Sweet & Tangy Strawberry-Vanilla-Banana Jam

Sweet & Tangy Strawberry-Vanilla-Banana Jam



I remember when I first started canning about 15 years ago. I thought I owned the world. To be able to create jams, jellies and preserves in flavors no store would ever have; to feel so danged “Earth Mother-ish”. It was empowering in its own weird way. The first thing I ever made was orange marmalade. It was, yet again with me, a case of not even realizing I had picked something that experienced cooks/canners don’t like to do and that the inexperienced canners balk at. I have a habit of that. Same thing happened the first time I made croissants not long after I started baking with yeast. I found out later that many experienced home bakers don’t like to attempt croissants because they can be touchy. I’ve always been like, “This sounds good… I want to make it” and I give it a try. Usually things go well. I suppose ignorance really is bliss, ehh? This particular jam is a favorite in my family. My son Jordan has to be stopped from just eating it out of the jar as dessert and my husband, who is diabetic, loves it even though it’s so NOT good for him. If you like the classic mix of strawberry banana, you will love this jam. And contrary to what you may think, home canning isn’t difficult at all. If you can mix, stir, ladle into jars and then boil sealed cans, you’ve got this. I will say what I say every time I post a canning recipe, however. Steer clear of recipes/web sites/blogs that tell you it is just fine and dandy to do things like seal your jars by turning them upside down or just putting a lid on and letting the inner heat seal them, etc. These methods are NOT safe. You’ll run into people who will say, “Oh, my gramma/great gramma/gramma 35 generations ago did it this way and everyone was just fine.” They’re wrong, plain and simple. We have no way of knowing how many illnesses, “Oh, she has a stomach virus” or even deaths back in the day were from food poisoning. Seal your cans the correct way and you’ll have tasty food that is safe. Here’s a wonderful site to check out if you’re new to canning- Fresh Preserving . It will guide you along in easy terms and make you see how simple this really is! You know the drill…. git to cooking. Erhmmm, canning. This makes about 8 half pint jars.

Sweet & Tangy Strawberry-Vanilla-Banana Jam

  • 4 3/3 cups prepared fruit (about 2 1/2 containers strawberries and 3 to 4 medium bananas)
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (bottles is fine)
  • 1 box pectin (the powdered kind, not the liquid)
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter to help prevent excessive foaming
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 6 3/4 cups sugar (yes, this is the correct amount; jams take a fair amount of sugar to set properly and are NOT diet food πŸ˜› )
  1. Prepare your jars as directed in the above link and set your lids in a bowl of bowling water to sterilize them.
  2. Stem your strawberries. Crush them and measure out exactly 3 1/4 cups of the mashed berries (if there is any left over, which is doubtful, just find another use for them). Mash the bananas and add exactly 1 1/2 cups of them in a large pot along with the mashed strawberries. Stir in the lemon juice and the vanilla.
  3. Stir the powdered pectin into the pot with the fruit. Make sure you have your sugar measured and at hand.
  4. Add the butter and bring the fruit/pectin mixture to a full rolling boil (a boil that can’t be stirred away), stirring constantly.
  5. Pour in the sugar all at once. Still stirring constantly, bring the mixture back to a full rolling boil Once it gets there, boil for a full minute. Immediately remove form the heat and skim off any foam that has collected on top. Let the pot sit for five minutes, stirring about once every minute to help make sure the fruit doesn’t settle, but stays suspended throughout the mixture.
  6. Ladle into the prepared jars; wipe the jar rims and threads with a clean hot, wet cloth. Cover with the lids and process in boiling water for ten minutes. Remove form the water and let cool, set on a clean towel. You’ll hear a satisfying “ping!” as each jar seals.
  7. Label and store in a dark, cool place.

Sweet & Tangy Strawberry-Vanilla-Banana Jam 2 Β  Copyright Notice: From Cupcakes To Caviar images and original content are copyright protected. Please do not publish these materials anywhere without prior permission.

Ready To Take A Chance Again…

I’m one of those people that if I have a bad experience with a particular food person, relationship, friendship, I tend to stay away from it from then on out. It’s the “once bitten twice shy” syndrome.

