Category: dip/salsa/spread

Snack time with Milton’s! A delicious ricotta dip… and a giveaway!

*****COMMENTS CLOSED! 1/25/13*****

*The winner is… EILEEN! Comment #21*

Eileen- Milton's Cracker winner!

 -Thanks to everyone who entered! -

***********************

Yep. Today I’m going to be giving away a TON of crackers from Milton’s Craft Bakers, but first, I’m going to give you an easy recipe idea. A really, really easy dip recipe for any party, football game- or even just for movie night!

Baked ricotta dip with mozzarella, garlic, olive oil & basil. Goes great with Milton's Craft Bakers gourmet crackers!

I love dip. I love any kind of dip; hot, cold, room temperature, cheese, onion, vegetable, sweet, salty, creamy, tangy, savory, etc. And I love any kind of vehicle to eat aforementioned dip. I’m a snack person. I can make a meal out of snack foods. But crackers? I looooove crackers. I love crackers with 5 o’s, that’s how much I love them. I eat crackers plain. I eat ‘em with cheese. I eat ‘em with dip… and this hot baked ricotta dip is just the thing.

It’s easy to make, bakes up quick and you can make it in as large or small a batch as you need!

Baked ricotta dip & Milton's gourmet crackers. (click for recipe)

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Saying goodbye to summer with tomato jam.

Wow. Hey there, end of summer.

You snuck up on me, as you usually do. But this time I feel like I really haven’t been expecting you at all. By this time in years’ past I have already thought about you once or twice, usually around my birthday. I have perhaps even dwelled upon you, sadly, as I acknowledge the days already getting a smidgen shorter, & the cicadas song plays the finale. But this year? You got me good. Suddenly, it’s the unofficial end of summer: Labor Day.

A delicious tomato jam; try it with goat cheese on toasted bread for a different spin on bruschetta!

I feel like I haven’t made a whole lot of things I wanted to this summer. Having a blog makes you a bit crazy, see. I wanted to make all these awesome things over the summer & then blog about them. I wanted to take some tomato canning classes at The Brooklyn Kitchen. I had big plans for recipes- Miemo’s mama’s eggrolls, paella. Things like that. Things that were new to me (kitchen-wise), things that I never made before. I did make one-pan pasta & homemade butter, though, both of which are things I’d never done. But the other, more complicated things? Nope. I got caught up in the enjoyment of summer… the corn on the cob, the cookouts, the lazy sticky days & humid starry nights roasting marshmallows, drinking frozen alcoholic drinks, the soaking in of the sun, eating fresh fish after a day at the beach, the making of pickles & jams, the cutting of herbs, the inhaling of said herbs (frequently heard around here: “OH MY GOD that fresh basil/cilantro/oregano/rosemary smells AMAZING!”). Then I was tricked by the unseasonably cool weather (not a day over 90 degrees in August) & I was lulled into having the windows open with cool air blowing in. But I still forgot all about the end of summer. Basically, I got distracted living life.

There are worse things.

Stepping away from the internet is a good thing. Anyway… I got distracted & forgot that summer was about to end. Summer is weird that way; it starts to end the minute it begins and before you know it you’re catching up, trying to squeeze in the last bits of it any way you can. Now, suddenly, it’s tomato time.

Fresh grape tomatoes... about to be turned into tomato jam.

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I can’t believe it’s… butter.

Julia Child might be my spirit animal. The mere fact that she once said, “if you’re afraid of butter, use cream” is enough for me. Not to mention the myriad of other amazingly awesome things about her, she was a butter lover. I’m a butter lover too. I love butter like there’s no tomorrow. I love olive oil, don’t get me wrong. Big hunks of crusty bread dipped in a high quality olive oil is as close to heaven as it gets. But butter! There’s NOTHING like butter. And I find I can never have too much of it around. So I decided to try my hand at making my own, & it’s deceptively simple.

Like making homemade bread, making homemade butter has a kind of impressive nature. It practically screams either “AMISH!” or “HOMESTEADER!” Which I assure you I am neither; as best evidenced by my extreme lack of any religion, my nose ring & my obsession for going out to eat & looking in mirrors.

Quick & simple homemade butter. Made in a stand mixer using just heavy cream (40-60% butterfat) & salt.

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My bloody valentine.

Listen, I know I’ve been overloading you with cutesy, Valentine-y stuff lately. I know that. I don’t really care if you like it or not, though, sorry to say. Because I love it. I actually get more pissed at the people who bitch constantly about how much they hate Valentine’s Day than I do about seeing the hearts & candies in the stores starting on New Years Eve. If it really bothers you so much, pretend it doesn’t exist. Go celebrate something else like Chinese New Year or Mardi Gras & stop complaining. Just ignore it. Football bothers me- but I understand there’s some kind of sick obsession with it in this country so I just ignore it. Which is hard, because it’s everywhere, but I manage. If you like it, then good for you. I just don’t, so I spend my winter Sunday’s baking, cooking, blasting punk rock music or watching things like Inglorious Basterds instead of watching grown men in tight pants tackle one another in hopes of not becoming the next paraplegic on the news. I spent Super Bowl Sunday shopping, then eating homemade nachos supreme & watching Downton Abbey. Now, I don’t tell everyone else not to watch it. I don’t constantly spout off about how awful & boring I find it all day, every day. I just get on with my life. Just like the Valentine’s Day haters should do.

However… I do understand that if there was a blog that I read fairly regularly that posted non-stop football crap for a month I’d be tired of it & maybe a little bit turned off.

So today I’m here to make amends. I’m posting something that’s still appropriate, but yet not quite as overtly dyed-pink & cheerful & cheeky as heart cupcakes or rose tarts: blood orange curd. There’s a special place in my heart for blood oranges.

And I’ll tell you why: Blood oranges are like the citrus family’s dark secret; like the black sheep cousin of the Navel orange, you know the one… who hangs out in a dark room, smokes cloves & listens to death metal.

And that’s sorta something I relate to. Not that I’m a black sheep per se, not within my family so much. Yeah, I’m different… but I was always accepted & appreciated. However when you’re the Agnostic punk rock short-haired bleached blonde Catholic school girl who tells your Theology teacher (a nun) that you’re pro-euthanasia & don’t quite understand why women can’t be priests, there is some level of that, somewhere. In my uniform I (sorta) looked like anyone else in school… until after school, or until you looked closely and saw the Sharpie-written lyrics on my blazer, my spike collars and dog collars, safety pins in my ears, my too-many-earrings-according-to-the-student-handbook and numerous band patches & pins on my backpack. And so I relate to that metaphor, and the blood orange. It’s sinister bloody-colored inside is almost concealed by the bright orange skin, it almost tricks you into thinking it’s just like any other orange. Maybe one that’s a bit overripe? And then you slice it- BAM! Deep, dark red flesh and a juice to match. There’s a reason they use a blood orange (not a regular orange) in the opening sequence of Dexter.

