Thursday, November 15, 2012

no muppets were involved in this jam session

Kiwi Jam
Sometimes plain and simple can yield the most amazing results.  Take this kiwi jam, for example.  My youngest, a lover of kiwi and all things sweet, had been asking me for a preserve made of this favored fruit.  Our local warehouse store was conveniently selling big plastic breathable boxes of kiwis so after putting them in school lunches for a week, I peeled and chopped the remaining just as they were reaching that too-soft stage.  Then I opened up my trusty Ball Blue Book of Preserving.

Set up a giant stockpot or water bath canner pot of water.  I use my Ball Home Canning Discovery Kit, which is perfectly sized for small batch canning and fits into an 8 or 12 quart stockpot.  Bring the water to a boil and know where the rest of your equipment is located in your kitchen.

Kiwi Jam

3 cups of chopped and peeled kiwi fruit
1 package powdered pectin
1 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
4 cups of sugar

Mix the kiwi, powdered pectin, and pineapple juice in a large saucepan.  Don't skimp on the size of the saucepan unless you enjoy burnt sugared fruit laminated to your stove top!  Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly.  (Pause for laughter)

Um, ok.  So really, at this point, keep an eye on that mess in the pot while you drop your 4 plus an extra half-pint jars into the boiling water.  Scoop out a few ladles of hot water into a sauce pan, set it to the lowest temperature on your stove, and drop in your lids to soften.

Once you have a boil going in your fruit mixture, add the sugar all at once and stir until it is dissolved.  There will be a quiet moment before boiling picks up again and when it does, you do actually need to be there with your long-handled rubber spatula.  Bring it to a rolling boil.  Rolling boil means a boil you cannot stir down, the kind that is making the mixture creep up the sides despite your frantic stirring, threatening to spill over the pan.  It will randomly blurp hot sugared fruit mixture at your unprotected hands.  Big pot and long-handled spatula?  You will thank me later!

Boil hard for one minute, more if you are at altitude.  Take it off the heat and skim any foam that may have accumulated.  Those jars you had boiling?  Take a moment to fish those out onto a towel set up next to the pan of kiwi jam.  Ladle the jam into the jars, using the canning funnel and leaving a 1/4-inch headspace.  Wipe down the edges with a clean towel or moistened paper towel to ensure there is nothing between jar and lid to interfere with the sealing process.  Adjust the two piece cap, which means this:  place that softened lid onto the cleaned jar and secure the ring to finger-tight.  Do not crank down on that ring, it's just not necessary.

Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner with at least an inch or more of water above the jars, two inches is better.  Keep some water boiling on the stove to add, if necessary.  Start your timer when the canner water begins to boil, not when you place the jars in the canner.  Put the lid on the canner to keep the water boiling.

When the timer goes off, remove the lid from the canner, take the canner from the stove, and set a 5 minute timer.  Remove the jars to a towel on the counter and try to leave them alone at least until they cool!  Eat the now cooled jam that you ladled into the spare jar, you know, the one that didn't fill enough to put in the canner.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

the never-ending gift or With Friends Like These...

Amish Friendship Bread.  It all sounds so nice as your friend slips you a bag of goo and an over-copied sheet of instructions.  "Make sure you get some instant pudding when you shop this week," she says urgently.  You begin to notice the shifty wild eyes as she looks around for her next victim.  She has three more Ziploc bags in her purse.

So here's the truth about AFB, the little secret no one tells you.  It's a sweet sourdough starter. Amish were involved.  You can actually make your own.  After all, someone has to start the cycle!

Original Starter for Amish Friendship Bread (aka Sweet Sourdough Starter)

1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk (seeing a trend here?)
1 pkg of active dry yeast
1/4 cup 100F water

Bloom the yeast in the water for 10 minutes in a non-reactive bowl (Glass and ceramic are preferred, stainless steel is verboten), stir in other ingredients, cover and rest in a cool corner of the kitchen.  Glance at it when you remember and give it a stir if you see a watery substance on top.

On day 7 add:

1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar

Stir, cover, rest.

On day 14 add:

1 cup milk
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar

What I have done in a bowl can be done in a well-sealed Ziploc plastic bag.  This is especially fun for small children and should be left in an area of the kitchen they will see and remember to "squish it every day."  Also, the 7 days between adding additional ingredients is not firm.  So long as there are 5 days between, you are fine.  Wing it!  Also, you can reduce the whole white flour extravaganza by using whole wheat or white whole wheat for some of those 1 cup flour add-ins.

After you have run through the initial process, whatever is left of your starter can be kept alive by adding smaller amounts of the feeder ingredients - ie 1/4 cup each milk, sugar, flour - to create the quantity of starter you intend to use. You can also hold the starter in stasis in the refrigerator.  Just be sure to refresh it on the day of use by adding the feeder ingredients.  You can also revisit this starter by freezing a portion of it and feeding it (building it up) after it has been defrosted.

So, now what do you do?  Well, that depends on your friends LOL.  You can put a hefty cup of starter into Ziploc bags and send it on its merry way with a sheet of instructions you can find anywhere on the internet by Googling "Amish Friendship Bread," or you can simply fish out the starter as needed and cook it up yourself.  The online recipes will include that aforementioned box of pudding.  Feel free to find and use that yourself as it is easily located.  I prefer to use the starter to make quick breads, waffles, pancakes and cakes like the following!

Pumpkin Bread

1 cup starter
1/3 cup flavorless oil like canola
3 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin spice
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup of canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling) or cooked and mashed fresh pumpkin
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit (optional)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Grease and sugar (not flour) your baking pan(s).  Fill 2/3 full of batter.  Bake in 325F oven 45 to 90 minutes depending on the size pan you are using.  Mini-loaf pans - check after 30 minutes (four loaves), full size pans could be as long as an hour and a half (1 loaf).

mmmmm, pumpkin bread!