Saturday, July 31, 2010

Jamming in the posts.

Basically catching up to where I've been in recipe testing and the lot.

So a co-worker of mine has this massive fig tree that's been overwhelming her, and she offered to let my man and myself come over and pick through and grab some.  So after about an hour of mosquito bites, we returned home with a massive basket of figs.

Being entirely unfamiliar with these fruits, my boyfriend only moderately familiar, I sought out to process them quickly and with as little loss to over-ripening and mold as possible- jam.  The last time I made jam or canned anything was eons ago as a kid with my grandmother.  We used paraffin wax due to my grandmother's arthritis. Canning lids and figs, oh boy, two new things at once!

After searching through TasteSpotting's "fig jam" recipes, I was torn between two recipes ( A Good Appetite's Fig Jam, and kiss my spatula's Homemade Fig Jam), I ended up opting for A Good Appetite's recipe due to personal lack of Grand Marnier and having already bought the fruit pectin with suspicion that I may need it.

I'll go ahead and say now, I'm still moderately appalled at the concept of 7 cups of sugar.  It's a lot.  The recipe called for it and the pectin called for it, but it's a lot!  It was like a whole 5lb bag of sugar.  Even as a person that doesn't like artificial sweeteners, it was a lot of sugar.  7 cups!

Alas, 7 cups was a necessity as I found out I couldn't skimp on it for fear of wrecking the jam.  This is where I faced another small problem.  I basically needed the same pot for two functions.  My kitchen's wonderful stainless steel stock pot was needed for boiling the canning jars, but I had no stainless steel pot big enough for the 5 cups of figs and 7 cups of sugar.  I settled for boiling the jars in my stock pot, combining the base ingredients in my largest sauce/fry pan and then splitting it into another pot for adding the sugar.

Thankfully my kitchen also has two whisks so I was able to (mostly) simultaneously boil both mixtures with the sugar and then combine them into my largest mixing bowl.  Being a poor college kid, I don't have a potato masher; but I did break out the hand mixer to try and break up the larger fig halves that didn't get mashed by packing them into the measuring cup (I keep a 4 cup measuring cup, I just filled it to the top with packed figs, I figure it was close enough to 5 cups in the end) or whacked apart during the whisking.  There's still some decent sized fig-pieces in the jam, but we'll say they're there for "charm."

Overall, canning wasn't intimidating as much as it was a bit time consuming for me.  It felt like a genuine marathon.  I'll also point out that my batch yielded enough jam for 9 jars, with even a little bit still leftover.  The jam set up just fine, so apparently the excess didn't hurt anything.  The 7 cups of sugar are there, but aren't overpowering in that super-sweet-syrupy way.  I don't believe I used the full on 1/4 cup of lemon juice, I probably only added a couple tablespoons worth; you still get the bit of acidity though.  I absolutely loved the little touch of cinnamon (loving cinnamon a lot, I probably added closer to a teaspoon, I just eyeballed it as opposed to measuring it), it really added a nice layer of depth that seemed to match the figs just fine.  It's kind of like opening a jar of Christmas, which is probably what I'll save some of these jars for to give out as presents.

Overall, the recipe was super easy, though I suggest preparing by having two huge pots ready to go.  Lid-canning was ridiculously easy, just slightly time consuming as a first timer.  The jam is delicious, I'm pacing myself as to not overwhelm my appetite with it.  I definitely recommend the recipe, it'll just be a while before I charge myself up enough to take on another project like this.

Friday, July 30, 2010

S'mores... on a STIII-K

Alright, not a huge Jeff Dunham fan, but I do love that jalapeno.

So I stumbled upon this tasty number during my initial voyages of TasteSpotting.

S'MORES ON A STICK- Capslock included!

Super easy recipe.  Double boiler some chocolate, throw marshmallows on disposable bamboo kabobs, send the boyfriend off to be manly and crush graham crackers and arrange the assembly line.

I opted out on the chocolate sprinkles, mostly because I forgot to buy them.  I suppose if you really wanted to get fancy you could drizzle these with dark or white chocolate to look like those spiffy strawberries, but at the same time you're craving the flavor profile of childhood camping.  Chocolate, marshmallow and graham crackers.

I do admit I had a slight hang up in the process; I thought my chocolate was just a little on the thick side, so I decided to try and slowly add some half and half- the chocolate seized.  Tragedy.  Tried cooling it and re-warming it with no luck.  Fortunately I'd only used half the bag of semi-sweet chips.  Second time, I let the chocolate do as it wished and set about dipping.  The marshmallow is a huge fan of sticking to the bamboo, so there was never an issue with dropping them into either the chocolate or the graham crackers as you went through the process.  This could be insanely kid friendly due to the resilience of the marshmallows.  You can really abuse them and they'll still taste great.

Another perk-  I took these to a gathering of friends and managed to have quite a few leftover (I think the batch I made up gave me around 30 s'mores on a STICK), so I threw them in a large storage bag with a paper towel and tossed them in the freezer. They're not the best to eat straight out of the icebox, but they thaw out and taste just fine.  The paper towel soaked up any incidental moisture that would've turned the graham crackers soggy.

So a friend once linked me...

My good buddy, Mr. Chapman over at The Chappy Wagon linked this fascinating website over Facebook once.  I probably check it daily, if not every other day to see what new things are being added.  This is probably the majority of what this blog will be about.


Food from TasteSpotting, specifically.

What I've tried, what's worked, what didn't, etc.  I've tried a few of the recipes now, and I'll probably start off talking about them, what I did right, what I think I did wrong, or what I think could improve.  I'll probably post little tidbits of my own feelings on cooking because if you're still reading this, maybe you care to know.

This is probably all I have to type right now, seeing as it's almost 6:30pm and I need to start on dinner-  macaroni and cheese, yum.