Monday, June 29, 2009

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

The Rhubarb I transplanted from our Fargo home established itself quite well in the big garden (located on Grandma & Grandpa Green Acres property). I'd had the strawberries and rhubarb ready to go on Saturday, but just couldn't squeeze in canning.

Today, with Angelina up at Grandma Green Acres' and the boys in town for baseball/haircuts, I DID the canning. I hadn't taken out my canning supplies, but they're in one place, so it wasn't time-consuming. If supplies and ingredients are prepped, canning goes very smoothly. Plan canning for a time when you most likely won't be interrupted; I have afriend who cans at night ... after kids are in bed.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Yield: 6-8 (8oz.) half pints

2 cups crushed strawberries
2 cups finely chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 tsp. butter
5 1/2 cups white sugar

I followed the recipe in the Fruit Pectin box, although I did look in a couple other places. This recipe followed the quantities I had available better than others. There aren't as many pics to go with the steps ... it's just too hard because canning moves pretty quick and I just didn't have time. Here goes ...

1. All my supplies and ingredients were prepped first. I always clean an extra two or three jars; many times I'll need one for foam and often I end up with more jam than the recipe predicts. Start the water boiling in your canner so it's ready when the jars have been covered.*

The second pic shows the rhubarb, crushed strawberries, lemon juice, pectin, and butter mixed together. This mixture is brought to a full rolling boil - that means the boil cannot be stirred down - over high heat, stirring constantly.

2. All the sugar is added to the fruit. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Once again, the mixture is brought to a full rolling boil. Boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim any foam, if necessary. **If there is foam, I skim it into a jar to be used. It still tastes good on bread!

3. Ladle the jam into jars. I always end up with more jam than the recipe predicts.

4. The jars have all been filled, leaving about 1/4"- 1/2" headspace (the distance between the layer of jam and the top of the jar). My next step is to wipe the jar rims with a clean damp cloth to remove any sticky jam. If you skip this step, there is a chance your jar won't seal.

5. Next, place the lids and screw-bands. Tighten the screwband until just tight.

6. Move the covered jars to the canner. Once a full boil is reached, set your timer for 10 minutes and cover the canner.

7. When the timer signals the end of processing, remove the jars to a towel covered wood board or cutting board. The lids should seal within 24 hours ... mine usually seal within the first minute. When the top is pressed, it won't flex up and down when sealed. Let the jars cool for 12-24 hours, undisturbed.

8. Once cooled, label the jars or write on the lids with permanent maker (lids aren't reusable). The jam is good for one year, but I have used mine after a year ... as long as it's sealed and if upon opening it is not discolored and smells good.

*Many times, I'll start my canner to boil well before I start mixing the jam ingredients. It saves time in the long run, and it's better to put 'hot' jars into the canner. You do not want the jam to cool down between being ladled into jars and being placed in the canner for processing.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

E-Z Moist Cake

Last weekend, a friend of the family came over to visit with her kids. They brought just the right number of pieces of her mother's 'famous' cake. I didn't know about this cake ... guess I haven't been in the country long enough!! Anyway, we all enjoyed it.

I could have called for the recipe, but our friend mentioned that it was made with a mix. I figured I could find it in one of my many church cookbooks ... and I found a recipe that I believe will produce identical results.

E-Z Moist Cake
Yield: 12 servings

1 cake mix*
2 eggs
1/2 cup cultured sour cream
1 can pie filling, any flavor (cherry and chocolate are a great combo)

Use the cake mix dry. Add all ingredients. Mix by hand or at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at high speed. (I mixed by hand because I didn't want the cherries mashed.) Spray the bottom of a 13x9 inch pan with cooking spray and pour the batter into the pan. You will need to spread the batter out evenly. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 25-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

I plan to frost with chocolate frosting. Chocolate frosting is great on chocolate cake with cherry pie filling (this is what our friend brought over). However, I think caramel frosting would be excellent on white cake with apple pie filling. One other note ... if you use apple pie filling, toss in about 1 tsp. cinnamon.

*Recipe recommends white, friend's mom uses chocolate ... mmm not a hard decision ... CHOCOLATE!)

Sourdough Bread

This is my second attempt. The first ended up rather flat, and while it had the sourdough taste, it definitely wasn't good for much else! So, hopefully the end result you see here is better. I have been reading a lot online about sourdough. Lots of opinions out there! There is a bit of a learning curve ... mostly because I'm not a 'natural' bread baker. But, my waffles and pancakes have turned out wonderful and I felt it was time to branch out.

I was up early again today - 5:30a - so an early start for bread-making (which is a good thing). By 6a, the dough was mixed and ready to sit for its first 90 minute rise. I have such a hard time throwing out ANY starter, so this is a double batch. I split my starter yesterday with the intent of making bread this morning, so that meant I had two cups of starter ... thus the double batch. If all goes well, I'll have two loaves and sourdough buns for supper ~ and snacking.

Mixing the ingredients and forming a nice dough ball were the first steps this morning. As you can see below, the dough rose well during the first 'sitting'.

Next, I divided the huge dough ball into four portions. I formed two loaves and cut the remaining quarters into appropriate portions for buns - I was able to get about 2 dozen buns. (My picture shows 8 portions, but I had to make them a bit smaller for sandwiches. Eight portions would be great for hamburgers, though.)

Next, my formed loaves and buns are shown.

The formed loaves and buns sit for another 60 minutes to double in size, once again.

The tops are slashed on the loaves and they are ready to bake. Only time will tell ...

Buns into the oven, too. I'll try baking for 15 minutes and then check for doneness on the buns. (15 minutes is the perfect amount of time)

The loaves are done and nicely browned. They will need to cool just a bit and then I'll test a slice with rhubarb jam (courtesy of Grandma Golden Acres).

Sweet Success! The bread is delicious!! The buns turned out nice, too. I brushed the tops of the loaves and buns with butter after they came out of the oven. The best bun-maker in my hometown used to do that; I'm not sure why, but it tastes good.

Rustic Sourdough Bread
Source: King Arthur Flour
Yield: 2 loaves

1 cup (8.5 oz.) "fed" sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups (12 oz.) luke-warm water
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbls. sugar
2 tsp. instant yeast
5 cups (21.25 oz.) Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Combine all of the ingredients, kneading to form a smooth, soft dough, adding a bit of additional flour if needed. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.

Divide the dough in half and shape into two oval loaves. Place on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise till very puffy, about 60 minutes. Slash the tops, and bake in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven, and cool on a rack.