Category: vegan

Haulin’ oats.

Use steel-cut oats to make an easy 'overnight oats' recipe flavored with maple pumpkin butter.

Bad pun. Sorry. For those of you born after the early 90′s, I was making a pun referring to Hall & Oates, a 1970′s/1980′s duo who’s songs “Maneater”, “Kiss On My List” & “Private Eyes” are insanely well-known. But yeah. It was a bad pun.

On the plus side? This is a great idea.

I first saw it on This Homemade Life & I thought it was genius. Problem is, I don’t like oatmeal. I like oatmeal cookies… but not oatmeal. But I still wanted to try it anyway. Jay loves oatmeal, my parents love oatmeal, the whole world loves oatmeal. I was starting to feel like a leper. Truth be told, I’m not a breakfast person. If I’m away on vacation, I can maybe get in the mood for a breakfast or two. Especially on the road at an awesome Mom & Pop style diner. Otherwise, nope. I mean, I love breakfast foods. I’ve been known to have a bowl of cereal or two, & I do enjoy a good breakfast-for-dinner now & then. But I don’t want oatmeal when I’m having it- I want a big ol’ stack of buttermilk pancakes or waffles with butter & maple syrup. And don’t forget: lots of crispy bacon.

So to avoid the stigma of being the only person alive who doesn’t like oatmeal, I thought I’d do my own, more seasonal spin on the “overnight oats” in a jar: maple pumpkin oats.

An easy way to make maple pumpkin overnight oats using maple pumpkin butter.

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Kosher dills, TAKE TWO!

Retro 1957 Heinz Kosher dill pickle ad.

Uhm, I beg to differ, Heinz. ‘Cause these pickles right here are quite the sensation round my way.

You might remember, if you’re a longtime reader, the Kosher dill pickles I made a few years ago from a recipe by Arthur Schwartz (I guess you realize right about now that “take two” means this is my second time making them, not that I want you to take two of them. Heh.).

I made them the first time two summers ago while Jay was away on tour, and when he came home he flipped. He totally loved them, was obsessed in fact. And yes, he said they were his “favorite pickles” (until he tasted the grilled pickles, the hop pickles, the maple whiskey pickles…etc, etc). I tease him about that a lot. But I do know that despite the fact that he might love all kinds of pickles, Kosher dills are his absolute favorite. The less vinegar, the better. No vinegar at all? Perfect!

Arthur Schwartz's Kosher dill recipe.

They taste just like a deli pickle, apparently. Super crunchy & half-sour, like a “new” dill. He’s been asking me to make them again ever since, & I’ve slacked off.

Yeah, I’m horrible. But he’ll get over it- he gets a lot of treats.

So anyway here’s version two of Arthur’s recipe, adapted for a smaller scale (yields 1 quart as opposed to 3). Pro tip: Make sure you get cucumbers that are all the same size & shape, roughly. They’ll ferment at the same time more than a variety of sizes would. Unless you’re going to cut them into slices or “chips”, that is.

Kosher dill pickle recipe, 3-6 days to ferment.

How to make Kosher dill pickles at home! NO CANNING NEEDED!

This recipe makes some beautiful pickles.

ARTHUR SCHWARTZ’S HOMEMADE KOSHER DILL* PICKLES (Adapted by David Leibovitz from Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking)

Makes 1 quart or 2 pints, can be doubled or tripled

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse white salt (Kosher, if available)
  • 5-7 Kirby cucumbers, scrubbed
  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled and lightly-crushed
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons pickling spice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small bunch of dill, preferably going to seed, washed

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil with the salt, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and add the remaining water.
  2. Prepare jars (1 quart or 2 pint jars, preferably wide mouth) by running them through the dishwasher or filling them with boiling water, then dumping it out.
  3. Pack the cucumbers vertically into the jars, making sure they’re tightly-packed. As you fill the jars, divide the garlic, spices, bay leaves, and dill amongst them. You can also slice the cukes into spears or slices, whatever you prefer.
  4. Fill the jars with brine so that the cucumbers are completely covered. Cover the jars with cheesecloth, secured with rubber bands, or loosely with the lids. Store in a cool, dark place for 3 days. You’ll probably have leftover brine, so either make another batch or just toss it… yes it’s a little wasteful, but it’s just saltwater!
  5. After 3 days, taste one. The pickles can ferment from 3 to 6 days. The longer the fermentation, the more sour they’ll become, however whole cucumbers that aren’t sliced at all might take longer in general. Once the pickles are to your liking, refrigerate them.

Easy Kosher dill pickle recipe- no canning required.

*Just to clear this Kosher thing up:

A “kosher” dill pickle is not necessarily kosher in the sense that it has been prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary law. Rather, it is a pickle made in the traditional manner of Jewish New York City pickle makers, with generous addition of garlic and dill to a natural salt brine.[3][4][5]

In New York terminology, a “full-sour” kosher dill is one that has fully fermented, while a “half-sour,” given a shorter stay in the brine, is still crisp and bright green.[6]Elsewhere, these pickles may sometimes be termed “old” and “new” dills.

Dill pickles (not necessarily described as “kosher”) have been served in New York City since at least 1899.[7] They are not, however, native to New York; they have been prepared in Russia, Ukraine, Germany and Poland for hundreds of years.[citation needed]

So these are kind of a cross between a refrigerator pickle, a fermented pickle & a shelf-stable pickle, seeing as how you end up refrigerating them & not processing them, yet they do in fact sit out for a while to “ferment.” They’re incredibly easy to make, and they really don’t have any of the somewhat “scary” elements of fermentation/lacto-fermentation (no yeast forms, there’s no mold skimming, etc). It’s sort of an intro to refrigerator pickles, canning & fermenting all at once.

I do prefer to make these kinds of pickles one jar at a time, just because I run out of room & places to hide them during their 3-6 day fermentation period. It has to be a relatively cool, dark area… and there are only so many of those during the summer months. Plus, that cuts down on the amount of “NO NO NO! DON’T EAT THOSE YET!” moments. Which, in a house like mine, there are many. There are jars of things brewing, freezing or sitting just about everywhere; sourdough starters, cold brewed coffee, bacon fat, flax seed, spent grain, fermenting pickles… all of these things somewhere, whether in the fridge, freezer or counter.

Arthur Schwartz's easy Kosher dill pickle recipe.

They will get cloudy after a day or two, that’s perfectly normal. And yes, I recommend wide mouth jars for this particular recipe. Especially if you’re making whole pickles, not sliced. AND DO NOT USE LARGE WAXED CUCUMBERS FOR THIS. It just will not work well. The wax prevents anything from penetrating the cucumber, and even if you slice them the skin will still be waxy & weird. You can quadruple this recipe and make one gallon as well, if you enjoy pickles that much. I actually just invested in some half-gallon Ball® jars (mainly for making cold brewed & sun tea) & I also noticed that my dill is growing like crazy… so perhaps Jay has a full half-gallon of Kosher dills in his future!

I don’t know how often I have to keep saying this, but: ANYONE can make these! They’re insanely simple! There’s no reason why you shouldn’t try making them.

Unless you don’t like pickles. In which case, can I interest you in a cake?

Quick & dirty chive vinegar pickles.

Oh, pickles.

You come into my life oh so quickly this time of year… and get eaten up oh so quickly. And then I’m hounded for more pickles by the pickle monsters that plague my existence. Good thing I love them. And that I’ve got plenty of jars to fill.

;
Yeah, I’ve got a lot. That’s just the tip of the iceberg- there’s a load of stuff in my fridge that needs to be cleaned out and those jars will soon join these in awaiting their new fates. Remember my chive blossom vinegar? And the ensuing chive blossom potato salad & egg salad? Well, I knew I wasn’t finished with that vinegar. I had more ideas bubbling in my brain and this was one of them. I figured, why not try making pickles with it?

And I decided on making cold-pack refrigerator pickles. I’ve been on a pickle kick lately. And most of them have been fridge pickles, I guess ’cause it’s so hot it’s just easier.

;
;When I say ‘quick & dirty’ in the title, I don’t mean they’re literally dirty, obviously. No olives in this martini. They’re just really quick to make, no processing time required. They do need a week or two to stew in the fridge before they can be eaten, however. But it’s a small price to pay for homemade pickles without the “canning.” Here’s my favorite quick version from The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking. It’s fun and easy and you can pickle just about anything this way.

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Some ideas for fridge pickles? Zucchini, cauliflower, carrots, eggplant, cucumbers, onions, okra, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green beans, garlic, etc… or a mix of all of the above!

;

And you can use any jar you want for fridge pickles. An old spaghetti sauce jar works just fine.

REFRIGERATOR CHIVE BLOSSOM VINEGAR PICKLES (adapted from The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking’s refrigerator pickles)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup chive blossom vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar, 5% acidity
  • 1 cup filtered water
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher or non-iodized salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon each of picking spice, dill seed, mustard seed
  • 2 pieces fresh dill (if using, use less dill seed, about half)
  • Cucumbers; as far as the amount you’ll need, I used about 2 and a half smallish/thinnish cukes for one pint jar… but she says:

Wash and cut up your vegetables and pack them into a clean jar.

