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A few weeks ago, around Halloween, I was making baked goods galore. Most of them were sweets, and some of them were for other people. but I admit that I did quite a bit of snacking myself. After eating Apple Harvest Muffins, Pumpkin Muffins, Pumpkin Scones, and Cinnamon Rolls for weeks, I decided to limit myself on the sweets. But, I still wanted something to bake and something to snack on during my morning prep period at school. I’d recently made a bunch of different jams, and we received some peanut butter from our CSA, so I decided that it was time for me to make some bread. For the first time ever. Uh oh!

There’s a recipe in my Barefoot Contessa At Home cookbook that makes a honey white bread. I’m not really partial to white bread, but I thought that it would be a simple enough recipe to start out with, plus it didn’t require a ton of research, because I already had it in my cookbook collection. I had all of the ingredients on hand, so I took a few hours on a Saturday afternoon and got to work. This recipe made two loaves of bread, so I froze one and will use it some time over the next few weeks.

Honey White Bread
from Ina Garten’s The Barefoot Contessa At Home

1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 packages dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1-1/2 cups warm whole milk
6 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
1-1/2 tablespoons honey
2 large egg yolks
5 to 6 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Place warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Add yeast and sugar; stir and allow them to dissolve for 5 minutes.

Add the milk, butter, and honey. Mix on medium speed until blended. Add the egg yolks, 3 cups of flour and the salt. Mix on low speed for about 5 minutes. With the mixer still on low speed, add 2 more cups of flour. Raise the speed to medium and slowly add just enough of the remaining flour so the dough doesn’t stick to the bowl. Knead on medium speed for about 8 minutes, adding flour as necessary.

Dump dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand for a minute, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Grease a bowl with butter, put the dough in the bowl, then turn it over so the top is lightly buttered. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and allow to rise for 1 hour, until doubled in volume.

Grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans with butter. Divide the dough in half, roll each half into a loaf shape and place each in a prepared pan. Cover again with the damp towel and allow to rise again for an hour, until doubled in volume.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. When the dough is ready, brush the tops with egg white and bake for 40-45 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped. Turn them out of the pans and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

The concept of bread-baking is incredibly easy. I’m not at all afraid to try my hand at it again. With this particular recipe, I spread it out over an extended period of time, and I think that prevented my bread from turning out as spectacularly as it could have. We had a dinner party to attend, and I made the dough ahead of time, let it rise, and the refridgerated it, anticipating that I would be able to bake it once we returned home. Unfortunately, we were out pretty late, and I didn’t have enough time to bake the dough that night. I waited until the next day, but had to let the dough rise again, as it had collapsed a little after being in the fridge for so long. It turned out just fine, but I’m sure it would have been a bit lighter and more moist, had I baked it when the dough was fresh and not out of the fridge.
My next attempt will most likely involve some whole-wheat flour, but may still contain the honey. I have a lot of cooking and baking to do over the next few weeks for the holidays, so maybe after all of my seasonal stuff dies down, I’ll give another loaf a try. The moral of this post is, not to be afraid to bake bread! It’s incredibly easy, as long as you have some time and some patience.
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Around Halloween (I told you I was behind in my posts), I decided to make a sweet treat that fit in with the pumpkin theme. While persuing my usual blogs, I kept stumbling upon recipes for cinnamon rolls. I’ve always been pretty hesitant about making anything involving yeast, but I’ve had some recent success with pizza dough, so I decided now was the time. Plus, Stu and his family are cinnamon roll fanatics, and I was trying to impress. I found a few different recipes, but I liked the one posted on Naturally Ella the best. It had whole wheat flour and lots of brown sugar in it’s ingredient list, so I figured it would be slightly healthier than the regular buttery cinnamon rolls. I also referenced a recipe posted on The Kitchn, and used a sort of combination of the two. Unfortunately this was weeks ago, so I’ll link both recipes and do the best that I can do remember what exactly I did for mine.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Pumpkin and Brown Sugar Glaze
from Naturally Ella and The Kitchn

For the rolls:
3/4 cup milk
2 and  1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/3 cup natural sugar
1 cup pumpkin
1/3 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
4- 4  and 1/2 cups Unbleached all purpose flour (I used half white/ half wheat)

For the filling:

1/4 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup natural sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

For the glaze:
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup brown sugar
pinch salt
2  and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup pumpkin

Heat milk (either in a sauce pan or microwave) until milk begins to simmer- add butter. Let cool until a warm temperature (about 120˚).

