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.)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Can-Berries, the flyer

8 days til Can-Berries! The flyer doesn't lie!

If you want to invite someone the old-fashioned way, and I know you like to do things the old-fashioned way, you can actually download and print the flyer here. (Why is there a maze on the back, you ask? Because SOMEONE has to help the cranberry find his way to the rake!)

Sunday, November 7, 2010


OK, I'm the first to admit that can-shaped cranberries are a beautiful thing. But canning them yourself is tastier and more fun!

Can-Berries: By the Spoonful brings you a seasonal canning workshop, complete with punny name. Cranberry sauce itself is very low-maintenance, so this is a perfect introduction to water-bath canning. We'll make a traditional sauce and a locally-influenced sauce with pears and honey. Take a jar home for your Thanksgiving feast!
•Sat, November 20, 3-4:30ish
•My kitchen (please inquire for the address if you don't know)
•$5 to cover costs
•Please RSVP (email or facebook)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Farm Focus: Lavender love

Take a deep breath - this month's focus is lavender from Gabriel Farm. Honestly, I'm kind of embarrassed to be buying lavender at all. I'm probably the only person around here who doesn't have some growing in their yard. And no, I'm not venturing into aromatherapy, although you might think so if you were in my kitchen tonight. It's all about strawberry lavender jam! Served plain, the flavor a bit floral for my taste, but I love to bake with it. And you can't argue with popular demand - it's my most requested flavor!

Gabriel Farm is a 14 acre Organic farm located in the ideal fruit growing climate of Sebastopol, California. The Farm features 8 varieties of Asian Pears, several varieties of Apples, Fuyu Persimmons, Lavender, Plums and many sorts of berries. Gabriel Farm is the definition of a traditional “family farm”. This is where we live, work and raise our family. As organic farmers, we are devoted to the idea of sharing the process of raising our fruit with the folks who ultimately will eat our fruit. With this in mind, we encourage everyone who eats our fruit to come visit our farm, at least once, to see how we go about raising what we hope is a most delicious piece of fruit.

Plus they make a mean jar of lavender jam themselves! You can sample their Asian Pear and Blackberry Lavender Conserve at the Thursday/Saturday Berkeley farmers market.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Farm Focus: Happy Girl and Van Dyke, enablers of apricot appreciation

I'm so excited to offer apricot jam for the first time! I always seem to blink and miss the short apricot season. Thanks to Linda for turning me on to the Food Preservationists, a project from Happy Girl Kitchen that promotes home canning and offers weekly deals on bulk produce! I tried their service for the first time last month. I ordered online and a few days later picked up 20 pounds of beautiful Blenheim apricots. The apricots are sourced from Van Dyke Ranch, a 5 generation family farm in Gilroy specializing in organic dried fruits. Van Dyke's apricot sales pitch:

After they finish harvesting and packing cherries they move on to their signature crop, Blenheim apricots. Their farm has great southern exposure which increases the sweetness and flavor of their fruit. The Blenheim apricot is one of the best tasting apricot varieties, very sweet with true apricot flavor.

Southern exposure or not, they melt perfectly into a luscious jam with a heady summer perfume.

Hungry yet?

How about now? (Stay tuned for the recipe!)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Farm Focus: The obscure, the oblong, the one and only olallieberry

Farm Focus for July: Olallieberry

You locals are no stranger to the olallieberry. You've heard the hype. You've eaten the pie. When visitors asked you, "What the heck is an olallieberry?" you checked wikipedia, so you know it's a modern cross between a youngberry and a loganberry. Which is to say it's a delicate, skinny blackberry with a pedigree.

(Thanks to edrabbit on flickr for the photo)

By the Spoonful's picks for local olallieberry flavor:

Swanton is the only organic u-pick around. The last time my dad and I tried to pick there, it was closed due to wildfires! So we turned to nearby Phipps, known for their heirloom beans but also a great spot to pick berries.

Someday I'll get over jam fever enough to bake with olallieberries, because yummmm. Check out the gorgeous photos and recipes (Olallieberry Orange Shortbread Napoleons, anyone?) at Dessert First.

Olallies are king in Santa Cruz. You can even drink them in your beer!

Last but not least, my tower of olallieberry jam! I was lucky enough to get my hands on a flat from Medina Farms (previously featured on Farm Focus) just in time to send a few jars home with my own visitors.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Curd by the spoonful!

Our citrus all died last year, but like everyone around these parts we have more than one friend happy to donate bagfuls of their own lemons. What to do with a windfall of lemons? Housemate jarred some preserved lemons and I made lemon curd.

We have such ugly flourescent lighting in our kitchen I got fed up and stuck the jars next to the window. Here I give you: still life with lemon curd, houseplants and random cat figurine.

Sadly, curd is not safe to preserve in a hot water bath, so I can't make it part of my jamshares, but it will last forever in the fridge. Now... what to do with all that curd? I made a lemon tart for a picnic. In the morning it compliments my berry jam nicely on toast. Or you can always eat it... you guessed it... by the spoonful!

