Category: cranberry

Christmas jam, Amish style.

We’re getting so close to Christmas! Have you gotten all of your shopping done yet? Do you know what you’re giving every single person? If not, I have a suggestion- Amish Christmas jam.

Amish Christmas jam!

Before I say anything else, let me say this: this jam, when cooking, smells like the realistic, better, fresher version of a Christmas candle. You know, those candles that are called, like, “Home for the Holidays” or “Christmas berry wreath.” The scent of sweetness, cranberry, orange, and cinnamon… mixed with something else. Something sweet, juicy and berry-like. You know what that is?

Strawberry.

Yep. Strawberry. Wait, what’s that? Everyone’s favorite spring berry, making an appearance in this Christmas jam? Yes! And you wouldn’t believe how good it smells!

There are a lot of variations of Amish Christmas jam. Some have raspberries and blackberries with cranberries. Some have strawberries, like this one. Some even have pineapple or regular apples. I don’t know the origins of it, or if it’s really an Amish thing (I mean, beyond the fact it’s always being sold at Amish country gift shops), but it certainly is delicious.

Amish Christmas jam.

This particular recipe is low-sugar. The entire thing only requires 2 cups of it! Most Amish Christmas jam recipes require twice as much (or more). In this recipe, the fruit itself takes center stage. However, because it’s low-sugar, it uses Pomona’s Pectin, which is a two-step pectin specifically used in low/no-sugar canning recipes that can be intimidating to some people. Don’t be intimidated! It’s very, very easy.

And I would even venture to say a canning newbie could make this recipe very easily.

Amish Christmas jam.

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Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with brandy icing and sugared cranberries.

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

So, hey guys… I made some mini-bundt gingerbread cakes. Cutest little things. And add to them some cute little sparkly sugared cranberries. Ugh. Forget it. Are visions of sugarplums- or sugared cranberries- dancing in your head? It’s Christmastime, folks! I know! So exciting. It’s such a busy time of year, I know, but I hope you all take some time to spend with your families and friends. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget that not only are we all human- but what’s important.

Beautiful things don’t always have to be complicated. Simple is beautiful too. And I promise you that these little mini gingerbread bundts are simple. Don’t be scared by the sugared cranberries!

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

Gingerbread is so Christmas, it’s practically mandatory. If you let a holiday season go by without making gingerbread, it’s almost sacrilegious. I decided to up the ante and add another holiday favorite: cranberries. And let’s not forget brandy, another holiday staple.

So yeah. Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes. They’re so beautiful… and also just plain adorable. But SIMPLE. Just a few ingredients, a little bit of mixing and tossing and whisking and voila. Gorgeous little cakes to serve after a holiday meal. And they’ll make you feel all Martha Stewart-y.

Mini-bundt gingerbread cakes with sugared cranberries.

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Cranberry walnut corn muffins.

It’s December already. Can you believe it? Time really flew by this year, it seems. Every year seems to go by faster and faster, actually, the older I get. It really seems just like yesterday I was gardeningcanning peaches. And now Thanksgiving is over and we’re sprinting toward a new year. I can’t believe my Christmas tree will be up by the end of next week!

Cranberry walnut corn muffins.

The day I first made these was the day after the horrific Paris restaurant & nightclub attacks, back in November. I felt like I needed to bake something, as I usually do when bad things happen. As someone whose husband has been in Paris (and all over Europe), performing in nightclubs and bars similar to Bataclan many times… it’s even harder. I can put myself in that situation very easily. I know what it’s like to know someone you love is many miles away and you’re waiting for the call when the show is over. For some, that call didn’t come.  These bad things seemingly happen a lot in today’s world- and for me, when they do, it’s comforting to come into my little kitchen and make something warm and delicious.

And you know how it is- you have like, three random ingredients you need to use, and you want to moosh ’em all together and make something. So that’s how these were born. I found a recipe I liked, and added walnuts to it. These are basically a one-bowl wonder.

They’re also kind of a go-between of sweet and savory, tart and sweet. Great warm with butter and just as great as a side to a meal. They do make a wonderful breakfast, too, though.

Cranberry walnut corn muffins.

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Apple-cranberry pie.

(This was originally written for a contributor post on eighteen25, go take a look and see! And look for more posts by me over there soon.)

