Archives for category: Jam

Hello and happy spring!  It has been almost two months since my last post, and truly two months since my last recipe post.  I have been preoccupied with a big project these last two months: starting my Etsy business, Odudare!  I have been working on it for years, and I even opened the shop early last year, but it’s only been in the last two months that I finally started adding items to sell and promoting it actively.  It is my hope, and my dream, that I will eventually be able to quit my day job and do Odudare full-time.  For the time being, at least, that is not possible, and it has been difficult working 40 hours a week and trying to work in my studio in (almost) all my spare time.  Needless to say, The Wooden Spoon has taken a backseat amidst all this excitement and work.  I know I can’t do everything, all at the same time, but I really want to!

Cutting shortening into flour mixture with pastry cutter

The past three days I have been home sick.  Strep throat, common cold, flu- my body can’t decide what it has.  Maybe it’s backlash from working so much, but I’ve had to step back and give in to my body, doing nothing but lying on the couch watching TV and moaning (funny, huh?).  Today, my last day of rest before returning to work, I am finally starting to feel better, and I decided to give The Wooden Spoon- and Misha, who’s now sick as well- a little TLC with cheddar cheese biscuits.

The dough after kneading. There's that wooden spoon again!

This has been the recipe I’ve been planning on making next for two months.  It’s been floating in the back of my mind, saying “make me, make me!”  I love biscuits, and a new breakfast place near our house makes awesome ones.  Homemade is always better though, and I was sure Grandma’s recipe for cheddar cheese biscuits would top the breakfast place.  Oh how right I was!  I love it when being right tastes this good!

Cheese!!!!

I only had almond milk and earth balance vegan butter sticks on hand, and given my condition, I was not going to the store.  Luckily, they substitute just fine for real milk and butter, and my biscuits turned out light, flaky, and perfect with a little bit of (real) butter and jam on them (I had enough real butter for spreading but not for shortening!).  They were also SUPER easy to make, and use ingredients you probably already have on hand.  I might even claim that these biscuits are the perfect antidote to spring sickness.  Make them the next time you’re feeling low, with a nice cup of tea, and see how much better you feel!

My jelly roll, wrapped in wax paper and ready for the fridge

p.s. A little marketing on my own blog can’t hurt, right?  Next chance you have, check out my Etsy shop, Odudare.  You will find awesome, affordable handmade pillowcases & coasters, as well as super cool hand-printed art and collages.  And more to come soon!

Grandma Elek’s Cheddar Biscuits

***This recipe can be doubled or tripled to produce more biscuits.  I doubled it this morning, and got about 10 biscuits from it***

1 cup flour

1 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ cup shortening (butter, or vegan butter substitute like Earth Balance), preferably at room temperature (too soft and your dough will be sticky, to cold and it won’t cut into your flour mixture well.  Earth Balance sticks are usually soft enough straight out of the fridge, but real butter isn’t)

1/3 cup milk (or soy milk, almond milk, etc.)

Soft butter

½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 450.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium size mixing bowl.  Cut in the shortening until particles are fine.  Cutting in shortening is easier with the help of a pastry cutter/blender.  It is also helpful to cut your shortening up into tablespoons before adding it to your flour, rather than just adding a solid block of butter.

Add milk all at once, and stir until dough clings together.  Knead lightly on floured surface 12 times, or until your dough becomes soft and pliable.  If your dough is too sticky, add a little bit of flour.

Roll or pat out to an 8×6 rectangle.  Considering that I doubled the recipe, I thought my rectangle should have been about 16×12, but it was a bit smaller than that.  The main thing is that a) you want a rectangle and b) you don’t want your rectangle to be too thick- about a ¼ inch, maybe a little more at most.

Spread soft butter all over your rectangle and sprinkle with cheese.  Starting with the 8 inch end, roll up jelly roll fashion.  Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate at least 15 minutes.

Once you remove it from the fridge, take it out of the wax paper and use a sharp knife (I used a serrated bread knife) to cut your roll into about 1 inch thick pieces.  Spray a baking pan with a high heat baking spray, and evenly space your biscuits on the pan (like you would with cookies, only biscuits don’t spread quite as much).  Bake at 450 for 15-20 minutes.  Be careful not to let them get too brown, though they should be golden and puffy.

Spread with butter and jam and enjoy!

Biscuits ready to bake on the pan

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Today (and probably tomorrow as well), Misha and I are confined to our apartment as Hurricane Irene bears down on Baltimore.  We had planned to be at a barbeque in PA this weekend, but alas the weather had other ideas.  The upside is some much needed rest and downtime after a long and tiring week.

