Category Archives: Cooking

Red Cherry Jam with Kumquats & Bay

You’d think I’d be sick of them by now, but I’m just not. All this week, I’ve been giving cherries away so a lot of other folks have been able to enjoy them, which makes me happy. I still have plans for them, so keep your eyes peeled…

Red Cherry Jam with Kumquats & Bay
+ Barely, shamelessly, adapted from The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook’s recipe of the same name.
++ I easily doubled this recipe (and I probably should’ve tripled it). Makes 14 half-pint (8 ounce) jars.
+++ Having a canning kit makes this process much easier, but for this specific recipe and the method I used, a funnel is the most important tool you need.

I grew up with a Mama that could make preserves in her sleep. Fig preserves were my favorite, and even now when I go home I can eat jars of it. I do eat jars of it. There’s the figs and the salsa and the pickled okra and the beans and………….you name it, she’s soaked it in vinegar or bathed it in sugar and put it up. You’d think that skill would just pass on down, like brown eyes or freckles. Not so. For the life of me, making any kind of preserves has always made me a little nervous. Glass jars, boiling water, sharp lids. You know, all of those things can possibly kill you.

Not really. (But maybe.)

But I decided to just get over it, for the sake of the two boxes of cherries staring me in the face. And the husband staring me in the face. And the friends asking me what I was going to do with 48.6 pounds of cherries – and then staring me in the face while I figured out my response. Luckily, my Mama had so graciously gone in halvsies with me on the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, so I had a good place to start. Last year, she’d made the Early Girl Tomato Marmalade (in her sleep probably), and it was amazing. I figured I couldn’t go wrong, and I was right.

Ingredients.
6 pounds of unpitted sweet red cherries (I used a combination of Bing and Champagne, and to be honest, I have no idea if they’re considered “sweet”)
1 1/4 pounds seeded kumquats, sliced crosswise into very thin rounds
4 pounds of cane sugar
7 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 large bay leaves
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Prepare: Sterilizing the jars.
When making preserves, you’ll need to sterilize your jars and lids (unless you plan to eat it right away). There are many ways to do this, including the hot water method, the oven method or even putting them in a sterilizing dishwasher. For my jam, I chose the oven method (directions below). This was the first time I’d used this method, and I really feel like it was much easier than dealing with a huge pot of boiling water.

  1. First, be sure to clean your jars and lids thoroughly.
  2. Place the clean jars (upright) and lids on a baking sheet in a preheated 250 degree oven.
  3. Keep the jars and lids in the oven until you’re ready to use them, but at a minimum, they must sterilize for 30 minutes.
  4. See below for filling and sealing the jars.

Directions.

  1. Place a saucer with 5 metal teaspoons in a flat place in your freezer.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cherries, kumquat rounds, sugar and lemon juice, stirring well to combine. Let the mixture macerate at room temperature for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Note – I left the mixture to sit overnight without any issues.
  3. After you’ve completed step 2, transfer the mixture to a large preserving pan/pot (I used a large Le Crueset heavy-bottomed pot).
  4. Add the bay leaves.
  5. Place the pot over medium-low heat and cook, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula. Once the mixture begins foaming, gradually raise the heat to high, stirring often.
  6. Boil vigorously, gently scraping the bottom of the pot to be sure the jam isn’t sticking. If it does begin to stick, lower the heat slightly, being sure the jam remains at a rapid boil.
  7. Continue to cook, stirring and scraping frequently, until the mixture acquires a darker, shinier look (about 15-20 minutes).
  8. Don’t freak out. One thing the Blue Chair Jam cookbook did not stress enough was that this jam produces a pink foam. And by pink foam, I mean it looks like a 4 year old girl dumped her bubble bath in the pot. Don’t freak out. Take a large metal spoon and scoop it out. You’ll need to do this throughout the cooking process.
  9. Once the mixture acquires the darker, shinier look, remove the jam from the heat and let it rest for 2 minutes.
  10. Return the jam back to the high heat and cook for 2 more minutes.
  11. Test it for doneness. This is the fun part! To test the jam, transfer a half-spoonful of jam from your pot to one of the teaspoons you placed in your freezer. Place the spoon back in the freezer (make sure it’s laying flat) and hang tight for 4 minutes. After 4 minutes, carefully remove the spoon and feel the bottom. If it’s still warm, return it to the freezer for another half minute or so. Once it’s no longer warm on the bottom, tilt the spoon vertically to see how quickly the jam runs; if it’s runs slowly or not at all, and if it’s a gloppy consistency, you’ve got a finished jam on your hands. If it runs very quickly or appears watery, cook it for another 3-4 minutes and retest as needed.
  12. When the jam is ready, stir one last time to make sure the mix is evenly distributed.