By the way, I use a recipe that prevents curdling by mixing the ingredients like a cake batter before cooking. Warning: If you've never made curd and want to retain any illusion that something so fruit based must be a health food, do not click on that link!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Farm Focus: Strawberry Days

Farm Focus for June: Strawberries from Eatwell Farm

Last year I invited my friend C down to Swanton to pick berries. This year she invited me up to Dixon to Eatwell Farm's Strawberry Days! Eatwell is one of the biggest CSAs around the bay area - C not only subscribes but hosts a pickup site at her home. Every summer they welcome their members up to check out the farm and get their hands directly on some strawberries!

We picked loads of dead-ripe strawberries in under half an hour - the joys of picking from a reserved field, not a u-pick site that gets picked over every day. Lots of cute kids eating their weight in berries and fellow jammakers loading up. Unfortunately this was at the height of my miserable allergy season, so we didn't linger for a farm tour. Next time!

Our pollinating friend

C, A, and hay

Monday, May 10, 2010

Farm Focus: Virtual berries!

Every month I find the story of a farm whose fruit is featured and share it with subscribers. This month I'm taking it paperless!

Mmmm, it's finally berry season. Whenever I need strawberries but don't have time to pick them myself at Swanton, I rely on Medina Berry Farm at the Jack London Square Farmer's Market. They're nice people who always make me a great deal on a flat of berries, and ask after my jam.

Pacific Coast Farmer's Markets, who run the JLS market on Sundays, has put together a lovely virtual farm tour. Pedro Medina, Jr. thanks his customers, talks about why he went organic, and hopes the farm will pass on to the 4th generation. I love the music and the family photos!

And, speaking of paperless, I should also mention that the Jack London Square market has a really effective presence on facebook these days. They offer weekly updates on special events and what crops are coming out. Plus facebook exclusive contests and giveaways! I'm a fan!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

I didn't make it!

I don't know about you, but my spring fever comes on in the form of reorganizing my pantry and eating my way through last year's preserves. This week I've broken into all the odd jars I've gathered from friends along the way. Let's take a moment to celebrate some jams made by hands not my own.

Rhubarb jam from a dear friend in Vermont. Rather than pectin, she uses the long-boil method, and in this case it had set extra hard, into a jewel like candy. No great sacrifice here, I ate it by the forkful!

(By the way, I'm sure she would hasten to mention that she tried to offer me a more successful batch. But I had my heart set on rhubarb, which is one of the few things that doesn't thrive in California. My dad used to make strawberry rhubarb sauce every year out of our backyard, where it grew like a weed.)

I didn't get any blackberries of my own last year, so I'm treasuring this small jar, mostly in PB&Js on homemade bread. (Again, don't look at me! Inder's the only breadmaker in this household!) Part of my haul from the "Yes, We Can" canning exchange at the Eat Real fest. I traded jars with some lovely kindred souls whose idea of a good night out on the town involved sitting on hay bales in Jack London Square conversing about jam. This was made by Stefani of the Alameda Fruit Exchange, if I recall correctly.

This year I'd love to try your jam, yes yours!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Wanted: marmalade lovers!

By the Spoonful presents
MARMALADE: An open house
Saturday, March 20th 3-6 pm
my house

Come one, come all! Drop by to sample at least 3 varieties and give me some feedback so that I can perfect my recipes. I'll provide tea and snacks. Plus, one lucky taster will win a free jamshare subscription! Let's kick off the first day of spring in citrus style.

(Find my address and RSVP on Facebook)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What's in this spring? Jamshares!

Sign up for jamshares - Spring 2010 quarter!
April, May, and June will feature marmalade, kiwi, and the start of the strawberry season. This quarter I'll only be offering subscriptions at the 1 and 2 jar levels. Details and ordering here.

A huge thank you goes out to my fabulous BtS jamshare subscribers! I hope you've had as much fun as I've had over the past 6 months.

You've inspired me to make small batches more often and to experiment with new recipes. So far I've been able to provide a round dozen flavors, many of them jamshare exclusives! Which is your favorite?
Strawberry • Strawberry Lavender • Raspberry • Fig Cardamom • Nectarine • Ginger Loquat • Cranberry • Kiwi Lime • Apple Butter • Pear Butter • Blood Orange Marmalade • Pucker Orange Marmalade

You've helped connect me with the organic farmers that supply my fruit. Every time I research my monthly Farm Focus feature, I learn something new. Behold the power of google!

Just this week I discovered that Blossom Bluff Orchards (Parlier) is run by fourth generation family farmers who grow over 170 varieties of fruit. Plus, you can find them on facebook! (I hope they don't mind me borrowing the photo above, which they posted in January as "the first peach blossom of the season.")

Did you know...
Kaki Farm (Gridley) specializes in persimmons, and takes its name from the Japanese word for that fruit?
Four Sisters Farm (Aromas) ripens their kiwifruit in small batches using the natural ethylene gas from their storage apples?
Swanton Berry Farm (Davenport) was the first organic farm in America to unionize?
The owner of Guru Ram Das Orchards (Esparto) supplies Chez Panisse and gets an adrenaline rush from his trees?