Me and Misha on the overlook cliff at Harper's Ferry

On Tuesday we went on a hike in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia.  Our hike was fun and the day was beautiful, and I ended up spending all the energy I had for the week, leaving me a bit sluggish for my three opening shifts at work.  We also found out this week that due to a huge maintenance problem in our apartment, we are going to have to move into the apartment next door in two weeks.  I will be happy to have a new, clean apartment with no maintenance issues, but moving is always stressful and now we have to do some packing.  I am almost relieved to be stuck inside, reading and relaxing and catching up on my blog posts!

Raspberry jam spread over the dough

I made these raspberry squares about a week and a half ago, and have been so busy that I am just now getting around to sharing them with you.  They are basically the same dough as kifli, just rolled flat, topped with criss-cross pieces, and cut into bars.  It’s wonderful how the same recipe can take on such a different feel and attitude just by cutting and shaping it differently.  They also have a very satisfying amount of jam on them, and are just as wonderful for breakfast as they are for dessert.

Ready to go in the oven

Fresh out of the oven, beautiful and golden brown!

When I made them, the dough got very, very sticky.  If it does this for you, do not be concerned.  It will be sticky and messy, but they turn out perfectly buttery and flaky.  The best part for me was that I got to use our homemade raspberry jam for the filling.  Of course that being said, any jam will do, so long as it is sweet and tasty to your liking!  Grandma called this recipe “Raspberry Squares (or Lekvaros)”.  Lekvar is a Hungarian word referring to thick fruit butter, and Grandma uses it to refer to all jams and fruit purees used in her recipes.  I think it would be interesting to try making these with apple butter- considering how much real butter is in them, I’m sure it would be very decadent!  Remember, if you make any of the recipes I share with you here, feel free to share pictures and stories, or any tips or questions you have along the way.

Dusting with powdered sugar

The wind is starting to pick up here, and I’m off to let my computer charge (in case the power goes!) and read for awhile.  Hopefully the hurricane is not hitting wherever you are, but if it is, stay safe!  (If not, bake!)

Raspberry Squares  (or Lekvaros)

3 cups sifted flour

2 tsps. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

1 cup unsalted butter

2 eggs, beaten

¼ cup milk

2 cups raspberry jam or other jams (Lekvar)

½ cup coarsely chopped nuts (I used pecans)

Powdered sugar

Measure and mix together in large bowl the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Cut in shortening using a pastry cutter (a fork or your fingers would also work).  Mix the beaten eggs with the milk, and then add to the flour mixture.  Knead into a soft dough.  If the eggs are small, more milk may be needed (be careful here if your butter is not soft yet- I thought I needed a bit more milk, but once my butter warmed my dough got sticky).

Once you have a soft dough, set aside about ¼ of the dough.  Roll out the rest and spread evenly in a large pan (I used a glass 9 x 11 pyrex pan), using a spatula to help if necessary.  Press dough well up along edges of the pan so that there will be an edge of dough all around.  Spread on the jam, sprinkle on the nuts.

Pinch off pieces of the reserved dough and roll with your hands on a lightly floured board into strips ½ inch wide.  You will want to make them varying lengths depending on which section of the pan you are laying them across.  Place them on top of the jam, crisscrossing, about 1 ½ inches apart.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.  Dust with powdered sugar.  Slice into squares with a very sharp knife and serve.  Store in an airtight container.

We are very lucky, because Misha’s parents’ property out in Reisterstown, Maryland is FULL of wild raspberry and blackberry plants.  Every year the prickly bushes become laden with hundreds of small, sweet, juicy berries just waiting to be picked.  Everyone in Misha’s family is more than willing to oblige the berries and pick as many as possible in the few short weeks that they are ripe and ready.  Even better, Misha’s Mom cans the berries, making this incredible wild raspberry jam that is better than anything I have ever bought at any store.  Wild raspberries have a slightly different flavor than store-bought raspberries- more juicy, more tangy, more sweet.

wild raspberries + blackberries

Liberty Lake in Reisterstown, Maryland

Canning is a process that has always intimidated me.  I think it’s because of the step that involves boiling jars in water, or the part about possible botchulism, or just the entire unfamiliar nature of the whole thing.  Furthermore, I didn’t know what supplies I needed, or how to sanitize them, and the directions usually just confused me more.   Canning was something my Grandmother did all the time, right out of her own garden in the backyard.  Many of the jams she used for cooking and baking were made by her own hand.  Women (and men!) have been canning as a method of food preservation since the 1800’s, and if Grandma could do it, I could too!  As it turns out, all I needed to tentatively test the canning waters was a canning “spiritual guide” of sorts.  Enter Misha’s Mom, Candie.