In a stand mixer bowl, at milk mixture, yeast, and sugar. Let sit for five minutes. Add 3 cups of flour, salt, pumpkin, eggs and start mixer with dough hook. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time continuing until the dough pulls together. Continue kneading the dough until smooth and elastic- at least eight minutes.

Either in the mixer bowl or a separate bowl, lightly spray the dough with cooking oil and place in a warm draft free spot until dough has doubled in size (around an hour and a half.)

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out into a 10 by 14 rectangle. Rub butter over entire surface and cover with sucanat mixture. Roll the dough into a log, squeeze slightly and adjust to form. Cut into 12 pieces (cut in half, the cut each half into half then each piece is cut into three pieces.) Place in a sprayed 9 by 13 pan.


Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight. (or if you want to continue on, cover and let rise for another hour and follow with remaining instructions.)


The next morning, preheat the oven to 350˚ and remove cinnamon rolls from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for a half hour. Bake for 25-30 minutes until cinnamon rolls are a nice golden brown color. Let cool slightly.

While they are baking, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk and butter. When the butter has melted, add the brown sugar and salt. Stir until the brown sugar has melted. Remove from heat and strain into a mixing bowl to remove any sugar clumps. Stir in the powdered sugar. This should form a thick but pourable glaze.

Let the baked rolls cool for about five minutes and then pour the glaze on top. Sprinkle the remaining cup of pecans over the top, if more nuttiness is desired. Eat them immediately. Leftovers will keep for several days and are best reheated for a minute in the microwave.

This was an incredibly lengthy process. Although I was pretty pleased with how they turned out, I wouldn’t ever say that they were easy to make. I was pretty time consuming and required a lot of patience. I also ran out of pumpkin so my glaze ended up being more brown-sugar based than pumpkin. The whole process was definitely an exciting one, however. I was really impressed with how nicely the end result mirrored the pictures from both recipes. It was pretty incredible to assemble these guys and watch them rise and then bake into the actual rolls, looking almost like what you’d buy from the store!

Taste-wise, they lacked a little sweetness that I think everyone expects from a cinnamon roll. I thought they were pretty great, but Stu’s sweet tooth disagreed. I am sure this had a lot to do with the natural sugar and brown sugar, as opposed to white sugar and lots and lots of butter. I congratulated myself for taking the healthier route, but I suppose that if I’m going to be making these again for more people, I’ll probably use a recipe that has all of the sweet stuff, as opposed to all of the kind-of-good-for-you stuff.

Either way, this was a pretty big feat for me, and I’m rather proud of my accomplishment. It’s nice to know that this will be a breakfast option over the upcoming winter months. Next time I will probably make them when I know I’ll have something coming up where lots of people can enjoy them. I accidentally ate a whole bunch of cinnamon rolls for about a week and a half. Oops.

Happy Halloween, ya’ll! This year instead of celebrating like I normally do, I spent nearly the entire weekend in the kitchen. What started out with some butternut squash ravioli on Friday night, was followed by home made apple butter in jars, roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin cinnamon rolls over night and into the morning, ginger snaps. With a few oatmeal cookies tossed in by Stu. Of course in the midst of all of my stove-opening-and-closing and pot-stirring was some good old fashioned Jack O’Lantern carving.

Last weekend I dragged Stu and his bee-hind to Linvilla Orchards in Media, PA. This was a good idea in theory, but the place was packed. After waiting in line for apple donuts and fighting through crowds to pick out the best pumpkins, we ended up spending way too much money on three pumpkins. However, I am pretty determined to make these suckers go for as long as possible and get all I can out of ’em.

Two awesome pumpkins joined the ranks of our gourds from our CSA and my Happy Fall pumpkin from my Aunt Angela when she came to visit. These guys were perfect for carving and their seeds went to great use.

This beaut is a Fairytale Pumpkin. Aside from looking awesome, it’s particularly great for eating and has a sweet flesh that’s perfect for cooking and baking. If I can ever bare to party with it (pumpkins are appropriate decorations for Thanksgiving, too!), it will be cut open and the flesh will be made into a pumpkin puree for a pie, and if there’s enough hopefully for a mousse or maybe even a pumpkin soup. I’ve finally finished off my 28oz. can of pumpkin puree, so I’m excited to use real pumpkin in my next few recipes. Hopefully I can get a few more in before November ends and Christmas season approaches. That is, if I’m not entirely sick of pumpkin by then.

