Monthly Archives: June 2012

This is BERRY delicious!

This post was brought to you by:

Curiosity with St. Germain! Gin and Tonics! 

Disclaimer: Maybe you want to limit yourself to one of those. We’re dealing with potential botulism here. PS: These were delicious.

Crafstine and I, in a fit of frustration the other day, made Strawberry Jam! It’s BERRY DELICIOUS. Now is prime time to get your strawberries. I read online that because of the freaky weather, strawberries may have a short season. Don’t delay! These guys are amazing!

This recipe is from the book Well-Preserved, and it is dynamite! I’m looking forward to canning other recipes from this book. I took it out of my library and you should too!

8 cups of sliced strawberries

6 cups of sugar

1/3 cup of lemon juice.

5-6 8 ounce preserving jars (with lids and rings! and if you are not good with measurements/eye-balling amounts, ALWAYS prepare more jars.)

First off, place your empty  jars into a big pot filled with water- submerge those jars and put them on the stove to boil. That sanitizes the jars and enables us to fill them with molten hot lava-like jams and they won’t crack. Your lids and rings should also be sanitized, but I like to do that right before we fill the jars because of the questionable amount of jam you may have. If you have less than you sanitize, it’s not really good for the lids to be subjected to hot temperatures (in the sterilization process) because it activates the seal and may create a faulty seal the next time you use that lid.

In a heavy pot, put the sliced strawberries in and heat on medium heat. Crush the strawberries with a potato masher, to the consistency that you prefer.

Add the sugar and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Now, you may be thinking, HOLY SUGAR. THAT AMOUNT OF SUGAR WILL CREATE DIABETES. I agree, it’s a lot of sugar, however, sugar helps it set and increases volume. It also is a PH issue where you want to create an acidic environment, but not too acidic because that’s yucky, and the higher the acidity the less likely you will have bad bacteria in your jams growing and creating botulism. Usually I follow this to a T in recipes because I don’t want to get botulism. Crafstine is planning on experimenting this summer using low-sugar/no sugar needed pectin, but that kind of scares me. She’s bold.

We also added vanilla extract because vanilla and strawberry is AMAZING. It was nice little glug, probably three teaspoons?

Bring that to a boil. Once it’s boiling, reduce heat and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. It should thicken and be delicious looking.

Once it has thickened, you turn off the heat, stir for two-three minutes, remove the creepy foam and then you’re ready to can!

Remove your hot jars from the pot (keep the pot boiling) and place on a towel. It’s important for these jars not to hit anything or be subjected to varying temperatures because they’ll crack. You should have specific tools for this job too; jar lifter, magnetic stick to get lids and rings out, and a funnel. I’ve canned without these items, using tongs and ladles, but it’s a real pain in the neck.

This recipe calls for leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Fill your jars and leave 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles using a wooden spoon handle or chopstick.

Once you have all your jars filled, then you can sanitize your lids and rings. I typically take a small saucepan and just take water out of the boiling pot of water and throw the amount of lids in. That way, the water is already boiling! Once they’ve been sanitized (10 minutes), you can remove them with your magnetic stick and then put that water back in the pot.

You put the lids on and then put the rings on just until they are fingertip tight. Do not TIGHTEN them, just turn them until they stop turning. Then, using your jar lifter, place the jars back into the pot of boiling water and boil them for 10 minutes. Remove from the pot and put back on the towel. Soon, you’ll hear the PING of the jars, letting you know that they’ve set!

Once they’ve been sealed, it’s advised that you leave them in the same spot to cool for 24 hours. They’ve been through a lot, and you don’t want to shake ’em up too much. After that, it is suggested that you keep them on the shelf without the bands on. Label them with what it is, and when it was made. As a rule of thumb, you should eat these preserves within a year. I know I go through a lot of homemade fruity jam in the wintertime on sandwiches, crépes, pancakes, toast, in breads, in frostings, in…..well, you get the idea. These last a long time, you know what’s inside of them, and you can adjust to your own taste!

