Sauces, Glazes, Dressings & Garnishes
Being a working mom, I always wish that I had more time with my kids – time to go out and do things. You know, trips to the parks, local museums, children’s events… that sort of thing. With our current routines, I feel like there’s just not enough time to do all of that, with working 5 days a week, finding time to do laundry, clean the house, grocery shop, and still manage to find some time to see friends and decompress a bit. But the one thing I think my hubby and I have been pretty good at is taking our kids out to the local farms to pick fruit during the summer and apples and the obligatory Halloween pumpkins during the fall.
The past couple of years, I’ve been lucky enough that my parents were in town for strawberry picking. The first year we went, we set off with the intention of picking some berries and maybe making a batch of the jam that my mom used to make when I was growing up. We accidentally ended up with close to 20 pounds of strawberries. Needless to say that day was filled with 3 times as much jam-making as anticipated (in addition to setting aside berries for freezing and eating) and a number of trips to the store to pick up extra supplies.
Since then, we’ve prepared a bit better. We still pick roughly 20 pounds of strawberries, but with the intention of canning more (my brothers and uncles have been over the moon with gifts of homemade jam). My son and daughter have a blast picking and eating the fresh berries, and my daughter can’t wait to get into the kitchen with Mommy and Manna (aka Grandma) to make some jam. It’s a family tradition that makes everyone happy.
This jam can be made as chunky or smooth as you’d like, depending on how much you crush the strawberries. And I’ll give you my little secret – It’s on the sweeter side, and makes a wonderful topping for vanilla ice cream as well.
Cooking Note: I’ve made jam this two years in a row now, both times with my parents. I highly recommend taking advantage of the prep steps noted below, as the jam cooks up pretty quickly. If you have a second set of hands around to help with setting the timers and getting the jars ready for you, use them!
Adapted from Certo
Makes 8-10 Cups
- Canning jars, with lids and bands
- Very hot water (i.e. heat on a stove until very hot or boiling)
- Wax, for sealing the jam
- A small inexpensive pot with a lip, for melting the wax (I recommend one designated solely for this purpose)
- Tongs, to move hot jars
- A large (8+ quart) stainless steel stockpot, for making the jam (Don’t got smaller – the mixture will bubble up a good bit)
- A stainless steel ladle, for portioning out the hot jam
- A wide-mouthed funnel, for portioning out the hot jam
- A baking sheet, lined with aluminum foil
- Kitchen timer
- 5 c. barely crushed strawberries (from ~8 c. whole strawberries, hulled)*
- 7 c. granulated sugar (I used Dixie Crystals sugar)
- 1/2 tsp. unsalted butter
- 1 packet Certo pectin
* Strawberries were barely crushed – smashed once or twice with a potato masher so that most were not whole. Don’t worry if it looks too chunky – the strawberries will break down more as they cook.
Prep: Wash jars and clean out sink. Place clean jars in the sink.
Fill a medium stockpot (~10+ cups) with water and start heating on stove. This water will be used to heat up canning jars.
Start melting wax in a small pot on another burner. When wax is completed melted, keep warm on lowest setting.
Place foil-lined baking sheet on the counter next to the stove (or wherever you’re going to be filling the jars). Set kitchen timer nearby.
Make the Jam: In a large (8+ quart) stainless steel stockpot over high heat, combine crushed strawberries, sugar, and unsalted butter, stirring constantly until sugar is melted. Bring to a rolling boil, 8-10 minutes.
When mixture is very close to a boil, take hot water and fill waiting canning jars. The goal is to keep the jars very hot, so refill as needed, if the water cools before the jam is ready.
Stir to make sure the mixture is fully at a boil. Boil for 1 minute (time it!). Stir in Certo. Return to a rolling boil (happens very quickly, within a minute) and continue boiling for another minute. Turn off stove.
Can: Working quickly, empty water from canning jars and move jars onto waiting baking sheet. Using the funnel and ladle, quickly fill jars with jam, leaving about an inch of room at the top of the jars. Top off with about a 1/2 inch of melted wax. Let jars rest, allowing the jam to thicken and cool, and the wax to harden and seal in the jam.
If jars don’t completely seal (wax moves around or jam starts to come up above the wax), remove wax and store in the fridge for immediate use.