They’re right up my alley, truthfully.

And they’re also perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Conveniently, they’re in season right now. And if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a few, well then you better make good use of them. They make beautiful marmalades, gorgeous cupcakes, they’re beautiful when candied. And of course, when made into a curd, it’s a lovely pink color… which is perfect for a Valentine’s Day breakfast. It elevates your average toast to something spectacular. (heart shaped toast or English muffins not required!)

Or use it for dessert. When used as a topping for vanilla or chocolate ice cream- or even yogurt, it’s amazing. Another idea? Make it into a tart. Or using an ice cream maker, swirl it into plain homemade frozen yogurt for blood orange yogurt. It makes an amazing cake or cupcake filling too.

When you’re picking the oranges, be sure to pick ones that aren’t bright orange. The outside color is usually indicative of the color of the flesh & juice, so pick one that has a darker flesh, or even a mottled orangey-red flesh. That way you’re assured a deep burgundy flesh, and juice, and therefore a bright pinky red curd. My oranges were Moro, so they actually have a darker flesh & stronger flavor anyway, but I picked middle of the range ones that weren’t too dark, but weren’t too light. Actually the outer skin of all of mine were bright orange on one side, and a deep red on the other. I could’ve gotten ones that were so dark maroon on the outside they looked almost alien. In retrospect, I should have!

The thing that’s great about this recipe is that it doesn’t use so many egg yolks that you end up with an orange-colored curd. Orange colored curd is great, if it’s plain orange curd. But blood orange curd calls for a reddish color, doesn’t it? At the very least, a pretty rosy pink, like mine. But if you choose darker oranges you can really achieve a really bright pinkish red curd.

Also… listen up. Curd is a terrible word. Let’s be honest. Everyone hates it, from chefs to home cooks to pastry chefs to bloggers. It’s horrible to say, it rhymes with turd and it turns people off completely from trying it. Although, in Southern America they call lemon curd “lemon cheese”… and as far as I’m concerned that’s not much better than curd. But I hope that doesn’t put you off from trying it. It really is something else. But here’s the deal: curd isn’t disgusting. I swear. It’s basically similar to a lemon meringue pie filling, or in this case substitute blood orange for lemon. It’s like a creamy, citrus custard. Like a citrus pudding, kind of.

BLOOD ORANGE CURD (adapted from Local Kitchen who adapted it from Rose Levy Beranbaum)

Makes slightly over 1 cup (8 oz.), it can be doubled

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium to large blood oranges, scrubbed clean and dried
  • 1 large egg and one large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • a pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Zest enough of the oranges so you end up with roughly 1 1/2 teaspoons of finely grated zest. Set aside in a medium bowl.
  2. Juice the blood oranges, making sure to get every last bit out of them! Strain the juice to get out any pulpy bits or miscellaneous sneaky seeds. In a medium saucepan, over low heat, reduce the juice to 1/2 cup and set aside to cool in a measuring cup. Be sure to stir often while it’s reducing to avoid scorching.
  3. Rinse out the saucepan and place the sugar, eggs and salt in it. Whisk them together. Add the butter and slowly whisk in the reduced orange juice.
  4. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes together and is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon (roughly 15-20 minutes for me).
  5. Once thickened, strain the curd into the bowl with the zest in it. Then stir the zest into the curd to incorporate. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the curd into a clean jar. Allow to cool and store in the refrigerator for a week or so.

Here’s a secret: if ALL you’ve got is a 1/2 cup of blood orange juice, you can just use that without the reduction. It’ll still work. It won’t be as concentrated, and the color probably won’t be as amazing… but the basic product will be successful. And best of all? EDIBLE! And some people don’t like zest in their curd. I know this, but the point of the zest is to impart even more flavor & the scent of the fruit to the curd. However if you’re one of those people, I’d add the zest into the mixture while it’s cooking then strain it out. That’s a matter of personal preference, of course.

Some people have trouble with curd. I never have- it’s always come together relatively quickly & easily for me, regardless of  whatever the recipe, or whatever source it’s from. If you have trouble, and it fails, rest assured you are not the first & will not be the last. But also don’t give up! If it scorches or it doesn’t thicken, etc, these are all just steps on a ladder. Learning the way. I know it sucks to waste materials, especially if blood oranges are really hard to find near you. But you’ll get it, I promise. Maybe try it out first with a plain lemon curd; those are cheaper and easier to find.

The recipe above made one cup, or 8 ounces, of curd. You might want to double it if you’re thinking of using it for a cake filling or a large tart filling. But I find one jar is perfect for a slow, sweet, laid-back breakfast.

Enjoy your Valentine’s morning with a little burst of pink sunshine, for you & your bloody valentine. (hey! that rhymed!)

A four-day weekend: it’s like buttah.

So this is what I do two days after Thanksgiving: I make maple-pumpkin butter. Thanks Marisa.

;

It’s been a maple-y kinda holiday for me I guess, between these little things & this sauce, and now this recipe. But when you’ve got a lot of delicious, quality maple syrup and you’re taunted with amazing recipes and you’ve got all this pumpkin…! I can’t really resist. Plus, this time of year is when there’s more pumpkin than you can ever eat at once- whether it’s canned pumpkin, or it’s whole pumpkins. So why not make something like this that’s freezable. That way you can enjoy a little taste of fall in the winter, or even spring.

If it lasts that long.

Are you Americans enjoying your 4-day weekend (if you get one, unlike Jay)? Did you have any “projects” this weekend, like my pumpkin butter?

Bloody Sunday.

In no way do I mean to make light of the actual Bloody Sunday (or the many others) by using it as a title. And in no way is this blog post about violence. It’s just that this is blood orange marmalade, I opened a jar of it on a Sunday, I’m posting it on a Sunday… and it made me think of the U2 song.

Well, I guess it’s kinda about violence- against blood oranges.

But there are many references one can use when making something out of blood oranges. The TV show True Blood, for one. You see, the Tru Beverage drink that HBO sells is a blood orange-flavored soda (of course it is!) so every time I use blood oranges I do think of these cupcakes I made. And Dexter, too. Blood oranges & Dexter definitely go together; think of the opening credits. Have I mentioned my crush on Dexter Morgan yet? Anyway… moving on. All those things are reminiscent of blood oranges, yes, but when you crack open a jar of blood orange marmalade & use it on a Sunday, it makes you think of the chorus from Sunday, Bloody Sunday, despite the serious subject matter it’s really about.

So yeah. Blood oranges. Blood oranges are delicious, and beautiful. Way prettier than regular oranges (sorry, dudes). If you’ve never seen one cut open, Google some pictures of blood oranges… you’ll see what I mean.

