Category: sauce

Rockin’ Moroccan cranberry sauce (with preserved lemon).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANYWAY…

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

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

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Gettin’ pumpkin apple sauce-y.

Happy October! My favorite month. It’s finally cool enough to bake more. It’s time for super fresh apples & tons of pumpkins. And all the best spices are fall-appropriate: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, etc. And let’s not forget that it’s the month of my favorite holiday- Halloween!

it's October!(Ironically, the dates are the same this year! Except Columbus Day)

 

So we’re going to celebrate my favorite month/upcoming holiday & get sauced! Or not. Or actually… yeah we are, but not in the way you think. A different kinda sauced.

Like I said, it’s both apple season & pumpkin season. Everyone is going apple picking, pumpkin picking, & shoving apple cider donuts & pumpkin lattes in their pie hole. You can’t go anywhere without tripping over pumpkins for sale & bushels of apples. So of course I had this big old batch of bright, shiny, fresh apples, right? Apples don’t last forever. So they had to be used up, right? And naturally I’ve already stocked up on organic canned pumpkin. Well…

*siiiiiiiiigh*

I made applesauce. I know what you’re thinking:

 “Three posts in a row about apples!? BO-RING!”

But wait.

Yes, I made applesauce. But… it’s not what you think. I had to add pumpkin.

I know. SAY WHAT?  APPLESAUCE WITH PUMPKIN?!

Uh huh. Yup.

I'm ready for applesauce. And you know what? Let's add a little pumpkin, shall we?

Gorgeous apples & organic canned pumpkin… together. With cinnamon streusel muffins to go with it.

Blame it on the Food Network magazine.

Blame it on the rain. I don’t know. Blame it on the fact that I can’t keep myself out of the kitchen once the fall comes!

Pumpkin applesauce! Because why make the same ol boring applesauce?

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Cherry bourbon chocolate sauce, please.

Want to know something sad? I can’t eat ice cream.

I know. It’s very sad. I shouldn’t say all ice cream, because some of them are okay- especially homemade or high quality ones. But most ice cream makes me very ill. It seems as I’ve gotten older I’ve developed a sort of lactose-intolerance, but only with ice cream. And with cereal I have to have Lactaid® instead of regular milk. Odd, I know, since I can have cheese, sour cream, whipped cream, cream cheese, milk in my coffee, heavy cream, etc and have absolutely no problem at all. But it’s come to my attention in a rather unpleasant way over the past few years that my carefree ice cream eating days are over.

Cherry bourbon chocolate sauce. Crazy easy, crazy delicious.

So to make up for this lack of sweet, creamy, cold deliciousness in my life, I buy frozen yogurt. If Jay & I go to an amusement park or something, and he gets an ice cream… I have to see if they sell frozen yogurt or else I’m totally left out. Like the diabetic kid who’s not allowed to have cupcakes at the school birthday, or the peanut allergy kid on Halloween. It’s sad & pathetic. And then I pout- because who doesn’t love a good ice cream cone? Crazy people.

Anyway.

Frozen yogurt is actually a pretty decent substitute for ice cream, and I do enjoy it. But sometimes you need to give it a little extra oomph, since it doesn’t really come in flavors like double chocolate fudge brownie sundae or peanut butter potato chip caramel swirl or whatever. And that my friends is what made me come up with this: cherry bourbon chocolate sauce.

Cherry bourbon chocolate sauce.Unf. I bet just looking at these photos, you wanna lick the spoon. Well, no, you can’t. Get your own.

I should state here that I made this sauce using bourbon that I infused with cherries myself. It’s very easy to make, it keeps forever and it’s delicious, so I recommend doing it. By the way: a tablespoon of it added to a cold glass of Coke is just perfection. Although you could also use regular bourbon or Red Stag.

