Saturday, November 19, 2011

Legalize it!

This holiday season By the Spoonful is going legit! ALL PROCEEDS from jam sales through the end of December will benefit the Cottage Food for California campaign!

If you have been bugging me to ship my jam, accept money through paypal, or expand my operation, now's your chance to make it happen! Sign the petition and order some jam for the cause.

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What are cottage food laws, you ask? They simply allow small producers to sell their homemade jams, baked goods, and other artisan products. Currently California requires the use of a commercial kitchen, which is prohibitively expensive for most people, including yours truly. Cottage food laws are now on the books in at least 28 states. The California initiative is sponsored by The Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), which "facilitates the growth of sustainable, localized, and just economies, through legal research, professional training, resource development, and education."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Farm Focus: Cherries from Enos Family Farms

For the past few months I've been putting up fruit from trusty sources I've already featured on the blog, mostly strawberries from Medina. And there ain't nothing wrong with that! But last week I was talked into a trip to Brentwood for some good old fashioned cherry picking. We headed to a newly organic orchard, Enos Family Farms.

I think for every kind of fruit picking, I have an idyllic scene from a children's book indelibly associated. For apples, it's Prince Caspian. For cherries, it's The Boxcar Children!

"Eat all you want," said Mrs. Moore. "The cherries are beautiful this year."
The children didn't eat all they wanted, but every now and then a big red cherry went into someone's mouth. Henry and the girls went up the ladders and began to pick cherries. Watch barked for awhile. He did not like to have Jessie climbing the ladder. Then he sat down and looked at her up in the tree. Benny hurried here and there, carrying baskets to the pickers and eating all the cherries he wanted. Everyone in the orchard liked Benny. The doctor laughed delightedly at him, and sweet Mrs. Moore fell in love with him at once. By and by he sat down beside her and carefully filled small baskets with cherries from the big baskets.

Well, the cherries are also beautiful in this non-fictional year, if late due to the rain. My dad and I didn't get to climb any ladders and we surely didn't get paid $4 and all the cherries we could carry. But it was a perfect summer day out in the orchard and you can bet that every now and then a big red cherry did go into our mouths. And into the pockets of my cherry-picking apron (pictured above.)

We hauled away buckets with 2 kinds of cherries and paid the attendant, who turned out to be something like the nephew-in-law of the owner (who is himself a fifth generation farmer in the area.) The nephew said he's there all day, 6 days a week. When asked if he was sick of cherries yet he fondly pointed out the closest tree - "no one wants to pick the one up front, so it's my snack tree!"

The bounty of plump, juicy Lapin cherries I have been pushing on everyone I know as eatin' cherries. Some website I have now misplaced calls the extra large Lapins "a mouthful in themselves."

Yesterday I pitted 8 pounds of Sweetheart cherries. Sweethearts (also pictured above) are your basic big red storybook cherries. They look like a slightly smaller version of the Lapins but are more intense in flavor, so I saved them for canning. I put up regular old cherry jam for the very first time, and then got daring with raspberry-cherry-balsamic. YUM. Apparently my littlest housemate got some in a PB&J this morning and kept signing for "more!"

Monday, February 7, 2011

Farm Focus: Four Sisters' Kiwis

"Plain and brown on the outside, emerald green on the inside, kiwis are the geodes of the fruit world. The sweet gems make their appearance at California farmers’ markets just in the nick of time –- right when the pomegranate and persimmon seasons have faded and committed locavores have prepared themselves for several puckered months of citrus eating."

I love that ode to the kiwi, courtesy of CUESA (they run the Ferry Building farmers' markets.) They wrote a nice feature about kiwis and the folks around here that grow them.

Before I ever thought of making kiwi-lime jam, Four Sisters Farm made me a kiwi lover. Until I moved to California, I could take them or leave them. But much like Ecuador totally redefined my definition of a good banana, I found that local kiwis are another (miraculous) thing altogether.

And they taught me the secret of the long kiwi season, which came in handy when a friend gave us some rock-hard kiwis recently!

Nancy and Robin Gammons of Four Sisters Farm, who have been growing organic kiwis since 1978, also benefit from the ability to store kiwis or ripen them at will. Before bringing a batch to the market, the Gammonses move them to a special storage unit that also contains their farm’s apples, a natural source of a ripening agent called ethylene gas. (Conventional kiwi farms use synthetic ethylene.)”