Gorgeous, right? And who wouldn’t wanna see a jar of this in their cupboard. It’s fantastical & intriguing, makes you want to taste it. I made a small batch, obviously, because I can’t possibly store or eat 16 more jars of marmalade, plus the fact that blood oranges here are pretty rare & fleeting. So if you can get your hands on 3 or 4 large, nice ones… consider yourself lucky. I had three pretty massive ones and that gave me almost 20 ounces of marmalade total (two 8-oz. jars and it didn’t quite entirely fill one 4-oz. jar). I used the same formula that I always use to make marmalade, and it worked pretty well for me (with the subtraction of using any rind in it and the addition of a bit of Certo pectin). If you’re anti-using commercial pectin in your blood orange marmalade, then you can use one lemon in it and keep the rinds in a small muslin bag during the soaking & boiling processes. That’ll add extra natural pectin without clouding the pretty color of the marmalade with the rind. I usually keep the rind in my marmalade but for this I thought it was too pretty to leave any in. If you’re like me, and would prefer to leave the rind out of the finished product, you can always use the rind to make candied blood orange rind, which is an awesome homemade candy idea. Waste not, want not.

This is amazing marmalade. The flavor of the blood orange is so present- not clouded by bitterness, stringy pith or too much sugar. Just pure blood orange. Just perfect.

Perfect. Something I am not. Something I am far from being. I know, I know, nobody’s perfect. Well, if you read food blogs (or fashion blogs, or any blogs I guess), you’ll be convinced of just the opposite. Perfect plates of perfectly prepared & perfectly plated food, perfectly photographed with perfect high-tech DSLR cameras in perfect lighting, photographed on perfect, neat counters or tables with just the right “ambience”; an expensive knife positioned just so, a cloth napkin folded just so, etc. And that may make you think, “Why doesn’t my jam/cupcake/roast chicken/homemade bread look like that?” I know that because I’ve thought it myself.

It’s bullshit, really. Because real life isn’t an issue of Bon Appétit or Saveur. I have no desire to impress you with my great photography skills or my awesome kitchen lighting. I live in a real house, with real lights and real counters and most of all- I do not have a $4,000 dollar camera with a light box & a huge set up just to get that perfect (there’s that word again) picture of a crumb cake. Truthfully? I use my iPhone ever since my camera broke. Yup. Just my iPhone in it’s little leopard J. Crew case. I e-mail the photos to myself, edit the pictures a bit in Photoshop a bit, and then I upload ‘em. But other than that, nope. Nothing fancy. What you see is what I see. No trickery, no optimizing, no fancy lights, no nothing. I have pets trying to jump on the table while I take photos, sometimes hungry people telling me to hurry up, and phones ringing. Sometimes I’m distracted by what’s on TV or by the music I’m playing. If it’s sunny out, you’ll see it reflected in the photo. If it’s dark, then you’ll be able to tell. My photos might have a golden cast from my artificial non-photographer approved kitchen light. Would I like a good camera? Sure. Maybe I’ll get one (not just for food photography, mind you) at some point. But honesty is why I’m here, and realness. And I’m always real with you- about my failures, my successes, my victories and my “wow, this sucks” moments. I’m here to show that ANYONE can do this. So to me, the idea of having a camera most people can’t afford so my cupcake photos look amazing, a light box set up at all times just so it’s all ready to catch just the right amount of steam coming off my soup or worse: a kitchen with lighting designed solely for the purpose of food photography… is obscene.

Everyone who has a food blog knows that chocolate NEVER photographs that well! It has a tendency to look… poo-ish?

Look, I am not Ree Drummond. I am not Rachael Ray. I am not on the Food Network. I do not have a chef’s kitchen with a Viking range. I’m a real person, with a real life, and a real-person’s kitchen. And I started this blog when people asked me to, to explain how I made homemade cupcakes so “easily”, on the premise that I’d be showing other real people how they can create these things, and that it isn’t as hard as they think it is. I didn’t start it with the idea that I would make people feel inadequate, or less than perfect, or that I would make so much money off of it that I could retire at 30. That isn’t why I’m here. So even if I get that camera, or even if I re-do my kitchen… I promise I’ll still have a stack of bills behind my jars of jam, you’ll recognize my plates from Ikea or that you’ll see my Christmas candles behind my cupcakes. I’ll never be perfect & my recipes will never be unattainably, crazily unreachable.

So just remember the next time you see a photo of something on a blog (even if it is mine!) & it makes you feel less awesome: real life isn’t staged. You’re no less awesome than you were before, & I guarantee you a DSLR & good lighting does not an awesome person make.

But in my opinion reading my blog does an awesome person make. And all of you awesome people make my plain lil ol’ boring blog worth it.

Oh honey, low sugar, sugar…

I hope that all you lovebirds had a nice Valentine’s Day. I did. I mentioned last week on Facebook that after my hand mixer died, Jay got me an even better, more awesomer kick-ass KitchenAid model for V-Day! Well its pretty dope; I can’t wait to use it. But that day I got a surprise delivery of some gorgeous red roses/white lilies with chocolates in a beautiful set of fancy boxes, too. I hope you all got equally kick-ass gifts. But more importantly, I hope you don’t need a specific day to show/tell someone you love them or buy them nice things, but I digress. Today’s recipe: low-sugar strawberry jam, made with just one half cup of real sugar. How sweet… or half sweet? Semi sweet? Warning: this is going to be a long post, full of information. But if you’re diabetic/know someone who is, if you’re interested in low-sugar canning or if you’re just interested in natural sugar substitutes in general, then read on. Even if you’re interested in making any kind of jam or jelly using a low-sugar pectin… then this post is for you!

A long, long time ago, back in early April of 2011, I received an e-mail from the folks at Xylitol USA asking me if I’d like to try baking with Xylitol. I had heard of it vaguely, but I didn’t know much about it. It intrigued me, so I said yes, I was very interested. I had forgotten all about it, and ironically, the day my uncle Pat was buried, I came home to find a box on my front steps. That box was the Xylitol delivery..The odd thing about that is that my uncle had diabetes for 40 years, and had lost his eyesight and was on dialysis for 12 years because of it. So to receive a diabetic-safe sugar substitute on the day I had to say goodbye to him was a strange little sign to me. So, Uncle Pat, you aren’t able to take part in this little experiment with me, but I know you probably got a kick out of the coincidence of all of it and you’re somewhere eating ALL the sugar-packed desserts & carbs you want without a care.

(Side note: this is why people talking shit about Paula Deen & her diabetes piss me off. Stop saying people deserve a disease- no matter what the reasoning, no matter what the disease- it’s hurtful, ignorant & insulting. And if you say it in front of me, I’ll knock your teeth out. Especially as someone whose lost an uncle & grandfather no thanks to diabetes & has a mother who is a breast cancer survivor. If you have an issue with her pushing a drug, that’s a different debate. But nobody deserves a disease this debilitating & potentially life-threatening, no matter what they do. And yes, it is indeed a life-threatening disease. It can be managed, but ultimately diabetes most likely will take your life. And honestly, if you don’t like her or her recipes, fine… then don’t watch her show & mind your own goddamn business.)

