food, fruit, recipes

Small-batch Strawberry Jam

I love jam; who doesn’t? Probably only lizard people trying to pass themselves off as humans. I love it, but store bought jam is a) expensive, b) almost always has corn syrup in it, and c) isn’t as good. However, jam making can be a bit of a chore. But thanks to my sister, Isabella, I found a good recipe for making small batches of jam, and its sugar content it much lower than most jams, yet it is still sweet and wonderfully fruity!

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Strawberries, hulled and quartered
Coming to a boil

Recipe:

  • 1 pound fruit, fresh or frozen (weighed after pitting, peeling, or cutting if appropriate)
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar or honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • Optional: herbs, spices, other flavor additions
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Cooked down and puréed
Adding the sugar
  1. Combine the fruit and water in a heavy-bottomed pan and set over medium heat. Bring to a low boil, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until the fruit breaks up into sauce, 10 to 15 minutes. (My personal note: so far I have only used strawberries with this recipe, and they do not break down completely. I used my handheld blender to purée them.)
  2. Uncover the pot and stir in the sugar or honey. Raise the heat to medium and continue to cook, uncovered, stirring often to prevent the jam from burning on the bottom of the pot, until the sauce thickens, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste, and adjust for sweetness if necessary. Allow to cool and transfer to a jar. If you’ve added whole spices, you can either remove them now or leave them in the jar to continue to infuse the jam for a stronger flavor.
The finished product

I tripled the recipe, and ended up with three pounds of jam (feels a bit odd to think of jam in pounds, but there you are). I also used much more lemon juice: it really ended up being more a strawberry-lemon jam, which was fine with me, as lemon is one of my favorite flavors. If you aren’t going to use it fairly quickly, you should freeze this jam to help it keep.

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baking, dessert, food, fruit, Holidays, King Arthur flour

Summer Classics: Strawberry-rhubarb Pie

I didn’t get many pictures of this dessert (too busy making and serving it), but it turned out really well. My dad loves pie (looooooves pie), so I made him a strawberry-rhubarb pie, one of his favorites, for Father’s day. I considered trying a new recipe, but in the end I stuck with the old tried-and-true from my Joy of Cooking book.

For the crust, I chose pâte brisée (a butter crust). To help keep it flaky, it does have a bit of shortening, but it still has a gorgeous buttery flavor. I made the pie on a warm day, so I was a little concerned about the crust becoming oily, but I left it in the fridge for about an hour before rolling it out, and it turned out to be one of the best crusts I’ve made.

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As you can seen from the pictures, I did a lattice top, and I used corn starch for a thickener. Recently, I’ve been reading up on using less sugar in baking. I’ve been cutting the sugar in my fruit pies for several years, and I am happy with the results. As this King Arthur Flour article points out, sugar isn’t key to the structural integrity of pie the way it is to cake. If you’re working with good fruit, it doesn’t need a lot of sugar anyway.

However, this pie is a little bit different, because it has rhubarb. Now, I love rhubarb, but it is extremely tart, and you really can’t make a dessert with it without using a significant amount of sugar. For a pie filled only with rhubarb, Joy of Cooking recommends 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups sugar. With strawberries substituted for half the rhubarb, they instruct to drop the sugar to 1 cup. I cut that down to 3/4 cup, and was glad I did. The strawberries I was working with were wonderfully ripe and quite sweet by themselves, and limiting the sugar meant that the tartness of the rhubarb really shone through without being overwhelming.

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I brushed the pie with cream and sprinkled it with turbinado sugar–not only does the sugar look good, but it fools the tastebuds into thinking the dessert is sweeter than it really is. The pie set up beautifully, and sliced easily. It was well received by the whole family, especially by my dad, who said it was the best strawberry-rhubarb pie he had ever had. 🙂

As we finished eating it, everyone started deadpanning about how no one had enjoyed it, and they only ate it to be polite, because that’s just the sort of thing we do, and my sweet five year old niece assured us all: “I enjoyed the pie”. She’ll grow into silly sarcasm in time, I’ve no doubt, but I was touched by her support. ❤

food, fruit, projects, Traditions

Strawberry Jam

 

When I was a kid, every year around the end of May, my mom would enlist us to help her in the kitchen with strawberry jam. The kitchen would be filled with pounds and pounds and pounds of strawberries, needing to be washed and hulled and cut into quarters. There was sugar waiting to be measured and pectin packets to be opened, all ending up in a large pan on the stove.

We put the jam in small plastic containers, which were ideal for storing in the freezer. All through the next year (but it was a particular treat in the winter), we would take out one box of sweet red goodness at a time, perfect for toast, PBJ, pancakes, and crêpes.

