Summer Berry Jam, Quick

blackberries

Mmmm! It’s summertime, and that means berries! Blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, golden raspberries, blueberries – even plums and cherries are gettin’ their business done. So what does this mean? Either stains on your shirt from eating them while sitting in the  sun, juice lusciously dripping down – or jam!

finishedjars

Traditionally we think of jam as this long, outrageous process that our grandmothers  spent all of Sunday doing while darning their husbands socks and making fudge. The truth is, it doesn’t really have to be that way. You can do it with really minimal ingredients, no pectin and in about an hour.

You don’t have to properly can this (or “put it up” as they say) if you will use it within 3 weeks or so. Instead, just let the jam cool completely after boiling it, put it in a container (glass is best) and refrigerate it.

If you are canning it make sure to have your jars, lids and rings prepared and ready, and get your water bath going so it’s all ready when the jam is done; it will make the whole process move much more quickly.

For approximately 2 pints of jam, you will need:

  • 2.5 lbs of fruit (whatever mix or single variety you desire; first time, I recommend strawberry for greatest simplicity)
  • app. 3 cups of sugar, added 1/4 cup at a time, tasting along the way
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • jars, lids and bands (or some preferably glass holder, if not canning) to hold the finished product
  • a ladle
  • a spoon in the freezer (trust me, you’ll see why)

 

  1. Start by washing your fruit well and hulling you strawberries, stemming your grapes, etc.
  2. Any larger fruits (the size of a small strawberry) cut into quarters, smaller, cut into halves, anything as small as a blueberry or raspberry leave whole. Feel free to use a food processor for this, unless you are using grapes (it messes with the skin). Cut all grapes into halves and quarters.
  3. Plop the fruit into a heavy bottomed pot – preferably a dutch oven, or at least something short and stout – at turn the heat on medium-high. I like to smash the fruit immediately with a potato masher or fork, just a little bit, to help get the juices flowing.
  4. Once the fruit gets juicy and starts to heat, start adding the sugar and stir often to make sure the sugar and fruit doesn’t burn.  cookingjam
  5. Add the lemon once the fruit is nice and juicy and begins to boil, and still continue to stir often.
  6. Continue to stir, letting it boil and reduce for 15-20 minutes (some fruits take longer, some take less). To check to see when it’s done, you can do the spoon test:

Use the cold spoon that you have in the freezer and put a tiny dollop of jam on               the spoon and stick it back in the freezer for a minute until the jam cools a bit and then use your finger to wipe a stripe down the middle. If it doesn’t run, it’s good to go. Take it off the heat and get ready to can it up. If runs, continue to boil and reduce, and try the spoon test again in 5 minutes or so.

 Though I don’t strongly recommend it, if you do have any troubles with getting it thick and gooey enough, you can use:

  • cream of tartar
  • arrowroot
  • cornstarch

*note: if you use any of these, use very little and dissolve in water first (make a “slurry”), otherwise you will have lumps and it won’t do it’s job, it’ll just be a weird mess.

Once it’s thick to your liking, it’s ready to jar. If you’re not going to can it, let it cool and put it away in the fridge. If you are going to can it, make sure you have your water bath boiling, your jars, lids and rings hot. Fill the hot jars with the hot jam, wipe the rims clean with a paper towel, secure the lids and rings and get them in that water bath, lid side up, fully submerged.boilingjars

Once the water is back up to a serious rolling boil, process for 5-10 minutes, depending on the size of the jar, remove, and leave to cool on a towel for 12 hours.

And you’re ready to enjoy! (I like mine on toast with peanut butter…mmmmmm…..)

toastandjam

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spicy Pickled Slaw, (Repost, Update)

This post is a recipe from one of my first successful pickling experiences; since then I haven’t stopped. But I still use this same basic recipe and ratio. It’s a great way to pickle. I updated a couple things, but wanted to re-share it and get you all as excited about pickling everything in sight as I am! 

I was recently cursed with bout of the ugliest of flus, spending a week of my life on the couch. It sucked. Seriously, sucked. There were, however, one or two breaks in the clouds where I thought I was feeling better and so ventured out, desperate for some fresh air and to avoid the atrophy that was setting in on my body. One such evening, I weakly stumbled upon the Mission Community Farmer’s Market.