The weight of your starting produce will vary depending on what you’re pickling. Eyeball it at the market, and if you end up with too little veg, just use a smaller jar (or make more brine to account for extra space in the jar).

Directions:

  1. Boil the vinegar, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, put your dry spices in the dry jars, and then pack your veggies in the jars. If you prefer a less raw taste, you can blanch them first or even cook them in the brine.
  2. Pour your just-boiled brine over the veggies in the jars. Wipe the mouths clean and seal.
  3. DON’T SEAL TIGHTLY. And I quote: “Don’t screw on the lid on as tightly as you possibly can or the lid might pop off when you go to open them in a couple weeks. Vinegar breaking down the veggies inside a jar causes a little release of gas, and leaving the lid loose will let that escape. [I know what you’re wondering and the answer is no. If your pickles have been stored in the fridge, it’s not possible for botulism spores to activate.]“
  4. Put them in the back of your fridge and forget about them for at least a week. “Two weeks is better, three is the best” according to her. They keep indefinitely, but if you’ve got some sitting around more than 6 months, I’d ditch ‘em.

;

That beautifully colored tangy vinegar is going to make a chive-y, dill-y, super tangy pickle. A perfect compliment to potato salad or grilled stuff; burgers & hot dogs, etc. If you prefer a less chive-y flavor, or should I say, a more subtle one, then just change the ratio from 1/2-1/2 to 1/4-3/4 in favor of the white vinegar. But make sure you use half water, half vinegar and the full tablespoon salt. Any vinegar is fine to use as long as it’s 5% acidity. Red wine vinegar, rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or just plain old white vinegar.

I have to say I was surprised it wasn’t slightly more pink in the jar, as when it was boiling up it was a pale pink. Hm. I’m half tempted to just use 100% chive vinegar next time just to get pink pickles!

;

In case you’re wondering, you can pickle anything this way: cauliflower, zucchini, carrots, peppers, etc. I have a bit more information on refrigerator pickles here. If you don’t have the equipment to do actual canning, refrigerator pickles & refrigerator jams are the way to go, as are freezer jams. You can make amazing stuff that way. Sure, it’s not shelf-stable and you need to put it in the fridge/freezer right away, but it’s a good way to get started. That way you can see if canning is for you. If you decide you want to explore canning further, you need a decent amount of background information and some important materials. A great place to get started is the USDA National Center for Home Preservation.

And speaking of canning, in a few days- on August 21st most likely- I’ll be blogging about the very basics of waterbath canning, I’m calling it “Canning for Dummies” to be exact. So if you’re interested in getting involved in basic canning, keep an eye out for that post. Not that you’re a dummy or anything. I’m just saying.

Red onion revolution.


Happy July! I guess summer is officially in full swing, right? Summer is the time for fresh everything. Fresh veggies, fresh fruit, fresh herbs. And obviously, taking advantage of having those fresh herbs around is a must. So I try and use my fresh dill (see above) for pickles rather than dill seed as much as I can. ‘Cause before you know it, it’ll be fall and then winter again, and this will all be a memory. And because it’s summer, it’s also pickling time. Which means that anything and everything is in danger of being pickled.

So watch your back around me. You might end up in a mason jar, like this red onion.

Yup. Pickled red onions. Another stupid easy refrigerator pickle recipe that takes about 10 minutes to make and that looks absolutely gorgeous. I found the recipe on Punk Domestics, so big thanks to them & Comfy Cuisine for making the burgers & hot dogs at my day-after-father’s-day barbecue extra awesome. Yep- that’s right- these pickled onions are excellent on hot dogs, too. And sandwiches. AND THEY’RE SO EASY TO MAKE.

Fridge pickles were my foray into the world of canning. Just last year around this time, I ordered a canning kit and as it was on it’s way, I made some jars of refrigerator pickles. Just to get a feel for it. It was so fun and easy, I knew I wanted to keep doing it. So I made some rhubarb ‘fridge jam. The cool thing is that you can use any kind of jar for refrigerator pickles (and refrigerator jam). An old spaghetti sauce jar, an old pickle jar, an old glass mayo or peanut butter jar, a decorative jar, basically anything that’s food safe. But it doesn’t have to be a canning jar!

I actually got the jars I used for the onions (and the pickles below) at a local dollar store. The name is ‘Frutta Delprato’; I had never heard of them (a simple Google told me they’re available in NZ and AUS- weird!), they had a gold tone one-piece screw-on lid, and it didn’t seem canning-safe or as reliably made as a Ball jar, so I got a few to just use for quick fridge pickles and fridge jam. And of course for storage. It’s always good to have extra jars lying around, especially for excess pastas, grains, rice, nuts, granola, etc. Just be sure to always sanitize them. I know it sounds really obvious, but it’s a must for any food storage container, especially when making pickles or jams. Thoroughly wash both the jar and the lid in very hot sudsy water and rinse before using. I should really thank the canning boom & this whole Pinterest mason jar craze for making this stuff so freakin’ popular & readily available. I plan on going back to that dollar store and stocking up on some more of these jars.

You can get jars in many shapes and sizes: Leifheit jars, Quattro Stagioni, Le Parfait or these pretty Bormioli Rocco jars are all excellent ideas for storage or refrigerator pickles. Of course you can use your canning jars too, but I find that I’d rather use a separate jar and save the canning safe ones for actual canning. Although apparently Quattro Stagioni can be used for actual canning too, I can’t personally vouch.

PATTI’S PICKLED ONIONS (adapted from Comfy Cuisine to make one half-pint)

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pickling spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and sliced thinly

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot, bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add sliced onion and blanch for 1 minute. Drain.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring brine ingredients to a full boil. Add drained onions and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Let cool and pack into pint jar.
  4. Refrigerate overnight.

And that’s it. Seriously. You’re done.

The only thing is… you might have bought an extra red onion or two. Or maybe not all of your red onion would fit in one jar. And maybe you also have some extra brine. That means you’ll want to make something else to use those up. So you might want to make some red onion refrigerator pickles.


Pickles, pickles, everywhere. Wow, look at this: a two for one recipe post today! You guys are so lucky. I hadn’t made pickles with red onions before, just white onions. Now I’m wondering why I never did! It seems kinda obvious now that I think about it. It might be because I have mostly white onions in the house, and when I have a red onion I use it for salad (I adore red onions in a nice crisp salad with blue cheese dressing!).

REFRIGERATOR PICKLES WITH RED WINE VINEGAR & RED ONION

Makes about one pint (16-oz.) jar

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium pickling cucumbers, or one large cucumber (unwaxed), sliced
  • 3-4 sliced red onion “rings”
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher or pickling salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pickling spice
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed slightly
  • 2 sprigs fresh dill (or 1/4 teaspoon dill seed)

Directions:

  1. Boil the vinegar, water, pickling spice and salt in a medium saucepan. Meanwhile, put your garlic and red onion in the jar, and then pack your veggies in the jars. If you prefer a less raw taste, you can blanch them first or even cook them in the brine. They’ll stay crisper if you don’t, however, and that’s how we like ‘em here: crisp.
  2. Pour your just-boiled brine over the veggies in the jars. Wipe the mouths clean and seal. Don’t seal too tight or the lids will explode when you open it from the building of gases as it ferments.
  3. Let them sit in the fridge for one to three weeks before eating. The longer they sit, the stronger the flavor.

I really like the way the red onion looks in the jars, don’t you? It’s pretty.

So it took me like, I don’t know, a half hour tops to make both of these. Probably less. Don’t tell me you don’t have time for this stuff, ’cause that’s a bunch of crap. Anyone who says they don’t have time to cook, or bake, or make things is a freakin’ lunatic liar. I swear. And you can hate me for saying this but it’s true. Not everything takes a long time- you’re probably just lazy.

But that’s okay. Save the awesomeness for people like me.

And speaking of awesomeness, this year’s Can-It-Forward Day is July 14th. Don’t forget to get involved. Here’s a little info and background from FreshPreserving.com:

National Can-It-Forward Day

Join National Can-It-Forward Day on Saturday, July 14, 2012!

National Can-It-Forward Day lets everyone share the joy of fresh preserving. If you love garden fresh produce, we would love to show you how easy it is to preserve it to enjoy throughout the year. Whether you’re new to canning or are a Master Canner, we have recipes, tips and tricks to help make fresh preserving easy and fun!

This year the National Can It Forward Day will originate from Minnetrista a cultural center in East Central Indiana, and the original home of the Ball Brothers. On Saturday, July 14th, Jarden Home Brands, the makers of Ball® brand fresh preserving products, and the Minnetrista Master Preservers will demonstrate just how easy it is to preserve fresh produce for delicious results. And, chefs from the American Culinary Federation will share their recipes using these preserved products. New and exciting this year is the Ball® FreshTECH Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker. Watch as it transforms fresh fruit, sugar and pectin into mouthwatering homemade jam. This small kitchen appliance allows you to enjoy homemade jam or jelly in just 30 minutes. It uses SmartStir™ Technology to automatically and consistently stir your jam or jelly while it cooks. You don’t have any guesswork and you don’t stand over a hot stove – you just set it and go! Who ever dreamed delicious could be this easy?

