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Holiday Miracle Brandied Cherries in an Hour

August 11, 2013
Brandied Cherries

Brandied Cherries

This recipe is just in time because cherries are about to be unavailable in Texas. I’m sure over on the West Coast you guys are covered up with beautiful cherries for a good part of the year, here in the South, the person who finds them first in the stores each season is given a ruby chalice, a crown and a belly ache! I always eat too many- and I always forget not to eat too many until it’s too late!  Whether or not it’s easy for you to get fresh gorgeous cherries, you need to make these now because these are little miracles for the holidays.

Last summer I made a lot of jams for gifts such as peach and strawberry hibiscus but the cherry creations; bourbon cherry jam, balsamic cherry jam, brandied cherries and bourbon cocktail cherries went over like gangbusters!  Everyone loved them! Apparently they were so delicious that you could eat them directly from the jar.  If that’s not a ringing endorsement I’ve never heard one ring before! I function pretty well on positive reinforcement so this year I decided to make several batches of cocktail cherries and less fruit jams.  I had my recipes from last year but thought  that I would search around for to see what else was out there.

Cocktails are sooooo fashionable (I blame the Mad Men series) there are “new recipes” available, but basically they are same. You make simple syrup.  You boil the cherries in the syrup. Remove the cherries. Boil the syrup more. Sterilize the jars, pack the jars, fill them with syrup. Process the filled jars and all that’s left to do is wait three months. That’s right. Just sit down and wait because you don’t want to have these for at least three months.

You see where I’m going here? This is August. In three months it’ll be November. And that my friends, IS the time that you’re going to want to have these cocktail cherries to offer your friends and family when they come over. Even if you don’t want to make TONS to give away as gifts you should at least make a half a dozen jars to give away as hostess gifts. Things are hectic in the holidays; this is one less thing you’ll have to do to get ready for all the fabulous parties that you’ll no doubt be attending this season.

The jars I used here are beautiful diamond cut “Ball” brands jars. They’re easy to find at Kroger, Home Depot or the feed store. They look really beautiful with the cherries inside dont you think? You also notice I left my cherries whole with the stems attached. Not only does this look pretty in the jar but also leaving the stem on makes it the classic garnish for a drink. Leaving the pit intact lends flavor to the syrup. (When I make cherry jam although I pit the cherries I also crush the pits and take out the tiny little kernel inside and use it to help flavor the jam as well as add pectin – but that’s another blog post.)

The point is these are so easy it’s crazy! There’s no prep essentially! All you have to do is rinse the cherries and make sure the stems are still fresh. When you’re ready to start packing the jars use silicone tongs to place the hot cherries in the hot jars. Don’t be afraid to use the ends of the tongs to gently squish the cherries down a bit to make room for more. Once you add the syrup the cherries will float so try to get as many in there as possible.  You can see in the photograph I probably could’ve gotten a few more in there but wasn’t really sure how they would hold up and I did not want to crush them completely. Next year I’ll be a little more enthusiastic in packing them tighter. Also using a heavy-duty oven mitt to hold the hot jar with one hand while you pack the cherries in with the other hand makes it go a little faster. But hear this, this is a messy process. There’s going to be cherry syrup everywhere around your stove. And there’s also going to be quite a bit of cherry syrup left over. I would suggest putting it in a jar and keeping it in the refrigerator. It will probably last about six months in the fridge. This cherry brandy syrup can be used for everything! Crepes, ice cream, more cocktails yummm! Sort of a bonus of your not-too-hard-work! I suppose you could even put it into a pretty bottle and give it as a gift too! Why not?

Brandied Cherries

2 pounds of cherries
1 1/4 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
½ c. lemon juice
1 whole vanilla bean
1 whole star anise
½ c. brandy* see note

Sterilize a dozen 12 or 14 ounce jars in your dishwasher. Place the jars and rings on a small rimmed sheet pan in a preheated 250° oven. Heat the jars for at least 30 minutes before filling with cherries.

Prepare your water bath canner and bring to boiling, keep the lid on. Bring your lids to a simmer on the stove.

Rinse the cherries under running cool water and pick through them looking for bruised cherries, brown stems or rot. Trim the stems if they are unattractive but try to leave as much of the stem as possible intact. Bring everything except for the brandy and the cherries to boil on the stove in a medium-size pan. Allow the mixture to simmer until the sugar is dissolved, about five minutes. Add the cherries. Bring to a simmer for about 5 to 8 minutes. Turn off the heat, remove the cherries from the syrup and set aside. Add the brandy to the syrup and bring to a simmer again to intensify the flavor. Simmer for five minutes.

While the cherry syrup is simmering remove the jars from the oven pack the jars with the cherries. Pack as many as possible pressing down on the cherries to fit a few more in. Try to keep the cherries intact. Carefully ladle the hot syrup on top of the cherries. Use a wooden chopstick or skewer to remove air bubbles by gently stirring the cherries in the syrup. Add more syrup if necessary leaving 1/2 inch head space. Top off each jar with a half a teaspoon of brandy. Wipe the rims of the jars with a wet cloth, place the lids and rings on the jars and process in the water bath for 20 minutes.

