Two Time Jam Champion at the State Fair!

Hi readers! Hopefully the title of this post says it all, but yes, the DC State Fair happened this past weekend and my jam won first place, again! Last year I won first with my Southern Lady Pepper Jelly, and this year I entered two fruit-centric jams. I’m trying to be modest, but both jams placed– 1st and 2nd!

Award Winning Jams ~ Erin's DC Kitchen

I didn’t go into this year’s fair thinking I would win again. There was a lot of good competition last year who I knew would be back this year too. Plus, a part of me felt my win was probably beginners luck last time. Nope! I think I might know what I’m doing! ūüėČ

Smoky Peach and Pepper Jam and Peach-Basil Jam ~ Erin's DC Kitchen

So, on the left is the 1st place jam,  Smoky Peach and Pepper. The 2nd place jam on the right is Peach-Basil. These are the peaches my husband and I picked earlier in the summer, and the basil and some of the peppers were grown in my community garden plot.

Smoky Peach and Pepper Jam ~ Erin's DC Kitchen

LOVE the color

These jams are delicious and too sophisticated in flavor to go on a PB&J. The Smoky Peach and Pepper has an intense smoke flavor that yields to the sweetness of the peach and a tiny hint of heat from the pepper. It is amazing served with cheese and crackers. The Peach-Basil is also sweet, with a strong fresh basil taste that intensifies as you chew. I love slathering it onto a toasted bagel and cream cheese.

Yums. ūüôā

IMG_3853

I’m sharing the recipes with you all in the hopes you try these jams too one day. Freshly picked ingredients make the best jam, remember that! I picked everything that went into this jam and then starting cooking it within 24 hours. It sounds like a lot of work, but it really is just fun and you get a better product.

Fresh Peach Jam

  • 4 heaping cups finely chopped, peeled and pitted peaches
  • 2 tbl lemon juice
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1 package (49-57 g) powder pectin or about 6 tablespoons

For Peach-Basil Jam

  • 3/4 cup snipped fresh sweet basil

For Smokey Peach and Pepper Jam

  • 3/4 cup finely chopped red, yellow and orange hot peppers (not jalapeno)
  • 1/4 heaping tsp dried smoked paprika (taste it, you may need to add more depending on smokiness of your spice)
  • 1/4 tsp dried ground chipotle pepper (again, taste it, you may want more if you want a big kick of heat, this is for mild heat)

Directions: The base peach jam recipe is above, you add in either the additional ingredients for the Peach-Basil or Smoky Peach and Pepper jam in addition to the base recipe. The measurements for the additional ingredients are for a whole batch (meaning you need to make the base peach recipe twice if you want to make both jam flavors. I do not recommend doubling the recipe and then trying to split it in half.)

Prepare your peaches by scoring an X along the bottom on the skin and dropping the peaches into boiling water for 30 seconds. This will loosen the skin and make it easier to peel. Peel, pit and chop the peaches until you have 4 heaping cups. Add the peaches and lemon juice to a large pot. Stir in the pectin and bring to a boil over high heat. Sit in the sugar all at once. Return to a boil and boil hard for 2 minutes. You will notice the texture of the jam mixture will go from grainy and thick to liquidy. Once it gets liquidy, your almost there but be sure to boil hard for at least two minutes or the jam will be soft. Skim off foam as desired, or plop in a tablespoon of cold butter, which is what I do, to keep the foam down.

*If you are making Peach-Basil jam, stir in the snipped basil right after you skim off the foam. Keep the mixture hot while you are doing this, or else you will get air bubbles in your jam.

*If you are making Smoky Peach and Pepper, add in the chopped peppers along with the peaches at the beginning of the recipe and continue to cook according to instructions. After you skim the foam or add the butter, stir in the dried ground spices. Again, keep the mixture hot while you are doing this, or else you get air bubbles.