Store sealed jars in a cool place.
Serving: When read to open a jar, use a fork or knife to puncture the wax and remove from jar. The wax may be cleaned and set aside to be remelted for future canning.
This feels a bit like a cheater post – a list of ingredients with one line of directions. But I couldn’t fit it nicely into my stew post (coming Sunday), so you get two. It makes up a little for my light posting schedule this month, right?
Anyway, homemade stew seasoning takes just minutes to whip up and I’m willing to bet that you have everything in your pantry already. But more than being quick, homemade seasoning means that you know exactly what’s in it – no preservatives or ingredients you can’t pronounce. Don’t make stew much? Simply halve the recipe for an even smaller quantity.
Homemade Stew Seasoning
- 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1/2 Tbs. basil
- 1/2 Tbs. parsley
- 1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
- 1 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbs. paprika
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne
- 1/2 Tbs. celery seed
- 1 Tbs. onion powder
- 1 Tbs. garlic powder
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well.
Use 2-3 Tbs. mix per pound of meat used.
Yield: This recipe makes enough for 2-3 batches of stew, when 2 lbs. meat are used per batch.
Ever since starting my own family, I’ve enjoyed going fruit picking. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always enjoyed it. But there’s something special about watching your child eat fruit off of the bush or tree, and sometimes, become a complete and adorable mess in the process of eating the fruit.
I’m pretty new to preserving but it’s something I been enjoying as much as going fruit picking. Plus, it became a necessity when we picked such great quantities, particularly of berries, that we couldn’t eat them all before they went bad. If only berries lasted as long as apples… <sigh>
Anyway, with an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables in gardens, farms, and markets, the Sunday Supper Community is sharing their favorite recipes for preserving (freezing, canning, pickling, etc.) summer produce. With that in mind, this week I’m sharing a blackberry jam recipe that we enjoyed (chosen because unlike most jams, it had the minimal about of sweetener in it).
Be sure to check out the other Sunday Supper recipes for preserving your produce after the recipe.
Blackberry Chia Seed Jam
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
Makes about 2 cups
- 1 lb. fresh blackberries
- 2-3 Tbs. agave
- 2 Tbs. chia seeds
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan, bring blackberries to a boil, stirring frequently. Lower heat and allow berries to simmer for 5 minutes, or until soften. Lightly mash berries to desired consistency.
Stir in agave and chia seeds. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens.
Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
If using immediately: Allow jam to cool before pouring into a clean, airtight jar. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
To Preserve: Pour into a clean, airtight container and freeze.
EDIT: Preservation via canning has been removed from this post, as it has been suggested that canning chia seeds is not safe.
More Recipes to Preserve Your Summer Harvest
- Blackberry Chia Seed Jam from Books -n- Cooks
- Cherry Lemon Jam from Food Lust People Love
- Chocolate Blackberry Preserves from The Redhead Baker
- Gilded Bluebarb Jam from What Smells So Good?
- Hamburger Dill Chips from A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Piri Piri Hot Sauce from Curious Cuisiniere
- Southwestern Salsa from The Freshman Cook
- Spiced Peach Jam from Cosmopolitan Cornbread
- Spiced Vanilla Rhubarb Jam from Hezzi-D’s Books and Cooks
- Strawberry Balsamic Syrup from Cindy’s Recipes and Writings
- Watermelon Butter from Palatable Pastime
- Blueberry Peach Fruit Roll-Ups from Cupcakes & Kale Chips
- Dried Pineapple from Take A Bite Out of Boca
- Fermented Spicy Daikon Spears + A Cocktail from Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Simple Pickled Cabbage from Simply Healthy Family
- How to Freeze Blueberries from Pies and Plots
- Peach Crisp from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Roast Tomato Soup with Basil-Butter Croutons from Caroline’s Cooking
- Summer Veggies from Momma’s Meals
- Raspberry Vinegar from Magnolia Days
- Black Radish Pickles from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures
- Bread & Butter Pickles from Adventures in All Things Food
- Homemade Bread and Butter Pickles from Life Tastes Good
- Mustard Pickles from Jane’s Adventures in Dinner
- Pickled Cherries with Five Spices from Nosh My Way
Preserving in oil or butter
And for even more help and support
- 5 Food Preservation Tips from Sunday Supper Movement
For the first time in several years, I feel like we’ve had fall here in MD. Usually the weather goes straight from keep-your-ac-cranking hot to curl-up-in-front-of-the-fire cold. This year, we actually have had some beautiful fall weather. Sweatshirt weather. Apple picking weather.
