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Bottled Cherry Pie Filling with Thick Gel

Technically cherry season is past, since most cherries including pie cherries come on earlier in the year. However, they’re not hard to find frozen. You can even visit places like the Rowleys Red Barn and get them frozen in bulk, so it’s not too late to can cherry pie filling! Especially with the holidays around the corner (Pies, cakes, cookies!) having beautiful bottles of pie filling on hand is a very good thing.

Our recipe for pie filling is a recipe which is thickened before it goes into the bottle, which raises a lot of concerns for some people. It is true that you should NOT use thickeners such as flour or traditional corn starch to thicken product which will be canned. These thickeners do not thicken evenly or hold up to the temperatures of canning. However products such as Thick Gel are approved for home canning as tested by the Utah State Extension service and the labs at Cornabys.

I use tart pie cherries for this recipe, though you could use pitted bing cherries or a combination of sweet and pie cherries. It’s all down to what you like. And while we give you measurements for both Thick Gel and Ultra Gel I have to admit that I like Thick Gel the most for this use, especially in this large recipe. Thick Gel thickens a little more evenly and has a smoother finish. Price per ounce Thick Gel is also a little less expensive. As a reminder Thick Gel has to be heated to thicken but in all of our pie filling recipes this happens anyway, so it’s not an issue.

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Bottled Cherry Pie Filling with Thick Gel

 Utah State University Extension

6 quarts fresh or thawed sour cherries

7 cups sugar

1 3/4 cups Thick Gel (2-2 1/2 cups Ultra Gel)

9 1/3 cups water or juice from cherries

2 teaspoons almond extract (opt.)

1/2 cup bottled lemon juice – Do NOT use fresh lemon juice. Bottle juice is mixed to get a specific repeatable pH which cannot be guaranteed with fresh.

2 teaspoons red food coloring (opt.)

Rinse and pit fresh cherries or thaw frozen cherries.  Combine sugar and Thick Gel in large kettle with water or juice from cherries.  If desired, add almond extract and food coloring.  Stir mixture and cook over medium heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble.  Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Fold in cherries and fill jars with mixture, leaving 1-1 1/2″ headspace.  Adjust lids and process immediately in water bath canner for 30 minutes (sea level). Increase processing time for by 5 minutes for elevations of 1,000 to 3,000 feet and ten minutes for elevations from 3,000 to 5,000 feet.

Amazing Marshmallow Fondant with Ultra Gel

Between a big family and lots of friends and family catering I’ve made more than my fair share of cakes over the years and worked with a lot of different kinds of fondant. I have to admit commercial fondant has never really done it for me. There’s something about the combination of texture and flavor that’s just kinda…well…blah. So I wanted something better and we’ve come up with two recipes which I’m really rather fond of.

The first one is a cream cheese base and the second a marshmallow base. Both use Ultra Gel to help maintain moisture and workability and both, I’m happy to say, are easy to work with and taste fantastic.

If you want to color either of these recipes I highly advise using gel or powdered colors as liquid ones are weak and can change the consistency of the final product.

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Ultra Gel Fondant

8 ounce light cream cheese

1/2 cup butter – softened

3-4 lbs powdered sugar

1/4 cup milk

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

Beat cream cheese and butter well.  Add half of the powdered sugar and mix to combine.  In a separate container mix together milk and Ultra Gel.  Add to powdered sugar mixture and beat well.  Add additional powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached.  Use powdered sugar or corn starch on rolling surface for easier use, but be careful not to dry mixture out.

Marshmallow Ultra Gel Fondant

3 1/2 cups mini marshmallows

2/3 cups white baking chocolate

1/4 cup water

4 cups powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

Combine powdered sugar, salt and Ultra Gel in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a dough hook and mix until well combined. Make a well in the center. In a large microwave safe bowl combine marshmallows and water. Microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring between until smooth. Add white chocolate and stir until melted. This may require a brief stint back in the microwave. Add food coloring at this point.

Pour marshmallow mixture into the powdered sugar mixture and mix until you have a paste and all the powdered sugar has been incorporated. Scrape onto a sheet of plastic wrap and wrap tight. Let stand over night. You can add more powdered sugar if you want to use this immediately, but I found that the over night sit helped everything to hydrate and made it easier to work with.

Roll out using normal fondant tools and methods. Wrap and refrigerate unused portions for upto 4 months. Bring to room temp before rolling.

Sugar Cookie Peach Cobbler with Thick Gel

It’s peach season in Utah! This is a delightful time of the year when we eat our weight in peaches and even have a few left over for canning and turning into peach pie filling. As much fun as it is to have peach pie filling on the shelf I try to make enough that I can make a batch of peach cobbler for eating right now too!

