcrumbs. See Image 3.

(2) Gradually add cool water to bind the flour mixture and form a dough.

(3) Knead the dough gently until the dough is malleable, soft but not wet.

(4) Wrap the dough up in cling wrap and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

(5) On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough to desired shape and thickness.

(6) Bake at 180 degrees celsius for 30 mins or golden brown.

What to do with pastry:

  • Tarts (sweet/savoury)
  • Pies  (sweet/savoury)

 

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Tip 1: For light and crumbly pastry – Gentle fingers when rubbing the fat into the flour. It should look like breadcrumbs.

Tip 2: For light and crumbly pastry –Make sure your hands and the bench top are cool. Use cold/cool water to bind the flour mixture to make a dough.

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After rubbing the fat into the flour, this is what it should look like – bread crumbs. See Step 1

Tip 3: For equal cooking time – Put a layer of pastry on the rim of the dish to keep the cooking time the same for the entire pastry. It also easier to manage the aesthetics of the pastry on top later.

Tip 4: For light, buttery pastry (not rock hard) – Don’t over-knead your pastry!!

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Before laying the pastry on top, we cover the rim of the dish with some pastry to keep the cooking time of the pastry the same. The rim of the dish is slightly higher than the other parts of the pastry and has no contact with the moist apple mixture so we need it thicker to prevent over cooking the pastry.

Tip 5: For aesthetics – Use a sharp scissors to make little snippets around the rim of the pastry (looks prettier but you can use a fork to make line shapes on the rim of the pastry). Use a knife to make small “cuts” around the edges of the pastry (looks rustic). Use the leftover pastry to make different shapes like roses, leaves and christmas mistletoes.

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Happy baking!! Remember to eat in moderation 😉

Xx

Generation Kitchen

tips to steep Oolong tea the best way

4 Things I learnt from the Taiwanese Tea House

One of the MOST significant highlights of my trip to Taiwan was learning about Chinese teas (i.e. how to drink tea without activating the caffeine etc) 🙂

In the city of Tai Chung, we visited a tea house where we sampled several types of Oolong Teas grown in the highlands as Taiwan is particularly famous for their Oolong Teas 🙂 If only I got to visit the actual tea plantation but as it was soo cold in Taiwan, the cold weather and snow had damaged majority of the tea plantation. Maybe next time!

1. How genuine are your tea leaves? Hmm..

It makes sense to choose your loose tea leaves based on how fragrant it is, right? Well, apparently not! The fragrance is the no. 1 indication that synthetic tea fragrances have been added to the tea leaves. Follow these 3 simple methods to test for genuine tea:

  • Smell tea leaves should not smell like tea (but rather does not have a fragrance at all)
  • Eattea leaves should not taste like tea (but rather have a bitter, earthy flavour)
  • Steep tea leaves in a mineral water bottle then shake for 1 minute  only very little bubbles should be formed and the bubbles should dissolve within 1-2 minutes (if it doesn’t, then it means that preservatives have been added)

Bet the first two was a shocker 😉 Easy peasy!

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The tea gurus vacuum pack the teas to prevent the Oolong Tea from losing its fragrance. The tea leaves were what we sampled to learn how to differentiate genuine and non-genuine tea! And yes, I ate it!

 

2. Tea caffeine, no longer your worst enemy

Thankfully, unlike most people, I sleep like a baby despite how much tea I drink at night. But for many of you who are sensitive to caffeine, there’s a solution – make your own cold brewed tea 😀 This way, there is no heat to extract the caffeine from the leaves.

Method:

  • Soak the tea leaves in cold water for at least 5 hours
  • Strain out the tea leaves and the cold brewed tea can be kept up to 3 days
  • Enjoy!

P.S. Do not drink the cold brewed tea after 3 days (It will turn sour and sticky) & Do not heat up the cold brewed tea (It will lose its flavour)

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Left: The yellow tea leaves (steeped in hot water) indicate that caffeine has been released. Right: The vibrant green tea leaves (steeped in cold water) denote that caffeine is still retained inside the leaves. So for people sensitive to caffeine, you want your tea leaves to remain green 🙂

3. Highland tea is healthier

Because there are less insects due to the cool to cold weather up in the mountains, tea farmers don’t have the need to spray insecticides and hence, there are less chemicals being released in the steeping process.