While my apple picking buddy is away right now (and missed terribly!), I couldn’t let this year pass without a trip to the farm. My hubby and I took Sophie pumpkin picking for the first time. We had a picnic with some great friends. And I dragged my hubby to the apple orchard, to pick some of the tastiest apples of the year. Seriously. Apple picking apples taste sooo much better than store-bought apples.
I had a lot of plans for those apples, beyond eating. I probably didn’t pick enough. I made Apple Berry and Rosemary Shortbread from Desserts for Breakfast (who takes amazing photos if you haven’t visited her blog). I made a ton of apple sauce for Sophie (she only likes homemade apple sauce, not store bought apple sauce). And finally, I tried my hand at canning for the first time – I made apple butter, my contribution this week for the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats hosted by Meal Planning Magic. While the apple butter is a great contribution to a holiday breakfast table, I’m planning on giving my jars as Christmas gifts to teachers as part of an apple-themed basket along with some apple-scented items from Bath and Body Works.
- I used Red Delicious apples for this recipe. The original recipe calls for 2 lbs. MacIntosh apples and 2 lbs. Granny Smith apples. However, author Eleanor Topp says that you can use whatever is fresh and local. The different types might “change the texture of the butter slightly, but starting with quality fruit is the most important thing.”
- The recipe refers to a “procedure for shorter processing time,” also from The Complete Book of Year-Round Small-Batch Preserving. Those directions are interspersed in the recipe below, so that you can time everything appropriately.
- I did not use any special canning equipment. I used a large stockpot instead of a canner, and regular kitchen tongs instead of canning tongs. The only thing I bought were mason jars.
- I found the labels for the jars at Money Saving Mom. Head over there to download your free printable labels.
Adapted from The Complete Book of Year-Round Small-Batch Preserving via Epicurious
Makes 7 cups (4 – 8 oz. jars)
- 4 lbs. apples, peeled, cored, and diced (~10-12 apples)
- 1 c. apple cider
- 2 c. granulated sugar
- 2 Tbs. lemon juice
Get the apple butter started: In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine apples and apple cider. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced by half and apples have started to soften.
Meanwhile, fill a boiling-water canner (or a very large stockpot) with hot water. Bring to a boil. Using tongs, place canning jars in boiling water. Water should come about 2 inches over the jars. Boil for at least 10 minutes to sterilize. (This step took ~45 minutes for me.)
Continue with the apple butter: Stir in sugar and lemon juice. Increase heat again to medium-high and boil for another 20 minutes or so.
A few minutes before apples are ready, add lids to boiling water and sanitize according to manufacturer’s instructions.
Line a baking sheet with a couple of clean dish towels while you’re waiting.
Finish the Apple Butter & Can: Using an immersion mixer, puree apple butter to desired consistency. Remove jars and lids from canner/stockpot and place on lined baking sheet. Pour apple butter into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2-inch of room to the rim. If needed, remove air bubbles from jar by sliding a clean spatula between glass and food. Add additional apple butter if needed.
Wipe rim of jar to remove any excess food. Center lid on jar and screw on band until fingertip-tight. Return sealed jars to the canner, adding boiling water if needed to ensure that the jars are covered by 1-2 inches of water. Boil for 5 minutes.
Remove jars and return to lined baking sheet to cool to room temperature, at least 24 hours. Check jar seals – the lids should be turned downwards and should not move. Tighten band (mine came loose even though jar was sealed).
Label and store in a cool, dark place until giving away or enjoying.
Lately, I’ve had a difficult time deciding what to make in the kitchen. I’ve been tired and my hands have been bothering me, so whatever I make has to be quick and easy. I haven’t been super inspired by anything – I’ll settle on a recipe and then a bit later, change my mind…
It was the same thing a couple of weeks ago for Superbowl. I hemmed and hawed but ultimate decided on this Mediterranean Layer Dip, which I’ve had bookmarked for a while. I was not disappointed – the dip was fantastic! It had lots of flavor and was easy to customize to personal taste. I can’t wait to make it again.
