Crisp fall air and leaves turning shades of red and burnished orange, the crackle of them under your feet as you walk down the street with hands snuggled deep inside your pockets. Autumn is by far my favorite season. The temperatures begin to cool down at night, calling for an extra blanket or a down comforter. This is something I miss now that I live south of the Mason Dixon line. It’s only been 3 and a half years, but I doubt I’ll ever really get used to the lack of (distinguishable) seasons.
Greetings, All! I am away in Idaho this week with my friends from Idaho Potato! In lieu of posting a new recipe, I wanted to share some awesome recipes from my super talented friends.
I do hope you will check out their recipes, as I happen to think they are pretty great! Besides being amazing in the kitchen, they are good humans and I am lucky to know them. I can’t wait to tell you all about Idaho and the fun things happening there right now! I’m updating and sharing pics on social media every day, so if you want to see what we’re up to, check out my Facebook page, Instagram account or Twitter feed for the latest shenanigans.
I met Rebecca Lindamood a few years ago at a food blog conference in Orlando. One day, we were talking about trading goods with each other (local food for local food). A few weeks later, much to my delight, a quart of Grape Pie Filling (p.31) shows up on my doorstep. I had never tasted grape pie filling before, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I was in for gastronomic bliss of epic proportions. If you pay attention to things I swoon about, you know THIS is at the top of my list. Think of the juiciest, “grapiest”, most luscious grape you’ve ever had. Now multiply that by 10. That’s Rebecca’s grape pie filling.
When there was talk of this book happening, I was beyond thrilled for my friend. Her food is amazing and creative. It is beautiful and yet, practical. As a former cook and Mom of 5 boys, she knows a thing or two about feeding people. I couldn’t wait to get this book and review it because I knew it was going to be one of my “go-to” guides for canning. I’ve made chutneys and jams, pie fillings and pickles, chow chow and pickled beans… and then they sit there. Sometimes I get around to actually using them and sometimes, I give it all away because I can only eat so much of it. Here’s where Rebecca saves the day: there is a corresponding recipe for all of the things you’ve just canned!!! I can’t even begin to explain my excitement about that!
After all, a beautiful jar of something sitting on the shelf doesn’t do anyone any good unless you know how to use it! -Rebecca Lindamood
If you or someone you know enjoys canning, get this book! There is something for everyone. It would make a great present for any occasion. Or just because it’s Tuesday. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s written in a way that makes it accessible for beginners and at the same time, appeals to experienced canners as well. The recipes are unique and so varied! Everything from the aforementioned grape pie filling to cardamom extract. Make the cherries in red wine syrup this weekend (while you can still get this little ruby fruit) and enjoy the fruits (see what I did there ;)) of your labor in the fall or winter when you use those cherries to make Filet Mignon with Red Cherry Wine Sauce! Make a batch of Ginger Peach Butter now, enjoy Peaches and Cream Baked Oatmeal later! The entire book is like this!!! Can you tell how much I love that? It’s brilliant!
My dream pantry is lined top to bottom with beautiful jars containing their jewel colored treasures. This book has me on my way to achieving that dream. Thank you Rebecca, for reintroducing me to my love of canning.
Here is an affiliate link to Amazon to make getting your book even easier!
I was spending my birthday weekend in the Clearwater area and it just so happened to coincide with the Strawberry Festival in Plant City. I was ecstatic because I happen to know that A LOT of strawberries come out of that area and are shipped all over the east coast.
When I was still cheffing (yes, that’s now a verb) in NYC, all of the strawberry flats were from Plant City so I knew there were good berries to be had. Slathered in sunscreen for a day of walking around in the blistering sunshine, we got in the car and drove an hour to have our fill of strawberry everything… or so we thought.
Perhaps it was my own fault, I envisioned strawberry pies, strawberry jams & jellies, strawberry malts, strawberry pastries, strawberries in every way imaginable and I was practically frothing at the mouth in anticipation. I was looking forward to the creativity of locals, presenting strawberries in ways I had never thought of, I was so ready to have my mind and taste buds blown! One would assume if it’s a “Strawberry Festival”, that’s exactly what you’d find, no? The short answer: no.