Remove the jars to a towel on the counter and allow them to sit undisturbed overnight. Check each jar to make sure that it has sealed properly. Wipe the jars clean, add a pretty label and put them in the closet until the holidays. If any of the jars did not seal properly replace the lid and put them in the refrigerator. They’ll be fine. Let these be your secret stash for yourself, or tell the hostess when you give them to her that they are to be used as soon as possible and kept in the refrigerator. You won’t believe the squeals of delight that you’ll hear after these have been added to someone’s old-fashioned cocktail or whiskey sour or apparently just enjoyed straight from the jar!

* you could very easily use bourbon instead of brandy in this recipe. I made both this year.

Rustic Peach Tart

July 11, 2013
peach tart

Artistic Rustic Peach Tart

I have this fantasy that I should be able to create beautiful things effortlessly. Why? Because that’s how everyone else does it of course!  Things that look effortless but aren’t really, at least not for me, perplex me. Frozen puff pastry is one good example. I’ve bought puff pastry and put it in my freezer several times and brought it out to thaw with hopes of creating delicious beautiful desserts. But I have this fear of rolling it. I keep thinking of like biscuit dough and I probably shouldn’t mess with it too much. Or if I keep rolling it I’m going to roll away the layers of puff from the dough – so I end up either being afraid or in a hurry and it just doesn’t turn out. Generally I’m usually not pleased.. But hope springs eternal- I did it again. I brought home the best puff pastry I could find at Whole Foods Market -put it in the refrigerator to thaw and got to work on some beautiful fresh peaches that I bought at the farmers market earlier.

The whole idea behind a rustic tart is its free-form easy effortless construction. Anybody can make a rustic tart right? Especially if they’re going to use pre-made pastry. I cleaned and scored the peaches. Once I dipped them in hot water they peeled easily. Freestone peaches are lovely to work with- these split in half easily and the seeds came out clean. I gave them a rough chop and threw them  in a pan with some cane sugar from Mexico and a squeeze of lemon. I also mixed in a couple of tablespoons of a delicious raspberry freezer jam that I made a couple weeks ago to add some tartness. Lastly, there were a few nectarines that needed to be used up so I chopped them and gave them to the pan as well. I let the jam cook down on medium high heat for 20 minutes or so. Afterwards I put it into a bowl and slipped it into the freezer to cool down. Now for the pastry.

The whole idea behind the rustic tart is its freeform easy effortless construction. Anyone can make a rustic tart right? especially if they’re going to use pre-made pastry! I took the thawed pastry out of the packaging and unfolded on to a lightly floured piece of parchment paper. It immediately cracked. (of course!) I smooshed  the cracked edges back together and rolled it out some. I feel like maybe not enough, it may have been too much frankly I don’t know. It fit into a half sheet pan.  I brushed the pastry with a bit of an egg yolk mixed with water and placed the cooled peach jam in the center of the puff pastry. I brought the edges of the pastry in toward the center and cut some of the corners off. Some of the corners I tucked under. Some of the corners I just left as they were.  (see what i mean?) Of course the filling started leaking out immediately. This was not the glamorous effortless experience I was looking for. All of my fears and insecurities realized right here in front of me. I try to stop the leak as best that I could, and sliced a few beautiful perfect peach slices to lay on top of the jam for nice presentation. I brushed the whole thing with the egg mixture and sprinkled raw sugar over the top. I put the completed tart in the freezer for about 30 minutes, then into a 400° oven for about 20 minutes. I took the oven down to 350 and gave it another 15 or 20 minutes

Instead of whipped cream I had some ice cream on hand that I’d made last week. It’s a lovely vanilla bean and bourbon that complements the peaches perfectly. The tart tasted great when it was warm. But I’m not very happy with the pastry on bottom. Maybe that’s just the nature of puff. Maybe it was the leaky juices, maybe I undercooked it? The bottom seemed hard but not really cooked. Do you have experience with puff pastry?  Did you have a beautiful effortless experience? If so please give me your feedback in the comments. I want it too!

Georgia peach rustic tart with bourbon vanilla bean ice cream

Georgia peach rustic tart with bourbon vanilla bean ice cream

Lemon Berry Shortcakes

July 1, 2013
Like they do in Bon Appetit

Like they do in Bon Appetit

Last year I had so much fun making jam. I went crazy with the jamming and canning. Last week I decided it was time to make jam! So bought a bunch of raspberries that were on sale thinking I would start-up this year’s Jam-o-Rama. I would start with a huge batch of apple pectin and a small test batch of peach jam. The peaches are the goal for peach jam- but they are not ready yet. Not to be put off-I made the pectin for the peach jam (in the freezer now) and I cooked a few peaches. I made this mixed berry jam and I made these lovely shortcakes. They remind me of biscuits, my husband called them scones. I thought they were delicious. A little nutmeg, a little lemon- yum.  I probably would have added the sugar at the end of cooking rather than at the beginning. My sugar browned before the bread did. I would have liked to bake them a little longer. Next time….

