I have had brunch fantasies for quite some time – freshly baked scones, crisp potatoes, fresh fruit and breakfast cocktails – it’s the stuff dreams are made of (or maybe just my own weird dreams). New Year’s Day 2014 was when brunch happened. We got to bust out a classy spread while also getting our hygge on with our favorite folks.
The most essential element is that everything is made ahead of time. I had unbaked scones in the freezer for several days, and cooked latkes frozen for about a week. A tofu scramble and fruit salad were assembled a day before, and a nut loaf (my new favorite breakfast food) was made the day before that.
Baked goods are the best excuse to share your sweet preserves. I made this chunky cranberry jam in December, but fresh cranberries store remarkably well in the refrigerator, and even better in the freezer. This is one of my favorite sweet preserves to put up in the cold weather months, when the Michigan produce bounty is becoming a little less… bountiful.
1 pound fresh cranberries
1 tart apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon chopped candied ginger
1 cinnamon stick
zest from 1 orange
1 tablespoon bourbon (optional)
1/4 cup pecans
Combine the cranberries, apple, water, sugar, ginger, cinnamon stick, and orange zest in your best jam pan. My dream vessel is wide and shallow, with sloped sides that allow for efficient evaporation, which will foster a quick gel set (and thus, the freshest flavor). I drool over Mauviel Copper Jam Pans and cross my fingers that one day I’ll stumble upon a used one at a thrift store. But, for now, I opt for my wide bottomed stainless steel skillet with short-ish sides. You can use any pan you want, but cooking times will vary widely depending on the vessel you use.
Bring the contents of the pan to a simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until you get a gel set. Cranberries are high in pectin, so this shouldn’t take long, 15 to 20 minutes. Add the bourbon, if using, and the nuts, and cook for just a minute more (keep stirring). Remove heat, and the cinnamon stick.
Ladle hot jam into four or five clean 1/2 pint jars with 1/2 an inch of head space. Your yield will depend on the personality of the fruit you use, and also how much liquid evaporated during the process. Don’t be alarmed if you need to use more or fewer jars. If you cannot fill the last jar to the appropriate head space, skip the water bath and store it in the refrigerator and eat it within a couple of weeks. Process the remaining cans in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. If you are new to home canning, do some thorough research first. Check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation website to start.
In addition to spreading cran jam on scones, here are a few other ideas:
cran jam thumbprint cookies
peanut butter and cran jam sandwiches
serve as a sweet spread to accompany a cheeseboard, or
as a substitute for cranberry sauce at your wintery holiday gatherings
Happy New Year, to anyone who happens to stumble on this page. My resolution is to make this blog awesome. There is a steep learning curve and a lot of work to do, but I have confidence that one day soon we can share musings and recipes with ease and delight. Cheers!