Saturday, October 20, 2012

Baby shower cake - book style

My cousin asked me to make a baby shower cake for her friend, who absolutely loves The Very Hungry Caterpillar book.  Even though I'm not much of an artist, I thought I could do it.

This is seven 6" round single layer torted cakes, filled with chocolate buttercream, frosted with vanilla buttercream, and covered in marshmallow fondant.  The caterpillar is hand painted.

While not an exact duplicate, I think it came out very well.  My cousin was very pleased.  I can't wait to hear how the recipient liked it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Fresh strawberry jam

My mother-in-law brought us eight 16-ounce packages of strawberries on Saturday.  I was needing to figure out a way to use them all up, without having to make strawberry shortcake for days on end.

I put the call out on Facebook looking for ideas, and my aunt sent me a recipe for fresh strawberry  jam.  It did not require any cooking or special canning equipment, which was great, as I've not ever canned jam before.

After a quick trip to pick up some plastic Ball jars that are specially made for the freezer, some pectin powder made specifically for freezer recipes, fresh lemons, and a bit more sugar, I was ready to get started.

I cut the tops off all the strawberries.  After popping a couple of them in my mouth to do some quality taste testing, they got the thumbs up for the jam.

I washed all the plastic jars and lids, and set them aside, ready to receive the red deliciousness!


 After mashing the strawberries with a potato masher, I mixed in the powdered pectin, then let it sit for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure it was entirely dissolved.  I then added the corn syrup, stirring well.  Next came the sugar (lots of sugar!).  This is the fun part.  Keep stirring, then taste a little to make sure all sugar is dissolved.  Add some freshly squeezed lemon juice, and voila!  It is ready to put into the jars.

If you use a wide-mouth funnel, it will make the task of filling the jars a lot cleaner.  Be sure not to fill them over the fill line, or else when you freeze it, it will expand and pop the lid off while in the freezer.

Place a label on the jars stating what the contents are, especially important if you are making raspberry jam too!

One batch I customized by adding some vanilla bean paste.  This batch will be used with more dessert-like recipes, rather than on toast or biscuits.

Once you've filled the jars, put them in the freezer for 24 hours. 

They are then ready to pop the top and enjoy on your favorite whole wheat toast, buttermilk biscuits, or even mixed with some cream cheese to make stuffed french toast.
Store unopened jars in the freezer for up to one year.  Once opened, keep in the refrigerator for one month (as if it will last that long!).
From all of my strawberries, I was able to get 22 half-pint jars, four pint jars, and a small bowl of strawberry jam.
I can only hope that all canning is this easy!  I'm ready to try something new.
Fresh Strawberry Jam
4 cups hulled, well-crushed strawberries (approximate 8 cups fully ripe berries)
2 ounces powdered pectin (I used the kind specifically for freezer recipes)
1 cup light corn syrup
5.5 cups granulated sugar
4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Turn crushed strawberries into a large bowl.  Stirring vigorously, sift in powdered pectin slowly.  Let stand 20 minutes, stirring strawberries occasionally so pectin thoroughly dissolves.  Pour in corn syrup and mix well.  Gradually stir in sugar.
When sugar is thoroughly dissolved, stir in lemon juice.  Ladle jam into jars, cover, and then place in the freezer for 24 hours. (The jam won't freeze solid because of the sugar concentration.)  If you want to keep jam longer than one month, store it in a freezer at a temperature of 10 degrees Fahrenheit below zero to 20 degrees above.  Otherwise, you can store it in the refrigerator to use.