Sweet and Sour Cherry Preserves

I love sour cherry season… it’s so brief and so delicious.

Chris and I went to Battleview Orchards a few days ago and picked up 6 quarts of sour cherries (about 9.75 lbs) because I had plans… sour cherry crisp, sour cherry liqueur, sour cherry extract, and sour cherry preserves. Reminds me of one of Jack Prelutsky’s poems from It’s Thanksgiving (“turkey puffs and turkey pudding, turkey patties, turkey pies, turkey bisque and turkey burgers, turkey fritters, turkey fries”) – Cary and I would recite those poems over and over at Thanksgiving time.

Anyway, it took 1 hour 15 minutes to wash, stem, and pit the cherries, then 1 hr 45 min to cook them down. It was totally worth it. I combined 2 lbs of dark sweet cherries with 5 lbs of sour cherries, it gave it a really good depth of flavor, almost a hint of warmth like cinnamon even though I didn’t add any.

Chris picked out a cherry pitter at the orchard that worked perfectly. It looks like a hypodermic but works very well and is easy to clean. It’s much easier to pit the sour cherries than the large dark cherries.


Note: Most cherry preserve recipes call for much more sugar… I don’t like to use so much sugar, I prefer to cook the preserves down for a lot longer so that the sweetness comes out naturally and the preserves get thick and gooey on their own (no added pectin). You’ll have less total output because it cooks down so much, but it tastes so much better.

7 lbs of fruit made 4.5 pints (which I split into 6 half-pint jelly jars and 6 quarter-pint jelly jars).


  • 5 lbs sour cherries (3 quart containers from our local orchard)
  • 2 lbs dark sweet cherries
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 3 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice


Wash, stem, and pit all of the cherries.

Good tangent: Keep the pits! Use them to make extract (I’m doing that right now), just fill a quart mason jar with all of the pits, which goes about 2/3 of the way up the jar, then fill the remaining space with vodka – let it sit in a dark cool place for a month and then strain it and start using it!) – I didn’t know  this before, but cherry pits are used to make almond extract! Same flavor.


Back to preserves… put the cherries in a large dutch oven (my other long time love, my cherry red Le Creuset) and crush them with a potato masher (don’t mash them to bits, just crush them so that they make it easier to break down.


before the crush

Add 1 cup of the sugar and all of the lemon juice and mix together. Turn on the heat to medium and cook it, stirring often. Once the sugar dissolves add another cup. Repeat this until all five cups have been added. Then you’ll have to cook it even longer… in total it took me 1 hr and 45 minutes to cook it down to about 1/3 of it’s original volume. Keep skimming off the pink foam and keep stirring with a silicone spatula/spoon.

You’ll know it’s ready when it starts to make large lava flow-like bubbles that pop and scare you with their violence (not the small fast-boil bubbles that you’ll see in the center throughout the cooking, these lava bubbles are large). If you have a candy thermometer it will be about 220 F.  Dip in a teaspoon and run your finger through it, it will be thickish and the line will stay in place. So good.


Not yet lava bubbles, but getting there!

While it’s all cooking (since you have 1 hr 45 minutes to stand around stirring at the stove), put another large pot on the stove filled with water, bring to a boil, and boil your jelly jars, rings and lids for 10 minutes for each batch. Put down a tea towel, put cooling racks on top, and put your clean hot jars and lids on the racks to wait for the delicious jam.


When the preserves are ready just use a ladle and a jar funnel and fill them. Leave about 1/2-1/4 inch of air space at the top, and close them immediately. The heat of the hot jars and hot jam should make them seal on their own (you’ll hear them pop in the hours that they sit cooling on the counter).

These preserves are delicious on bread of course, but also warmed up a bit with vanilla ice cream or on pound cake or just eaten with a spoon by the light of the fridge.  🙂  I think I’m going to make some butter cookies to make cherry jam sandwich cookies with some of these preserves.


Sour cherry liqueur is up next, stay tuned!


