Monday, April 15, 2013

Cranberry Molasses and a Giveaway: Put 'em Up! Fruit by Sherri Brooks Vinton

Cranberry molasses! Is this a great idea, or what? I absolutely love pomegranate molasses and use it all the time. Mostly drizzled on salads. So vibrant, so tangy! When I saw this recipe in Sherri Brooks Vinton's newest canning book, Put 'em Up! Fruit, I knew I had to try it. Especially since I had some cranberries languishing in the freezer. And it's a little more local than pomegranates for us easterners.

If you are a canner, you've probably read Brooks Vinton's first book, Put 'em Up, which was structured by the fruit or vegetable to preserve. This book moves in a similar way, but focuses on fruit, and for each recipe of a preserve there is a companion recipe to "Use It Up!" There's a chunk of preserving information in the beginning of the book, and then the fruits start alphabetically, with apples, of course, and everything has a color-coded tab at the top of the page, so you can quickly thumb to a section. The book is colorful and easy to dive into, with beautiful pictures by Hudson Valley photographer, Jennifer May.

It's very obvious that Brooks Vinton has been at this for a while, and her enthusiasm for local produce and making eating well accessible to everyone is immediately evident. She's bubbly about cool things like gastriques and making cider vinegar, but still includes stalwart recipes for applesauce and classic jams. This book truly is for beginners and pros alike.

The cranberry molasses that I tried from the book is so simple! Next time I would probably try lowering the sugar because that's my thing these days, and it might help the ability to cook it longer without it jelling. The only thing I'll take Brooks Vinton to task for is not giving you an idea for the left over cranberry pulp. The book is chock full of little tips like this, so I'll let it pass! I used a cup  in some muffins, and I put the rest in a smoothie. I hope to try the molasses with the companion Use It Up! recipe: duck confit salad with cranberry molasses. Could that sound ANY better? No, it can't!

Cranberry Molasses
adapted from Put 'em Up Fruit by Sherri Brooks Vinton
Yield: 2 cups

4 cups of water
1/2 pound of cranberries
2 cups dark brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)

Bring the water and cranberries to a boil, and let them simmer for about 15 minutes, letting the berries pop and soften. Strain the juice through a fine sieve to get all that gelatinous pulp and seeds out. The juice is brilliant red!

Bring the juice (it will be about 2 cups worth) and sugar to a boil in your jam pan. Let it simmer until it coats the back of the spoon. Brooks Vinton recommends 10 to 15 minutes, but I went longer, about 30 neglecting to notice the comment: "the molasses will thicken as it cools." Mine was thick and lovely, but did jell slightly upon cooling. It is so soft though, that a few stirs with a fork turns it back into syrup. You can process this in a boiling water bath for ten minutes, or stash in the fridge for up to three weeks.


Please visit the book's webpage where you'll find a trailer, and videos to some of the recipes in the book. There are other chances to win a copy of the book! Some are over already, but some haven't even started yet. Check out this list of folks on the book blog tour:

April 8: Food In Jars
April 9: Punk Domestics
April 11: Local Kitchen
April 12: Mission: Food

Congratulations to the winner: Deborah Rosen. Many thanks to all who entered! There's still time to win at The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking and From Scratch Club!

Thanks to Storey Publishing, I have one copy of Put 'em Up! Fruit to give away. To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment on this post. Comments will close at 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, April 19, 2013. The winner will be chosen at random and be posted to the blog the next day. With Blogger it seems I can't email commenters directly (your email address remains anonymous to everyone, even me), so if you are not linked to a blog please leave a way for me to reach you, or check back to see if you won. And my sincere apologies, but only U.S. residents are eligible.

Disclosure: I was provided a copy of Put ‘em Up! Fruit free for the purposes of review and participation in the blog tour. One copy will be provided to the giveaway winner, courtesy of Storey Publishing. I received no monetary compensation and all opinions are my own.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Eight Lunches

What do you eat for lunch? It's something I think about every day. I'm know I'm not the only one! This is what I think: How can I eat healthily and inexpensively? And mostly: quickly. I'm always curious what the heck people actually eat. I mean, we all have our ambitious ideas--big recipes that are usually meant for dinner. Lunch is sort of forgotten territory. I wish I didn't neglect it as much as I do, and I'd love to get more of a system going on. When I make a good lunch, I take a picture so I can remember it. Sometimes, it's a little too late, like the above picture.  A few pickled beets chopped up, some crumbled feta, salad greens, olive oil and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds make a great salad.
Of course, leftovers. I made a lot of squash dumplings for dinner and sauteed them with onions and a hearty handful of chopped parsley. They were great fried up the next day. I don't understand people who don't like leftovers. I love them!!
 A toasted baguette, a can of sardines in olive oil spread with a fork, topped with chopped dill and parsley, salt and pepper, more olive oil. Perfection. Always keep tinned small fish on hand: sustainable, good for you, inexpensive, tasty.
My favorite. Smoked salmon, capers, two fried eggs, salad, pita. I'd eat this even without the salmon. Eggs are a mainstay of my lunches.
Leftover turkey and gravy on toast with capers. Hot open faced sandwich. So. Good. You might have noticed that I put capers on just about anything. They are a must in my kitchen.
Summer rolls. They are pretty easy. Really!! These are sort of on the ugly side, but they still tasted great. Looks aren't everything, as they say. Shrimp are bonus, but not necessary. Another way to get a good bunch of veg in you. Lately, I've been buying Maine shrimp, sold frozen in a local grocery store. They come in handy to throw into something like this, or a salad, or something more ambitious, like dumplings. (Pictured are not those shrimp, though.)
Leftover pancakes rolled with smoked salmon, salad, Greek yogurt (and some capers, I'll bet). You can see I like smoked salmon on everything, too. A little bit goes a long way.
More eggs, capers, and salad. And I am a big fan of Ak Mak. This is a perfect lunch, in my opinion.

What about you? What do you eat for lunch? What staples give it flair or substance? When I had a full-time office job, I usually made my lunch the night before. It actually took a lot of the guesswork out of lunch-making. I might even consider doing it again, but I know I'd look at my lunch and think: oh, I could make something more yummy. One of the problems of working near your kitchen!