Take fried eggs for example. For YEARS, and I’m talking well into adulthood going on the assumption that I’ve reached adulthood at 47 I wouldn’t eat fried eggs. Why you ask? Ok, so we’ll pretend you askedΒ  with total and sincere interest in your voice, because otherwise my ego will nosedive. Well you see *hunkers down around the campfire* when I was a little sprout, a babysitter made fried eggs for me. What she DIDN’T do was clean the spoon well at all. So when I ate the eggs, there was this awful bitter taste in them. Come to find out, my older brother had been using that spoon with his chemistry set (for you young pups, back in the day, you could get kits that had all sorts of things in it to do experiments at home. How do you think Dr. Frankenstein got started? His mother bought him a chemistry set) and neglected to wash the spoon. SO I ended up with a mouthful of something that explains all my mutations today.

Same with Pomegranates. I loved them when younger…until the time I peeled one and a writhing live worm was in it. Now I’ll eat Pomegranate flavored things but not the actual fruit. Traumatized, thy name is Janet.

Then there’s coconut. When one gets a case of stomach flu after eating coconut, it can be rather off putting for a while… like say, life.Β  Plus, to be honest, while I love coconut milk and would happily sit down with a can of it and a spoon, and I love things flavored with coconut as well as enjoying Mounds Bars, I don’t like the texture of coconut when it is cooked.

I do however love things made with jam, jelly, preserves, marmalade’s, whatever. I have a very sad addiction to condiments, be they sweet or savory. My husband quickly steers me away from the jelly aisle and the condiment aisle in the stores.

So when I saw the following recipe, I decided I wanted to try it, coconut or not. It had jam and it had a crumbly oatmeal topping thing so I was won over. I figured if I hated it, oh well, I could lick all the jam out πŸ˜› and my family would like it anyway. I mean really, is there much you can put sugar in and NOT have kids like? Lo and behold, I like it! It’s very sweet so the gargantuan chunk I ate have been a bit much but then, I’ve been told that my face turns a lovely and very becoming shade of green when nauseated.

This is sweet (I mentioned that sweet thing right?) and buttery and crispy on bottom from the crust and on top from the crumbs and even with the coconut I would totally make it again. Though I still don’t like the texture of it cooked πŸ˜› and no one is getting me to ever eat a Pomegranate. So give this a try… it’s extremely easy, makes a nice sized pan and oh yeah btw, it’s pretty sweet, in case I failed to mention that. So don’t eat gargantuan chunks all at once. Spread them out over a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner.

This originally comes from Epicurious and for the most part, other than using more of the crumbs on top, and maybe less coconut on top, I didn’t change anything important enough to mention.

Oatmeal Coconut Raspberry Bars

  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked oatmeal (NOT instant)
  • 3/4 cup raspberry jam (I used almost a full jar because I was too lazy to measure)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. To be honest, I did it at 350 because 375 and baking makes me a wee bit nervous. Grease a 13×9 inch baking pan and set aside.
  2. Spread 3/4 cup of the coconut on a baking sheet and toast at 350 until light golden brown, about 10 minutes. Make sure to stir it around once or twice otherwise your edges will burn.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugars and salt. Using a pastry blender (they used a food processor but I saw no sense dirtying anything else) cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add in the oatmeal and toasted coconut and using your fingers (trust me… fingers work best here), work them into the flour/butter mixture.
  4. Reserve 1 1/4 cups of the mixture (they held back only 3/4 but I wanted a bit more crumbs on top and not a too thick bottom because when crusts are too thick they can get tough) and press the rest into the bottom of the greased pan.
  5. Spread the jam on top as best you can then sprinkle the rest of the crumbs on top then sprinkle the rest of the coconut over that.
  6. Bake at 350 until golden brown on top, about 25 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack. I found the easiest way to cut these was to cut the full batch into quarters while still in the pan, then lift each separate piece out and cut into squares the size you desire. I did four per piece. Trust me when I say….cut them smaller. Just.Trust.Me.

 

Momma Hands

When I was younger I hated my hands. I would look at the hands of other women and then compare them to my own. Theirs would be slender and dainty with nicely shaped nails that were usually painted a beautiful color. Mine however were big and squarish with long fingers and I rarely painted my nails because I could almost never get my nails long enough to paint. Even when I tried it didn’t work because my big bulky somewhat clutzy fingers would have me end up with more polish on my fingers than on my nails. And as I got even older and had more kids and the life that goes with that, things like wanting nice nails had to be put aside. My hands were, in my mind, just tools and not very pretty ones either. My only pride was that they were soft and smooth and I never got age spots and all the rest of the signs of getting older that tend to show on a womans hands.