Mediterranean Layer Dip
Makes a 12-inch plate of dip
- 1½-2 containers store-bought hummus (or homemade if you prefer)
- 1/4 a red onion, diced
- ½ a cucumber, seeded and diced
- 3-4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
- 1 recipe cilantro pesto (below)
- 1 recipe oven-dried tomatoes (below)
- Additional optional toppings: chopped banana peppers, olives, or more toasted pine nuts
Ingredients for the Cilantro Pesto:
- 1 bunch (1½ c.) fresh cilantro
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 Tbs. pecans or walnuts
- 2 Tbs. pine nuts
Ingredients for the Oven-Dried Tomatoes (also from Annie’s Eats)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- pinch of sugar
- pinch of kosher salt
- pinch of black pepper
- extra-virgin olive oil
Make the Oven-Dried Tomatoes: Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and preheat oven to 225F. Place tomatoes on baking sheet, cut side up. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sugar, salt, and pepper. Bake until tomatoes are mostly shriveled up, about 3 hours. Store in the fridge until ready to be used.
Posts for vanilla extract have been flying around the blogosphere for quite a while. Reviews are always great – wonderful flavor, a fun and create gift… but I held back from trying it myself, mostly because vanilla beans are so expensive. I finally ordered myself a bunch from the highly recommended and economical Beanilla, and decided to make vanilla extract myself. (It helped that my jar of vanilla extract was running dangerously low!) I’ve seen instructions where as few as 3 vanilla beans can be used for 8 oz. vodka (i.e. on Joy the Baker, Chocolate & Zucchini, and My Baking Addiction) or even with run. I started off this way, using vodka and Tahitian vanilla beans, but after 2 months, I ended up with a vodka strongly flavored with vanilla rather than vanilla extract. I added two more vanilla beans and within a few days, the vodka had turned into vanilla extract.
Homemade Vanilla Extract: Starter
- 8 oz. vodka
- 4-5 medium vanilla beans
Pour vodka into a clean airtight container.
Split the vanilla beans lengthwise. Add split vanilla beans to vodka.
Close and shake. Store in a cool, dark place for about 2 months, shaking once a week.
Homemade Vanilla Extract: Reuse
You can keep adding to vanilla extract. When other recipes call for vanilla beans, throw the remaining bean into the jar and add a little more vodka. This way, your jar will never be empty.
When jar of vanilla extract is empty, remove vanilla beans and dry them out and reuse them in another vanilla extract starter set or throw them in a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar. The beans can be used up to 3 times for vanilla extract, as the vodka soaks up only so much flavor.
First off, apologies for the lack of posts lately, and the lack of posts over the next week or two. I’ve been very busy with work, stuff around the house, and family & friend commitments. I do have several recipes to share with you saved off, but I just can’t seem to find the time or energy to sit down, write my posts, and upload my photos. But I promise, I’ll be back to a regular schedule soon.
I first tried vanilla sugar a year or two ago. A friend gave me some of it, not quite sure what it was (the label wasn’t in English). I love it immediately. Just a hint of vanilla that brightened up my tea and provided a lovely garnish for some scones. Since then, I’ve been stocking some in the house, mostly for tea, coffee, and a sprinkle on some baked goods. It’s ridiculously easy, keeps forever, and is a great way to extend the life of those expensive vanilla beans. When homemade, the vanilla sugar is even better than the store bought. It is flecked with little black vanilla seeds, and gives off a wonderful vanilla scent when you unseal the container. (And now I want a cup of tea, with a bit of vanilla sugar in it!)
Vanilla Sugar: Starter Set
Yields 2 Cups
- 2 c. sugar
- 1-2 vanilla beans
Put 2 c. sugar in an airtight container.
Split the vanilla bean in half, lengthwise. Scrape out the seeds and mix them into sugar. The add the vanilla bean.
Allow to sit at least overnight before using.
Keep it going: As you use the sugar, continue to add more. Add fresh vanilla beans (seeds and bean) or, if you have the bean leftover from another recipe, just the bean. This keeps indefinitely.
