Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pick & Jam

I never thought I would get into the kitchen this deep (maybe you saw it coming), but I made jam this afternoon. The crazy part? It was easy! People always talk about what a hassle it is, how you have to have all this gear, be so precise, blah blah blah. And well, you have to have a stockpot and know how to follow directions, but those are life essentials anyway. So, here's how it went for me. There's a bit of technical food safety stuff to tend to before you start, but I'll include links, and tada, you'll be making jam before you know it! (And eating it for a long time.)

If you've got better chops than I in the jarring world, I'd love to hear your tricks & favorites (and hopefully you're not rolling your eyes at my novicey-ness).

I love Raspberry Jam, it's always been my Mom's favorite (conveniently, her birthday is tomorrow...) and became mine as soon as I outgrew my squirmishness about seeds. I've heard they're essential in developing full flavor and I like that thought, true or not, so I left them in.

First, get yourself to a raspberry patch. Ok, this first part isn't easy at all, but I'd venture you'll appreciate every teaspoonful of every jar at least three --no, five -- times as much if you pick your own berries. It's not breezy business, and when we went out this year, the bees came too. I've got a big ugly welt on the small of my back to prove it (impertinent, shirt-lifting bee!). I won't tell you about all the mosquito and fly bites, lest I discourage you. Besides, I'm sure our adventure was an anomaly.

(It was pretty entertaining watching Jacob run several hundred yards, hollering "there's a bee on my head! it's still there!" before ripping off his shirt and shaking himself loose of that bee, all the while still carrying the equipment he'd been using to record the sounds of the farm's bee hives. But no stings for him.)

We picked 3 heaping pints and ate half of one before I got around to cooking the jam...

I stirred together the 5 cups of berries, and 3 1/2 or so cups of sugar, and a tablespoon or two of fresh squeezed lemon juice in a pot and boiled it til the jam drips seemed to gel a bit coming off the back of a cool metal spoon.

While the fruit cooked, I pre-sterilized the jars by boiling them upright in a stock pot covered by an inch of water for about 10 min. along with their rubber gaskets, which I replaced with clean hands, setting them on a towel on the counter.

Then I filled my 5 200 ml jars, carefully, with a ladle (you can use a wide mouth funnel if you've got one)-- I had a bad spill, actually, a puddle of yummy jam on a dish towel, (which I had to eat right then & there). After closing them and making sure the lids were on properly, I dunked them all back in the stock pot, and boiled them away (at a rolling boil) for another 10 minutes, with the water covering them by 1 inch & making sure never to tip them over (you want to keep the fruit out of the sealing area.

Now they're sitting on the window sill on a towel, cooling. (They're not supposed to be exposed to a cold draft or counter top, hence the towel, but it's warm out today, so by the window is fine.) I hope the seals take!

The next morning...

It worked! When they were completely cool, we unfastened the metal clamps and the jars stayed shut! We pried one open this am to try it on a lonely english muffin that had been hanging out in our fridge for a couple of days, and, wow, it's real jam! Lucky muffin.

Now there's just this giant peck of apples left, sitting forlornly over in the corner. After I photograph Audrey & Wes' much anticipated wedding tomorrow, it's apple sauce for me!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pizza Bianca

I'm not even going to try to explain my abscence. I'm here now, that's what matters.

And what also matters is the Pizza Bianca I made today. An accidental success. I defrosted the dough a few days ago, but then didn't end up making it til today. Then I baked it on a super hot pizza stone (like, 450, 500 degrees, no joke). The result, bubbly, deep flavored crust. Yum.

Warning, this dough needs to hang in the fridge for several days. (NEEDS to, P., you know who you are!)

Pizza Bianca is typically topped with grated Mozarella in lieu of sauce.

Ok, for the crust. (We'll talk about toppings later since, honestly, I cleaned out the fridge to top these!)

2/3 cup lukewarm water
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup fine cornmeal
1 3/4 to 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
2 tsp coarse salt

In stand mixer with dough hook, or in a bowl mix water & yeast together & let sit til dissolved/frothing. Add sugar & oil, then add salt, cornmeal & 1 3/4 c. of the flour, adding more til dough is soft, not sticky.

Knead on a lightly floured surface for 10 mins til smooth & elastic, or 5 mins in stand mixer. Let rise in a warm place, covered in a lightly oiled bowl for an hour or so, til doubled. Divide into four & form balls. Pop'em in ziplocs in the fridge (for use 2 days later) or in freezer (to save for a month or so).

To bake pizzas pull dough out of fridge a few hours to a few mins before ready to roll them out. Preheat your oven & pizza stone to 450 ish, and roll out the dough to 10 inches or so.

Start with a generous sprinkling of mozzarella and then be creative, I had odds & ends of things lying around and these 2 combos came out nicely:

1/2 c grated Mozzarella
1/4 c or less of Feta
1/4 cup good black olives (this makes a difference, I got mine at the olive bar at whole foods)
dusting of fresh thyme leaves
a quarter of a yellow pepper, diced


1/2 c grated Mozzarella
1/4 c freshly grated parmesan
1/3 c asparagus tips, par boiled
3 or 4 slices prosciutto
1 small sprik of fresh rosemary, chopped

It's good to be back. Now if only we hadn't eaten these before I could snap some photos....