• The Best, And Easiest, Strawberry Jam

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    The Best Strawberry Jam.

    straw1So what makes this strawberry jam the best? Well, it is just strawberries, sugar and lemon juice, so nothing gets in the way. If you have ripe, sweet strawberries, this is the real deal. And we use a technique that makes the process much, much easier. If you like jam, but don’t like all the specialized gear and the huge tub of boiling water, we have a solution: the oven.

    straw2It turns out you can sterilize your jars and lids in the oven, You can process the jam, too. (Just make sure your oven is true to temperature, they often are NOT, use an oven thermometer to be sure). Simply place your clean jars and lids on a baking sheet and heat in a 250 degree oven for at least 30 minutes. Remove the jars from the oven when you need them. Then fill the jars with jam, leave a 1/4 inch of room, wipe the rims clean, place the lids on, seal them and put the jars back in the oven for 15 minutes. Then take the jars out of the oven and they will seal as they cool. So. Much. Easier.

    straw3straw4The other fuss about making jam usually has to do w/ pitting and skinning fruit, or in the case of strawberries, hulling. There are specialized hulling tools, but we use strong plastic straws (flimsy won’t work here) and run them from the bottom through the center of the strawberries. It is the fastest way to hull the strawberries, and something anyone (read, your kids or guest) can be dragooned volunteer to do. It’s almost fun, and you can snack on a few berries along the way.

    straw5straw6As for the jam, we adapted the recipe (and the oven technique) from Blue Chair Fruit Company in Berkeley. Blue Chair has fine jams and marmalade, gear, classes and one of our favorite cookbooks. Worth a visit.straw8straw7

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  • Apple Cinnamon Muffins (And the sweet smell of victory!)

    Apple Cinnamon Muffins.

    So what do you do when your team wins their second World Series in three years? Well, you put your happily beaming children to bed, watch a few minutes of the post game, then mix up a tasty cocktail and smile….. and then you go outside and give up a seriously primal scream of joy and relief. UNBELIEVABLE!  And you know what you do the next morning? You sit down with a good cup of coffee and a tasty apple cinnamon muffin and read all the news on how your team kicked-ass won. Your kids are still beaming, the kitchen is warm and smells like fall. Happy days here by the Bay.

    And even if your team didn’t win the Series, you can still enjoy a tasty, spicy apple muffin. If you’re like us, we can get a bit “enthusiastic” when we buy apples. If we don’t eat them out of hand, we take the extra apples that may be getting soft and make applesauce or these muffins. And these muffins are exactly as advertised. They have a pronounced apple and cinnamon flavors and feature a crisp top with a very soft interior. Good for breakfast, but not bad as an afternoon treat, either.

    Like many baking recipes, these muffins come from a familiar formula, but a few tips and techniques do matter. Firstly, we grate our apples in this recipe. Grating provides a more uniform texture and gives you apple flavor in every bite. Secondly, we also butter (using cooking spray) the muffin tin, then the paper cups and the top of the tin. There is a method to the madness, the longer muffins cool in the tin, the tougher they get. If you heavily grease the tin and the paper cups you can get the muffins out of the tin as soon as you can handle them. This makes a big difference, the muffins will be moist and tender. And finally, we substitute half of the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour for a “nuttier” flavor. We like the extra flavor, but regular AP flour will work fine.

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