Set aside some time to learn simple ways to preserve the fresh food you love and share your canning knowledge with friends and family. Whether you watch us on-line, host a home canning party or join us in person, we hope you’ll share your stories. Like us on Facebook then post your Can-It-Forward Day stories and photos on our page and in your status updates. And, join the conversation on Twitter with #CanItForward. No matter how you participate, we want you to enjoy fresh preserving and Can-It-Forward Day.

It’s a great way to start canning, if you’re new to it. There will be video demonstrations and all kinds of fun stuff. Plus, there are downloadable jar labels, and a list of amazing nationwide Farmer’s markets that are participating in the 2012 Discover You Can program℠. So get on it! The Fresh Preserving website has tons of info for you. Canning isn’t something to be scared of, it’s totally fun… so get yourself some jars, some equipment & some fruits & veggies and start preserving. Shit. Making something new is so awesome & empowering, even if it’s just pickles. Stop being afraid of new things. If you take just one thing away from this blog, make it that. Alright… enough preaching for today.

And if you’re not into preserving, but you’re into baking, and you’re also into small kitchen appliances & KitchenAid.. then you’ll like this news. It’s somewhat exciting. I was asked by MarketVine (a Dell company) to create a little mini-store filled with a select amount of my favorite KitchenAid items. It’s right here on the website, and of course, you can always buy other things that aren’t in my store, since all of the items are sold via KitchenAid.com! There are great prices on there, and also some great refurbished items available for a low price. The store can be accessed by all pages on the blog just by clicking the banner up at the top- you see it? The one that says “My Favorite KitchenAid Things”? Yep. That one. Just click it and you’ll be transported to my little store where you can shop till your hearts content. You all know how much I love KitchenAid, and Lola, and so this is very exciting for me. If you’ve always wanted your own Lola… then go get one!

Would you like some scones & tea? Some jelly? Some tea-jelly?

Now that Halloween is over, it seems like its a landslide right through the holidays. Although before the mad rush of December starts, & before the long cold winter sets in (blah), it’s nice to take advantage of the down time, lazy weekends & of course, the beautiful fall weather. It finally got here! We had to battle 80° degree days, tons of rain & even snow right before Halloween, then 35° degree nights for a while there… but finally we got a bit of fall-ish weather. Cooler, but actually more on the cold side. Drier. Gorgeous changing leaves finally. Nice weather for a heavy sweater & apple cider or tea around the fire pit at night. It’s no secret I like my tea. All kinds, from regular old Lipton, to fancier ones like Stash’s Earl Grey Black or Licorice Spice, to classic ones like Twining’s Irish Breakfast, to healthy ones like Yogi Egyptian Licorice to even fancier ones like, oh, say anything from Teavana. Ahh, Teavana.

Teavana teas are the best. I am in love with them. My personal favorites (for drinking) are Cacao Mint Black, Samurai Chai Mate/White Ayurvedic Chai blend and JavaVana Mate. However I haven’t found one yet that I’m not into. My mother has a ton of them that her friend Mara (hi, Mara!) sent her in a ‘Tea Lovers’ gift set, so that’s where I go when I want to try a new flavor. Or when I want to experiment. Like, for example, what I wanted to do when I got this particular book.

A few months ago, I ordered a book that I had been sorta lusting over for a while. It’s called Canning For a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Liana Krissoff/photographs by Rinne Allen. It arrived on a warm (okay- muggy, hot & slightly stifling), beautiful August day during which I had been out gardening, so I only briefly flipped through it at first. After cleaning up, coming inside & showering, I settled in with a can of ice cold Coke Zero & pored over every page. What a freakin’ gorgeous book! Filled with amazing recipes (not just canning but baking too!) and glorious photos. If you don’t have it, buy it. You won’t regret it.

One of the recipes in this book was a recipe for tea jelly. Just jelly made with tea. Well, tea, sugar, pectin and lemon juice. Sort of like an iced tea jelly, or a sweet tea jelly. I knew I had to make it. So I did. And the tea I used was Teavana’s Frutto Bianco Pearls white tea, which is described as:

Tropical fruits effortlessly complement hand-rolled, delicate white tea pearls. A blend of kiwi, coconut and candied tropical fruit bits tempt you to pull up a hammock and sip your cares away! Ingredients: white tea, apples, rose hips, lemongrass, citrus pieces, kiwi bits, coconut chips, lemon myrtle, candied pineapple & papaya.

-From Teavana.com

I know, it sounds to die for. It is. And I thought it’d make a fantastic jelly.

The tea in the canister.

It did indeed make a beautiful looking jelly…

I have to say, I love all the recipes for tea-infused jellies & jams (as if you couldn’t tell?). It’s such an easy way to really make an average every day item stand out. It turns an ordinary preserve into something different, something that people can’t quite put their finger on. My family has a big history with tea; being Irish, my Nana Agnes’ side of the family drank tea like it was going out of style..I was raised on it, although coffee was a big part of life too, tea seemed to be the main component. It was always around.. black teas, green teas, herbal teas, sweetened with milk & sugar or just honey. When I was sick as a kid, my mom or nana would make me a big mug of tea with milk & sugar, and even now whenever I’m not feeling my best, I find that it’s a great cure. Tea is a huge part of my childhood memories. Now that I’m older, & my tastes have matured slightly, I like fancier stuff; but I always have a soft spot for a hot cup of black tea or English breakfast tea with milk & sugar.

So I made the jelly, labeled it, and put it aside. I sent a jar to Lyns (upon her request & also as payment for all the chutney’s she sent!) and promptly shoved my jars to the back of the line. Then recently, one Sunday morning, I was looking for another jam and found it! And I thought, “I need to make something special to serve this with.” So I took out a jar and I made some scones from the book, Regan’s Oat Scones, just specifically to have with this delicious jelly, for a brunch/lunch kinda thing.

Speaking of, you can use any tea you like, even herbal tea if you can’t tolerate caffeine, to make this jelly. Liana says she’s had excellent results with Oolong & Earl Grey, but I don’t see why you couldn’t use pretty much any kind of tea there is. Even pre-measured tea bags (although you’d typically need about 3 teabags to each tablespoon loose tea required). Trader Joe’s makes a white pomegranate tea that’d probably give lovely results, & my mother drinks a spicy vanilla chai by Bigelow that would also make a great jelly. Peppermint teas, citrus teas, musky teas. EXPERIMENT! Use a wintery blend for winter, a spring-y one for warmer weather… it’d be such a fun way to try new teas in a different way.

TEA JELLY (adapted from Liana Krisstoff’s book, Canning For a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry)

Makes 3 half-pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons loose tea leaves
  • 2 ¼ cups boiling water
  • ¼ cup strained fresh lemon juice
  • 3 ¼ cups sugar
  • 3 cups of Green Apple Pectin stock (see recipe below) or what I did- 1 package Certo liquid pectin

Directions:

  1. Prepare for water bath canning: Sterilize the jars and keep them hot (in water) in the canning pot, put a small plate in the freezer, and put the flat lids in a heatproof bowl.
  2. Put the tea leaves in a heatproof bowl and pour in the boiling water. Let steep for 5 minutes*, then pour through a sieve into a 6-to 8-quart saucepan.
  3. Stir the pectin/pectin stock, lemon juice and sugar into the tea. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture registers about 220° F on a candy thermometer or a small dab of it passes the freezer test (place some on the frozen plate and put back in the freezer for one minute, then remove; if the mixture wrinkles when you nudge it, it’s ready), about 25-30 minutes.
  4. Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. Using a jar lifter, remove the jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a clean, folded dish towel. Drain the water off the jar lids.
  5. Ladle the hot jelly into the jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace at the top. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a flat lid & band on each jar, adjusting the band so it’s fingertip tight.
  6. Return the jars to the canning pot in a canning rack, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes to process. Remove the jars to the folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours, except to check the seal after one hour by pressing down on the center of each lid; if it can be pushed down it hasn’t sealed, and must be refrigerated immediately. After 12 hours, label sealed jars & store.

Instead of printing labels, I just tied some of the labels that come with the book (YES! Labels come with the book! SO CUTE!) on with some twine.

How cute are they? Very. How awful is my handwriting? Very.

The deliciously special item I chose to make to eat it with was a scone. Not just any scone- but one made with oats, yogurt and honey (or maple syrup, but I used honey). Add the tea-infused jelly as a topping and it’s a free train ride to dreamy-town. I love scones anyway, but these are totally different than any other scones I’ve made. And with the jelly; seriously just forget it. No words. I halved this recipe because 5 eggs was a bit ridiculous at the time, although I wish I hadn’t! You can never have too many scones… especially these beautiful scones right here.