Happy Halloween!

Lately our Saturday or Sunday mornings have become quite a nice breakfast tradition. I’ve been trying to take at least one day a weekend and make a substanial meal. Something other than cereal or eggs. Recently we gave the collards and potato frittata a try, so I decided to do something a little less savory.

Recently I discovered the website Joy the Baker. I know a lot of my cooking-friendly friends have been using it for ages, so I’m not sure why it took me so long to figure out how amazing it is. Recently I’ve been trying to make one baked good a week, and so it was good timing to stumble upon this really lovely blog. I’ve already bookmarked quite a few recipes, but one stood out from the others. A great recipe for chai pancakes. I enjoy pancakes just fine, but I especially enjoy them when there is something special about them. Particularly pumpkin pancakes, blueberry pancakes, chocolate chip pancakes, etc. I thought that a lovely Saturday morning in October would be a great time to give these Chai pancakes a try.

Chai Spiced Buttermilk Pancakes
from Joy the Baker

2 eggs
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground ginnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
healthy pinch of ground cloves
scant 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns (or a dash of freshly ground black pepper)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup brewed black chai tea
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
½ teaspoons vanilla extract
oil or cooking spray (for cooking)

In a large bowl beat eggs. Add buttermilk, chai tea, butter and vanilla and mix well. Add flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. Mix well until mostly smooth. Let batter set for a few minutes.

Heat griddle or pan over medium heat. Add a teaspoon of oil (I used grapeseed oil) to the pan or spray with cooking spray. You can test to see if the pan is hot enough by adding a few drops of water, when the drops start to dance its hot enough.

Pour 2 Tablespoons of batter onto the griddle. Cook on the first side until bubbles that form start to pop. You can also gently lift up the pancake to make sure the bottom is not overcooking, if it is the pan may be too hot and you will need to adjust the heat. Flip the pancake over with a spatula and cook until golden brown. Repeat until all the batter is gone. Let cooked pancakes rest on a heat proof plate in a 200 degree F oven until ready to serve.

These were perfect. The batter was a little different than anything I’ve worked with, but it made some awesome pancakes. I used to be pretty terrible at making pancakes (some of my readers can attest to that…), but recently I think I’ve mastered my technique. I’ve been having so much fun with them lately, and this recipe definitely contributed to how much fun they are to make. They were perfect with a little bit of maple syrup, but I got a little crazy and spread some blackberry jam (ahh, summer) on top. I had about 4 pancakes, and then had some more the next morning. Give these a try and impress yourself, and your friends!

For the past couple of weeks I’ve found myself with more free time than I knew what to do with. I decided that this would be a great opportunity to spend some time in the kitchen. I’ve been waiting all summer for the temperature to cool down enough so that turning on the oven would be a comfort, rather than an inconvenience- and it’s finally gotten to that point.

Aside from doing a lot more cooking and baking, I’ve also spent a lot of my extra time looking up seasonal recipes. I’m anticipating that the Fall months will bring some interesting produce to our CSA and I want to make sure that I have enough recipes stocked up to deal with all of the various squashes, greens, brussel sprouts and cauliflower. I am also just really excited about making all things that have to do with apple and pumpkin, so I’ve got a whole bunch saved.

In the midst of recipe searching, I found a great recipe from a website that I stumbled upon called NaturallyElla. I really enjoy the way the site is set up and the recipes that the blogger includes, most of which I believe are original recipes. She usually uses whole wheat flour, all natural ingredients, and focuses a lot on vegan meals.  She recently posted a great recipe for Cinnamon quick bread, and I knew I had to give it a whirl- literally.

Cinnamon Quick Bread
Adapted from Naturally Ella

1 cup wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup natural sugar
1/2 cup butter melted
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup plain greek yogurt
3/4 cup milk

for the filling:
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 350˚F.

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients (the dry ones) and stir to combine.  Add in remaining wet ingredients and stir until mixture is well combine.  Quick breaks are not very finicky; however, if you want, combine wet ingredients in a separate bowl before pouring into dry.

