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Easiest Dessert Ever!

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

 

I have always been an admirer of Jaques Pepin. The man is a culinary technique master of masters. Today, I happened to catch an episode of his PBS television show “Fast Food, My Way” and watched him prepare the following recipe. It was SO simple, that I had to prepare it immediately! I didn’t catch a name for the dish, but it’s basically a berry crumble. I can’t imagine a dessert being any easier, and still being “homemade”.

Ready to bake...blackberries, crumbled shortbread, sugar, and butter.

Ready to bake…blackberries, crumbled shortbread, sugar, and butter.

Easy Cookie/Berry Crumble

2 small containers of fresh or individually frozen berries, plus/minus (I used frozen blackberries.)

1/3 cup sugar, more or less, depending on sweetness of berries

Your choice of cookies, crumbled. (I used my homemade shortbread) About 1/2 cup plus/minus

4 T. butter

Directions: Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center. In a pyrex or similar baking dish, around 8″x8″ or 9″x9″, add enough berries to cover the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle cookie crumbles over to evenly cover the berries. Sprinkle sugar over, evenly, Break up the butter into pieces and dot around the top of the crumble. Bake about 30-35 minutes, until fruit is bubbling throughout the dish. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to warm or room temperature.

Somebody get me some vanilla ice cream!!!

Somebody get me some vanilla ice cream!!!

Serve with your choice of accompaniment, such as ice cream, whipped cream, crème fraiche, etc. I can see doing these in individual mini dishes for guests. Enjoy!

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Scuppernong Jelly 2016

Scuppernong grapes

Scuppernong grapes

 

Well, this year hasn’t been too productive in my usual spots for wild foraging my Muscadines; so, I wound up purchasing some Scuppernongs at the local farmer’s market. Scuppernongs are the green/gold variety of Muscadines. I think the flavor is a little lighter, and maybe has a little honey note to it. (I’ve thought about making a Scuppernong mead, but haven’t done it yet.) I bought a “one gallon” bag of grapes for $10.00 and weighed them when I got home. It was literally one big grape over four pounds. Of course, I ate about 4 or 5, so it was about 3 pounds and 14-1/2 ounces when I started the jelly making process.

Mashing and boiling the grapes.

Mashing and boiling the grapes.

The recipe that I’m using is from the USDA Guidelines…pretty much have to do that if I want to be able to enter my final product in the N.C. State Fair Food Preservation competition. (I’ve entered a number of things over the last four years and won two first place blue ribbons and several second place ribbons.) Here’s a link to the recipe: http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_07/grape_jelly_powder.html   But keep in mind, things don’t always work out perfectly regarding volume.

Grapes after 10 minute simmer.

Grapes after 10 minute simmer.

This time, the grapes I had yielded only 3-1/2 cups of juice…even though the recipe only calls for 3-1/2 pounds of grapes and a cup of water. The recipe is based on Concord grapes, though…maybe they provide a better yield than Scuppernongs. Anyway, to get to the 5 cups of juice that is called for, I strained my grapes through a cheesecloth bag that I created and hung from a cabinet and allowed to drip into a bowl.

Extracting the grape juice.

Extracting the grape juice.

After squeezing the pulp, I put another 1-1/2 cups of water in a pot on the stove and boiled the cheesecloth bag in it, like a teabag for ten minutes. I poured the now-flavored water into the bowl and re-hung the bag to drip. I’m trying to keep the flavor from getting watered down.

The juice is now refrigerated until I’m ready  to continue the process tomorrow. This allows any sediment to settle and reduces the chance of tartrate crystals forming in the final product. The juice will be filtered through cheesecloth again before continuing.

Next Day: I ran the juice through cheesecloth and held back a tiny amout of sediment. I needed to add about a 1/2 c. of water to make 5 cups total.

Almost ready to can.

Almost ready to can.

Followed the rest of the recipe instructions and ended with nine 1/2-pint jelly jars and processed them in the water bath canner for 5 minutes. Now they sit for 24 hours. (I love hearing those lids popping as the vacuum seals them to the jars!)

Jars of Scuppernong jelly.

Jars of Scuppernong jelly.

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Cherry Fruit Leather from Fresh Cherries

Sugar, water, cherries

Sugar, water, cherries (There’s a few Mt. Raniers in there.)