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Farm Focus: Backyard apples

After the corn had been cut and wrapped in shocks, pumpkins gathered into heaps, and the grapes were all picked, the people's minds turned to making apple butter. It was an exciting time of the year. The excitement of seeing the landscape change to the beautiful colors of autumn made people think about the spirit of parties and along with parties came apple butter making.

What other preserve can so evoke the pioneer spirit? Apple butter is still celebrated and made in the old-fashioned way at autumn festivals around the country. I feel a strong sense of kinship with generations of apple-preservers every time I give an entire day over to stirring my pot of sauce.

In the old days, there was usually a group standing around the kettle humming, singing, or talking. Stirring the apple butter was an important job and somebody had to be doing it all the time. The old method for doing it was "twice around the outside and through the middle once" with a long paddle. Of course people had to stir right on through the meal times, and they took turns eating.

I've quoted extensively from this site, where you can read all about the traditional recipe. I guarantee it will fill your nostalgia quota for at least a month. You'll notice that I've strayed a bit from the letter, but not the spirit. And certainly not the main ingredient!

Men hitched up their light spring wagons and drove over the fields and hills collecting sweet apples because on early farms not all the apple trees were planted near one another. In fact, before 1775, apple trees were not confined to orderly orchards at all, but likely to be anywhere on thousands of acres and even in the middle of a woods. The men had to gather the apples wherever they were.

It occurs to me that I could probably collect apples from thousands of acres around the bay area, but mine always come from one backyard in Orinda. Thanks, Sue!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Jam Thumbprints

(Remember back in August when I promised to share that apricot cookie recipe? Well, 'tis the season for Christmas cookies to flow like water!)

I found this recipe in The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book and I make it exactly as directed, because those people know what they're talking about. (Though I have used whole wheat pastry flour with success.) Is it just me, or are sugar cookies usually terrible? I looove these cookies because they're not dried out sugar bombs. They're chewy and not too sweet, letting the jam shine.

Jam Thumbprints

1/2 cup jam
2 1/4 cup (11 1/4 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup (4 3/4 ounces) sugar
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Fill small zipper-lock bag with jam. Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl.
2. Using hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes. Beat in cream cheese, egg, and vanilla until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down bowl and beaters as needed.
3. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds.
4. Working with 1 1/2 teaspoons of dough at a time, roll dough into balls and lay them on prepared baking sheets, spaced about 1 1/2 inches apart. Use wet thumb to make indentation in center of each cookie.
5. Bake until cookies are lightly browned around the edges and just beginning to set, about 10 minutes. Remove cookies from oven and, working quickly, gently reshape indentations with bottom of teaspoon. Snip small corner off bag of jam and carefully fill each indentation with about 1/2 teaspoon of jam. Rotate baking sheet and continue to bake until lightly golden, 12-14 minutes.
6. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and let them cool completely, about 30 minutes, before serving.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gift boxes with a few of my favorite things...

Gift boxes are here! It couldn't be easier to put a little sunshine in someone's holiday. A sampler with your choice of 3 jars, ready to put under the tree. (Above are half pints of blackberry jam, 3-way marmalade, and kiwi lime jam.) Wrapping not pictured, but think brown paper packages tied up with string...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cranberry Sauce x2

Can-Berries was a blast. My industrious guests made two kinds of sauce, survived floods AND hail, and had way too much fun with kitchen-aid attachments. We ended with a homemade feast - sauce, my favorite local cheese, pickles, and carolyn's apple galette!)

Even if you missed out on the fun, it's not too late to make your own sauce for the holidays! I love a classic sauce with a very traditional sweetener. This year I was excited to also try a more locally-influenced recipe. The pears and honey gave the sauce a jam-like consistency and milder flavor - not what I would choose to serve with all the trimmings, but delicious, and perfect for winning over cranberry holdouts.

Rebecca’s Decadent Cranberry Sauce
16 oz fresh cranberries
zest and juice of a large orange
1 cup water
1 cup maple syrup

Put everything in a pot and boil the crap out of it for 40 minutes or so, until thick and saucy, adding water and squishing as needed. Let cool. (Or process in jars for 10 minutes.)

Cranberry Sauce with Pears and Honey
Adapted from this recipe

1/2 cup water
2 pears - peeled, cored and diced
1 (12 ounce) package fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup honey, or to taste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir in pears, cranberries and honey. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until cranberries pop and the mixture thickens, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and lemon zest. Cool to room temperature, then store covered in the refrigerator for up to one week. (Or process in jars for 10 minutes.)