Category: plum

To Autumn.

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Autumn hasn’t always been my favorite time of year. When I was a child, I didn’t like it because it meant summer was over and school was starting. No more sleeping late and floating in the pool all day, no more beach days, no more “fun.” As I got older, fall started to be my favorite season. I started to appreciate more the absolute beauty of it; the changing leaves, the pretty colored skies. I love sweaters and boots and knubby socks. I still despise the winter though, and all it’s grey-ness, snow and ice. That won’t ever change. If I could live somewhere that gave me the definite changing of the seasons but just skipped over the snow & -12°F temperatures we tend to get in the deep winter? Hell, I’d move there today. However the beauty of fall? That’s something I can’t deny. Summer is lovely.. slow, warm, soft and hazy. Summer is fans, porch swings and lemonade. Fall is crisp, golden, hurried. Fall is apple cider, pumpkins, the crunch of leaves under your feet and scarves. And most of all, fall is Halloween, which is my most favoritest holiday ever. So that means I’ve grown to love fall, and the clothing that comes with it. So I’m really, really, really going to miss summer, especially this year, for a lot of reasons. Most of which are sentimental and personal, which I’m not going to get in to here. And despite the weather, as of 6 days ago it’s official: summer is over & it’s completely autumn.

So in honor of that, today I present you with a delicious pound cake, loaded with flavor, moist and delicious, with a lovely sugary “crust” on top, and of course, served with whipped cream and some halved plums I canned in syrup.

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Plums are around from May through October, the peak time for them being August. But to me, they’re strictly a late-summer fruit.

A few days ago, I posted the spiked chocolate plum jam, with beautiful photos of the jewel-like deep purple plums in a bowl and the resulting beautiful, purply-red jam. But I didn’t tell you that I only used half of the plums in that jam. The other half? Well three were eaten right off the bat, and the rest were halved and canned in syrup. In terms of “whole fruits”, not jams or preserves, I had only ever canned peach slices, clementine slices & whole strawberries in syrup before, so I thought it was time I did something bigger. Canning whole fruit kinda scares me- I mean, how the hell do you fit a ton of whole nectarines into a JAR? Weird. It can only be explained by magic.

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Anyway, I halved the plums so I could fit more into one pint jar. If you want to make more than one jar, or you’re using quart jars, then double/triple/quadruple/etc, the following recipe to suit you.

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1 PINT of PLUMS IN SYRUP

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 – 1 lb. plums (purple or prune plums, Damson plums or Greengage plums work best)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Sterilize your jar, and pop the lid into a bowl of hot water. Keep the jar hot. Combine the water & sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Wash the fruit. If you’re halving the plums like I did, cut them in half and remove the pits. If you’re canning them whole, poke 3-4 holes in the skin of each plum to avoid “bursting” in the jar.
  3. Pack the plums tightly in your jar. Squeeze them in as best as you can without bruising or squashing them, they shrink up once they “cook” in the syrup.
  4. Pour the hot syrup over the plums, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Gently remove air bubbles with a knife or thin spatula. Adjust headspace if needed by adding more syrup.
  5. Wipe rim, place lid and screw band on to fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.

Because my pint jar is the Collection Elite jar, it’s a different size and shape than the conventional pint jars. If you use a regular one, you might need a little extra fruit to fill yours (or maybe less, depending on the size of the plums you’re using).

And when you’ve got such a beautiful looking jar of plums, you need something to serve them with. And for that reason, there’s pound cake.

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Last summer I made a pound cake that was so incredibly delicious, so amazing, so perfect… that it was world-renowned. Maybe not world-renowned, but at the very least it was the talk of the family. It was almost obnoxious how “adults” almost killed one another to grab a slice. But I understood, because it was that good. I served it with a rhubarb-ginger jam the first night, after that it was eaten a variety of ways: with ice cream, plain, with fresh fruit, etc. Basically I’m using a lot of words to say this: it was amazing. I didn’t really think that any other pound cake could top it, actually, until I found one at the King Arthur Flour website that sounded equally delicious, but was slightly smaller in a lot of ways (except that whole five eggs thing). I didn’t want to make the other one again, because I was just making it to serve with the plums for a simple little dessert, and that’s quite a large cake. So I made this one.

And I figured best case scenario, I get rave reviews about the plums, the whipped cream and the cake itself. And on the other hand, at the very least it would just be the vehicle that transported the plum halves and piles of homemade whipped cream into people’s mouths.

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But I needn’t have worried. Jesus Christ on a cracker, this was some good shit. Was it as good as that other pound cake? Yes, however if I’m being honest, the other one was just a smiiiidge better. But more importantly- this makes a smaller cake. So if you have no use for a massive 10″ bundt-shaped pound cake but you still want a moist & delicious one, this one’s for you. If you’re feeding a lot of people, or you’re making it for a party or a bake sale, and you want a top-notch pound cake, then by all means make this one.