Directions: Filling your jars and sealing.

  1. Remove your jars and lids from the oven.
  2. Before placing the jam in the jars, test your jars to make sure they’re not too hot. If they are, they’ll continue cooking – or even burn! – your jam. Just take a small spoonful of jam and drop it into one of your jars. If it bubbles or boils, wait a few minutes before filling.
  3. If you have one, use a funnel to fill your jars, leaving ¼” at the top of the jars.
  4. Wipe the rims with a clean, damp cloth.
  5. Put the lids on, being careful to screw them on just until they’re snug.
  6. Replace the jars on the baking sheet and place them back in the oven for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove the jars from the oven and place them 1” apart on a cooling rack to set overnight at room temperature. It’s important not to move the jars during this time, to make sure they’re able to set evenly.
  8. As they cool and seal, you’ll hear a little pop. Before you store your jam, or give it away, check all of your jars to make sure they’re sealed. If it’s sealed, the lid should curve in very slightly in the middle. If any jars have not sealed, put them in the refrigerator.

Try not to eat it all in one sitting. It’s amazing. Tangy and sweet and just plain yummy. Enjoy!

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Filed under Appetizers, Baking, Cooking, Dessert, Ideas, Kitchen, Recipes

Chocolate Cakes with Port Cherries + Dried Orange Peel and Sea Salt.

As promised, the first of the four cherry recipes from my 48.6 Pound Cherry Master Plan: Chocolate Cakes with Port Cherries + Dried Orange Peel and Sea Salt. It’s really good to know that after making this recipe, I’m down a whole 12 OUNCES in cherries. I mean, sigh. of. relief VOMIT.

Chocolate Cakes with Port Cherries + Dried Orange Peel and Sea Salt
+
Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Chocolate-Prune Cake.
++ I doubled this recipe without a problem. Doubled, makes about 2 1/2 dozen individual cakes/muffins (this is how the recipe is listed below).

320 g / 12 ounces pitted cherries, diced in small pieces
160 ml / 123 c port
2 TB sugar
1 TB dried orange peel
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680 g / 24 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used half bittersweet, half semisweet)
340 g / 12 ounces (24 TB) unsalted butter, cubed
12 large eggs, separated
2 large pinches of salt
6 tablespoons sugar
___________________________________________
Flour or cocoa for dusting
___________________________________________
1 TB dried orange peel
1 TB sea salt

Directions

1. Simmer the cherries, sugar and orange peel with the port in a small saucepan for a few minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand until cool.

2. Heat the oven to 325ºF (165ºC).

3. In a large bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the cherries and any liquid left in the pan.

5. Stir the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture.

6. In a separate bowl, or using a stand mixer, whip the egg whites with the salt until they begin to hold soft peaks. Continue whipping, adding the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until the whites hold their shape when you lift the whip.

7. Fold one-third of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture thoroughly, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until no streaks of whites are visible. Don’t overfold.

8. For the cakes, I used a large muffin pan and cut 5” squares of parchment paper for the liners. I just like the way this looks, like they come from a real live bakery. (You can use a regular muffin tin and regular liners, and I’m sure it’ll work just fine.) Using the bottom of a glass, I pushed the parchment paper into the muffin tin.

9. Spray the paper with cooking spray and dust lightly with cocoa or flour.

10. I used a 2 ounce ice cream scoop to pour the batter into the cups. This helps to maintain consistency for even cooking.

11. Mix the salt and dried orange peel together. Sprinkle as little or as much as you’d like on top of each cake.

12. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the cakes feel set close to the edges of the pan but the center is still rather soft to the touch and moist-looking. Let cool.

Storage
These cakes can be made up to three days in advance, and stored at room temperature. They can also be frozen for up to two months.

 Enjoy!