Okay now that I got that off my chest: back to Xylitol. Xylitol is actually really interesting.

Xylitol (from Greek ξύλον – xyl[on], “wood” + suffix -itol, used to denote sugar alcohols; pronounced /ˈzaɪlɪtɒl/) is a sugar alcohol sweetener used as a naturally occurring sugar substitute. It is found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables, including various berries, corn husks, oats, and mushrooms.[2] It can be extracted from corn fiber,[3] birch, raspberries, plums, and corn. Xylitol is roughly as sweet as sucrose with only two-thirds the food energy.

Xylitol was discovered almost simultaneously by German and French chemists in the late 19th century, and was first popularized in Europe as a safe sweetener for people with diabetes that would not impact insulin levels.[6] Its dental significance was researched in Finland in the early 1970s, when scientists at Turku University showed it had significant dental benefits.[6] Today, using hardwood or maize sources, the largest manufacturer globally is the Danish company Danisco, with several other suppliers from China.[7] Xylitol is produced by hydrogenation of xylose, which converts the sugar (an aldehyde) into a primary alcohol.

And for my purposes today, Xylitol is used as a sugar substitute for diabetics…

Diabetes mellitus, often simply referred to as diabetes—is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the body does not produce enough insulin, or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. This high blood sugar produces the classical symptoms of polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (increased thirst) and polyphagia (increased hunger).

There are three main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes: results from the body’s failure to produce insulin, and presently requires the person to inject insulin. (Also referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, IDDM for short, and juvenile diabetes.)
  • Type 2 diabetes: results from insulin resistance, a condition in which cells fail to use insulin properly, sometimes combined with an absolute insulin deficiency. (Formerly referred to as non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, NIDDM for short, and adult-onset diabetes.)
  • Gestational diabetes: is when pregnant women, who have never had diabetes before, have a high blood glucose level during pregnancy. It may precede development of type 2 DM.

Other forms of diabetes mellitus include congenital diabetes, which is due to genetic defects of insulin secretion, cystic fibrosis-related diabetes, steroid diabetes induced by high doses of glucocorticoids, and several forms of monogenic diabetes.

All forms of diabetes have been treatable since insulin became available in 1921, and type 2 diabetes may be controlled with medications. Both type 1 and 2 are chronic conditions that usually cannot be cured. Pancreas transplants have been tried with limited success in type 1 DM; gastric bypass surgery has been successful in many with morbid obesity and type 2 DM. Gestational diabetes usually resolves after delivery. Diabetes without proper treatments can cause many complications. Acute complications include hypoglycemia, diabetic ketoacidosis, or nonketotic hyperosmolar coma. Serious long-term complications include cardiovascular disease, chronic renal failure, retinal damage. Adequate treatment of diabetes is thus important, as well as blood pressure control and lifestyle factors such as smoking cessation and maintaining a healthy body weight.

As of 2000 at least 171 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, or 2.8% of the population.[2] Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common, affecting 90 to 95% of the U.S. diabetes population.[3]

The box, in addition to having a 1lb bag of Xylitol, also included a cookbook filled with recipes for cheesecakes & buttercreams and muffins and cookies! Xylitol is perfect for using in making baked goods or even jams & jellies for diabetics:

Possessing approximately 40% less food energy,[23] xylitol is a low-calorie alternative to table sugar. Absorbed more slowly than sugar, it does not contribute to high blood sugar levels or the resulting hyperglycemia caused by insufficient insulin response. This characteristic has also proven beneficial for people suffering from metabolic syndrome, a common disorder that includes insulin resistance, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and an increased risk for blood clots.

So pretty much, as excited as I was to try it, after my uncle died my spring/summer was a landslide of drama & the Xylitol got pushed to the back of the pantry. Besides- he was the person I was curious about the Xylitol because of, and he wasn’t here to try any of my experiments with it anymore. Then my grandma passed away, and it was further forgotten. Until recently. Recently, Jay asked me to make some jam for his grandma, who’s diabetic. I said sure, but I didn’t want to make her a full-sugar jam (obviously) so I needed to get a low-sugar or sugar-free pectin. I’d heard really good things about Pomona’s Universal Pectin (which requires no sugar at all to jell but instead is activated by calcium), but I couldn’t find it for the life of me! And I had a hard time finding most of the other low/no-sugar pectin options, if you can believe it. I did have my heart set on Pomona’s, though. And then… ta-da! The natural market by my house had a display of it.

It’s a little different from regular ol’ Certo or Sure-Jell. But not that hard. The calcium water thing seems intimidating at first, but in all honesty it’s really pretty easy to get the hang of. Just an extra step. In my jam I used 50% sugar & 50% Xylitol (for a total of 1 cup; mainly I used real sugar to help keep the color nice & keep it shelf stable & fresh for longer). If you’re going to make a smaller batch, or eat it quicker, you don’t even have to worry about that. However I was concerned that she wouldn’t get around to eating 2 pints of jam within a reasonable amount of time; not to mention I didn’t want the jam to look faded or be too blah. Better safe than sorry. Anyway Jay’s grandma likes strawberry jam, so that’s what she got (remember when I mentioned strawberries & a little experiment I was doing?). I got 2 pounds of gorgeous strawberries for $2.50 at the fruit stand by my house. They were so beautiful, which is rare this time of year. Usually the pickin’s are slim when it comes to nice fresh fruit that isn’t in season. Although Florida is right in it’s strawberry growing season now, & that’s where these are from. I’m just not used to seeing such a nice selection of them here.

The recipe is from Pomona’s; it comes in the box of pectin. Super easy, very quick, and you can use any sugar substitute that measures like sugar (Splenda, Xylitol, etc) to make it sugar-free or you can use honey! You can change the amount anywhere from ¾ cup sugar to 2 cups and ½ cup to 1 cup honey or any variation thereof, including artificial sweeteners. Go nuts. The recipe can also be doubled or tripled according to Pomona’s.

LOW-SUGAR STRAWBERRY JAM (adapted from Pomona’s recipe)

Makes about 4 half-pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups mashed strawberries (obviously washed & hulls removed)
  • ½ cup Xylitol or Splenda or honey
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons calcium water (instructions & ingredient included in Pomona’s box)
  • 2 teaspoons Pomona’s Universal pectin

Directions:

  1. Sterilize jars & lids, keeping both hot. Prepare water bath.
  2. Place strawberries in a large pot. Add calcium water and stir, then bring to a boil. Meanwhile, add pectin to sugar or honey (room temperature) and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
  3. Once strawberries have boiled, add pectin/sugar mixture; stir vigorously for 1-2 minutes until completely dissolved. Return to a boil.
  4. Remove from heat. Fill hot jars to ¼”-inch from the top, and wipe rims clean. Place lids & bands on and process for 10 minutes in a water bath. Remove from water and allow to cool. Check seals- lids should be all sucked down. The pectin completes it’s jell once it’s completely cooled. Lasts about 6-8 months on the shelf (depending how much real sugar is used), 3 weeks once opened. Change in color is usually harmless & normal.