jars filled with hot water

rims + lids in hot water

Last year, I picked berries with her for the first time and she held my hand and taught me how to make jam from them and can them.  As it turns out, making jam is one of the easiest canning recipes you can try.  Really!  You don’t even have to boil the jars, and the berries are acidic enough that botchulism isn’t a concern.  This year, Misha and I went canoeing on the lake behind his parent’s house, and then picked 2 ½ quarts of berries.  I canned them at home, by myself, for the first time.  The hardest part is just having everything ready to go at the right moment- there are a lot of little steps.  I was very happy and relieved when everything went smoothly and I was rewarded with 5 jars of wild raspberry jam.  I encourage you to try this process sometime, maybe with an adventurous friend or your own canning guru.  You don’t need access to wild raspberries, you can buy berries at the farmer’s market or in the grocery store, or you can even try canning something different.  Just make sure you follow the recipe and directions that come with the type of pectin you buy.  Afterward, go make some kifli with your new jam!  Happy summer, and happy canning!

boiling berries

jars of jam flipped + cooling

Wild Raspberry Jam

You will need:

Lots and lots of berries (the exact amount depends on the recipe you use, but generally the more the better- as I mentioned above, we picked 2 ½ quarts and that only gave us 5 jars)

Sugar

Pectin for jams and jellies (Candie uses Sure Jell or Certo, which is pretty common and can be found in most grocery stores.  I used Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which jells with a low amount of any sweetener and can be found at Whole Foods.)

Canning jars and lids (These can be found at most hardware stores and even some grocery stores.  You will need the jars, the lids- which have to be brand new- and the rims for the lids.  Sometimes you can find jars and rims for sale super, super cheap on the internet or at garage sales.  The size of the jar doesn’t matter, but it will alter how many jars of jam you get from your recipe.)

A funnel, a ladle, a fork, and a wet clean cloth

After you have picked or bought your berries, you must clean the berries.  There cannot be any green or brown stuff whatsoever in your berries.  The best way is to get a big container and fill it up with water and pour them in there.  The green and brown stuff will float to the top and you can pick it all out.

Once they are clean, you want to measure your berries so you know how many you have.  This is important because you will be following a recipe that calls for specific amounts of berries.  Once you’ve measured your berries, put them in a large bowl and crush them.  A potato masher works well for this step.

Put on a teapot or regular pot of water to boil.  Wash your jars and arrange them in the sink.  When the water boils, pour some in each jar so that they are hot when you fill them with jam.

Place lids in a small pan and cover with water.  Place on the stove and bring to a boil, then turn off heat and let them sit in the hot water.

Follow the recipe and instructions that come with your package of Sure Jell, Certo, or Pomona’s Universal Pectin.  This will tell you how many berries you need, how much sugar you need, and what steps to take to boil your berries and make the jam.  For example, with Pomona’s, one recipe of raspberry jam calls for 4 cups of berries and ¾-2 cups of sugar, along with the pectin powder and calcium water that comes with the package and makes the jam jell.  Since I had about 10 cups of berries, I changed the amounts, so instead of 4 cups of berries and 2 cups of sugar, I had 10 cups of berries and 5 cups of sugar.  Instead of 2 tablespoons pectin powder, I used 5 tablespoons pectin powder.  You get the idea.

Once you’ve followed the steps in the recipe and completed the jam, pour the hot water out of the jars and set up your supplies next to the stove: jars, funnel, ladle, fork, and wet clean cloth.

Place the funnel in the jars one at a time and slowly ladle the hot jam into each jar, filling the jar until the jam is ¼” from the top.  Use the wet clean cloth to wipe any spilled jam from the rim of the jar.  Using your fork (you might need two forks), carefully lift the hot lids one at a time from the pan and place on top of your jars.  Place a ring on each jar and tighten.  Turn upside down to seal and let sit for at least 2 hours, or until the jars are cool.

The jam can be stored in a cool, dark place or opened and stored in your fridge for about a month or two (though it won’t last that long- it’s too delicious!).  If you make a lot, you can share with friends and family, give as Christmas presents, or just enjoy all winter long!