In a buttered 9×5 pan, spread 1/3 of the mixture of the bottom; sprinkle half the sucanat and cinnamon.  Repeat with 1/3 more of the batter and the last of the sucanat/cinnamon.  Finish with batter.  You can opt to put a crumb on top (butter cut into flour and sugar) but I chose to leave it off.

Bake for 55-60 minutes until a knife comes out clean when inserted into the bread.

 

The recipe was really simple. You don’t have to use whole wheat flour, but I always say, why not? In fact sometimes I’ll substitute it in for all-purpose flour. At first I thought that the two tablespoons of cinnamon wouldn’t be enough, but it really came out great. It was a beautiful bread, and I was pleased to see that it looked pretty similar to the photos on the original blog. My only complaint is that it was a bit dry. I would suggest using more milk and less yogurt, or adding a bit of oil in place of the yogurt- although it’s not as healthy. I had to add a bit more milk to the batter just while I was mixing it together, and it still was pretty dry. No worries though, stuck in the oven for a few minutes, this bread makes really great toast! It’s also great with jelly, could be used for a delicious French toast, and is very delicious on its own. Unfortunately, we couldn’t eat it fast enough and it started to mold before we could finish it. I think I’ll try this again sometime soon though, and use it up as soon as possible to get the full benefit.

 

After spending a few days in Connecticut a few weeks back, where the weather was cool and comfortable, I was greatly looking forward to the first day of Autumn. However, in Philadelphia, September 21st AND 22nd both had hot and humid days, not at all like the refreshing crisp and breezy weather I was anticipating. Regardless, I had a bunch of apples in the house from some apple picking back home, and decided to put them to use to welcome the change in season, not the change in temperature.

I found a recipe from Annie’s Eats called “Cranberry-Apple Harvest Muffins” that was adapted from a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa entitled “Cranberry Harvest Muffins.” I checked out the recipes and had to make substitutions either way, so I just made the necessary changes and called my adaptation “Harvest Muffins.” Click on the links to get the original recipes or follow my version below.

Harvest Muffins
Adapted from Annie’s Eats and The Barefoot Contessa

3/4 whole wheat flour
3/4 all purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 large egg
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup dried cranberries, reconstituted if desired
3/4 cup peeled and chopped apple, I used MacIntosh
1/2 cup diced fresh figs
1/2 cup raisins6 tbsp. packed brown sugar
6 tbsp. granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and giner; whisk together.  Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in the milk, egg and melted butter.  Stir quickly just to combine.  Add the cranberries, apples, figs, raisins, and both sugars to the bowl.  Stir just enough to distribute the fruits and sugars evenly throughout the batter.

Divide the batter evenly between muffin tin. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until browned on the top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

These came out great, even though they were packed with all different flavors. The figs were not totally necessary, and dried ones would have worked fine if desired. I added the raisins because I forgot that I had some fresh figs and ended up tossing the figs in at the last minute. I also substitute half of the flour for whole wheat flour. Not a huge difference, but always makes me feel the slightest bit more health conscious. When it gets closer to Thanksgiving and fresh cranberries are more abundant, I will totally use Ina Garten’s recipe for the Cranberry Harvest muffins- maybe without the figs though, we’ll see.

Feel free to check out both recipes and decide on what works best for you. These are great for breakfast, a side for lunch, an afternoon snack with tea, or dessert! They have just the right amount of sugar so that they are sweet enough but not overly. Mmm, I can’t wait to make more Fall harvest muffins!

I love the idea of peach pie. Earlier this summer it was popping up everywhere. I watched the woman who I’m babysitting for make three in one day, granted she used store-bought crust. One of my good friends has been working for the Farmer’s Markets in New York City and had been raving about how many peaches he gets to bring home each day. Imagine how many pies that makes!

For my birthday weekend, I decided to wind down with  day in the kitchen. It was pretty good weather and I had hit up the Rittenhouse Square farmer’s market early Saturday morning and scored some great Freestone peaches- white and yellow. I filtered through a few different recipes and decided on the Mark Bittman version.

Peach Pie
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything

About 2 pounds of peaches, or a little more (6-10 peaches, depending on size)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
About 1/2 cup sugar, more if the peaches are not quite ripe, plus a little for the top
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or ground allspice, if you use cinnamon
1 and 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch or 2 tablespoons instant tapioca
2 recipes for Flaky Pie Crust (see my recipe for Blackberry Pie, here)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
Milk as needed

Heat the oven to 450F. Peel the peaches: Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop the peaches into it, a couple at a time, for 10 to 30 seconds, until the skins loosen. Plunge into a bowl of ice water. Slip the skins off, using a paring knife to ease the process. Pit, slice, and toss with lemon juice.