REGAN’S OAT SCONES (from Canning For a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry)

Ingredients:

  • 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking (not instant) oats, plus extra for sprinkling (if desired)
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • ½ cup yogurt
  • ½ cup honey or maple syrup
  • 5 large eggs
  • turbinado sugar (optional, for sprinkling)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar and salt. Using your fingertips, two knives held together, or a pastry cutter, cut in the butter until the largest pieces are the size of peas.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the yogurt, honey or maple syrup, and 4 of the eggs. Pour the mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated; do not overmix.. The dough will be somewhat sticky.
  4. Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface. Flour your hands, then pat the dough out to ¾” to 1″ inch thick. Cut into 2 ½” inch rounds and place on the prepared baking sheets. Gather up leftover dough, handling it as little as possible, and pat it out to cut more rounds. If the kitchen is warm, put the baking sheets in the fridge for 30 minutes or so to firm up, so they don’t spread too much in the oven.
  5. In a small bowl whisk the remaining egg together with 2 teaspoons cold water and brush the tops of the scones with it. Sprinkle with oats or turbinado sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating and switching the pans halfway through, until deep golden brown. Remove to wire racks.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature, preferably split & spread with jam or jelly.

I got about 19 scones using the above recipe halved & using my 3-inch biscuit cutter to make them. You may think that’s plenty, but not when there are a ton of grabby hands around asking for baked goods all the time! I also used oats & gold crystal sugar (instead of turbinado) on top. They were so amazing, I could barely stop eating them. Thankfully, they’re (slightly) healthier than most scones. Sweet, but not too sweet. They’d work beautifully alongside a savory jelly too, I bet. Like a pepper jelly that’s on the sweeter side?

As I mentioned above in the tea jelly recipe, the author Liana prefers to use a homemade pectin stock for her jellies & jams. I am not so particular, but I’ll include the directions for doing so here just in case you’re far more ambitious than I. I’m lazy, remember? But now is a great time to do this because of the crazy amount of apples available. It’s apple season, after all. Make some & stock up on it if you’re not a lazy bitch. Like me.

GREEN APPLE PECTIN STOCK (also from Canning For a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry)

Makes 3 cups

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds Granny Smith apples

Directions:

  1. Cut the apples into eighths, removing the stems, and put the apples- peels, cores, seeds & all- in a 6-to 8-quart saucepan. Add 6 cups water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the apples are completely broken down and the peels have separated from the pulp, 30-40 minutes.
  2. Set a very large, very fine mesh sieve (or jelly bag) over a deep bowl or pot. Pour the apples and their juice into the sieve and let drain for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally but not pressing down too hard on the solids; discard the solids. You should have about 5 ½ cups juice.
  3. Rinse the saucepan and pour in the apple juice. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until the juice is reduced to about 3 cups (pour into a large heatproof measuring cup to check it), about 20 minutes.
  4. Transfer to a clean container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for several months.

Lyns had tried the jar I sent her long before I remembered mine, and she said it was amazing- I have to agree. This tea made a spectacular jelly! It also just goes to show you that you don’t have to make the pectin stock to get a delicious jelly. Of course, I’m sure it feels slightly more rewarding if you do. But lazy bitches unite- we don’t need no stinking apple stock. We have modern convenience at our fingertips.

..

And the scones, they are phenomenal. Together, they’d be a great pair on Thanksgiving morning for breakfast. They have a sweet/not sweet borderline flavor that makes them more biscuit-y & perfect for accompanying a hearty bacon & eggs breakfast too. Also would be excellent on a cold winter’s night, right before bed. I had mine warm, and I definitely think they’re best eaten that way. Warm yours up if you’re eating them the next day, etc, or even toast them.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, it’s almost that time! With each post, as I did for Halloween, I’m going to post a vintage or retro postcard, just because I like ‘em.

Caramel apple syrup that wasn’t supposed to be syrup.

A.K.A. a canning cautionary tale.

This post is not particularly Halloween-y, but it is very fall-related (the apples, the caramel, whatever & whatnot, etc). Not exactly horror movie stuff. It also does not contain a recipe, just a link to a recipe. Despite all that though, it does contain an important lesson. It’s also pretty funny, so I suggest you read it all; especially if you want a laugh (at my expense, admittedly).

Okay so, I’m far from perfect. Even though I say I am & act like I am most of the time, I’m aware that in reality I am not. I lack patience, I get frustrated easily if things aren’t going 100% smoothly, I can lose interest if it’s not going quickly enough for me and sometimes, just sometimes… I get distracted by pets/music/television/my iPhone/Jay/my reflection in the microwave/a mug of delicious coffee/shiny objects, etc. I admit this. But how could this sleeping cuteness not distract me, I ask you?

Also, I don’t know everything. I know that. Despite acting as if I am in fact the smartest person alive, I know there are things I don’t know. So yeah, I’m aware I’m not all-knowing and I am not perfect. And you should know that, too. If you’re coming here looking for perfection, or someone who’s all-knowing… keep on clicking, ’cause that person doesn’t blog here. The person who blogs here is a rebellious, at times indifferent, at times rushed, at times ill-prepared person who just so happens to love baking, cooking, canning, preserving, and all things culinary in terms of it being a “hobby”, or much-beloved stress reliever (although I will not deny the fact I’d love my own bakery, I’m aware of the difficulties & realities of it). I am not a chef, I was never trained at a Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, I have no excuse for why I think I should have a blog like this. I just know what I love to do, and as far as baking goes (and cooking, too, but that’s pretty easy)- I’m pretty fucking awesome. I rock hard at cupcakes, my ice creams are phenomenal, my stuffed shells/lasagna/macaroni & cheese dishes are legendary, my risotto is never gummy & my frosting skill cannot be beaten. I’ve made homemade pasta without a machine that was perfection. All that, I can do in my sleep.

Canning… I’m new at. Relatively. I only started in July, so I can hardly be called anything but a newbie. I knew that my first few amazing attempts at canning would be marred by an epic failure. I’ve made amazing pickles, awesome jams, fantastic preserves, much-requested marmalades, super jellies, etc. So I knew that nobody could have that much good luck when first beginning anything. The bottom had to fall out, the other shoe had to drop, all those cliches. I knew I’d probably end up with moldy pickles or a watery jelly at some point. Except I really did end up lucking out this time, even with my “failure”- turns out, caramel apple syrup that was supposed to be a caramel apple jam isn’t so bad after all.

Cute little mistake…

See this is what happened: I found a recipe I wanted to make, and obviously given this time of year, I had a bunch of apples; particularly some firm but soft-spot apples (two Granny Smith, two Gala, and one who’s sticker came off so I have no idea) that I wanted to use up and of course, there were a few sad, empty Ball® jars looking lonely. So I said, “Self, we’re going to make this nice, fall-like recipe known as caramel apple jam.” Apparently, myself and my “self” were not on the same page. I was doing about 300 other things at the same time- washing apples, peeling apples, coring apples, dicing apples, sterilizing jars & lids, measuring spices, finding the brown sugar, drinking coffee, talking on the phone, texting, watching Dr. Phil (okay that last one is a lie, I swear). And I ended up throwing these things in the pot and cooking ‘em up and then plopping them in the jars & sealing them, only to realize, as they were processing in a water bath… that I did not add the pectin.

I DID NOT ADD THE PECTIN.

Do you realize what I just wrote? Yes, I understand that sour apples that are not too ripe naturally have enough pectin to make jam. I know that, I’ve read the books & websites. And I know non-sour, not-ripe apples have decent amounts of pectin anyway. But I didn’t let them cook long enough to take advantage of that, because I cooked them as though I did add the pectin. Not only that, but I thought I’d like a chunkier jam, so I left the apples for the most part in chunks, which didn’t cook down much, leaving even less pectin in the mix.

See the dilemma? No? Okay, maybe this will explain it. Or maybe this post where I kinda went into detail about pectin. See now? Yeah. I messed up.

Anyway, after smacking my forehead with my palm, I decided to finish processing the two jars, since I figured even if they didn’t work out at all, it was only two jars, but maybe I could salvage it and use it as a syrup, not a jam. You know, an ice cream, pancake or pound cake topping as opposed to a scone or bread topping. And I believe it worked. They seemed very runny at first, almost watery… which made me a bit nervous. But after sitting & cooling in a dark place for a week or so, it seemed to thicken a little. Not quite a chocolate fudge or caramel consistency, but more a maple syrup consistency. The seals were fine, everything was good, so why not market it as a syrup?

All dressed up, labeled, & lookin’ gooood… as if I totally meant to do that!