With cherries in season and some deals here and there, I had some on hand. Unfortunately, nobody was eating them and they were just passing their prime. Having recently discovered that my almost 15 month old grandson was very enthusiastic with the discovery of “Fruit by the Foot” snacks, I decided to pull out the dehydrator and give it a shot. By coincidence, I happened to find a deal on some Presto brand liners for making fruit leather and had bought a couple. That probably spurred me on a bit as well. My dehydrator is a Nesco brand, however, and it has a bigger center hole than the Presto model, so the dehydrator motor would not fit through the Presto accessory’s center hole.

Presto liner on a Nesco dehydrator. Presto has a smaller hole...oops.

Presto liner on a Nesco dehydrator. Presto has a smaller hole…oops.

Having already poured the fruit puree, my best bet was to put the trays at the bottom with the empty ones on top. Those, plus the lid, got me close…still sticking up a little, but enough for the dehydrator to work.

Put fruit leather trays on bottom. Note small gap between lid and motor.

Put fruit leather trays on bottom. Note small gap between lid and motor.

As for the fruit leather, I looked around on Pinterest and found a recipe that looked like what I was searching for. The recipe, at http://www.bakedbyrachel.com/cherry-fruit-leather/  (credit where due!), specifies using an oven at 170F and sheet pans with silicone liners, but I figured that substituting a dehydrator would be no problem. I will admit  that I didn’t really measure my cherries…but I think I was in the neighborhood of four cups. In the end, I perfectly lined the 2 inserts, with none left over.

One tip: double check your cherries for pits. I thought I was careful, but a couple made it into the blender and I had  to run the puree through a sieve. I left behind a little fiber and peel, I guess, but I think I would add that step anyway, for a smoother puree. So, here’s the recipe:

 

Cherry Fruit Leather

4 cups fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted

1/4 cup water

1/3 cup granulated sugar

 

Directions

Add the water and the fruit to a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Use a potato masher to mash the cherries as they cook. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until well broken down. (I must admit that I added the sugar also and it seems to have turned out okay, though it was supposed to be added later.)

Mashed cherries simmering.

Mashed cherries simmering.

Transfer the cooked fruit to a blender, in batches, and blend until smooth. I did mine in 2 batches. Be careful with hot stuff in blenders! I left the center hole open and covered with a towel, to avoid building pressure and causing a hot fruit puree explosion.

Pureed and strained.

Pureed and strained.

Return the puree to the saucepan…after passing through a sieve, if necessary or desired. Add the sugar…if you didn’t do it when I did, by mistake. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened some. Remove from heat and stir bubbles down a bit.

Simmered on reduced heat for 10 minutes.

Simmered on reduced heat for 10 minutes.

Lightly spray your dehydrator disks with a nonstick spray or lightly brush with oil and place on dehydrator trays. Ladle the puree onto disks and carefully give a jiggle to even out puree.

Ladled onto nonstick sprayed liner.

Ladled onto nonstick sprayed liner.

Add the cover and the motor and dehydrate until a little tacky to touch, but not dried out completely. (Although…it needed to be a little drier than I thought.) Should be between 4 to 7 hours, depending on your dehydrator, humidity, etc. (Mine actually took more like nine hours.) Allow to cool. Peel from dehydrator inserts and store, rolled in wax paper or parchment and stored in an airtight container, up to one month. (Cut in smaller strips, if desired.) Enjoy!

Ready to eat cherry fruit leather. Rolled in parchment paper.

Ready to eat cherry fruit leather. Rolled in parchment paper.

I did need to go to the longer period of time for the dehydrator…actually, well beyond. One tray was a little thicker than the other and, when I touched it, it kind of schmudged it some. Yeah…made up that word. And I turned it off after about 5 hours, thinking it was done. I decided it wasn’t done, later, after it had cooled. I popped the trays back in the dehydrator and let them go another 3 or 4 hours. The thicker one then went another hour. But they turned out fine, in the end, and taste good. Live and learn. Next time, the process will be smoother.

 

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Finally Made Wrangler Jelly!

Ingredients, except for sugar, for the Wrangler Jelly.

Ingredients, except for sugar, for the Wrangler Jelly.

