Category: cranberry

Rockin’ Moroccan cranberry sauce (with preserved lemon).

Right about now, all across America, folks are flipping out while planning their Thanksgiving dinners. There are tons of phone calls being made… who’s sitting next to who, who isn’t speaking to whom, which cousin is bringing the potatoes au gratin, who’s making the pie, is Aunt Linda making her rice dish this year, which niece is allergic to gluten, what cranberry sauce should we have, etc.

So I thought I’d complicate your life a little more. Let me throw a(nother) possibility into the ring for you guys:

Moroccan-style cranberry sauce with cumin, cardamom & preserved lemon!

When I say this is Moroccan, I don’t really mean it. It’s not a traditional Moroccan dish at all. I’m only saying that because of the use of preserved lemon. The rest of it isn’t terribly ethnic or unique. Although, it is somewhat unique given the fact that at this time of year most cranberry sauces are fairly traditional. But really I’m just being an asshole American: coming up with a clever name at the expense of another culture. So let’s say it’s Moroccan-style, okay?

But… there is some cumin & cardamom in there too! So its definitely not your grandma’s cranberry sauce.

Moroccan-style cranberry sauce with cumin, cardamom & preserved lemon!

I came up with this idea after seeing Local Kitchen add preserved lemon to plum jam. Genius! I thought about it & realized it would be an amazing addition to cranberry sauce; especially seeing as how cranberry & lemon go hand in hand like… I don’t know. Things that hold hands.

ANYWAY…

Then I decided to add some cumin. Then the cardamom popped out of the cabinet. And the rest was history!

Moroccan-style cranberry sauce made with cumin, cardamom & preserved lemons. Not your grandma's cranberry sauce!

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A lemon cranberry crumble worthy of a Prince.

A few weeks ago I got an e-mail from the folks at Duchy Originals, asking me to use a some of their shortbreads & biscuits in recipes for the holidays. I was really excited about this, for a few reasons: one, I love shortbread. Two, I love a challenge, especially one that involves creating recipes. Three, I’m a bit of an Anglophile (which ties into the next point…) and finally, the company’s history really intrigued me. Turns out, while I had heard of Duchy Originals, and I’d seen blurbs on the internet, I had no idea of the amazing background of the company! It was started in 1992 by HRH Prince Charles in order to promote organic food and farming and to help protect and sustain the local countryside and wildlife. Who knew!?

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Today, in partnership with Waitrose, it is one of the U.K.’s leading organic and sustainable food companies, producing a range of over 250 products from biscuits to preserves and gifts to garden seeds. A donation from the sale of Duchy Originals products is given to The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation. More than $1 million is raised annually in this way for distribution to charitable causes all over the world. Duchy Originals from Waitrose shortbreads and cookies are baked by the world famous Walkers Shortbread in the Scottish Highlands. Walkers is also a proud sponsor of the ASPCA, which makes me really happy, as an animal lover.

Here’s a little more about Duchy Originals’ shortbreads & where the money goes:

The shortbread and biscuits are made using wheat and stone-ground oats from U.K. organic farms, including from The Duchy Home Farm, The Prince’s estate in the beautiful Cotswolds region of southwestern England. The Duchy Home Farm became fully organic in 1986, and is now an internationally-recognized model of best practices in organic farming.

Duchy Originals from Waitrose are all-natural, OU Kosher and suitable for vegetarians. The brand does not support the use of GMOs in its products. No bovine growth hormones are given to the cows that yield the milk that is used to produce the butter. The Duchy Originals from Waitrose items have a suggested retail price of $5.99 and each reflects the quality of the ingredients and the bakery expertise of Walker Shortbread. A donation from the sale of Duchy Originals from Waitrose products is given to The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation. The foundation funds worthwhile causes throughout the world and in the U.S. it has helped fund education rebuilding initiatives in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, urban regeneration projects in Atlanta, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, the Breakthrough Breast Cancer, and the Harvard AIDS Institute.

The Duchy Originals Good Food Charter assures that every Duchy product “Is Good” by using a smaller environmental footprint as a result of more locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and less packaging; “Does Good” by providing a fair deal for the people who grow and make the food and generating funds for good causes; and “Tastes Good,” being made from the finest natural ingredients. The cookies are produced in partnership with Waitrose, the foremost purveyor of premium food in Great Britain and a division of the employee-owned John Lewis Partnership.

-via Duchy Originals

That’s pretty great, isn’t it? Especially the fact that a portion of the profits goes to Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Being the daughter of a survivor, that’s important to me. As a matter of fact, every cause listed there made me all the more happy to get involved with spreading the word about Duchy Originals cookies. So of course, I took one for the team and took on the burden of creating some recipes using them. *siiiigh* It’s a rough job, you know. But someone has to do it! Alright… so, you get the idea. Enough about all that. Let’s get to the goods.

I received a couple of different boxes of cookies from Duchy Originals: Two boxes of all-butter Highland shortbread, one box of Sicilian lemon all-butter shortbread, one box of Stem Ginger shortbread and a box of Oaten biscuits (the first Duchy product ever made).

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All just for me to play around with and come up with recipes for! How fun. After an initial taste-test of each, the first recipe that came to mind is super easy, and great for holidays. Lemon shortbread cranberry crumble.

Simple, quick, and it contains two flavors that are not only seasonally appropriate but work spectacularly together: Lemon & cranberry. Plus it uses the delicious Duchy Originals all-butter Sicilian lemon shortbread in both the crust & the topping. Oh.. and in case you’re wondering… the Sicilian lemon shortbread are most definitely my absolute favorites.

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DUCHY LEMON SHORTBREAD CRANBERRY CRUMBLE

Ingredients:

  • 3 5.3 ounce boxes Duchy all-butter lemon shortbread cookies
  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 300° F. Once it’s fully preheated (around 20-30 minutes depending on your oven), melt 7 tablespoons of the unsalted butter in an 8″ x 8″ brownie pan. Carefully remove the pan from the oven when the butter is completely melted.
  2. Finely crumble 1 1/2 boxes of Duchy all-butter lemon shortbread cookies, either in a food processor or with a plastic bag & mallet, and then combine it thoroughly with the flour. Then mix that combo into the melted butter, patting down, using your (clean) fingers or a fork. Make sure that all of the cookie crumbles get buttered. Set pan aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, add the cranberries, lemon juice & sugar. Cook over medium heat until the cranberries have popped and it begins to thicken just slightly & resemble cranberry sauce. Remove from the heat & spoon the mixture over the cookie crust. Once again, set it aside.
  4. Melt the remaining butter (2 tablespoons) in a small saucepan. Once melted, add to a bowl and crumble the remaining half box of Duchy lemon shortbread into it, mixing well. This mixture shouldn’t be as finely crumbled as the crust, a chunky mix is okay. Spoon this on top of the cranberry mixture and bake for 25 minutes, or until heated through & slightly bubbling on the edges.
  5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool enough that it’s just warm. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream & enjoy!