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Filed under Baking, Cake, Chocolate, Cooking, Cupcakes, Kitchen, Recipes

48.6 Pounds of Cherries.

My eyes were open at 5:26 this morning, and even though I’ve never taken drugs, I somehow had the sensation of…this is what it must feel like to be on coke. I could not stop thinking about cherries. To be exact, the 48.6 pounds of cherries we picked yesterday at Maggiore Cherry Ranch and that were currently sitting in two very large boxes in my refrigerator.  

We didn’t mean for it to happen. The cherry picking, yes. The total disregard for reality, no.

It all started with me reading a sign that said: Approximately 2-3 pounds cherries per bucket, then telling Brandon about the weight per bucket, and then both of us grabbing one and going off on our merry way to fill said buckets with beautiful red cherries. And they were beautiful. So beautiful, I was tempted to fill a third bucket. I mean, 2-3 pounds? It would be almost crazy not to have a third bucket. Right? Right.  Fast forward 30 minutes, B is telling me okay, okay, we’re done, get off the ladder. That was followed by:

I really think this is more than 2 to 3 pounds.

What? Maybe 5?

Maybe.

Get to the weighing station.

No, it isn’t 10 pounds total. IT’S NOT 10 POUNDS. It’s 48.6 pounds *hysterical laughter*, because the dummy sign reader left off a really important number: zero – 20-23 pounds. $2.50 a pound. You do the math. They don’t take debit or credit cards, but by some stroke of luck because I’d procrastinated on something else I was supposed to do two weeks ago, I had our checkbook.

So anyway. Cherries were on my mind at 5:26 this morning. B asked what he could do to help. I said: Don’t ask me what I’m going to do with nearly 50 pounds of cherries. Don’t. Ask.

So here I am, it’s the end of the day, and I’ve got a master plan that consists of:
Individual Chocolate Cakes with Cherries Soaked in Port, Dried Orange Rind and Sea Salt (already done)
Greek Yogurt Ice Cream with Cherries and Crushed Chocolate Wafers
Canned Cherries in Heavy Honey Syrup
Red Cherry Jam with Kumquats and Bay (on it’s way!)

That’s at least 20 pounds. So what if I haven’t figured out the other 28.6? I’m making headway.

Until I can get those recipes to you, I wanted to leave you with something special – a recipe from my Baton Rouge Junior Service League Cookbook, circa 1945. When I first bought the cookbook, I found a letter that had been returned to sender. The writer, Helen, included her Date Balls recipe to another Helen.

Helen’s Date Ball
+Written exactly as it is shown in Helen’s handwriting.

Those date balls, the students and children used to like. I just throw in buttered pan:
1 cup coconut
1 cup dates (pitted)
1 cup pecans
½ cup sugar
2 egg whites or 1 egg
Stir – bake in slow oven until coconut is browned. Take out mixture and rolls in balls, roll in granulated sugar. (A slow oven was defined in the cookbook – thankfully – as 250-325 degrees.)

Enjoy!

 

 

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Just Roll With It Cookies.

Whenever I go home, it never fails to amaze me how my mother still has all of her fingers. Every one. It would amaze you, too, if you ever watched her cut an onion. In her hand.

I think she’s showing off. Or. She’s waiting for me to one-up her and cut my own fingers off in some horrible kitchen accident so that I’m forced to extend my home stay under her care. Oh mama, don’t think I don’t know the plan. I’ve got my eye on you.

The thing I realized today, though, is that that’s what she’s comfortable with. Hands-on -(pun intended)-onion-cutting (she cuts apples like that, too). Cutting boards are for chumps. What I’m comfortable with is my set of gourmet knives, sharp as…well, knives, and a solid cutting board. This level of comfort can make all the difference between trying something new, and wishing you could try something new. I read recipes sometimes and feel like what the author/baker/cook is recommending is so beyond my scope and ability (you want me to stick my hand where?) – I just close the book/browser and move on. But today, I found someone saying this:

It’s not about technique; it’s about getting it done.

Now, don’t go all – I disagree with you – on me.  This one liner is for me, to help me see things differently. To help me try new things without talking myself out of it before I even begin. What I’m comfortable with may not exactly be what’s called for, but I can probably figure it out. I don’t have all the right kitchen gadgets or fancy tools. I don’t have all the exact ingredients. I don’t have the stomach to crack that chicken’s spine (I mean, that makes me want to throw up just typing it). But I can figure it out. It’s not about the technique; it’s about getting it done in a way that is comfortable – and feels right – for me.

