Fig Jam Two Ways

Fig Jam Two Ways

Before moving to Savannah, I had never eaten a fig. I had never even had access to a fig. That all changed with my husband’s family.

My husband grew up with a fig tree in his grandmother’s yard. And to say the least, his family adores figs. Despite the family access, I personally have found it difficult to locate fresh figs when they are in season each year. I look and look, hoping to score a container of the soft sweet fruit to bake with.

As you can imagine, anytime I actually spot them in the store…I go a bit crazy. This year when I purchased more fresh figs than I knew what to do with. I ended up with more than I could reasonably cook with.

What does any true southerner do with an excess of fresh summer produce? Jam it or can it. That ways in the depths of a cold grey winter (which does not happen in the low country) you can whip out a jar of preserved summer stock to warm your bones.

There were so many fresh figs in my kitchen, I was able to make two batches of fig jam. One traditional, but with brown sugar instead of white, and one a little jazzed up with a hint of chai tea. The subtle warm flavors of chai is the perfect accompaniment to the fresh sweet fruit.

Making jam is easy. You combine everything into a pot and let it simmer away until ooey gooey and cooked down. If you do not feel like taking on the heavy burden of canning the jam, you can always freeze it for up to six months.

For another fig recipe click: here.

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Apricot Roasted Chicken

Apricot Roasted Chicken

There are often extremely difficult moments in life—days during which you feel as though you will not be okay. In the end, time will heal almost everything, but waiting seems impossible.

In those moments, food plays an important role for many. Personally, I gravitate towards homecooked meals that warm and ease my soul.

Two weeks ago I made the difficult decision to let go of my dog and best friend of 13 years. Although I know it was the correct decision to ease her suffering, it was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make. My friends and family really stepped up to be there for my husband and I. The showering of food (and booze if I am being honest) kept my home full while my heart was empty.

I cannot think of a more soul warming meal than roasted meat and a couple of sides. A meat and two or three (or four) is a staple southern meal. Growing up, dinner most nights included meatloaf, country fried steak, pot roast, salmon patties, or pork chops.

So when you go through something difficult you often lean towards bits of nostalgia—the good moments. A full plate of love-filled food is a plate full of nostalgia for me. A lot of my childhood consisted of sitting in the kitchen with my mother as she cooked me dishes from the heart.

Although she never roasted chicken like this, I think this recipe is easily one that you can add to your repertoire of food to cook and share with others. The preparation calls for an arrangement of vegetables at the bottom of your roast pan and a slathering of sweet sticky apricot preserves. The result is a juicy home roasted chicken with a slight Asian flare.

I am going to leave this recipe here because it is my hope that you share a homecooked, heart-filling meal with friends or family. Even if you are not going through your own battle, and just want a good meal, this dish will serve you well. Now get in the kitchen and make memories.

White Chocolate Mousse Tart + Pink Peppercorn Strawberry Sauce

White Chocolate Mousse Tart + Pink Peppercorn Strawberry Sauce

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope your day is filled with joy and love–even if that means cuddling your dog a little extra.

I did not plan on posting for Valentine’s Day. That all changed when I watched the latest episode of Kids Baking Championship. I watch almost any baking show available.

On the last episode, the challenge was to create a tart with crazy ingredient. Pink peppercorns were one of the ingredients given to use. So, laying in bed, watching these kids kill it in the kitchen I thought, “I can do that!”

Strawberry, chocolate, and a little spice from peppercorns just seemed like the perfect Valentines combination. So the stars aligned, and this recipe would be the perfect one to post on Valentine’s.

Also, I knew my husband would love it. Two birds, one stone.

The tart itself is nothing crazy–simple dark chocolate pate sucree (crust) sits on the bottom with a swirled airy white chocolate mousse to full it. The crazy comes in with the sauce for the top, cooked down fresh strawberries with pulverized pink peppercorns.

Pink peppercorns work perfectly with fruit because they are much more floral than normal black peppercorns. They also have less of a peppery bite.

