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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Easiest Jam Recipe Ever

Last Sunday my alarm went off because I didn't want to miss the "Preserve It!" demos at the Good Food Festival in Santa Monica.  Like always, I hit the snooze button, snoozed some more, hit the button again, snoozed some more, then turned off the alarm altogether and thought fugetaboutit I'm going to keep snoozing.  But then something amazing happened.  I woke up on my own, and since there was still time to brush off the dust, hop in the car, and get to the Fest, that's just what I did.  And boy am I glad I did and now you will be too.

Valerie with Steamin' Jam
The first demo was by Valerie Gordon of Valerie Confections.  Famous for her chocolates, and her baked goods, Valerie is doing the same thing with jams. While I've made jams and pickled veggies, I needed an infusion of inspiration to get my big beautiful blue canning pot out of the pantry and onto the stove.  To my good fortune, Valerie demo'd the easiest jam recipe ever to remind me how simple it is.

Example Pot of Jam
How simple could it be?  Well, what about 5 pounds of plums (no peeling required), 2 pints of blackberries (my idea), and 3 1/2 cups of sugar.  Cube the plums, put everything in a largish, heavyish pot, and cook on medium heat about 30 minutes to start to break down the fruit, then cook another 20-30 minutes on high heat to jam it all up.

While this is happening, fill a really large pot with water, so the water will cover the jars with at least 2" of headroom, until the water is boiling.  Also be sure you have a rack or steamer basket for the bottom of the pot, to lift the jars off the bottom when processing, allowing the boiling water to surround the jars.

Take your new canning jars (you'll need 8 half-pints), lids, and rings, and wash them in hot, soapy water.  Then put the jars only in the boiling water for about 5 minutes, remove to your towel covered counter, and dry these off.

Ladle the jam into each jar, leaving about 1/4" at the top, wipe the rim clean, then put on the lid and ring and twist shut.  Put the jars in the rack or lower the jars onto the steamer basket in the boiling water.  This is where a jar lifter would really come in handy, but if you don't have one, carefully use tongs.  Leave the jars in the boiling water for 20 minutes, then even more carefully remove them from the pot and onto the towel covered counter.  Gently wipe any remaining water off the jars and leave on the counter overnight.

Within just a few minutes of placing your jars on the counter you will hear this little ping.  Then another one, and so on.  That's the sound of your jam saying good job.  One last thing is the next day use your thumb to push on the lid and when nothing happens - Congratulations, you have just made your very own, homemade, easiest jam ever plum & blackberry jam.  Not only is this a great jam for putting over a schmear of goat cheese on an English muffin, but it's very tasty with vanilla ice cream, and I'm sure you will find many other ways to use this tart, tasty, fruit, easy jam.  Yes we can!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

You Gotta Serve Somebody This Salad

Once a month my food blogger group meets to brainstorm and chow down on a potluck of blogging quality dishes.  In other words, food must taste great and must look great because there will be lots of lips smacking and cameras flashing.  Just a little pressure I must say.  So I look high and low for inspiration and with the sweet and/or savory stars aligned, I got my idea...

Since I'm very partial to salads in general, and salads including potatoes in particular, and because Rosh Hoshanah is right around the corner, and one of my mother's staple Jewish holiday salads takes potatoes then adds beets, onions, and hard boiled eggs to a Moroccan inspired, Russian influenced palate pleasing place, I have my recipe well underway.  To make it my own, I substitute shallots for onions (more delicate I think), and for a twist on the traditional vinaigrette I use cream style horseradish instead of mustard.  Lots of chopped parsley sprinkled on top brings the salad to life and there's nothing left to do but dig in.

At the FBLA meeting, thanks to the generosity of Melissa's Produce Company, I was able to give each blogger a bag of Dutch yellow potatoes, a jar of cream-style horseradish, a package of ready-to-eat beets, and a small bag of shallots.  With my salad as inspiration, I'm hoping that other recipes using all or any of these items will be created and shared in the blogosphere soon.

P.S.  Thanks to my blogger friends for inspiring me to keep on bloggin'!

Jewish Holiday Potato & Beet Salad
1 lb. Dutch yellow potatoes
1 pkg. steamed-peeled beets, cubed                                           
2 eggs, hard boiled and chopped
1-2 shallots, diced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. beet juice
3 Tbsp. cream-style horseradish
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
3 cups chopped romaine lettuce or spinach or arugula or whatever you like
3/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Steam potatoes about 15 minutes.  Let cool enough to handle then cut into cubes.

To make the dressing, whisk the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, beet juice, and cream-style horseradish together.  Season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.  Set aside for just a little while.

Line the bottom of a large serving bowl with the greens of your choice.  Put the potato cubes on top of the greens.  Put the cubed beets on top of the potatoes.  Put the chopped eggs on top of the beets.  Put the diced shallots on top of the eggs.  Sprinkle the chopped parsley over everything.  Pour as much dressing as you like over the salad.  Let everyone see how fantastic it looks.  Now you can toss it and serve.

Variations:  Add capers or celery or olives (black or green) or cilantro or pine nuts or pepitas or whatever you like.  Actually the Russian version usually has carrots but I thought that would be too sweet for me.