Sure, I could have pretended this was all intentional when I wrote this blog post. But I’m going to be honest with you all because that’s how you learn- from mistakes, right? So anyway, they processed perfectly, were sealed, and they got a bit thicker each passing day (although not to jam thickness, obviously), not to mention it looked pretty awesome in the jars. I remembered the advice I gave in my marmalade post, about using it even if it doesn’t set, so I said screw it! I called them ‘caramel apple syrup’, I made some pretty labels, hyped them up a bit (“It’s fantastic on pancakes or waffles! Believe me!”) and I gave my dad one of the jars, using him as a guinea pig. Despite him balking at first (“I don’t know if I’ll ever eat this…” “Don’t waste it on me” “What am I going to have this with?”) he decided to crack it open not even two hours after getting it. And boy, did he rave about it. He had it with a hamsteak, but he agreed it’d be perfect on pancakes not to mention on ice cream or even biscuits. Like I said, he called it “Apple pie in a jar.” He never actually got the chance to have it in pancakes or waffles… because he started eating it right out of the jar! I swear. He then finished it & started harassing me about making more! MAKING MORE OF WHAT WAS A MISTAKE TO BEGIN WITH, MIND YOU.

And you want to know something? It thickened a lot more in his fridge, as these things are wont to do. So yet another serving option is to just throw it into some of those pre-made pie shells, et voilà. Little apple pies. Or… use Pillsbury croissants and fold ‘em up into little turnovers with this as the filling.

It does look pretty, too, I have to admit.

I have learned from this, believe me. No need for lectures or lessons. I know, I know. But the basic concept is that sometimes mistakes aren’t really all that bad. Yes, you should pay attention. Yes you should be careful. And if you’re preserving fruits or veggies that are low acid & you accidentally skip the lemon juice or “acid” when making a jam or jelly, the entire batch should not be eaten and it should be remade, this I know. But just like way back in the day, when my cupcakery was in it’s infancy… I learned to pay more attention when I put a batch of cupcakes in the oven without adding the eggs, this incident will make me doubly careful from now on. I reassured myself by saying “Before you know it, I’ll be canning blindfolded just like I can bake & frost cupcakes or make risotto or macaroni & cheese blindfolded.” Which I pretty much can do right about now. This was just a stupid mistake. But as far as mistakes go, this one was a really good mistake to make. Of all the canning horror stories out there, this certainly is not one of them. Caramel apple syrup, a mistake? Hell no.

Anyway, since October is National Apple Month, get yourself some apples & start making some caramel apple jam. Alternately, as you’ve learned here, make some amazing caramel apple syrup by taking this recipe & omitting the pectin. This (or it’s originally intended ‘jam’ form) would be an amazing Thanksgiving hostess gift, as well. You could also wait a few days & see my next (and much easier) apple-related recipe…

Or you could just eat the damn apple.

When the Romans conquered Britain they brought with them the apple tree. The apple was representative of the goddess Pomona, the goddess of fruit trees. She was known for her great beauty and fertility. Romans, although conquerors, were accepting of other cultures and soon accepted Celtic beliefs and the Samhain festival. The two were blended together and the apple became part of the harvest celebration that would become Halloween.

Because Pomona was a fertility goddess and because the Celts believed that the pentagram was a fertility symbol and when an apple is sliced in half the seeds form a pentagram it is natural that they believed the apple could be used to determine marriages during this magical time of year. From this belief comes the game bobbing for apples. During the annual celebration young unmarried people try to bite into an apple floating in water or hanging from a string. The first person to bite into the apple would be the next one to marry.

While the apple may or may not have had any ability to predict the future it brought people together from distant farms and villages who may otherwise have never had contact with others outside their own families. This was very important as most people did not live through their childhoods. Marriage and fertility were extremely important. Without children there would be nobody to carry on your genes. If you didn’t have a large supply of children there wouldn’t be enough labor to survive. In this respect bobbing for apples wasn’t just a game but a matter of life or death.

-source The Haunted Bay

 

You put the whiskey in the marmalade…

And mix it all together! That sounds way better than “You put the lime in the coconut…” doesn’t it? Ever since I started canning I’ve been on a sort of mission to find unique (or at least fun) recipes to make, most of which so far have come from Punk Domestics or Food in Jars. However, I stumbled on this recipe while looking for something else, & as soon as I saw it I was done for. Lemon-Orange Whiskey marmalade.

Yes, I wrote Lemon-Orange Whiskey marmalade.

Do I really need to say anything else about this? No. I think not. But I will anyway. My very first encounter with marmalade was reading Alice in Wonderland as a child. Oddly enough, I don’t remember it from the movie, but I seem to remember from reading my very favorite version of it as a little girl that as Alice was tumbling down the rabbit hole, she saw a jar of orange marmalade. But alas, the jar was empty. This isn’t Alice’s kind of marmalade, though. And unless that white rabbit was knocking back a few down there himself, I doubt he had any whiskey marmalade. Though if he did it would make a lot of sense, actually…

Illustration by Marjorie Torrey © 1955

..

Not that that ever made me want to try it, especially once I found out it was like jam, which I hated as a kid. And jelly too- I never even liked PB&J’s. However as soon as I saw this recipe I knew I had to make it, no matter what.

Unfortunately, as with most newspapers today, the Times now charges you to view the content online, but I had found the recipe & printed it out before that. Please, UK Times, don’t sue me. For £1 (which is what, like $1.60 American?) you can subscribe to it online & view all of their other recipes (& I think there are quite a few), which, if they are anything like this one, are well worth it.

LEMON-ORANGE WHISKEY MARMALADE (adapted slightly from the UK Sunday Times recipe, by Jill Dupleix, Nov 2004)

Makes 4 16-ounce jars

Ingredients:

  • 2 lemons
  • 4 oranges
  • white granulated sugar (see recipe)*
  • 2 tablespoons good whiskey**
  • 4 16-ounce screw-top jars, sterilized

Directions:

  1. Scrub the fruit well, and dry. Cut off the rinds and cut them into thin strips. Finely chop the fruit, placing the pips in a small muslin bag tied with string†. Place the fruit, rind and pips in a large bowl and cover with 1.5l of cold water (about 6 cups). Cover and leave to soak overnight. Transfer the mixture to a heavy-bottomed pan, and bring to the boil. Simmer gently until the fruit is soft, about 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the muslin bag and discard the contents. Weigh the fruit mixture, then measure out three quarters of its weight in sugar‡. Add the sugar to the fruit, stirring enthusiastically until dissolved, and boil rapidly for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you reach setting point (place a little of the mixture on a plate and freeze for 2 minutes — if set, it will wrinkle when moved).
  3. Add the whiskey and stir well, cool only slightly, then ladle into warm sterilized jars and seal, processing in a waterbath for about 10-15 minutes.
* I used half-white sugar, half-turbinado; I thought the deepness of the turbinado would compliment a whiskey-marmalade well, hence the darker color.
** I used Jameson Irish whiskey.
† I used a metal “tea ball” spoon that you’d use for loose tea.
‡ I basically eye-balled & guessed this part, based on other marmalade recipes, because I only have a small scale & so I used about 5 ½ – 6 cups sugar. If it’s runny after 20-30 minutes, I’d add a bit more. You can’t skimp on sugar with marmalade or else it won’t set & it’ll be way too bitter, especially if you’re using the rind… however add too much, and you’ll end up with candy.
Before settling them, removing the air, wiping the rims & putting the lids on…

I let it sit for 5 hours, but not overnight, per se. Just during the day while I did other errands, etc. I’d recommend you do that & not skip that step. It really helps to release all the pectin in the skin/pith of the citrus fruit. Citrus fruit peels have a whopping 30% pectin content! Don’t let that go to waste, take advantage of it. Without pectin, whatever form you get it in, you can’t have a successful jelly, jam or marmalade.

Pectin (from Greek πηκτικός – pektikos, “congealed, curdled”[1]) is a structural heteropolysaccharide contained in the primary cell walls of terrestrial plants. It was first isolated and described in 1825 by Henri Braconnot.[2] It is produced commercially as a white to light brown powder, mainly extracted from citrus fruits, and is used in food as a gelling agent particularly in jams and jellies. It is also used in fillings, medicines, sweets, as a stabilizer in fruit juices and milk drinks and as a source of dietary fiber.

- Wikipedia

I did not need to use added pectin with this, nor do you usually with any marmalade, but I have seen recipes with the addition of some added pectin. I suppose it also depends on how thick you like it or how much you want to leave things up to nature (see next paragraph down re: marmalade not setting fast). I also added the waterbath part, being an overly-anal and neurotic American, I’ve been tortured by fears of food poisoning & botulism so I figured the extra 10 minutes in boiling water couldn’t hurt matters any. Next time I’d also use wide-mouth jars, as for stuff like this I imagine it’s easier getting every last bit out, and perhaps use the 8 oz ones, since then I’d have more to share. It’s supposedly good for 12-18 months unopened, stored in a dark, cool spot.

Immediately after the waterbath, while cooling.