There were 2 places to get strawberry shortcake, each with a line at least 100 deep and a handful of other booths were strawberry items could be purchased. It was quite a let down, but there is a BIG silver lining!
Local farms were set up in tents, like a farmer’s market, along the streets leading into the festival. I scored an entire flat (that’s about 12 pounds) of the most gorgeous, bright ruby red strawberries you’ve ever laid your eyes on for… wait for it…. seven dollars! Seven. Dollars. I was over the moon! I happily lugged that box all the way back to the car. I also had a glazed doughnut roughly the size of a baby’s head fresh from the oil, so it wasn’t a total loss 😉
Would I go to that festival again? Probably not. Would I drive the hour to buy 12 pounds of perfect strawberries for $7.00? You bet.
- 2 quarts strawberries, washed, hulled and roughly chopped
- 1 1.75 oz pkg + 2 tbsp. powdered pectin
- 1/4 cup fresh key lime juice
- 3 tbsp. key lime zest
- 7 cups sugar
- Place 9 half pint (8 oz) mason jars in a very large stock pot/lobster pot/canning pot. Add enough water to cover the jars and bring to simmer. Place the lids into a small saucepan and simmer those in a bit of water as well. No need to warm the rings, just the lids. Make sure you are using new lids every time. It's best not to reuse them.
- That being said, I have reused them when in a pinch, but it's not standard practice.
- Combine strawberries, pectin, lime juice and zest in a large stock pot. (You'll want plenty of room at the top when the mixture starts boiling)
- Bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, then add sugar all at once and stir until completely dissolved. Return to a rolling boil and let it boil HARD for 60 - 90 seconds, stirring constantly.
- Remove from heat and skim off as much foam as you can without taking too much of the jam.
- Using canning tongs (or regular tongs with a dish towel wrapped around them) remove one of the jars from the water, pour the water out and set a wide mouth funnel inside the jar. Using a measuring cup, scoop jam and pour into warm jar leaving 1/4" of space at the top. Repeat until all the jars are filled, then wipe the rim of the jar with a damp towel, making sure the thread of the jar is clean.
- Remove the lids from the simmering water, screw on the rings but do not tighten all the way. Enough to secure the lid, but not completely tightened. Repeat with remaining jars.
- Place jars into a canning rack if you have one and lower into water in canning/lobster pot. If not, use tongs and lower the jars one by one (fairly quickly) into the water. Make sure water covers the jars by at least an inch, two if possible. Bring water to a full boil. Boil for 10 - 12 minutes, let jars "rest" in the water for a couple of minutes, then remove from water. I always place my hot jars on top of a dishtowel on the counter so nothing slides around.
- Leave jars for 24 hours, you will hopefully hear that beautiful "PING" sound fairly soon after they've come out of the water, but it may take a little while. After 24 hours, tighten the rings all the way and check to make sure they have all sealed. Press on the lid. If it has ANY give whatsoever, that guy gets to live in the fridge. Otherwise, your jam is good to go!
- I don't remember where I learned this trick, but a pat of butter help keep the foam to a minimum. If you are so inclined, drop a pat of butter into your strawberry mixture while it's cooking to keep the foam under control.
Let me say that I think we should appreciate our Mom’s on more than just one day a year… It is an incredibly important job that is sometimes thankless. Through terrible two’s and rebellious teenage years, through laughter and tears, joy and fear… you are there for it all.
So, to every Mom out there: Happy Mother’s Day today and everyday for all that you do!
Now that I’ve earned my birthday and Christmas presents for next year, let’s get to it.
This weekend is Mother’s Day and the Internet, food magazines, morning shows, cooking shows, even the evening news is filling the space between our ears with recipes to make for Mom…
Most of them even look really good! But here’s the problem: MOM isn’t the one making them! (I hope)!
More than a few of the recipes featured have ingredient lists long enough to make even the average home cook sweat under the collar, much less someone who rarely ventures into that mystical space from where food magically appears.
Some of you out there are lucky enough to live with people who actually know: A. where the kitchen is located in your home and 2) how to find things in this mysterious room
Then, there are those of you who live with people that open the fridge door, stand there staring at it’s insides and then ask you “what is there to eat?”.