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It’s a very easy dessert, but a very pretty one. I guarantee that it’ll be a big hit with your family for Christmas. It’s like a shortcut version of a cobbler, made seasonal with cranberries instead of cherries or blueberries (which, in warmer weather, you could totally substitute for the cranberries!). Or, it’s like the fruity, more pie-like version of the infamous Christmas 7-layer magic bars. Another idea: add some flour & sliced almonds to the topping. It would make it more “streusel-y” in texture.

I was really looking forward to creating more fun things with my remaining boxes of Duchy Originals products. But the cookies didn’t last that long! They were gobbled up too quickly. *sad face*

Previously, Duchy Originals were only available in the U.K. But as of this past summer, they’re now available in the U.S.! So you can find them in select gourmet & natural food stores. But if you can’t, and you’re in the U.S. (like me) or you’re otherwise outside of the U.K., you can buy Duchy’s shortbread & biscuit line from the Walkers Shortbread website, and also through Amazon by clicking here. If you’re in the U.K., you probably already know where to buy them, namely Booths & Waitrose, but you can also buy them online at Waitrose.com & the Walkers website. And if you’re really interested, there’s even a cookbook! It looks pretty awesome too. Thank you to Walker’s and Duchy Originals for asking me to do this. Speaking of awesome & the Royal family: congratulations to the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge on the news of their impending arrival! That’s a lovely Christmas present, isn’t it?

And on that note, Christmas is a week away. Insane. I hope this inspires you to make merry in the kitchen! It doesn’t always have to be difficult to be delicious, and your family doesn’t have to know that! Let them think you’re as magic as Santa Claus.

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* Disclaimer: while all the Duchy Originals products featured in this post were sent at no cost to me, all thoughts, recipes & reviews of those products are my own. I was not financially compensated for this post or told what to say.

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Cheery lil’ cherry Christmas muffins.

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It never fails; every holiday season, I try to come up with different pretty little muffins and things that can go from breakfast to lunch to “snack time.” Whether it’s breads or loaf cakes or muffins or rolls, I like to have things on hand that can be grabbed at any time of day, whenever anyone pops in or decides they want one with a cup of coffee or tea… or a glass of milk. Because this is the time of year when people are always coming by, stopping in, etc. and you’ve gotta have something on hand to give these wandering wassailers, whether they’re coming morning, noon or night.

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Cupcakes don’t always go with breakfast. And they’ve also got a shorter table-life than muffins. Muffins last forever, it seems. And in the new issue of the Food Network magazine, there’s a buttload of inspiration in the form of a booklet with 50 muffin recipes! So I guess I’m not alone in my idea that muffins make great snacks for last-minute guests, eh?

A lot of the recipes sounded amazing, but the ones I really liked I had bigger plans for. So I gathered up some things I had in my cupboards- dried Bing cherries & white chocolate chips, namely- and threw ‘em into my favorite muffin recipe base. If I had had some pistachios, I’d have thrown them in there too. Pistachio goes well with both cherry & white chocolate. Oh- and cranberries would work just fine instead of cherries- both fresh and dried. The tartness of both cherries & cranberries work because of the sweetness of the white chocolate.

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WHITE CHOCOLATE CHERRY MUFFINS

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons set aside
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter — melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs – beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios (optional, I didn’t have any)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. and grease up 12 muffin cups or put liners in them (I prefer liners because it’s less messy that way).
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, stir together milk, eggs, cooled butter, and vanilla until blended. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add milk mixture and stir just to combine. Stir in cherries, then white chocolate chips. DON’T OVERMIX THE BATTER.
  3. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling them almost to the top; top each muffin with a sprinkling of sugar from reserved 2 tablespoons. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean.
  4. Remove muffin tin to wire rack; cool 5 minutes and remove from tins to finish cooling. Serve with whatever you like, whenever you like.

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The cool thing about the white chocolate chips in this case is that they don’t melt like semisweet or milk chocolate chips would. They stay whole, as do the cherries, so you taste each of them separately & get the texture too. That’s why the addition of unsalted shelled pistachios would be great! Not only would it make the muffins Christmas colors, but the texture of the three separate things would be awesome. Chewy cherries, thick white chocolate and crunchy-ish pistachios.

And they go great with milk & pretty paper straws, too.

Table runner custom-made for me by Yoyo of topstitch.org/topstitch.artfire.com

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A homemade life.

“That’s the thing with handmade items. They still have the person’s mark on them, and when you hold them, you feel less alone.”

-Aimee Bender

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A couple of years ago I read a book by Molly Wizenberg (the blogger behind Orangette), called ‘A Homemade Life.’ It was part of a book club selection- and no, this wasn’t just your average, boring, every day book club- do I look or sound remotely boring to you? It was an awesome one I had with three high school friends (that I’m hoping we can start up again soon- HELLO LADIES ARE YOU LISTENING) where we chose books involving food/recipes and cooked from them, then blogged about it. But anyway, I loved the book. Why? Well, it was just a good book for one thing. Secondly, it turned me on to Molly’s blog, which I had been previously unaware of (I know, I know) and it turns out Molly is cool in tons of different ways. She named her new baby girl after June Carter Cash! Automatic points. But besides all that, I liked the title of the book.

A homemade life. That sounds good to me. I have a homemade life. Homemade pumpkin spice lattes, homemade sodas, homemade jams, homemade breads, homemade pickles…. basically, whether it’s made with a needle & thread or a pot & wooden spoon, I’m down.

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And see, here’s the deal: I also like homemade Christmas gifts. I like homemade gifts in general, actually; one of my absolute favorite gifts of all time is a Victorian dollhouse cabinet my uncle Pat made for me. He made it 100% from scratch; four floors, five rooms, doors between rooms that open & close, five fireplaces, staircases complete with newel posts & bannisters, clear plexi-glass door on the front with a glass knob, all the furniture included. It’s beautiful and it remains a treasured piece to this day. I miss my uncle dearly, but when I look at that dollhouse I think of how amazing he was & I feel like he’s still here. And the same goes for a lot of objects around here. The holidays can be a bittersweet time- I miss so many people who aren’t here with us anymore, and I’m reminded of them so strongly this time of year. Which is both good & bad, happy & sad.

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Anyway I am definitely not one of those people that turns her nose up at a hand-knit scarf or a pair of crocheted slippers. I love when Yoyo sends me a package of homemade aprons, table runners, etc. I really do adore handmade gifts. I love when people give me things they made for me, and I think most people whom I’ve given homemade items to are thankful in return (perhaps some more than others). That isn’t to say I don’t like store bought gifts. I do. I love them. My KitchenAid mixer (“Lola”), laptop, iPhone & handmixer count among the best gifts I ever received. But a beautiful homemade gift can speak volumes. Time is money, and talent isn’t to be overlooked. If someone thinks highly enough of you to spend their time creating something just for you… then you’re a very lucky person indeed. Last year I gave a variety of homemade jams, jellies & pickles as additional Christmas gifts: candy apple jelly, Amaretto cranberry sauce/Chinese apple-cranberry sauce, vanilla-brandy chestnut jam & gingerbread spice jelly, and some regular ol’ pickles just to name a few. I also gave some individually-sized homemade chocolate chip panettone. To be honest; I did in fact throw in store-bought presents as well, however, so it wasn’t a completely handmade/homemade Christmas.