This marmalade did not have the “set” my previous marmalade had. On that note, I’ve read that sometimes marmalade takes a while to “fully set.” Meaning, in the jar directly afterwards, it will appear on the runny side, but after 2 weeks it should be fully set. Apparently, if your marmalade doesn’t look right, just store it in a cool, dark place and wait. Now I don’t know how scientifically sound that is, so don’t hold me responsible. Although the freezing test included in the recipe is an excellent way of judging, it’s not always a perfect method. Of course mine wasn’t 100% set right out of the gate, but it seemed like it was on the road there. I was a bit concerned because my lemon marmalade was set immediately, but after a few days of receiving this one (which was about a week or so after me making it) my mother opened her jar & said it was amazing. However… I would say let it rest at least a few days before opening it anyway. If after a week you turn the jar upside down, and it takes a while to slide, it’s good. If you turn it upside down and it just sloshes, or the liquid runs quickly, it’s not. If it never seems to set in the jar, it won’t be a marmalade, but that doesn’t mean it’s a waste! You could try opening it, reboiling it and totally re-canning it, using all new lids/rings, but I can’t tell you how to do that ’cause I never did it. Do a Google. Or… as long as the seal is good, you could save it & use it as a lemon-orange-whiskey-syrup thing or a glaze on cakes (like Julia Child’s gateau a l’orange from Mastering the Art of French Cooking… this in syrup form would be to die for poured on that cake while the cake is still warm, as a matter of fact, even in marmalade form it would be amazing on that cake!). So either way, all is not lost. From what they say on this forum, this website & this website, apparently marmalade is a notoriously slow setter, so don’t be alarmed. If it isn’t set after 2 weeks, try waiting another 2. If not, start making that orange cake!

Requisite lid labels!

Imagine if you will, how warming & delicious this will be on a cold winter day. Or even a fall day. Truly. Although, it was pretty damn bad-ass right now on some toast, too (see below). Other uses for marmalade: a delicious glaze for chicken, a filling for little tortes or tarts, on an English muffin/scone/crumpet, mixed into a muffin recipe, and some people use it on ham as well (as a glaze with honey). It will not go to waste, because even if you’re like me & think you don’t like marmalade, you’ll probably like this one. Maybe it’s the whiskey, maybe it’s the extra added lemon-y flavor, who knows. But I thought it was excellent. Speaking of whiskey, I used Jameson because I personally cannot handle Jack Daniels, but you could use any good-quality whiskey you like, including Jack. Just don’t use shit whiskey, it’s not worth it, you’ll wreck the marmalade. If you wouldn’t want to drink it, why the hell would you want to eat it!? Another idea: adding little things to it, like cinnamon or rosemary or a sprig of mint. I left mine plain according to the recipe, but many people like to sneak a little something extra in. I figured the Jameson was extra enough!

All melty on warm toast…

If you had told me 11 years ago that my Saturday’s would now be spent making marmalade, Googling Rick Bayless’ habanero hot sauce recipes (to use my homegrown hab’s) or searching for good plum jam recipes, not to mention that I’d get excited over a KitchenAid mixer or a 12-pack of wide mouth 8oz Ball® jars on sale, I’d have told you you were nuts. But really, you can spend your days doing meaningless shit with people you don’t give a fuck about & spend your nights getting hammered, or you can do something worthwhile & enjoyable. And at 30 years old, if you’re spending most of your nights getting hammered anyway, you sort of need a reality check. Or to just grow up. Unless you’re a rock star- then you’re exempt from judgement. However personally these days I take my whiskey in the form of marmalade. Or cupcakes *ahem*

Oh and by the way-

“Pip” is the correct term for the seed of a citrus fruit such as an orange, lemon or lime.source

Just in case you were wondering.

Rah, rah, ah-ah-ah, Roma, roma-ma.

That’s seriously all I heard in my head over & over as I canned my tomatoes. No joke. Why? Because three of them were Roma’s. Lady Gaga, you’ve done it again… you’ve managed to associate an average everyday mundane household task with a fantasically catchy earworm of a song. Just like I sang the chorus to ‘Telephone’ every time my phone rang for months, how I sang “Mah mah mah pokuh face mah mah pokuh faaaace” at the mere mention of a card game, or how I changed the words to ‘Paparazzi’ from “I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me, papa, papa-razzi” to “I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you hug me, puppa, puppa Indy” & chased the poor dog around the house singing it. *sigh*

It all makes sense though. Sort of. Tomatoes à la Lady Gaga. Right?

Maybe. Has a certain ring to it.

By the way, did you know she went to a Catholic high school that has the same name as the one I went to, that’s also in NY? Betcha didn’t.

Lady Gaga probably wouldn’t think so. And although she herself might be Italian, and I might be talking about Roma tomatoes, but this is really not an old fashioned Italian recipe at all. It’s more Russian or Romanian, as pickled tomatoes are really big over there. Roma tomatoes are known as the best tomatoes to use for canning sauces & for sauce in general, really. They have the most ‘meat’ on them, the least skin, and far less water content; meaning they make a thicker sauce with less work. This was my first year growing Roma’s, and I wasn’t really sure when I planted them what I was going to do with them, but once I started to get into canning I knew that I’d probably can ‘em up right away. Although I had prepared to jar them up as a sauce originally, what I ended up doing was pretty different: pickled green & red tomatoes, inspired by a Liana Krissoff recipe. And not just Roma’s, Better Boy’s too. Better Boy’s are juicy yet meaty tomatoes that are larger than Roma’s (yet really aren’t all that large) and the plants yield quite a large amount of fruit each season. There’s no song that immediately comes to mind when I hear “Better Boy”, however.

Better Boy’s (top left & two green’s) and Roma’s (bottom)

I picked two Better Boy tomatoes while they were green, and two that were turning red/orange, also three Roma’s. I ended up with three half-pint jars of pickled tomato goodness. Of course, I adjusted the recipe to utilize the amount of tomatoes I had. If you have more, then by all means use them- but just adjust the recipe for your own needs. I have more tomatoes growing, but I thought a few jars of these were plenty. I don’t like to put up huge batches of things, I not only don’t have the room but I’m not a fan of monotony. I do this for fun, not to survive over a long winter… & canning 20 jars of the same thing gets tedious and boring. I like to mix it up.

Tomatoes, and their iffy acid levels are on the borderline of “what can be safely canned using a water bath process.” Many people will tell you not to can your own tomato sauce or whole tomatoes without a pressure canner. I think that’s silly, considering the addition of lemon juice or citric acid solves the acid dilemma right off the bat, and processing them for a good 20+ minutes definitely kills the bad guys that are in there anyway. Not to mention the fact I know plenty of people who make ancient (well, not quite ancient) family sauce recipes & jar them every year and none of them have ever died. With these, though, there’s not much of a chance for anything gross to even survive from the get go. The use of lemon juice ups the acid and the vinegar/salt & water bath do the rest. Of course, I’m not saying go out & can up some beef stew in a water bath… that’s a bit different. But tomatoes, tomatoes are okay, especially with the right acid level. So don’t let people make you feel bad for canning your own tomato sauce with that age old family recipe: you will not single-handedly kill your entire family. Unless you’re an idiot who shouldn’t be canning, period. But anyway… if the thought of it still scares you, try these to use up your tomatoes. They’re surprising. Very easy, very delicious & very unique.

I say green & red tomatoes, but really none of mine were 100% mature or fully red. They were more orangey, some with yellow. They look red in the jars, though, so there ya go.

PICKLED GREEN & RED TOMATOES

Makes 3 half-pint jars

First you get:

  • 2 pounds smallish green & red tomatoes, different varieties are okay just so long as they’re all in varying degrees of maturity, but none too soft, ripe or too small/large (make sure that when sliced, they fit in the jars nicely); or about 6-7 small/medium tomatoes
  • 2 cups distilled 5% acidity white vinegar
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 rounded tablespoons pickling salt
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • pinch of dried sage
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • one medium sweet onion, sliced (optional)

Then you get your pickle on this way:

  1. Wash the tomatoes thoroughly, remove the stem & “core” at the tops and slice them into ¼” -to- ½” thick round slices. Soak the sliced tomatoes in the lemon juice in a medium bowl for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sanitize your jars & lids, keeping them hot.
  2. Combine the vinegar, sugar, celery seeds, mustard seeds, sage and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Place the tomato mixture in the hot jars, stacking them nicely and also making sure they’re packed as tight as possible (you can also add sliced sweet onion in between tomato layers at this point if you like). Ladle in the liquid, pausing to remove air bubbles & air pockets with a small rubber spatula or chopstick as you go. Fill the jars with the liquid, leaving ¼” headspace. Discard any extra liquid.
  3. Wipe rims and place lids & bands on. Process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Remove to cool, dark area & do not disturb for 12 hours. Check for seal after one hour, and if it hasn’t sealed, refrigerate and use immediately. Refrigerate all jars right before opening & using, they just taste better chilled.

This would also work with different kinds of heirloom tomatoes. The jars would look gorgeous piled high with different colored tomatoes- dark red, purpleish, yellow, green, red, orange, etc. Can you imagine how these would look? Phenomenal. Or these. But either way, plain ol’ tomatoes did the job just right. If you don’t have pickling salt, Kosher salt is fine. Regular Iodized salt will cause a cloudy liquid, however, so I’d avoid it for aesthetic reasons. You can certainly use all red tomatoes too, so if you’re getting bored with sauce or traditional canned tomatoes, maybe give a jar or two of these a try. I didn’t use the onion, myself, but Liana says it’s another option.