Mix together the dry ingredients (including the almond extract, if you’re using it) and toss the peaches with this mixtures. Pile into the rolld-out shell, making the pile a little higher in the center than at the sides. Dot with butter. Cover with the top crust. Decorate the edges with a fork or your fingers.

Put the pie on a baking sheet and brush the top lightly with milk; sprinkle with sugar. Use a sharp paring knife to cut two or three 2-inch long slits in the top crust; this will allow steam to escape. Bake for 10 minute; reduce the heat to 350F and bake for another 40 to 50 minutes, or until the pie is golden brown. Do not under-bake. Cool on a rack before serving warm or at room temperature.

This is the best photo I got of the finished product. I was a little too eager to dig in to the pie – it looked and smelled so delicious. As you can tell from the picture, I didn’t end up using a top crust. This is for a few reasons, mainly because I ran out of flour as I went to make my top crust, but also because I really love the idea of exposing your fruit in a pie. It’s the main element and I think it should be shown off. I looked up a recipe for a crumble topping and sprinkled it on top of the peaches.

Crumb Topping for Pies
from All Recipes

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cold butter, diced

In a medium bowl, mix together the sugar and flour. Mix in butter with a fork or stand mixer just until the topping is crumbly. Top your pie before baking.

So that’s just what I did. And this pie was great. I used a mixture of yellow and white Freestone peaches. I read that Freestone are the easiest to remove from the pit, and they certainly were. They were at their prime and very yummy. Upon first taste, I served it warm with eggnog ice cream. I’ve been eating it cold from the fridge since then and it is the perfect snack for a hot summer day. I just picked up a bunch of peaches from Linvilla Orchards in Media, PA this past week, and I’m contemplating what I’ll be doing with them before peach season comes to a close!

I’ve been wanting to experiment with pickles now for a while. With only a few ingredients, you can turn a fresh cucumber into a dill, bread and butter, or spicy asian pickle pretty simply. Our CSA gave us some earlier in the season. We weren’t totally impressed with them so I decided to give it a try on my own.

I found a few different recipes and gathered various ingredients that I didn’t already have on hand, such as mustard seed or dill seed. They are relatively easy to find at a spice specialty shop or in your supermarket. I picked up some Kirby cucumbers at the farm stand at Moods Farm Market, where we went blackberry picking. A few days later I selected my first recipe from Food in Jars.

There are a few ways to make pickles. One involves large batches of cucumbers and a canning/preserving routine. One can be done within a matter of hours, or overnight. I only had about 6 kirbys and I didn’t need to preserve them, so I went for the overnight.

Asian-Inspired Refrigerator Pickles
Adapted from Food In Jars– A Canning Blog

5-6 kirby (pickling) cucumbers, each cut into six spears
1 chili pepper (I used jalapeno, because it was what we had on hand- worked just fine.)
1 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 limes, juiced
3-4 scallions, chopped (greens and whites)
2 garlic cloves, sliced
4 sprigs of mint, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt

Pack the cucumber spears into a quart jar. Slide the chili pepper down in among the cucumber spears. In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine the rice wine vinegar, lime juice, scallions, garlic cloves, mint and salt. Pour over the cucumbers. Using your fingers, poke some of the garlic slivers, mint and scallion down amidst the cucumbers. Screw a lid on the jar, and holding the over the sink (in case of leaks) invert the jar and give it a good shake, in order to distribute all the delicious bits.

Let your pickles sit in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours before eating.

These were so easy to make, and really tasty. They sat in the fridge over night and were gone by the end of the following day. I brought them out to share with some company and they were eaten up immediately. Will definitely make again, and again and again.

I wanted to try a different type of pickle, since Asian-inspired isn’t really typical. I looked in my Eating Well In Season cookbook for a quick and easy pickle that is sort of in the bread-and-butter category, but still garlicky and dilly.