GOLDEN VANILLA POUND CAKE (taken & adapted extremely minimally from the King Arthur Flour website)

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoon if you use salted butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Topping:

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon water

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 5″ x 2 3/4″ loaf pan, or a 12″ x 4″ x 4″ tea loaf pan. To avoid overflow, be SURE to use the correct size pan!
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the butter, cream cheese, salt, sugar, baking powder & vanilla extract until well combined.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; the mixture may look slightly curdled/grainy. After you’ve added the final egg, beat at high speed for 3 minutes. Once all the eggs are added, stir in the milk.
  4. Sprinkle in the flour gradually, with the mixer going at low speed. Mix just until combined. The batter will be smooth and thick, but still pourable. Pour and scrape the batter into the prepared pan.
  5. To make the topping, combine the sugar, vanilla, and water. Stir until the mixture is syrupy. At first it’ll seem very stiff, but will become “drizzle-able” as you stir. Set the topping aside.
  6. Set the cake on a baking sheet, for easiest handling and as a precaution against potential overflow (which shouldn’t happen if you use the correct size pan). Bake it for 55 minutes (for either size pan).
  7. Remove the cake from the oven, and brush/drizzle with the sugar mixture. Return the cake to the oven for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, and set it on a rack. Insert a toothpick into the center; it should come out clean. If you use an instant-read thermometer, the center should register about 200°F to 205°F. The very top, right under the crust, will still be kind of soggy; don’t worry about it.
  8. After 5 minutes loosen the cake’s edges and turn it out of the pan to cool completely on a rack.

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I was shocked when this cake came out so perfect. Usually I have a terrible time with loaf cakes; for some reason almost every time they overflow like crazy. I have no idea why. It’s as if all my loaf pans are magically from another planet. I measure them every time to make sure they’re the right size, yet almost every time I get overflow. But not this time! It just came out like… well… a piece of cake. The whipped cream is the always intriguing “whipped cream in a jar.” It’s very simply made by combining heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar & pure vanilla extract in a jar. Then you just shake it! For people like me who never have whipped cream in the house, but who usually have heavy cream, it’s an easy and fun way of making your own without whipping (no pun intended) your mixer out.

WHIPPED CREAM IN A JAR (adapted a bit from The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 teaspoons confectioner’s sugar
  • 2-4 drops vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Put all three ingredients in an 8-ounce jar. Close lid.
  2. Shake jar vigorously for about 3-5 minutes or until it becomes whipped cream (you’ll be able to feel when it no longer “sloshes” and it gets thick). Eat!
  3. Store in the fridge for a day or two tops, but best when eaten as soon as it’s made.

Who can turn down pound cake & homemade whipped cream? And the plums were the highlight, for sure. Who knew such a simple pairing, the components of which are all so incredibly easy, could make such an impressive dessert when put together?

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What a lovely way to welcome fall. See you all in October.

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Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

“To Autumn”, John Keats (1795 – 1821)

Chocolate plum jam & how I “Ferberized” my life.

This post is definitely about chocolate plum jam. Chocolate plum jam with an added kick. But there’s another side to it, and that’s the side I’m going to start with, if you don’t mind. But of course you don’t mind. You’re very accommodating, aren’t you, my dear readers.

But first, take a look at these gorgeous plums. Then keep reading.

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Anyway… something you may not know about me: I make it a point to seek out things that most people aren’t talking about, or get inspired by things that most people don’t know exist.

Let me clarify. I, by my very nature, seek to be different. It’s not always a conscious decision. There are times I go running to the supermarket in an outfit I find perfectly boring and get stared down. Although, I don’t think having a bandanna around my hair & tied in the front is particularly odd- haven’t they ever seen Rosie the Riveter or an episode of I Love Lucy!? And speaking of, my hair is almost always a cause for double takes, as odd as that may seem. This was not always the case. At least not visually. I kept my weirdness inside for most of my life, until high school when I let my freak flag fly. And it wasn’t easy to do in an all-girls Catholic school, but trust me, I found ways. And once I opened those gates, it was all over. I can’t fit into a mold. I can’t look like everyone else; even if I tried to I’d fail. I can’t pretend to enjoy what most other people might enjoy if I genuinely don’t. I’m just naturally drawn to the unusual, the unique, the borderline bizarre. I’ve always been a bit of a mad scientist & a loner. Creating things, pushing the limits of what I can come up with, but all very much inside my own head. A thinker, planning my attack quietly and then surprising everyone with my results. Of course, as is witnessed by this blog, I also have many normal and borderline “boring” (to some; not to me! Hence the quotes) interests as well. Like baking. Or buying beautiful fruit. Or making jams & jellies. So why not combine the two…. the element of crazy surprise and the pastime of preserving…

Time to see the plums again, I think.

