Strawberry Jam for a Small Family

Last week I made strawberry jam.

Big deal, right? It's the end of May. Probably a lot of people are making strawberry jam this time of year. They're probably even making it with their own, organic, homegrown, (yaddahyaddah) berries. Me? I just had one measly pack of ordinary berries from the grocery store that were just not going to get eaten in time and I did not want them to go to waste.

I ran through a few options before I settled on jam. After all, don't you have to have pounds and pounds of berries, canning equipment, hours to dedicate to the project (not to mention an addition to the house to store the 'fruits' of your labors)? But, none of the other options appealed to me, and the idea of jam starting sounding better and better. So at 9 pm, in the middle of my busiest work week of the year, I suddenly decided I was going to attempt a small batch of jam.

It took about a half hour from start to finish, and I ended up with four small jars - one for now and three for the freezer. I opted to freeze mine since I didn't have proper canning lids, and besides, as good as it turned out, I don't expect it to last that long.  It's a bit on the sweet side, so I may experiment with a little less sugar next time.

Strawberry Jam

2 cups sliced strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice

Place a small plate in the freezer before you begin. Mix the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a deep pan. Bring to a rolling boil and allow to boil for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until it starts to thicken.

Remove the plate from the freezer and drop a spoonful of the strawberry mixture thinly onto the plate. Push the edges of mixture to see if the surface wrinkles. If not, cook another minute or two and check again, taking care not to overcook. If it does, take it off the heat, spoon into jars and seal using proper canning methods, or cool and store in the freezer.

Sourdough Pancakes

Lately I've been experimenting with sourdough. I had fun with it for a while, making all sorts of different things and busily researching new ideas to try when I had more time. I have yet to try the sourdough cracker recipe I found, but I do have a new favorite pancake recipe.

I didn't record the method for making my sourdough starter. I just followed the directions on a website I found, and after about a week, I had a lively starter. There are many available - and most are much better at posting pictures than I am. But once you have your starter, you can try this recipe.

Sourdough Pancakes

The night before:
1/2 cup starter
1/2 cup each milk and water
1 1/2 cup flour

Mix together, cover loosly and leave out overnight. I put a plate over the top of my mixing bowl and set it in the oven with the light on.

In the morning, add:
2 eggs, beaten
2 t sugar
2 T melted butter
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

Stir well, and then cook as you would any other pancakes.

Hot Chocolate

For the most part, my hot drink of choice is tea; strong, plain tea, with milk. There are times, though, when I want something more substantial. Sweeter. And chocolate. On these occasions I usually heat a cup of milk with a spoonful each of cocoa and sugar and am perfectly happy with it. But in the depths of winter I like the added warmth and creaminess of a mug of chocolate made with ganache. I often make a batch to give away as gifts, and always make sure to save some for us.

Hot Chocolate

For the ganache:
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (your favorite variety)

Heat the cream just to boiling. Add the chocolate and stir until it is completely melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy.

Cool. You can store it like this in the refridgerator and scoop it out as needed, but I always make mine into individual portions to store in the freezer or to package for gifts. When it is cool enough to handle, but will hold its shape, use a spoon or small scoop to form  individual balls of about 2 tablespoons each. Wrap the chocolates individually and store in an airtight container in the freezer.

To make hot chocolate, use one ball of chocolate per 6-8 ounces of milk. Heat on the stove, stiring occasionally until the mixture is hot and the chocolate is completely melted.

Yorkshire Pudding

Not having been born and raised British, but only naturalized in my 30s, I didn't grow up eating Yorkshire Puddings with my Sunday roasts. Come to think of it, I didn't grow up having Sunday roast dinners, either, and if we did, it was most likely venison rather than beef.

However, I distinctly remember the first time I had Yorkshire Pudding and the 'why have I never had this before??' thoughts that accompanied it.  It's the perfect thing to warm the body and soul on a chilly winter's day - Sunday or not.

I have been told by native Brits that this is not how their mothers and grandmothers taught them to make Yorkshire Puddings, but this recipe never fails me. I use a muffin pan of the type that makes six extra large muffins for six large, fluffy Yorkshire Puddings.

Yorkshire Puddings

4 oz flour
4 large eggs
10 ounces milk
bacon or beef fat

Measure the flour and a good pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center, and add the eggs. Gradually beat the eggs into the flour. When the eggs are thoroughly mixed in, slowly beat in the milk.
Allow the mixture to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or several hours, if possible.

When you're ready to bake them, turn the oven on to 400 degrees. Put about 1-2 teaspoons of fat into each muffin cup. Put the muffin pan into the hot oven for about 5 minutes. Quickly pour the batter into the pan and return it to the oven immediately.

Bake for about 35-40 minutes, until the puddings are puffy and golden brown. Serve immediately.