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Strawberry Nectarine Jam with Vanilla and Riesling

Last week, there were two pounds of strawberries left in the fridge, and we had a flat of nectarines that we could not eat through before they started going bad. I remembered a strawberry peach jam that I made a couple of years ago that the boys loved. So, I decided to put them together into a jam.

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Now, I don’t have a whole lot of pictures of the process here because we had a contractor in the house giving us a quote on some work we want done and it felt a bit odd to say, “Excuse me, I need to go take pictures of this for my blog.” Of course, I was in the kitchen working on the jam at the same time, so maybe it would have been ok.

Anyway, I think I like this jam better than the strawberry peach I made awhile back because you do not have to peel nectarines. Any chance to save a prepping step is good in my book. Plus, I added a vanilla bean which gives this jam an amazing aroma. Then, at the end, I added some sweet Riesling wine, which turned out to be a perfect compliment. Originally, I wanted to use champagne, but I never made it to the store to buy any and the Riesling was just sitting the in the fridge waiting to be used.

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This should be a slightly loose jam because there is not a whole lot of pectin in nectarines or strawberries. We are relying on the hefty amount of sugar and lemon juice to set the jam here, so do not be tempted to mess with the ratios or you will not get the same result. Besides, a loose jam is just perfect for stirring into yogurt or spreading on a cake.

Strawberry Nectarine Jam with Vanilla and Riesling
loosely adapted from Sarabeth’s Bakery
makes about 4 pints

3 pounds ripe nectarines
2 pounds ripe strawberries
2.5 pounds sugar
grated zest of 4 lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 whole vanilla bean
1/4 cup Riesling wine or other sweet white wine

Sterilize your jars and lids and have them ready. Place a few teaspoons or saucers in the freezer for testing later.

Quarter the nectarines and slice them thinly. Toss them into your largest, widest pot with 1.5 pounds of the sugar and heat over medium high heat until the sugar is dissolved.

In the meantime, hull and slice the strawberries. Also, split the vanilla bean lengthwise and then halve them crosswise. You should have four pieces. Scrape out the seeds with the back of a knife.

Stir in the strawberries, lemon zest and juice, the vanilla bean (seeds and all), and the remaining sugar into the pot and stir until all the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is bubbling nicely.

Lower the heat to medium and simmer briskly until the mixture is uniform in color and thickened. The strawberries will lose their color in the middle and look funny, but as the jam cooks, the color should become evenly pink. This will probably take awhile with this much fruit, at least 40 minutes up to an hour.

When you think it is done, put a few drops onto a frozen spoon. If it is slow to move when you hold the spoon up, then it is done. It should be close to the consistency of honey, maybe a tad looser, but it should not run down the spoon like water. If it’s not done, simmer the jam for 5-10 more minutes and test again. Do this until it’s ready.

Remove the pot from the heat and add the wine. Stir thoroughly. Transfer the jam to your jars and process them for 15 minutes.

The jam should keep for at least a year in the cupboard if stored in a cool place with the seals intact.

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Strawberry Love

This has been a great year for strawberries. Since they have come onto the scene in late spring, we have bought strawberries every chance we could. Maybe it is because we have been buying organic strawberries almost exclusively, but they have been really flavorful and sweet. The four of us can easily eat a pound in a sitting and it would probably be more, but that’s all I make available at a time. Last week, when there was a sale on organic strawberries at the store, we sorta went crazy and bought 11 quarts.

We ate a lot of them and I froze a lot of them. I also made some Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream.

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It was delicious. The balsamic is very subtle, but adds a little savoriness that compliments the strawberries perfectly.

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This is the first strawberry ice cream recipe I have tried that cooks the strawberries a bit up front. It releases the juices from the strawberries. I took it a step further by scooping out the strawberries and boiling down the juice a little to concentrate the flavors even more.

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This recipe only uses up 1 quart of strawberries. I was contemplating making another gallon of it to store up in the freezer, but jam called to me instead. I’ll show you the jam another. Today, I think you should try making this ice cream. It might change your idea of what strawberry ice cream should be.

Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream
adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones

1 pound (quart) fresh, preferably organic strawberries, stemmed and cut up into 1 inch chunks
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

In a medium sized frying pan, warm the strawberries, sugar, and vinegar over medium heat until the sugar melts. Stir often and simmer for about 5 minutes until the strawberries are very small and there is a lot of juice in the pan. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the berries into a blender. Return the pan with its juices to the stove. Over medium low heat, simmer the juices until syrupy and reduced to 2-3tablespoons. Remove from heat and let cool for a few minutes. Then, add the strawberry juice to the blender with the strawberries and pulse a few times to blend and puree.

Transfer to a container and put in the fridge until you are ready to put the ice cream into the machine.

5 large egg yolks
2 cups (16 ounces) heavy cream
1/2 cup (4 ounces) whole milk
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Have ready: a large bowl of ice water with another, smaller bowl inside it that will hold at least a quart and a strainer.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and 1/4 sugar until blended.

Heat the cream, milk, salt, and remaining sugar in a medium saucepan until it is quite steamy and the sugar is all dissolved.

Whisking all the while, add the hot milk to the egg yolks one ladleful at a time until all the milk is combined with the yolks. Return the milk mixture to the saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with a spatula until slightly thickened. You should be able to draw a path through the mixture on the back of a spoon. This will take just a few minutes, so stir and check often.

Pour the cream through the strainer into the bowl inside the ice-water bath. Using a clean spatula, stir the cream every once in awhile until it is cool. Remove the bowl from the water bath, cover, and place in the fridge until thoroughly cold, at least 6 hours and up to 24.

When you are ready to make the ice cream, pour the cream mixture and the strawberry puree into the bowl of your ice cream maker. Freeze in your ice cream maker according to its directions. Transfer to a container and freeze for an hour or so to let the ice cream firm up further. Enjoy!

Two for One: French Strawberry Cake and Hazelnut Biscotti

Something has happened to me since arriving at our vacation house on Saturday.  I think my brain cells have gone soft because I cannot seem to put any coherent thoughts together.  Maybe it is the salt air or maybe my brain has decided it needs a vacation as well.  In any case, I will do my best, but don’t be surprised if this post is a little, umm, disjointed.

Firstly, it is Tuesdays with Dorie Day.  I missed the last one because I was busy with I can’t remember what, but I really did want to make this recipe, French Strawberry Cake.  So, I convinced my older son that it would be a good one to have for his birthday celebration, which we decided to have at the beach house.  I knew that I would not be up for baking a complicated genoise recipe in an unfamiliar kitchen, so I did it at home before we left.

I am no stranger to making genoise, but I would not say that we have become fast friends.  It is a fussy creature and there are always several moments in the process when I want to have no more to do with it.  Ever.  Again.  I am usually making chocolate genoise, so I was hoping that this recipe would be kinder to me since it is of the plain yellow vanilla variety.  In some ways, it was, and in other ways, it was the same old fussy monster I am used to.

My pictures during the process came out horribly.  I want to spare you those, so I will just show you a picture of the cake when it came out of the oven.

Unfortunately, I had the not so brilliant idea to use a cake strip around the pan to try to encourage a higher rise and more even cooking.  This backfired on me as it kept the cake from forming a nice crust around the edge, which in turn made it difficult to get out of the pan.  It’s not pretty, but it did rise rather well, and icing covers a multitude of sins.  I wrapped it up and threw it in the freezer to take with us to the beach.

Then, disaster struck.  The cake almost did not make it to the beach with us.  The night before we were due to leave, we got a massive thunderstorm in our area which knocked out our power (along with over half a million other people and that’s just in our area; there were more power outages elsewhere).  We are relatively unprepared for power outages.  It never happens to us.  We get blinks now and again, but, I think because we live just off a main street and next to a large shopping area, our power supply is a high priority.  The next morning when we were supposed to leave, the power was still not on and we were unsure what to do, especially with the stuff in the fridge and freezer.  I am familiar with power outages, having grown up in Florida and going through a couple of big hurricanes, and one thing you learn to not do during a power outage is open the refrigerator or freezer.  I was really torn.  My little boy’s birthday cake was in there (along with half the food for our week’s vacation) and I Really wanted it to go with us.   After some debating (mostly involving me begging the husband to please, please, let me open the freezer), we decided to take a gamble that our power would be one of the first ones restored and I got five seconds to open the freezer. Whew!

