Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I Can Can!

It was a toss-up today with which bad joke to give the title: "I can can!" won with a narrow margin over "We're jammin'!" Spurred on by Stefaneener, a very kind jam guru, I finally joined the ranks of canners with two batches of Peach-Pecan-Amaretto Preserves. I fell in love with San Saba River Peach Pecan Amaretto Preserves after receiving them as a gift, but at $8 for a half-pint jar, they're a bit rich for everyday use. It seems I'm not the only one to feel this way, as googling for a peach pecan amaretto preserve recipe turned up this recipe developed by a fellow San Saba River fan. I followed the recipe exactly and then made a second batch using no-sugar-needed pectin with the low-sugar recipe on the box of pectin, then adding the pecans and amaretto after removing from heat. The sugary batch still hasn't set, though the low-sugar batch set almost immediately upon cooling. I know some preserves take longer to gel, but the fact that the second batch has done so already makes me think my first batch will be pancake/ice cream topping instead of a spread. That's fine with me, as it'll be gooooooood pancake/ice cream topping. The first batch produced 11 half-pint jars, and the low-sugar batch turned up 6 half-pint jars, plus a half jar, which I promptly put in the fridge for immediate use. It was really good on toast this morning. Lilah and Matt agreed. The low-sugar batch is much peachier than the first batch, which is crazy sweet, like jam usually is. I like the low-sugar quite a bit, but both are nice. I also used much bigger chunks of fruit in the low sugar batch, and I prefer it that way. I have plans for a mixed berry jam next.

Thank you for the anniversary wishes! It wasn't the best anniversary, with Matt in Scotland and Lilah not sleeping well, but they can't all be winners :)

Knitting; I'd hoped to show you a finished placket-neck pullover, as Matt was home yesterday (yay!), but I was felled by a migraine and did no knitting. I suspect the sleep deprivation during his trip was to blame, as I haven't had one in years. If you've never had an aura-producing migraine, it's surreal. I was reading at the time and became annoyed because the sparkly blurry shape on the page was getting bigger. Then it hit me. Fortunately, Matt was home to take over Lilah care, and I retreated to a dark bedroom.

Yarnthrower, thank you! Long-tail cast-on is exactly what I meant. That was really bugging me.

Reading: I finished Stephanie Barron's latest Jane Austen mystery, Jane and the Barque of Frailty, but I haven't posted a review yet. Since Barron has a non-Jane book out, I was afraid it would be the last, but it seems there's room for more. I really enjoy these! I'm now reading The Matchmaker of Perigord by Julia Stuart and loving it. I've laughed out loud a dozen or so times, and it's a delightful read. I just received my June ARC to review, Lookin' Back, Texas by Leanna Ellis, so that's next. I requested this book based on the description, which left out the (to me) pertinent fact that it's Christian fiction. I'm going to try to read it with an open mind, though, and hope to be able to give it a good review.

Writing: Yeah, right.

Cooking: Besides the jam, I busted out another batch of ice cream. Inspired by this David Lebovitz recipe, I set out. Naturally, I modified the heck out of it. Lebovitz's book, The Perfect Scoop, goes on and off of my wish list, mostly because I understand his recipes almost always include a custard base made with 5 egg yolks. Not really my thing, but it looks like a fun, gorgeous book, and I sometimes think, well, hey, I could modify the recipes to leave out the egg.

Coffee-Heath Bar Crunch Ice Cream

3 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whole coffee beans (I used decaf Ethiopian)
pinch salt
1/2 cup cream (or substitute another 1/2 cup of milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp finely ground coffee (I used espresso)
1 cup crushed/chopped Heath bar*

In a small saucepan, combine 2 cups milk with coffee beans, sugar, and salt. Heat over medium heat until hot and steamy, but not boiling. Remove from heat and let steep, covered for 1 hour. Strain. I lined a bowl with cheesecloth, poured over the coffee mixture, then lifted the cheesecloth, squeezing with clean hands to release as much liquid as possible. You could also use a strainer and press down on the beans. Stir in remaining milk, cream, vanilla, and ground coffee and chill mixture. Pour into the bowl of an ice cream maker and process until nearly firm. Add Heath bar bits and process until mixed and firm.

*I forgot to put Heath bar bits (sold in a bag near the chocolate chips) on the grocery list, but noticed the Heath bars in the "impulse buy" section in the checkout lane. Three Heath bars made about a cup. I finely chopped two of them and broke the third into larger chunks because I like chunks :)

This is delish! It would be nice with chocolate-covered espresso beans as the chunks, or by itself, or with melted chocolate (cooled, but still pourable) drizzled into the ice cream maker as it processes in the last five minutes. Or chopped chocolate. I thought the ice cream tasted just like an iced coffee. I might try a smidge less sugar next time, maybe a 1/2 cup, at least if I'm adding Heath bits or something else with sweetness. I had already modified the recipe to include more liquid, and I didn't increase the sugar, but I think it could use even less.


YarnThrower said...

You are so ambitious in the kitchen! Your recipes sound so delish!

Glad that your hubby is back.

I know exactly the kind of headache you're talking about, and that is no fun!

Well, time to make lunch. (I'm feeling so ambitious today that I'm going to heat up some low fat hot dogs...)

Stefaneener said...

I'm so delighted about your jam!! I'll have to try it, as we currently have Too Many Peaches courtesy of our delightful neighbors.

I hope things simmer down a bit soon -- he he he and Lilah starts sleeping again. Last night I heard a little person get up and use the bathroom in the middle of the night, then go back to bed, and I realized that we've crossed another line in the growing-upness of our kids. So sweet. (But not like full-sugar jam. ..)

KnitPastis said...

Oh how fun! You live in the best state for making peach jam too. Lucky girl! I made jam once with an old friend of mine. Homemade jam has spoiled me. I am so glad to be able to find it at the farmers market about an hour and half away but it's worth it. The one you made sounds so wonderful!

Yep, know about the headaches. I have to be in crawl into bed in a cool room and lights out.