25 June 2013

I Made Jam!

Strawberry Fig Jam to be precise, but first things first. After my delightful results with Blueberry Butter, I ran out and bought some supplies to make rookie canning life a bit easier. Just look at my loot!

I got the recipe from Food in Jars again. And I followed it precisely (minus letting the fruit sit a couple of days), as this was my first jam.

You cannot imagine how happy I was when 14 minutes into the cooking process, I could see the gelling. I ran my wooden spoon through the fragrant mixture, and the path left behind was clearly visible. Yes! I. Made. Jam.

I ended up with the proper 3 (1/2 pint) jars and set off to process them with my new canning pot. Loved it! The rack worked wonderfully, and I can't wait to use the setup again. :-)

Now some veteran canners might look at my results and see I didn't quite get all the air out of my jars. I thought I did, but need to do a better job next time. Bottom line? I. Made. Jam.

24 June 2013

Blueberry Butter and My First Attempt at Canning

Though sometimes my stage in life doesn't permit me to be zealous about it, I am hugely into preservation. I want to preserve the past, I want to preserve cemeteries, I want to preserve the earth, and I want to preserve food. ;-) Why not, right? I've actually been wanting to get into canning for a very long time. Kind of like the food blog thing -- years. Remember, though, I am so NOT into cooking the savory. I'm all about the sweet stuff. So butters, jams, jellies, and the like are right up my alley.

I've hesitated with these delectables in the past mainly because I thought it was time consuming and a little silly when there is just two people in the house. Even though both of those reasons are nonsense, I feel better about it when partnering the process with canning.

Since I've been doing a ton of reading on the subject, I've become mildly obsessed with the Food in Jars blog. And that is where I found my first recipe -- Slow Cooker Blueberry Butter. (That just sounds awesome, doesn't it?)

I was a little nervous about waste if I screwed something up, so I made a very small batch, beginning with 3 pints of pureed blueberries.

Marisa (at FiJ) wrote about leaving the blueberries in her slow cooker for five hours on low, then notching it up to high for the sixth. I have a 1.5 quart Crock Pot that has only one setting (supposedly low), and it worked just fine. I did have my butter in for a total of seven hours, though.

After five hours, I added the sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg (just halving her recipe). I did zest a whole lemon like she put in her full batch.

I'm not sure I can express how delicious this stuff is. I thought the blueberries alone were pretty tasty, but the nutmeg and lemon are standouts that make it divine. I've had it with my toast every morning since.

How did I fair with the canning process, you ask? Very well, thank-you! I literally had only one pint jar to go with, but I got my experience. I have a Ball Canning Discovery kit that had been sitting in my pantry for at least a year. It comes with a basket that I used with my deepest pasta pot -- about seven inches. Right away I could tell that was pushing it in depth, but I pressed on with fingers crossed.

After processing for ten minutes, I set the jar on the table anticipating the "ping"! Twenty-four hours later I tested the seal. The lid was firm when pressed, no movement at all. And I could lift my jar by the lid alone without worry of it coming off and spilling my beautiful blueberry butter. Success!

23 June 2013

It's Cowboy Candy Day!

Recently I had the good fortune of visiting with my family on (self-designated) "Cowboy Candy Day." (You could also say it was Candied Jalapeño day.) We had a great memory-making time, and I was able to learn a bit about canning. I have been wanting to try it for years, so I was throwing out a lot of questions. Thankfully, I got some great answers. Here are the highlights in pictures.

Where it all began.

Ready to slice!


The simmering solution is ready...

...so in go the peppers!

A five minute simmer.

This is the "candy" part!

Now for the canning.

All that's left is to wait for the ping!

Recipe was adapted from one at
Muy Bueno Cookbook.

22 June 2013

A Pig Pickin' Cake?

I hesitated in posting this since Paula's been in the news quite a bit lately (and not in a good way), but I still must credit her with the recipe. And a delicious one it is. I made it the day before Father's Day and took it to the next afternoon's festivities. I was pleasantly surprised that my grandfather, who rarely eats sweets, enjoyed two pieces. Why it's called Pig Pickin' I do not know. I do know it really is an easy, light, summery cake.

I'm still working from Paula Deen's The Lady & Sons, Too! publication. This recipe is on page 206.

Cake Ingredients:
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, with juice
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Icing Ingredients:
- 1 (16 oz.) can crushed pineapple, drained
- 1 (3.4 oz.) pkg instant vanilla pudding mix
- 2 (8 oz. ea) containers Cool Whip

The cake ingredients are mixed together and make 3 thin layers (8 inch). The icing is also a simple mix of the ingredients. I might leave the vanilla out next time. It added flavor, but in my opinion gave a slight heaviness to an otherwise very light tasting icing.

My one misstep was not putting enough icing between the layers. I worried, unnecessarily, about having enough icing altogether so I was a little thin there.

The cake is so good, it'll be gone before you know it.

Have a sweet day!

14 June 2013

Maybe I Should Have Drained the Ricotta?

I stuck with Paula Deen in my latest baking adventure. She has an Italian Love Cake recipe in The Lady & Sons, Too! that sounded pretty good. I was hoping for something like a cannoli, and that is what I got...just with a slightly mushy bottom.

3 nice layers with an ever so slightly mushy bottom.