How to test for real highland tea? Eat a piece of dry highland tea leaves, then drink a cup of water. If the water tastes especially sweet, it’s real highland tea! 🙂

4. Drinking tea – a mindful practice

I’ll admit. I struggle with this. I love tea so much I usually just bottoms-up it all! The art of drinking tea is actually meant to be a very calming and mindful experience.

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The long & short tea cups used in the preparation and presentation of tea drinking have their own unique roles.

In the tea house, the hot tea was poured into the tall tea cup and then turned over into the short tea cup. The tea gurus recommended to enjoy the fragrant aroma of the tea from the tea cup and roll the hot tea cup on the palms of your hands (to keep warm, I think). When drinking tea, the tea gurus advise that we hold and swirl the tea in our mouths for a few seconds. The tea actually tastes better and more fragrant – try it.

I’m really happy to have been able to learn more about Chinese tea with my papa who is just as big a Chinese tea addict as me, if not more ❤

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Papa and I with the biggest bag of tea I’ve ever seen 🙂

Hope you enjoyed the tips!

Xx

GK

Bye Bye Kong Kong

January 11th 2014

2 years ago, one of the most important people in my life left me along many loved ones – my maternal grandfather, Kong Kong.

He was such a caring grandfather.. Even when he was breathless and in lots of discomfort for the past months, he was still making sure I had the right medication. He wasn’t one to be full of life advice, besides him constantly telling me not to eat too much spicy foods because I’ll get gastritis. Throughout his life, he had his own fair share of up and downs. But, he did teach me to find inner peace and happiness with any given situation. He was always content and never tried controlling things out of his control.

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My grandparents, their 5 daughters (Un. Rob not in picture) and first granddaughter, Charissa Jie Jie ❤ Top: A.Cindy, A.Alice, A.Jean, A.Helen and my mum, Winnie

My kong kong’s health was deteriorating very rapidly. Within a span of 1 month, he went from walking to bedridden; barely able to speak and his lungs filled with phlegm. I did my best to visit him whenever I could after work (thanks to the efforts of my papa driving me around!) and it was sad to see my beloved kong kong so sick and helpless.. 😥

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My grandpa, kong kong’s first visit to Melbourne. Me, pop, kong kong, mum, dad and sis back around 2009 ❤

At the start of December when I visited him, we would be able to have conversations and he still had the energy to give away his stash of expensive Chinese tea to me. But, as weeks went by his body continued swelling up more, his breathing became more difficult and it ended up him mainly listening to me chat away. I still did it anyway, to accompany him. Whether it was telling him how much I was learning at my internship, how fragrant the Chinese tea was or the amazing animals on National Geographic (one of his favourite TV shows alongside other documentaries and sports). Sometimes he would respond with one or two sentences or simply nod his head.

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Took my grandparents out for high tea! Top: Chloe (my sis), Winnie (my mum), Jeff, A.Alice, A.Jean, me and Ben. Bottom: Popo, A.Helen and Kong Kong

I don’t know if you believe in fate or not, but I do. One weekend during my internship period, I chose to sleepover at my grandpa’s house so I could spend more time with him. He was pretty bedridden by then and not able to speak. All I could do was make sure he was comfortable, not in pain and tell him what I was doing so he knew he wasn’t alone. I would keep my energy up hoping that it will influence his energy and make him feel at peace that we, his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, were ok 🙂 I remember the one time I told my kong kong I was drinking the most amazing Pu Erh tea and saying how much I loved it. He made the biggest “um” sound to acknowledge my statement, which was unusual as it took him a lot of effort to respond more than nodding his head..

I even got so desperate to keep my kong kong entertained, I started singing haha – When I was younger and I had sleepovers at my grandparents’ house, he would play all sorts of songs on the harmonica for us. He played Oh Suzanna, Moon Represents My Heart, Auld Lang Syne and some other Chinese songs with Mo Li Hua being my favourite – So I thought, maybe I should sing Mo Li Hua to him. Even if it’s bad, at least he’s laughing deep inside.