Next, ladle the hot jam into cleaned and prepared jars. This should make about 7 eight ounce jars, or the equivalent thereof– I used 12 oz jars because I liked the look. Screw on the lids and the bands, and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. (Start the timer once you’ve put the jars into the canner and the water returns to a full boil). ¬†Remove and let cool. You can turn the jars every few minutes, for the first 20 minutes of cooling, if you want to evenly distribute the fruit. Make sure your lids have sealed and enjoy! The jam is shelf stable for 1 year. Once it has been opened, keep it in the fridge.

Enjoy!

Erin

Erin's DC Kitchen at the State Fair

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Whole Wheat Molassas Bread

Whole Wheat Molasses Bread

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Today is all about luuurrrvvv. How about not romantic, sexy time love, but let’s say friendship love.

‘Cause I have a lot of love for my friends. I love them because they come through for me when I need them too. Like just knowing I need a hug, even though I would never, ever, ask for one.

Friends like that deserve baked goods.

Whole Wheat Molasses Bread

Baked goods make awesome gifts, but it becomes awesomer if you give the treat in a baking dish your friend can keep.

I chose this red Le Crueset loaf pan to hold this slightly sweet and deliciously nutty dark quick bread.

A perfect homemade gift; screw all that overpriced chocolate crap at the store.

Whole Wheat Molasses Bread

  • 1 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 325¬į. Spray a 9×4 loaf pan with cooking spray. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and molasses. In a larger bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour and stir to combine, but don’t over-beat it. Bake for 45 minutes. I rotated the pan with 20 minutes left. I also checked the loaf for doneness with a toothpick. If it’s too wet, stick it back in the oven for a few more minutes.

Let cool in the pan (you are giving it away, remember!) on wire rack. Wrap in cellophane and ribbon and give to a loved one. ūüôā

The original recipe suggests serving with butter, cream cheese or Nutella.

Enjoy!

– Erin

The Wonder of Natural Honeycomb

In November I went to visit my family in Michigan and we went to one of my most favorite destinations: the Dexter Cider Mill.

We’ve been going here forever and hands down it¬†is the best cider you will ever have because it is not pasteurized¬†and¬†the apples are¬†pressed in a traditional fashion between layers of wooden boards to squeeze out the juices.

While I was wrapped in the warm blanket of nostalgia, sipping my cider and feeling completely contented to be reliving a childhood memory, several stacks of natural honeycomb caught my eye.

Natural Honeycomb

Be still my heart! If this was Spinal Tap, the nostalgia just got kicked up to an 11.

My mom would pick this up at the farmers market and cut off dripping hunks of golden goodness my brothers and I would chew with delight. You spit out the wax when you are done, sort of like those wax soda bottles with the sweet liquid inside, remember?

Natural honey tastes so much better than what you buy at the store, it is¬†sweeter and thicker and just…better.¬† Some even believe it has natural antibiotic properties.

Now that I’m an adult, I chose to serve this honeycomb in a more mature fashion you could say.

Served with a drizzle of honey from the comb

Served with a drizzle of honey from the comb

A plate of sharp cheeses, like creamy parmesan and goat, alongside fresh figs and assorted charcuterie are an absolutely elegant way to use honeycomb.

Of course, I just chewed a piece for old times sake, and it was as good as I remember. ūüôā

Enjoy!

– Erin

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Candied Bacon

I’ve noticed that lately I’ve been getting more new readers here at Erin’s DC Kitchen. I want to say hello! For the newbies and seasoned followers alike, this cupcake recipe is my ‘thanks’ to you, for sticking with me and enjoying food together!

These cupcakes have the most amazing texture; they are dense and very moist and not to sweet, thanks to the sweet potato. They remind me of the flavors of a sweet potato casserole- cloves, cinnamon and ginger. But the pi√®ce de r√©sistance is topping these little buggers with candied bacon. Sweet and salty is delicious, don’t listen to anyone who says otherwise.