Quick Pickles
From Eating Well In Season

1 and 1/4 pounds pickling cucumbers, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch slices (I used about 10 pickles and sliced them into 4ths)
1 and 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup slivered onion
2 cloves garlic, slivered
1 teaspoon dill seed
1 teaspoon mustard seed

Place cucumber slices in a colander set ni the sink. Sprinkle with salt; stir to comine. Let stand for 20 minutes. Rinse, drain, and transfer to a large heat-proof bowl.

Meanwhile, combine cider vinegar, white vinegar, brown sugar, onion, garlic, dill and mustard seed in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes.

Pour the hot liquid over the cucumbers; stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to bring to room temperature.

I let the pickles sit overnight before eating, just as I did with the Asian-inspired recipe. These taste just like real bread and butter pickles, and have a little bit of the bitter dill component as well. These were also a big hit with our friends, but since I used more cucumbers this time, there are still some remaining bites left for week-day snacking or as a side with lunch or dinner. These are great and easy to make- also worth researching the canning process, because they would make great gifts during winter-time.

After all of my blackberry picking and baking, it was time to jam before those suckers went bad. It was now or never and I knew I had no choice but to preserve them. Mainly because my stomach was so tired of eating them for snacks.

I had carefully researched the canning process and chosen a recipe from Food In Jars, my favorite canning blog. I had made all of the necessary purchases of canning equipment. I had seven pounds of blackberries to turn into preserves. I was so ready… At least I thought.

When it was finally time to can, I realized I was in a a bit of a situation. I have a great big pot that I thought would be perfect for canning, and it was, almost. But I only have one great big pot, not two. And for jamming and canning, you need two great big pots: one great big pot to make the jam, and an even greater bigger pot to process the jam in jars. Oops.

So, I used the big pot for the processing part. Only it was only the slightest bit wider, as opposed to taller, so it left me in another situation, which you will read more about in a bit. I used a large saucepan (though not large enough,) to make the jam in. It worked, it really did, but it could have gone a lot smoother.

Blackberry Jam
from Food In Jars

6 cups blackberry pulp (8-9 cups of berries, mashed through a strainer with the back of a wooden spoon)
4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 packet liquid pectin (half the box)

Prepare your jars, start your lids to simmering and bring your canning pot to a boil.

In a large, non-reactive pot (stainless steel or enameled cast iron), combine the sugar and fruit pulp and bring to a simmer. Add cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon zest/juice and stir to combine. Let the mixture reach a boil, stirring frequently to prevent it from boiling over. When the mixture appears to be thickening a bit, bring it back to a roiling boil and add the pectin. Let it boil vigorously for at least five minutes to activate the pectin.

Fill your jars with the hot jam, wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water canner for ten minutes.

Remove from canner and allow the jars to completely cool on a dishtowel-lined counter top.

Once the jars are cool, check the seals, label them and eat jam on toast in January.

I should have taken a lot more pictures, but it was a really involved process and my hands were much too busy. Pictured above you will see my not tall enough canning pot, my small pot to sterilize the lids, and my not quite big enough saucepan to make the jam, with the jam inside of it.

Believe it or not, the most involved part of the whole process, with this particular recipe, is mashing the blackberries through a sieve to get rid of the seeds. It took about an hour and I got tired after a while and just scooped a few cups full of the mashed berries and seeds right into the mixture. There is nothing wrong with a few seeds in your jam, it’s more authentic.

The next most difficult part was the jam. This is because my pan was not big enough and you had to watch very closely to make sure that it did not bubble over. This was especially tricky when the pectin became involved, because you are supposed to let the jam mixture come to a hard boil for 5 minutes in order to activate the pectin. But when your saucepan is too small and you risk having your jam bubble over, it’s impossible to have a hard boil for 5 minutes. So, pectin may not have even been activated, who knows?

Lastly, the processing part. In theory this is probably the easiest, though it helps to have an extra pair of hands around, and thank goodness I did. The tricky part for me was that the water didn’t cover the tops of the jars, and it needed to in order for the lids to seal. So I had to put the jars in, let them boil, and then add a few cups of water until the water was literally at the very top of the pot. See:

This was very risky business but guess what- it worked! All of the lids sealed. I was able to make five 8-oz. jars of jam and then had a half of a jar leftover that we’ll just keep in the fridge and put on things like bread, apple donuts, waffles, and ice cream.