Crystalized Ginger Shortbread Cookies


Ginger Shortbread Cookies

This is a Barefoot Contessa recipe with some very minor modifications. There were only 6 reviews and two were negative on the Food Network site but 6 reviews isn’t enough to pay attention to. We love ginger and I had ordered some diced crystalized ginger from Nuts.com and I love their stuff, the flavors are always great and everything is fresh. It’s really important to get good ginger so that you get that fresh, spicy aroma and taste. (No, I’m not selling or profiting from mentioning their stuff, I just use it and like it, so I might as well let you know!)


Lighter bake means a chewier inside… yum!

We loved these cookies. These shortbread are crumblier when the edges are darker, and chewier when baked lighter. Plus a little chew from the ginger. They had excellent flavor, even right out of the oven (Chris can never wait, he says he’s doing it for scientific purposes). They were very good after they had time to cool (the ginger bite is more subtle but comes up at the end) but they are even better the next day when the ginger permeates the cookie with more flavor and chewiness, so make these cookies 1 day ahead and you’ll be glad you did.

Makes about 36 cookies


  • 3/4 lb (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar (plus extra for sprinkling on top)
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup diced crystalized ginger (dry, not the stuff in syrup)


  • Preheat the oven to 350 F
  • Im medium bowl whisk flour and salt
  • In bowl of electric mixer with paddle attachment beat the butter and 1 cup of sugar but don’t whip it, you just want them combined. Whipping the butter will ruin the cookie texture and the cookies will spread.
  • Add vanilla and 2 tsp water and mix just until combined
  • With mixer on low, slowly add flour mixture to the butter mixture until the dough starts to come together
  • Add the ginger until just incorporated
  • Dump it onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a flat disk
  • Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes (if you chill it longer you will need to let it sit out a bit so that you can roll it out but keep it cool and it will keep it’s shape)
  • Roll the dough to 3/8 thick (mine were closer to 1/4″ but probably somewhere in the middle) and cut out the cookies with a round cookie cutter (mine was a 2 1/2 inch round)
  • Place cookies on parchment on an ungreased baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar
  • If you are baking two trays of cookies at once then bake the for about 20 minutes, until the edges just start to get golden – a single tray will brown faster so shorten the time. We like them on the lighter side so that they are chewier.
  • Cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container. Best served the next day for great flavor.



Thai Iced Tea with Boba [Thai Bubble Tea]

Chris and I love the Thai Iced Bubble Tea that we get at Hanco’s in Park Slope but the 45-minute trip isn’t always possible. Since we are snowed in tonight I decided to make some.


Preparing the Boba (bubbles) takes a little over an hour but it’s worth it since you can prepare it ahead and keep it in a mason jar or storage container in the fridge for a few days.   Note 1/21/17: I’ve made it twice since then and it looks like you can’t make it ahead of time and store overnight, the boba lose their gummy chewy consistency and regain the grainy tapioca feel.

This is absolutely delicious and sweet and creamy. It’s really strong so be prepared to miss out on some sleep if you have it late at night! You can cut the ratio of tea to water and also shorten the steeping time if you prefer.

I get my Thai tea mix (actual tea leaves, not a powder mix) on Amazon, it’s Pantai Norasingh – Thai Tea Mix (Net Wt. 16 Oz.). It’s our favorite but I wish they made one without so much food coloring! We tried some organic brand but it just didn’t taste like Thai tea at all, more like chai spices. Thai iced tea has rich flavor, and almost a hint of chocolate flavor to it. It’s so good.

I get the boba (black tapioca pearls) from Nuts.com and the only unusual tools that you’ll need are a tea sock strainer and bubble tea straws.

Serves 6 (large glasses) or 8 (small glasses).  