Good luck! If you’re seriously interested in canning, it’s important to know all of the proper sanitation and PH rules because you seriously do not want botulism. Seriously.  There are many different resources out there in book or internet form for you to find and learn more!

-megz

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The Curd is the word

Once upon a time, I thought that citrus curd was this mysterious, highly unstable substance that could only be made in professional kitchens by highly skilled people only wearing white- Like the food equivalent of plutonium. Then, a few weeks ago, my dear friend Megzy had a birthday coming up. No ordinary cake would do, this is the gal who helped me painstakingly can 60 4oz cans of peach lavender butter as wedding favors last fall. I contacted her “boyf”- boyfriend to begin scheming a cake. I found out that this little lady likes key lime pie..OH REALLY?! So I dreamed up a vanilla coconut cake, frosted with a toasted meringue-esque frosting, with graham cracker sprinkles on lime curd as the filling.

This was my chance, to show myself (and the world) that curd was nothing to be afraid of. Egg yolks, citrus juice, sugar, butter maybe some zest. That’s really all that goes into a citrus curd. There are fancy recipes that call for double boilers and furious whisking.. but those are for chumps. The only criteria I see is that you have arms with working hands and that you can stand near your stove for about 15 min to stir frequently. Wait, what’s that you say? You really prefer sitting?Well pull up a stool. You’re doing this. I promise, you’ll be glad you did.

Not sure if yolks are beautiful or I’m freaked out by them.

I had a game plan: Zest and juice about 5 limes (you wont use all of the zest, but its good to have on hand in the fridge), get my butter cubed and ready, ready my whisk and wooden spoon, stretch necessary hand/arm muscles (not actually necessary),  and then begin separating eggs to get the show on the road.

Lime Massacre

Recipe time..GO!

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Lime
(or just about any citrus) Curd– aka Awesome Sauce
makes between 1-3/4 cups, or a little less than 1 pint
(adapted from Food in Jars’ Meyer Lemon Curd)

6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup citrus juice- lime, or key lime (if you have a thousand key limes and a few hours to burn)
1 stick of butter (let it come to room temp at the beginning of the recipe)
1 tbsp zest- optional if you want a smooth curd

In a relatively small saucepan- 1+ qt, Over low heat whisk together egg yolks and sugar, once combined add lime juice and stir together. Reduce the heat if necessary, you want to avoid boiling this. Stir frequently, almost constantly, but in no way furiously. After about 9-10 min it should have thickened a bit, and it is done when you can take the spoon out of the mixture, the back is coated, and you can draw a line down the back of the spoon with a clean finger, and it doesn’t run back together.  When in doubt, give it another minute but keep stirring frequently. If you want to be sure, the mixture should read between 165 and 170 on a candy thermometer.

Once you have reached the temp/consistency needed, remove it from the heat, and start stirring in your cubes of butter, 2-3 at a time (if you cut the butter stick in half long way and then into table spoons). Once those have melted almost completely, add another round and keep going until the butter is completely incorporated. Work the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, to get out any cooked eggy bits. Now you can stir in the zest if you so choose. Store in tupperware with a layer of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the curd, so an icky skin doesn’t form. Refrigerate overnight aaand Boom. Sauce complete.
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Zest goes in

Put on anything that needs a little zing. Biscuits, a cake, a panna cotta, berries, filling a tart, as the sauce on a dessert pizza, on top of a rice pudding, on your finger, or a spoon if you must.

Because I wasn’t sure how much I would need to fill the 4 layers of the cake, I increased the recipe by half (i.e. add- 3 yolks, add 1/2c sugar, add 1/2 stick butter, add 1/4c juice- to the recipe as is). Worst case scenario you have some left over…and if that’s your worst case scenario, you are doing pretty well my friend.

ERH MEH GERD! CURD!
-Stine

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Date Bars.

Lara makes bars that are sticky and chewy and delightful.  Now, so do I and so can you!
Instead of spending $2.50 on a bar, I thought, hey, I can do that. I thought that at 11pm last night. Sorry upstairs neighbor, hope you can’t hear my food processor.