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They were calling my name. So I had to buy them. I bought them without knowing what to do with them. I debated letting them just sit on my counter until they were too ripe to look pretty anymore, but good sense won out. Partially due to the fact that I can’t stand to waste anything, but also because I got inspired. Also- that whitish film? It’s called the bloom, and it’s perfectly normal (and safe).

One of the people I’ve been curiously drawn to as of late is Christine Ferber. Ferber is a pastry chef/chocolatier turned confisuese or maker of jams. Her jams and jellies are considered the best in the world, however of course she isn’t exactly a household name in America. As a matter of fact she’s practically unknown here by most accounts. She’s written a book that I’ve had on my Amazon wishlist for a while now- Mes Confitures: the Jams & Jellies of Christine Ferber. The mere phrase ‘mes confitures’ makes me think of jars upon jars of glittering jellies, in different colors, all open and half eaten with golden spoons sticking out. All of this on a beautiful table, like something out of the movie Marie Antoinette. Just that one little phrase speaks volumes to me about the book. This book isn’t a beginners guide to canning, quite the opposite actually. She assumes you already know the basics, and gets down to the nitty gritty of making her highly praised confitures. The varieties of unique recipes she comes up with are so intriguing to me, not to mention her history (pastry chef… chocolatier… confiseuse… what a resume). She kind of inspired me a bit. And the fact that we’re experiencing such a canning boom… I can’t imagine why she isn’t a more talked-about name here in the U.S. Oh, wait, nevermind, we idolize people like the Kardashians, not the true artisans that actually deserve our accolades. Not the mad scientists who create the genius desserts or chocolates that make you close your eyes and say “Oh my freakin’ GOD.” No. Those people don’t get any credit. Maybe if they compete on a Food Network challenge they do, but otherwise? Eh. Anyway, moving on. Upon doing my research I found out Ferber was born in Alsace, a place where I have family history (a set of great-great-great-grandparents of mine were from there). Immediately upon finding that out, I knew I wanted to know even more. It was then I found out she was a pastry chef who became interested in jam making (which reminded me of myself, kinda, except baking is still my first love). Unfortunately, most of the websites (including her own) are not in English. I did learn a few things from the German Wikipedia & this extremely interesting article, however, and at the same time brushed up on my translation skills (years of doing my German/Alsatian ancestry has made me surprisingly decent at reading & deciphering German).

Christine Ferber (born 1960 in Niedermorschwihr , Alsace ) is an award-winning pastry chef (Pâtissière) Chocolatière and Gelierköchin (Confiseuse) of jams , which are among the best in the world. [1]

Ferber Niedermorschwihr operates in the village at the foot of the Vosges north of Colmar, a small pastry shop, where she has worked as a pastry cook and fourth generation chocolate confectioner. In addition to the jam-making, she heads the bakery and patisserie with about 20 employees. Niedermorschwihr was used as a typical Alsatian village in the backdrop of a Japanese television show.

For three years she studied until 1979 at the Patisserie School of Brussels, then they could patissier, chocolatier and confectioner call Champion. [2] A further three years she studied with the top names in Belgium and France, including one year with the master pastry chef Lucien Pelletier in Paris.

At 24, she took over the business of their parents and then developed the Department of pastry and chocolate. In the early 1980s she made her first jam, but her mother advised her of sticking with her other commitment, as the housewives in the village would make their own jams. She stayed there, sticking with the jams and finally gained international notoriety as far away as Japan. Ferber cooks her very unusual and delicious gourmet jams herself, of which she has composed nearly 300 kinds already in the copper kettles of their bakery. Each batch is cooked in small copper kettles, each of which is worth € 1000. This copper kettle was made to the specifications of a scientist for a better “set.” The native wild fruits are collected from friends and acquaintances. Fruits that do not grow in Alsace such as apricots, figs and exotic fruits, can be delivered to Ferber from the Paris wholesale market Rungis. The fruit is always cooked with no preservatives and no more than four of a certain variety. To 1 kg of fruit are only 800 grams of sugar and a little lemon juice. All fruits are heated simultaneously and only as long as necessary, i.e., about 5 minutes on high flame, stirring constantly. The careful preparation and quality of their creative jams from Alsace therefore brought nicknames like “jam queen of Alsace”, “la the fairy confitures” or “Christina, Queen of the jams.” Complex aromas (aigre-doux / sour-sweet) develop their creations, such as white cherry, peppermint, rose hips with orange, wild apple jelly with cinnamon, blueberry with licorice.

Several books such as “Mes confitures” and “Mes Tartes” followed. The three-star chef Alain Ducasse wrote a preface to and known to have never eaten a jam other than those of Madame Ferber.

