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Easy Strawberry Jam

Hey everyone! It’s almost the end of January already! I can’t believe it. I’ve been really busy lately and haven’t had a lot of spare time on my hands. I really couldn’t figure out what to make for the blog this week from Back to Basics. I kept flipping through the book and nothing really jumped out at me until I got to the final recipe…
Homemade jam is something that SEEMS daunting but really is quite easy. I love it because you know exactly what is going into the jam and it makes great gifts. I know I’ve made it plenty of times, but I’ve always used sure-jell to get the jam to set. Sure-jell is powdered pectin that you can get from the store and mix with sugar and fruit to create jam. In true Ina style, her recipe in Back to Basics doesn’t call for sure-jell. She mentions that pectin is a natural jelling agent that is found in fruit. According to my research, some fruits have more pectin than others. Firmer fruits like apples, pears, plums, and citrus fruits contain the most pectin while softer fruits like berries contain little. In Ina’s recipe, she includes a little bit of apple to help the fruit gel. You’ll want to dice the apple very finely so most of it will melt into the jam. The finer the better. You could even grate it if you want.

 

I followed Ina’s instructions and utilized a candy thermometer to know when the jam would be done cooking. However, there is a great and easy way to test the “doneness” of your jam. Simply place a plate in the freezer while the jam is cooking. Once you get to around the 30 minute mark, it’ll look thick. Take the plate out of the freezer and drop a little bit of jam in the center. Let it sit for a few seconds and run your finger right through the middle of it. If you can turn the plate on its side and the jam doesn’t run down through where you ran your finger through it – it’s done! If not, let it go for another fiveish minutes and try again.

All done!

To add to the pectin level of the jam, I substituted the grand mariner in the recipe with freshly squeezed orange juice and added a little bit of the orange zest to add more flavor.

The best part of this recipe – it’s totally interchangeable. You can add/substitute really any berries in this and it will turn out great. Cut it in half if you want to only make a little bit. And for storage, you can seal them following canning instructions OR something I grew up on, just place them in the freezer. We called it freezer jam. It will stay good for months. Just take it out and let it to thaw in the refrigerator. It’s a great way to make the most of summer fruit or even seconds that you can get at a serious discount at the farmer’s market. They’re usually overripe and are perfect for jam. It’s also a great way to use up under-ripe store-bought fruit. Cooking it down concentrates the flavor.

The perfect vehicle for this is a homemade roll with a little dot of butter.

I encourage you to try making your own homemade jam, it is foolproof. You can totally do it!

Print Recipe
Easy Strawberry Jam
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 250.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
cups
Ingredients
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Passive Time 1 hour
Servings
cups
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Place the strawberries in a colander and rinse them under cold water. Drain and hull the strawberries, cutting larger ones in half. Place the strawberries in a dutch oven or soup pot. Add the sugar and orange juice.
  2. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Add the blueberries and continue to keep the mixture at a rolling boil and allow to reach 220 degrees. This will take about 30-35 minutes.
  3. Allow the mixture to cool for at least one hour and then store covered in jars in the refrigerator. It will keep for about 2 weeks in the fridge. You can also place them in jars and place in the freezer and they will last for months!
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The Spice of Life

You guys, it’s getting creepily close to Christmas and I’m not sure if I’m excited or sad! Maybe some of both. Excited for the holiday and sad that it is passing by so quickly!  As I sit here to write this, I have A Year Without a Santa Claus on tv and just listening to it brings back some of the childhood excitement the season brings me.

Having a little taste test before bed

With it being so close to the holiday, tis the season for some quality gingerbread. I’m not talking about the fancy Martha Stewartesque gingerbread houses all decked out with their candy cane gates and jolly rancher swimming pool. Ina offers up a much different version of gingerbread. It is a rustic dessert that is dense, spicy, and sweet. This is a perfect addition to any holiday dessert table this year. Also, it makes the whole house smell AMAZING. Think of it as edible potpourri. The orange frosting on top adds more flavor to the cake but you can opt to skip it and simply sprinkle it with powdered sugar.

How could this possibly be bad?!?!