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We take family reunion and food pretty seriously hey? 😀 Very happy times! This was taken a couple of years before my grandma fell ill and she cooked all the dishes. Chinese food and very old-school home setting #memories

I knew the day was coming, I just didn’t know it was that close. That weekend, the rest of the family were heading out to dinner but Uncle Robert and I chose to stay back with the nanny to accompany my kong kong. As the group of my aunts and uncles said “See you after dinner, won’t be long!” to my grandpa, he let out the loudest sound which sounded like bye so we all thought he was doing ok and was able to try say something. So, I continued doing what I was doing the past 2 days. Talking to my grandpa, Singing, eating and telling him the new discoveries about animals I learnt from watching National Geographic on his behalf and keeping him updated with the Australian Open scores.

I got abit hungry so I told my grandpa I’ll be back in 2 minutes to get some food from the pantry. As I got to the kitchen, the nanny came running to me panicking; saying that my grandpa had passed away. We ran back to the room and I heard my kong kong take his last breath. We were all crying in shock but strangely grateful to have been till his last breath to show him how loved he was ❤ (Based on the Chinese culture, tears should not touch the body because it is believed that if they feel tears on their body they can’t go through the next stage of life peacefully) 

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My kong kong had a laughter you’ll never forget because when he laughs, he laughs so hard you can’t even hear anything!! It was hilarious. This was us playing Big 2. My grandparents (especially my grandma) were crazy about this game. We would stay up to 2-3am playing this card game! We don’t play with money but we are pretty competitive and want to win 😉

Amongst many funny and happy memories, my favourite was the time he proudly look out his magnifying glass to look for my name in the newspaper when I told him I got a great score for VCE (last year of high school exam). Pretty funny and memorable moment.

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I’ll always remember the times when he pulls out his wallet to show me my aunties’ business card which he had kept for so many years it was all crumpled in his wallet.
I’ll always remember sharing a pot of tea with my kong kong while he tried teaching me to appreciate good quality, expensive Chinese tea. Drinking strong bitter Chinese tea was something he and I would enjoy together. I would go over to my grandparents’ house and he would make a pot of his most expensive tea for us to share.
I’ll always remember one of the trips to Old Town and he proudly introduced me to anyone he knew as his granddaughter and had the biggest smile on his face when someone said I looked like him. (Most of the family members looked more like my grandma)
I’ll always remember that one time my sis and I slept over and he played the harmonica for us. He was brilliant and had much more energy than us. We were recording all the songs he played on our phones and laughed so hard together.
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30th July 1999 – Trip to HK and China. Don’t remember much about the country itself but I sure remember complaining about muscle leg pains so my grandpa carried me on his back on a very very very hot day! (Sis was probably too young to travel then)

I can only hope he’s living happily in heaven with my grandma, popo and that we will someday meet again!

So, to you kong kong, if you’re watching us or reading this, I toast this cup of tea to you and sing to you, Auld Lang Syne..

Love always,

Loon

 

tang yuan recipe and stories - generation kitchen

[Recipe] Winter Solstice Festival (“Ball Ball” day)

In the Chinese Lunar Calendar, winter solstice falls on December 22 or 23 (solar calendar) every year.

For the past 22 years, I never knew Chinese Winter Solstice Festival was more important than Chinese New Year. I just knew that no matter what you must do whatever you can to have at least one tang yuan for good luck. I remember a few years ago my grandma called my family in Australia to remind us it was the Chinese Winter Solstice Festival and that we needed to eat tang yuan. We clearly forgot and my grandma must have been pretty insistent because my mum drove out just to buy a bowl of tang yuan dessert from Dessert Story (a Taiwanese dessert shop). My grandma would tell us that “one grows a year older once we eat tang yuan” ❤

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21/12/2015 – Auntie Alice and I making tang yuan together 🙂 My mum photo bombing hahah

To me, my sis and my cousins, all we really knew about this Chinese Winter Solstice Festival is a day we called “ball ball day” where we get to eat tang yuan. “Tang yuan” was probably a massive tongue twister for us kiddos so we ended up calling it “ball ball”.

Tang yuan in direct translation is “soup ball” – probably because the glutinous rice balls (aka tang yuan) are served in some sort of sweet soup (clear ginger syrup, red bean soup or black sesame soup). Sometimes the glutinous rice balls are stuffed with crushed peanuts, sweet red bean paste or black sesame paste. In Hong Kong, they serve glutinous rice balls with a side of crushed sweet peanuts to dip it into. So good! My cousin has made a pumpkin glutinous rice ball once too for my grandma who loves pumpkin, like reaally love.

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Mixing the hot water into a part of the flour mixture.     See Tip 3.