It’s been about three years ago, that I pinned an interesting sounding recipe on Pinterest to my “MMMFoodies Canning Stuff. https://www.pinterest.com/mattmmille/mmm-foodies-canned-stuff/ Even though the recipe called for canned crushed pineapple, I had a fresh one and I was going to try it. Well, I wound up using that pineapple for something else and that recipe sat there, unused…except that it was one of the two most re-pinned recipes from my collection!  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/516928863450185549/

Well, it’s getting down to freezing temperatures overnight, in my area, and I just picked a few small poblanos and a couple of small, green tomatoes ahead of the freeze. Looking at them, the Wrangler Jelly recipe came to mind. I had the canned pineapple and pectin on hand, so I decided to give it a try. I followed the recipe as linked above with the substitution of the poblanos for the jalapenos and the addition of the little green tomatoes. I chopped all of them fairly fine.

Fine chopped poblanos and green tomatoes.

Fine chopped poblanos and green tomatoes.

The recipe says to add all the ingredients, except the pectin, and bring to a boil. Then add the pectin and boil for one minute. In my jelly and jam making experience, I always held back the sugar until the boil was reached,

Bringing the ingredients together.

Bringing the ingredients together. (Including seeds from ONE of the peppers.)

…added the sugar, returned to the boil, added the pectin and brought back to the boil for one minute. I don’t know if it makes a big difference, but that’s what I did.

Four cups of sugar. (Used dry measure... glass liquid measure was just for pouring).

Four cups of sugar. (Used dry measure… glass liquid measure was just for pouring).

Bringing back to a boil with the sugar added.

Bringing to a boil just before the sugar is added.

After canning, I actually got 4 half pint jars and two 4oz jars. I always prepare more jars/lids/rings than what is called for in the recipe, for just such a situation. (The recipe said it would make the 4 half pints.) I tasted a tiny bit that was left in the pot, and the cayenne pepper plus the poblanos made it plenty spicy! I think the green tomato will add a small citrusy component and a touch of added texture…and probably accounts for some of the excess volume.

Yielded 4 half pints and two 4oz jars.

Yielded 4 half pints and two 4oz jars.

My plans for this batch include a cream cheese and Wrangler Jelly appetizer with crackers at Thanksgiving, maybe some glazed pork chops, and possibly a Wrangler Baked Brie. This may not be the best jelly for your morning toast, but I don’t think I will have any problem finding uses for this versatile little jelly! And I may gift a jar or two. I just wish I hadn’t waited so long to make it…it was so easy! If you decide to save this recipe, don’t put it off…make it! And enjoy!

Update: I may have to try this again and add the sugar at the same time as the other ingredients…or something. The jelly didn’t really set and I have more like a candied relish product; sort of like that pineapple topping used on ice cream sundaes. It will still work for some of my intended recipes, but I would still like to figure it out!

Hmmm...still tasty, but didn't gel. (With a whole box of pectin!)

Hmmm…still tasty, but didn’t gel. (With a whole box of pectin!)

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Further Adventures with Jackfruit…Canning in Syrup

Fresh Jackfruit. ripe.

Fresh Jackfruit. ripe.

When I got this jackfruit, I went through quite a learning experience to get the fruit separated from the husk. For that adventure, see my previous post. With some of the fruit, I decided to make a Jackfruit Cider. For that adventure, you can follow his link to my brewing and fermenting blog:

https://mmmbrews.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/jackfruit-cider-well-see/

With 2lbs of fruit left, plus the seeds, I needed to finish up before things started going bad. First, the seeds. I boiled the seeds for 15 minutes and then roasted them for another 15 minutes at 400F. The skin covering the outside is a little bit of a pain to remove. The seed itself is like a very dry, firm potato. Not bad, though. A nice snack.

Jackfruit seeds. Boiled and then roasted.

Jackfruit seeds. Boiled and then roasted.

Now, for the fruit.

2lbs fresh jackfruit.

2lbs fresh jackfruit.

Canned Jackfruit in Syrup

2lbs fresh, ripe jackfruit

3 cups white sugar

3 cups water

Directions:

Combine the water and sugar in a large pot or saucepan and stir to dissolve the sugar over high heat. Bring to a boil and add the jackfruit. Boil for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare 2 pint jars, lids, and screw rings for canning. Prepare pressure canner.

Boiling jackfruit in syrup.

Boiling jackfruit in syrup.

Add fruit to jars and cover with syrup, leaving approx. ½” headspace. Clean rims with damp cloth. Place lids and screw down rings to finger tight.

Jackfruit ready for jars.

Jackfruit ready for jars.

Place jars carefully into prepared pressure canner and close lid. Purge according to manufacturer’s recommendations (10 minutes, in my case). Place weight and bring pressure to 11lbs.