As an adult, I haven’t made my own jam until this year. I came upon this recipe via my sister Isabella (she scouts out recipes and shares the best ones with me, hooray!). It comes from a book called The Homemade Kitchens: Recipes for Cooking with Pleasure by Alana Chernila.

How to turn fruit into jam

  • Makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups

The secret that jam makers keep is that making jam is easy, and it can be done with whatever and however much fruit you have. A jar of jam can last two to three weeks in the fridge, so you can make one jar at a time with just a few minutes of stirring at the stove, no canning required. Thicken it with a little sugar, pour it into a jar, and you have jam. If you’re not canning your jam, you don’t have to pay attention to pH or acidity, so if you like to experiment, play around with sweetness, herbs, and other flavors with your fruit. Sugar is a preservative, so take note that if you use less sugar, you’ll need to eat your jam faster. This formula works well with berries, rhubarb, stone fruit, pears, and cantaloupe. Just adjust the water and sweetener according to the water and sugar content of the fruit you’re using. This is a quick jam that’s great for all sorts of uses in the kitchen. In the interest of ease and versatility, this recipe creates a loose jam, and there’s no need to worry about temperature or getting it to “set.”

  • 1 pound fruit, fresh or frozen (weighed after pitting, peeling, or cutting it appropriate)
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar or honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
  • Optional: herbs, spices, other flavor additions
  1. Combine the fruit and water in a heavy-bottomed pot and set over medium heat. Bring to a low boil, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to medium low. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until the fruit breaks up into sauce, 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Uncover the pot and stir in the sugar or honey. Raise the heat to medium and continue to cook, uncovered, stirring often to prevent the jam from burning on the bottom of the pot, until the sauce thickens, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste, and adjust for sweetness if necessary. Allow to cool and transfer to a jar. If you’ve added whole spices, you can either remove them now or leave them in the jar to continue to infuse the jam for a stronger flavor.
baking, dessert, food, fruit, Holidays

Independence Cake

For family occasions, I am the designated dessert maker. Our traditional Fourth of July dessert is chocolate cupcakes with American flags stuck in them (which I did do last year), but I didn’t have the flags or the chocolate and I wasn’t sure what to do. After turning over and rejecting various ideas (including éclairs), I settled on making a cake.

Surprise, surprise, the recipe I chose is from King Arthur flour (I do love them). It’s a classic, standard American cake, the kind that gets made for birthdays: golden vanilla cake.

It’s pretty much a one bowl cake, but it was more work than I anticipated. Each egg needs to be beaten in individually and the whole bowl scraped down in between each one, to ensure that the cake has enough air, presumably. And my cake had a lot of air: each of the layers domed hugely, making it necessary to cut off the tops. And as the pictures clearly show, there were holes throughout the cake.

To fill and cover the cake, I whipped about 2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream with about 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and 1 or 2 teaspoons vanilla. I didn’t use quite all of the cream: 2 1/4 cups probably would have sufficed. I also layered the cake with raspberries freshly picked (by me) from my parents’ garden, and blueberries (store-bought). Then I slathered more cream on the bottom layer so there wouldn’t be any gaps.

To make sure the cake dish would be neat after I finished frosting the cake, I put four strips of parchment paper in a square underneath the cake and when I was done, I pulled them away: voilà! Clean cake stand. That’s a trick I got from Cook’s Illustrated. My husband helped me by slowing spinning the cake stand while I frosted, and by helping me with garnish (again, raspberries and blueberries for a red, white, and blue cake!). I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the top of the cake until the last minute, when I decided a star was appropriate to the occasion, and I think it turned out really well.

The cake was moist and kept well. In fact, I think it was perhaps even better the second day. All in all, a satisfying endeavour.

baking, dessert, food, fruit

Peach Clafouti

It’s peach season! What to do with all those fresh peaches (courtesy of my parents’ fruit trees)?

I looked up peaches in the indices of some of my cookbooks to get some ideas, and I settled on King Arthur Flour’s peach clafouti.

Baking temperature and time: 375°F, 35-40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups peeled and sliced peaches
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Butter a round, 10-inch oven safe pan or skillet (I used a deep pie dish).
  2. Line the bottom of the pan with peaches and sprinkle the brown sugar over them.
  3. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, and vanilla. Blend thoroughly, and then gradually whisk in the flour mixture, smoothing out the lumps.
  5. Pour the mixture over the fruit and bake for 35-40 minutes until a cake tester inserted into the clafouti comes out clean.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature. I would allow it at least and hour and a half to cool and set.