Uses: Use in place of granulated sugar in baking, stir into tea or coffee, in hot chocolate mix, a sprinkle on french toast or fresh fruit
The past couple weeks have been pretty rough. Too much work, too little sleep. Too many errands and chores, too little relaxation. So this past weekend, I promised myself that I would do what I wanted to do. I refused to do any work; I refused to do chores or errands. It was all about me.
The weekend ended up being packed. I went for a walk with a friend. I made strawberry muffins for Stampin’ Up, and at Stampin’ Up, I made Christmas cards (Christmas in August). I went out to dinner and drinks and to see Wicked in the city. And then, since I’ve been craving warm, cozy meals (hopefully thinking that the heat would finally break), I spent the day making marinara sauce, two batches of veggie lasagna, ziti with spinach and spicy Italian sausage, and homemade focaccia bread. (Stay tuned for recipes this week). This was lunch, dinner and dessert for the week as well as breakfast and lunch for the “Bakery.”
The below marinara sauce was the base for the weekend’s cooking. It’s taken me a while to perfect it. I loved my mom’s marinara sauce, but her recipe wasn’t very helpful when I first started cooking – a list of ingredients to add “to taste.” I ended up taking her recipe and a couple of others, building and adapting until I found a combination I was happy with. Now, I’ve made the sauce so many times that I really can go by taste, without a recipe, but I wrote the proportions down, just for you. The recipe is easily multiplied and freezes well.
By Books n’ Cooks
- 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 onion, small dice
- 2 tsp. minced garlic
- 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 14 oz. water
- 1 6-oz. cans tomato paste
- 1/2 Tbs. kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1 Tbs. dried basil
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. fennel seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbs. sugar
* May add dried parsley, red pepper flakes, additional herbs and seasonings according to preference.
In a medium-large sauce pan over medium heat, heat olive oil. Add onions and garlic, stirring and sauteing until translucent. Add crushed tomatoes, water (I fill the empty tomato can halfway with water, swirl to get remaining tomato bits), and tomato paste. Stir and let heat for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients. When sauce is warm, taste and add additional herbs if needed. (I love the basil and fennel and typically have a heavy hand with those.)
When heated and starting to bubble, lower heat and let simmer for 2 hours. Pull out bay leaf before serving.
This is a big year for many of my friends – the bit 3-0. Everyone is choosing a different way to celebrate. We had a ladies weekend at the spa for the first 30th birthday of the year, enjoying massages, pedicures, wraps, and the like for one friend’s birthday. For the second and most recent birthday, another friend hosted a birthday BBQ and asked K and I to bake her cupcakes. We were excited to provide dessert for the BBQ and the three of us made a night out of baking. We had a great night munching on a tomato-mozzarella tartlet, drinking limoncello cosmopolitans (had to beg a neighbor for ice), and baking up a storm. For the celebration, we made Cosmo Cupcakes and Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes or what K’s friend fondly dubbed “boozecakes.”
In the spirit of “go big or go home,” I decided to garnish my Limoncello Cupcakes with slices of candied lemon. These sweets were easy to make, but did take a while. It took about two days before the syrup to dry enough for me to handle them. Completely worth it. Like any good cook, I had to try the lemon slices before serving… again and again and again. They’re very sweet, with a slightly stronger taste in the candied rind, and set on top of a cupcake, make a striking presentation. Not going to lie, I was also eating the leftover lemon syrup with a spoon (but would probably be a great addition to a hot or sweet tea or mixed drink).
Candied Lemon Slices
Adapted from Use Real Butter
Makes 1-3 dozen slices
- 1-3 lemons
- 2 c. sugar
Cut lemons into thin slices, about 1/8 inch thick, 10-12 slices per lemon. If the slices tear easily, they’re too thin.
In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, prepare an ice bath and set aside. When water is boiling, blanch lemons for 1 minute. Remove with a strainer and plunge into ice bath to stop the cooking.
In another medium saucepan (or the one you just used) over medium heat, bring 1 c. water and the sugar to a boil. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Lower to a simmer and add lemon slices. Simmer for 1-2 hours (I did about 90 minutes).
As water boils, set a wire cooling rack over a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
With a set of tongs, remove slices from syrup, allowing excess sugar to drop off, and set on a wire rack to dry. This may take up to 48 hours.