It is that dark and difficult time in the little jam kitchen. Don’t get me wrong; I understand that the world is beset by violence, famine, and floods and yet I come to you to complain about my longing for berries. It is less than a month, until the first strawberries arrive; ripe and sweet and red but I grow weary of waiting.
We jam ladies go about our business of making delicious spreads out every kind of fruit from our local farms but around this time of year we feel the challenge of “going local” more than any other time. Our friends and customers see supermarkets counters filled with every type of produce and so naturally it is reasonable for them to ask for a jar of a particular strawberry or raspberry jam. They are often shocked to find during this time of year that we have sold them all and no more will be made until the season comes around again. It reinforces our own craving to have that Summer fruit now.
So what do we do? It is easier and cheaper to stop buying fruit from our local family farms but that was the point of my starting Doves and Figs in the first place. We could have strawberries from somewhere all year round but it would not be the same for me. The first sun-warmed berries will arrive soon from the fields and they will again taste of shortcakes and childhood adventures and the essence of Summer.
What do we do? We wait and we hope that you find beauty in embracing the seasons too.
This is a story of family and food and love. My father’s mother, my grandma Julia, had five sisters; my great aunts Jenny, Anna, Helen, Mimi, and Lulu. My Dad learned to cook, bake and preserve from the wonderful women in his family and from my grandfather, who was a butcher.
As a very young girl, I spent the early mornings while my mom and brother slept, with my daddy. In this quiet time he shared the secrets of the kitchen; separating eggs, mixing the lightest batter, transforming ordinary berries into glistening preserves and syrups, or stuffing a sausage and corning a beef brisket. I was enchanted and have never wanted to leave this magical world.
Dad told me that my Aunt Jenny taught herself to make pickles because my Uncle Bill hated garlic and all of the pickles at the market had garlic. Also Jenny made an amazing spread that everyone loved from simple ingredients of dried and canned fruit.
At some point years later we noticed that Dad’s hand began to shake. I remember the awful day when my mom and dad told me that dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. We all spoke of treatments and how we were sure that it would all be OK. However over time this cruel disease robbed dad of his joys of working in my parents antique business, roller blading, photography, and cooking.
As dad’s health declined, we spent a lot of time talking about family stories and recipes. There was something very calming and familiar for him to talk about things like his mother’s huckleberry pie (it was so good that it made him come home early from vacation when he heard she was baking one) and my Aunt Jenny’s delicious apricot and pineapple jam. When I asked him for the recipe for the jam he was not sure how to make it but said he would know it when he tasted it.
Experimentation and tidbits of information; “they must be California sun dried apricots” he remembered her saying, helped us recreate the recipe. I made a few jars and dad took one bite and declared it a success. We recruited my cousins, Aunt Jenny’s children as taste testers and got a rousing approval.
My Dad, Sidney Cohen, was taken from us a little over a year ago and I miss him terribly. He was not the sort for a big fuss and would not have liked any kind of grand celebration or some award done in his name but I wanted honor his memory.
We have made a special vintage recipe version of our Aunt Jenny’s Jam for sale online and at our markets. I will be contributing 10% of the total sales for this jam for the rest of the year to Parkinson’s research. I hope this bright sunny spread will be a delight for my family to share with yours and the money raised with help in some small part to reduce suffering and lead to a cure.
Purchase Aunt Jenny’s Jam
After all the indulgences of the holidays, many people turn to lighter and healthier dishes. For me it is too hard a transition from rich, spice-filled baked goods to salad for dinner and an apple for dessert. After the decorations were put away and the New Years toasts were over, I kept thinking about making a delicious baked treat that carried over the flavors of the holidays in a healthier package. Finding a use for one lonely left-over roasted sweet potato was my inspiration for a dense, moist, low-fat Sweet Potato Fruit Cake that fit the bill. I hope you will get some sweet potatoes at the farmers market soon and roast them for supper and save a few for making a delicious dessert.
Sweet Potato Fruit Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup roasted sweet potato (skinned and mashed)
2/3 cup skim milk
2 eggs (or egg substitute)
1/2 cup canned crushed pineapple (drained)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon minced candied ginger
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch ground star anise
1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Roast two medium sweet potatoes until tender (about 45 minutes)
Peel and mash potatoes
Potatoes can be prepared a day ahead
Set oven to 350 degrees
Spray a 9″x5″ loaf pan with non-stick spray
Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and spices
Beat together eggs, milk, and vanilla
Stir wet ingredients into dry and mix until just combined
Blend in pineapple, dried cranberries, raisins, candied ginger
Add walnuts if desired
Pour into prepared loaf pan
Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown
Holiday Deviled Eggs with Jalapeno and Dried Cranberries
We have a family friend who is mad about deviled eggs but his girlfriend and the rest of the folks around are not big fans of making or eating them. I try to bring a plate of eggs to parties and potlucks when I can as a treat for him.
I made a batch recently and as I started to put them together I thought the eggs looked a bit plain and would benefit from a little accessorizing . Since much of my kitchen time has been dedicated to holiday jam making the home cupboards were bare. Rummaging around in the fridge I found one Jalapeno and from the pantry I snitched a hand full of dried cranberries. Yes, I know it sounds weird but pretty eggs now had a delicious combination of sweet, tart, spicy, salty, and creamy.
When we offered the red and green flecked eggs to our deviled egg loving pal he gave them a bit of a skeptical look but ended up ignoring the plain ones in favor of the spicy berry ones. They were a hit and we are making them for several holiday events this season. I hope you will try our Holiday Deviled Eggs recipe!
8 large fresh eggs (hard boiled and peeled)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tsp brown mustard
1/4 cup dried cranberries diced (plus extra for garnish)
1 large jalapeno seeded and diced (save a bit for garnish)
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and white pepper to taste
Split the hard boiled and peeled eggs lengthwise
Scoop out the yolks and mix the yolks with mayonnaise and mustard
Season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper
Stir in cranberries and jalapeno
Scoop the yolks back into the whites
Garnish with more cranberries and jalapeno bits
Running a company is hard work and filled with both frustrations and delights. Watching something you have created and nurtured grow is an exhilarating feeling. Building a team of talented, fun people is rewarding. Doves and Figs has brought me much joy along with tired feet and berry stained, dish pan hands. One thing it has not given me is much time to blog. Even though I am still squeezing in hours for cooking, baking, and pickling; I have not been writing much and I have missed it.
So I am back-with a super simple snack and I hope to steal a bit more time over the days to come to share all the delicious things coming from my little jam (and other treats) kitchen. No matter how busy you are-tonight take a few minutes to pour yourself your favorite craft beer or a glass of local wine, put your feet up, and nibble some of this quick and easy snack mix. You deserve it!
Herb Roasted Cashews with Dried Cranberries, and Dried Cherries
3 cups of cashews
1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1/3 cup dried cherries
several sprigs of fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, and a few sage leaves
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the cashews on an ungreased cookie sheet. Distributed the herbs on top of the nuts and roast for about 10 minutes until hot and fragrant but not too brown. Toss in a pretty bowl with the dried fruit and sprinkle with kosher salt. Snack Away!