The day before we the big storm, I worked on today’s official twd recipe:  Hazelnut Biscotti.  I thought this would be the perfect cookie to take with us, since it travels so well.  This recipe is particularly easy to make.  There’s no butter to mess with, just eggs mixed with the flour base and then you fold in the nuts.  I decided to include some dried cherries as well.  It was tempting to add chocolate, but I resisted.  It was going to be a hundred degrees for the next few days and I didn’t wanted a lot of melted chocolate around.

The logs were easy to form and baked up really nicely.

I did not get 4 dozen cookies like the recipe states.  It was more like 30, but I am happy with the way they turned out.  They are crunchy, without being too hard and a little sweet.  As a bonus, they are dairy free and are perfect alone, with tea or coffee, or even with cheese and crackers and juice.  You can easily use this as a base recipe and swap out the hazelnuts for whatever you like.  And they travel really well.  Ours survived an 8 hour drive with nary a crumb in the bag.

Now, back to the French strawberry cake.  To simplify my life, I decided to just cut the cake into two layers. Attempting three seemed like asking for disaster and that is the last thing I wanted for this cake.  I used a potato masher to crush the strawberries instead of a fork.

The whipped cream turned out well.  I used two cups of cream instead of the skimpy amount in the recipe.  It came together fairly easily after the cake was made.   It looked great.

The birthday boy loved it and several others said it was delicious as well.  I only had one bite, but it was yummy.  The genoise was soft and not dry at all.  I think the cake strips around the pan helped keep the cake moist and it was very soft and fluffy.  It’s not a cake that keeps well, though, so it’s best made when you are fairly sure it can all get eaten up within two days.  We are at the beach and it’s pretty certain it will be gone soon.  I have an idea for what to have for breakfast this morning…

The recipe for Hazelnut Biscotti can be found here or here.

The French Strawberry Cake recipe is here and here.

Berry Good

Ok, now that we’ve got our obligatory exercise under our belts, it’s time to consider what there is to be done with ten pounds of strawberries.  Here are some of our favorite ways to eat strawberries.

1.  The first thing we did was eat a lot of them, of course.  Then, we sorted them into two piles:  An “Oh my, these are beautiful and we must eat these” pile and a pile for the rest.  Surprisingly, the eating pile was not that big.  But, no worries.

2.  The second thing I did was make biscuits and whipped cream for strawberry shortcakes.  Unfortunately, I have no pictures to show you of these because they were scarfed down too quickly.  Sorry.

3.  Then, I made some strawberry balsamic jam.

Scrumptious.  The vanilla bean that I added highlights the sweetness of the strawberries and the balsamic vinegar gives the jam a depth of flavor that I never expected.  You can’t tell that it has vinegar in it, but there is an extra flavor that you can’t quite put your finger on, so you just want a little more.  It was perfect with the leftover biscuits from the shortcake.

4.  With the remainder of the strawberries, I made the first pie of the summer season.

Strawberry rhubarb pie.

For this pie, I added some of my strawberry  rhubarb jam from last year in place of some of the sugar.  I thought it might intensify the fruity flavors.  I also used instant Clearjel for the first time.  This is a thickener that is preferred by the America’s Test Kitchen and is sold by King Arthur Flour.  My old straw-rhub pie recipe called for flour as a thickener and I have never been fond of the flavor of flour in my pie filling.  Usually, I use tapioca, but have never for this particular pie (don’t ask me why, I don’t think I’d have a rational answer).

The filling of the pie did indeed come out really fruity and I think the clearjel really helped to let those flavors shine through.  It was nicely set, without being too jelly-like or runny and it was really clear (not cloudy).  It tasted really great the day it was made.  The next day, I found the filling to be a little gummy, but I have always found that pies always taste their best on the first day.  I also tried a new pie dough recipe, but I’ll talk about that another time.

And that was it for the strawberries we picked over the weekend.  They don’t keep long, so they have to be eaten or preserved somehow within a few days.  It makes for a berry intense (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun!) few days, but worth every minute.  Now, we may have to go pick some more or maybe just go to the store.  I’m not sure I’m ready for another strawberry yoga session.

What’s your favorite way to eat strawberries?