CHERRY BOURBON CHOCOLATE SAUCE (adapted from Bon Appétit)

Makes roughly one cup

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet (not unsweetened) chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cherry-infused bourbon

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine cream and brown sugar. Stir until sugar dissolves and cream just starts to boil. Remove from heat, add chocolate and stir until smooth. Stir in bourbon.
  2. Serve immediately, or transfer to a heat safe, airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to a week (IF IT LASTS THAT LONG!). To reheat all or part of the sauce, heat in a microwave safe container on defrost for 10-20 seconds or warm slowly on the stove top.

Cherry on top: a recipe for cherry bourbon chocolate sauce!

Some of this on vanilla frozen yogurt makes up for the fact I’m not eating real ice cream. As a matter of fact, it sort of makes it irrelevant altogether.

Here are some ice cream/frozen yogurt recipes for you if you’d like to make your own; French vanilla ice cream, peanut butter ice cream, lemon ice cream, almond ice cream & frozen yogurt.

Small-batch inspiration.

“There are only ten minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Thanksgiving is over. The turkeys have all been gobbled up- pun intended. Most folks are going to be eating turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce for another few days, at least. And Christmas is rapidly coming, as evidenced by all the colored & white twinkling lights that are popping up everywhere. I guess- for most people- that means this month, same as last month, is filled with a plethora of recipes & cooking. Or at least, plans to do so.

I should probably say that this post is about a recipe, and cooking, but also about a kind of combination of baker’s block and writer’s block. And “cook’s block,” or whatever. Because I genuinely felt, a while back, as if my well of never-ending ideas had dried up. Just a few weeks ago I’d been feeling majorly uninspired. Not just kitchen-wise, although that was a major part of it. In life, too. Completely uninspired & boring. And it wasn’t fun, especially when you’re a blogger whose blog is dependent on your ideas. Usually, I’m fairly prolific… even when I make something & it’s a failure, I still have tons of shit to say about it. At the very least I usually have other ideas bouncing around in my head. I know exactly what to make for dinner, what to bake, what to say about it all.

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But nope. Not a few weeks ago.

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Other than writing about my writing/baking/cooking block, I had nothing else to say. And I guess in five years of blogging it’s bound to happen at least once, so I can’t complain. But all I could think of to make were boring things that I’ve already done. Or not so boring things that I’ve already done. Either way, I’ve already done them. And you don’t come here to read the same damn thing over & over again. I was stuck in such a rut, you have no idea. Even when it was dinner time. I’d open my cabinets, stare at the contents, then let them slam shut without one spark of inspiration. Thankfully, I had some things to post that I had made already or else the blog would’ve been blank.

Have I done everything? No. Have I created every single baked good or cupcake or meal there is to make? Not at all. My inspiration meter was just on zero. I just couldn’t come up with anything to do. Or rather, that I felt like doing. It was a drag. A major freakin’ drag. I had absolutely no kitchen-mojo. But then I had a breakthrough:

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Pear-sauce.

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Pears and I don’t really get along. I’m not a fan of pears at all, really. Apples, yes. Pears, no.

But sometimes we’re pushed into making things by necessity… like the bowl of pears sitting on the table that are getting too soft (ahem- remember these?), and the coincidental small-batch brown sugar & cardamom pear jam blog post you find at a favorite blog. Taking some cues from Marisa, I decided on making an applesauce-type thing, but with pears. And cardamom, ’cause it sounded good. I don’t like pears, mind you, but sauces/jams/jellies make great hostess or holiday gifts. And at the time, this being a few weeks ago, Thanksgiving was coming up (and then the Christmas holiday season), and I figured I’d be going to a few people’s houses for dinners or perhaps hosting my own. Therefore I could use a few spare jars of things I don’t use for that very reason. Giving your hostess a jar of something homemade is always a nice touch. Besides, it’s nice to offer people a variety of homemade yummies with dinner/dessert this time of year. And I had, actually, been toying with the idea of making some pear-sauce, but in my mind I had imagined a pear/apple combination, maybe with cinnamon.

So granted, my uninspired period didn’t last very long. But the end result of it made the brief time of “blah” much more worth it! Not only was it something I personally had never made before, but it would use up those bruised & soft pears!

