Coffee Cake: “Summer-ized”

Cherries have always been something that I knew I could bring into the house and no matter where I set them, they were mine.  JGL swore up and down, “I don’t like cherries.”  Even after all of my cherry craze last year, he would not budge.  So when I splurged after playing with my favorite god-daughter last week and brought home local cherries, I had no fears about if they would suddenly go missing.  Those cherries were mine and mine alone!

Until I made the mistake of asking JGL to hold a handful for me on the porch while I got up to grab something.  When I came back he had a stem in one hand and a contemplative look on his face.  “They taste like plums.”

Well shit.  JGL got brave, and now I’m sharing cherries.  Which isn’t all bad because it does allow me to try cherry based recipes, and for that I should be grateful.

Diving right into this new-to-JGL-fruit, today we revisited coffee cake.  I had read somewhere about replacing the cinnamon sugar filling with jam, and with JGL’s new found love of cherries, we used the cherry jam I made last summer.   In addition to the jam, I used up the last of the cake flour I had on had from a chocolate cake experiment.

The end result was a finer crumb than my normal coffee cake, and an incredibly moist slice.  Having the jam as the filling made the coffee cake taste less like the holidays, and more like the summer.  This is going to be perfect tomorrow morning with our morning coffee, or maybe even tonight as a late night snack with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Summer Coffee Cake
Adapted from here
1/4 lb butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup sour cream
Cherry jam
Cream butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Mix dry ingredients together in a separate bowl.  Add dry ingredients to the sugar mixture alternately with sour cream.  Put half of the batter into buttered tube pan, and spoon filling on top of batter.  Put the other half of the batter on top, and smooth.  Bake at 375 oven for 40-50 minutes.  Cool on rack, then serve.  

Tomato-Basil Jam

My hands currently look like serial killer hands–my nails and cuticles are stained a nasty shade of deep purple/red and no matter how much I scrub or wash my hands, it’s sticking.  I know it makes me look gross, but I’m kind of digging it.  Why, you might ask?

Because these are preservers hands, and they make me feel like I’m really accomplishing something for my family.   I’m watching my store of jams, jellies, fruits and veggies just get more robust downstairs, and I’m thrilled because I already know that come the middle of winter when all I can think about is when the first seed catalog of the season will get here, I can crack open a can of cherries, or fresh peaches, or thaw out some beans and I can be automatically transporting to the middle of summer.  It’s not out of necessity that we can, but how can you not get a little excited about providing something local, healthy, and cheap for your family?

Last night I finished up the last bit of the cherries and made cherry jam, and then with the benevolent gift of tomatoes from the across the street neighbors I tried my hand at some tomato-basil jam that I’ve been eyeing up since we picked up the canning magazine during our vacation.

And let me tell you, folks, this stuff is DANGEROUS.  There was just a smidge left in the pan after I filled the jars, and JGL and I were pushing and shoving each other out of the way to try to sop up the last, sweet bite with our bread.  The jam is very sweet, really showcasing the fruity aspect of the tomatoes, but the basil really helps to remind you that this is a sweet and savory treat.  I’m really envisioning us either pouring this over a block of cream cheese and enjoying with crackers, or using as a base for a mid-winter crostini.  I’m also envisioning another batch being put in smaller jars for holiday gifts (sorry for the spoiler, y’all!)  When I do this recipe again, I’m going to extend the cooking time on the last boil to help reduce the mixture down and reduce the moisture content–this first batch was a bit loose, and I think a firmer set will really help the texture.

I really hope you’ll try your hand at this gorgeous and different jam–it’s so easy, and so incredibly delicious!

Tomato-Basil Jam
Adapted from BH&G Canning Magazine, page 27
2 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled
1/4 cup lemon juice (I substituted a 1/4 cup Veritas Chardonay for the juice)
3 TBS Snipped fresh basil
3 cups sugar
1 package powdered fruit pectin for lower sugar recipes
  • Seed, core and finely chop tomatoes (I just crushed them with my hands).
  • Take half of the tomatoes (about 3 1/2 cups) and bring to boil in a heavy pot.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes
  • Add remainder of tomatoes, wine and basil to the pot, stir together mixture.
  • In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup sugar and the packet of pectin.
  • Stir into mixture, and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly
  • Add remaining sugar and return to a rolling boil
  • Boil hard for 1 minute, reduce heat and allow mixture to reduce to desired consistency
  • Remove from heat, and ladle into hot jars with a 1/4 headspace.
  • Process jars in boiling water for 5 minutes.
  • Makes about 5 half-pints (mine last night made about 6)

Canned Cherries

Two things you need to know before reading this post.

  1. I have a small obsession with plastic straws.  I really love them, and I may or may not take one or five more than I need every time I’m out at an establishment that offers grab-your-own-straws so that we can have a stash at the house.
  2. Several years ago a very sweet woman at the strawberry farm showed us how to hull strawberries with a straw (You just simply stick the straw up the bottom of the strawberry so that the strawberry cap just pops off).  While it’s still not my favorite way to hull berries, it’s wonderful for kids or folks who aren’t super comfortable hulling strawberries.
I found cherries for $1.99 a pound this weekend.  Yup, you got it–a ridiculously cheap price for sweet, delicious cherries.  So I may or may not have bought five 4 pound bags of cherries.  It’s going to take me a while to figure out exactly how to preserve all of them, but I dove in tonight by just canning the fruit with a simple syrup.

I do not, however, have a cherry pitter.  And I was stressing out that I did not have said cherry pitter.  But then my dear, sweet JGL reminded me of that woman in the strawberry patch and how she used the straw to hull the strawberries.  After a few tries and a few snips, I was able to easily pit the cherries.  Simple, easy, and something we certainly have on hand in our house, and something that is a multi-tasker.

I’m thinking some cherry jam and cherry pie filling might be good solutions to our abundance of cherries, but any brilliant suggestions are more than welcomed!

Simple Canned Cherries
Taken from the Ball Book of Preserving
Combine 1 1/4 cup sugar and 5 1/2 cups of water in a saucepan.  Heat till boiling.
Pit cherries and fill hot jars until full.  Pour hot syrup over cherries, and jiggle to make sure the air pockets are out of the jars.  Place lids and rims on cans, and process in a hot water bath for 25 minutes.