11lbs for 15 minutes, after 10 minute purge.

11lbs for 15 minutes, after 10 minute purge.

Process for 15 minutes. Allow to cool in canner until pressure is zero. Remove jars to cloth-lined counter and allow to rest for 24 hours to seal. When cool enough to touch, snug down screw rings. After the rest period, check seal, remove screw rings, and store in cool, dark space.

Canned jackfruit in syrup, just out of the pressure canner.

Canned jackfruit in syrup, just out of the pressure canner.

Note: I had excess syrup…about 2/3 of a pint jar. I let it cool and refrigerated it. Not sure what I’ll do with it yet.

 

 

 

 

 

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2014 Crab Apple Jelly

Getting ready to boil the crab apple juice.

Getting ready to boil the crab apple juice.

Yes, it’s time for my award winning crab apple jelly! For the recipe and last year’s notes, check out this link: https://mmmfoodies.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/crabapple-jelly-2nd-place-at-nc-state-fair-2012/

The only differences this year are that 1) I had to forage my crab apples from a neighbor because our HOA Board of Directors had all the ones on community property cut down. *steam*

Community crab apples cut down...have to rely on a neighbor.

Community crab apples cut down…have to rely on a neighbor.

and  2) I used about 5 lbs of crab apples instead of four. I wound up with 7 cups of juice, but I only used six cups and did not have to add any water.

Cooked and strained crab apples=juice

Cooked and strained crab apples=juice

I’m keeping my fingers crossed for another winner at this year’s North Carolina State Fair!

Finished crab apple jelly

Finished crab apple jelly

Now I need to figure out what to do with 21 more pounds of crab apples before they start rotting!  I only need so much jelly…maybe one more batch for gifts. I’ll probably do another batch of hard cider…my little counter top extractor is a bit under sized for the job, but it’s all I have. One of these days, I’m going to burn out the motor. Maybe I’ll get a press some day…when I have substantially more money!

 

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Strawberry Jam, Simple but Awesome Recipe

Pints of Strawberry Jam

Pints of Strawberry Jam

2016 update: local crop is in and looks great…won’t be around much longer, though, so I went to a local farm and picked up 2 baskets (gallon size) for $14.oo each. I have made two batches of strawberry jam today and find that I can make 2 batches from one basket. Bumping this post for seasonal reasons…get some fresh strawberries!

In 2012, my older daughter got married. As a small token to our wedding guests, I made a 4 0z  jar of  homemade strawberry jam with a little fabric cover and a label with the wedding date, the bride and groom’s names and the message “Spread the Love”. Oh, and I made two hundred and twenty-five of them!

Wedding favors.

Wedding favors.

I had help picking some of the strawberries and a little help with the jam process from my younger daughter, but I did make several backache producing strawberry picking trips on my own. In  that time, I became rather proficient at making jam. The guests all gave the jam rave reviews! The recipe is basically the one that comes in the Sure-Jell box. It’s simple. Just follow easy directions. I haven’t tried low sugar or no sugar recipes, but I know you have to follow directions for the specific pectin product that you use, to ensure success. And do NOT try to double the recipe. Make a single batch at a time, or it will not gel. Strawberry season is almost over in my area for picking them yourself, so hurry!!! Make sure you plan for enough extra strawberries to make a fresh pie, serve over shortcake or simply with whipped cream! And enjoy!

Strawberry Jam

5 cups prepared fruit (about 2 quarts fully ripe strawberries)

1 box SURE-JELL Fruit Pectin

½ tsp. butter or margarine (optional)

7 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl

Bring boiling-water canner, half full with water or enough water to cover jars by at least 2 inches, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Add jars to the canner to santize. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling. Make sure you have all your utensils handy.

Stem and crush or chop strawberries. Measure exactly 5 cups of prepared fruit into 6- or 8-quart pot. Stir pectin into prepared fruit in sauce pot. Add butter to reduce foaming, if desired. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar.

Bringing the berries, Sure-Jell and sugar to a boil.

Bringing the berries, Sure-Jell and sugar to a boil.

Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads with a damp clean cloth or paper towel. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner.  (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches.DSC04882

Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process for 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals and tighten screw rings, if necessary. Allow to set -up for 24 hours. Once sealed and set, the screw rings can be removed and the jars stored. Recipe makes eight 1/2 pint (8 oz) jars or four pint (16 oz) jars.

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