Why am I writing all this? I’m not really sure. All I know is, I was making some apple-cranberry-ginger preserves (for gift giving!) and it all occurred to me. What with Christmas rapidly coming, and the gift-giving time of year upon us. So I felt the need to get it out, “onto paper” as they say. Or in this case… my blog.

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A LITTLE GINGERY APPLE-CRANBERRY PRESERVES

Makes about 3-4 half-pints

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups peeled & diced apples (I used McIntosh, but any apple on the softer side will do)
  • 2 cups fresh whole cranberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped candied ginger
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (depending on your taste)

Directions:

  1. Sterilize your jars and place your lids in hot water. Set aside, keeping your jars hot.
  2. Add apples, cranberries & water in a large saucepan. Heat them over medium heat, stirring occasionally,  until they’re just warm, then add sugar. Stir until sugar is completely mixed in, then bring to a boil. Cook this way (still stirring every now & then) until cranberries begin to pop.
  3. Add lemon juice, ginger, and allspice. Lower the heat to a simmer, and continue to peek at it and give it a good stir every so often, until the cranberries have softened & broken down & the mixture is a pinkish red.
  4. Continue cooking until mixture is on the thick side. Do not let it get too thick- as it cools, it thickens more. Ladle into hot jars & wipe rims clean. Place lids & bands, and process for 10 minutes in a water bath canner. Let cool, check seal, and proceed to give as gifts!

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This is a really easy recipe that comes together quickly and doesn’t require a lot of hubbub. No extra pectin, no special materials. It gels easily and you’re done before you know it. That’s why it’s so great for giving as gifts! It’s a terrific entry way into canning, too (just read this post before you start).

However- regardless of how “easy” a gift may be: I hope people who receive homemade gifts appreciate the effort and thought that go into them. It’s not like going into Williams-Sonoma & buying a jar of expensive preserves or a box of peppermint bark & wrapping ‘em up; these people are spending valuable time over a stove, stirring a pot. Chopping fruit or vegetables. Lovingly seasoning it to perfection and cooking it (or baking it) into a personalized gift just for you. If you don’t appreciate it, then I hate to say it, but you’re probably really shallow.

And shallow people don’t get jars of delightfully gingery apple-cranberry preserves. At least not from me.

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Here are some great places to get ideas on buying or creating homemade gifts:

And if you create homemade jams or pickles to give as gifts, Well Preserved‘s Pimp That Preserve contest entries from the last two years can give you some excellent ideas on how to decorate those jars to really make an impression, as well as the Facebook album with all the 2011 entries (you don’t need Facebook to view it). It just so happens that I’m a 2011 Pimp That Preserve winner *cough*these are the winning jars*cough* so I might know a thing or two about this.

What do you think? Do you like homemade gifts? Do you prefer to give them or receive them or both?

Historical berries.

American Cranberry, Thomas Meehan, 1870′s

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The cranberry has been an American institution since the 1500′s, when it was first written that the Native Americans used them for dying clothes, making pemmican, and wound care. So we know they’ve been around a long time. But in case you think it’s a modern concept, “cranberry juice” was actually first mentioned in Englishwoman Hannah Woolley’s “The Compleat Cook’s Guide” in 1683. I assume the cranberry became popular in England after the 1660′s when settlers sent King Charles II barrels full of them.

Beyond that, if I can bore you with a little history to further prove the cranberry’s decidedly American roots: A Pilgrim cookbook dated 1663 has a recipe for cranberry sauce! Cranberries were also served at the 1703 Harvard Commencement dinner, and were famous among the likes of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson around 80 years later. A Scottish botanist named William Aiton included an entry for the cranberry in volume II of his 1789 work, Hortus Kewensis. He noted that the Vaccinium macrocarpon (American cranberry) was cultivated by James Gordon in 1760. In 1796, cranberries were served at the first celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims, and Amelia Simmons wrote in her book entitled “American Cookery” (which I have a copy of!) a recipe for cranberry tarts. In 1816, Henry Hall first commercially grew cranberries in East Dennis, Massachusetts on Cape Cod and in 1843, Eli Howes planted his own crop of cranberries on Cape Cod, using the “Howes” variety. In 1847, Cyrus Cahoon planted a crop of “Early Black” variety near Pleasant Lake, Harwich, Massachusetts. In 1860, Edward Watson, a friend of Henry David Thoreau wrote a poem called “The Cranberry Tart.” Cranberries are a major commercial crop in the U.S. states of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, and Wisconsin, which is the leading producer of cranberries, with over half of U.S. production. Massachusetts is the second largest U.S. producer. Naturally, it makes sense that cranberries are so closely aligned with America & American history. However, surprisingly, 95% of the cranberries harvested are used in juice, drinks, sauces and dried. Only the remaining 5% are sold fresh. That really makes you think, doesn’t it? Next time you buy fresh cranberries, I guarantee you’ll think of that statistic.

(Honestly- I do! Every freakin’ time I see fresh cranberries I think, “5% of ALL the cranberries harvested…”)

Anyway, like I said when I made the cranberry orange loaf, this time of year is cranberry season. While October is pumpkin time (for me anyway), November to December is cranberry time. Between now & Christmas, cranberries are all over the place. Every Thanksgiving & Christmas day meal include cranberry sauce of some kind. And since cranberries are one of the main things that just scream “America” & “Thanksgiving,” what would Thanksgiving be without cranberry sauce? Nothing, that’s what.

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It’s no surprise then, that the November issue of Better Homes & Gardens features a recipe for a very interesting cranberry orange compote by the creators of Stonewall Kitchen. The compote specifically intrigued me because it had orange rind, candied ginger, maple syrup & “your choice of nuts”; i.e. pecans, walnuts, etc. It sounded unique, so as soon as I got my power back & restocked my fridge & freezer, I thought I’d give it a go and see if it was worth making for turkey day.

Consensus: it is.

Labels & tags are from Sur la Table

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NEW ENGLAND CRANBERRY ORANGE COMPOTE (by Jonathan King & Jim Stott of Stonewall Kitchen, from Nov. 2012 issue of BHG)

Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup orange rind, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped candied ginger
  • 1 cup walnuts, pecans, or your favorite nut, coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1. Place sugar and 1 1/4 cups water in large saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook about 15 minutes, or until it thickens and turns amber-colored.
  2. Add the maple syrup and cranberries to the sugar mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries begin to pop. Add orange juice, rind and zest (keeping a few thin strips of rind to the side). Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.
  3. Remove from heat. Add ginger and nuts, stirring well. Cool completely. Add to a clean glass jar and cover; refrigerate up to a week, or freeze 6 months.

