Jam Time

28 09 2011

It’s that time again. That anxiety-ridden, sleepless, sweaty time. That’s right. Jam exchange time.

My partner this year was Evan (Check out her blog! Aren’t those wedding cakes amazing?). She sent me a jar of champagne pomegranate jelly. It was delicious. And I was so impressed that she literally made jelly. I am terrified of making jelly. I’m not sure why. She also sent a perfect jar of strawberry-rhubarb jam. It is all gone gone gone, because it was so good. I didn’t even have a chance to take pictures of it because I was so busy shoveling it into my mouth.

To back up a little though, when the exchange rolled around I was hopeful. Maybe this year I wouldn’t ruin most of the jam I tried to make by entirely disregarding all of the warnings plastered on the Sure-Jel package that say not to mess with the pectin ratio. Maybe this year I wouldn’t include a note in her box of jam full of misspellings. Maybe this year I wouldn’t be crippled with the fear that I’d give my partner botulism. Yes. This year would be different.

I happened upon a giant pile of pluots (a plum/apricot hybrid) and some perfect-looking Italian plums at the local farmer’s market. I wanted to do something a little different with the pluots, so I found a recipe for a savory jam – something that seemed like it would be great with pork or maybe blobbed on crackers with some chevre. It turned out well, though at first bite it is a little… unexpected. Savory. Weird.  I really hope Evan likes it! Oh jeeze. I shouldn’t think this hard about it. The harder I think about it, the more anxiety I feel.

Anxiety over my savory pluot jam will be my undoing!

The plum jam was rustic and lovely. I’m glad I made a bunch of jars of it. I used one at work to barter for Mexican food. Delia, (one of my favorite co-workers) and I are stuck in a cycle of good culinary deeds.  She gives me a burrito, I give her cookies. She gives me homemade salsa, I give her a thank you note. She gives me a plate of chicken, I give her a jar of jam. You get the idea. Clearly I am the lucky one in this cycle. But I am proud of the plum jam! It was good enough to give Delia – a solid trade for her chicken, so I think it was also good enough to send to Evan.

Oh, and I took care of my control issues with pectin by leaving it out of the equation entirely. I left the skin on all of the fruit, which served the dual purpose of adding natural pectin to the jam and making the whole fruit-prep process a little easier.

Jam foam = Best treat ever!

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Hard Cider: Part Deux

21 11 2010

I learned a lot about the home brew process in part one of our cider-making frenzy. Things like, you don’t need to wear a billowy white shirt to drink cider; and apple presses are very expensive. Part two was equally as exciting and informative, though not as labor intensive. Seriously, chopping all those apples during round one took an eternity. This time the process was faster, and we got to use plastic tubing, a booze-o-meter, and the most exciting tool of all: the bottle capper. OMG the bottle capper.

In my excitement, I dragged Becky Jones with me to Morgan’s house. She was in town for a visit, and I thought it was extremely important that she be privy to at least part of the event. Thanks Morgan! Did I thank you yet for hosting both of us? And did I thank you for sharing your amazing apple butter? Holy cannoli, that Morgan can make some serious apple butter. It was so good that I didn’t want to eat the jar she gave me, because then it would be gone. But I digress.

Part Deux was bottling day. It started with a lot of sterilization, which apparently prevents the dreaded off-flavor. Kristi sterilized the plastic tubing that we would later connect to the 5-gallon bucket into which we had transfered the cider. Morgan had sterilized bottles waiting for us. After the tubing was connected (it had this extraordinary device on the end that resembled a hamster water bottle nipple), we got ourselves going, assembly-line style. One person handed bottles to the bottler, the bottler filled them by inserting the hamster-water-bottle-nipple-end of the tubing into the bottle and pressing down, and then we had two cappers. Have you ever used a bottle capper? If you haven’t, you really must. Even if you don’t have anything to bottle, you should give it a whack. It is so satisfying.

Why didn't I take any pictures of the bottle capper?

Oh, the booze-o-meter! I almost forgot. Of course we wanted to know how boozy our cider was. This is where we used the booze-o-meter (official name: hydrometer). I don’t remember exactly how it worked, but the basic idea, I think, is this: you float it in your brew, and how floaty it is will give you an idea of how boozy it is. I think it has something to do with the amount of CO2 in the cider. But I am often full of my own pseudo-scientific information (For instance, if you don’t exercise each day, your skin will turn orange because of stagnant blood! ). I would have done very well as a doctor in the 1700’s.