In several countries, Christine Ferber has courses for making jam and confectionery offered, such as France, Italy, Japan and the United States. [5]

- Taken from via de.Wikipedia.org

(translated into English with many mistakes by Google Translate, fixed with a small amount of help from yours truly)

Sadly, her jams are nearly impossible to find here in the States, so I’ll probably never know if her jams & jellies are truly the best in the world. But regardless, I was inspired. Jams like Ferber’s aren’t the same old, same old you can find in any supermarket or Ball Book of Preserving. They aren’t your great-grandma’s jellies, made 12 pints at a time. They’re made from the highest quality ingredients in smaller batches, and in different flavors like strawberry lemongrass or black cherry with pinot noir. That’s the kind of canning I like to do. I have no use for 20 half-pints of strawberry jam, nor do I find it exciting. I’m not a preserver that preserves to make it through the winter, just like I don’t cook, bake or eat simply to sustain myself & prevent starvation. I create, and that means I create edible art that’s juts as beautiful as it is delicious, because that’s just who and what I am.

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I do things in the kitchen with the same crazy artistic flair (& sometimes oddity) that I possess in all other facets of my life.

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And therefore it’s in the vein of Christine Ferber and other unique jammers that I decided the plums I bought were not going to be canned in an average plum jam. Or plum jelly. Or even a slightly more interesting plum-orange jam. I decided I wanted to make a chocolate plum jam. And so I did. With a teeny bit o’ homemade cherry bourbon up in there for good measure.

Oh yeah. That’s right. I added some bourbon to the mix. Chocolate plum cherry bourbon jammy goodness.

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I mean, it’s almost fall. So we’re all getting ready to hunker down and the deeper, heavier flavors are coming out. So why not make a chocolate plum jam? With bourbon? What better to have on a chilly fall night. Even though it’s not chilly yet at all.

And I know there are mom’s out there who’ll see the title of this post and immediately think of another Ferber-izing. Sorry to disappoint. My kid has four legs and only kept me up at night for a week or so. This type of Ferber-izing, my type, is quite different. Because, see, it has nothing to do with kids. It’s just that I’ve decided that there’s definitely no reason for me to make boring preserves in massive quantities. Unless it’s a special request, or I have an enormous amount of berries here, why should I make just make jar after jar after jar of ordinary ol’ plain strawberry jam? Or ordinary raspberry jam? Or for that matter plain old blueberry? Nope. From here on out it’s exciting & unique preserves only. Ones with liqueur or herbs that you wouldn’t expect. Revolutionary pickles. Totally different combinations of things. Ones that are equally beautiful swirled into homemade ice cream as they are on artisan breads. Ones that make great cupcake fillings just as much as they make excellent toasted English muffin accompaniments at breakfast. I prefer to continue as I have been, buying the best quality ingredients I can and making them into uniquer items like raspberry jalapeno cilantro jam, champagne jelly, lemon-orange marmalade with Jameson Irish whiskey, rose petal hibiscus tea jelly, Molotov Cocktail pickles & hop pickles, or cherry vanilla vodka preserves. So no, Christine Ferber wasn’t the person who initiated all of that… I’ve been doing that stuff for a while now. But she’s the person who helped me officially decide what I had suspected for quite some time: that I could never be the person with the boring pantry filled with 600 jars of plain dill pickles & boring grape jelly.

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‘Cause really, you can just go and buy that stuff if you want it. Why not make the things you can’t buy? Why not have an imagination like Willy Wonka and create the things Smuckers, Polaner or Bonne Maman aren’t already doing? Sure, once in a while it’s nice to make a simple jam, or a simple few jars of pickled green beans. I understand- been there, done that. And there’s nothing wrong with it. Some people really dig on plain blueberry jam, and if you’re putting up fruits & vegetables to last you all winter, you might not want six jars of that chardonnay blueberry jelly, you might want the basics. But why do we have to just be boring all the time? Where’s the Ball Blue Book just for the rebels?

And okay, okay, I hear you. You’re saying, “Dude. Wake up. There are TONS of canning blogs giving me TONS of awesome recipes with vodka & bourbon & unusual/exotic jams.” Yes, this I know. And I read (and love) many of them, as well as the books I own that do the same. But I’m rebelling against the extreme banality that people who don’t do it associate with it. The canning blogs & books I choose to read are awesome- filled with important information but never boring. But there are ones out there that are like reading a DVD player manual. SNORE. And let’s face it, there’s still a stigma on it. You’re either a “wack job survivalist” or “doomsday prepper” canning for the end of the world, an old lady who plays bridge or you’re a farmer. Canning is still, despite the big resurgence, considered boring & old lady-ish. I get funny looks when I buy jars, as if people think, “I guess she’s making crafts/wedding favors/a chandelier she found on Pinterest” not “Wow. I bet this bitch is going to go home and make a ROCKIN’ batch of pickles.”

