Category: raspberry

Eating this True Blood cake did not suck.

This Sunday, June 16th, at 9 o’clock p.m. EST on HBO, season 6 of True Blood will premiere. I know all you “Trubies” are going bananas. As they say, “waiting sucks.” And I absolutely agree: it does totally suck to have to wait so long for a new season. But …while you all were waiting patiently (or not so) for the new season, I had this baby to keep me company. The True Blood cookbook! 

True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps

It’s a delicious book- filled with beautiful photographs of scenes from the show and more. There are gorgeous shots of Gran’s kitchen & the outside of both her house & Bill’s house, as well as pictures of Merlotte’s and Fangtasia. The attention to detail is awesome; the picture of Gran’s kitchen makes you feel like you’re right there. Big, glossy, clear photos.

The food photography in and of itself is beautiful. Almost every recipe has an accompanying photo. And it’s not just food, or baked goods that are featured. There are cocktails & non-alcoholic drink recipes too…

An excerpt from True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps

An excerpt from True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps

A cake from the cookbook True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps

So to celebrate the return of this beloved show, and all my favorite characters (Eric & Pam! Eric & Pam!)… I made me a True Blood Naked Cake. Also known (in the book) as “Totally Surprised Birthday Cake,” which is the stunning cake on the cover (and as seen above). My version of the cake is a “naked” cake; meaning it’s not fully frosted. The majority of the frosting is combined with the filling and put on top to create a naked effect.

A layer cake filled with lemon filling, vanilla frosting & a mixed berry topping inspired by and adapted from the True Blood cookbook.

In the book, the cake is fully frosted. But I wanted to make a naked cake for three reasons: one, I hate frosting cakes, two, it’s pretty. And three… ‘naked’ is kinda appropriate for True Blood. Lotsa people gettin’ all kinds of naked on that show!

A cake inspired by the cookbook True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps.

This cake is comprised of two cake layers, a lemon filling, a frosting similar to a 7-minute frosting or an Italian meringue buttercream and a rich berry topping; made of macerated raspberries & strawberries. It’s decadent, it’s drippy, it’s smooshy. It’s complex. It’s amazing. And you know what? I’m just gonna say it- it’s sexy. Kind of like the TV show itself. There’s so much going on you’re afraid you’ll miss something, but it all comes together perfectly.

I mean, come on. Look at this cake. It kinda makes you wanna do bad things.

A "naked" cake celebrating the return of True Blood season 6! Inspired by the True Blood cookbook, it's a two-layer vanilla cake filled with a lemon filling & vanilla frosting, then topped with more frosting & a mixed berry macerated topping.

Thick, creamy frosting.

Sunny, bright, slightly sticky lemon filling.

Moist & light vanilla cake.

And a bunch of juicy berries in sugar.

True Blood "naked" cake; vanilla cake filled with lemon filling, thick vanilla frosting & topped with a macerated raspberry & strawberry topping. From the True Blood cookbook!

Thick vanilla frosting, tart lemon filling & sweet macerated berries come together with vanilla cake to create this True Blood "Naked" cake; inspired by & taken from the True Blood cookbook!

Cake inspired by the True Blood cookbook!

Beautiful.

It’s the perfect cake to crack open a Tru Blood with, before you get down with some vampire action on those hot, humid summertime Sunday nights. And right about now you’re wondering where the recipe is. Well, I hate to do this to you… but…

If you want the recipe- you’re gonna have to buy the book!

 

I know, I know, I suck (pun intended!). You can buy True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps through Amazon or Barnes & Noble. And be sure to watch the True Blood season 6 premiere on HBO this Sunday night, June 16th, at 9 p.m.

A vanilla layer cake filled with a bright, tart lemon filling, a thick vanilla frosting & topped with macerated raspberries & strawberries. Inspired by & adapted from the True Blood cookbook!

Don’t forget the cake! And remember, friends don’t let friends eat friends.

 

True Blood: Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps

“Sittin’ down to eat with the people you love, or even just like, life don’t get any better than that. Least not here in Bon Temps.”