But as I’ve aged (I’m an ancient 46 now πŸ˜› ), I’ve realized that my hands were never just tools; they were instruments. One day, they would be the sound of a flute as I would tickle my children and make them laugh. At other times, they would be the discordant but necessary bang of an out of tune piano when I had to deliver a spanking. Then later, they would be the whisper of a harp as I used them to brush back the hair of a sleeping child. Over time, my hands have played a symphony of different instruments. They have seen a life that while rarely easy and sometimes harsh, was one that has been useful, has maybe made some difference.

I looked at my hands yesterday and saw age. They are still soft, but the smoothness is giving way to the ravages of time as my skin thins. I see wrinkles and I still see nails that rarely look feminine, rarely look pretty. But I also saw so much more. I saw hands that were used inΒ  raising three children to adulthood and happy independent lives and are still being used to take care of three that aren’t grown yet.Β  I saw hands that have tenderly and gently held the heads of so many tiny babies in them, that have stroked the faces of crying toddlers, have held the hand of angry young adults and have now begun the same cycle with my grandchildren. I saw hands that have been used to knead pain out of my husbands shoulders; something I couldn’t do as well with tiny dainty hands and short fingers. I saw hands that have held his face between them when he was in pain and comforted him with my touch. These hands of mine are so much more than just utilitarian. They are instruments given to me and yes they are also tools but tools that have done so much. These hands have been used in love and in anger, to give pleasure and to, unfortunately, at times, to give a miniscule measure of pain meant to help someone grow. They have been mistreated and not well cared for and have begun to get knobby looking at the knuckles as arthritis begins to ravage them, but they have always served me well. I use them every day to create food that gives my family nourishment and joy, to take care of four human beings that depend on me. They bathe a toddler, they hug two teenagers, they love a husband. They hold a phone while I talk to my other children who live far away now and they cuddle grandchildren. I see now that I have momma hands and that, because of that, they are indeed…beautiful.

 

 

Honey & Spice Blueberry Apricot Jam

This is a sweet yet tart jam that combines the flavors of the two fruits wonderfully. The predominant flavor is Blueberry and then you get the subtle taste of Apricots, honey and spice. I was loved how this turned out. It’s a small batch, only three half pints because when I’m making new jams, I prefer to start small just in case. But this could be easily doubled or tripled. Just expect a longer cooking time. As I’ve said before, I’m not going to try to teach full out canning techniques. There are web sites that can do that much better than I and here is one of the best of them.

Here is a good link to learn proper canning techniques. πŸ™‚

http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/can_home.html

  • 1 lb fresh apricots, finely chopped (See step two)
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries, crushed
  • 1 cup good quality honey
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  1. Wash and sterilize 3 half pint canning jars. Keep ready in hot water while preparing the jam.
  2. For the apricots and blueberries- you can use a food processor to do the chopping, but don’t puree this. You want to leave some small bits and pieces.Β  Just do a couple of short pulses.
  3. Combine the fruits, honey, sugar and spices in a large heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the lemon juice and stir well. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly.
  4. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the jam until it has thickened, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, about 35 to 45 minutes.
  5. Ladle the jam into the prepared jars, leaving a 1/4 inch head space. Wipe the rims of your jars well with a clean, hot damp washcloth. As I have said before, when it comes to canning, you HAVE to have everything scrupulously clean to prevent bacteria and germs from growing when the jars are stored.
  6. Process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes. Removed from canner (or plain old large pot in my case πŸ˜› )and let sit until cool. Wipe down jars, label, then store in a cool dark place.

Momma Hands

 

 

Memories Are Made Of This

One of my favorite photos of my dad. It is just so HIM

It’s Fathers Day once again. My recipe won’t have anything to do with Fathers Day; my dad would have pretended to gag and turned his nose up saying I was getting too fancy when he saw what I had done to perfectly good peach jam. He would have then scarfed down half a jar on burnt toast (he liked it that way) when no one was around πŸ˜€ The man did love his sweets.

