Peach Jam

June 24, 2012 12:24 by Suzy

"The peaches are here!  The peaches are here!"

Every year at this time, the entire world stops in my office when the word goes out...the peaches are here!  One of our attorneys, based in South Carolina, sends boxes of Mac's Pride peaches from McLeod Farms to certain lucky people as corporate gifts.  Those people then become very popular as the rest of us try to sweet-talk as many of the delicious fruits as we can.  These peaches are almost obscenely good...perfectly ripe, so sweet and full of flavor...office drones suddenly become greedy children as they wolf them down with juice dribbling down chins and arms.

So I clearly had to make something good when I scored a large bag of these peaches.  Enter this jam.  Oh my FREAKIN God why have I not been making jam until now???  This jam is so delicious I found myself eating it straight from the jar with a spoon.  JD said it tastes like peach cobbler in a jar.  I can't even describe to you how incredibly good this is.  Just trust me:  you need to make this jam.

Peach Jam
adapted from Food in Jars
makes approximately 7 pints of jam

10 cups peaches, peeled, pitted and diced
6 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
zest and juice from 2 lemons
2 packets liquid pectin

Prepare jars:  wash pint or half-pint jars and rings in hot soapy water, rinse, and set aside.  Put lids in small saucepan of water and bring to a simmer (do not boil).  Keep lids in saucepan over low heat.

Prepare canner:  put rack in bottom of canner or large pot (no rack?  just line the bottom of the pot with extra jar rings) and fill with water.  Bring to a boil over high heat.

Prepare peaches:  bring large pot of water to a boil.  Fill large bowl with ice water.  Blanch peaches, 2 at a time, in boiling water for 30 seconds.  Remove and put into ice water.  Repeat with remaining peaches.  Using paring knife, peel, pit and dice peaches.

Place peaches and sugar into large, heavy-bottomed pot and mix together.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then add the cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Boil, stirring constantly, for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, put a small plate in the freezer (you'll use this to check for gel later).

Use a potato masher to break up the peaches if they are too chunky for your taste.  Add the pectin, stir, and bring to a rolling boil.  Keep at rolling boil and continue to stir for a full five minutes.  Check for gel:  put a small blob of jam on the plate from the freezer and let it cool.  Gently push the blob with your finger; if the jam wrinkles a bit, the jam is ready.  If your finger just pushes through the jam, continue to cook for another five minutes and then check again.

Turn off the heat under the jam and line up your jars.  Carefully fill jars, leaving 1/4" headspace.  Wipe jar rims clean with paper towel, apply lids, and screw on rings (not too tight).  Carefully lower jars into boiling water canner, cover, and process for 10 minutes.  Remove jars from canner and let cool on dishtowel-lined countertop.  When cool, check the seals by pushing down on the lids.  If the lid doesn't move, the jar is sealed and can be stored up to a year in cool, dark place.  If the jar didn't seal, the jam is still good...you just need to keep it in the refrigerator and eat within 3 weeks.

Note:  I also got a lot of great canning tips and info from Put 'em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton.



Cajun-Style Red Beans and Rice

June 16, 2012 19:38 by Suzy

Another item I can cross off my Kitchen Bucket List!  For some reason last week, I got it in my head that I wanted some really good red beans and rice...and I was determined to finally conquer this yummy dish that has eluded me forever.  The result...a definite success!

I spent some time Googling recipes before I found one that I thought would be a good starting point.  I made some changes (brown the sausage and saute the veggies in the fat, used chicken broth) and we were very happy with how it turned out.  JD even said they were better than what you can get at Popeye's!

Cajun-Style Red Beans and Rice
adapted from AllRecipes.com

1 pound small red beans
12 ounces andouille sausage
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon sage
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning (I used Tony Chachere's)
hot cooked rice

Rinse and sort beans; drain.  Put in large pot with plenty of water to cover and bring to a boil.  Let boil for five minutes, then turn off heat, cover, and let soak for a few hours or overnight.  When ready to start cooking, drain and rinse the beans.

Slice the sausages in half lengthwise, then slice into half-moons.  Saute in large heavy pot over medium-high heat until nicely browned and some of the fat has rendered out.  Remove sausage with slotted spoon and set aside.  Reduce heat to medium and add the onion, green pepper, celery and garlic to the pot and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.

Add the drained, rinsed beans, the broth, water, and spices to the pot.  Don't add salt yet; wait until later after the flavors have mingled and the sausage has been added.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer, covered, for 2 1/2 hours.  Stir in the sausage and continue to simmer until the beans are tender.  Depending on your beans, this could take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours.  My beans were definitely on the old side so it took them FOREVER before they were soft.  Be patient!

Taste beans and add salt to taste (I ended up using about a tablespoon).  If you like a more creamy consistency, mash some of the beans against the side of the pot.  To serve, spoon beans into serving bowls and top with a scoop of rice.

Cajun Style Red Beans and Rice



Bacon-Wrapped Pineapple Bites

June 11, 2012 14:48 by Suzy

JD and I had a great weekend...relaxing day together on Saturday, then had a great time Sunday visiting friends at our old neighborhood.  Nearly everyone from the "hood" was there, even other defectors like us!  BP, as usual, pulled out all the stops so there was waaaaaay too much food...burgers and dogs, sausages, grilled onions, roasted red peppers, fries, chips and queso....

These yummy bites were my contribution...so incredibly simple and yet so incredibly delicious.  Once the plate cooled off (be careful; they are VERY hot at first!) they were gone in a flash.  Next time I need to make a double batch.

Bacon-Wrapped Pineapple Bites
adapted from Tasty Kitchen

1 pound bacon
1 can pineapple chunks, drained
1/2 cup brown sugar

Cut pound of bacon in half.  Crumble brown sugar into shallow bowl.  Take a bacon slice and dredge in brown sugar to coat both sides.  Wrap the bacon around a chunk of pineapple and secure with a toothpick.  Repeat with remaining bacon and pineapple chunks.

Grill over hot coals until bacon is crispy and cooked through.  If you don't have a grill, place bites on rack rack in shallow pan lined with foil and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.  Use the broiler if necessary to get them nice and crispy.  Let cool slightly before devouring.

Bacon-Wrapped Pineapple Bites



White Wine Sangria

June 4, 2012 20:43 by Suzy

Summer is officially here!  Other than my killer Margaritas, this is my standby cocktail for summer gatherings.  It's perfect for a cookout or Sunday brunch...light and refreshing and not too sweet.

Another great thing about this recipe is that it's adaptable...you can use whatever fruit you have on hand, or whatever your favorites are.  I always keep the lime and the orange, but sometimes I'll switch out the pineapple with sliced fresh peaches or maybe some watermelon.  Other times I will add grapes to the mix.  Ooooo, strawberries would be good too...now I want to make another batch!

White Wine Sangria
adapted from Cuisine at Home

1/2 cup hot water
1/2 cup sugar
1 bottle (750 ml) dry white wine (I use Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc)
3/4 cup brandy
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lime
1 orange
1/2 pineapple, cut into chunks or rings (or see other fruit suggestions above)
2 cups club soda, chilled
raspberries for garnish

Combine hot water and sugar in a pitcher and stir until the sugar is dissolved.

Wash lime and orange very well, then slice into rounds.

Combine lime and orange slices, wine, brandy, vanilla and pineapple with sugar water in pitcher.  Chill at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Just before serving, gently stir in club soda.  Pour over ice and garnish with raspberries.

White Wine Sangria



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