After seeing the post at Food in Jars, I used all the pears I had that were getting soft, of which there were about four or five. I had mostly Bartlett, but there were one or two teeny Seckel pears in there (if you’re making this now, you can use either Seckel or Anjou, both should be available). I cored them, chopped them up (without peeling them), and added ‘em to a saucepan with a cup of sugar and a tablespoon of lemon juice (I ended up with a little over 2 3/4 cups of chopped pears). I then let it cook. I occasionally used a fork to mash the larger chopped up bits. I let it cook until it “came together”, and then I raised the heat up. I let it go again until it splattered and sputtered and got thick, stirring it occasionally. Then I added a teaspoon of cardamom and lowered the heat a bit to let the cardamom cook into it. At this point, it seemed to have the consistency of a slightly chunky applesauce, but I thought it might turn out to be slightly thicker than that when cooled (And it was, but not by much).

I added it to the hot, sterilized jars (I ended up with 16 ounces of it total; one half-pint jar and two 4-oz. jars) and sealed them. Processed them for 10 minutes in a water bath canner and that was that.

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Easiest thing ever.

And of course, as she said, it makes a great oatmeal addition. Just swirl it in there. Or, use it however you’d use applesauce. And if you don’t want to “can” it, I’m fairly sure it’d be fine to just pop it in a clean jar and refrigerate it for use right away. Or… can it, make the jars look all spiffy, and use it as part of your holiday gifts. Before anyone asks: I spray painted those bands black myself- not safe to use for the water bath, but I put them on in place of regular ones once the jars are cooled. Yet another “inspired” moment, this time thanks to Well Preserved.

All it took to get me back in the game was three little jars of pear-sauce with black-painted rings? Not bad. Not bad at all.

Historical berries.

American Cranberry, Thomas Meehan, 1870′s

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

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

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

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

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

Consensus: it is.

Labels & tags are from Sur la Table

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

Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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The perfect November pound cake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

CRANBERRY ORANGE LOAF CAKE

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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ORANGE BUTTER RUM SAUCE

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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This is me NOT screwing up caramel apple jam.

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If I do something, and I screw it up, it bothers me FOREVER. I’m one of those mildly-OCD perfectionist people. I can tell a drawing won’t go well if the first line doesn’t come out right, so I toss the entire sheet of paper (environmentalists avert thine eyes). If I throw on a random outfit & something about it isn’t working for me, I don’t care if all I’m doing is going to the fruit market… my entire day will be messed up. If I screw up a recipe- whether or not it still tastes good, I go over & over in my mind what I did wrong until I make it again & redeem myself.

I sound nuts, right?

Anyway. Moving on. Look- it’s ice cream.

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Last fall I made caramel apple syrup. It was supposed to be caramel apple jam, but it was kind of a fail in that aspect. Not a massive fail, mind you, because what resulted was a beautifully delicious concoction my father nicknamed “apple pie in a jar.” He ate it right out of the jar, as a matter of fact. Devoured it. It was a much beloved creation, mistake or not. But it still sort of bothered me. It was so stupid to me that I screwed up such a simple jam, especially because it was something so dumb like forgetting to add the pectin… that I wanted to try it again this fall. Because not only was what I made not jam but it no longer existed anyway. The jars were long gone; eaten, emptied, washed out & re-filled with who-knows-what. All that remained were the memories, and questions like “When are you making that apple syrup stuff again?” And I was debating it, actually, since it was such a hit.

Then I found this recipe. ERMAHGERDS.

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How was I supposed to turn away from that!? It’s apple season! There are apples everywhere I look. I’m bombarded with apples every day; on Pinterest, on blogs, in the supermarket, at the Farmer’s Market, at the fruit market… they’re just all over the place. I got momentarily distracted from my Halloween bacchanalia for apples, and when I went to the farm to pick pumpkins & get apple cider donuts, it just boosted my apple-ness even further. And so of course, I thought this jam sounded especially glorious. And the best part? No pectin! So I wouldn’t have to worry about forgetting to add it again.

