Sunday Things: Winter Jam

Red, fragrant, delicious, I’m not talking about music when I refer to winter jam. But I might as well be, the way that this jam is music to your taste buds, hums in your throat as you swallow it, puts a song in your heart like the one you can’t get out of your head.

Winter jam, jam wherein the warmth and savor of summer are conjured through small batches of love in a jar. Some people call it strawberry jam, but this is no ordinary strawberry jam. Made in the depths of winter and with one secret ingredient this jam, in its quilted jars, sparkles like jewels, like rubies, in your hand.

To make winter jam, you need to be able to scoop at least one handful of snow off your windowsill. That handful of snow will go into the big canning pot as part of the water bath for the jars. If you can’t do that — scoop a handful of snow off your windowsill for the big pot — then what you are making is just-jam, not winter jam.*

I live five floors up and I was still able to grab a handful of snow from my windowsill because the wind blew it there.

Something about that handful of snow makes the water bubble all the merrier and the strawberries blush all the redder. Something about incorporating snow, the very stuff of winter, right into your jam-making process is magical. Just telling you so you’ll know.

Use your favorite jam recipe, cook it up (the aroma of summer will fill your snowed-in home as you do this), ladle it into jars (notice how it sparkles and throws prisms of strawberry light around the room). And if you share your winter jam with friends and family be prepared to lock the door behind them because they will be pounding on it asking for more.

Some things you can do with winter jam:
Just look at it in its jar, so red, so bright, enjoy the visual beauty of winter jam.
Eat it with a spoon straight out of the jar.
Spread it on hot toasted bread (with or without butter).
Dollop it on scones and clotted cream.
Layer it in your homemade jelly roll (my mom always made jelly rolls–the best ever!–when I was growing up).
Use it as a topping for ice-cream. Yum!

*And that handful of snow has to be fresh and clean even though it is going to be boiled in the big pot along with the rest of the water that you will submerse the sealed jars in.

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Sunday Things: “Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.” — Carl Sandburg


Breakfast biscuits and assorted jams and spreads: strawberry jam, raspberry jam, pear butter (yum!) and butter. Photography, biscuits, jams, and pear butter by Annette Marie Hyder*


Biscuits and Jam

If poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits, as Carl Sandburg says, then we had the makings of some mighty fine poetry this morning.

What kind of beverage would you pair with this? We already had a pot of coffee gurgling away to chase the sleep away on this cold overcast morning but then we thought of hot cocoa. Once the thought of hot cocoa has drifted its way into your thoughts, whispering of its creaminess, its shaved chocolate, milk and sugar stirred and heated to a passionate perfection on the stove top, of the clouds of whipped cream that float on top of its dark heaven, you might as well give in to its temptation, its heated whispers. And so, hot cocoa it was with lots of whipped cream.

Happy Sunday!

*I used Martha Stewart’s Slow-Cooker Pear and Apple Butter Recipe as a jumping off point to make my pear butter but omitted the apples and added ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom. There are a lot of great jelly and jam recipes here. Look around and see what appeals to you.

Quiche and coffee weather

The mornings are cooler and this week I have felt that there is nothing better than a slice of quiche and a perfect cup of coffee to start the day off. Some fruit on the side (strawberries, grapes, melon) and the wind whistling through my windows comprise the right accompaniment.

I made this Quiche Lorraine very fattening but it’s all good fat. My daughter loves this quiche and that is even with the onions and cayenne pepper included in the recipe.

How did I add extra fat to a recipe that has half-and-half and bacon in it? Well I sauteed the onions in the fat from the bacon. Another alteration to the recipe I made was to use 1 cup of half-and-half and 1 cup of whipping cream, a combination of the two instead of just one or the other.

I also sprinkled nutmeg and paprika on the top of the quiche before putting it into the oven. Yum!