Apples for apple-cranberry pie.

Peeling apples for apple-cranberry pie.

As a food blogger and someone who just loves to eat in general, there are a few things I hear from people a lot. One is usually something like “How do you stay so skinny?” Now in my mind I am far from skinny, but also do people assume I eat every single thing I make in it’s entirety? And two, which really bothers me: “I don’t have time to do all that!”

Yes, yes you do.

Apple-cranberry pie; like apple pie with cranberry sauce!

I’m busy too. Trust me. I have a lot going on in my life. But it’s a matter of priority. Some people will always choose to drive through a fast food restaurant, others will make homemade hamburgers. That’s just the way it is. Some people won’t ever try to do it, so they won’t realize how it really doesn’t take 6 hours and it isn’t all that difficult. However, if I want something, I want to make sure its the best it can be. Sometimes, yes, I use shortcuts like frozen pie crust, and that’s okay. That is TOTALLY OKAY. But Jay can sniff out a frozen crust from a mile away- and he prefers homemade. So if I know I’m making a pie ahead of time (and not at 3 a.m. when I can’t sleep), I try to put aside extra time to make a homemade pie crust. Especially if it’s for a holiday dinner.

This pie was new for me, and I wanted to share it with you because it’s a great Thanksgiving pie. And Christmas pie, too, really. It’s like cranberry sauce and apple pie rolled into one. It’s dessert and a side dish. It’s totally unexpected. And it’s also adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, which I happen to trust immensely when it comes to recipes.

Apple-cranberry pie.

I hope you’ll try it this year for the holidays. Maybe you’ll come to love it so much, you’ll never buy a frozen crust or store-bought pie ever again. And yes… I continue my tradition of being horrible at folding pie crust.

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Orange rind & apple brandy cranberry sauce, and a remembrance of things past.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

When I think of past Thanksgivings, there’s a blur in my mind. Particularly the childhood ones. I do remember some very clearly- like the year I was probably around 7, and I was making paper dolls on the living room floor after watching the parade. Or the year directly after that when I was creating some kind of model of Plimoth Plantation (purchased the previous summer while on vacation at Plimoth, obviously). Or the year I was about 14 and after dinner, we left the plates on the table & my father drove us in to see the Christmas windows in Manhattan. I even remember the knit hat and the vintage Levi’s I wore. And the year that I was maybe 18 or 19 and we had dinner at my aunt & uncle’s house, and there’s a picture of me floating around somewhere, an actual tangible photograph, of me wearing a lace apron & blue Doc Martens. And of course I remember last year at my in-laws house, when Jay and I cooked everything for both families all by ourselves. And the year before that, and the year before. But other years, they just blur together to create one large Thanksgiving. One large dinner. One pan of lasagna. One turkey. One memory comprised of all the memories.

And I cannot say I remember any one dish, really. I don’t remember any specific stand-out side dishes, except for the one year I made broccoli and cauliflower au gratin (and I’ve been craving it ever since). However this… this is a stand-out side dish if ever there was one.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

Okay. So, Thanksgiving. If there is one thing I can convince you of concerning Thanksgiving, let it be that you DO NOT NEED TO BUY CRANBERRY SAUCE. I know I say a lot of things about how my recipes are “easy” and how you should be making your own pickles or what have you (and that is all 100% true) but cranberry sauce is THE EASIEST THING EVER. I am not lying to you. There is no need to buy stuff chock full of high fructose corn syrup and additives when it’s so easy to make your own. Plus, this time of year cranberries are everywhere, and they’re usually on sale. Stock up and make some homemade cranberry sauce now, enjoy it later.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

It doesn’t have to be “canned” or processed either, I just prefer to do so because I make a couple of half-pints (or pints) and I would rather keep them in a cupboard than in the fridge, open. That way, throughout the entire season I have fresh cranberry sauce. From Thanksgiving to Christmas and throughout the winter. For all those roast chicken Sunday dinners, I can pop open a new jar. Cranberries cook themselves, really. And they have so much natural pectin that they just gel together like a dream. It’s a beginners dream sauce!

I used Black Dirt “Apple Jack” apple brandy in mine, because brandy reminds me of my Nana and apple brandy is the only kind I had on hand. But you could use a regular brandy too. Or bourbon, or whiskey. Or you can leave it out completely.

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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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