I miss my dad. He died in April of ’06. He was ornery, opinionated (you could not be right with my dad even if HE was obviously wrong lol), stubborn, narrow minded, broody and had problems with his temper. He was also funny as hell,Β  tenderhearted and easily hurt by inattention and feeling he was unloved. He was generous to a fault, loved to cook (he made one hell of a Giardiniera) and loved to eat (his favorite tease for me would be to eat a gazillion pieces of my fried chicken, which he loved and tell me it was ALMOST as good as a Swansons TV dinner.) and was one of my biggest fans. He lived next door to me for the last 8 years of his life and I made 99.9% of his meals. I would cook dinner, plate his up, take it over and he would usually be sitting there watching Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy. He’d ask what we were having tonight, give the requisite “oooo’s and ahhhs”, I would get him what he needed to eat and he would go back to his TV show while I sat next to him and we chatted while he ate if I had time to sit for a while.

I remember long hours of Scrabble where he would teasingly gripe cause it made no sense to him that I always kicked his ass at the game πŸ˜› . We would have Rummy marathons that would last for days. Back when he drank (he stopped later in life because he was on so many medications for various health problems and couldn’t drink with many of them) these game sessions would involve his contagious giggle when something made him happy. He had a giggle like a little boy…except when he started snorting lol. I also remember hours of talking during all of this. I could tell him anything and often did.

When I took him to do his grocery shopping, I learned to not eye anything on the shelf or pick things up or say that something sounded good. If I did, it invariably went into his cart no matter how much I protested. My kids of course loved to go shopping with him for just that reason πŸ˜€

I miss his smile. I miss hearing him say “Hey hon. Come in and sit a while” when I’d come over. He would be sitting at his kitchen table working on his sweepstakes entries, candles or incense lit and classical music playing. I miss his overly greasy spaghetti or chili (took me years to get him to drain the grease lol.). I miss how everything he cooked had 300 jalapeno peppers in it. I miss his laugh. I miss our Scrabble games and card games. I miss hearing him cuss when people gave stupid answers on Jeopardy. I miss him saying “you’re gonna mess my hair up, girl!” when I would ruffle his mostly bald head. Most of all, I miss the man who was my best friend and my biggest cheerleader. He wasn’t perfect, but he was mine. Happy Fathers Day Daddy.

Lavender Peach Jam With Vanilla

Adapted from the Peach jam recipe in the book “Blue Ribbon Preserves”

  • 3 lbs peeled and crushed peaches (refer back to my Peach Salsa recipe to learn how to peel them easily)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 7 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • 5 large sprigs lavender (don’t chop; leave whole) plus more for adding to the jars if desired
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 3 ounce pouch liquid pectin
  1. In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the peaches, lavender and half the sugar. Cover the pan and let sit for about 2 hours, stirring frequently to infuse the Lavender flavor throughout.
  2. Remove the cover. Stir in the remaining sugar, the butter and the extracts.
  3. Over medium low heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly to dissolve the sugar.
  4. When sugar is completely dissolved, turn heat up to medium high and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil (a boil that can NOT be stirred down), stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat and skim off any foam (a ladle works best for this)
  5. Return the pan to the heat and again bring to a full rolling boil. Stir in the contents of the pouch of pectin. Again return to a full boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute and then remove the pan from the heat. Skim off any foam.
  6. To prevent the jam from separating, allow it to cool for five minutes, stirring every minute to help distribute the peaches evenly. Ladle the jam into hot sterilized jars, leaving a 1/4 inch head space and adding a small sprig of Lavender to the jars if desired. Make sure to wipe the rims well with a clean cloth. Apply the lids and boil for ten minutes in a boiling water bath. The recipe said that this made 8 half pints but I actually got 11 out of it.

This jam is really quite tasty. I was kind of tickled with it. It has a subtle (Almost too subtle; next time I think I’ll use more Lavender) Herby flowery flavor that melds very well with the delicate flavor of the peaches. I can see using this as a glaze for roast poultry with some Herbs De Provence added to intensify the hit of Lavender you get. Also just adding it to a plain old English Muffin is pretty yummy too :-D. If you try it, please let me know what you think of it. πŸ™‚