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Cranberry sauce is one of those brainless things that anyone can make, even if you aren’t a good cook. It takes 5 minutes and basically makes itself. You can make this and bring it to wherever you go for Thanksgiving very easily. I made one large jar, and one 8-ounce jar to give to someone I knew would enjoy it. This recipe is NOT canning-safe. I only put some of it in a canning jar for transport; yes, it sealed (because the compote was hot when I put the lid on), but the recipe itself is not acidic enough for long-term shelf-stable canning. Of course transporting it in one of these hinged jars would’ve been fine too, but they’re much larger than the amount I had left to give, so it would have looked a little skimpy. Plus I didn’t want the possibility of any cranberry leakage in anyone’s vehicle.

But seriously. This is a crazy easy recipe. Definitely a new favorite around here, and maybe a new favorite at your house too?

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Also, please remember, this Thanksgiving in addition to the many poor and/or homeless families already in the area, the hurricane in October left thousands more homeless & without food & clothes. If you can find it in your heart to donate something, there are many places accepting donations. I can give you the address of a church on Staten Island that is accepting donations of everything from non-perishable food to blankets & coats to pet food. You can send it by mail or drop it off if you’re in the area. Alternately, you can just donate to the Red Cross, either text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10.00 via your phone bill, or donate online at redcross.org. You can also send a monetary donation to the New York Police Disaster Relief Fund: 233 Broadway, Suite 1801, NY, 10279. There are also other places you can donate money, supplies and/or clothing/food: Island Harvest, City Harvest, Occupy Sandy, The Bowery Mission, & Faith Community Church. It’s very cold here in New York/New Jersey, & people are hungry. Show your thanks for everything you have by giving to those who don’t have.

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The perfect November pound cake.

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Ah, November. You crept up on me this year. I wasn’t expecting you so soon! It seems like literally yesterday I was posting on the first day of October. And I’m still in Halloween-mode, to be honest. Mainly because I feel like there was no Halloween. Hurricane Sandy came & that was that. I just got power back last night- I had been without power since Monday night! But the calendar doesn’t care what I’m thinking, does it? No it doesn’t. Nor does Mother Nature. If you can spare a few bucks, or some pocket change, please donate to the Red Cross & help those affected by Hurricane Sandy. I’m lucky to have power, food & a house. Not everyone is. Please help feed, clothe and shelter your fellow human being in need.

I’ve mentioned before that when you’ve got a food blog, or you just bake often, you get a lot of requests. My dad always wants lasagna or blueberry cake/pie/cupcakes, Jay always wants beer bread, maple cookies or applesauce cake (even in the middle of summer), my aunt wants strawberry jam, etc, etc, etc. The list goes on. And my mother…. well, my mother usually has an entire list of things. I’m forever getting e-mails from her that contain recipes, or recipe ideas. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s just outright- “Hey, make this for me?” And that means that a good percentage of the time, I’m making things I don’t really like or I wouldn’t eat. Which is fine by me. Not only does it give me more blogging material, it spices things up a bit. Who wants to make the same vanilla cupcakes over & over?

So when I’m presented with an opportunity to use cranberries & orange in something, I jump at it. It’s November, guys. It’s cranberry time.

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This is all Entenmann’s fault. When I was a kid growing up, Entenmann’s baked goods were the bomb dot com. Everyone- I mean everyone- had an Entenmann’s cake or box of donuts in their kitchen. The glazed Pop’Ems, the marshmallow iced devil’s food cake, the Holiday butter cookies, the French all butter crumb cake…

Entenmann’s is a company that is over 100 years old and originated in New York. In the 1800s, William Entenmann immigrated to New York in the United States of America. William learned the trade of baking from his father in Stuttgart, Germany, and used his acquired skills to work in a bakery in the United States, eventually opening his own bakery in 1898 on Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn.[1] Later, William moved his bakery to Bay Shore, Long Island. Home-delivery was a substantial part of the bakery that William owned, eventually turning into 30 home delivery routes by the time his son, William Jr., took over the bakery.[1] While William Jr. headed the bakery, it flourished; Frank Sinatra was a weekly customer.[1]

William Jr. died in 1951 leaving the bakery to his wife Martha and their sons, Robert, Charles and William. The family decided to phase out bread, focus on pastries and cakes, and start supplying grocery stores as opposed to home delivering. In 1959 the Entenmann family invented the “see-through” cake box that is used by many today.[2] In 1961, the business grew, with new bakeries and factories in Bay Shore, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Plans to expand nationally stalled in 1970. Entenmann’s Bakery, with the assistance of new product consultants at Calle & Company reformulated heavier New England style baked goods into lighter offerings more suitable for hotter, more humid test markets such as Miami, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. Entenmann’s successful national expansion quickly followed suit. In 1972, Entenmann’s started to sell chocolate chip cookies and has since sold more than 620 million cookies.[2] Since its first opening in 1898, Entenmann’s has been selling “all butter loaf cake” and sold more than 700 million to date.

The pharmaceutical company Warner-Lambert purchased Entenmann’s in 1978 and sold it to General Foods in 1982. General Foods merged with Kraft in 1990. Kraft sold its bakery business to CPC International (later Bestfoods). Bestfoods was purchased by Unilever in 2000, which sold its baking division to George Weston, a Canadian baked goods and supermarket business, the next year. Weston sold its United States interests including Entemann’s in 2008 to Mexican conglomerate Grupo Bimbo. Other Bimbo Bakeries USA holdings include companies such as Thomas’, Brownberry, Boboli, Arnold, Oroweat, Freihofer’s, and Stroehmann.[3]

-Wikipedia

A couple of weeks ago, I was food shopping with my mother. She had hurt her ankle, & was limping along with my assistance. She spotted the Entenmann’s display and made a beeline for it. My mom is a big fan of anything sweet; baked goods, cookies, candy, candy bars, etc. So she saw the display, and immediately zoned in on the seasonal Cranberry Orange loaf. She picked it up and I said, “No, ma, really. Come on. I can make that for you.” She initially resisted a bit, there were a few longing looks (and I think she might have said, “Are you sure?”… what is THAT about!?), but then she gave in. There is no bigger insult to someone like me than a family member buying a supermarket cake or box of cookies. At least buy stuff from a bakery. Just please don’t buy the styrofoam cupcakes that Costco sells. I’d permit Entenmann’s… in certain dire circumstances… but seriously… I bake ALL THE TIME. How are you gonna be in the supermarket with me & pick up BOXED CAKE. No. No, no, no.

I know she really wanted that cake. But mom, why buy it when I can make it for you!? And… uh… make it better.

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‘Cause see, the Entenmann’s cake might be scrumptious. But it doesn’t come with an orange butter rum sauce on top, which mine does.