The weird thing is no matter how much I skimmed the foam, it seemed to never fully go away. As soon as I poured it into the jars, it was foamy again, so I skimmed them as best as I could with a small spoon… but it didn’t 100% work. Maybe that’s a low-sugar thing? Or a Xylitol thing? No clue. This was my first time using such a low amount of real sugar & a sugar substitute in jam. Although as the jam cooled & settled, a lot of it did “go away”; not sure what the deal is with that.

Anyway, I was pretty proud of myself for making my first low-sugar jam, but I was a bit worried about the flavor. I read online a lot of people saying they made low-sugar jam & it was bland or runny, that got me a bit nervous. However as it cooled it set really nicely, so my worries in that department were for naught. But I was still paranoid about the taste. So I called in the cavalry- my mother was my guinea pig taste tester for the batch, & in her words: “It’s delicious, it tastes just like regular strawberry jam.”

My job here is done. And now I take a bow & make my exit.

Yup- those are cupcake liners. I used cupcake liners to dress the jars up ’cause they were perfect for it. And just as an aside: Jay’s grandma has gone through about 3 jars & it’s only been not quite 2 months. I think she likes ‘em.

And that brings an end to a sweet post about low-sugar, but-just-as-sweet, jam.

Good Golly Miss Molly: My adventures featuring Molly’s Meyer lemons.

Before I get into how awesome my friends are, I just wanted to show off a little bit, & brag about a pretty piece of design I did. My Facebook fans already saw it, but I figure showing it off on the blog couldn’t hurt. Stroke my ego, will ya? A few nights back I was sitting home one rainy, miserable night, drinking an Irish coffee, listening to Lady Gaga (see above) & playing around on Illustrator when this little beauty above just kinda drew herself. Isn’t it pretty? I love it. I call it “Holy Lola.” It’s already on my new business cards (which are currently being printed & cost me nothing but shipping, thank you Klout & Moo Cards), and I’m even contemplating getting it as a tattoo, but I was undecided at first whether or not to use it in a new blog design. Clearly, I made up my mind, as you can see there’s a whole new thing goin’ on here. If you’re not seeing it, clear your cache & refresh the page. Just a word of warning: it’s copyrighted, it’s my work, and if I find anyone stealing it or passing it off as their own… your face will meet my brass knuckles. Or at the very least, you’ll be at the wrong end of a strongly worded e·mail & public embarrassment, which coming from me is just as bad. Just ask Sharon Luann Swann Stallings or whatever her name was. Whatever happened to her, anyway, is she still stealing people’s cupcake photos, claiming they’re hers & promoting “her business” on Craigslist? Or did I totally scare her off the internet? What a lying little rotten egg she was (the last paragraph of this post explains that incident a bit).

But sometimes, you meet the coolest people on the internet. There are a lot of assholes, yes. You hear about it everyday on the news: people pretending to be other people, people scamming people out of money, people who stalk other people they don’t even know on the ‘net, fake charities that rip you off, sneaky bastards that find out via Facebook when you’re going on vacation then clean out your entire damn house, etc. But all that said- there are tons of really cool people out there too. I have a gazillion awesome friends, some of which I’ve known for 9+ years, that I’ve met on the interwebs. Really genuine & truly special people: Yoyo, Anna, Rain, Becky, Cece, Ari, Percy, Jamie, Heather, Joey, Melissa, Tania, Susan, Carlos, Lyns, Miemo and more who I probably forgot (but who are no less important!). Some of these people I’ve had relationships with for years & years. I may not talk to every single one of them as much as I did at one time, but I still love & adore them. They’re all cooler than your friends, I bet *wink* And then there are people I only know through their comments on my blog, like Pola, who is sending me a super special present via Amazon! People I don’t even “know” are kind enough to send me awesome stuff.

Which brings me to one of the many really cool people I’ve met more recently- Molly. Molly is a very sweet, very cool makeup artist & blogger (with a sweet tattoo) who’s originally from Alaska, but now living in Arizona. She’s got an adorable chihuahua named Ruca & a Meyer lemon tree in her yard. Lucky girl, right? Well, I guess if you live in Arizona it might not be as unusual as I feel it is. Do you know how hard it is to get your hands on Meyer lemons if you live in New York? No? Well it’s really friggin’ hard. Almost impossible. We get mostly Eureka’s, maybe a couple of Lisbon’s, even some Ponderosa’s. We never ever get any Meyer’s, and if we do, they’re snatched up super quick from the gourmet market & are never to be found again.

Meyer lemons are a sort of lemon-orangey hybrid from China that are really popular on the west coast of the U.S. but over here on my side of the world, not so much.

Citrus × meyeri, the Meyer lemon, is a citrus fruit native to China thought to be a cross between a true lemon and either a mandarin or common orange. It was introduced to the United States in 1908 as S.P.I. #23028[1] by the agricultural explorer Frank Nicholas Meyer, an employee of the United States Department of Agriculture who collected a sample of the plant on a trip to China.[2]

The Meyer lemon is commonly grown in China in garden pots as an ornamental tree. It became popular as a food item in the United States after being rediscovered by chefs such as Alice Waters at Chez Panisse during the California Cuisine revolution.[3][4] Popularity further climbed when Martha Stewart began featuring them in her recipes.[2]

Citrus × meyeri trees are around 6 to 10 ft (2 to 3 m) tall at maturity, though they can be pruned smaller. Their leaves are dark green and shiny. The flowers are white with a purple base and fragrant.

The Meyer lemon fruit is yellow and rounder than a true lemon. The skin is fragrant and thin, coloured a deep yellow with a slight orange tint when ripe. Meyer lemon fruits have a sweeter, less acidic flavor than the more common Lisbon or Eureka grocery store lemon varieties. The pulp is a dark yellow and contains up to 10 seeds per fruit.

So anyway, I saw a box of all the lemons she picked in a picture she posted on Instagram, and then I saw a photo of all the lemons in a bowl & I kiddingly (I swear!) said to send some my way. And like I mentioned in my last marmalade post, she did!

So I got a big, beautiful box of them. As soon as I opened it, I was hit with the best citrusy, lemony-sweet smell ever. It was amazing. And so basically I went lemon crazy. I made lemon curd, marmalade, candied citrus peels, lemon chewies with glaze from The Cookiepedia, made lemon-infused water, etc. I didn’t want even one of these babies to go to waste. I even reserved some seeds to try & grow my own, despite this crazy feeling that won’t work well at all. But it’s worth a shot! Maybe I can get my very own mini-Meyer lemon tree, I heard that even tiny ones are pretty prolific with the fruit. And of course, I’m sending Molly some of the treats I made as a thank you for her generosity. I even re-named the lemon curd after her (okay, so it’s just for blogging purposes, but still!).