Today was still a workday for me, and still busy, but I worked from home and the kitchen was all……….wassup? to me. Yes, just like that. So I gave in and made these…

Just Roll With It Cookies
+ Adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Roasted Chestnut Cookies
++Makes about 4 dozen cookies (40 to be exact)

So here’s the deal. I was planning on making the Roasted Chestnut Cookies just as they were. I’d made something with chestnuts over the holidays, and had some left over – but I just don’t like the way they taste. I figured if I buried them in some cookie dough, it would be a win-win. But then – did you know chestnuts actually have a shelf life? I thought they were like raisins, which have a shelf life of Forever. But no. I opened the bag of chestnuts, took one look, and thought: The butter is already at room temperature. Then: Shit. Then: Ugh. So I moved to Plan B.

Plan B was…Well lord, just roll with it.

You know what makes me happy? When I finish the last tidbit of something that’s been opened and forgotten about. This recipe was just the thing for that. I was finally able to get through the last of a few dates, four dried apricots, golden raisins, two prunes, a handful of crystallized ginger, some pecans and pinenuts. The trick to the cookies was finding something that would blend the same way that roasted chestnuts would, and I think this was a good compromise.  The final verdict: something pretty tasty.

1 cup of…dates, raisins, crystallized ginger, prunes, apricots
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup…whatever nuts you’ve got on hand. I used a mix of pinenuts and pecans
________________________________________________________
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract – Oops! Forgot this.
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour
________________________________________________________
1 ½ c powdered sugar
Ground cinnamon

Prep
Line two cookies sheets with parchment paper.

Directions

  1. Dump your date mixture in the bowl of a food processor. Process it until it starts to form a thick paste, about 45 seconds. Add your butter and 1 cup of nuts. Process for 30 seconds, wipe down the sides of your bowl with a spatula, and process for another 30 seconds.
  2. Sift: ½ c of powdered sugar, vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and flour. Add to the date/butter mixture and pulse until an even dough is formed. I counted 45 quick pulses.
  3. Divide dough and wrap each half in plastic, chilling for one hour or until firm.
  4. Once chilled, heat the oven to 350°F.
  5. Whisk remaining 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar and a few pinches of cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.
  6. Working with one half of the chilled dough at a time, roll it into 2 teaspoon-sized balls (I used my scale and measured out 20g/.7 ounces) in the palm of your hand. Arrange on parchment-lined baking sheet but no need to leave more than 1/2 inch between the cookies; they won’t spread.
  7. Bake cookies until golden brown on bottom and just pale golden on top, 15 minutes. Cool cookies 10 minutes on baking sheet. Gently toss warm cookies in cinnamon-sugar mix to coat completely.
  8. Transfer coated cookies to rack and cool completely.
  9. Repeat procedure with remaining half of dough.

Dough can be chilled in the fridge for a day or two, longer in the freezer. Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for a week.

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Raspberry Coconut Macaroons.

Three days in a row in my kitchen has to be some sort of record. (Correction: Three days in a row cooking in my kitchen has to be some sort of record.) This record setting might come as a shock to some folks, because I think there’s an idea out there that I cook all the time. Like I’m just baking and cooking and sewing over here at the homestead like Ma Ingalls in the flesh. Not so. I love being in the kitchen, but I also love running, reading, walks with my husband, drinking coffee, shopping, watching Friday Night Lights……in general, things that don’t require cleaning up. All that said, at the end of the day, there is an irresistable urge to create something that people will enjoy.

And so day three came, and I was over at Smitten Kitchen…salivating. I mean, good lord, I just wanted to head for the grocery store and make everything I saw. Things like this (WTF), this (INSANE) and this (CRAZY TOWN). I knew I had to make a choice, and I had to make it fast, so I kept it *simple* and landed on the Raspberry Coconut Macaroons. I won’t include the recipe below just to force you over to SK, where you can find your own destiny……..I mean, recipe.

Just so you know, the macaroons were so easy to make, I might just give it another round and try them with cherries. Or strawberries. Bananas? Just maybe.

Enjoy.

 

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Filed under Baking, Cookies, Cooking, Kitchen, Recipes