And just so you know- that brown Kraft paper makes things a hell of a lot easier to clean up. Especially when you’re using a messy sauce or glaze & want to take photos (or maybe if you have kids… *cough*). I highly recommend it. Plus it’s great not only as a “tablecloth”, but as wrapping paper. A gift wrapped with Kraft paper, twine & some dehydrated citrus slices is rustically beautiful. Even to give this loaf as a gift, it’s a great wrapping idea. Okay, sorry- back to the cake!

CRANBERRY ORANGE LOAF CAKE

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2-3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries*

Directions:

  1. Butter and flour a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan, set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla, orange juice and orange peel. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Fold in cranberries.
  3. Pour into the greased pan. Bake at 350° for 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Spoon orange butter rum sauce (if desired) over the top. Wait 3-5 minutes for it to set, then serve.
*You could use fresh cranberries too (& you can also toss in some walnuts, or even unsalted shelled pistachios, if you like)

;

ORANGE BUTTER RUM SAUCE

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Add the orange juice, flour, sugar and heavy cream to a medium saucepan. Cook (constantly stirring) on medium heat until combined, then add the butter.
  2. Stir until the butter is melted, combined, and the mixture is thickened. Add the rum. Continue cooking until thick & smooth. Stir it constantly while it cooks, or it’ll scorch & burn.
  3. Remove from heat, and let sit 5 minutes.
  4. Spoon over pound cake.

The butter rum sauce isn’t terribly attractive on it’s own, but it tastes spectacular. Especially on the cake.

;

The cake is moist & delicious, not too much cake-y, not too much bread-y. Just perfectly in the middle of a pound cake & loaf cake. Just as good in the morning as it is at night.

And here’s a little tip. If you’re making this for a large crowd, you can double the recipe and make it in one 10″ tube pan, or just double it and make two 9″ loaf pans. The same goes for most pound or loaf cakes, or even regular cakes, actually. Here’s a conversion table for pan sizes. And most cupcake recipes that make 2 dozen will also make two 9″ cake layers. Same goes for the reverse: if you find a recipe that calls for a bundt pan or tube pan and you only want to make a small cake, then you can usually halve it (or in some cases maybe quarter it), and most layer cake recipes will convert into 2 dozen cupcakes (sometimes a little more). This particular recipe would definitely be amazing doubled and made in a 10″ pan, a great Thanksgiving dessert. But this way, it’d make a great Thanksgiving breakfast. Keep the sauce on the side if you want, that way people who aren’t into rum sauce for breakfast can avoid it. But seriously? It’s a holiday. You can so have rum sauce with breakfast!

And before I go, just a reminder. Make sure that all you U.S. citizens who are registered to vote get your asses to the polls on Tuesday! It’s important, and it’s something we’re privileged to be able to do. I really don’t care who you vote for… just vote. And if you aren’t registered: for shame. But consider this a kick in the booty to register for next time. And I know it’s going to be hard for those displaced by Sandy, but there are still places for you to vote. Pass this info & this info on if you know someone affected by this tragedy, please. The election will NOT be postponed because of the hurricane, so we need to get out there & get people voting.

;

Snackle Mouth part 2: frozen yogurt parfaits.


Remember my Snackle Mouth post from a few days ago?

I was so excited to use it to bake something, and I did (coffee cake), and it was glorious. But if I’m being 100% honest- that wasn’t my first idea.


See my first idea was to make some homemade frozen yogurt and top it with some Snackle Mouth granola nut clusters and some homemade conserves I made. You might remember them, one is cherry, cranberry, dark chocolate & almond and one is fig, plum and walnut. Kind of like “build your own ice cream sundae” time except more like “build your own healthier version of an ice cream sundae by using frozen yogurt” time. It’s also reminiscent of those famous fast food fruit/nut yogurt parfaits, except much healthier & homemade, obviously.


I wanted to do that because the Snackle Mouth arrived on a really hot day, and it was way too hot for me to face an oven. So I figured I’d use it to make yogurt parfaits. But then the weather changed, it got very cool and rainy, perfect baking weather. And so I decided to make the coffee cake first. However, it soon got pretty damn warm again, and frozen yogurt parfaits were back on the menu.

First things first… the fro-yo. I used a tried and true David Lebovitz recipe I’ve made before in my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment. It’s easy, delicious, and quick. Then, once that was made & ready, I put it in some Ball jars, alternating with some Snackle Mouth granola, and topped it off with some conserves. It was pretty awesome. We loved it. The most popular combination? The yogurt topped with the double C dark chocolate almond conserves and the peanut cranberry Snackle Mouth. Needless to say it was a success.


FROZEN YOGURT

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (24 ounces) strained yogurt (see below) or Greek-style yogurt *
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Directions:

  1. Mix together the yogurt, sugar, and vanilla (if using). Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Refrigerate 1 hour.
  2. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions (for mine, it’s just 20-30 minutes in the bowl being mixed by the “dasher”). For a firmer set, freeze for 20-30 minutes before serving.
  3. If you aren’t using Greek yogurt, you have to strain regular plain yogurt. To make 1 cup of strained yogurt, line a mesh strainer with a few layers of cheese cloth. then scrape 16 ounces or 2 cups of plain whole-milk yogurt into the cheesecloth. Gather the ends and fold them over the yogurt, then refrigerate for at least 6 hours. For the above recipe you’ll need to start with and strain 6 cups of yogurt.

I used Greek-style yogurt, I didn’t feel like going through the pain of straining regular yogurt. I also opted to use the vanilla, but that’s 100% optional. You can also add fresh fruits to the yogurt itself, if you wish, or add some jam or preserves or even lemon curd to it as it’s being mixed. I’m sure you could experiment by making all kinds of different flavored fro-yo if you want. And you can also use the granola with fresh fruit instead of conserves or preserved fruit.

...

The coolest thing about making yogurt parfaits in a jar is that if you don’t finish it, you can put the lid on and pop it in the freezer, and it’ll keep it’s fresh taste. Is there no end to how cool Mason jars are? Methinks not. I even used them to store the granola once I opened the packages so it would stay fresh.

Again, I tell you: go get yourself some Snackle Mouth. It isn’t available in stores (yet!) but you can get it at Abe’s Market.


OH! And Cupcake Rehab now is now print friendly! You asked for it, you got it. Directly below this, you’ll see a little printer icon and the words “Print Friendly.” Click on those and you’ll be brought to a printer friendly version of this post. Perfect for printing the recipes! There are plenty of options, i.e. print with photos or without, and it’s very easy to use, so get on it. Print out your favorite recipes from Cupcake Rehab with a few clicks! Now you can share this on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, Pinterest and you can print it, too. Do I give you options or what?

My new favorite thing: Snackle Mouth!

A few weeks ago, my friend & fellow blogger Xenia told me about Snackle Mouth. I had seen the pictures of it on her blog, and read her reviews of it, and I was intrigued. First off, I loved the packaging. Coolest granola packaging ever, for sure. And anytime you have bacon in anything, you win me over. So the fact they make a Bacon Maple granola? Insane. In a good way.