The other jam I attempted was yummy, even if it ended up as syrup. But this one is different. The vanilla bean & rum elevate this to a whole ‘nother level. It’s not like your average jam. It’s like a dessert in and of itself.

CARAMEL APPLE JAM WITH VANILLA BEAN & RUM (halved & adapted very minimally from Hitchhiking to Heaven)

Makes about 2-3 half-pint (8 oz.) jars, maybe with some overflow

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened homemade applesauce (store bought is okay, just get the highest quality organic one you can, making sure it’s unsweetened)
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt (I used a little Himalayan pink)
  • 3 teaspoons dark rum (*optional)

Directions:

  1. If you don’t have applesauce on hand, make your sauce. Start by coring and slicing the apples; about 1 1/2 maybe 2 lbs of them- (don’t peel ‘em) and cooking them over low heat until they’re soft. I usually add about 1/2 cup of water to the pot so they don’t stick or burn. Cover the pot while the apples are cooking; they should be ready in about 20 minutes. Put the cooked apples through a food mill (use the medium screen if you have a choice) and, voilà, sauce!
  2. Prepare your jars and lids. Set them aside.
  3. In a clean, dry large saucepan, combine 1 cup of the sugar, the water, and the lemon juice. Pour the sugar into the pan evenly, rather than as a big lump to one side or something like that, because you don’t get to stir or shake the pan for the next step, which is caramelizing the sugar.
  4. Without disturbing the contents of the pan, bring the syrup to a boil and let it boil gently — adjusting the heat as needed — until it turns golden brown. Watch the mixture carefully and take it off the heat before it turns darker than you’d like. Mine was a nice light-brown color and smelled caramel-y.
  5. While the sugar is caramelizing, add the additional 3/4 cup sugar and the sea salt into a small bowl. Split your vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds from the bean into the sugar and salt. Combine well, then add the pod into the sugar, too. Set aside.
  6. When the caramel is ready, slowly add the applesauce and the rest of the sugar, vanilla bean and all, off the heat. Be careful- it WILL splatter! Turn the heat back up to medium-low and stir the mixture until the sugar and caramel completely dissolve. Then bring the jam to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, for 8-10 minutes. This is the part where you need to monitor the temperature — reducing it if necessary — and stir the jam steadily enough to keep it from attacking you. You will know the jam is done when it thickens up and your stirring spoon very briefly leaves a clear track at the bottom of the pan.
  7. Remove the jam from the heat, discard the vanilla bean, and stir in the rum. Ladle or pour the hot jam into your sterilized jars. Wipe the rims clean and add the lids. Process 10 minutes in a hot water-bath canner. Remove from canner, let cool and check seals after 12 hours. Any jars that aren’t sealed, pop in the fridge & use immediately.

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And this time it actually came out like jam, not syrup! Wonder of wonders, glory of glories. Hallelujah & all that jazz. It came out absolutely perfect.

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I know. Pancakes, ice cream, waffles, oat bran muffins, English muffins and yogurt will never be the same. Neither will oatmeal. I don’t even like oatmeal, but a little of this would upgrade that ish to something way more special. It even works with ham & pork chops (or so I’ve been told, I don’t eat pork chops); both as a glaze melted on top while cooking, or just on the side. It’s good on toast, too, but that seems so banal for a jam like this. This kind of a jam begs for something exciting; like fresh buttermilk pancakes. Or a golden vanilla pound cake. Or… over a homemade vanilla bean ice cream, like I did. Ohh, Rodelle vanilla beans, how I love thee.

HOMEMADE VANILLA BEAN ICE CREAM (courtesy of Epicurious)

Ingredients:

  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs

Directions:

  1. With a knife halve vanilla beans lengthwise. Scrape seeds into a large heavy saucepan and stir in pods, cream, milk, and sugar. Bring mixture just to a boil, stirring occasionally, and remove pan from heat.
  2. In a large bowl lightly beat eggs. Add hot cream mixture to eggs in a slow stream, whisking, and pour into pan. Cook custard over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until a thermometer registers 170°F. (Do not let boil.) Pour custard through a sieve into a clean bowl and cool. Chill custard, its surface covered with wax paper, at least 3 hours, or until cold, and up to 1 day.
  3. Freeze custard in an ice-cream maker, in 2 batches if necessary. Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden. Ice cream may be made 1 week ahead.

