Tag Archives | holiday giving

Cranberry Raspberry Jam

In need of a quick batch of jam for holiday gift baskets? This Cranberry Raspberry Jam, made from fresh cranberries and frozen raspberries, is just the ticket!

Of all the tricks I’ve come up with in my years as a jam maker, none please me as much as this one for making really terrific preserves with frozen fruit. For years, I struggled to get frozen fruit to turn into anything worth eating and sharing. And then last year around this time, I hit upon the idea of adding fresh cranberries to frozen fruit and everything changed.

The beauty of the cranberry is that it brings both acid and pectin to the jam making party. That means that it can perk up berries that taste flat from months in the deep freeze AND it helps with the inevitable increase in wateriness that occurs when you defrost previously frozen fruit. It’s a win all the way around.

One of the best and highest uses of this technique is quick holiday gift making. Perhaps you’ve moved through your stash faster than you intended. Or you need a uniform set of something for a group (rather than the hodge podge of jams I took to my family’s Hanukkah gathering on Saturday). That’s when a quick batch of this jam shines.

Like so many jams, this recipe does not double well. If you need more than one batch, run two pots side by side for a quick cook all around. And if you’re struggling with how to use up a leftover dollop, may I suggest the rice pudding I posted on Friday? They are happy partners.

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Spiced Pear Jam

Earlier this fall, I found myself in possession of a lot of pears. I frozen some. I made a big batch of pear butter. And I made this jam, which I never managed to tell you about. Part of the reason it’s taken me so long is that I had some inner conflict going on about it. You see, I initially developed it for a demo event at which I called it Pumpkin Pie Spiced Pear Jam.

Now, I’m not someone who goes crazy for pumpkin pie spice in the fall (I’ve never even had a pumpkin spice latte, but that’s mostly because I don’t really dig sweetened coffee). But I’m not a hater either. In fact, when it comes to canning and baking, having a little jar of pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice is one of my favorite short cuts (I’ll often put a dash in my oatmeal as it cooks).

However, with Hanukkah upon us and Christmas hurtling ever closer, I came the realization that I’ve not posted a single new thing that you could make and share with your friends, neighbors, teachers, and family members. And in all the years that I’ve written this blog, not one has gone by where I didn’t serve up at least one holiday-centric preserve. So I’m getting over my hesitations and offering up this one.

Just to clarify, my reluctance wasn’t about the flavor (it was really whether to wade into the pumpkin spice pool). I gave a jar to a neighbor, who told me that it was the best jam she’d ever had. Everyone at the demo raved about it as well. It’s good. It’s easy. It’s quick. And if you can’t bring yourself to use the pumpkin pie spice, use a few dashes of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove (just go light on the clove!).

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Gift Guide 2016: Stocking Stuffers

We’re in the final stretch before Christmas and the start of Hanukkah. Thus far in my series of short gift guides, I’ve featured a couple upgrades for the canner who has it all, things I give to my favorite coffee lovers, and lovely things for your favorite home cook. In this, the final gift guide, we’re talking stocking stuffers. These are all relatively small, useful, affordable items that I reach for all the time.

1. AnySharp Pro – This is a small, powerful knife blade sharpener that suctions to your countertop and makes quick work of your knives and scissors. It doesn’t entirely replace occasionally professional sharpening, but it’s a huge help on busy cooking days.

2. Cuppow – The classic Cuppow is perfect for any jar lover looking to expand the utility of their jar stash. Pair one with a skinny glass straw for a waste-free way to drink more water.

3. GIR Wine Stoppers – These low-profile silicone wine stoppers make a leak-proof seal on all manner of bottles and look good doing it.

4. GIR Scraper – The best tool for easing sticky bread doughs and batters out of mixing bowls. I use mine nearly every time I bake.

5. The Ringer – Made from stainless steel chainmail, this scrubber is designed to remove tough bits of food from cast iron while leaving your seasoning intact.

6. Bürstenhaus Redecker Bottle Brush – I have used a lot of bottle brushes in my day, but this the best one ever. You can tell I use it a lot, because when I grabbed it for this picture, it hadn’t had time to dry between uses.

7. ThermoPop – The best little instant read thermometer money can buy.

8. Blossom Trivet – Good for canning and for protecting your surfaces from hot dishes.

9. Caramel Pot – Years ago, a PR firm sent me this little pot from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s cookware line. I use it all the time. It’s great for caramel sauces, but is also magical for homemade bechamel and cheese sauces.

10. Stuff Every Cook Should Know – Written by my friend and Local Mouthful co-host Joy Manning, this little book is packed with useful tips and information for home cooks of all skillsets.

And that wraps up my gift guide series for another year. May your holiday celebrations be joyous!

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Holiday Berry Jam for Gift Giving

This holiday berry jam combines frozen strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries with fresh cranberries. The result is a bright, flavorful jam that works beautifully for holiday gift bags and baskets.

Four jars of holiday berry jam.