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Let’s change that, shall we? All of you, start going out there and buying jars to use for their actual purpose. START CANNING. Start making amazing recipes and sharing them with friends & family. Get them to start canning. Kick start the canning revolution in more places than just the food blogging world.

SPIKED CHOCOLATE PLUM JAM (adapted from Grow It Cook It Can It‘s recipe)

This recipe made me 3 half-pint jars and one 4-oz jar

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. plums, perfectly ripe (this is key)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons cherry bourbon (or Kirsch)

Directions:

  1. Sterilize your jars and put the lids in a bowl of hot water. Keep jars hot.
  2. Dice the plums into a large bowl, and add the lemon juice. Toss to coat. Combine them with all the rest of the ingredients (all EXCEPT FOR ONE TEASPOON OF BOURBON/KIRSCH- leave that out for now) in a large saucepan. Turn the heat up to high, stirring occasionally (or else the fruit will scorch).
  3. Cook this way until the mixture reaches 220° degrees on a candy thermometer. Turn off the heat. Stir in the remaining teaspoon bourbon or Kirsch. Ladle the mixture into your hot jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.
  4. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. Check seal.

The end there should really say, “Check seal. And then even if sealed, open immediately and spread all over everything. Then eat.”

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At least on some bread with goat cheese brie. If you prefer dark chocolate, then use a dark cocoa powder. I would have myself, but I only had regular cocoa powder on hand; the only dark chocolate I had was in bar form. And using melted chocolate in jams is tricky, it can burn at the high temperatures needed to make jam set. So I just left it at that. Also, if you like an orange-y flavor, you can use Cointreau instead of cherry bourbon or Kirsch. I guess you could also go in a totally different direction and use Chambord too, if you wanted. Or hell, I guess a tablespoon of just about any liquor will do. You could even up the chocolate quotient and use a chocolate vodka. And of course, I don’t think this needs to be said, but… yes, it’s still amazing whether it’s on toast, English muffins, in yogurt, on ice cream, with soft cheeses and even in/on/around muffins.

I will say this: no matter how or why you’re canning, or what you’re making- it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you put your all into it. I don’t care if you’re making nothing but strawberry jam your whole life because it’s your favorite thing. That’s totally cool with me, because I know homemade always tastes better than storebought. As long as you’re making it with heart, it’s all good. Because the point is, if that’s who you are, then be it proudly. If you’re strawberry jam, then go ahead and be an awesome fucking strawberry jam. Just don’t pretend to be a strawberry jam when you’re a cherry pinot noir preserve, or vice versa. For me, I just have to be who I am. And that’s anything but ordinary.

So when are you Ferber-izing your life?

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Side note: I get e-mails sometimes specifically asking about my dishtowels/cloth napkins/tablecloths/etc. For example, the towels/napkins in this post got a couple of questions, as did some of these: the jam muffins, both the pickled eggplant & the pickled shrimp, this post about my 5-year blogiversary, this one about the drunken cherry scones & of course, this one too. These e-mails center around “where do you get them?” or “where can I get that!?” And I have a feeling, a very distinct feeling, that the little embroidered lady at the top of this post will get a few questions too. Well there’s good news and bad news. You want the bad news first? Okay… the bad news is some of them (including that little lady) are vintage. Like the one in the picture at the top of this post. That means you’ll most likely never get your hands on them, although you might get something like them. The good news? The rest are interesting finds from places like Ikea, Anthropologie, Crate & Barrel or Williams-Sonoma (mostly Ikea, ’cause they’re cheaper & can be replaced easily). If you like a certain something you see in a picture, feel free to ask! I’ll always answer, and point you in the right direction to get them yourself if possible. And just for your edification, the list of posts I linked to above? In the exact order of the links, the towels in the posts above are, Ikea, vintage, vintage, vintage/Ikea, vintage and Ikea.

Fruit stoned.

I might be a summer baby, born on the 30th of July, but I’m not a lover of 95˚ F degree temperatures with dew points that make it feel like it’s 104˚ F. Basically all I want to do once the mercury goes up is… well… nothing. Seriously. I just want to sit and lounge in a cool, comfortable spot, drink frozen adult beverages and get fanned with palm fronds (preferably with Henry Cavill, Alexander Skårsgard and Brad Pitt doing the fanning) and I’d look something like this…

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You know, impossibly fresh-looking and relaxed, all my makeup in place, with not a drop of sweat to be found. But that isn’t always practical, as you probably well know. That’s a total dream sequence. I still have to work, and do gardening, and cleaning, and eating, and living. And you do too!