Here is the recipe from Betty Crocker if you’d like to try your hand at it:

Quiche Lorraine

Ingredients

Pastry

1 cup Gold Medal® all-purpose flour 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon shortening 2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

Filling

8
slices bacon, crisply cooked, crumbled (1/2 cup) 1 cup shredded Swiss
or Cheddar cheese (4 oz) 1/3 cup finely chopped onion 4 large eggs 2
cups whipping cream or half-and-half 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon
pepper 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)

Directions

  • 1
    In
    medium bowl, mix flour and salt. Cut in shortening, using pastry
    blender (or pulling 2 table knives through ingredients in opposite
    directions), until particles are size of small peas. Sprinkle with cold
    water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing with fork until all flour is
    moistened and pastry almost cleans side of bowl (1 to 2 teaspoons more
    water can be added if necessary).
  • 2
    Gather
    pastry into a ball. Shape into flattened round on lightly floured
    surface. Wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate about 45 minutes or until
    dough is firm and cold, yet pliable. This allows the shortening to
    become slightly firm, which helps make the baked pastry more flaky. If
    refrigerated longer, let pastry soften slightly before rolling.
  • 3
    Heat
    oven to 425°F. With floured rolling pin, roll pastry into round 2
    inches larger than upside-down 9-inch quiche dish or glass pie plate.
    Fold pastry into fourths; place in quiche dish. Unfold and ease into
    dish, pressing firmly against bottom and side. Trim overhanging edge of
    pastry 1 inch from rim of pie plate. Fold and roll pastry under, even
    with plate; flute as desired.
  • 4
    Carefully
    line pastry with a double thickness of foil, gently pressing foil to
    bottom and side of pastry. Let foil extend over edge to prevent
    excessive browning. Bake 10 minutes. Carefully remove foil and bake 2 to
    4 minutes longer or until pastry just begins to brown and has become
    set. If crust bubbles, gently push bubbles down with back of spoon.
  • 5
    Reduce
    oven temperature to 325°F. Sprinkle bacon, cheese and onion in pie
    crust. In medium bowl, beat eggs slightly; beat in remaining filling
    ingredients. Pour into quiche dish.
  • 6
    Bake 45 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Follow up: Awake!

I am sorry to have to report to you that my experience with the Awake chocolate bar was a disappointing one. As soon as I opened the wrapper I was let down by the dusty appearance of the bar. Just how long did this bar sit on its shelf before I came along and fell under its spell? Add to the ancient look of the bar an odd lack of smell. I like to smell the scent of whatever delicious item I am about to taste (I know I’m not the only one). It enhances my enjoyment and in this case there was a sad lack of enjoyment and no enhancement thereof.


The first bar, so old and dusty that it fell apart before I could eat it or take its picture.


Second bar with tell-tale light coloring at the top left corner indicative of age (as if it is going gray).

The taste: sugary plastic. No I have never actually eaten sugary plastic but I have eaten sugar and I have put enough plastic spoons, rims of solo cups, bendy straws, and temple piece tips of sunglasses in my mouth to recognize the presence of plastic as a taste factor. This chocolate bar tasted like an amalgam of all of the above with a few eraser tips thrown in for good measure and all coated in the added insult to my taste buds of the most saccharine and stalest of sugars. The caramel bar was slightly less repulsive
than the plain milk chocolate bar but I suspect that is because I love
caramel so much.

But what about the caffeine? This too was wanting. No discernible increase in energy occurred. In fact I felt deflated after eating 1/2 the bar and couldn’t bear to finish it. It filled me with dissatisfaction. ‘Awake’ is a misnomer. This chocolate bar would be more aptly styled ‘Ennui’.

But I don’t want to leave you on such a sad and disenchanted note. So allow me, dear reader, to tell you about a completely delicious, addictive and crave-worthy chocolate bar, the dark chocolate bar with caramelized honey by Chuao Chocolatiers of southern California. From the back of the package, “The Honeycomb bar is a sweet bouquet of silky dark chocolate and
crunchy, caramelized honey. Its pleasing layers of tropical flavors and
contrasting textures seduce chocolate lovers like bees to a flower.

Dazzling and delicious!


Yes, apparently we enjoy posing our chocolate bars near floral and branch arrangements to suggest the delightful conceit of a Wonkian world where chocolate grows on trees.

I wasn’t able to take a photo of the actual bar out of its wrapper because the Chuao bars disappear around here before anyone can think of taking a photo. But this is what it looks like (photos courtesy of CandyBlog):

 

You can find these bars at Super Target (or online at the Chuao website) and thank me later.

