Sunday, June 24, 2007

Strawberry Season

It's late June, which means strawberry crops are at their peak. Canning has recently become a hobby of mine, so this year I decided to take advantage of the local berry farms and pick my own strawberries.

The last time I picked strawberries, I was 11 years old and it wasn't for my own enjoyment--it was for money. The problem was, that summer was a terrible season for berries; the yield was low and what berries were there were half-green. I ended up being very slow at the task because of this, and only spent one afternoon as a berry picker.

Thankfully, it was a much more fun job this time around. The plants were full of berries, and the fruit was so red and juicy--a deeper colour than I've seen in any grocery store. In half an hour, we picked enough to make an 8-jar batch of strawberry jam and fill a giant freezer bag (frozen margaritas, anyone?).

Since this was only my second attempt at canning, I chose to make a basic strawberry jam, courtesy of Bernardin. They're the canning experts, right? Seemed pretty foolproof.

And it was; the jam turned out perfectly--although it claimed to yield 7 jars, it actually gave me enough for 8. Even better! So now I have extra jars to share with my family.

Bernardin Strawberry Jam
3 3/4 cups crushed strawberries, crushed one layer at a time with a potato masher
1/4 c bottled lemon juice
7 cups granulated sugar
1 pouch liquid Bernardin pectin

1. Sterilize cans and lids.
2. Bring strawberries, sugar and lemon juice to a full, rolling boil (one that can't be stirred down). Once this boil is reached, stir constantly for one minute, then remove from heat.
3. Stir in pectin.
4. Immediately ladle into sterilized jars, cover with SNAP lids, and close with rings until fingertip tight.
5. Process jars (boil in hot-water canner) for 10 minutes, depending on altitude.
6. After processing, remove jars from canner and let rest, undisturbed, for 24 hours. Sealed jars have lids which curve downwards; lids that move when you touch them did not process properly--you can keep these in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

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Friday, June 8, 2007

Laura Calder's Crisp Chewy Meringues

Food Network Canada's blog, Food for Thought, has been hosting a monthly cooking club. The idea is to get different perspectives on various recipes. I like it because it gives me an opportunity to try new recipes. The fact that cookbooks are given away at the end of each month doesn't hurt, either.

Last month's recipe was Michael Smith's (of Chef at Home, Chef at Large and the Inn Chef fame) Buffalo Chicken Wing salad. On this month's menu is Laura Calder's recipe for Crisp Chewy Meringues.

I didn't know this until I saw others' opinions about the selection of this recipe, but apparently meringues are really, really divisive. Like Nickelback, people either love them or hate them. Personally, I love them. Anything with such a high sugar ratio is guaranteed to be on my list of favourites.

I wasn't sure if I'd like this recipe though... crisp and chewy meringues? I was concerned that they would just give an impression of being undercooked. I prefer dry, crunchy meringues, like the kind I used to beg my mom to buy me from the local Dutch deli when I was a kid.

I was wrong to worry though--these meringues were seriously delicious. The outer shell tastes like traditional dry meringues, but once you bite into it you taste gourmet, homemade marshmallow. It's incredible. And it puts my Kitchenaid mixer to excellent use, too.

Crisp Chewy Meringues
Via Food Network/Laura Calder

  • 4 x egg whites
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla (or orange flower water, or maple extract)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup icing sugar
  • 1 x tbsp cornstarch
  1. Whip the whites and salt into peaks, add the vanilla, and continue beating to stiff peaks. Stir the cream of tartar into the regular sugar and whisk into the whites very gradually, a spoonful at a time, until the meringue is stiff and the sugar has dissolved. Sift together the icing sugar and cornstarch. Sift over the meringue and gently fold until fully incorporated.
  2. Pipe or spoon the meringues onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 225ºF/110ºC until cream-coloured and crisp on top when tapped, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Remove from the oven. Cool on the trays. Store in an air-tight container.

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