No matter how much jam making I do during the summer season, I almost always find myself a little short on the desirable jams come gift giving time. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have mountains of preserves. But many of them were experimental batches that just don’t work for neighbors and Scott’s coworkers.

Fruit for holiday berry jam.

This year, instead of relying only on pears and apples to make up the shortfall, I headed for the freezer section at the grocery store. In the past, I’ve been hesitant to make giftable jam exclusively with frozen fruit, because I find it almost always ends up with a softer set and a slightly dull flavor.

Ingredients for holiday berry jam in a pot.

But last week, the solution came to me in a flash. Cranberries. Combine frozen berries with a small portion of cranberries and you get perfect jam every time. The cranberries provide both ample pectin and welcome acidity to ensure that the jam sets and tastes terrific. Holiday berry jam is born!

Finished holiday berry jam in the pot.

I made this jam with 24 ounces of raspberries, 12 ounces of strawberries, 12 ounces of blueberries, and 8 ounces of cranberries. You can easily change up the frozen fruit, but maintain the basic ratio of three pounds frozen berries to 8 ounces of cranberries.

Holiday berry jam in an open jar.

The yield on this sucker was just a little bit more than 6 cups. I canned it in four 12 ounce jelly jars because those were the easiest jars to put my hands on. You could also do six half pints or even a dozen 4 ounce jelly jars. Make it work for you.

Oh, and one last thing. If you have an Aldi near you, know that it’s an excellent spot to pick up your frozen fruit. Their prices are awesome and they often have organic options.

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Salted Maple Walnut Granola

This salted maple walnut granola is perfect for gift giving and holiday brunch buffets. Pair it with a jar of homemade jam for your favorite people.

Every year, I try to make something to supplement the holiday gifts of jam that I give to my friends, family and neighbors. Sometimes I make shortbread cookies. Other times, I roll out cracker dough and use a wavy pie cutter to slice them into diamond shapes. Occasionally, I work up a giant batch of my dad’s pancake mix and package it in ziptop bags the way he always did when I was a kid.

This year, I made a giant batch of spiced and salted granola to pair up with the jams and fruit butters I’m sharing this year. Made with walnuts because I bought a giant bag at Costco (so many of my recipe development choices are spurred by what I happened to have in excess), it is nutty, crunchy, and perfect for topping bowls of yogurt and preserves.

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Gift Guide 2016: For the Coffee Lovers

Driftaway Coffee for the Coffee Lover Gift Guide

Today’s gift guide features things that coffee lovers of all stripes would like to receive. These are things that I either use in my own kitchen on a regular basis or am actually planning on giving to a family member this year. Oh, and if you need suggestions for travel mugs and drinking jars, check out last year’s guide on that topic!

1. Driftaway Coffee Subscription – A Driftaway subscription is just the thing to give to someone who is starting to explore the wider world of coffee. Every subscription starts with four 2-ounce packets of freshly roasted, single origin coffees, so that your gift recipient can hone in one their favorite flavors and origins. As they drink through their sampler packs, they use the Driftaway app to input tasting notes and rate the coffees the beans they tried. The folks at Driftaway use those notes and rating to determine what coffee they send next. It’s a delicious and interactive way to get your morning brew!

Coffee dripper and pour over kettle for the Coffee Lover Gift Guide

2. The Little Dripper from Constellation Supply Co. – This lovely ceramic coffee dripper is just the thing for someone who is looking to start a pour over routine, or who is currently using a beat-up plastic dripper and needs an upgrade. It’s sturdy, beautifully made, and comes in three different colors. If that one is out of stock, a classic white Bee House dripper is a nice option as well.

3. Hario Pouring Kettle – These spouted kettles were pricy and hip when they first hit the US market several years ago. Now that the hype has died down, their price has come down and they’ve become more accessible for the average coffee brewer. If you’ve got the patience for the slow pour over technique, it’s great for controlling water flow for the perfect cup.

Handmade mug and milk warmer for the coffee lover gift guide

4. A Beautiful, Handmade Mug – As any coffee drinker knows, while a beautiful mug isn’t required, it sure does improve the experience of your first (or fourth!) cup. Over the years, I’ve amassed a wide collection of lovely, handmade ones that bring me great pleasure. The one pictured here is made by Melissa Bridgman of Bridgman Pottery and is a favorite. If you’re feeling really flush, Melissa offers a three-month subscription wherein the recipient gets a new cup or mug every month.

5. Dansk Milk Warmer – Pots for warming milk come in many different shapes and sizes. The one I use is a vintage Dansk version that I got at an antique mall in Portland last year. The handle was coming off so it was dirt cheap (my dad fixed it for me before I left town). If you can’t hold out for vintage, you’re in luck. This is one of the pieces that Dansk has reissued and you can get it in turquoise, navy, red, or yellow.

Disclosure: The folks from Driftaway sent me some beans to feature in this post. Everything else are items that I use, love, and bought. 

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