I highly recommend these on a sandwich; roast chicken with mayonnaise & freshly ground black pepper. Equally good on a sandwich also made with some sliced Bell peppers in oil, or even on a grilled cheese made with Monterey Jack cheese on sourdough bread, and apparently even delicious right out of the jar. So do as you wish as far as that goes. I won’t tell anyone if you eat them by themselves. It’ll be our secret. Wanna know one of my secrets? I like turtles.

With this batch of tomatoes, I really wanted to jar up some sauce. But in the meantime, damn, I’m glad I pickled these.

What da dilly, yo?

Busta Rhymes & dilly beans. A natural combination, no?

So yeah. Dilly beans. As a native New Yorker, where most of my young-adult time was spent pounding pavement in Manhattan, either uptown by the Met or downtown in Chelsea & the Fashion District, not quite growing my own vegetables/living in a rural area/reading up about canning, I hadn’t a friggin’ clue what the hell a dilly bean was. I’d heard of them, sure, on the internet & blogging circles. But I was totally not sure what exactly they were. Turns out, they’re just preserved green beans! Go figure!

Dilly beans or pickled green beans, are a means of preserving this summer legume. Often flavored with dill, hence the name, they may also contain garlic, Tabasco sauce, and red pepper. Best kept in glass jars for safekeeping over the winter months, they can be served on their own as a snack or alongside a main dish or in salad. While they are made in kitchens all over the United States, they are particularly common in Vermont, where the overabundance of green beans produced during the short summer needs to be preserved for enjoyment during the long winter.

Dilly beans were developed as a commercial product in 1958 by Sonya Hagna and Jacquelyn Park, who made them the subject of a well-known radio advertising campaign.[1]

- Wikipedia

Ahhh so it’s a VERMONT thing, eh? I see. It just sounds so old-timey to me, I find them sorta fascinating.

Turns out they’re pretty popular. After Tracie, a Facebook fan of Cupcake Rehab, mentioned awhile back that they were her favorite thing to “can” (and also explained what they were, thanks Tracie), I thought they’d be an easy pickling project. Especially since my local grocer was selling fresh green beans for super cheap & my family was asking me for even more pickled items (word to the wise: the pickles are never enough). Even though I went canning crazy last month when my grandma died (that still sucks to write, by the way), practically all my pickles are gone and whatevers left is fought over.

I design/print/make my own labels… I just love them..


PICKLED GREEN BEANS AKA “DILLY BEANS” (directly from Food in Jars /adapted from So Easy to Preserve)

Ingredients for gettin’ dilly with it:

  • 2 pounds green beans, trimmed to fit your jars
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like it hot)
  • 4 teaspoons dill seed (not dill weed)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 ½ cups white vinegar (5%)
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • ¼ cup pickling salt (use a bit more if you’ve only got Kosher)

Directions on how to get yo’ dilly on:

  1. Prep your canning pot by inserting a rack to keep your jars off the bottom of the pot, place pint jars in (wide-mouth pints work best here. A 12-ounce jelly jar is also nice, as it’s a bit taller than a standard pint and makes for less trimming) and fill it with water. Bring to a boil to sterilize while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
  2. Wash and trim your beans so that they fit in your jar. If you have particularly long beans, your best bet is to cut them in half, although by doing so, you do lose the visual appeal of having all the beans standing at attending.
  3. Combine vinegar, water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. While it’s heating up, pack your beans into the jars, leaving ½ inch headspace (distance between the tops of the beans and the rim of the jar). To each jar, add ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 clove of garlic and 1 teaspoon dill seeds.
  4. Pour the boiling brine over the beans, making sure to leave that ½ inch headspace. Use a plastic knife to remove air bubbles from jar by running it around the interior of the jar. Wipe the rims and apply the lids (which have been sitting in a small saucepan of water at a mere simmer for at least ten minutes in order to soften the sealing compound) and rings.
  5. Process for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath (remember that you don’t start timing until the pot has come to a rolling boil).

As she said: “These beans want to hang out for a least two weeks before eating, to thoroughly develop their flavor.” This recipe, as it is written above, makes 4 jars of dilly beans. I did not use wide mouth pints, I used 2 regular pint jars. Why 2? Well I halved the recipe, really because I bought only a pound of beans. I would’ve bought more but I forgot what the recipe said when I went to buy ‘em, so I only bought one pound. Why I don’t know, because I clearly could’ve JARRED whatever extra I had. Oh well. I’m still thinking like someone who doesn’t can/jar, i.e. “I don’t want to waste it!” Duh. What an idiot, right? Anyway because these were gifts, or rather “orders”, I did not go crazy with the cayenne. I used just a ¼ teaspoon in each jar and it was too hot for these people! Crazy. If it were for me, I might have used the ½ teaspoon. But remember, these people are lame-o’s who don’t like “hot” stuff. So there we go. Who knew ¼ teaspoon of cayenne was too much? I guess these are some hardcore gangsta spicy dilly “Gettin’ silly wit my 9-milly, what da dilly yo?” beans.

Also, it’s true. Wide-mouth pints would work better. I used regular ones & it kinda sucked cramming them in. Pfft.

As summer is starting to come to a close, I’m trying to get in all the summer-y things I can. I had a pretty shitty summer, but while it’s still warm I’m trying to hang on to what’s left of it. Potato salad is one of those summertime staples. Every barbecue or picnic has either potato salad, macaroni salad, or both. My grandma made an awesome potato salad. So awesome, everyone who ate it said it was the best ever. Unfortunately, she wrote nothing down. And my mother never noted any of what she put into it, neither did I. It was always a dash of this, a little of that, etc. And as she got older, she made these awesome things less & less, and left the cooking to us; first my mom, then myself. So her recipes belong to the ages, along with her. However, last month’s issue of Bon Appétit has an entire article on canning, and it features a recipe for Dilly Bean Potato Salad. So I thought I’d give it a shot. And while it’s probably not quite as good as Nana’s, it’s something new & different. It’s also pretty damn amazing in it’s own right, to be fair. Maybe a new family recipe?

Dilly bean sighting!

DILLY BEAN POTATO SALAD (from Bon Appétit, August 2011)

Ingredients:

  • 2 shallots, halved lengthwise, very thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or more, to taste)
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 lb. potatoes*
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (or more, to taste)
  • 1 large pinch smoked paprika
  • 3 cups trimmed watercress, purslane or wild arugula, coarsely chopped**
  • 1 cup Dilly beans, cut crosswise into 2″ pieces
  • 2-3 large hard boiled eggs, peeled, quartered
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley or celery leaves

Directions:

  1. Place shallots in a small bowl. Stir in the red wine vinegar, and a large pinch of salt; set aside.
  2. Cook potatoes in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, about 30 minutes. Drain potatoes well; transfer to a large bowl. Lightly crush potatoes with the back of a large spoon.
  3. Add shallot-vinegar mixture to hot potatoes and toss to incorporate. Season with salt & pepper.
  4. Whisk  mayonnaise and smoked paprika in a small bowl; add to potatoes and toss to combine. Fold in watercress, beans, add eggs and season to taste with salt, pepper and more vinegar or mayonnaise if desired. Garnish with parsley.
*the original recipe calls for baby Yukon gold, I just used unpeeled quartered Russets, that’s what my Nana did.
**I omitted that & just added a handful of chopped chives from my garden.
 
 Nana would be proud, second & third servings were requested.

 This can be made one day ahead of time. Cover and chill, return to room temperature before serving, and stir in extra mayonnaise if it’s too dry. Although the next day nobody needed extra mayo; it seemed to stay nice & creamy. It would also knock it out of the park without the dilly beans; just add a little extra egg.

OH one more thing about the beans; remember what I said about the peaches floating? Dilly beans float too, apparently. I also did not have to trim many of my beans, sure I had to trim some but not a lot. Although now in retrospect, I probably could’ve gotten away with not trimming them at all, because I clearly had a lot of leeway, judging by the bottom of the jars there. I’m really bad at taking photos before I fill the jars, or during the process of filling the jars, etc.  I promise I’ll change. I’ll be better. I know people want to see the process. I’ll deliver, my friends, I’ll deliver.

And I swear on my dilly’s that there will be some baked goods soon. In the meantime, why not make some of this for one of those ‘last days of summer’ barbecues?

Earl Grey’s nectarine tea preserves.

Lately, well for the last 3 weeks or so, I’ve been canning & jarring everything in sight. I even tried to jar up Jay & Indy but they resisted. I’m kidding, ASPCA. But it just so happens today is Ball® National Can-It-Forward Day, so I’m right in style. And you should be too…

I happened upon an interesting recipe in the August 2011 issue of Bon Appétit. There was an article all about canning & preserving, and there was a recipe called ‘Lord Grey’s Peach Preserves.’ It immediately caught my eye as it was preserves steeped with tea. Earl Grey tea, to be specific. Earl Grey tea is a delicious tea, traditionally black, with a flavor and aroma that comes from oil of bergamot, extracted from the bergamot orange, a citrus fruit which is quite fragrant and looks more like a lemon/lime than an orange.