- Sookie Stackhouse

(Pssst… I received absolutely no compensation for this post. I purchased the book myself, and any & all opinions are my own. I do not claim ownership of the True Blood logo, name or television show, nor do I claim to have any rights to any recipes in the book or anything to do with Charlaine Harris’ book series. For other desserts & eats that are True Blood inspired or could be used in relation to True Blood, check out my True Blood velvet cupcakes, blood spatter cupcakes, and True Blood orange cupcakes. Enjoy responsibly & keep your fangs in.)

Auld Lang Syne.

Here we are. Arriving at the end of yet another year. Another year older, and hopefully another year wiser. For many, NYE is a melancholy event, and for others it’s just an excuse to party hard & wake up the next morning with no clue of how/where the previous year ended. Neither of those describe me. Like I said on Facebook a few days ago, my idea of the perfect NYE? In my pajamas, eating take-out or a variety of appetizers while watching The Honeymooners. Then, right before midnight, switching over to the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve just to see the ball drop while drinking some bubbly. No parties, no bar-hopping. The furthest I’ll go is out to dinner. I am just not the partying type (anymore). And of course, being the significant other of a police officer means there’s not a whole lot going on on NYE anyway; he’s usually working, even if it’s a “day off.”

So on that note, every year for New Year’s Eve, since I’m usually home, I make something fun using champagne (or rosé or prosecco…). I think since champagne is the drink of the evening, it’s only right that any desserts or meals that are served not only compliment champagne & vice versa, but include it somehow.

This year, I was at a loss until I stumbled upon something on the Food Network website that gave me the perfect excuse to buy that extra bottle of champagne:

CHAMPAGNE PARFAITS. Whaaaat. I know.

This is probably the easiest dessert you’ll ever make. I know, I know, I always say that. But this time it’s 100% true: it takes absolutely no time at all to make, about 8-10 minutes, actually. And the rest of the time it just chills out in the fridge. You can make it the night before or that morning. It tastes just like champagne… but in a jiggly form. It’s a grown-up, classier, fancier version of a Jell-O shot… no fake fruit flavor added. Add some berries (berries bring out the flavors in champagne) if you like, or a little fresh whipped cream, or just eat it plain. You probably have all, if not most, of the ingredients already. And if you don’t? They’re easy enough to get a hold of.

Plus, it just looks spectacularly beautiful.

CHAMPAGNE “JELL-O” STYLE OR CHAMPAGNE GELATIN PARFAIT (adapted from a recipe by Claire Robinson at the Food Network)

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle champagne/rose/prosecco (750 ml)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) packets unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoon’s confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup raspberries or strawberries (if you prefer, it’s optional)

Directions:

  1. Put the champagne, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes to burn off some of the alcohol.
  2. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the gelatin until completely dissolved. Pour into parfait glasses, champagne glasses or a 9 x 11″ baking dish. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate to set up for at least 4 hours.
  3. When you’re ready to serve the parfaits, in a large bowl, whip the cream to medium stiff peaks, adding the confectioner’s sugar slowly. Then add vanilla. Whip with a hand mixer using a whisk attachment until desired thickness, but not so much it turns to butter!
  4. Remove the glasses with the gelatin from the fridge. If you’ve used a baking dish, cut the gelatin into 1 by 1-inch cubes and put into parfait or champagne glasses.
  5. Top each with a dollop of fresh whipped cream and berries.* Then enjoy!

*Another idea is to put the berries into the room temperature mixture before refrigerating it. Then they’d be “floating” in the champagne!

I am IN NO WAY encouraging anyone to pour a steaming hot liquid into a crystal vessel or a non-heatproof glass vessel. I can’t take responsibility for anyone ruining their good crystal by pouring hot champagne Jell-O mixture into it. That said, after allowing the mixture to cool (not to room temperature, just slightly above) and warming the crystal under hot water first (and gradually), I poured it into the champagne flutes and then let it come to room temperature. Once it was cooled enough, then I transferred them to the refrigerator where they stayed until serving time. Any quick change in temperature can cause glass & crystal to crack or even simply shatter. So if you are planning on serving these in the flutes, you have a few options:

  1. Do as I did: heat up your gelatin mixture, and let it cool off the heat enough so that it’s not scalding hot, but just very warm. Meanwhile, let cool water, then lukewarm water, then warm water, then hot water run over your crystal champagne flutes. When they’re prepared for the hot champagne mixture, place a thin tea towel on your table or kitchen counter and place the warm flutes on it. Put a small metal spoon in each one, then you can pour the mixture into them slowly. Then remove the spoons. Allow them to cool completely and come to room temperature, then place them in the fridge for 4 hours or until it’s time for dessert. The idea is that the spoons absorb the heat, and help disperse it, and the tea towel absorbs the shock making it less likely you’ll break the flutes. I’ve had no problem with this method- but again, do it at your own risk.
  2. Use cheap dollar store champagne flutes or wine glasses to attempt it- if you don’t want to risk your good crystal. I’d still use the method above.
  3. Use disposable plastic champagne flutes from a party store. If you personalized them (either the glass or the plastic) with Sharpies, your guests could then take them home! You don’t need to prep plastic first, they should hold up just fine with the warm liquid (not boiling!)
  4. Use parfait glasses. Since they’re usually thicker glass, there’s really less concern with breakage. I’d still run the hot water over them first like I said in #1.
  5. Use a heatproof glass baking dish, let it come to room temperature, and then put it in the fridge the same way. Then simply cut it into 1″ squares once it’s ready, and place it into the flutes/wine glasses/bowls for serving. Heatproof glass doesn’t need to be heated before having boiling hot liquid poured into it, it’s just fine to use & withstands drastic temperature changes pretty damn well.

If you’re frightened, then don’t do it. Use a baking dish, and cut it to serve, or use the plastic champagne glasses. But I will say that these are my grandmother’s crystal champagne flutes from 1940, and they held up just fine with the method I explained above.

Just as with the champagne jelly, you shouldn’t use an expensive champagne for this. Any champagne will do- don’t waste your Tattinger, Perrier-Jouet or Veuve Clicquot. Because after all, don’t forget, you’re boiling it & adding sugar to it anyway. Why use something really expensive when you won’t get the full taste? I used Andre extra dry which is about $4.99 a bottle for the 750ml, and it turned out excellent. Plus, there’s more sugar in cheaper champagne as a rule, so they make a better dessert. You don’t really want a parfait that isn’t sweet. If you prefer very dry champagne that isn’t sweet for drinking, that’s fine. But in a dessert, served with whipped cream & berries? You want a little bit of sweetness.

Save the good champagne for guzzling !

I hope you have a safe & happy end of 2012 & beginning of the year, and a healthy 2013 throughout. I’ll see you back here next year!

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne…

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

 

The name “Jell-O®” is a registered trademark of Kraft Foods U.S/the Altria Group. & this company or the makers of J-ello have nothing to do with me, this recipe or this post. I’m using the name as a generic term for a gelatin -based dessert, i.e. the way “Band-Aid” or “Kleenex” is used to describe bandages or tissue paper.

Raspberry-jalapeño-cilantro jam, or “rasp-jalantro.”

“One must maintain a little bittle of summer, even in the middle of winter.”
-Henry David Thoreau

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I saw that quote the other day and it struck me, probably because I related it to the blog. How could I not, really? In a few ways…one, canning & preserving. Aren’t the two of those things doing exactly what that quote says- keeping a ‘little bittle’ of summer with us, all through fall & winter? Is that not how canning & preserving & pickling originated? Of course. And two, the very fact that I run a blog means I have an internet-based, HTML & CSS created cookbook & diary at my fingertips, 24/7/52/365. Even if my old pictures make me cringe (they’re all taken with FLASH!What the hell was I thinking?), I can look back at my summer posts on the coldest day in winter, when the snow is coming down and my toes freeze just walking to the car, just the same way I can look at those wintery posts about Shepherd’s Pie when it’s 100º outside and I sweat just thinking about having the oven on. But I digress.

The idea behind my coming up with this jam is pretty simple. I’d been thinking of a sweet/savory jam for a while now, after the success of last year’s habanero rosemary jelly & after hearing that my friend Chrisie made a blueberry-basil jam, but I just wasn’t sure what kind I wanted to make. Like most things I make, it ended up being carefully thought out, totally obsessed over and then in the end, made differently than I thought. Right away, I decided I’d do something raspberry-based. My initial idea was a raspberry-chipotle jam. I’m hugely into Mexican food, all things Mexican actually, and so chipotle just popped out at me.

One of my most prized possessions is this handpainted skull Jay got me in San Antonio, TX when he was there playing a show back in November.