Step 1: Choose a flavor
This is often contingent on the ingredients in your pantry/ fridge, but you can plan ahead, I guess. If you want to be all organized and stuff.
I decided to make some kind of chocolatey spiced cranberry coconut pie bars. If necessary, consult the flavor bible a la Meg’s house.

Step 2: Ingredients..ASSEMBLEEE!
I didn’t exactly measure, but here are round-a-bout measurements.
1 package of dates, pitted and ready. I think usually its about 20-25 dates in a package
2/3 cup cranberries
1/2 cup coconut
3/4 cup slivered almonds
a small sliver or two of crystallized ginger
2 tbsp honey
1/4 c mini chocolate chips
1/3 c cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp lemon juice
1/3 cup protein powder or you could use almond meal or coconut flour
Water or applesauce…until desired consistency

This shows the final mixture in the pan and all of my spills

Step 3: Blend it!!
Put everything in the processor bowl except the water or applesauce. Blend until you get a doughy consistency similar to chunky play-dough. If it is too dry add a tablespoon of water or applesauce, if its too wet, add more almond meal, coconut flour, or protein powder, again a tablespoon at a time. The mixture should just begin to ball up but not be too sticky. If its still too sticky take it out and knead in a little more of your dry ingredient.

Step 4: Smush it.
Prep a square baking dish by tearing sheets of wax paper to fit crosswise on the bottom and sides. Wax paper is best for this because it wont stick to your bars and you wont mess with the consistency by having to spray parchment, not to mention end up with greasy fingers. Foil would be a nightmare. drop the date mixture into the baking dish and use your very lightly oiled hands or the bottom of a very lightly oiled measuring cup to flatten into the pan. Once you get it relatively flat, put another piece of wax paper on top and smooth it out.

thoroughly smushed

Step 5: Fridge it.
Now is the part where you let the flavors meld together and the bars firm up. I imagine 4 hours at the least but I let mine rest overnight.

covered and smoothed

Step 6: Prepare for everyday snacking
Once the bars have rested, take them out of the container, put on a flat surface, and cut into bars, about 2″ wide by 3-4″ long. For the square pan I halved it width-wise then cut each side into four portions. You end up with about 8. then you taste it so lets say 7. Tear off pieces of wax paper that are large enough to comfortably wrap each bar within. you can tape them closed, like little mini presents, or get fancy-schmancy and wrap them again in fancy paper and fancy yarn for a picnic time snack.


Store these in the fridge until you are ready to eat!
I had some ideas for other flavors to add to the almonds and dates, but most you can copy from lara:

Key Lime Pie: Lime juice, lime zest, crushed graham cracker (just a bit), cashews, coconut
Black forest cake: Cherries, cocoa powder, chopped dark chocolate bits, maraschino cherry juice.
Blueberry pie: dried blueberries, lemon juice, lemon zest, blueberry juice (or a few teaspoons of a juice cocktail), cashews
Peanut butter cup: Peanut butter 2 tbsp, cocoa powder, mini chocolate chips, peanuts, almond meal.
Strawberry banana smoothie: Freeze dried strawberries (found in snack aisle at Target), handful of banana chips, 1/3 ripe banana, almond meal, lemon juice
Cranberry orange white chocolate cookie: Cashews, dried cranberries, orange zest, orange juice (1-2 tbsp), white chocolate or yogurt chips, pinch of crushed graham cracker
Lemon thyme cookie: Lemon zest 1tbsp, lemon juice, vanilla extract, tsp lemon thyme, 1 scoop vanilla or cake batter protein powder
Hummingbird cake: cinnamon, ginger, dried pineapple, grated carrot, walnuts, pecans, 5 maraschino cherries
Ginger snap: 1 tsp grated ginger, 2 tsp molasses, few strips of crystallized ginger, cashews, pinch cinnamon, pecans
Pecan pie: Pecans, butterscotch chips, cinnamon, ginger, pinch of mace, orange zest

The list can go on and on..and I want to eat all of them if you have the right combinations the possibilities are endless.

omnomnom

Happy blending!
– Stine