Sometimes with my lemon curd, little pieces of the zest darken, or caramelize (I guess?)… I’m not sure why that happens, but it does. If it happens with yours, you can strain them out before ladling it into the jars. I like the zest in it, so I leave them in anyway. If you do leave ‘em in, you can always eat around the darker ones if they bother you, but they’re only little bits of darkened zest. Nothing harmful.

Again, I stress that if you aren’t familiar with the process of canning, you read this thoroughly before starting. It isn’t difficult, but you have to take certain precautions to be safe. Sterilizing your jars/lids & knowing what you can preserve using a water bath & what you can’t is important knowledge to have if you’re going to be doing this. The lemon curd doesn’t have to be processed, it can be put in a jar or Tupperware and refrigerated or used right away (cake filling, etc). Most curd recipes you find aren’t suited for canning, they’re simply meant to be eaten right away. This recipe is (very slightly) adapted from the USDA Center for Home Preservation’s curd recipe, so I’m pretty confident it’s up to par.

MISS MOLLY’S MEYER LEMON CURD

Makes about 5 half-pints

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice
  • ½ cup bottled lemon juice (or, alternatively, use 1 whole cup bottled & omit the Meyer juice if you’re super anal & scared about acid levels)
  • ¾ cup unsalted cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1-2 tablespoons Meyer lemon zest
  • 4 whole eggs, beaten thoroughly
  • 7 egg yolks

Directions:

  1. Bring boiling water canner to a boil. Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water. Put lids in a bowl and cover with boiling water from the canner.
  2. Combine zest and sugar in a bowl, mix well, and set aside for 20 minutes to let the flavors meld. Juice your lemons while the sugar & zest are coming together.
  3. Prep your eggs by thoroughly beating the 4 whole eggs until they are light and airy, with little bubbles. Make absolutely sure there are no white pieces floating around still.
  4. Separate seven egg yolks, and whisk them into the beaten egg mixture. Now combine all the ingredients in a medium-large non-reactive pot.
  5. Now turn the burner on, very very low, and whisk. Incorporate the ingredients together slowly and consistently, avoiding high heat that could cook/curdle the eggs.
  6. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat to medium and keep whisking. Eventually the mixture will thicken, and resemble the consistency of pudding. After another minute or two, the mixture will be thick enough that when you pull the whisk across the bottom of the pan, you will see the metal for a few seconds. That means the curd is starting to hold its shape.
  7. Remove the pot from the heat. You can run the curd through a fine sieve at this point to remove the zest. You don’t have to do this, but some people find it gross, and you’re really just imparting the flavor from the zest to intensify the lemon-yness, so it isn’t needed if you don’t want it. Ladle hot curd into hot jars leaving ½″-inch headspace. Wipe jar rims clean and attach lids. Processed the jars for 20 minutes.

When I was a kid, I always thought the color of curd & lemon meringue pie filling was from the lemons. Not true. The color doesn’t actually have much to do with the lemons, it’s due to the egg yolk, but this curd just so happened to have an amazing color pre-processing. So amazing I had to get a few shots of it. It became slightly paler after the waterbath & sitting overnight. I happened to get four half-pints (8-oz.) and two 4-oz. jars from this recipe, which equals 5 half-pints. And just like everything else I make, 5 out of those 6 jars were practically gone before they were even cooled!

This has a shelf life of 3-4 months, and if the harmless darkening in color doesn’t bother you, that can extend to up to one year. Of course it tastes best when eaten as soon as possible. You can also freeze it instead of processing it, or put it right into the fridge and use it right away. As far as what to do with it, you can swirl it into ice cream or frozen yogurt, use it as an ice cream topping, or put it on scones, muffins or toast. It makes a terrific cake or cupcake filling, an easy pie filling (basically that’s what lemon meringue pie is filled with) and it’s delicious on pound cake or angel food cake. Alternately you can just eat it out of the jar; that’s how my mother likes hers. Although sometimes she likes it on Toast-R-Cakes or English muffins too.

After the marmalades were made, the curds were spooned on to pound cakes, the candied lemon peels were all done, the lemon bars & lemon cookies were eaten and a few of the juicier lemons were eaten out of our hands like oranges… some of the smaller, more misshapen Meyer’s were left in the bottom of the bowl. With these, I made pomanders. Pomanders are quick to make, smell amazing & use up some of the older citrus fruit you may have around that’s too old to eat or use for jellies or marmalades. They’ve been around forever for just that reason. If you’re interested in making your own, check out the how-to’s with a Google search. There are a few different ways of doing it, they usually use oranges but because Meyer lemons are so similar in shape to small oranges, they worked out just fine for me. I couldn’t possibly give you the recipes to every single thing I made with these in one post. But let me just say that I made some lemon cookies, the candied lemon peel & lemon bars I mentioned above, divine c-lemon-tine marmalade (clementine marmalade with one large Meyer lemon thrown in) and some other, slightly different & interesting jelly I’ll probably be posting later on.


So thank you, Molly, for sending me these little bursts of sunshine during a month when I can barely stick my head out the door without my nose freezing off. What a great present to get. I’m lucky to know such incredible people on the internet. Without sounding like a cheeseball… they restore your faith in humanity. Not everyone is a total douchebag. Just something like 98%.

But no matter how many assholes there are in the world, I’m proud to know kick ass folks like this. And I was proud to have two big ass bowls of these lemons sitting on my table.

Good day, sunshine.

Like I said the other day, it’s definitely winter. The really cold weather held off until January here in New York for the most part, we were lucky. It was around 45°-50° F throughout most of November & December, with quite a few days in the high 60′s sprinkled in. But seeing how we had snow before Halloween, I think Mother Nature was just playing some little tricks. ‘Cause now there’s no doubt- winter is in full swing. Winter, with it’s 18° nights & -5° wind chills, has definitely made it’s entrance this week. I mean, seriously, look at this shit:

Ugh. That sucked. Needless to say, weather like that makes it hard to even get out of bed. Thankfully temps rose back up to the high 40′s again, but I know that won’t last forever. And so sometimes in the winter, you need a burst of sunshine. That can come from many sources, but in this particular instance… I’m talkin’ citrus. In particular, I’m talkin’ citrus marmalade. Lemon-orange, to be exact.

Nifty jar decorations, right? More about that later…

However… another little burst of sunshine whose sure to warm you up on a cold day is Remi. Remi is a sweet little miracle dog that my friend Ariana (& her man Elliott) saved off the street. Poor Remi is less than a year old, has terrible mange & is pretty underweight. He was found a few days before Christmas & taken to get some medical care that Ari used her Christmas bonus to pay for. Ari & Elliott made the decision that they’d stop at nothing to help this dog, even if they weren’t going to keep him. Remi has his own blog now, where they’ll be posting updates. If you’d like to help out with medical expenses, etc. then by all means feel free to contact her. I’m sure it’d feel great for you to start the new year off by helping someone else. What better on a freezing cold winter day than the story of a dog who was thrown away, who had a sad life on the streets, being given a bright future?