Well, even THOSE people can handle this recipe.
Sometimes it’s as if people are dropped into your life out of the blue. This is the story of one such person. I was lucky enough to have made a connection with another food blogger and Pastry Chef. We “met” through Facebook & Twitter. Like many other food bloggers, we are on each others pages. We offer support, ask questions and weigh in on life-altering discussions about butter and how best to photograph one’s creations.
During the course of a few months, we discovered how very much alike we are… although she is definitely the nicer one. She has become my “Sissy” and this happened the day I met her in person. Continue reading
I have this nonsensical love of the Golden Girls, to the extent that I kind of want to be them when I grow up. Not any one of them in particular (although Blanche certainly had lots of fun), but more of an amalgamation of them.
Dorothy’s intelligence and dry wit, Rose’s willingness to always see the good in people, Sophia’s crass humor and we’ve already covered Blanche’s obvious contribution to the mix.
I can fully appreciate sitting around the kitchen table with an entire (yes, an ENTIRE) cheesecake to work out life’s woes with your best pals, but my fascination is the lanai… Just the word makes you relax a bit , doesn’t it? (go ahead, say it aloud… I’ll wait)
I remember hearing that word as a fourteen year old kid watching this show and not even knowing what it was, but liking sound of it.
Eventually, when I pieced together what a “lanai” actually was, I thought to myself “oh yeah, that’s for me”…
It’s been awhile since I’ve had dessert and with the holidays right around the corner, that streak will be coming to a screeching halt.
Making a dessert like this is generally not too time-consuming which is a game-changer during the holidays when we are all pressed for time and running on empty.
This particular trifle comes together fairly quickly since there is no cooking to speak of, just a bit of manual labor and even that is minimal.
Trifles are a bit like window shopping… because they are usually served in a clear vessel, you can take a look at what you are getting before you decide to plunge in.
They are lovely with all of their layers and I like doing these individually so everyone gets a beautiful dessert all to themselves. (and the fact that I don’t own a proper trifle dish has something to do with that decision as well…)
I LOVE figs and lucky for me I live in a predominantly Italian neighborhood where fig trees are the preferred lawn ornament. Now is the time when the branches are heavy with fruit, hanging low enough that plucking them from the tree does not prove to be very difficult.
(and don’t think I haven’t contemplated enlisting my friends for a little late-night recon mission to “obtain” said fruit)
Figs are in season from late summer through early fall, so if you happen upon them at the farmer’s market or the grocery store, get them while you still can.
I had never made fig jam before but I figured since I love the fruit, the jam would be a sure hit (it was) and with this recipe, canning season for me comes to a close.
While this is a sweet jam, it can be used as a base for other add-ins… caramelized red onions or bacon for example. This can be turned into a topping for crostini with a little fresh goat cheese or perhaps on a half bagel, with some crispy crumbled bacon and then topped with a fried egg for breakfast? (just brain-storming here…)
While Hurricane Irene is approaching, I’m doing what any sensible girl would do… making jam. I like the simplicity of freezer jam because you still get all the flavor of summer fruit, but it is quicker and easier than sealing everything in a water bath and let’s be honest, sometimes a girl just needs a “shortcut”.
This recipe will take approximately 20 minutes from start to finish, then the jars will sit for a few hours and it’s done. How easy is that?! The best part about this is making whatever flavor combination you like. That’s the fun part of cooking, there really aren’t many “rules” when it comes to combining flavors. If you like it, that’s what counts.
I bought my berries in the middle of summer when they were at their peak and stored them in the freezer until I was ready to make jam. The best way to do this is to lay them out in a single layer on a sheet pan and put them in the freezer for a few hours until they are completely frozen. Then put them into a resealable freezer bag.
I was fortunate enough to find organic ones in pristine condition, so I loaded up! That is the only mandatory condition when making jam: the fruit you use absolutely MUST be perfect. If it has any bruising, remove it. If there is even the tiniest bit of mold, toss it.
The last thing you want to do is introduce that into an entire batch of jam because it will ruin everything (there goes all of your time, effort and money).