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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lots of Jam? Drink it!

Sparkling Jam Cocktail via Eat Boutique
Many things change from swap to swap, but one is constant. There's always at least one person touting some delicious jam, jelly, or preserve. I can't resist these creations, and my fridge is evidence. I have at least 5 mason jars of opened jam in there right now. At this rate, there's not enough toast in the world for me to use it all up in a reasonable timeframe. Thankfully, I can drink it!

Cocktails get made with all kinds of fruits and sweeteners, so why not jam? You'd put juice, simple syrup, or fruit puree in a drink without thinking about it. Jam is just a combination of those things.


One jam cocktail that's getting a lot of action is from Madam Geneva in New York. In this summery version, the Bleeker Street gin bar mixes blueberry jam with gin to create a refreshing cooler. Check out Nerve for the recipe and an interview with the bar manager.

Closer to home, Maggie from Eat Boutique created a simple sparkler with jam and champagne, perfect for a celebration!

I'm already thinking of new combinations... how about lime marmalade and tequila? Habanero jelly in a Bloody Mary? Or even just a bit of Concord grape jam stirred into some soda water. The possibilities are endless!

Have you ever had a jam cocktail?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Swapping is for Lovers: February Food Swap Recap


Hello, swappers! Happy Valentine's Day to you. If you joined us for our latest food swap on Sunday, you may have noticed love was in the air. It sure was in these cupcakes-in-a-jar.


We returned to the Space with a Soul kitchen for an intimate swap celebrating l'amour. Pretty packaging and delectable goodies were sampled and swapped with gusto. 


I'm going to start referring to Sarah as our Jam-Master, as every swap, she brings a new creative concoction in a jar. This month's swappers got to bid on creamsicle jam (above) and apple/honey/Meyer lemon saucy jam. Sarah, we think you're saucy (that's totally a compliment in our book)!

There was also two kinds of chocolate dipped potato chips, white chocolate popcorn, V-day themed rice cereal treats, ricotta, mozzarella, homemade bagels, multiple breads, cardamom donuts, blood orange curd, Italian bean salad, layered tabouleh, kombucha scoby, and more! I know I say this every month, but you all are so talented!


Joining us for the first time was Emily of Random Recycling. She brought this delicious granola and shared her inaugural food swap experience on her blog. Thanks, Emily!


In addition to the tasty eats, we also had amorous feelings toward Foodies of New England, because their wonderful piece on us featuring snapshots from November's swap showed up in a big box! If you can't find the print version, here's the digital issue (we're on page 90)



Thanks for everyone who swapped with us in February! Want to see more? Check out all of the photos on our Facebook page. Like to plan ahead? You can sign up for March's food swap, and our first ever cocktail party/sustainable food panel with Boston Green Drinks

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Swappable Spotlight: Ball Canning Winner and another Boozy Jam Recipe!

First, we’d like to congratulate Pia from the Bread and Beta blog for winning the Ball Canning Discovery Kit that we gave away on our Mulled Wine Jam Post!  We hope that she enjoys the preservation adventures that await her!

Second, if you’re looking for more great jams to preserve, we’re please to present the long-awaited Apricot Whisky Jam recipe that Rachael swapped in January.  If you didn’t get a chance to try it at the swap, we highly recommend making it.  It was DELICIOUS!

Apricot Whisky Jam 

Note cool robot tea infuser that Rachel used to make her jam!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs pitted and quartered apricots, pits reserved
  • 1 lb white cane sugar
  • 1.5 oz fresh lemon juice (to taste)
  • 1/4 cup kentucky whiskey

Directions:
  1. In a storage container, combine apricots and sugar and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the mixture's surface, smoothing tightly.  Cover with a lid or extra saran wrap and let macerate overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. The next day, place a saucer and 2 metal spoons in the freezer.
  3. Take several apricot pits and place them on the floor bundled in a clean dishrag. Tap them through the cloth with a hammer (fun!!) until stone pits open and carefully collect the almond-like kernels inside. Chop kernels and measure out 1 tablespoon to put into a metal tea diffuser with a firm latch.
  4. Remove apricots from fridge and transfer to a steel/copper kettle.  Add lemon juice to taste (lemon should merely brighten the flavor of the fruit above the sugar's sweetness without being sour). Place tea infuser in the mixture, pressing down to submerge it.
  5. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.  Apricots have quite a lot of pectin so the mixture should start to froth and congeal quickly.  Periodically, remove from heat and skim off frothy foam from the top with a metal spoon.  Cook in total for about 30 minutes, scraping bottom of the pan often with your spatula and gradually decreasing the heat as more moisture cooks out.
  6. Add whiskey to taste the last 5-10 minutes or so of cooking.  You can make it as boozy as you like!  Test jam for doneness by carefully transferring a small tsp to one of your frozen spoons.  Replace spoon in freezer for 3-4 minutes and check. Tilt spoon vertically to note how quickly the jam runs.  If slowly, jam is done.  If it appears runny, cook it for a few more minutes and check again.
  7. Turn off heat, skim off remaining foam and remove tea diffuser.  
  8. Fill sterile mason jars with the jam and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. Cool and check for seal.
1.  