And not only that, but how about some bright, zesty, citrusy shots of marmalade to make you think of sunshine? Yep, they’re both pretty great ways to remind you that all is not cold & dreary this time of year. I’ve certainly made marmalade before, but those had extras added in. This is a true citrus marmalade: just lemons, an orange, sugar & water.

The principle behind marmalade is stupid easy. It boils down to a math equation, really, which I suck at… but luckily there are all sorts of iPhone/iPad apps & Internet web pages that can steer you in the right direction. Not to mention the good ol’ calculator. Thanks to this webpage, I now have a perfect marmalade-equation ready to be scaled down or up at a moment’s notice depending on who it’s for or how many/what size jars I have. I happened to make 3-4oz. jars of this lemon-orange marmalade using their method & this base recipe (except I used one large orange as well as a few lemons). You can add limes, grapefruit, clementines, etc. I got a shipment of Meyer lemons from the awesome Molly last week & I am totally psyched to marmalade the shit out of them. But that’s another post…

Drippy marmalade.

‘Cause see, truth be told I made this back before Christmas, and I just now opened it. The color & texture of this marmalade is just gorgeous. And the smell! Fuhgeddaboudit. It seems now that the little 4oz. jars I used were barely enough. I sorta wish I’d made more. Oh well.

Anywho, the concept is so easy it’s practically silly to cry over not making enough when I can make it in a snap any time. Here’s the basic idea just as it is, directly from Evil Mad Scientist:

The peels need to be cut into little slivers for the appropriate texture in the marmalade. If you stack up the pieces, you can cut a bunch at once.
Many recipes recommend removing the white pith because it is bitter. Other recipes recommend removing the pith and reserving it, cooking it along with the fruit in a cheesecloth bundle and removing it at the end, presumably to allow extraction of the pectin. Many jam and jelly recipes call for pectin to be added, but it isn’t needed for marmalade because of the amount of pectin already present in the skin and pith of the citrus fruit.
Some recipes call for a blanching or soaking stage. The primary purpose of blanching is to remove the bitterness from the pith and peel. We like bitter marmalade, so we left in most of the pith and didn’t soak or blanch the peels or fruit. That also keeps the recipe simple– just slice up the fruit and throw it in the pot with the peel pieces.
The fruit and peel are cooked in water until they’re good and soft. It takes a while (about an hour), but once you’ve got a nice simmer going, you can ignore it pretty well.
The sugar goes in. Lots of sugar. The original recipe calls for 4 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar (with ten lemons). The 4 cups of water barely covered the raw fruit (in a saucepan with roughly equal depth and diameter). For scaling the recipe up or down, you can use that as a rough guide: pour in water a cup at a time until the fruit is almost covered, then once everything’s soft add as much sugar as you did water. Stir in the sugar, and bring it up to a boil, stirring regularly.

You can add things too, of course. Star anise, cloves, a cinnamon stick, a tablespoon or two of whiskey or Grand Marnier, maybe even a little brandy, etc. You can 100% personalize the basic marmalade recipe to do amazing things. Anyway at this point, after it boils, using a candy thermometer you make sure it reaches 220° degrees (if you’re planning on making jellies & marmalades a lot, or if you’d like to venture into candy making at all, a thermometer is a must have item). Then let it boil it at 220° for a full minute. When the minute is up, test the set (there are numerous ways of doing this). If it hasn’t set, keep boiling. Eventually it will achieve the set & you can proceed with canning it.* I’d recommend processing for 10 minutes in a water bath canner, although many old fashioned marmalade recipes just require sterilizing, filling then sealing the jars. Better safe than sorry I guess, even with the high sugar content.

*Here I will state that I have read that sometimes marmalade can take up to 2 weeks to set. I never had such a problem, my marmalade has always set immediately.

If you’re wondering what exactly you can do with marmalade, besides using it on toast: you can use it to glaze a roast chicken or ham, melt it and use it to marinade shrimp, use it to make cupcakes or cake, use it as a glaze over warm pound cake, making muffins with it, whisk it into a vinaigrette to use as a salad dressing, etc. Once you use your imagination you can come up with tons of ways to use it! I ended up with a lot of jars of this since the summer, and of course I had to dress them up; using raffia & dried orange & lemon slices. I only show two jars because, well duh, I had to open one to eat it!

Winter outdoor shots are always fun. Especially when it’s freezing cold. But when you’re looking for a rustic look, you’ve gotta go the extra mile… or whatever. At least it wasn’t snowing! Although come to think of it, snow would’ve made a prettier backdrop. Anyway, the dried citrus fruit slices are incredibly easy to make, & make perfect decorations for anything: for decorating jars of marmalade, for tying on to a Christmas tree with ribbons, for decorating a gift (wrapped in brown Kraft paper with twine) or for hanging in a kitchen. Also they can be eaten, as any dried fruit can be, pulverized & the powder sprinkled on foods, or put into a jug of water for instant rehydration and flavoring. It takes a lot of time (unless you have a food dehydrator) but it’s worth it!

All you have to do is slice the fruit as thin as you can, preferably ¼” thick. Pat them dry with paper towels & gently press out as much juice as possible from each slice without ruining the shape. Either use a food dehydrator or put a cooling rack over a cookie sheet & bake them in the oven; 275° degrees F for the first two hours and then 250° degrees F for the next 2-4 hours. If they’re still not dry (test by “squishing” the pulpy part, if it’s moist or juice squirts out, they aren’t fully dried yet), then leave them on the rack in the oven & put the oven on the ‘warm’ setting (about 200-220°) for another 2+ hours. The least moisture left in there the better, especially if you’re using them for decorating. If you’re using them for food purposes, they can be less dry. Unless of course, you plan on storing them long term; then the less moisture the better. There are many different ways of doing it, mainly differences in time/oven temperature (Martha’s way differs from mine slightly, as do these directions) yet they all work equally well.

The best ones in my experience are limes & grapefruits. They both slice perfectly & never end up with holes or gaps when they’re finished drying. However, if you’re careful cutting them, they all look gorgeous once they’re finished. If you’re really nice, & after you used yours to decorate jars or gifts, & you’ve got a few left that aren’t looking that great or aren’t as perfect… try hanging them outside for the birds! I also heard that cats don’t like citrus fruit, so if you have a problem with strays marking your yard it might be worth a shot anyway (obviously on low-lying branches). My cat doesn’t seem to mind it at all, but she’s an anomaly. Tinfoil doesn’t frighten her either.

My next mission is to make some lime marmalade & tie a bunch of slices of dried limes to each jar, with green ribbon & instructions for using the slices long after the goods are gone. Sounds good, right? I haven’t made lime marmalade yet.

