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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Chunky Cocoa Brownies and Whipped Peanut Butter Frosting

BROWNIES!

Cocoa Powder Brownies and Peanut Butter Frosting

Hi friends, I’m excited. I’m excited about the frosting on these brownies– but really, I’m excited because I won the cupcake competition at my husband’s office! Yup, the Cookies and Cream Cupcakes beat out the other eight entries.

I really must tip my hat to the person who made that salted caramel cupcake, it was the BEST one I’ve had anywhere because the salty to sweet ratio was spot-on.

Thanks for sharing in my¬†excitement! ūüôā Ok, now let’s move onto these brownies. The brownies are sweet and fudgey, especially towards the center of the pan. The outside brownies were a bit more cakey, this could be due to overcooking. Not sure, but it wasn’t my favorite.

Really, we should be talking about the frosting. It is so fluffy and light and perfectly balanced, I know, not something you usually think of with peanut butter. I really think it has to do with the brand I used- Jif is probably the most popular brand but it is not the best peanut butter in my opinion. Peter Pan is the way to go, and no, I’m not being paid to say this.

Cocoa Brownies with Whipped Peanut Butter Frosting

I’m not popular enough to have companies send me free product samples, come on people! ūüėČ

So please, try it out sometime on your favorite brownie recipe. Or, try my cocoa brownies below. Happy baking!

Peanut Butter Frosting

  • 1 stick butter, soft
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (I use Peter Pan)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 to 1 1/c cups powder sugar (depending on how sweet you like it, start small)
  • A few splashes of ¬†milk, as needed

Chunky Cocoa Brownies

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 9 tbl butter, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 10 mini-Hershey bars (broken up)

Preheat oven to 325¬į. Stir together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Beat well. ¬†Add in the eggs and mix¬†thoroughly. In a¬†separate¬†bowl, stir together flour, cocoa, salt. Add the flour mixture to the batter and mix to combine. Stir in the broken Hershey bars at the end. Spread the batter (the layer will be thin) into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake for 20 minutes, brownies should be set and pulling away from the edge of pan just¬†slightly. Remove from pan and let cool.

For the frosting: Combine the butter and peanut butter and whip with en electric mixer for 3 minutes on medium speed. Add in the vanilla and powder sugar. Continue to whip until combined. If the frosting is thick, add in a splash of milk to help it lighten up, but don’t go overboard. ¬†Spread onto the cooled brownies. Cut and serve!

Enjoy!

– Erin

What Charlie Sheen and I have in common, Winning

I won first prize at the DC State Fair jam & jelly contest!!!!

Blue ribbon!

Numero Uno!

Winning!

Ok, that’s enough. ūüôā ¬†Thank you for indulging my¬†excitement. ¬†Two weekends ago, DC held its third annual state fair in Barracks Row. Yes, this is an oxymoron as DC isn’t actually a state, but hey, we pay taxes and don’t have any Congressional representatives so can we at least enjoy this great American pastime?

I had been excited about the fair for a while but didn’t know what I wanted to make. ¬†I went over to the garden to pull out the dead tomato plants and check on the general state of things and saw I had a bumper crop of green Marconi peppers.¬†Light-bulb¬†moment! ¬†Hot, sweet and smokey green pepper jelly!

At the fair of course winning was on my mind, but I didn’t think it was a given. After intently watching the judges taste entries for an hour, they went for mine. Yes, the culminating moment… the first judge (who happens to be¬†interim¬†food editor of the Washington Post) samples some and¬†immediately¬†starts coughing and reaching for water.

Oh my God. Fail.  But then she flashes me the thumbs up. Ok, maybe it just went down the wrong pipe.

Another judge, a master gardener from the District, sampled and said “Oh, that’s good”. Score!!

Me and the winning jelly

I was so surprised when they announced the winner and called my name. Inside I was bursting but outside I was trying to act cool, like no big deal. Hahaha, that didn’t work out so well. When the Washington Post editor came over and asked me about the recipe and handed me her phone to input my contact info I really just got flustered.

I was fumbling with fat fingers and looked like I was¬†blatantly¬†ignoring the people coming up to me asking questions about the jelly¬†because¬†I was so intent on giving out my info. Ugh, I came across as a total ditz. Moving forward, I’m taking it as a lesson in how to be more poised and gracious when in the spotlight.

Alright, I know you are ready for the recipe, so here it is!

I dressed up my entry with burlap, jute and a tiny pepper on the side

Blue Ribbon Southern Lady Pepper Jelly

  • 4 1/4 cups finely diced green Marconi peppers
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper (more if you like it hot)
  • 1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 box Sure-Jell Low Sugar Pectin (1.75 ounces)
  • 6 half pint jelly jars
Prepare the jars, lids, bands and boiling water canner.  Slice the peppers and run through a food processor until finely diced. Combine the peppers, vinegar, a few pinches of the sugar and the pectin in a large saucepan. Bring to a hard boil, stirring frequently. Mix in the sugar, honey and ground chipotle pepper and continue cooking at a hard boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Skim off any foam if needed (I rarely do!). Using a funnel, pour the jelly into the prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Process the jars for 10 minutes, remove and let cool.

Southern ladies used to serve hot pepper jellies with water crackers and cheese at lunches and afternoon teas so that inspired the name of my entry. This jelly is perfect with cream cheese and crackers, on a bagel, or even as a dipping sauce for roast pork.

Enjoy!

– Erin