Boba (Bubble) Preparation (can do this ahead)

  • Boil 8 cups of water (in a pot on the stove) for 1 cup of black tapioca pearls; if you like a lot of bubbles in your bubble tea then double this. I prefer it doubled; 12 cups of water for 2 cups of black tapioca pearls
  • When the water is boiling stir in the pearls (gently, the pearls are fragile before you cook them!)
  • Allow to boil for 25 minutes, uncovered, stir occasionally
    • While the pearls are boiling away you can make the simple syrup (to sweeten the boba and for storage)
      • Simple Syrup:
        • 1 cup granulated sugar
        • 1 cup light brown sugar
        • 2 cups water
        • Put water and sugars in saucepan and bring to boil
        • Turn off heat and let sit [we will come back to this after the boba are ready]
  • Back to the boiling boba pearls. When 25 minutes are up, turn off the heat on the boiling boba and cover the pot and let it sit for 30 more minutes
  • When that’s done gently pour boba into a strainer to drain the water
  • Pour the pearls into the simple syrup and let them soak for 15 minutes
  • Now the boba are ready for use or, if you’re making the pearls ahead of time, you can pour the syrup and boba into mason jars to store in the fridge for a few days.

Thai Tea Preparation (strong)

You’ll need:

  • 3/4 to 1 cup Pantai Norasingh – Thai Tea Mix (Net Wt. 16 Oz.) – depends on the strength. Note 1/21/17: They called for 1.5 cups and it was like a drug, we couldn’t sleep at all and felt crazy jittery! I think I prefer 3/4 cup but I have also tried 1 cup and that is good too. 
  • 6 cups boiling water
  • 1 tea sock strainer
  • 2 pitchers (2 quart size)
  • 1  14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • Boil 6 cups (48 oz.) water in a kettle
  • Put 1.5 cups of Thai Tea Mix in a large pitcher (it will just fit in a 2 quart pitcher) and pour in boiling water. PLEASE be careful! Don’t use a glass pitcher unless you have one that is made to withstand extreme temperatures. If you don’t want your tea to be strong you can cut it down to 1 cup of tea mix for the 6 cups of water.
  • Allow it to steep for 5 minutes
  • Get a second pitcher (for serving) and a tea sock strainer (it catches even the tiniest pieces of tea leaves) and, while holding the strainer up in the new pitcher, pour the tea into the strainer.
  • Discard tea leaves
  • Pour in the full can of sweetened condensed milk and stir
  • Allow to sit and cool for a bit

Assembling the Bubble Tea

  • Put ice cubes in 16 oz glass (about 1/3 way up)
  • Strain prepared boba and scoop about 1/4 to 1/3 cup into each glass (the bubbles are my favorite part!)
  • Pour tea over ice and boba
  • Put a Boba Straw in the glass (they are thick enough to allow the boba up)


NYC Breakfast Strata (or Strata take 2)

Tray of strata

Tray of strata (click to enlarge)

Serving of strata

Serving of strata (click to enlarge)

The best thing about stratas is that they are an awesome vehicle for leftovers. In this case I had left over bagels that we weren’t going to eat, some cheese, some leftover bacon, and a generous gift of leeks and kale from Chica’s farm share! It made for a yummy breakfast or brunch meal. Make sure you let it set after baking, don’t serve hot for the best flavor.

6-8 slices of bacon (these were pretty thin slices)
2 tbsp butter
3 leeks (sliced thinly and washed)
1 bunch kale (stripped, chopped and washed)
8 eggs (large)
2 cups 1% milk (any milk will do, that’s what we had)
1.5 cups shredded cheese (I used edam because it was open but gruyere or cheddar work well too)
2.5 large bagels, cut into 1 inch cubes (Staten Island bagels are REALLY large)
2 tbsp grated pecorino romano (to sprinkle on top just before baking)
salt, pepper as needed

Preheat oven to 375 F.
After leeks are washed and left to dry a bit, chop bacon and cook it in a dutch oven. Remove bacon and place it on paper towel to dry; leave grease in the pan, add 2 tbsp butter and melt. Add leeks, season, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add cleaned chopped kale, season, and cook until the kale breaks down, another 10 minutes.
While vegetables are sautéing, beat eggs in large bowl, add milk, shredded cheese and bacon, salt and pepper to taste, and stir all together. Throw bagel cubes into mixture and let sit to absorb.
When veggies are cooked (and kale has broken down and is more tender) take pan off heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Then stir veggies into bread/milk mixture in bowl. Grease a 9 x 12″ baking pan and add mixture. Top with pecorino romano cheese.
Bake for 60 minutes. Check at 50 minutes and every 5 minutes thereafter until top is golden brown and center doesn’t have much liquid well up when you separate it in the center (some can well up, just as long as the strata doesn’t seem soppy).