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He actually got me a TON of sugar skull stuff down there, all imported from Mexico: a handscreened oven mitt, a painted terracotta tile, etc, etc… and I love it all. But she’s by far my favorite. Jay got a matching more masculine one, too. We’re cheesy like that. Basically anything sugar skull themed is sure to make me smile.

Anyway, I wanted to make a spicy, savory yet still sweet jam. I was inspired by Chrisie’s blueberry-basil concoction, Mexico & it’s food/culture, and then… I saw some raspberry-chipotle sauces & salad dressings for sale. I’m out of the loop with that stuff, I’m more of a classic salad dressing & marinade girl, myself. No fruity or fancy stuff. I use Jack Daniel’s or Guinness barbecue sauce & blue cheese dressing, for goodness sake. But I figured if it makes a good sauce, it’ll probably make a damn good jam. However true to form, I had trouble finding chipotle peppers. Can I get a WTF? As a matter of fact, I couldn’t find them at all. Not in any ethnic, natural or gourmet market. I had to settle for using jalapeños, and threw a bit of cilantro in there for an added Southwestern flavor. Not that there’s anything wrong with jalapeños. I love them. They just have a very different kind of heat & flavor than chipotles, which are actually just smoked & dried red jalapeños. But the smoke was the thing I originally wanted for this jam. And yes I could’ve made my own, blah blah… but I wasn’t really in the mood to smoke & dry/dehydrate ONE jalapeño pepper myself to make 12 ounces of experimental jam. I had the berries, I needed to make the jam ASAP. So I used half of a green jalapeño I had already.

I also decided to make a very, very small batch just to test it out. How small? About three 4-oz. jars.


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Yep. Super small batch! But number one, I wasn’t at all 100% confident in it’s deliciousness and two, how much raspberry-jalapeño-cilantro jam does one person need? Not that much really. Even if you do love it, you can only eat so much of it. And that’s another reason I like having the 4-ounce jars around, because they’re excellent for experimental jams & jellies (and also for overflow; a.k.a. the bit left over after you fill your jars up that isn’t quite enough for a full jar). You don’t have to feel horrible about tossing it (if it’s crappy) when it’s only one or two tiny jars worth. Unfortunately, the 4-ounce jars are insanely hard to find. At least around here. My dad managed to pick me up a case at a Walmart recently, but I’ve only found them ONE other time in a store and it was around Christmas.

The ingredients are pretty easy to remember: raspberries, sugar, freshly squeezed lime juice, one half of a jalapeño, and fresh cut cilantro. I adapted a basic raspberry jam recipe to suit my needs and just added the pepper. I tossed in some roughly chopped cilantro at the end, right before removing it from the heat. I’m giving you my recipe, but of course it can be changed slightly to adapt it to you. If you prefer more heat, add the entire pepper… for less heat, use a pepper that isn’t so hot. You can also use a Serrano or Anaheim pepper. If you like more cilantro, add more. If you don’t like cilantro, take it out altogether. Because it’s such a small recipe, you can also double and even triple it with good results. You don’t need any added pectin. I’m not really sure why people use commercial pectin with blackberries, raspberries & blueberries. You don’t need it. If you dislike the seeds, you can remove them. I find they add a nice texture, plus they’re healthy. But if you really hate ‘em, this blog has a recipe for seedless raspberry jam that you can get some seed-removal tips from.

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RASPBERRY-JALAPEÑO-CILANTRO JAM

Makes about three 4-ounce jars

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces fresh raspberries, washed
  • 8 ounces granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • half of one jalapeño pepper (or more or less, depending on taste), chopped or diced
  • a tablespoon or two roughly chopped cilantro leaves

Directions:

  1. Place the raspberries in a medium saucepan. Using the back of a wooden spoon, crush them as best you can. Add the sugar and lime juice, then stir.
  2. Turn the heat on medium and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the chopped jalapeño. Keep cooking it until it reaches the desired thickness (or “set”; this can be different times for different people/ovens/pots). Turn off the heat and add the cilantro, stirring until it’s combined.
  3. Ladle the jam into your hot, sterilized jars. Wipe rims, place lids, and process for 10 minutes.