And since you’ve still gotta eat, no matter how hot it is, you probably still want dessert too. I know dessert is a must around here. Crazy enough, when you’re known for your baking and you have a blog where you showcase your baked goods, people actually expect dessert all the time! In the summer, especially these hazy/hot/humid “dog days” of summer, the best kind of desserts to make are the easy ones. Ones that don’t take a lot of time, ones that are made from fresh or in-season ingredients, ones that basically make themselves and ones that you can eat with a dollop of ice cream or fresh whipped cream. But more importantly: ones that still look beautiful (despite the ungodly heat) & make everyone think you slaved for hours.

And a galette is one of those.

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And right about now you may be wondering what the hell a galette is exactly. Well, I’m going to satisfy your curiosity…

Galette is a term used in the French cuisine to designate various types of flat, round or freeform crusty cakes,[1] similar in concept to a Chinese bing. One notable type is the galette des Rois (King cake) eaten on the day of Epiphany. In French Canada, the term galette is usually applied to pastries best described as large cookies.

Galette, or more properly Breton galette (French: Galette bretonne, Breton: Krampouezhenn gwinizh du), is also the name given in most French crêperies to savoury buckwheat flour pancakes, while those made from wheat flour, much smaller in size and mostly served with a sweet filling, are branded crêpes. Galette is a type of thin large pancake mostly associated with the regions of Normandy and Brittany, where it replaced at times bread as basic food, but it is eaten countrywide. Buckwheat was introduced as a crop suitable to impoverished soils and buckwheat pancakes were known in other regions where this crop was cultivated, such as Limousin or Auvergne.

It is frequently garnished with egg, meat, fish, cheese, cut vegetables, apple slices, berries, or similar ingredients. One of the most popular varieties is a galette covered with grated Emmental cheese, a slice of ham and an egg, cooked on the galette.[2] In France, this is known as a galette complète (a complete galette). A hot sausage wrapped in a galette (called galette saucisse, a tradition of Rennes, France) and eaten like a hot dog is becoming increasingly popular as well.[3]

There is a children’s song about galette: “J’aime la galette, savez-vous comment ? Quand elle est bien faite, avec du beurre dedans.” (“I like galette, do you know how? When it is made well, with butter inside.”)

-Wikipedia

My galettes aren’t exactly like the traditional galettes, they’re just puff pastry topped with stone-fruits: sliced plums, peaches & nectarines. But they’re pretty, and they’re pretty easy to make. Okay they’re more than pretty. They’re downright gorgeous. Like jewels laid out on pillows… (was that too cheesy? It sounds very cheesy in my head…)


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Okay, scratch that cheesy crap. This is some hardcore punk rock pastry! Better? No? Alright forget it.

Anyway, all I did was unroll one sheet of frozen puff pasty dough, and cut it into 6 pieces. I placed them evenly on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Then I melted some marmalade (I used this one, and heated it just enough so it was more liquidy & easily brushed on) and brushed it onto each piece. I pitted & sliced up some plums, a large peach, and some nectarines and placed them on top of the melted marmalade. I made a different galette for each, but you could make ones that consist of a variety of sliced stone-fruits. I sprinkled them with a little granulated sugar and baked them in a 375° F oven for 40-50 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.

You’re done!

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Remove them from the oven, let them cool for 5-10 minutes on the baking sheet, then remove to a rack unless they’re going to be eaten right then & there. If you leave them on the sheets, they’ll get soggy. Serve them plain, or like I said above: with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and/or fresh whipped cream.

So yes, it requires that you actually put the oven on. And you have to melt the marmalade a little. But really, that’s a small price to pay for a dessert that looks like this. I guarantee you, if you serve these, someone will ask you what bakery you bought them from. Apricot jam works well too, if you don’t have marmalade. And any kind of stone-fruit works; plums, nectarines, peaches, pluots, apricots… whatever! A sprinkling of sliced almonds along with the sugar on top before baking would be a great addition. You could also spread some frangipane on the puff pastry instead of marmalade. And in the fall, the peaches & plums can be replaced with pears and apples, too, maybe with a sprinkling of cinnamon as well as sugar.Hell, I don’t see why you couldn’t use sliced strawberries either.

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Of course you can totally make your own puff pastry dough, too. I opted for frozen because this was a last-minute decision based on some peaches & nectarines that were getting too soft and needed to be used (and a kind of over-abundance of plums). It’s good to have some frozen puff pastry in your fridge, along with some crescent rolls and biscuits. They can be used at the drop of a hat to make an excellent breakfast or dessert.