It really tastes much better after it cools for a while and the flavors blend especially left over hours later or the next day.

Jam Tarts

Dan & Kathy recently returned from a trip to London and Paris so I thought I would make some British jam tarts for Kathy’s belated birthday celebration. They were very cute and colorful but a good warning to give is that when you use jam filling, it will bubble up everywhere, especially when you use a jam with less pieces of fruit inside. The chunkier preserves stayed more stable. They were all delicious.

I can’t believe it, I thought I took a picture, but I didn’t! They were so cute and I hand cut little shapes for the top pastry layer… I didn’t have small cutters. Dan said it looked like lucky charm shapes, hearts, moons, stars, and diamonds. My knife skills didn’t allow for more. 🙂   They looked very similar to this photo (taken from BBC’s Good Food, but I didn’t follow their recipe):


I tested it with jams that we had in the house: raspberry (Smuckers), black currant (Bonne Maman), and cherry (Trader Joe’s). The raspberry and the cherry tied for favorites. The raspberry jam bubbled up a lot, though not enough fruit. I would use a better preserve next time. Black currant was a bit too sweet for us and while it performed the best by not splattering everywhere, it didn’t stand out enough. The cherry was great because it had large cherry halves in it, tasted like little pies! Tartness is needed to balance the delicious but buttery shortbread pastry. These would be great with lemon curd too.  Chris wants me to make it with apricot jam next time.

I made a number of modifications to this recipe if you would like to see the original.



  • 8 ounces plain flour
  • 4 ounces butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons cold water
  • flour, for dusting
  • jam for filling: use any kind – I tested raspberry, black currant, and cherry. Favorites were raspberry and cherry.


  1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the butter and blend it in using your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
  2. Use a fork to blend in the water, adding a little at a time until the mixture comes together and you can form a ball with your hands.
  3. Wrap the pastry in a piece of plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes – this will make it easier to roll out.
  4. Turn the oven on to 400°F.
  5. Sprinkle the work surface and your rolling pin with a little flour and roll the pastry out to about 1/8 inch thick.
  6. Dip the cutter in flour then cut out as many circles as you can – I didn’t reroll the scraps and made 18 circles. You can make more with the scraps, but make sure you leave a little of the pastry scraps for the decorative pastry lids. Once you have the desired amount of circles, roll out the pastry scraps and cut out the required amount of toppers.
  7. Lay the rounds of pastry in a well-buttered mini muffin tin or tart tin and press them gently into place. Prick the base of each tart once with a fork.
  8. Put the tart tray into the oven and bake for 6 minutes until the pastry is very pale golden.
  9. Carefully put 1 heaped teaspoon of jam into each tart, and then top them off with a pastry top. Bake for another 12 minutes until jam is bubbling and pastry has just begun to have darker golden edging.
  10. Leave them to cool (not too long or the jam glues them to the tin) then gently lift the tarts out and leave to cool on a rack or plate.

Salmon with Dill and Lemon

I have been craving salmon lately (must be the winter thing, all of this cold weather hibernation may have turned me into a bear). I never cook it at home because of the smelly house factor, but it wasn’t bad at all this time, perhaps because I cooked it in our toaster oven/broiler (a Cuisinart), or I just had a stuffed nose that day.

This was delicious. Wild sockeye salmon, that dark salmony color, lovely.

I served it with asparagus (which I overcooked by mistake) and a delicious side of braised lentils with Berkshire bacon (Fresh

Direct made it, not me). The lentils paired really well with it and had a slight vinegar tang that was perfect.