And in case you’re wondering- my pantry has exploded in the past 6 months. Actually, I’ve given away a lot… especially just recently at Christmas, but currently what’s there is plenty (yes, there was more than this): lemon-orange whiskey marmalade, c-lemon-tine marmalade (all clementine & just a bit of lemon), one lone jar of habanero pickles (the only pickles that seem to not be grabbed at too quickly, hence the fact they’re still here!), champagne jelly, gingerbread spice jelly, candy apple jelly, vanilla-brandy chestnut jam, basil jelly, habanero rosemary jelly, pickled red & green tomatoes, peppers in oil (& some in vinegar), Earl Grey’s nectarine preserves, Van Gogh’s strawberry jam with chocolate liqueur, vanilla vodka cherry preserves, fresh tomato salsa, amaretto cranberry sauce, mint jelly, caramel apple syrup, canned peaches in syrup, one jar of Lady Grey’s lemon & tea marmalade and last but certainly not least- a few jars of Meyer lemon curd (recipe to come!). Whew. Sorry I don’t have recipes for all of them posted. But I think you’re smart… you can figure ‘em out. Google is an amazing thing. Plus with amazing resources like Punk Domestics, Food in Jars & Hungry Tigress right at your fingertips, you’re golden.

If you’re thinking about getting into canning, I suggest you start off with a case of pint jars, the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving, some vinegar & some cucumbers & start off making pickles, then graduate to giardiniera or other pickled veggies, then to easy fruit-based stuff like canned peaches or blueberry or raspberry jams. Save the more complex jellies made with homemade or commercial pectin, more difficult jams & marmalades for later. Work up to them. And, if you’re looking to buy jars but aren’t sure of what size(s) you want/need, Food in Jars made a handy guide to the available Ball & Kerr jars; but keep in mind there’s Weck too, if you like a fancier look (for a much more expensive price). I’ve also heard of Better Homes & Gardens brand jars but never seen them (they’re made in China, FYI). I’d prefer to stick with Ball® or Kerr® myself. They’re made in the U.S.A., readily available, have a long history of doing it right & they’re affordable (which is important regardless of how much canning you’re planning on doing).

I’m going bananas.

I hope all you Americans had a lovely Thanksgiving, and also that you remembered not only our troops who couldn’t be home for the holiday but also remembered the real Americans, the Native Americans, that were treated so poorly & unfairly by our original settlers (& their ancestors). And not to be a total wet blanket, I hope you enjoyed your families (& food, too). I had an absolutely lovely day & ate (& drank) way more than any human my size possibly should. Thanks to my cousin Tommy & his girlfriend Dawn for an amazing day- I hope you enjoy the goodies I left with you as much as we enjoyed all that food & excellent company!

So am I going bananas? Not really. Well, kinda. I guess I’m sorta going bananas. Between the holidays, blogging & getting myself together “in real life” I’m kinda pulled in a million directions lately. And truth be told, it’d be nice if this horrendous cold/flu/whatever it is I have went away for good, & took the lingering cough/malaise with it. Not only all that- but where has the time gone?! I feel like Sleeping Beauty; as if I fell asleep in July, after canning fresh fruit & veggies & sweating my ass off… & woke up to Thanksgiving being over & the temperature dipping down to the 30′s at night. Strange. But my saving grace in life is staying busy, enjoying the little things & the sad truth that food rules my life; put those together & no matter what happens you’ve got a broad who’s cookin’ something up. So this blog will never see a lull in posts, hah.

And of course, I like to try unique things. And banana jam sounded pretty unique. Not only that, but bananas are good for ya (thanks, Wikipedia!):

Bananas are an excellent source of vitamin B6 and contain moderate amounts of vitamin C, manganese and potassium.

Along with other fruits and vegetables, consumption of bananas may be associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer and in women, breast cancer and renal cell carcinoma.

This particular recipe was something I stumbled on coincidentally after realizing my bananas had once again turned dark brown & spotty. My mind started to click through recipe ideas. See, I hate throwing good food or fruit away, especially when it still has delicious potential. Yet I didn’t feel like banana bread, I couldn’t even fathom banana ice cream & I was too tired for making muffins, so luckily this recipe found its way onto my laptop screen one dark, chilly, quite frozen evening at about 11 p.m. However, I didn’t actually open it to use it until the next day. In case you’re wondering, that’s Pepperidge Farm cinnamon swirl bread, toasted, accompanying it. But I guarantee you it will be equally stellar on whole wheat or white toast, pancakes, or vanilla ice cream. Or now that I think about it, bran muffins, too… or a spoonful on top of oatmeal.


BANANA BROWN SUGAR BUTTER/JAM (adapted very slightly from Neo-Homesteading)

Makes 1 8-oz. jar

Ingredients:

  • 2 bananas, the riper the better
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt

Directions:

  1. In a small pot combine banana, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, lime juice and butter.
  2. Whisk over medium heat for 5-8 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved and the the banana has softened. Adjust the heat as necessary to prevent burning. Using the whisk thoroughly smoosh the banana.
  3. Once the mixture is smooth-ish, you are simply thickening without burning. The mixture will bubble 3-4 minutes over medium heat and it should be about ready at this stage. Refrigerate and use within one to two weeks.

Note: I did indeed say this recipe makes ONE 8-ounce jar. You may halve it to make a 4-ounce jar, or double it, but being I’ve done neither I can’t vouch.

AMAZEBALLS. Super rich, buttery & caramel-y ’cause of the brown sugar. Holy crap. If you like bananas, this is a must-make for you. The only downside? Banana can’t be canned safely (unless you’ve got a pressure canner), so it has to be eaten pretty quick. But if you make a small batch, 4-8 ounces, that should be fine. Especially for a brunch date or something, where more than just one person will be having it. Maybe for a Christmas morning brunch, maybe even for an afternoon tea. Speaking of Christmas, it seems it’ll be here before we know it! Jeez, seriously, is it just me or does it seem like just last week it was June?

This has a very home-y flavor, sweet & kinda rustic. Reminds me of a fall morning, a fireplace going at a nice blaze & old family photos.

t…

That photo is so important to me because it’s the only photo that I have of my great-grandmother as a young woman. She’s all the way on the right, holding my grandmother in her lap, and the woman next to her is my great-great-grandmother. I’m lucky to have pictures like this, and I know that. This time of year especially it’s important to remember family & the generations before you, even if it’s only by doing a holiday tradition that’s been passed down through the years. As my Christmas tree goes up this week, & I start to put up my lights & garlands, I’m struck by that. How each generation of my family has done the same thing before me. I can trace parts of my family back to the 1100′s & that’s the one thing that can humanize them & make them relatable to me when they’re just names/dates on paper- that they all celebrated Christmas, albeit in very different ways, & loved their families. So time goes on and the generations go on… and at some point, we’re all just special, cherished photographs on a wall.

Well that was fucking cheerful. Sorry. Have some banana jam & you’ll cheer right up. Anyway, like I said- I personally can’t believe it’s almost December, let alone almost 2012, can you?

..