My brother sends me food pics


My brother Thom and I trade food pics of the things we make like we are trading Yugioh cards. He is always one-upping me and making me miss his chef-errific ways!

Here, the latest offerings via smart phone from Thom:


Stromboli!


Bread studded with sun-dried tomatoes and garlic!

 
Fruit and vegetable arrangement by Audrey!

And what did I have to send in return? Well…I made a pie.


A key lime pie.

Here’s a video of Jazzy helping her uncle Thom make pizza when she was 6 yrs. old.
(Sorry if your browser doesn’t support this video.)

Sunday Things: Needs more Audrey

My mom is French. Her mother and father were both 100% French. French toast was invented as a way to make use of leftover (read slightly stale) bread. The French call it pain perdu (or lost bread) since the recipe lets you reclaim older or forgotten bread.

When it comes to making french toast, my mom is nonpareil. Even her own mother, Mary, would put on her fast shoes to get across the street to our house when my mom was making french toast. And even after we moved from East Bradenton to Palma Sola — quite a drive — my grandma would show up magically whenever my mom was making french toast, “I knew you were making french toast, why didn’t you call me?” she would demand. Well as you can see, there was really no need. No need to pick up the phone when she had a built in automatic Audrey-french-toast-making detector.

So yes, my mom is unparallelled when it comes to making french toast. But still I try. For the longest time she had a secret ingredient and she was holding out on me with that. Finally after much wheedling (begging) she claims she told me what that secret ingredient is and yet — my french toast does not turn out like hers. Hers is always more delicious.

So if on a lazy summer Sunday you have a hankering for some delicious golden french toast, served with butter and syrup and sprinkled with powdered sugar, I suggest you just ask my mom to make you some. But if you are set on making some yourself and you do not yearn for gustatory perfection, you might try a variation of the following recipe which comes down to us all the way from medieval times.

(French toast is basically slices of bread drenched in an egg
and milk mixture, and fried to a golden crisp in a pool of melted
butter or your choice of cooking fat. You can add vanilla extract, orange juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, eggnog, or flavored liqueurs. The key is to use day-old bread so that it soaks up all that egg mixture without breaking apart. Some people leave the bread out overnight to stale it up a bit.)

Suppe dorate [Gilded sippets]

Take slices of white bread, trimmed so that they have no crusts; make
these slices square and slightly grilled so that they are colored all
over by the fire. Then take eggs beaten together with plenty of sugar
and a little rose water; and put the slices of bread in this to soak;
carefully remove them, and fry them a little in a frying pan with a
little butter and lard, turning them very frequently so that they do not
burn. Then arrange them on a plate, and top with a little rose water
colored yellow with a little saffron, and with plenty of sugar.
—The Medieval Kitchen, Recipes from France and Italy, Odilie Redon et al, (p.207)
(recipe translated from Libro de arte coquinaria, Maestro Martino [1450]) Source book available at Amazon.com

I think the real secret ingredient that is missing for me is the love
that my mom adds as she makes her french toast and so my french toast is
lacking that authentic essential — it needs more Audrey. And so do I.

Missing my mom who is 1,700 miles away in Florida. ❤

Hot summer, cold water

It’s hot outside but cool drinks are just a sip away from refreshing you with the hydration you crave.

I found the recipe for this “vitamin water” on Facebook. You wash and slice 1 cucumber, 1/2 a grapefruit, and 1 tangerine. Add the sliced fruit and cucumber to a pitcher, fill with water and ice and garnish with peppermint leaves. It’s supposed to be über healthy and filled with vitamins (the vitamins from the fruit disperse in the water). The colors are beautiful and appealing to the eye and the smell is fresh and lively.


Photos Copyright Annette Marie Hyder

The best part about drinking this water was the coolness I felt because of smelling the cucumber. The taste was too bitter for me to really enjoy and so I experimented and made up a pitcher with fruits and cucumber (1 cucumber, grapes to taste, blueberries to taste, 1 orange, 1/2 a lime, 1 nectarine, and peppermint leaves).

The fruit drenched water is the best tasting, most refreshing and delightful to drink! Forget about all those flavored waters they sell with artificial flavorings and/or just a touch of juice to make them “special”. This is it. I could drink my variation all day long. I don’t have a pic of the fruit water because we keep drinking it all up before I can take one.