easy scone-y, shortcake-y biscuit-y vehicle for jam

easy scone-y, shortcake-y biscuit-y vehicle for jam

The recipe from Bon Appetit magazine I used calls for blueberry jam to mix with berries to make more jam. I had a lovely blueberry jam from last year and then of course the raspberries. I used those and added the blackberries I had on hand too. Why not? Making small batch jam is fun and feel less risky than a whole monstrous jam pan full of boiling sugary fruit. Oh, I also made the lemon whipped dream. IT WAS AMAZING. Easy and fun to do, it was a nice mix and stayed lively a couple of days in the fridge.

small batch jam

small batch jam

You’ve already seen them presented as the classic 4th of July light dessert – but I confess I liked them better as breakfast the next day. I also made some roasted strawberries. They are amazing. I would like to use them in a jam. I used these as a jam and they are pretty intense. You can see them in the photo below. This was a wonderful breakfast. I thought of the song “California Dreaming” while looking at this the morning I was enjoying it. By the way- That’s my favorite coffee as a pour over with half and half and brown sugar. No matter the coffee I like it creamy and sweet- and in a large mug, even “if I was in L A.. ” Oh I froze raspberries. Those are to be continued.

California Dreaming

California Dreaming- My favorite coffee mug, mixed berry jam, roasted strawberries, lemon cream, lemon shortcake.

 

Parsley Pesto from Bon Appetit

June 23, 2013

This is an easy peasy recipe from Bon Appetit that would be great at lunch or dinner. The ingredients were on hand, although I did buy extra parsley. I roasted the raw almonds in the oven and it all came together in the food processor. The most “work” was washing the parsley. You’ll need about 2 big bunches to get enough leaves. I sorted out the longer stems. The recipe was fantastic as written, but I’d probably add some garlic next time. Maybe roasted garlic.  Try this, I think  you’ll like it!

My take on Bon Appetit's Parsley Pesto

My take on Bon Appetit’s Parsley Pesto

Poodly Poodle Cuteness Break

June 18, 2013
George at 9 months

George at 9 months (2012)

Pan Roasted Garlic

June 17, 2013

I like to pan roast garlic in olive oil. It’s fun, it’s wonderful on pizza. I made it the last time I made pizza. I kept the oil and used it for pasta and bread dipping. It makes me feel smart to pan roast garlic. It’s lovely roasted in the oven, but this a little faster, and it is fun to watch over. Yummmmm. Pan Roasted Garlic.

easy and delicious.

easy and delicious.

What about the yoga? w/ puppies, pizza and cake.

June 15, 2013

Hello friends.

It’s been kind of quiet around here on the ole blog, but I’ve been really really busy. I had some surgery, got a new puppy, and I had some more surgery! Some of that repair work has been on both wrists.  (I blog with voice recognition software but the thing about pain and painkillers, they make it hard to think. They also make it hard to “do” things. Every time I know I have a surgery  I’m just sure that I’ll be “reading a lot” and “blogging a lot” and  “doing” all those things that you can do while you sit and rest.  For me, surgical recovery doesn’t allow that kind of thing to happen for at least a couple of months. I can buy books and stare at them but I can’t really comprehend. So I’m looking at a lot of pretty pictures and ingredient lists but there’s been no serious cooking around here lately. I did do this fun dessert. Those are groats and walnuts. It’s boozy  and creamy. It’s more subtle flavors will surprise you.I made this Shaved Asparagus and sausage pizza with mushrooms and homemade fresh cherry tomato sauce and crust.

Cranachan

Shaved Asparagus and Italian sausage pizza

By the way I wanted to mention- If you take a look on this page on the upper right side you’ll see a new link for a new page called “what about the yoga?”  If you’re curious why don’t you give it a click. It’s really for those people who found this website looking for yoga classes taught by me.

Who knows?  Things could get crazy and I could start posting yoga stuff again over there. I certainly intend on practicing asana again this summer.  It really is healing when practiced in a therapeutic way… at a reasonable pace. My 3-5 classes- per- day-days will never return. But soon I’ll be doing it-  and it’ll be hot. And sweet.

Speaking of sweet- I did bake this cake a few weeks ago:

IMG_9776

There is so much going on. There were some less than stellar moments:

bread that didn't rise

The bread that didn’t rise

over done cookies

These over done cookies

frittata was eh.

This frittata was eh.

potatoes were lovely.

But the potatoes were lovely.

There was Leonard in NOLA. Healing for sure!

And There was Leonard in NOLA. Healing for sure!

The man who does car inspections has a deal with the pigeons. He feeds them a specific seed, and "they do not poop on my trucks." I LOVED his story!

The man who does car inspections has a deal with the pigeons. He feeds them a specific seed, and “they do not poop on my trucks.” I LOVED his story!

And, did I mention a puppy?

And, did I mention a puppy?

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