Category: vegan

Triple berry jam (vegan) cakes with (vegan) cream cheese frosting.

Triple berry vegan cupcakes!

Oops, I did it again. I successfully tricked people into eating vegan cupcakes & they were none the wiser! Of course, there were a *few* tells: the texture of the cupcake, and the frosting texture of course. However taste-wise, there were no complaints!

I used that triple berry maple bourbon jam (from last month) in them, and wow. The moistness of the cupcake was just heightened with that addition. Yes, they are indeed messy though. That’s the price you pay for this kind of moist cupcake with jammy goodness.

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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.

;

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!

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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