I’ll always remember my grandma giving us a packet of glutinous rice flour, a bowl for mixing and a cup of water and telling us to make tang yuan for dessert. I’m pretty sure it was her way of keeping us entertained  ;). We (my sis, cousins and I) would crowd around the dinner table; make the glutinous rice dough and roll the dough into all sorts of shapes and sizes just for the fun of it.

The traditional shape is a round ball as round shapes symbolise family reunion and togetherness. But this was also our opportunity to showcase our creativity. Our top favourites are snakes, squares, swirls of different colours (kinda like a Yin and Yang type thing) and cylinders.

Sometimes we would deliberately make massive ones and super tiny ones just so we can say we won by size! The whole process from making the dough, rolling the dough into balls (or other shapes), cooking the tang yuan and eating them is fun and very therapeutic 🙂

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My curled up ‘snake’ tang yuan & my pink yin and yang ball in the bowl 🙂

To be honest, I don’t really have a recipe because we were never taught to use one but we were given a few very handy tips 😉

It is literally flour and water mixed into a dough that has a texture that is ‘tacky’ and does not stick to your fingers/hands when kneading.

Tang yuan in ginger syrup

Ingredients:

  • Glutinous rice flour
  • Hot water
  • Room temperature water
  • Food colouring (green, red, purple etc)
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Ginger

Method:

  1. For the tang yuan balls: In a small mixing bowl, mix 1/3 of the glutinous rice flour with hot water.
  2. In a medium size mixing bowl, mix 2/3 of the glutinous rice flour with room temperature water. Very gradually add water.
  3. Mix Step 1 into Step 2. Knead and dust extra flour into the dough if necessary.
  4. Divide the dough ball into 3 parts. Each part for 1 colour. Add a drop of colouring to the dough. Knead the colour through the dough until mixed thoroughly.
  5. Roll the dough into small balls. Lay the balls on a tray that is layered with kitchen towel/tissue paper (See Tip 2).
  6. In a boiling pot of water, put the balls in. Lower the fire to medium heat and allow the balls to cook. The balls will float up when they are cooked.
  7. For the ginger syrup: In a small pot of water, add sugar and ginger. Allow the sugar to melt and the ginger to infuse in the syrup.
  8. Add the cooked balls into the ginger syrup.
  9. Serve warm or cool.

Tip 1: Roll small balls. They have greater surface area so the moisture in the balls can evaporate and be drier when it comes to the boiling stage.

Tip 2: Place the balls on a kitchen towel or tissue so that it will soak up some moisture from the balls. Less moisture = More chewy.

Tip 3: Use hot water for 1/3 of the flour. It seems to maintain the chewy-ness of the glutinous rice balls if serving the next day.

Tip 4: Gradually add the water to the flour mixture when making the dough. We’ve sometimes added too much at a time and have you add tonnes more flour to ‘dry’ out the dough. Too much tang yuan by the end of the night!!

Xx

GK

homemade pineapple jam recipe

[Recipe] Pineapple Jam

This jam is super versatile – you can have it on toast, cake, make it into a slice or even better, pineapple tarts! The preparation time is about 7 -10 minutes (depending on how fast you are at cutting pineapples) and the cooking time is about 1.5-2 hours. Don’t try increasing the heat of the jam because it’s not gonna speed things up! 😀

The macerating process is a crucial step to extract the juice out of the fruit and to sweeten the fruit. After Step 1, the bowl will contain juice from the pineapple – it’s completely normal. I usually macerate my fruits overnight but if you only have a few hours (3-4 hours) at hand, that will be fine too. The more juice extracted from the macerating process, the faster the cooking process 😉

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the plastic sheet in the picture, we do that to maintain the freshness of the jam. It prevents any air to enter the bottle, which could potentially spoil the jam. You can do this with your homemade sauces, spreads, pastes etc. My grandma taught us all to do this, so you probably should do it too ❤

 

Ingredients

  • 2 ripe pineapples, chopped finely
  • 200g sugar

Method

  1. Macerate the pineapple and sugar in a large bowl
  2. Cook the macerated pineapple (without the excess juice) in a pot, on medium heat, until soft. Stir continously
  3. Add the juice from the macerated stage into the pot if the pineapple jam is drying up, on low heat
  4. Remove from stove and set aside to cool
  5. Bottle the pineapple jam in clean, air tight jars

Xx

Generation Kitchen