This cake is sweetened by molasses, there is no other sugar actually in it. Molasses is a very dark, sweet, smoky syrup that gives gingerbread its unique color and flavor. One thing I did want to look up is what exactly unsulfured molasses is since the recipe specifically called for it. I’ve never really paid attention in the store. According to my research, molasses is the by product of the sugar making process. So when the sugar cane is crushed to make the little sugar granules we use to sweeten almost anything, the leftover is molasses. In some instances, sulfur is used during this process. I can only imagine that the sulfur adds a not too pleasant taste. I have also learned that most molasses in the states is unsulfured, so you don’t really have to worry about it. It’s always safe though to check the label to make sure.

Bubbly molasses and butter

This cake also has it’s fair share of spice in it. A whole teaspoon and a half of ground ginger root (it is gingerbread after all), cinnamon, and cloves give the cake balance with the earthy sweetness of the molasses. Another balancing ingredient which I think it totally necessary is the orange zest. You can’t taste it too much in the cake but it definitely adds a layer of flavor and helps cut through the sweetness.

I did make a few changes to the recipe, not major, but some differences. I didn’t use the recommended golden raisins, I used the regular ones. They are easier to find, taste the same, and I think more nostalgic looking. It reminds me of the applesauce cake my grandma made with the dark raisins in it. Also, I don’t have an 8×8 pan so I had to improvise. I do have a 6-cup bundt pan which worked perfectly, all I had to do was up the baking time by 15 minutes. If you use the bundt pan, I recommend baking the gingerbread for 45 minutes and check it and if it needs more time, add 5 minutes then check again. I got about 15 slices out of the bundt cake which was great as I had planned to take it to a work holiday lunch the next day.

A little edible decoration never hurt…

I decided to add a little extra Ina to my gingerbread. A mantra of hers is that she always garnishes a dish with an ingredient in the dish, “so you know exactly what’s in it.” So, I used my special zester that peels little strips off of the citrus. For this recipe, I zested half the orange which went into the cake, then I used this zester on the rest of the orange for the garnish. This isn’t necessary, you could just zest the rest of the orange regularly into the frosting to add extra flavor if you wanted. If you want to purchase a zester like this one, check out the amazon link below. Just make sure you zest BEFORE you cut and juice the orange, otherwise it’ll be a mess.

A great wine to pair this with is Winc’s new sparkling wine, Fink’s Widow. Bubbly just screams holidays and it is great for cocktails or after a meal with dessert. It has a lot of great apple and even pineapple flavors that are really crisp on the palate with the effervescence. You can’t beat the price on this one – only $13. That’s about the same price as prosecco. Many sparkling wines are difficult to find that cheaply (that are good), but this one is definitely a winner. It’s great on it’s own, but I was tempted into turning it into a holiday mimosa. Use this link for a discount on your first order: https://hi.winc.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

FW spreading some holiday cheer!

I first got the idea for this cocktail by seeing sugared cranberries and wanting to make them. When you make sugared cranberries, you cook them for a little and then let them soak in a mixture of sugar and water. The leftover syrup is turned slightly red from the cranberries and has great flavors. I added about 2 teaspoons of the simple syrup to 2 Tablespoons of cranberry cocktail mix and then topped it with the Finke’s Widow. I put the finished sugared cranberries on a large toothpick as garnish. SO GOOD! The cranberry flavor is balanced out by the sweetness of the syrup and the wine adds some crispness to the drink. This is one you’ll definitely want to make for your holiday party. As an alternative to the sugared cranberries, you can always freeze some fresh cranberries and use them as ice cubes in your drink as garnish and to keep the drink cold without watering it down.

Festive and refreshing


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Print Recipe
Old-Fashioned Gingerbread
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 202
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Course Dessert
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Passive Time 3 hours
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8-inch cake pan. Place the rum and raisins in a small pan, cover, and heat until the rum boils. Turn off the heat and set aside. Place the butter and molasses in another small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl. Cool for 5 minutes, then mix in the sour cream and orange zest.
  2. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt together into a small bowl. Mix to combine. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the molasses mixture and mix only until smooth.
  3. Drain the raisins and add them and the crystallized ginger to the mixture with a spatula. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.
  4. When the cake is cooled, whisk together the confectioner's sugar and orange juice and pour it over the gingerbread allowing it to drip down the sides. Cut into 9 squares.
Recipe Notes

You can use a 6 cup bundt pan. If so, increase baking time to 45 minutes and if it isn't done completely, put back into the over for another 5 minutes. Using a bundt pan yields about 12-15 slices of cake.