If you can find chipotles, or you have them already, feel free to use some finely diced chipotle in this. The smokiness would be fantastic, and you can use a little more of them than jalapeños without burning someone’s mouth off with the holy-crap-I-was-unprepared-for-the-hotness-in-a-raspberry-jam stuff going on in this. I actually might just have to do another version of this after I find some chipotle.

You can also add a little more lime juice if you want, or take it out altogether. I liked the tartness it added.


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It looks pretty delish, doesn’t it? And it WAS. Quelle surprise. I was genuinely surprised, seriously. I didn’t have high hopes for this one for some reason, but it was definitely successful.

It’s great on a cracker- the ones above are some kind of Wheat Thins herb-y flatbread cracker thing- but it’s also good whisked with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar) and made into a salad dressing. And of course, it’d probably be excellent melted down and used as a sauce for chicken or even chicken wings. You could probably find a couple of different ways to use it. I bet it would be good with certain cheeses, too. Ooh! And on cornbread! Ohhh, the possibilities. Just endless.

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I’m sure you’ve got the eating part covered. So make it. Worse comes to worse, if you don’t wildly love it- sharing is caring. Everyone loves a jar of something homemade, right? Just be sure to let them know there are hot peppers in there, or else they might get a nasty surprise & also might not want to eat much of your canned foods after that.

And for those of you thinking “Where the F&%! are the cupcakes?!” they’re coming! This week! It’s been really hot here, and I haven’t been in much of a mood for tackling frosting & things more complicated than cobblers. But have no fear. The cupcakes are coming.

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Raspberry-jalapeño-cilantro jam. on Punk Domestics

Alright, we’re jammin’, & I hope you like jammin’ too.

I’ll be honest- if these posts weren’t already written and ready, I probably would not be back to posting. But they are, so I figured why not. I don’t think it’s being disrespectful to my grandmother’s memory to keep blogging this soon after her passing, especially since it gives me something to look forward to & also because she loved my blog. And as devastated as I am, like I said, these posts were already written (I just heavily edited some). So on we go on this blogging journey. Hopefully at some point this summer, I’ll get back to the baking, as soon as the weather cools down just a bit (103° degrees is a bit hot for cupcakes, A/C or not).

Awhile back, in early July, I had some overripe peaches I bought and forgot about, as well as some blackberries & raspberries left over from previous baking exploits & I decided to just make a quick little one-jar jam with them, a preserved one, so that in a few months when these beautiful fruits aren’t in season or aren’t looking as nice in the produce department as they do now, at least we’d have something to hang on to. Summer seems to by flying by so fast, I thought it might be before I know it that we might need this. Something to remind us that summer was indeed here, despite the falling leaves or snow or whatever. But then I realized it probably wouldn’t even last that long! While I was at it, I made some sliced peaches. But we’ll talk about that later.

My labels rock, I know this.

Me: “Hi, I’m Marilla, and I’m addicted to canning.”

Canner’s Anonymous Group: “Hi Marilla…”

In all seriousness, the fruit would’ve just gone bad anyway. And then it would’ve been thrown away. So not only am I extending the tastes of summer (sort of), I’m being responsible about not  letting fruit just sit & rot when it’s been forgotten about. And that tends to happen here; berries get pushed to the back of the fridge, etc, etc. The squirrels love me, though, because most of it gets tossed into the yard & they happily munch on it. Hence, a half-eaten apple perched on a branch in my Dogwood tree last week. However, it really is not my main job to make sure the squirrels here have a balanced diet with lots of fresh fruits. So I will jar as much as possible before it has a chance to go bad! And you should too. It’s fun, and easy, and once you start you won’t be able to stop. So go get started.

Okay so… I lied. It really isn’t ONE jar jam. It’s more like, a pint jar and a half jam.  So if you’ve got pint and half-pint jars, you’re in luck. If not, then I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not quite at the stage where I feel comfortable mucking around with canning recipes, especially jam, because when you double/triple them I’ve heard trouble starts. So that’s on you. I’m usually a rebel (“I’m a loner, Dottie, a rebel…”) but being that I’m a total n00b to the world of canning, I’ll wait until I’m a bit more experienced before messing with shit. But you could always put the extra half-pint in an empty jar, not process it and refrigerate it once it cools, using it immediately. Basically I had two extra pint jars sanitized from my pickles, so I wanted to use them. The half-pint ones were just bonuses (that were promptly given away to random lucky recipients). I made them the same night as my pickles, proving they are indeed super fast & easy because I’d already made 5 jars of pickles, plus a full dinner (pasta with pesto sauce… yum) by the time I made these. And I’m pretty freakin’ bionic, but even I have my limits. So trust me- it’s easy.