I brought these to a coworker’s baby shower and they seemed to be a big hit. I mean, bacon plus dessert? C’mon! ¬†ūüôā

Oh yes, these are topped with pillows of whipped cream cheese frosting

Sweet Potato Cupcakes

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbl honey
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350¬į. ¬†Combine the flour, salt, baking soda and powder in a bowl, set aside. Mash the sweet potatoes with the cinnamon, ginger, cloves and honey, set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed with an electric mixer for 3-5 minutes until whipped looking. Add in the sugar and continue beating on high until fluffy, about 3 more minutes. Add eggs one at a time, and then mix in vanilla. Stir in the sweet potatoes until combined. Add flour mixture, beat until combined. Divide the batter evenly between 24 cupcake liners. Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 0z cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 stick butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4-5 cups powdered sugar

Beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together on high speed for 3 minutes. Gradually stir in the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Continue beating on medium speed for 5 minutes or more, until the frosting looks very fluffy and airy. Get ready to frost!

Candied Bacon

  • 5 strips of bacon
  • brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 375¬į. On a foil lined baking sheet, arrange the bacon in a single layer. Grab a handful of brown sugar and sprinkle it over the bacon. Bake for 12 minutes, remove from the oven and flip. Bake for another 12-15 minutes, until the sugar starts to carmalize and the bacon crisps up. Remove from the baking sheet and transfer the bacon to a¬†separate¬†plate to cool. Once cooled, snip the bacon into 1 inch pieces with kitchen shears and top the frosted cupcakes with one piece.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Heavy cream infused with cinnamon sticks makes this silky smooth ice cream warm with the taste of cinnamon. It is so good and so rich, you will find yourself sneaking some from the freezer whenever you walk by the kitchen.

According to my husband, this “ice cream is so good oh my God it tastes just like Captain Crunch- you know the milk leftover after the cereal’s been soaking in it. This is so good!!” That is high praise coming from him, he doesn’t dole that out without good cause. ūüôā I used to work at a restaurant called Bill Knapps that served cinnamon ice cream and I ate a small bowl after many a late night shift. The restaurant also served their pies a la mode with the ice cream.

I cannot recommend a hot slice of apple pie topped with this cinnamon ice cream enough.¬† Serve pecan, pumpkin or any of your usual Thanksgiving pies with this ice cream and you will be grinning from ear to ear.¬† Vanilla ice cream and pie is good, but why not mix it up with something whimsical and different like this ice cream.¬† Plus, you don’t need an ice cream maker to make it, so no excuses not to try it at least once.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

  • 2 cups cold heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup¬†¬† honey
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon plus 1/4 tsp

Combine the cinnamon sticks and heavy cream in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cook for 2 minute, then remove from the heat. Pour into a container and refrigerate for 6 hours. This will infuse the cream with cinnamon.

After the cream has fully infused, remove the cinnamon sticks. Put the bowl of your electric mixer in the freezer for 10 minutes (a cold bowl helps the whip cream form). Meanwhile, separate your eggs, reserving the yolks. Once the bowl has chilled, beat the heavy cream and 3/4 tsp cinnamon on high speed until stiff peaks form; transfer to a new bowl and refrigerate.

In a small saucepan, bring the honey, brown sugar and 1/4 tsp cinnamon to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, whisking frequently. Meanwhile, beat the eggs yolks on high in your electric mixer until they are pale yellow.  While the mixer is running on high, slowly pour in the hot honey. Continue to mix on high speed until the egg and honey mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 5 minutes. The mixture will start to thicken and increase in size too.

Next, fold the chilled whip cream into the cooled yolk mixture. Spread into a 9√ó5 loaf pan (or similar size) and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze for at least 3 hours, or until the ice cream is firm and frozen through. I froze mine overnight.

Enjoy!

– Erin

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Split Pea Soup

My childhood memories of food are strong. Each season had a special dish my mom would make only¬†at that time of year. If you really love something and it only comes around once a year, I guess it makes a big impression on you. ūüôā

This soup is a signature from my mother’s kitchen every Fall. It¬†gets a punch of flavor from smoked ham hocks. They are a¬†must! ¬†Don’t skip ’em, not even bacon is a suitable¬†substitute.

It does take a while to simmer on the stove, but it is so worth it. ¬†I remember walking by it several times over the course of what felt like an entire afternoon, checking to see what progress the peas has made.¬†Time seems to crawl when you are young; it¬†definitely¬†doesn’t take a whole afternoon to make this hearty, stick-to-your-ribs soup!