I think I should have drained the ricotta cheese. I have not worked with it much, so even though I thought it was pretty "liquidy" (with 2 oz less than called for!) I just trudged on with the recipe. After the fact (of course), I came across this little video with Martha Stewart that speaks of doing exactly that. I might try it next time.

Also, I saw a lot of people online sharing this recipe with just chocolate cake. Paula's recipe calls for fudge marble cake, and I think I would do it that way again -- seems more like a cannoli to me.

I would stick with the fudge marble cake flavor!

Not a big fan of the icing.
One final thought: I didn't like the icing all that much. It's a mixture of instant chocolate pudding and Cool Whip. I think I'll go a little different next time -- even if it's just plain ol' whipped topping.

Oh! And I guess I should disclose this little tidbit: I did not let my cake sit overnight before cutting and tasting (it was several hours only). I recommend that you do follow that direction, as I believe it was better the next day.

Italian Love Cake Ingredients (pg. 204):
- 2 lbs ricotta cheese
- 4 eggs
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 pkg. fudge marble cake mix

- 1 (5.1 oz) pkg. instant chocolate pudding mix
- 1 cup cold milk
- 8 oz Cool Whip

The ricotta mixture (ricotta cheese, eggs, sugar, and vanilla) should be added to a 9x13 pan already containing your cake batter assembled according to package directions, by spreading it on top. Bake for 1 hour at 350°.

The icing is simply the Cool Whip folded into the already combined instant pudding and milk.

Don't forget to refrigerate overnight!

P.S. Don't let my "wouldas" and "shouldas" dissuade you from making this cake per Paula's recipe -- we ate it all!

Have a sweet day!

05 June 2013

Rich, Rich Cheese Muffins by Paula Deen

"These delectable muffins are so rich they can be served with nothing more than a large green salad for a luncheon." -- Paula ain't lyin', folks.

Since we haven't finished the rice pudding yet, I had to look for something a little different to bake. It either had to be something I could take to work, or something more savory. Paula Deen's Cheese Muffins won out. They are from her The Lady & Sons, Too! cookbook. (Have you ever eaten at her restaurant in Savannah? If not, you should!) They are so easy to make, I should never buy cheese bread again. No kidding. They took longer to bake than prep.

BTW, this cookbook is available on Kindle. It's not a book with a lot of large pictures (in fact, there are none), so it would be an easy one to transfer to digital to save trees and space. :-)

Ingredients (pg. 126):
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups coarsely grated Cheddar cheese (I used a package of already finely shredded sharp Cheddar)
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter

Sift all the dry ingredients together, then incorporate the cheese.

Then add the wet ingredients.

Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes. (It took a total of 27 minutes in my oven.)

Beautiful & Delicious!

04 June 2013

Rice Pudding & My First Caramel Sauce

I have been thinking about starting a food blog for quite some time. Years, actually. To be a bit more specific, I like to bake. It's actually what I do for a living -- in a production dominated setting with not a lot of play time. But I'm already the author of quite a few blogs, and have simply thought I didn't have the time.

I apparently have issues with consistently writing about my personal genealogy (which has been well documented in this space). So recently I had the idea of sprinkling a bit of sugar here as a way to test the waters. I hope those of you that follow me now will continue to do so. I'm not abandoning my genealogy or love of cemeteries in the least. I'm just adding a touch of sweetness to my every day, and sharing it with you.

So, to get started, I simply walked into my pantry and opened up the first cookbook I saw. My guy really enjoys cooking the savory, so the book on top was one of his faves: Three Guys from Miami Cook Cuban. To be truthful, I didn't expect to find much. Their dessert section is a bit small, but I adore rice pudding (without raisins) so that was an easy pick. A couple of pages later was a caramel sauce recipe (which I have never made unless you count unwrapping the candies and melting them), so I knew I had found my first endeavor. This is a Cuban cookbook, so it's officially called Arroz con Leche and Dulce de Leche Salsa.

Here we go!

Rice Pudding ingredients (pg. 198):
1/2 cup uncooked rice
1 1/2 cups water
1 lemon rind (I omitted this)
1 cinnamon stick
5 cups whole milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup white cane sugar (I used regular granulated)
ground cinnamon (I didn't use since I was making the caramel sauce)

I cooked the rice and water with the cinnamon stick for about 15 minutes. The directions suggest you skim off any excess water, but I had very little (as I believe is the correct result). They also say to remove the cinnamon stick, but I did not. Left it in for the entire cooking time.

I next added the milk, salt, vanilla extract, and sugar to the rice. The directions say to cook it uncovered over low heat for 45 minutes to an hour. It's probably my stove, but it took waaay longer than that for me. I eventually turned it up to get it going, then turned it down when it showed signs of thickening. Be sure to stir it often so there's no burning.

Almost done!

On to the caramel sauce!

Ingredients (pg. 203):
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 tbsp. light corn syrup
8 tbsp. butter
1 1/4 cup heavy cream

Since I had never truly made caramel sauce before, I followed the recipe to a T. There was a whole lot of boiling and stirring -- my arm got quite tired -- but I will never take the short cut on caramel sauce again. I promise you, it's that good.

My warped whisk worked just fine!

I did take the advice of the Three Guys and put the cooled caramel sauce in a glass container so it will be easy to microwave. This stuff is yu-um -- I know I ate far too much of it alone with a spoon. BTW, it was good with the rice pudding, too! :-)

I didn't have any cute, dainty bowls handy -- my
Peacock Fiestaware had to do!

Have a sweet day!
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