I’m assuming in writing this that you already know the very basics of canning. If not, please check out The National Center for Food Preservation‘s website & get some background first. You most definitely can can anything, but you have to know how to do it & have the right equipment for it. Besides, I ain’t no master-canner! But this recipe doesn’t require a whole lot of experience, anyone with the proper equipment can do it.

PEACH-BLACKBERRY-RASPBERRY JAM

Ingredients:

  • 1 ⅓ cups fruit, combination of blackberries, peaches & raspberries (crush the berries, finely chop the peaches)
  • 0.4 ounces of Ball® RealFruit™ Classic Pectin (or whatever pectin you prefer, just remember some require different processing!!)
  • 1 ⅔ cups granulated sugar (or 1 cup, for reduced-sugar jam)
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Sanitize jars and lids, and keep them hot, either in a pot of simmering water or dishwasher. Combine fruit with lemon juice in 8-quart saucepan. Gradually add pectin, and bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.
  2. Add sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & skim foam if necessary.
  3. Ladle the hot jam into hot jars, one at a time, leaving ¼” headspace. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars, apply bands, and adjust to “fingertip tight.”
  4. Place filled jars in canning rack, and then in large pot ensuring that jars are covered by 1-2″ of water. Bring water to a gentle, steady boil.
  5. Process jars for 10 minutes, adjusting for your altitude. Turn off heat and let jars stand for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours, if center of lid is pressed it should not move up and down. If it does, you can refrigerate immediately and still enjoy it, but you can’t keep it for long as it isn’t properly sealed.
  7. Clean and store jars accordingly, preferably in a cool, dark place.

Okay so, I got my pectin free with my canning kit. Like I said, this is a little recipe of my own invention using the guidelines on the pectin package, and it was my first time canning a jam. If you use another type of pectin, please be sure to check the processing requirements first as they may be different. I did not “seed” the berries, because I felt like it didn’t matter. Plus, the seeds add an interesting texture, I think. And they look pretty in the jar- look at the picture above; it’s like little jam fireflies. Adorable. Of course, if you’re anti-seeds, feel free to strain ‘em out. It’s totally up to you. So is the amount of each fruit. Use any variation thereof, or eliminate one altogether. Although I happen to think that triad is pretty spiffy myself; you could try putting in strawberries or blueberries too.

Just to alleviate any stress, the peaches will rise to the top if they’re in chunks & not completely crushed, this is normal for peaches. Something about the pectin level of the peaches is lower than the “jammier” part, plus there’s air in the fruit, so they float. Blah, blah. It all tastes the same so why care!? When you open the jam to use it, give it a stir to incorporate the peaches & it’ll be fine. It’s a really pretty looking jam, and it’s pretty nice on the taste buds too. The half-pint jar of this jam was given to/eaten by my grandmother, and in her words “I didn’t know whether to eat it or stare at it.”

Needless to say, she definitely ate it. On a piece of bread with a cup of hot tea. And she loved it. And I am so glad she did, because it gives me happiness & comfort to know I made her happy. Gawd, I miss her. Terribly.

See? Look at the bottom. Sneaky goddamn floating peaches!

The other jar went to my aunt Marilyn, who eats it everyday, sometimes twice a day on bagels, bread, toast, etc. She totally raved about it, and made my father jealous because he didn’t end up with any. Oops.