The consistency of the jam was not as jam-like as I would have liked. I think this mostly has to do with the lack of pectin-activation. The flavor, however, is perfect. This is great in the summer and will be even greater in the Winter, thanks to the addition of the cinnamon and nutmeg. Can’t wait to have this on a chilly Winter day on some toast or pancakes.

Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos of the finished project. But no worries, this will not be the last of my canning attempts. I plan on buying a very large canning pot. When Fall comes around and there are apples abound, I will be making some apple cinnamon jam and trying my hand at apple butter as well. Can’t wait!

A few weeks ago I had a Friday off from work. The weather was perfect and I was longing to get out of the city. Off to Mood Farmer’s Market in Mulica Hill, New Jersey I went. A few hours in the sunny rows of blackberry bushes resulted in seven pounds of the berries. Oops. I had every intention of picking the berries specifically to make jam, but there was wayyyy more left over.

Upon arriving home, we gave the berries a little soak in the sink to get rid of any bugs, because there were quite a bit of bugs. Then we divided them up: freezer, jam, snacking, and baking. The next day I got to work on my pie.

Pie is very time consuming, especially in the heat. Luckily it wasn’t too humid like it’s been lately, so this was a slightly more bearable process than if could have been. I dove into Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything, and got to work. The recipes posted are a little out of order, but this is how I followed them. Bittman’s cookbook has basic recipes, followed by variations. I started out with making the pie crusts, then followed a recipe for Blueberry Pie, substituting some blackberries for blueberries. Try to follow along, and please comment if you have any additional questions.

Blackberry Blueberry Pie
Adapted from Mark Bittman

Flaky Pie Crust

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into about 8 pieces
3 tablespoons ice water, plus more if necessary

Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse once or twice. Add the butter and turn on the machine; process until the butter and flour are blended and the mixture looks like cornmeal, about 10 seconds.

Put the mixture in a bowl and add the ice water; mix with your hands until you can form the dough into a ball, adding another tablespoon or two of ice water if necessary (if you overdo it and the mixture becomes sodden, add a little more flour). Form into a ball, wrap in plastic, and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can refrigerate the dough for up to a couple of days or freeze, tightly wrapped, for up to a couple of weeks.)

Sprinkle a clean countertop with flour, put the dough on it, and sprinkle the top with flour. Use a rolling pin to roll with light pressure from the center out. If the dough is hard, let it rest for a few minutes. If the dough is sticky, add a little flour (if it continues to become sticky, and it’s taking you more than a few minutes to roll it out, refrigerate or freeze again). Roll, adding flour and rotating and turning the dough as needed; use ragged edges of dough to repair any tears, adding a drop of water while you press the patch into place.

When the diameter of the dough is about 2 inches greater than that of your pie plate, drape the dough over the rolling pin to transfer it into the pie plate. Press the dough firmly into the plate all over. Refrigerate for about an hour before filling (if you’re in a hurry, freeze for a half hour or so).

Trim the excess dough to about 1/2 inch all around, then tuck it under itself around the edge of the plate. Decorate the edges with a fork or your fingers. Freeze the dough for 10 minutes (or refrigerate it for 30 minutes).

When you’re ready to bake, either fill it or prick it all over with a fork for prebaking.

Blackberry Blueberry Pie Filling

3 cups blackberries/2 cups blueberries; both picked over, briefly rinsed, and lightly dried
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 flaky pie crusts (recipe to follow)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits

Gently toss the blueberries with the sugar, thickener, salt, and spices. Stir in the lemon juice and optional zest and pile into the rolled-out shell, making the pile a little higher in the center than at the sides. Dot with butter.

Clearly my pie was not perfect, but it certainly tasted that way! I’ve never done lattice-type topping before and I didn’t exactly weave the way I should have, but you get the idea. Now I am ready for apple pie season. I really liked the idea of the lattice work for the summer pies, I didn’t want to keep my beautiful berries all couped up under one big pie crust top. If only I had added a little more on the ends, it would have extended across the whole pie top. Oh well, minor details.

The most important step in this recipe was patience. I’ve made pies before but forgot that the dough has to chill for a while before use. When I started baking on Sunday morning, I thought, “Oh I’ll just whip up a pie.” About three hours later, it was finally cooling. I utilized Bittman’s advice on the freezer as much as possible.

Next time I pie-bake, it will be a bit cooler and hopefully my weekends will be less hectic so I can have more time to devote. Next up: apple and pumpkin, here I come!