sour cherry jam with brandy

IMG_6857Remember those cherries I posted about a few weeks ago?  When I made the drunken cherries, I took two baskets of the four that I had purchased and turned them into jam.  My mother in law sent me the cutest little book on jam making, Seasons of Jam by Jeannette Habit and I decided to try the recipe for cherry jam.

IMG_6861To make the jam, rinse, dry and pit 3 pounds of red tart cherries.  Combine the cherries with 2 cups of sugar and the juice of 1 lemon in a bowl and let it sit for 30 minutes.  Pour the mixture into a stainless steel or enamel pot and simmer for 30 minutes.  Be sure to stir it frequently and skim off any foam that forms.  Pour into a heat proof bowl, cover with parchment and chill overnight.

The next day, return the jam to the cleaned pot and boil on high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently and again, removing the foam as necessary.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.  It will get darker and the liquid will look more like a syrup.  Add 1/4 cup of Kirsch, Brandy or your favorite liqueur and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Cook until it reaches 210F, the jam should set properly.  Ladle into prepared canning jars, and you can process them as you wish.  For mine, I used the water bath method.  It will make 5-6 half pint jars.


linzer cookies with fig jam

the whole repurposing craze has caught me.  i just love it-the idea of turning useless stuff into a money maker; i’m all about that.  honestly, i do like the idea of using things in a new or unusual way.  we hung a wire window planter box up on our kitchen wall.  ok, not exciting.  except we hung it upside down and use hooks to hang pots from it.  fascinating stuff, i know!  what does it have to do with cookies?  nothing.  it was the repurposing thing, i went off track here…
so, back to the story, as a tuesdays with dorie baker, i often make things i would not generally make for just the two of us.  it is often way more than we can eat.  sometimes i cut the recipe in half or freeze half.  for a recent baking challenge, we made a crostata.  it called for a rich, short crust that was loaded with almonds and sesame seeds.  since i wanted to make a smaller tart, i had a big ball of dough leftover and i froze it for another day.  a recent get together of local food bloggers seemed like a good time to use it since it would make wonderful bite sized linzer cookies.  read all about the tart and see the recipes by clicking here.

cookie cutters are something i collect; i have hundreds of them.  literally, hundreds.  this is an inexpensive set that i found while wandering through a local tjmaxx/homegoods store.  they are double sided so you can use the straight side or the fluted side-10 cutters for the price of 5!

to roll out little bite sized sandwich cookies, i used a pair of thin wooden dowels.  that is my secret for a consistent thickness and by choosing different sized dowels, i get the dough rolled out to the necessary thickness every time.

to cut the window of the top cookie in the sandwich, i pulled out a different set of cutters.  this is a larger set of straight circles made of metal.

 a quick sprinkle of sanding sugar gave the cookies a nice sparkle.

a small dollop of homemade fig jam was the perfect choice of filling for a dough studded with almonds and sesame seeds.

 finishing the sandwiches with the top cookie

all ready to go on my fancy vintage pressed aluminum serving tray-a treat fit for serving to food bloggers!  and by the way, i came home with an empty tray…

the little fig tree that could; fresh fig jam

we planted two fig trees in our yard.  the older of the two is a brown turkey fig.  this year was a good year for figs-we picked 10 pounds!

did you know that figs are not actually a fruit?  they are a scion or an infructescence and almost all of the trees need a tiny wasp to pollinate the flowers.  that wasp does not live in tennessee and for that reason, only two varieties of figs can be grown here; the brown turkey and the celeste varieties do not need pollination.

so, what does one do with 10 pounds of fresh figs?  having made one tart and stuff myself silly with them, i made jam.  now i can have figs for the winter while i dream of summer, and the next harvest.

simmering the figs with cinnamon sticks and vanilla beans.  a little lemon juice and zest helped round out the flavors.

canned and cooling

until next year, this will have to do!  to make some fig jam, just use the basic jam recipe of 2 to 1 fruit to sugar  and add flavors as you like(citrus zest, spices, alcohol and so on) or try this recipe.  happy canning!

biscuits and jam; a southern tradition

baking a cake to take to the garden each sunday morning can get a little boring.  every now and then, i make something different.  soda bread, scones, muffins, whatever; anything but a cake will be fine for those days.  when the blackberries in the garden were at their peak, i picked six pounds in one morning.  after taking them home, i cooked up a batch of blackberry jam.  fresh jam meant i would need biscuits, lots of biscuits to take to the garden in the morning.
biscuits have always been a favorite of mine, specifically yankee biscuits.  crispy and flaky on top, they practically beg you to slather them with butter.  yankee biscuits are made by cutting cold butter or shortening into the flour and baking powder.  keep in mind that the flour is not self rising, you would be hard pressed to find it up north.  the dough is patted out so that it is at least as thick as your fingers and then cut.  when they bake, they rise up and the flaky layers almost looked stacked on top of each other.

cut the butter into cubes and keep it chilled until needed.  cold fat is not as likely to smear or melt into the dough during mixing and shaping.  lots of little lumps of butter mean lots of flaky layers after they are baked.

the dough is easy to make and does not require much equipment.  an old fashioned pastry blender is perfect for getting the butter cut to the size of small peas.

pat it out, don’t roll it out.  the less your dough gets worked, the more tender and flaky it is.  judge the thickness by laying your fingers next to the dough; it should be at least as thick as your fingers for tall biscuits.

everything i used to make biscuits-no special equipment needed!
almost ready for the oven
a little brush of butter and in they go

hot out of the oven!
buttermilk biscuits
makes about 16-2 1/2 inch biscuits
3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes (plus more for brushing)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
preheat the oven to 425.  line a baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.  place the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a shallow bowl with a flat bottom and stir to combine.  sprinkle the butter cubes over the top of the flour and using a pastry blender, two knives(or forks) or your fingers, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it is a little smaller than peas.  pour the buttermilk over the mixture and stir until it comes together.  place the dough on a well floured work space and knead it a few times to make it more manageable-use plenty of flour to prevent sticking.  gently pat the flour out until it is as thick as your fingers or a little thicker and cut with a round cutter.  place the biscuits on the prepared pan, brush with a little melted butter and bake until golden brown, about 12 minutes.  serve immediately.
we enjoyed these immensely with a lot of soft butter and fresh blackberry jam.