That’s truthfully how I come up with most of my ideas; when I have fruit or something that needs to be used ASAP, and some kind of frozen pastry or crust, etc. I see what I have, what fresh materials are around, and I work around them. I rarely say, “Hey, this week I’m gonna make a stone-fruit galette so I better stock up on peaches & shit.” Nope. If I have strawberries that need to be used, I incorporate them into something. If I buy cherries because they’re on sale, I figure out what I’m going to make after I have them. That’s how it ought to be- you decide what you’re going to eat based on what’s available, what’s fresh, what’s in season. Eh. I’m not going to preach… I had both a big ass burger from Five Guys & a pizza with garlic knots in the past week.

That said, I’m already imagining this done with a thick layer of peanut butter-chocolate ganache and marshmallows on top. The fun ain’t just for fruit! And marshmallows are always in season.

Preserving: traditions… and some fruits, nuts & tea.

I’ve heard a lot recently about keeping traditions alive, especially after someone has passed away. For me it’s important. Vital, even. And that’s been something that has always been important in my family. The year my great-grandfather Tom died in late November (my grandmother’s father), her & my grandpa put up a Christmas tree. A smaller one, but still. The year her mother Mary passed away right before Halloween, her brother still passed out candy at the house because it was his mother’s favorite holiday. To not do these things would feel wrong to us. However, everyone grieves differently. For us it’s important to continue with the things those people loved to do… we’d feel sadder & lonelier without them. To each his own. But for me, that’s how our ancestors & family members are kept alive. Making their recipes, using their decorations, etc. Doing the things they used to do & love. Preserving the traditions. My grandma loved Christmas, to not celebrate it would be wrong.

Speaking of preserving…. in the last few days before Christmas, I thought I’d throw in three more ideas for seasonally appropriate jams/conserves/jellies. Perfect for gift-giving, as additions to the Christmas dinner/after-dinner spread, or for a Christmas Day brunch. All three are different, yet totally Christmas-y. And in case you’re wondering…

Conserves are made with dried fruits and nuts and are cooked. They have a very thick and chunky texture. Conserves work very well as a spread and as a condiment for meats and cheeses.

Jam is a thick mixture of fruit, pectin, and sugar that is boiled gently but quickly until the fruit is soft and has an organic shape, yet is still thick enough that it spreads easily and can form a blob. In addition to being a spread, jams are also good for fillings.

Jelly is made from sugar, pectin, acid, and fruit juice and is a clear spread that is firm enough to hold its shape. Jellies can also be made from ingredients other than fruit, such as herbs, tea, wine, liqueurs, flowers, and vegetables.

- source: TheKitchn

Does that clear up the confusion? So anyway, like I said, three recipes. Yes. I said THREE. Three whole recipes today. I must be crazy, right? Three recipes for three different types of jarred up, old timey, homestyle holiday fare. I guess you could say this post is a trifecta of awesomeness. Or a triple threat. Whatever it is- it rocks.

Those are regular size cupcake liners used as lid covers!

First up is the conserve; made with dried figs, dried plums & walnuts. The recipe was sent to me by my friend Chrisie who found it in an old cookbook of her grandma’s. I used whole dried Black Mission figs & Plum Amazins’ diced dried plums myself- the original recipe calls for two types of dried figs. I had the plums & figured why the hell not. My mother is a big fig person, so these were made specifically as a gift for her. I’m giving you the original recipe in it’s entirety, with any modifications I did in parentheses.

FIG (& PLUM) & WALNUT CONSERVE

Makes roughly 8 half pints

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup packed dried black figs
  • 3 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup packed dried California figs, or any medium light brown figs (I substituted Plum Amazin dried plums)
  • 1 medium orange, both the juice & the fruit (I used just the juice from a small orange, since I used slightly more figs than called for, I didn’t think I needed extra pulp or fruit)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cups packed light brown sugar (I used half light brown, half dark brown)
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup white wine (I omitted this)
  • ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups toasted walnuts, chopped (I didn’t toast them, I just tossed them in and let them cook with the fruit)
  • 1 teaspoon ground sage (I used cardamom instead, only ½ teaspoon)

Directions:

  1. Snip the stems off the figlets and place in a large bowl along with the boiling water for 30 minutes. Slice the California figs in half (if using the Plum Amazin’s there’s no need to do that, they’re already diced) and place in a large pan along with the figlets and fig water.
  2. Cut the orange in half; juice half and dice the remaining half, including rind, into small pieces. Add the orange juice to the pan. Mix in the remaining ingredients, except the walnuts and sage (or, like I used, cardamom). Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Mix in the walnuts and sage and cook for an additional 10 minutes (I let it cook down longer, so it was a much thicker consistency). Spoon the fig and walnuts into clean, hot jars, pressing down.
  3. Ladle the juice over the fruit, leaving ½”-inch headroom. Wipe the rims clean and seal. Invert the jars for 10 minutes. Restore to an upright position and cool. Check the seals, label and store in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year.