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The Salad for All

This has been an emotional week for all, this whole election cycle has been quite a production and Tuesday was the finale. There seems to be a lot of divide on social media regarding the outcome – however, if there’s one thing I know is that nobody can disagree on good food. The kitchen and table are both places where we can all come together despite our differences. To help you find some solace in your week, I decided to try to find a recipe that I think anyone would like (this included either subbing or leaving out some ingredients, because of special diets and such).

While skimming through Back to Basics, I looked for a recipe this week that would easily appeal to all. I KNOW that some hate the idea of salad but this one is very easy and can be adapted to fit both carnivores and vegetarians alike.  Of course I am referring to the Cape Cod Chopped Salad. It has all the flavors of the season with maple syrup, orange, walnuts, blue cheese and cranberries. For the meat eaters, it has bacon which can easily be left out for a vegetarian option.

It's still healthy if it's still technically a salad, right?

It’s still healthy if it’s still technically a salad, right?

The dressing is very easy to make ahead has tons of flavor – orange zest & juice, maple syrup, dijon mustard, vinegar and olive oil. I’ve noticed that Ina is super into using dijon mustard in her vinaigrette recipes. I know that it has great flavor, but I’ve learned that the mustard helps the dressing emulsify. When you mix vinegar and oil alone, they never incorporate into one homogeneous mixture. The mustard helps to bind it all together and give it some creaminess that helps the dressing coat the salad just right.  I mixed it all up in a mason jar and I think I’m going to save it to have for lunches or dinner next week.

Using a jar makes me feel so hipster!

Using a jar makes me feel so hipster!

For the maple syrup, you’re going to want to choose the real stuff. This isn’t the time to use pancake syrup which is honestly just corn syrup with maple flavorings and dye. Real maple syrup is actually the sap of the maple trees. It is less viscous – kinda like a sugar water mixture and has much more sweetness and flavor over the generic version. I have some stocked in my fridge that I had picked up a few weeks ago from a local farm. You can find it in most supermarkets these days, however it is relatively pricier. Totally worth it though. Go ahead, splurge.

 

So pure

So pure

So this month in my Winc wine shipment, I was surprised to see something new. A Winc Journal. Typically they would send a card with each wine you received that told you about it with a recipe. This is a full on wine magazine with all kinds of interesting articles.

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This month includes several articles some of which are: the different kinds of reds wines that are good for drinking in the fall, a nice chart with pictures describing the different kinds of grapes used to make wine, some fantastic recipes and a listing of their wines they have to offer with a little bit of information about each. I enjoyed sitting down and reading it with the salad and a glass of wine to go with. 🙂

So pretty!

So pretty!

I paired the salad with a special Winc wine this week. They recently released a collaboration wine with a new up-and-coming clothing line, Baja East based in NYC. You can check out their website and clothing at: http://www.baja-east.com/. According to Winc, the designers of the brand wanted to make a wine that was perfect for the fall season. This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot, both are pretty full bodied wine which means that this is quite hefty with the tannins and will do well with some time to mingle with the air. It pairs well with this salad especially with the smokiness and meatiness of the bacon which mirror the flavors of the wine.

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The sweetness of the dressing contrasts the heft of the wine and brings out the fruit flavors. Honestly, this is a fantastic wine to save for a special occasion, I mean the bottle is pretty cool looking right? It features one of Baja East’s signature prints from their clothing line. I figured an election week is a pretty special occasion and putting recipe number 19 in the books is cause for a celebration, even if it is by myself, in the middle of the day, on a Thursday. Don’t judge. 😀 Check out Winc’s new website and get a discount on your first order of wine using my link: https://hi.winc.com/2lhy61q4ll7.

Stay thirsty, friends!

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Print Recipe
Cape Cod Chopped Salad
From Back to Basics by Ina Garten, page 78.
Course Lunch
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
For the Salad
For the Dressing
Course Lunch
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings
people
Ingredients
For the Salad
For the Dressing
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Place a baking rack on a sheet pan (or line the sheet pan with aluminum foil) and lay the bacon slices on the rack. Roast the bacon for about 20 minutes, until nicely browned. Allow to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss together the arugala, apple, walnuts, cranberries, and blue cheese.
  4. For the dressing, whisk together the vinegar, orange zest, orange juice, mustard, maple syrup, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper in a bowl (or mason jar). Slowly whisk in the olive oil.
  5. Chop the bacon in large pieces and add it to the salad. Toss the salad with just enough dressing to coat it lightly. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss well. Serve immediately.
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