Finished tart ready to be served

This is not a beginners recipe so as always I want to give you a few tips to help:

  • Creating a light mousse only takes a few ingredients and proper technique. You use both meringue and whipped cream. To create a perfect meringue use room temperature egg whites and ensure there is not even a fleck of egg yolk in the whites.
  • Folding is how your incorporate meringue and whipped cream into the chocolate. Folding is not like whisking or stirring. To fold you gently cut down the middle of your mixture with a spatula, then fold over one half of the mixture over the second half. Repeat until everything is blended.
  • Always chill your tart shell before rolling it out, fit the shell to the tart pan once cooled, and also chill again before baking it once it is fit into the tart pan. This will prevent shrinkage.
  • Always poke holes with a fork in the bottom of the tart dough to prevent it from puffing during baking.

A close up of the tart

The Ultimate BLT

The Ultimate BLT

A bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich is one of those dishes that instantly triggers nostalgia for me. A good BLT is one of my mom’s favorite foods, which means so often growing up she would throw together a BLT for our supper.

Her recipe did not require special ingredients or fancy techniques, just a bit more care. She would quickly pan fry some bacon, which she usually had on hand in the fridge, slice some tomatoes from the garden, and slather toasted white bread with mayo. After watching her prepare countless sandwiches I realized what made her homemade version my favorite version. Aside from the addition of love, my mom seasoned every layer of her sandwich with salt and pepper.

First the mayo is lacquered on the bread then hit with a sprinkling of seasoning, the next layer is added and seasoned, and so on. As you can imagine, building a sandwich with tomato that has a sprinkling of salt and pepper far exceeds a sandwich with plain tomato.

And although I feel that you can never go wrong with classic BLT, I wanted to push the limits on what a BLT can be. With that in mind, I did not want to change the backbones of the sandwich by adding or using a bunch of random things. In the south people love to throw a fried green tomato onto a BLT in an attempt to heighten the recipe–I was not about to do that.

My approach is to amplify the already existing ingredients of a BLT. Add some garlic to the mayo, use better tomatoes, etcetera.

I use this Balsamic Onion Jam recipe to make the jam I use on the sandwich.

A few notes:

  1. Garlic confit can make you very sick if you do not cook it and store it properly. I recommend using it immediately and if you want to save it, freeze it.
  2. I purchased a loaf of homemade bread from a local baker. I recommend opting for a better bread than normal sliced bread from the grocery store.
  3. The true secret to making any BLT so much better is to salt and pepper every layer, even your smear of mayo.
  4. Finally, bake your bacon. This is a trick I learned during my short time as a line cook. Most restaurants place bacon in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake it instead of pan frying it. It keeps the kitchen cleaner (bacon grease does not spatter everywhere) and you are able to tend to other things in the kitchen while the bacon bakes.

 

 

Balsamic Onion Jam

Balsamic Onion Jam

For us in the low country, summer’s end is marked by the beginning of hurricane season. It is a period of months that I absolutely dread, especially considering I did not grow up here. Where I am from, our only worry was the occasional lighting storm or tornado.

With summer marking its end, last week I dug up my summer garden to replant my winter one. Now I am not so certain my tiny little plants are going to make it through the impending storms of hurricane Florence that everyone on the east coast is tracking so closely. Even if Savannah does not get hit directly this week, I can assure you that a gust of torrential rain and wind will likely wipe out my tiny plants.

Part of summer ending and fall/winter replanting means using up the last bit of fruit from the garden. For most southerners this results in canning and saving for the winter. When canning comes around, I tend to lean towards jams and pickles.

Making a jam doesn’t only have to be reserved for fruit or sweet items. I often make onion, bacon, or tomato jam to keep and pair with a hefty cheese plate or put out for a gathering.

The basics of jam are easy, unlike jelly which often requires the addition of pectin or gelatin. To make a jam I employ a few standard techniques, cooking down the star ingredient with a liquid and sugar until it becomes sticky and reduced.

For this jam recipe I use two types of onion, Vidalia and red, to achieve a well rounded flavor. The addition of balsamic vinegar cuts through the sweetness and adds a deep savory flavor.

You can save the recipe by canning the finished jam or store it in the fridge for up to a week.

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