If you don’t have an ice cream maker, try this recipe for the ice cream. It takes a bit longer, but I’ve always had good results! I love me my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment, though.

And as far as the jam goes… you can also eat it right out of the jar. Which I’m not supporting of course… *ahem*

Beers & barbecues.

It’s that time of year again. When everyone starts to grill their meats, when the sun sets later and when corn on the cob becomes the staple side dish. It’s been an unusually warm winter and an early spring, despite the temperatures dropping quite low at night lately (which has threatened crops that started to grow far too early when it was 80° degrees in March), it is indeed only a few weeks from the unofficial start of summer: Memorial Day.

I saw this recipe at The Black Peppercorn and I knew I’d have to make it myself. I’ve made Guinness cupcakes, Guinness jelly, even put Guinness in macaroni & cheese. Why not Guinness barbecue sauce? Beer & barbecues go together like… rama lama lama ke ding a de dinga a dong. Or peanut butter & jelly. I love me a good beer. Don’t you?

This was my first attempt at a barbecue sauce. I was a bit nervous, actually, but I think it all worked out just fine in the end.

GUINNESS BARBECUE SAUCE (adapted slightly from The Black Peppercorn)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 onions, minced (I used one very large white onion)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 cup Guinness beer
  • ½ cup white distilled 5% vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 “shakes” Tabasco sauce
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 18-oz. can tomato paste

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the onion, and garlic to the saucepan and saute until they are tender and beginning to caramelize, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the molasses, beer, brown sugar, both vinegars, salt, pepper and cayenne . Bring to a boil. Let it cook with a low rolling boil for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the saucepan.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste & Tabasco and lower the heat. Let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool slightly. Puree, I did so right in the pot using an immersion blender.
  5. For shelf-stable sauce: pour into hot sterilized jars to within ½” from the top. Process in a waterbath for 20 minutes for pint jars, 15 for half-pints. Allow to cool overnight, then check the seals. As always, if the top pops up and down, the seal is damaged and you have to put it in your refrigerator and use right away. If you’re using the sauce immediately or don’t want to make it shelf-stable, you can pour into any container and either use right away or put it in the fridge.

There’s no end to the possibilities for this sauce. You can make it hotter, make it sweeter, do whatever you want. You could even totally alter it and use some Jack Daniel’s or Jameson, or a lighter beer. Play with it, tinker with it. Come up with your own sauce! And the best part? It doesn’t have to be a “canned” recipe. You can use it right away or put half in the fridge in a Tupperware. But if you do decide to jar it up, just know I got 5 half-pint jars and I would’ve had enough for a 4 oz. jar as well. And also know that in order to “can” it, the acidity has to be of a certain percent, so do your research before you tinker with it!

So how did it taste?

Right before I put it on the grill!

e…

Delicious. I had it on a steak and it was just great. Not too sweet, not too tangy, not too overpowering. It’s a subtle taste, and you could taste the actual steak, not just the sauce like can happen with some sauces. And it actually mellowed more in the jar, after processing. Initially it was a bit tangier, after a day or two it was much mellower. I can’t wait to try it on chicken next. Actually, I can’t wait to try my hand at making more barbecue sauces & dipping sauces in the future. Thai hot & sweet dipping sauce, anyone!?

The cranberry saw us.