And by golly, what luck of the season (though I already knew), it was perfect timing. The market full of lovely purveyors, delicious pupusas and super scrumptious fruits and veggies. And, of course, as it’s that glorious season for all things canned, jammed, jellied and pickled with an adorable label, my heart let out a sweet giggle when I found this purveyor, Emmy’s Pickles and Jams:

I indulged myself in some quince butter (oh, mmmmmmm) and a jar of zesty pickles (double mmmmmm)…..

I’m going to get me some fig jam next time….

After chatting it up for a minute, I moseyed on for my own jarring (hah! oh, puns…) adventure. I was on the look out for some additions to a cabbage, fennel, onion, and carrot combination…. that’s right. Some additions to…. SLAW!

Mmmmm!

Edging dangerously close to the end of pepper season, I didn’t know what I was going to find – but I did know I was going to snatch up and hoard what I could. I got lucky and crossed ways with some real beauties!

The great thing about slaw / pickled items is that they’re incredibly versatile. You can use just about anything that’s available. Lately, I’ve been using a combination of some or all of the following:

  • Cabbage
  • Jalapenos (lots of ’em, some seeded, some not)
  • Fennel
  • Onions (white, red, yellow, shallots)
  • Green Beans
  • Yellow Wax Beans
  • Carrots
  • Padrons/Shishitos (stemmed and torn in half lengthwise)
  • Red, Yellow, Orange Bells and these gorgeous purple heirloom peppers I got at the market:

with a quick, mild pickle. 

Try this mildly pickle slaw (similar to Salvadorian curtido) on eggs, tacos and pupusas (duh), mixed with avocado and cucumber, in place of lettuce on any sandwich…the options go on and on.

Be sure to experiment with the brine, too, based on what your ingredients are. Sweeter peppers? Make a spicier brine. Spicier pickles, make a sweeter brine by using more brown sugar than white sugar and apple cider vinegar in place of granulated. Or, add some funky spices that you really love. Clove? Extra black peppercorn? Or make it crazy spicy with some whole dried cayennes. Try adding tarragon, star anise, who knows. It’s quick and cheap so you can experiment time and time again.

Here’re the basics:

Prep Your Slaw Veggies:

      1. Chop or clean all the ingredients you chose to use into long strips that
          are as close to the same size as you can get.
      2. Mix them together in a large bowl so they’re evenly distributed. It should
          look about like this:

3. Evenly distribute the mix amongst the jars you have cleaned. Fill them fully to     the top.

4. Follow the instructions below to make the brine and pickle.

Basic Brine (for 2 cups)

    • 1/2 c. white vinegar
    • 1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
    • 3T white sugar
    • 3T brown sugar
    • 2t coarse grey sea salt (substitute regular kosher salt if you can’t find coarse)
    • 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1T black peppercorn
    • 1cup water
    1. Bring all ingredients to a boil, then pour immediately over your prepared slaw, in jars.
    2. Let cool until just comfortable to the touch, then seal with a screw top lid. (It’s not necessary to do a proper canning seal for this quick pickle, as long as you eat it within a week or so.)
      3. Let cool, then refrigerate and let sit for 24 hours, then

enjoy!

Roast Those Fall Veggies!

 

Previously, I was under the notion that everyone knew that one of the best ways to cook 96% of all vegetables was to oven roast them at a really high heat with olive oil, salt and pepper – and sometimes, a few herbs and spices. I mean, seriously. You name it, roasting is the tastiest.

  • Potatoes? Roasted, duh.  (rosemary and bacon)
  • Green beans? Hells yeah! Roast the shit outta those. (chili flakes or sesame seeds/oil)
  • Brussel sprouts? Of course! (lemon and chili flakes)
  • Carrots? Well, we already know that…

Bring it on, I dare you….give me a vegetable that isn’t delicious when roasted. Especially in the fall. I don’t think there’s a single one….

 

And for sure….

 

Cauliflower and Beets! (ahem…purple cauliflower and yellow beets…)

It was cauliflower, actually, that helped bring to my attention the sad fact that not every cook feels, in their soul, the value of roasting. I was reading an article in an old issue of Gourmet (RIP) that preached to the reader the glory of roasting, specifically for cauliflower. I’ll tell you – roasting cauliflower is the only way I cook it. It’s amazing. High heat, til it browns and it’s out of this world. Well, second to the breaded and fried cauliflower from Bar Bambino.