And like I said, I also made some sliced canned peaches in a light syrup. I got the recipe from here, and the best thing for me to tell you is to go there and find out yourself, instead of me re-writing it here. They say it better, plus, only you know how much you want to make or can make. I had three peaches left after the above jam (I used one) and it made another pint and a half of sliced peaches. I also did not use the Fruit-Fresh, just lemon juice, and my peaches were beautiful with no signs of browning. I packed the jars super tight, so my syrup had a hard time getting into some of the air pockets, but as the peaches sit they’ll seep out moisture & the syrup will thicken anyway, so those air pockets probably won’t even be there when I open the jar, whenever that is. And again, keep in mind what I said above about the floating, also; the bubbles are totally cool. As long as the seal is good, you’re golden. I’m no expert, but I looked into it & while there are some alarmists, there seems to be no reason at all why a little bit of air is a problem. Besides, as the jar seals some will escape, you’ll see the bubbles moving up, and everything will settle as well. When people try & avoid them, it’s mainly just an aesthetic thing. And nobody’s perfect, so really, what’s a few air bubbles among friends? But really, these photos above were taken not long after they were processed, so the bubbles are really apparent. A few days later, you couldn’t see many air bubbles, as I assume they all rose to the top. See below.

About 4-5 days later, everything settled. Peaches still be floatin’ though!

Yeah, the air pockets in the peaches were still there, obviously. But much less noticeable. A little tip from pickyourown.org that I will share here is peeling peaches. So easy, I wish I’d thought of it! Simply cut a shallow X in the bottom of the peaches, then dip them in a pot of boiling water for 25-45 seconds each, and remove them with a slotted spoon and plunge them into a bowl of ice water for a few minutes. When you take them out, the skin should just literally slide right off with no trouble. If not, then your peaches aren’t ripe enough. Let them sit a few days & try it again, or peel them with a vegetable peeler if you really want to can them immediately. Like I said, my peaches were on the overripe side, so I had no problem with the skin coming off. And also, you don’t need to peel them, you can can them with the fuzz on too. It’s just some people prefer not to taste the ‘preserved’ fuzz. Preserved fuzz actually sounds gross.

And don’t forget- August 13 is National Can-It-Forward Day! And P.S. if you’re a family member or close friend of mine… guess what you’re getting for Christmas. Especially now that since it’s so hot, all I can do is can/jar to take my mind off things & keep busy. Plus, my 30th birthday is in three days and I’m basically miserable with a kitchen full of canned items, which my friend Chrisie says I should use as the title for a book on coping with grief & canning/preserving my way through it. And I just might write that book.

But life goes on. C’est la Vie, right?

Raspberry Beret cupcakes.

Also known as dark chocolate cupcakes with fresh whole raspberries topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting & a little “raspberry beret.” Yeah, I know, but come on, it’s the perfect name! Look; he’s actually wearing a little raspberry hat!

...No, they’ve got nothing to do with Prince. I’m just batshit crazy & I name my cupcakes.

I know, it’s been a long time since I made cupcakes! I’ve missed them, haven’t you?

Chocolate & raspberry is a combination that is so typical & popular, it’s everywhere. It’s like peanut butter & jelly or ham & cheese. Most people might think to make these for Valentine’s Day, which is obviously appropriate, but I chose to make it now because of all the fresh raspberries around. I won’t pretend that cupcakes are good for you. I will say, however, dark chocolate has a lot of benefits health-wise, as do raspberries.

The consumption of high-cacao-content of chocolate has been correlated with positive health benefits from flavonol antioxidants derived from the ground and fermented seeds of Theobroma cacao.[15]

Dark chocolate may transiently improve DNA resistance to oxidative stress, probably for flavonoid kinetics.[16]

 

Raspberries contain significant amounts of polyphenol antioxidants such as anthocyanin pigments linked to potential health protection against several human diseases.[6] The aggregate fruit structure contributes to its nutritional value, as it increases the proportion of dietary fibre, placing it among plant foods with the highest fibre contents known, up to 20% fibre per total weight. Raspberries are a rich source of vitamin C, with 30 mg per serving of 1 cup (about 50% daily value), manganese (about 60% daily value) and dietary fibre (30% daily value). Contents of B vitamins 1-3, folic acid, magnesium, copper

and iron are considerable in raspberries.[7]

Raspberries rank near the top of all fruits for antioxidant strength, particularly due to their dense contents of ellagic acid (from ellagotannins, see for instance raspberry ellagitannin), quercetin, gallic acid, anthocyanins, cyanidins, pelargonidins, catechins, kaempferol and salicylic acid. Yellow raspberries and others with pale-coloured fruits are lower in anthocyanins.