Snackle Mouth is a brand spankin’ new company:

Snackle Mouth® was given wings by one of the Founder’s, John Raptis. “Rapits” (his call name by virtue of the fact that there are 3 guys named “John” in the business) was really the main man. As a reformed real estate developer, he crafted a healthy, tasty, and simple granola nut snack with a high degree of clumpability. We define clumpability like so: a phenomenal flavor cluster, embodying superior taste, and made from the most simple natural and organic ingredients on the planet.

Raptis hit the lab to produce a snack with those basic snack components in mind. From his own kitchen he watched his son and friends constantly forage for food and he developed a recipe to make a snack that Moms would approve of for their children, thus, Snackle Mouth® was born.

So they may be new, but they’re pretty awesome, and they’ve got a lot going for them:

  • Combine All Natural and Organic Ingredients
  • Mix in the Best Nuts We Could Find
  • NO Refined Sugar, NO Trans-Fats, Low Glycemic
  • Cool new name, Snackle Mouth®
  • Most Fun Package Design on the Planet
  • End Result, Great Tasting Granola Nut Clusters

They’re made with naturally yummy things like fruit juice, organic dried fruit & nuts, brown rice syrup, oat bran and organic blue agave. So when James from Snackle Mouth offered to send me these goodies… you can imagine how excited I was. And am. I received a box with three varieties: the almond pecan maple, the almond berry and the peanut cranberry. See, I wasn’t lying about the awesome packaging.

After sampling each kind, I knew what I’d do first. It was really warm and kind of sticky out, so I decided to wait for a slightly cooler day to make something really awesome. In the meantime, I continued sampling.

But really… I wanted more than to just snack on it. I wanted a unique Snackle Mouth creation. So on a slightly cooler, much more overcast day, I came up with this.


And this, my friends is the pièce de résistance: a granola nut coffee cake- it’s the same principle as a coffee cake with a streusel crumb on top, except in my version there’s no streusel, just granola nut clusters. To be precise, Snackle Mouth Almond Pecan Maple granola nut clusters. Genius, right? I thought so. Except it was a little too dark. The inside stayed very moist and delicious, but the granola got a bit too caramelized. Which might have been a nice effect, especially had I been using the Bacon Maple granola. But I wasn’t, and I wanted something a little lighter and more… summery?

And it was good, trust me. Like I said, the first time the top did get a little dark, meaning the granola got a little dark too, but it didn’t deter anyone from eating it. It was still quite delicious nonetheless, and it was all gobbled up (pretty damn fast actually). But I went back to the drawing board, being the perfectionist that I am, & I came up with a revamped & better version. And that version used Almond Berry Snackle Mouth as the topping, and a cup of fresh blueberries were added into the batter before baking. It paired excellently with the berry variety of Snackle Mouth, since it’s made with blueberry juice. I made that for my father for Father’s Day (he’s a blueberry freak) and talk about a huge hit! He seriously loved it. On this one, I also smashed the granola with a hammer before using it for the topping. It came out much better, since it was in smaller pieces, obviously. You live, you learn. I had never made a coffee cake with a granola nut topping before!

So the first version was just an experiment. But the second version? Ohhh, the second version… it came out fantastical.

And now you get to reap the benefits of my trials & tribulations. Here’s the recipe for the best coffee cake ever.

BLUEBERRY COFFEE CAKE WITH ALMOND BERRY SNACKLE MOUTH GRANOLA NUT “STREUSEL”

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus two tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries (or the berry of your choice)
  • 1 box Almond Berry Snackle Mouth granola nut clusters (or the flavor of your choice)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300° F and grease an 8″-inch square baking pan. Smash the granola with a hammer until it breaks into slightly smaller pieces. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugars together until fluffy. Add egg, and beat until combined. Add vanilla extract to the milk in a glass measuring cup and alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the creamed butter mixture three times, starting with and ending with the flour.
  3. Mix the berries in gently, until thoroughly combined.
  4. Spread batter into prepared baking pan. Smooth it as evenly as possible, tapping the pan on the counter a few times if necessary. Sprinkle the granola on top, until the cake is pretty well covered.
  5. Bake 50-70 minutes (depending on your oven and what kind of pan you use: glass or metal), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool. Serve while slightly warm or at room temperature.


Perfection. My mother pronounced it the best coffee cake she ever had, and said it reminded her of one she used to eat as a child.

If you’re more health-conscious, try it using whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour). You could also use an agave sweetener instead of sugar, or applesauce instead of the egg. There’s tons of room to mess around with this recipe. Not to mention that if you use the Peanut Cranberry Snackle Mouth, you can use a cup of fresh cranberries in the batter, and it’d be absolutely amazing. 100% adaptable to any combination. The cake is baked at a lower temperature in a very slow oven to keep the granola in good shape; it’ll start to burn long before the cake is done, otherwise. And burnt granola isn’t what you want. If you aren’t using the granola, if you’re using regular streusel or making it plain, you could bake it at 350° F for 35-40 minutes with no problem. And I have to say, this is a really unique way to do a streusel without the hassle of making a streusel. Especially if you’re like me & your streusel-making is hit or miss. It’s fail proof and delicious, and it travels well. Great for picnics or to bring somewhere for a party or cook-out.

It’s very moist, with a perfect crumb… but it’s also a very dense cake; so just be aware that if you think you can eat that big slice, you probably can’t.

Trust me. I could barely get through one normal sized slice!


This isn’t the last you’ll see of Snackle Mouth around here. That’s all I’m sayin’… just keep your eyes peeled, if you catch my drift.

Thank you, Snackle Mouth, for letting me play with your food! Now everybody go buy some. You won’t be sorry. And of course, let’s not forget social media! Follow @SnackleMouth on Twitter and become a Snackle Mouth fan on Facebook, too!

“Double C” dark chocolate-almond conserves. And stuff.

I realized the other day that I never posted a photo of my new ‘do. Not sure how many of you care, really, but there might be another freak like me out there who’s interested in what a blogger’s hair looks like. It’s blonde now! Well the “long” part is. The “shaved” part is still my natural color, brown. After almost 2 full years of having not only the same hair color but my natural color, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I needed a change.

Stunning, I know.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. And speaking of what I’ve been up to, this is what I did on Superbowl Sunday.

Well, this & go to Trader Joe’s. I love Trader Joe’s. It’s a magical fairy land of fun & exciting things to eat & drink & I love it. Football? Not so much.

But anyway… those are cranberry, cherry dark chocolate-almond conserves. It’s a mouthful, I know (pun intended). But how else can I describe something made with dried cranberry, fresh cranberry, dried tart cherries, honey, sugar, lemon juice, sliced almonds & dark chocolate cocoa powder? It’s just naturally a long-winded item. But honestly, doesn’t it sound good? Yeah, I know it does. And it makes a fantasmagorical ice cream topping, rice pudding topping, a fancy oatmeal topping or even great just out of the jar with a spoon. Ooh, or on those mini-coffee cakes! Here it is on some Chobani vanilla Greek yogurt.