The most important thing of all this is how it turned out, right? Well, after we bottled it, the cider had to sit for a week or two, a time period during which you must be aware of exploding bottles. Like I need anything else to worry about, right? Botulism in my jam, finger pieces in my cider, exploding bottles. No wonder I am getting a grey streak in my bangs.

I tried my first bottle a week or two ago. It was delicious! Appropriately boozy, appley, and altogether autumnal. I really, really want to try this again, maybe with cherries or something added to the apples? We also discussed making pear cider. But giant windfalls of pears are harder to come by here in Colorado. What else can you turn into cider, I wonder? Any fruit? Well, I’ll be looking into it, for sure.

Our cider army.

Pizza Cake!

24 03 2010

Wow, it’s been a long long while.

Robert’s mainstays are pizza and what he lovingly calls cheese slammers. Cheese slammers are basically quesadillas. He also drinks a lot of soda, and sometimes punctuates his diet with enchiladas. In case you’re wondering if I’m worried about his heart health, why yes, I am.

But I’m also worried about making him a delicious cake for his birthday every year. Well, worried is an overstatement. I guess you could more accurately say I think about making him a delicious birthday cake every year. This year, I had my brainstorm back in, ohhh, December, I think. Wait, December was last year. It seemed like it was this year, though. Well, maybe it was January. I digress…

Anyway, since he loves pizza so much, it hit me one day: A CAKE THAT LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE A PIZZA. What a perfect birthday cake for a pizza lover, right?

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Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

24 01 2010

A few posts back, I made cinnamon-swirly bread in an attempt to rid my house of any weird pet odors. It worked like a charm, and I had the bonus of having a delicious loaf of quick bread to devour. Well, a couple of days ago, after an unmentionable pet disaster in the living room that inspired a colossal cleaning frenzy, I decided to tweak the recipe a little and once again fill the house with a nice smell.

This version is really my mother-in-law’s brain child. She suggested taking the cinnamon swirl concept and marrying it to banana bread. Genius! Because banana and cinnamon go together like peanut butter and chocolate, or jelly and cream cheese, or a standing rib roast and Yorkshire pudding, or pork and mustard, or… well, you see where I’m going here. Because banana and cinnamon go so well together, the final product was delicious. It was so perfect, in fact, that we ate almost the entire loaf in about half a day.

This recipe is a great basic go-to banana bread recipe, even without the cinnamon swirl. It’s very easy, and it’s extraordinarily moist. Don’t be afraid of the cinnamon swirl, either! I know it seems like a gratuitous amount to be sprinkling around, but it’s delicious, I promise.

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Happy Season

25 12 2009

Whatever it is you celebrate, I hope it’s full of joy!

I’ve been cooking up a storm here lately. First there was treat week at work, which I was determined to win, even though it wasn’t a contest. Then cookies, of course. And then I couldn’t get my mind off of a standing rib roast and Yorkshire pudding. A cookie post will come soon, because I found THE TWO MOST AMAZING COOKIE RECIPES ON THE PLANET. But until then, happy happy happy holidays.

Nature’s Bounty

20 09 2009


I had a watermelon seed that I started in a tiny paper cup. As soon as it had a couple leaves on it, the “where to plant it” discussion ensued. We only had space in the backyard in they wayyyy back, near the alley. But we were worried about things like bum pee and old car oil tainting the seedling. Eeeew, alley melon. We ended up planting it in the front yard and it went nutso! I was worried it was going to strangle us in our sleep. Even our neighbors were making comments.

This was our first melon. Alas, we picked it a little too soon, but it’s still very exciting.


Blueberry-peach Jam AND Peach Jam with Orange and Ginger

6 08 2009


My jam frenzy from the previous post continued for at least another 48 hours. Slicing fruit, boiling water, juggling hot jars. It’s kind of funny that such a hot task happens at the height of summer. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself, that it’s funny. Ha ha ha, it’s so funny that I’ve heated up the house another 70 degrees with all this canning! Ha ha ha!

But I can’t lose the jam exchange! I need to be number one! Wait, it’s not a contest, that’s right. It seems my jam exchange anxiety is manifesting now as the EYE OF THE TIGER. Must win! Must win the jam exchange! I MUST MAKE THE BEST JAM EVER. Ahem.

I made two types for this round. Blueberry-peach was the first kind. It was supposed to be Peach-blueberry, because I used slightly more peaches than I did blueberries. But those blueberries are a powerful lot. The jam is bright purple, and I don’t think anyone would believe that it’s really peach-blueberry. So I had to rename it. The other kind is peach jam with orange and ginger. I think that’s my favorite one. For that, I started out making a standard peach jam, but then added in some grated orange zest and some diced fresh ginger.

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