Painting attributed to Thomas Phillips, circa 1820

Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, KG, PC (13 March 1764 – 17 July 1845), known as Viscount Howick between 1806 and 1807, was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 22 November 1830 to 16 July 1834. A member of the Whig Party, he backed significant reform of the British government and was among the primary architects of the Reform Act 1832. In addition to his political achievements, Earl Grey famously gives his name to an aromatic blend of tea.[1]

- Wikipedia

I love tea. It’s a trait that’s inherited from my grandmother’s side- those crazy Irish & their tea! I miss her so much. And I even miss her tea obsession. She drank it in a big coffee cup I bought her from Anthropologie that had a big A on it. She drank her tea morning, noon & night. We made her stop drinking it after a certain hour (or tried to) because we were afraid the caffeine wasn’t good for her. But she insisted, and she continued drinking tons & tons of tea. I swear, she would’ve dove headfirst into the harbor if she had been around for the Boston Tea Party! My aunt loves tea too (I bet you could have already guessed that I gave a jar of this to her). My mother is more of a coffee person, but even so she loves her tea. I love coffee too, but I love all kinds of tea, & I go nuts in Teavana. It just so happens, though, that I’m a big fan of Earl Grey tea. I have a really good one that I love, it’s by Stash teas. It’s not expensive but it’s excellent quality. So I decided right then & there, as soon as I read the article, that I’d make this recipe. I didn’t have a lot of peaches, but I had a lot of nectarines, so I decided to just use them instead. Because of that, I’m just going to go with calling this version ‘Earl Grey’s Nectarine Tea Preserves.’

Nana reading something very important, 1937, Crugers Park, NY

It sucks hardcore my Nana isn’t here to try this. She’d go crazy over it, as she did everything I made. But preserves made with TEA!? Oh please. She’d be so excited. Last year for her 92nd birthday I made her Earl Grey tea with lemon frosted cupcakes, and she thought those were the best things ever. She loved to look at all the jars of stuff I made, and say “I don’t know whether to stare at them or eat them.” I hate that she’s gone. Yes, she was 93 years old. Yes, she had a good, long life. But there’s never, EVER a good age to lose someone… and you’re NEVER prepared for it, especially when they’re in excellent health & it’s unexpected. I miss her terribly, especially when I think of anything that has to do with tea. *insert long, wistful sigh here* I’m sorry if anyone is tired of hearing about this. But this blog is slowly morphing into a “more than just baking/cooking blog”, I chronicle my life here in a way, and this is how I’m feeling. So like it or lump it. Writing about it helps & I’ve never been one to shy away from writing about anything just because someone may not like it.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that for almost 3 weeks, this has been ALL that I had been doing- mourning, jarring, mourning, canning, crying, jarring and canning some more. It was so goddamn hot out I couldn’t bake… doing this was my only saving grace. Although I suppose there’s worse things I could be doing with my grief than making pickles & Earl Grey jams. And I am starting to see the light at the end of the grief tunnel. For sure. There are some rough patches but I can feel my heart getting a bit lighter, & I find myself smiling at her memory more than crying. This is a good thing.


And so are these preserves. The smell of it cooking was amazing. Between the tea scent & the nectarine scent, it was heavenly. And comforting. The tea makes the preserves have a darker, sort of caramelized look, which is so pretty. If you aren’t a fan of the tea leaves in the actual jam itself, just skip that step. Your tea flavor might not be as intense, but it should still have an aroma and taste of Earl Grey. Another option is to make canned sliced peaches or nectarines in an Earl Grey-infused syrup. Lady Grey tea would also work very well in this.

And yes, you could use a lemon-y herbal tea as well, I’m sure, for those of you who are anti-caffeine or can’t tolerate it.


EARL GREY’S NECTARINE TEA PRESERVES (adapted from Bon Appétit, August 2011)

Ingredients:

  • 5 lbs. ripe nectarines
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 5 Earl Grey teabags, divided
  • powdered pectin (optional, see note below*)

Directions:

  1. Cut a small, shallow X in the bottom of each nectarine. Working in batches, blanch them in a large pot of boiling water until skin loosens, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl of ice water; let cool. Peel, halve & pit. Cut into ⅓” slices. Combine with sugar & juice in large bowl and let stand for 30 minutes.
  2. Place a small appetizer or dessert plate in the freezer. Transfer fruit mixture & 4 tea bags to a large heavy pot. Open the remaining tea bag; crumble leaves slightly, add to pot. Bring to a boil, stirring gently, and cook 15-20 minutes.
  3. Test doneness by scooping a small spoonful onto frozen plate and tilting it. Mixture is ready if it does not run.
  4. Remove teabags. Skim foam from surface of jam. Ladle into sterilized, HOT jars. Wipe rims, seal and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath (remember- start timing when the water is at a rolling boil).

This recipe makes roughly 2 pints. I made four 8 oz. (half-pint) jars instead of two 16 oz. (pint) because I think the smaller ones are better for preserves, jellies & jams. I find that people you give them to always open the large jars, eat from them (maybe even a few times), then put them in the fridge & they get shoved to the back & forgotten, like most jams or jellies people buy. Did you ever notice how long most people have jars of jelly? It’s kinda crazy. Anyway, this way, if that happens, you aren’t wasting the majority of your hard work. My fourth jar was a little skimpier than the rest, so I guess I didn’t quite have 5 lb. or my nectarines were on the smaller side. About 3-4 medium sized peaches/nectarines equal a pound.

As preserves & jams go, this is relatively easy. *You might not need to add pectin to this. But if it’s not coming together, to avoid losing it all, I’d toss a bit in there and see if it helps. Also remember, as it cools it firms up more, and once it’s chilled it’ll be firmer still. So don’t go too crazy with the pectin. You don’t want nectarine cement. It just so happens nectarines are a low-pectin fruit, and mine needed a little boost. So I added a little pectin to give it a kick in the ass. But preserves have a slightly looser consistency than jam or jelly does, it’s more like a marmalade. Also, the word “ripe” is key here. Use ripe fruits only, and cut off any bruises or dark spots. Unripened fruits aren’t soft enough for making this, you’ll be standing there forever stirring it, hoping for the best, and end up with chunks of fruit in a sugar syrup. One or two of my nectarines weren’t ripe, and they didn’t cook down, but they left themselves in lovely, random little chunks throughout. This has started me on a tea-infused tirade. Raspberry Six-Summits Oolong jam? Perhaps. Kiwi jam with Frutto Bianco white tea? Maybe.

The number one question people ask me about canning is, “Why bother? Why not just go buy some at the store? Surely it’s cheaper & easier?” or “Why waste your time with this, aren’t pickles cheap enough?” And my answer is, “You’re an idiot.” No, I’m just kidding, it’s really not. My answer is usually a long diatribe about self-sufficiency, about the D.I.Y. movement I so believe in, about how I find that mentality of ‘why make it when I can buy it’ to be so sickening and also to be a large contributor to the downfall of society. But the short answer is really easy: like baking- it keeps me sane, it’s fun, and it’s useful. I mean, where can you buy nectarine preserves with Earl Grey tea? I know I’ve never seen them. It’s like baking for me- why buy a shitty bland-tasting sheet cake when I can make my own from scratch using Bourbon vanilla? Why buy soggy, over-moist supermarket bakery cupcakes with too-sweet frosting when I can make my own, that taste way better, from scratch and personalize them with things like crumbled bacon on top? Same thing with canning. I’ve been an artist & craftswoman my whole life- I do a lot of things myself. From cutting my own hair, to dying it, to piercing my own ears, to making my own pickles and growing my own vegetables. From painting garage doors myself and repurposing old tables to painting & replacing the knobs on an old chest to freshen it up and turning an old cashmere sweater that shrunk into a winter throw-pillow cover & a hot water bottle case. From making my own lemon olive oil body scrub to rolling out my own pasta & making my own ice cream. It’s a certain kind of ethic I learned from my mother. I’ll never stop doing that stuff, ever, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. D.I.Y. forever!

People also have this crazy idea that making this stuff from scratch is hard or really complicated. I swear it isn’t, really. I promise you. Anyone with a basic knowledge of chemistry/pH balances & acidity/the degree food has to be heated to kill bacteria/Harvard degree can do this. Haha. Joking. Anyone with a canning kit who can read directions can do this. And should. Ignore the people who make it seem like you need to have attended Oxford University to figure out how to seal a jar.

You’re either a leader or a follower, and I choose to be a leader. If you don’t get why I make my own jam, then maybe you’re the one missing out. And if you don’t understand my grief, then you’re also missing out. Grief means you loved someone so much, you can’t believe they’re no longer here & your heart hurts when it hits you. If you don’t feel that way about anyone… then you haven’t loved. Or lived. So as I find my way into a “new normal”, I at least know that I have feelings (which is more than I can say for a lot of people I know) & that I knew what it was to truly love. And in this day & age, I’m not sure a whole lot of people really know what that means.