But what exactly is a conserve?

A conserve, or whole fruit jam,[5] is a jam made of fruit stewed in sugar.

Often the making of conserves can be trickier than making a standard jam, because the balance between cooking, or sometimes steeping in the hot sugar mixture for just enough time to allow the flavor to be extracted from the fruit,[6] and sugar to penetrate the fruit, and cooking too long that fruit will break down and liquefy. This process can also be achieved by spreading the dry sugar over raw fruit in layers, and leaving for several hours to steep into the fruit, then just heating the resulting mixture only to bring to the setting point.[5][7] As a result of this minimal cooking, some fruits are not particularly suitable for making into conserves, because they require cooking for longer periods to avoid issues such as tough skins.[6] Currants and gooseberries, and a number of plums are among these fruits.

Because of this shorter cooking period, not as much pectin will be released from the fruit, and as such, conserves (particularly home-made conserves) will sometimes be slightly softer set than some jams.[7]

An alternate definition holds that conserves are preserves made from a mixture of fruits and/or vegetables. Conserves may also include dried fruit or nuts.[8]

I like to think of it as preserves, but with nuts. That may not be scientifically accurate, but it does the job just fine when explaining it.

“DOUBLE C” (CHERRY & CRANBERRY) DARK CHOCOLATE-ALMOND CONSERVES

Makes around 5 4-oz. jars

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces tart dried cherries
  • 5 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 5 ounces dried sweetened cranberries
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 4 tablespoons unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sliced almonds

Directions:

  1. Sterilize jars & lids. Keep jars hot.
  2. Put cranberries & cherries in a saucepan & add water, sugar, honey & lemon juice. Heat on low, stirring, until sugar & lemon juice is dissolved. Add almonds & continue to cook, stirring occasionally until combined.
  3. Raise heat to medium-high and keep stirring to prevent scorching, until mixture thickens, fresh cranberries have popped open completely & dried fruits seem to be rehydrated.
  4. Add cocoa powder and continue cooking until mixture is thickened. Ladle into hot jars, leaving ½”-inch headspace. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner. Let cool, then check for seal.

You might notice when I’m canning I always have my jars on a towel. That’s because you should never put hot jars directly on a countertop or table; the change in temperature could cause the glass to shatter or crack, even slight cracks. And actually the worst can be really bad weakening of the glass which can cause future cracking or cracking during processing. The towel absorbs the shock better, and is of a more even temperature. Most countertops (like granite) & tables are much cooler than the jars, which is no good. So always have a tea towel or dish towel on your counter or surface for the jars to sit on (especially once they’re removed from the water-bath).

There are many other “canning basics” I’ve never gone into because, well, I’m not a master preserver. Nor is this a specifically canning-oriented blog. It’s mostly about baking; but yes I dabble in canning & also post stuff about cooking, etc. But I thought that maybe for some of you, this is the closest you get to reading a canning blog, so maybe I ought to give you a little background on water-bath canning basics. Water-bath canning is the most popular form of canning pickles, jams, jellies & both high-sugar/high-acidity food products at home. There are a lot of things you shouldn’t can this way, and that you need a pressure canner for, i.e. potatoes, beef/chicken/meats, stews, etc.  But since that’s out of my realm of expertise I’m going to stick to high-sugar/high-acid water-bath canning rules. Just bare bones, mind you. I can’t possibly go into temperatures & acidity & all that. I don’t have that kind of time, yo. For that I ask you travel on over here. But before that you can read these just to get an idea of what goes into a simple water-bath process, and maybe see if this is something you’re into.

  1. You must use canning jars if you want to “preserve” the food; meaning, if you’re making a jam & you’re going to put it in the fridge & eat it now, you can use a Tupperware or old spaghetti sauce jar no problem. If you want a shelf-stable product, you MUST use a jar specifically made for canning. Ball® & Kerr® are the most popular & cost-effective, Walmart sells some of their own brand too I believe, and for you fancy-pants out there, there’s Weck. Canning jars are specifically made to create a vacuum seal & can’t be substituted safely with anything else.
  2. You must have a deep pot. A lobster pot is what I use, but if you’re only planning on using tiny 4-oz. jars or the more shallow Collection Elite® 8-oz. jars (seen in the above photo of the conserves- it’s the large mouth jar to the right), then a deep pasta pot might work for you. Just remember: there must be one to two inches of water over the tops of the jars when they’re in the water. This is a must. You can’t just use a tiny little shallow pot that barely covers your jars.
  3. You must either have a canning rack or devise another method of keeping the jars off the bottom of the pot. Some people use dish towels folded up, some use a bunch of lid rings tied together, whatever. Buy it, steal it, DIY it if you want. Whatever works for you. Find a method that you like (or can afford) and go with it. As long as it keeps the jars from touching the bottom of the pot- you’re good. I like my plastic canning rack, but I don’t do large batch canning so it works for me.
  4. You need tongs with rubber or jar lifters. This may seem like it’s obvious, but I didn’t get any at first and then, when making my first batch of pickles I realized, “Holy shit these jars are fucking hot!” This isn’t an essential, meaning your jars won’t be ruined or inedible without it, but it certainly makes life easier. Who likes third degree burns? Not me.
  5. You need a candy thermometer. This isn’t really a must, necessarily, but I find it makes life a hell of a lot easier, specifically if you’re venturing into jellies & you especially need to know when it reaches that oh-so-important 220° F degrees. Because otherwise, you’ll end up with candy. Or syrup. Jams are more forgiving, as are preserves, but marmalades & jellies, at least I find, require a thermometer. The freezer test or frozen plate test isn’t reliable enough for me. You do not need this for making pickles or Giardiniere.
  6. You must have patience. Canning isn’t necessarily an instant-gratification process. You have to wait for things to set (you haven’t lived until you’ve waited a week for jelly to set, thinking the entire time those five jars might have been a waste of time, money & sweat), you have to wait for pickles to pickle, you have to wait for things to “gel” & cook, and you have to take the time to be careful about each process. At the same time, you must enjoy it. If not- don’t do it.
  7. Different things belong in different jars. Pickles (usually) go in pint or larger size jars. Jams & jellies usually go in half-pint or smaller. Yes, you can put bread & butter pickle slices in an 8-oz. jar & you can definitely put marmalade or jelly in a 16-oz. jar, but just remember: once you (or whoever you give it to) opens that jelly or jam, that’s A LOT to eat. You might end up forgetting it’s in the fridge & wasting it. I prefer smaller jars for the sweet stuff and larger jars for pickles or pickled veggies which not only are eaten more often, but last longer in the fridge. So think about that before you start & be prepared. The exception: peaches or fruit slices in syrup. For that, I’d use large jars.