Sometimes people find out I have a website called ‘Cupcake Rehab’ & they’re surprised to learn that I not only bake, & most certainly not just cupcakes… but that I also cook, & occasionally I enjoy making things like pickles & jams. That might be because there’s an either/or mentality among some chefs (or pastry chefs- as in you either bake or cook but not both.. and if you do, you do one way better than the other) & even TV food personalities, or that people are way too literal. I’m good at a lot of things, but I’m certainly not perfect at anything- let alone anything kitchen-wise- it’s just that I enjoy doing it, so I don’t feel like I have to prove anything. But either way, my interests in the kitchen are quite varied, & I love finding new ways of doing old things in general. Or new ways of interpreting traditions or traditional foods. Like cranberries.

From Bilder ur Nordens Flora, 1905

And that brings me to cranberry sauce. It’s practically against the law not to have it on hand this time of year. But why go the boring old regular cranberry sauce route, or worse yet, the canned sauce route? Especially if you can make your own in less than an hour?

Not to mention it has Amaretto in it.

Yes. Homemade, boozy & delicious. And I’m totally not kidding when I say it took less than an hour to make, from start to finish. And it’s gorgeous looking (& smelling). And if you don’t ‘can’ or preserve foods, you don’t even have to do it with this recipe. Just alter the amounts to fit in whatever jar you’re using, make it, then refrigerate it & use it immediately (well, not like, within an hour… but you know what I mean). I got the recipe from Smedette via Punk Domestics. And it is fan-friggin’-tastical.

Like my mismatched jars? Heh.

I made these back before Thanksgiving, so that I could use them on turkey day (along with my pomegranate-based Chinese Apple-sauce), but cranberry sauce is so Christmas-appropriate too that I felt I could post it now & it would still be relevant. Besides, cranberry fans eat cranberry all the time, right, not just during the holidays! And if you like cranberry, and you like Amaretto, and you like lemon zest… you’ll like this. If you don’t, well, stop reading & click here.

So I bet the rest of ya wanna know how it’s done, huh?

I’m telling you, it’s super easy. You’ll see.

AMARETTO CRANBERRY SAUCE (recipe from Smedette, word for word)

Makes about 4 12-oz. jars, or less depending how long you let it cook

Ingredients:

  • 3 12-oz bags of fresh whole unsweetened cranberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Finely grated zest from one lemon
  • 2 cups Amaretto

Directions:

  1. Put everything in a large pot over medium heat. Stir to coat.
  2. Once sugar dissolves into the Amaretto and becomes thick and syrup-like, reduce heat and simmer; cranberries will start to burst as they simmer. Cook until desired consistency is reached; 30-60 minutes. Sauce will thicken as it rests/refrigerates!
  3. You have made cranberry sauce; it will amaze your family and friends. Your in-laws may even start to like you.
  4. Store in the fridge for a few days or can using the directions below.

To can the sauce:

Ladle hot cranberry sauce into hot, clean jars leaving ½″ headspace. Wipe rims, place lids and affix screw bands. Process using the water bath method for 15 minutes. Let cool on towel-lined counter/table top for 12 hours before checking the seal; label and store. If any jars failed to seal correctly, refrigerate and consume within a week.

The author of the original recipe says you can use brandy instead of Amaretto as well, just increase the sugar a bit.

Also, I altered it to fit into the jars I had on hand (which happened to be three 8-oz. jars, yet I ended up only using two because I cooked the berries down a bit more), but yet I kept the lemon zest amount the same. This made it nice & tart & lemon-y bright, but balanced well with the sweetness of the liquor. The Amaretto is not in-your-face, but nice & subtle. It’s just perfection. And best of all- it’s not the same ol’, same ol’ cranberry sauce from a can. And apparently, it’s excellent on ice cream, too, and even on salad (like a berry vinaigrette I suppose?).

Look! It’s wearing a little sweater!

