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May 23, 2012 / Do. Make. Eat.

We Jammin’

Today I had a mid-day dental appointment, so I took the day off of work.  Originally, I had planned to do some berry picking this weekend, but since the temps will be 90+, today sounded much better.

Field berries

Berries at Spencer Berry Farm

It was beautiful out, but very sunny.  I picked a little over 9 lbs of berries in about 1/2 an hour.  What did I do with all of these berries?

9 pounds of berries might have been overkill…

I made Jam 🙂

I decided to make a low-sugar jam.  I researched recipes last week  and all of them called for more sugar than berries.  Obviously this is why jam is so delicious, and it also explains why peanut butter and jam sandwiches are like crack for little kids (and adults too, let’s be honest).

I found this no added sugar recipes on the Ball Canning website:

Light Strawberry Jam

You will need:

4 cups crushed strawberries
1 cup unsweetened white grape juice
3 Tbsp Ball® RealFruit™ Low or No-Sugar Needed Pectin
6 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Directions:

1.) PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) COMBINE strawberries and juice in a 6 to 8-quart saucepan. Gradually stir in pectin. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.
3.) LADLE hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
4.) PROCESS filled jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check for seal after 24 hours. Lids should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
I had a bit of a hard time figuring out how many berries to use to end up with 4 cups of crushed berries.  Google told me that there were approximately 10 ounces of berries in a pint and 1 pint of berries = 1.5 cups of crushed berries.  So, I weighed my berries.

I used just over 30 ounces, but ended up having to get a few more ounces to get to 4 cups.

I then prepared to crush them.  I first rinsed them well and let them drain.  Then I hulled them using a spoon.  This worked pretty well, except on the berries that were a little unripe.

Here’s how I set up my berry crushing process.

After all of the berries were crushed, I added them to a large pot along with the grape juice.  I then put my jars into the water bath to simmer and my lids and rings into a smaller saucepan to simmer (it’s behind the smaller pot, so you can’t see it), while I brought my berries to a boil.

My canning set-up

Once my jars and lids were nice and hot, I removed them from their baths and put them on the towel to dry.  I slowly stirred in the pectin and constantly stirred the jam until it reached a full boil.  Then I turned off the heat and skimmed the strawberry scum of the top of the jam.

Strawberry scum: not pretty, but delicious 🙂

Next I ladled the jam into the the jars.  I used three 8 oz. jars and six 4 oz. jars.

The baby jars don’t hold much, but they’re so cute!

I then put the lids on and screwed the rings on finger tight.  The jars of jam then went into the boiling water bath to process for 10 minutes.

10-minute water bath

I let the jam cool and then gave it a test run on a fresh sourdough roll.

Yum!

The verdict: it is a bit tart, so if you are used to realllly sweet jam it’s a bit of a shock at first.  It is delicious and fresh-tasting though.  If you’re watching your sugar intake, this jam is perfect.

With all of the berries I have left, I plan on making more jam that is low-sugar (so my husband will actually eat it).

Barely made a dent…

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March 2, 2012 / Do. Make. Eat.

Cheese Me, Please Me

The Finished Product

Ryan definitely has a fond spot in his heart for cheez-its.  We go through at least a box a week.  They have a variety of flavors available: pepper-jack, Colby, mozzarella, even a tabasco version.

Last week I went on a cheez-it binge.  I got started and couldn’t stop. Seriously, cheez-its must be the heroin of the snack food world.

The ingredient list is a bit scary, standard for processed food.  I began searching around the interwebs to find a “healthier” version, or at least one with pronounceable ingredients.  Here is my version of a recipe by Eliza Cross at Happy Simple Living.

Classic Cheez-its

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of white all-purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp of salted butter
  • 1 Tbsp of vegetable shortening
  • 8 oz of shredded cheese
  • 1 Tbsp of parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp of garlic salt
  • 1/8 tsp of black pepper
  • 2 tbsp of ice water

1. Combine the cheeses, butter, shortening and spices in a mixer and mix on low with the paddle attachment until well combined.

2. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the cup of flour. Mix until dough resembles coarse crumbs.

3. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the the two tablespoons of water until a stiff dough has formed. I ended up using 3 tablespoons to make my dough stick.  I think the changes I made from the original may have been why I needed more.

4. Remove dough from mixer and form into three separate discs.  Wrap tightly with Saran wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.

5. After dough has chilled, preheat oven to 350°.  Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the cookie sheet you plan to use.

6. Remove one dough disc from the fridge.  Unwrap the dough and place on the parchment paper.  Place Saran wrap on top of dough (then you won’t have to wash your rolling-pin).

7. Roll out dough to about 1/8 of an inch thick.  Don’t worry if it’s not a perfect square.

Note the lovely cocktail straws (aka wine juice box straws) I used as guides.

8. Using a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 1×1 inch squares…. ish. Mine were nowhere near perfect square size.  You can use your handy wine juice box straw to put holes in the middle of your cheez-its- a skewer works too.

9. Slide the parchment paper on to your cookie sheet and pop into the oven.  The cooking time will vary– I had to do some playing around.  At 350° it ended up taking about 20 minutes.  In subsequent batches, I upped the heat to 375° for 14 minutes.

10. Pull them out, try to let them cool and enjoy.  Repeat with the remaining dough discs, or you can leave them in the refrigerator  for a few days until you start having cheroin withdrawals.

The Finished Product

They were delicious.  Very reminiscent of the original, but cheesier and buttery with no weird aftertaste.  Give it a shot and let me know what you think!