The Miso Period and a Cookbook Giveaway

The book with a few of Nina's suggested pantry staples

About a year ago, I picked up my first tub of miso.  Every time I saw miso in the store or stumbled upon a miso-containing recipe prior to that moment, I assumed that it was best suited for more experienced Asian food cooks.  Basically, I let my own intimidation keep me from the entire suite of home cooked dishes that miso could bring.  I don’t know what changed on that fateful day that inspired me to overcome my intimidation and pick up a tub, but whatever it was, I’m happy for it.  After letting the tub sit in the fridge for a week or two, I got up the nerve to try a recipe.  I don’t remember what it was but I do know that dish marked the beginning of my miso period.  

I think there is a time in every home cook’s life when she discovers something so fascinating and versatile that it becomes a personal quest to try it on everything.  I didn’t even realize that I was in a miso period until our Vermont cheese tour when I was in a car with Tara for 15 hours talking about food.  It became clear that every time we had a conversation about an ingredient, my contribution ended with, “I put miso on it.”  Root vegetables, greens, noodles, rice, chicken, shrimp, tofu, vegetable stocks, finished soups – you name it, I put miso on it.  For many weeks, every day was a new experiment with miso.

Considering my miso mania, imagine my delight when Nina Simonds (a food writing giant who has met both Martha AND Oprah!) offered me a copy of her new Simple Asian Meals Cookbook (Rodale 2012) to review and two copies to give away on the blog!  When the book arrived, I was giddy to see what great ideas she had for miso.  Although there were only a few direct miso recipes, this book exceeded my expectations because Nina offered incredible technique tips for people new to Asian cooking, including tips for using miso.  For example, after a few roasted vegetable missteps in my miso period when the paste didn’t cover the vegetables well, Nina offered the idea of pre-diluting the paste in any number of liquids.  In fact, Nina offered this type of basic, beginner advice for many Asian cooking techniques.  Most notably was her introductory chapter on the pantry staples you should have on hand if you want to make a habit of Asian cooking.  Most of the suggested staples have an impressive shelf life so, with a modest initial outlay of cash you can have a ready Asian ingredient stockpile.  

If the book’s cache of handy tips weren’t enough, the book’s title lends a clue to its other primary strength.  The recipes REALLY are simple!  On a random Wednesday night I decided to take the book for a spin.  Full disclosure – I had a lot of her suggested pantry staples for miso soup on hand, but even if you needed to make a quick trip to your local Whole Foods, it would still be relatively easy process.  The traditional dashi stock took about 10 minutes after the pot of water boiled.  When compared to the long simmer of chicken stock or the inevitable ingredient deliberation of vegetable stock, dashi was incredibly easy.  After the stock was ready, the soup took and additional 10 or so minutes.  I added many fresh vegetables (shitake mushrooms, swiss chard, and edamame) to the recipe so chopping was the hardest (and unnecessary) part of the process.  I also made a coconut rice pudding dessert using leftover rice (incidentally, one of Nina’s most valuable tips is her suggestion about making home-prepared rice easily available – it’s so simple you’ll question why you haven’t been doing this your entire life) which took a bit longer than the soup but not much more than 30 minutes.  In total, soup and dessert were on the table within the hour that I started to cook.
Simple is not necessarily a virtue if a recipe doesn’t produce delicious food.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about taste with my chosen recipes.  In the miso period, I tried countless miso soup recipes, none of which were ever quite right.  With Nina’s recipe and accompanying tips, my soup was PERFECT!!  I added a little extra miso (any surprise?) to the pot and a dash of tamari at the end and it was officially better than any miso I’d eaten at a restaurant!  The same was true of my rice pudding recipe.  I had tried so many variations on the theme in the past, but this one had a flawless flavor and texture.  

There is miso soup amidst the veggie pile, I promise!

Coconut rice pudding with mangoes
So now it’s time for you to venture in to the regularly-occurring world of Asian meals.  Put in your hat for one of the two copies we have available.  Here’s how:
And a few rules:
  • Only those in the United States and Canada are eligible to win (sorry, but we're shipping the kit ourselves and learned this the hard way).
  • When commenting, please include a way to contact you for your mailing address. For instance, link your comment a website that contains your email address or include your email in your comment.  We suggest using a non-link format if you include your e-mail address (for example bostonfoodswap (at) gmail (dot) com) to avoid being spammed.
  • All tweets, likes, newsletter subscriptions, and comments must be received by Thursday, February 16th at 11:59 EST. After that, we will use Random.org to choose the winner.
  • If the winner does not respond to email requests for their address within one week, we reserve the right to choose another winner.