Now in my kitchen, the turkey towels make an appearance between October and Thanksgiving. ¬†I love them very much. It’s my way of welcoming Fall, alongside a bowl of this lovely soup.

Homemade Split Pea Soup

  • 1 lb green split peas
  • 2 large meaty ham hocks (1 1/2 lb)
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onion
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp dried marjoram
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced¬†carrots

Place the ham hocks in a large saucepan and cover with 2 quarts of water. Simmer very low for 1 hour, skimming fat off the water occasionally.  Remove the ham hocks and pull the meat from the bones, set aside. Keep the water, and add more to it if it cooked down to less than 2 quarts.

Rinse the peas and add to the water, along with the onions, carrots, celery and herbs. Bring to a low boil, then decrease heat and cook on low, slowly, for 1 to 2 hours- or until the peas, carrots and celery have all dissolved into the soup (minimal chunks left behind). Cook with the lid off because you want some of the water to evaporate, which helps the soup get really thick.  Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Stir the meat in 15 minutes before serving.

Serve with crackers, yum!

Enjoy!

– Erin

Skinny Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Chilly weather, falling leaves, a steaming bowl of comforting soup.

This is a soup you can feel good about. It is rich and full of flavor from homemade chicken stock, not from heavy cream or cheese that can weigh down so many other chicken and rice soups.

Pair with a hunk of country sourdough bread.

Heaven.

Don’t be¬†intimidated¬†by the idea of making your own chicken stock. It is easy, honestly. Just follow these simple instructions, and you will be so happy you did- the homemade stock is so much richer, darker and flavorful than store bought! Your soups will start tasting even more amazing. ūüôā

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

  • 4 cups homemade chicken stock (see below)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 chicken bullion cube (or 2 tsp granules)
  • 1 cup turnips, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 3/4 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup cooked wild rice
  • 3 cups roasted chicken (see below)
  • optional: bay leaf and salt and pepper to taste

Combine the stock, turnips, carrots and celery in a large pot. Boil the water and dissolve the bullion cube in it, add to the pot. Simmer gently over low heat for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare rice- I used 1/2 cup dry wild rice and cooked it in water, salt and butter. During last 10 minutes, add in the chicken. Just before serving the soup, stir in the cooked wild rice.

Homemade Chicken Stock (yield 4 cups)

  • 1 large leek, washed
  • 3 large carrots
  • 3 large celery stalks
  • 8 cups water
  • Sprinkle of Herbes de Provence
  • One 5-6 lb roasting chicken (yield 3-4 cups)

To make stock, you need bones. I like to roast a chicken in the oven and use the roasted meat in the soup and the leftover bones to make stock. Prepare a 5 or 6 lb roaster chicken by rubbing with olive oil and seasoning with rosemary and thyme. Roast at 400¬į for 25 minutes, then reduce temp to 350¬į for another 30 minutes, total time depends on weight of the chicken. When finished, let cool to the touch, then thoroughly pull all roasted meat off the bones. Set aside for the soup.

Strip any excess skin or large hunks of fat from the carcass and place into a large stockpot, along with the carrots, leek and celery. Pour in 8 cups of water. The chicken and veggies should be mostly covered, add in some more water if they are not.¬† Set a lid askew onto the stockpot and turn the heat to medium-low. When the water begins to bubble, turn the heat down to low. Cook for 5 hours at this temperature; the bubbling should be very slight, like 1 or 2 bubbles per minute. It will look like it isn’t cooking at the super-slow bubble, but it is.

DO NOT BOIL OR SIMMER.  Doing this will ruin the stock by incorporating the fat, resulting in cloudy greasy broth. When finished, pour the stock through a cheesecloth into airtight containers and refrigerate overnight. The fat will rise to the top; skim off with a spoon or by gently laying a paper towel over the top surface.

Enjoy!

– Erin

Question of the Day: Do you have any tips on how to make good meat or vegetable stock?