  • two 6-8 oz pieces of wild salmon with skin
  • 1 lemon, half in thin slices and half for juice
  • 4-5 sprigs dill, chopped
  • olive oil


  1. Cut a piece of tin foil to fit the broiler/toaster oven tray but don’t put it on tray yet.
  2. Preheat toaster oven/broiler to 475 F. Leave tray in oven to preheat.
  3.  Spray foil square with olive oil.
  4. Place fish on foil skin side down, spray fish with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  5. Squeeze lemon over fish and top with chopped dill. Cover with lemon slices (really only need 2 slices to cover each piece).
  6. Slide tray out of toaster oven and place foil with salmon on top. Bittman’s recipe for Roasted Salmon with Butter in How to Cook Everything: The Basics suggested 8-12 minutes [I didn’t use that recipe but checked it for the cooking temp and time] but the salmon was really too under-cooked for us, we like it totally cooked through. I left it in for about 15-18 minutes but it’s likely that my toaster oven cooks at a much different rate than a real oven, the heating element is below the rack. Check it after 8 for your own tastes. When the meat flakes easily it is ready.

Tin Roof Ice Cream (sooooo good)

Dad loves ice cream and chocolate and peanuts, so I thought that this recipe from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz would be perfect for his bday party.

Chris’ brother Brian got me hooked on homemade ice cream (his peppermint bark ice cream is amazing… we have made it twice in the past month and will make it again tomorrow) and I wanted to try this one.

The vanilla custard ice cream in this recipe is so delicious. It was the first time I ever used whole vanilla beans and they are much stickier than I realized! I would like to make it just like that next time (just the vanilla ice cream), forget the delicious fudge ripple or chocolate covered peanuts that I made to mix in!

There are a lot of steps but it was worth it. I put too much fudge ripple in with the ice cream container when I packed it for the freezer but it was so good. Next time I’ll follow Chris’ suggestion and replace the fudge ripple with caramel and make snickers ice cream!

tin roof ice cream

It really did look just like this. Aunt Mary had these cones and it was so delicious! This photo is from epicurious.


Tin Roof Ice Cream (David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop)

¾ cup whole milk
¾ cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1½ cups heavy cream
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 large egg yolks
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup Chocolate-Covered Peanuts (recipe follows)
Fudge Ripple (recipe follows)

For the Chocolate-Covered Peanuts:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts

For the Fudge Ripple:
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
½ cup water
6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Warm the milk, sugar, salt and ½ cup of the cream in a medium saucepan. With a sharp paring knife, scrape the flavorful seeds from the vanilla bean and add them, along with the pod, to the hot milk mixture. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.

2. Rewarm the vanilla-infused mixture. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

3. Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream to cool. Remove the vanilla bean, wipe it clean of any egg bits, and add it back to the custard. Stir in the vanilla and stir until cool over an ice bath. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

4. When ready to churn the ice cream, remove the vanilla bean (it can be rinsed and reused). Freeze the ice cream in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. While the ice cream is freezing, chop the peanuts into bite-sized peanuts.

5. Fold the peanut pieces into the frozen ice cream as you remove it from the machine, and layer it with Fudge Ripple.

To make the Chocolate-Covered Peanuts:

1. Put the pieces of chocolate in an absolutely dry heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water to melt the chocolate, stirring until smooth. In the meantime, stretch a piece of plastic wrap over a dinner plate.

2. Once the chocolate is melted, remove it from the heat and stir in the peanuts, coating them with the chocolate. Spread the mixture on the plastic-lined plate and chill.

Mixing them in: Use a chef’s knife to chop the chocolate-covered block of peanuts into bite-sized pieces, then mix them into the ice cream as you remove it from the machine.

Storage: Chocolate-Covered Peanuts can be stored for several months in an air-tight container in the fridge.

To make the Fudge Ripple:

1. Whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, water, and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble at the edges.

2. Continue to whisk until it just comes to a low boil. Cook for 1 minute, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool. Chill in the refrigerator before using.

Mixing it in: The Fudge Ripple should be thoroughly chilled, as it’s easiest to use when very cold. Just before you remove the ice cream from the machine, spoon some of the Fudge Ripple onto the bottom of the storage container. As you remove the ice cream from the machine, layer generous spoonfuls of the sauce between layers of ice cream. Avoid stirring the Fudge Ripple, as it will make the ice cream muddy looking.

Storage: Fudge Ripple can be stored for up to 2 weeks, covered, in the refrigerator.