Which brings me to my suggestion of gifting jars of homemade preserves or sauces for Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa). Its an easy way to save money on gifts as well… and it’s not only impressive looking but extremely personalized. Especially when dressed up in a fancy way, like these beautiful examples. For instance, Jay loves pickles (specifically my green coriander pickles), my mother loves peperoncini sott’olio, anything fig or cherry, or marmalade, my aunt loves strawberry jam, etc. I can make them big jars of what they love, tie pretty bows on them with lovely labels, and they know it’s a gift from the heart (although Tiffany’s is nice, too, haha). The jar above is just really simply decorated with the top of a wool sock (clean, mind you, & one that had gotten too many holes in it to fix, so was no longer of use in it’s original form), some twine, a little cupcake topper & a pink jingle bell. Old sweater sleeves, t-shirt sleeves & leg warmers are perfect to use too. Basically anything can dress up a jar or become a “jar cozy” & at the same time make it look more special for gifting. Thrift store finds like baby sweaters or baby hats can work too, as can old beaded necklaces twisted around the lid or a fancy pin or brooch pinned to the twine or ribbon. It’s fun, cheap, easy & quick to make a small jar of homemade preserves stand out. I entered the above photo in Well Preserved‘s ‘Pimp That Preserve’ contest, here’s hoping I win! Though I’m sure there’s some stiff competition out there. However… I did enter another stunning (well if I do say so myself) photo of some very interesting jelly all decked out in sparkly things… but that recipe won’t be posted for awhile… anyway we’ll see. You can find out exactly how it works/how to enter by going to the Well Preserved blog post about it. Pretty much, you can cast a vote for mine (or for others, or both!) on the Well Preserved Facebook page; just by going to the photo album for Pimp That Preserve 2011 & clicking like on the photo. Voting should begin around December 12th. For more ideas on dressing up your canned goods for holiday gifting or for entering your own preserves in the contest, Canning Across America has a bunch of swell ideas too, including plenty that should inspire you in your preserve pimpin’!

So anyway as difficult as this first year without Uncle Pat & my Nana will be, we all plod on & drown our sorrows in a variety of alcohol-laced fruit sauces, jams & marmalades. Merry Christmas to all indeed.

Chinese Apple-sauce.

Is it still appropriate (or P.C.) to call pomegranates Chinese Apples? Probably not. I’m not very “P.C.” anyway. I was politically incorrect before Bill Maher (well not really, actually, since he’s older than I, but you catch my drift). At any rate, it’s a pretty cute name for pomegranate sauce, which is what this is. Specifically a pomegranate sauce with cranberries & orange zest.

I haven’t canned anything in months, but I happened upon a few really interesting recipes that were fall/winter-y & so I knew I had to get back in the game. And seeing how my mother is a pomegranate fiend, this was one of the first on the list. She really loves pomegranate, seriously; she drinks P♥M Wonderful like it’s going out of business, has pomegranate apple cider in the fridge, pomegranate-mango body wash in the shower, pomegranate tea in the pantry, pomegranate candies in her purse, etc. I’m not kidding. She’s seriously into it. I am not, but Thanksgiving is coming & I figured pomegranate sauce would work well with a Thanksgiving menu. It’s a super quick, extremely easy recipe that could be adapted in any way you like. I added about 6-7 ounces fresh cranberries & about 1 ½-2 teaspoons orange zest to make it really special, but using just the juice works too. Speaking of using the juice- using bottle pomegranate juice will indeed work in this recipe, as long as it’s unsweetened 100% pomegranate juice, with no additives, i.e. P♥M Wonderful. I know this because that’s what I used. But if you want to use fresh pomegranates, here are a few tips to juicing them:

Roll room temperature pomegranates on a counter-top. Holding the pomegranates over a fine sieve set over a bowl, use a sharp knife to cut out the crown. Squeeze juice & seeds into sieve using hands. Open the fruit and, using a small spoon, scrape remaining seeds into sieve. Use the back of a large spoon to press out any remaining juice from seeds. Wear gloves to prevent staining.

And there you have it.

Be sure to skim the foam & bubbles off before putting the lids & bands on.