Now keep in mind there is more that goes into it. Those are just the super basic basic basics of what you need to get started. I suggest you read the USDA’s website, get yourself the Ball® Blue Book Guide to Preserving & the Better Homes & Gardens book, You Can Can!; then thoroughly read through them. Between all of those things you’ll get an idea of the safety basics, must-haves & preparation, then I encourage you to peruse some sites like Hungry Tigress, Food in Jars & Punk Domestics to get an idea of what the possibilities are & what you can do. Then decide if it’s for you. It is not difficult, it’s not brain surgery, but there are definitely things you need to know before you start so you can do it safely.

Before you know it, you’ll be canning your brains out. Which sounds way dirtier than it really is.

Pretty pink jelly & a Valentine’s Day giveaway!

What an interesting song to come on randomly as I was typing this post. Because I do. I like food. I like making it, I like eating it, I like talking about it. Me & Jay have long conversations about food sometimes. Planning meals; either making them or eating them out someplace. I just enjoy it. We both do; I was lucky enough to find someone who gets as excited over it as I do. And furthermore… I like creating it. I like making something from something else- that’s probably the artist in me talking, but making a totally different “thing” out of a lot of random things is amazing. Like how using a mess of powders & liquids to make a cake is insane, when you think about it. Or using lemon juice, sugar & pectin to make jelly. The chemistry & artistry of cooking/baking is what gets me, I think. Oh, and eating. Eating too.

Remember back a few weeks ago, when I got all those Meyer lemons? They looked a little something like this:

If not, I suggest you refresh your memory. For the rest of you… well, back when I was going ‘Meyer lemon looney’ I also made some other things not included in that post. Specifically something pink. Pink jelly. Pink-colored Meyer lemon-cranberry jelly, actually. I can’t help it. I like pink… and I had to use up all those lemons, not to mention a half-bag of cranberries in my fridge!

It’s actually just a Meyer lemon jelly, but it turns a pinkish-red when you add cranberries. Also, the cranberries kind of get suspended in it. So it’s very cute. And perfect for the upcoming month of pink & red. Ah, but we aren’t up to that yet, are we? Nope. But… there is a special giveaway happening in this post that pertains to pink & Valentine’s Day. What kind of giveaway? Well it just so happens to be for a handmade table runner! Yes, me & Yoyo from topstitch.org are doing a giveaway for a 100% homemade, handmade Valentine’s Day table-runner! If you remember the one she made me for Christmas, then you know it was super adorable & made a perfect showcase for my table decorations. Well this one is just as cute, if not cuter! Look:

Even if you don’t like Valentine’s Day, how can you not like that? It’s pink! And red! And it has hearts! So… what do you have to do to win? Stay tuned, keep reading. The details are at the end of this post. Jelly first, people! Jelly first!

Funny thing is, long after after I made this but before I wrote up this post, the Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking blog posted a recipe for the same jelly! Except hers doesn’t have whole berries. Great minds think alike; or maybe the cliche I should use is that there is nothing new in the world? Either way, that’s another idea of executing the same basic concept. People ask me why I bother canning, well this is a perfect example. Have you ever seen Meyer lemon-cranberry jelly for sale in stores? No? Yeah me neither. Have you ever seen green coriander pickles for sale? Nope. How about candy apple jelly, have you ever seen that at Stop & Shop? Or gingerbread spice jelly? Nah, me neither. I rest my case. Although really, it goes beyond all that. There are tons of factors. The least of which being that it’s fun & enjoyable, and also much less wasteful. I mean, I got a ton of lemons from Molly & instead of letting them go bad by just letting them sit in a bowl looking pretty, I gave each lemon a new life: lemon curd, candied lemon peel, lemon cookies, and this jelly.

MEYER LEMON-CRANBERRY JELLY

Makes about 5 half-pints

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Meyer lemon juice (it took me about 9-10 lemons, they were on the small side)
  • 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice (for an acid boost)
  • 3 ½ cups white sugar
  • 1 ½ cups whole fresh cranberries
  • 1.25 ounces Certo liquid pectin (about ¾ of a pouch)

Directions:

  1. Juice the lemons and combine in a pan with bottled lemon juice and sugar. Bring to a boil for 1 minute.
  2. Remove the foam on the top of the mixture and add cranberries. Cook until the cranberries “pop”, being careful not to get burned by any liquid sugar, then add the pectin. Bring back to a boil. Remove from heat.
  3. Pour it into sterilized jars placed on a clean tea towel, wipe rims and place lids. The berries will probably all settle at the top, but that’s okay- don’t worry. Screw on the covers and turn upside down for 5 minutes. Turn the jars back over right side-up and allow to cool completely. After 12-24 hours make sure that the lids are sealed. Any jars not sealed, refrigerate & use immediately.

Because of all the acid, you don’t need to do a water bath for this recipe. Just be sure your jars & lids are fully sanitized. You will get some bubbles in there, just because of the addition of the floating berries & the flipping of the jars, but don’t worry. As long as your seals are good, you’re okay. If you feel as though you need to process it, then go right ahead. Just be sure to not over process it, because over-processing of jellies can cause them to darken and can make it soften so it won’t hold it’s shape and, well, it essentially can cease to be “jelly.” One thing to note: Meyer lemons are less tart than regular lemons. If you don’t have access to Meyer’s you can use regular lemons, but you will have to up the sugar amount slightly, maybe a half cup.

Oh- also, don’t overcook this jelly! Well, I mean, don’t overcook any jelly, but especially this one. You might be tempted to, but don’t. Between the lemon juice, packaged pectin & the pectin in the cranberries you’ll end up with a rock in a jar if you do. Seriously. You’ll end up with something similar to candy.

I say it makes 5 half-pints, but I didn’t use all half-pints. I actually used a mish-mosh of jars I had around: one 8oz. quilted jar, two 4oz. quilted jelly jars (regular mouth), one 8oz. Collection Elite jar & two 8oz. Kerr wide mouth jars. I just love those Kerr wide mouth 8oz. jars. I can only find them at one Ace Hardware store near me, why are they so rare? Anyway, this would probably be excellent on scones- especially a cranberry orange scone. Although I bet it’d compliment honey oat scones well, too. We had it with roast chicken & it was pretty spectacular, so keep in mind the savory option, particularly with poultry. But hey, anything is good on regular ol’ toast too, right?

And as per usual, I had to come up with a cute way to label them.

So in case you’re wondering, this wasn’t even the last of the Meyer lemons! I still had some left. There was much lemon pound cake, lemon cupcakes, lemonade, lemon water, dehydrated lemon slices & preserved lemons in my life. At least we know I won’t be getting scurvy anytime soon.

Okay… so now you’re wondering, how do I get your hands on that table runner? Easy. Go comment on this post at Topstitch.org. Yoyo will pick a winner via random.org on January 31st. So you have until then to enter… so go enter! Me & Yoyo will be doing this A LOT more this year, we’re gonna try to do 13 giveaways in 2012. So don’t hesitate to follow me & Yoyo on Twitter or become a Facebook fan of Cupcake Rehab to find out when the next giveaway will be.