And, being fall and all … all the veggies that you want to roast anyways – they’re extra pretty. Purple cauliflower and yellow beets…


 

chioga beets…

purple and yellow wax beans…

romanesco (aka geometric broccoli)…

and so many more!

So here’s how you do it for a head of cauliflower and about 3 medium sized beets….

 

Cauliflower:

  • Trim it of leaves and the bottom stalk that hold most of the florets together, keep trimming down the stalks and the florets will naturally fall off into small pieces.
  • For the large ones, cut them in half down the middle so they’re about this size: 

Give or take… having some a little bigger, some a little smaller is fine. In fact, the smaller ones are crazy good because they get real crispy!)

For the beets:

  • Cut off the tops and greens (but save the greens, they’re delish!) and then slice them into rounds, about 1/2 inch thick, then cut those rounds like a waffle fry – crosswise, then the other way, so they end up being ’bout an inch square: 

  • Beets, too, are just a little bit “more of less” in size. Because they’re round, and because you’re not a restaurant that is willing to waste a little bit of beet in order to get them all the same size, they’re gonna vary just a tad.
  • Then, put both in a large bowl, toss with tasty olive oil, fresh ground black pepper and salt. I highly recommend using Alaea Hawaiian Red Salt – it’s great for roasting, because it naturally helps to retain moisture. Its iron content (what makes it red) and residual minerals also add great, but subtle, flavor.
  • After tossing it, lay it all out flat onto a baking sheet and drop into an oven preheated for 425 for 25-3o minutes, until there is good visible browning on both the beets and cauliflower, but not so long they’re mushy. Taste-test along the way.
  • Serve it up and eat it!

 

 

Deconstructed Apple Pie (Apple Sauce and Ice Cream)

Somehow, my parents have managed to turn a one story, suburban Orange County home into a beach town mini-farm. Citrus trees, apple trees, a garden of herbs and veggies, a bay leaf tree bigger than my stupid city apartment, flowers, homemade sausage, vinegars and beautiful handcraftedfurniture that my dad makes in the garage. Whenever I visit, I spend a lot of time sitting the back patio, staring at their small pond and sighing to myself about my dirty white carpet, electric stove and monthly rent that is higher than their mortgage. I do, however, also get to reap a few benefits from their luscious harvests, including a few pounds of these beautiful apples:
Look at the varied colors and stripes. So pretty!

Last weekend, they sent me home with a couple pounds of these ladies. I was undecided about what I wanted to do – first I was going to make a jalapeno-mint-apple jelly, but I don’t really use jelly. I could make one or two pieces of toast, use it to experiment with an apple glaze for pork, can it and use it for x-mas gifts and thanksgiving din-din (uh, now that I think about it, actually, I have more uses than I though. Dammit!) I also thought of pies and crisps and having a pie party, or giving apple butter a try. In the end though, I decided on apple sauce. I’m not big into eating apple sauce, but I’d never made it before and I’m always up for something new. My parents have so many apples they don’t know what to do with them, so my dad makes apple sauce a couple times a month (seriously, they have that many) and gave me his recipe; I don’t know what they do with it all. I followed his instructions, but added vanilla and butter and used lemon zest instead of orange juice. I think the orange juice would be super yummy, but I didn’t have any oranges on hand. If you want to do it with orange, leave out the lemon zest and substitute with the juice of half a large orange just toward the end of cooking (no seeds, please). Another option for adding orange is to zest a bit on top of the finished dessert. The crumbled cookies are meant to replace the crust, so treat them as such, distributing it so you get a little bit in every bite and by all means, don’t be afraid to put some under the sauce and ice cream itself.

The absolute worst part of this recipe is that you most definitely have to peel and core the apples. I know it sucks, but just turn on an episode of Real Housewives or some other bullshit garbage and you’ll be done before the drunken bitch slapping turns into Teresa cutting her children with shards of broken martini glasses for the life insurance money. If you don’t have an apple corer, just cut the meat of it off the core into cubed chunks.