Due to their rich contents of antioxidant vitamin C and the polyphenols mentioned above, raspberries have an ORAC value (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of about 4900 per 100 grams, including them among the top-ranked ORAC fruits. Cranberries and wild blueberries have around 9000 ORAC units and apples average 2800.[8]

Although there are no clinical studies to date proving these effects in humans, antioxidant and antiproliferative (chemopreventive) effects against cancer have been linked to the amount of phenolics and flavonoids in various foods including raspberries.[9][10][11]

Mucho thanks to the almighty Wikipedia for that info. See? Now you have an excuse to make them. They’re good for your health.

RASPBERRY BERET CUPCAKES

Get these ingredients:

  • ¼ cup Hershey’s® Special Dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 container (6 ounces) fresh raspberries, chilled

Then you should:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º degrees F. Line a 12-count cupcake tin with cupcake liners. Remove 12 of the best looking and firmest raspberries from the container & set aside in a small bowl, these are your toppers, or “raspberry berets.”
  2. Sift together cocoa powder, flour and baking powder. In another bowl whisk together sugar, eggs, vanilla, milk and vegetable oil. Gradually whisk flour mixture into sugar mixture. Stir in raspberries- it’s okay if they stay whole and it’s also okay if they break (as a matter of fact, because I did in fact use a hand mixer, mine broke into a gazillion little berry pieces & everyone loved them, said it tasted like raspberry jam mixed in there). Mix until thoroughly incorporated.
  3. Fill cupcake liners ⅔  full. Bake in preheated oven for 12 – 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  4. Allow to cool for several minutes in the cupcake pan, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Frost only when completely cooled, then top with a raspberry.

VANILLA CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temp
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Whip the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl until smooth.
  2. Add vanilla until combined, and beat in powdered sugar a little at a time until frosting is as thick as you’d like.

In case you’re totally confused about this raspberry beret/Prince thing:

Raspberry Beret” is a song by Prince and The Revolution. It was the first U.S. (and second UK) single from their 1985 album, Around the World in a Day. The sound was different from any previous Prince track, incorporating Middle Eastern finger cymbals, stringed instruments, and even a harmonica on the extended version. The song was also more in the pop vein than ever before, though the 12-inch single and video of the song feature a funky intro. Although the song was originally recorded in 1982, Prince drastically reworked it with The Revolution to give it more of an international sound. The string section was: Novi Novog on violin, Suzi Katayama and David Coleman on cello. Wendy & Lisa provided backing vocals, and the rest of the song was performed by Prince.

The song tells of a teenage romance and first sexual experience with a girl who wears the titular hat. The video for the song was Prince’s first since his short-lived “ban” on music videos. The song quickly became a fan favorite, and a staple in nearly every Prince tour. The extended version was included on Ultimate in 2006. While this song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US, it only reached #25 on the UK Singles Chart.

Ya get it now? Personally I’m more of a ‘Controversy’ fan than ‘Raspberry Beret’, myself. But actually, after I thought of that name for these, it reminded me of a school trip I took in grammar school where this kid Robbie was singing “She wore a razz-belly belay!” all day long, and he had me & my friend Jessica in hysterics. So we started singing it too really loud on the bus & it turned into chaos. So I guess these are also for Robbie & his “razz-belly belay”, wherever he is now. Another time, Robbie went home on his bike and brought back with him a bee repellent/bee-sting care package (“just in case”) to the bleachers at the local high school where I was hanging out, because there was a huge beehive there. I always had a way with the dudes.

So a few things about these cupcakes: One, they were easily the easiest I ever made. You don’t even need a mixer, I used one (my vintage hand mixer) on low just to speed things up (no pun intended) but it isn’t necessary. Two, they rose perfectly. Three, the texture is amazing. That’s basically it. The flavors go so well together, but that’s a freakin’ no brainer. It’s just perfect, the perfect cupcake. I also got exactly 12, which was a first for me, usually if I think it’ll make 12, I get 15. Or 20. I definitely live in a parallel universe when it comes to my baking pans. If you prefer another kind of cocoa powder, by all means, use it. I just recommend a dark one, and the Hershey’s Special Dark is one of the best (& darkest) I ever had.

I used a Wilton 2A tip to frost, then an offset spatula to smooth ‘em down. Oh, and the brown liners are from sweet estelle’s baking supply at Etsy. I love the way a brown liner looks on a chocolate cupcake, don’t you?