Since it’s an old recipe, and it relies on the inversion method, you might want to add in about 15 minutes processing time in a water bath canner. Unless you’re not anal about these things. I know the USDA would say otherwise, but this recipe is old & I doubt anyone died from it. Still & all I’d hate to be responsible for anyone croaking from preserves.

And next… the big ol’ boozehound of the crew: vanilla-brandy chestnut jam. This smelled so good cooking on the stove, it took everything in my power to not eat it. Seriously. As it was cooking, I wanted to just eat it right out of the pot. Then once the brandy was added… well, forget it. It seems like this is a pretty insane jam. Very rich, very dessert-like.

VANILLA-BRANDY CHESTNUT JAM

Makes about 8 pints

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¾ lbs. peeled chestnuts, chopped
  • 1 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
  • 3 cups light brown sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons brandy (depending on taste)

Directions:

  1. Put peeled chestnuts and vanilla bean (or extract) in large sauce pan and just cover with water. Cover pan and bring to a boil; simmer until chestnuts are tender (about 30 min.). Remove and set aside vanilla bean. Drain chestnuts, reserving cooking liquid.
  2. Put chestnuts, sugar, and about 5 tablespoons cooking liquid in heavy pan. Split vanilla bean and scrape out seeds; add seeds and bean to pan. Heat mixture gently, stirring & gently “smooshing” the chestnuts (don’t worry if they remain in little chunks), until sugar is dissolved, then raise heat and boil until mixture is thick. Remove and discard vanilla bean (if used); stir in brandy.
  3. Ladle hot jam into sterilized jars, seal, and process in water bath for 10 minutes.

If you prefer a smoother jam, without chunks, then purée the chestnuts before step 2. I like jams to have chunks of fruit (in this case nuts) in ‘em, so I left the pieces of chestnut. And I’ll be honest here & say I bought pre-peeled chestnuts. I could not sit there & do that until my fingers bled… that’s dedication. I just like to reap the benefits. Plus, I scaled it back to make just 4 4-oz. jars, so for that small amount of chestnuts it’s kinda silly to go through all that. But certainly do as you wish.

And finally… last but not least… Gingerbread spice jelly! Made from TEA. Who’da thunk it? This is a fantastic idea, one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” type of deals. As soon as I saw this in Taste of Home magazine, I ripped it out & circled it.

GINGERBREAD SPICE JELLY (courtesy of Robin Nagel from Taste of Home magazine, December 2011)

Makes 5 half pints

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 18 individual gingerbread spice tea bags (I used Celestial Seasonings’ Gingerbread Spice tea because it’s the only one I know of!)
  • 4 ½ cups sugar
  • ½ cup unsweetened apple juice
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 2 pouches (3 oz. each) liquid fruit pectin

Directions:

  1. In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil. Remove from the heat; add tea bags. Cover and steep for 30 minutes.
  2. Discard tea bags. Stir in the sugar, apple juice and butter. Bring to a full rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from heat; skim off foam. Carefully ladle hot mixture into hot jars, leaving ¼”-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles; wipe rims and adjust lids. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner (adjust that for your altitude). Let cool on a tea towel for 12 hours. Check seal. (Recipe author says jelly may take up to 2 weeks to fully set- mine set as soon as it cooled)

Since these are all wrapped up & ready to be given as gifts, I can’t tell you how any of them taste yet. But I’m sure they’re both amazing. From what I saw & smelled, I think the fig conserves would be excellent on a cracker with a piece of cheese (maybe even on a sour cream pound cake), and the chestnut jam would probably be awesome with a piece of pound cake or over vanilla ice cream. Now the jelly… hmm… I’d say on warm toast with a cup of tea. But I also kinda wanna say that it’d be great in thumbprint cookies.

Speaking of wrapped up- if you want to do this with your preserves as an easy way of jazzing ‘em up, wait until after the 12-24 hours are up and you’re sure they’re cooled & sealed. Then just unscrew the band, place a cupcake liner on the top & screw the band back on. Totally simple! And after seeing all the amazing entries in Well Preserved‘s Pimp That Preserve contest, you might have been inspired to start pimpin’ your jars… but you just didn’t know where to start! Well this is an easy way. Then you can just tie a ribbon on it, put a label on & you’re done. Although I happen to think the homemade labels & little penguin stickers on my Gingerbread jelly are mighty cute, too (they’re from the scrapbooking section of Michael’s). Be creative. Take it from a 2011 Pimp That Preserve winner *wink* The best thing about giving jars of treats like these as gifts is that unlike cake, cupcakes, cookies or bread, there’s no expiration date. Well there is, but it’s so far in the future no one has to feel the need to eat it all in one week!

Maybe Santa would like a jar of one of these instead of the usual cookies this year?