Deconstructed Apple Pie


For the sauce, you will need:

    this many apples

    (that’s about two lbs, peeled, cored and diced large)

    a little water in the bottom of the pot
    2.5 sticks of cinnamon, broken in half
    1/3 cup brown sugar
    bout a heaping T of butter
    cap full o f vanilla
    heavy handed pinch of salt
    zest of one limon

    1. Put about 1/3 cup of water in the bottom of a decent sized pot and add all the peeled, cored, and diced apples; place over medium-high heat, cover tightly.

    2. When the apples start to soften (5-7 minutes) add broken cinnamon sticks, vanilla, salt and butter, stir often to keep the bottom from burning, keeping covered when you’re not stirring.

    3. Toward the end of cooking (15 minutes) when the apples are really soft, add lemon zest and start smashing with a potato masher.

    4. Take it off heat and continue smashing til it reaches the desired consistency (I recommend fairly lumpy).

For the rest of the dessert, you will need:

    Delicious vanilla ice cream                                                                                                                                                                                                          Cinnamon graham crackers or some other kind of thin, crunchy, crispy wafer-like cookie

    Serve the sauce warm off the stove with a scoop of cold ice cream, crumble some cookie over top, and one or two whole cookie/cracker.

*note: you can easily substitute butter for earth balance (not margarine!) to make the apple sauce vegan, and substitute the ice cream for vegan ice cream.

Tasty Made Simple (again): Polenta Cakes with Creamed Broccoli

As a teacher’s finances dwindle for the summer, I’ve had to learn to make do with what’s already available around the kitchen. As a result, many a recent recipes have taken form after hunting through cupboards filled with an unfortunate array of Tuna Helper and Dinty Moore Beef Stew (let’s just not talk about these….). This time I remembered that there’s a substantial supply of frozen veggies in the freezer. Corn, broccoli, green beans, spinach, peas, lima beans and black-eyed peas. Of course, broccoli and corn were the most obvious choices, so I flipped a coin and broccoli it was. But what am I gonna do with just broccoli? Steamed broccoli isn’t much worthy of a written recipe, and I didn’t have the energy to clean the food processor to make soup.

I hunted around a bit more in the dry goods cabinet and found some polenta. Perfect!

broccolipolentasized

The broccoli in the recipe can be easily substituted for cauliflower. It would be a little creamier, so it depends on your texture preference. I always want to make the recipes as accessible as possible to those who don’t spend too much time and too much money on stocking their kitchen with tools, so I say to use a potato masher on the broccoli but really, a hand blender works best. You could also use a food processor or regular blender.

I do have to give some credit to the frozen broccoli for one very helpful thing: unlike fresh broccoli, you don’t have to peel it. It makes it significantly easier.

It’s so easily veganizable, too! Just substitute the milk for unsweetened soymilk and butter for earth balance (which, in reality, any time my recipes say “butter” they mean “earth balance”).

And without further ado:

Polenta Cakes with Creamed Broccoli

    ¼ C. butter
    ½ C. diced white onion
    1 ½ t crushed garlic
    2 C. frozen broccoli florets
    ½ C. vegetable broth
    2T milk or cream
    Juice of ½ lemon
    ½ C. Parmesan, plus some to sprinkle on top

    1 C. cooked polenta
    2T butter
    sprinkle of olive oil, salt and pepper

    1. Sprinkle a saucepan with extra virgin olive oil and ½ T butter and set it on medium.
    2. Add onion and 1T of broth, cook until just soft.
    3. Once warmed, add in broccoli and half of the broth.
    4. Salt and pepper the broccoli and add garlic, slowly adding more broth until softened.
    5. Smash broccoli with a potato masher, slowly adding milk and the rest of the butter until it reaches your desired consistency.
    6. Add lemon and ½ cup of Parmesan, stir until mixed.

For Polenta Cakes:

    1. Spread cooked polenta in a ¼” layer on a sheet pan and refrigerate until solid.
    2. When solid, use a knife or cookie cutter to cut out biscuit sized rounds.
    3. In a deep sauté pan, add a sprinkle of olive oil and heat.
    4. When heated, add ½ T of butter and the polenta slices.
    5. Cook on med-high and continue adding butter slowly until polenta is crispy and browned on both sides.

Heat the broccoli and pour over plated polenta.

Eat it and love it!