CHINESE APPLE-SAUCE (A.K.A. POMEGRANATE SAUCE) WITH CRANBERRIES & ORANGE ZEST

Makes about 4 8-oz. (half-pint) jars

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups pomegranate juice (about 10 pomegranates)
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons Certo liquid pectin
  • 6 – 7 ounces fresh cranberries (or frozen cranberries, but they’ve gotta be completely defrosted)
  • 1-2 teaspoons orange zest (depending on taste)

Directions:

  1. Sterilize your jars & put the lids in a small bowl filled with hot (not boiling) water.
  2. Put all the ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Stir in pectin, return to a rolling boil, allowing to boil for 5 minutes. Reduce heat & simmer until reduced in volume & slightly thickened. Check for set using whatever method you like (I wanted a quite loose jelly texture, not thin or watery yet not quite as thick as fully-set jelly, cook longer for a firmer set). If not set to your satisfaction, repeat boil; continue at a rolling boil for 5-10 minutes, then try for set again.
  3. Pour into hot, sterilized jars leaving ¼” headspace. Adjust band until fingertip tight, then process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes (adjusting for altitude). Remove jars & do not disturb for 24 hours, then check lid for seal by pressing. If the center pops or moves, put jar in the fridge & use immediately. If the lid doesn’t move, the seal is good & you can store the jars in a cool, dark place for up to 12 months.

Like I mentioned above, if you prefer, you can use just the pomegranate juice & omit the cranberries/orange zest, thats fine too. I made it this way with my fingers crossed, the idea (hopefully) being its (supposedly) great with poultry; i.e. turkey, chicken, duck, Cornish hens, pheasant, goose, blah blah & etc. Basically whatever fowl you prefer. I made mine a few weeks ago, with the intention it wouldn’t be cracked open until Thanksgiving (hence the crossed fingers). That did not happen. As you can see below, it was eaten alongside a roast chicken & a carrot/potato/onion side dish with much gusto. And it was quite a success! Highly enjoyed. So of course I felt much better about its turkey companionship potential. And with all the leftovers everyone will have, you could make it now, use it for turkey day & then have a fantastic turkey sandwich with pomegranate-cranberry-orange sauce the next day, instead of the traditional boring old regular cranberry. This site also says the sauce (albeit another version of a pomegranate sauce) is great on salmon, so I’m guessing it’d be great with other fish too. My sauce turned out quite loose, and thickened over the course of a week or two to a thin jelly-like consistency, which was fine for my purposes. If you prefer a much thicker sauce, for example more “jam-like”, you can add more pectin or let the cranberries cook down further. I found this way to be perfect, however.

That’s it right thurr, people…

……

And if you use fancy little jars, like these, or label them & decorate them in a cute or unique way, an extra jar makes a great hostess gift. Previously, whenever I used these little jars, I got a lot of questions via e-mail or Facebook about where I got them & if I was positive they were Ball® jars. Well yes they are, and I got them over the summer at Walmart for about $3.97 a 4-pack, but you can order them online too, directly from Ball® (for about a buck more). They’re a little pricier than the regular old jars, & you get less than you would the regular 8-oz. ones for the price. But they’re unique & look really nice, so for gift-giving they’re worth it. I’m partial to wide-mouth jars anyway, for some strange reason, especially for pickles, but these are so cute I can’t help myself but buy them, even if they are more costly & come in a smaller quantity. Sometimes you just have to splurge, you know? Besides, jars come in handy for all kinds of things, not just canning. I’d much prefer to store leftover sauces or marinades or what have you in a glass jar than plastic bowl. Just sayin.’ Not to mention larger jars can be used for lots of other things, too…

I’d also like to say that I’ve been asked many times why I bother canning (or baking, etc). Why make your own when you can buy a box of Entenmann’s cupcakes? Why jar your own pickles when buying a jar is so much easier? And to those people (who I’ve addressed before), I’d like to say, or rather I’d like to direct them to this wonderful post that answers the “why’s” beautifully.

Are you all ready for the big eating day? Got your menu all planned & alcohol purchased (and hidden for when the family becomes too much for you to handle)? This little chick below definitely has it all under control. Just throw corn at ‘em, that’ll do it. And in the meantime… don’t forget to enter to win The Cookiepedia! You’ve got until midnight EST on the 18th do get to it…