Cobblers are a type of dessert which features a filling (fruity is most common, but occasionally savory ones are used as well) with a biscuit, cake or crumb topping all baked together. When I make pie filling I always use Thick Gel as it’s approved for canning and makes for a really smooth finished product. Pie fillings made with Thick Gel bake nicely without too much bubble, and without making the crust or crumble soggy! It’s a win all the way around.

Sugar Cookie Peach Cobbler

1-2 quarts Peach Pie Filling

1 tube sugar cookie dough or batch homemade sugar cookie dough

Line a 10 inch cast iron skillet with tin foil. (You can skip this step, but I don’t like scrubbing cast iron. Alternately, you can prepare this in a glass 9×13 inch baking pan.) Pour in peach pie filling. Top with pieces of the sugar cookie dough. Bake at 375 for 45-60 minutes until cookie dough is golden brown and delicious.

Overnight French Toast Using Ultra Gel

In the last few months our oldest boy has started working the graveyard shift. This means that instead of just hubs and I having breakfast together we are often joined by our son and sometimes all the kids. This has lead to trying several breakfast options including a cinnamon and brown sugar stuffed french toast which was a unanimous favorite.

This overnight french toast uses Ultra Gel in both the filling and in the egg custard to provide stability and help to hold the moisture close to the bread so you end up with a tender, chewy finished product. You need to prepare this overnight french toast the night before and then it takes about 45 minutes to bake. So it’s very easy and a great make ahead, but there is a timing factor to consider. It’s totally worth the planning because it’s amazingly good.

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Overnight French Toast with Ultra Gel

1 loaf Texas Toast (12 pieces)

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/2 cup butter

1 Tablespoon Ultra Gel

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

6 large eggs

1 1/2 cup milk (Or half and half if you want to be really decadent)

1/8 tsp salt

3 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

2 Tablespoons water

1 teaspoon vanilla

Optional: sprinkle of nutmeg and pecan pieces

In a medium sauce pan combine 1 cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 cup butter and 1 Tablespoon Ultra Gel. Cook for 2-3 minutes until sugar is dissolved but not burned. Pour into the bottom of a greased 9×13 inch pan. Place one layer of bread over caramel layer, pressing it into the sugar. Top with a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon. Layer the remaining bread on top.

In a medium bowl combine eggs, milk, salt, Ultra Gel, water and vanilla. Pour evenly over bread layers. Sprinkle with nutmeg and nut pieces if desired.

Cover casserole with tin foil and refrigerate over night. The next morning bake covered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15-20 minutes until golden brown and delicious.

Serve warm. I flip it upside down as I serve it so the gooey sugar serves as the syrup. So yummy.

Spiced Snickerdoodles

We’ve featured snickerdoodle recipes before, but really with such a fantastic cookie who can stop with just one version?

These snickerdoodles are another soft version with a crunchy edge. They get an extra vanilla kick from adding vanilla bean to them, and before baking they’re rolled in sugar and pumpkin pie spice for a bit of extra snap. Ultra Gel is added for tenderness and to help them stay soft longer and, as always, it does this job fantastically. Even if I had to hide cookies from my family to prove it!

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Spiced Snickerdoodles

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs

2 Tablespoons Ultra Gel

2 Tablespoons water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

scrapings from one vanilla bean (vanilla bean paste)

2 3/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup sugar

2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

In a large mixing bowl, or bowl for a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until completely mixed. Beat in Ultra Gel, water, vanilla and vanilla bean paste. In a separate bowl combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt.

Scrape down the side of the bowl of creamed ingredients. Add dry intgredients and mix until just combined.

Preheat oven to 350. In a small, shallow bowl combine sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Scoop dough by the tablespoon and roll in sugar mixture. Place on baking sheets and bake for about 13-15 minutes until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and try to resist eating until cool.

Canning with Jam in a Jiffy

One of the questions we get a lot this time of year is if you can use Jam in a Jiffy to make shelf stable jams or only freezer jams. The answer is that Jam in a Jiffy can be used to make shelf stable jam. However, the process is a little different and there are a few things you’ll want to consider.

The biggest consideration is if you like the flavor of cooked fruit. In order to be safely canned jams must be water bathed which will cook the fruit. For many fruits this isn’t a problem and, in my opinion, even improves some flavors. I much prefer a cooked apricot jam, for example, but I really don’t like a cooked strawberry jam. So I make sure I have the freezer space to keep my strawberry jam fresh, but peach and apricot go on the shelf. The second consideration is where you have space and if you have enough jars. Jam in a Jiffy jams should be canned in pints or half pints for best results. The sugar free Jam in a Jiffy (in the small light blue bag) may take on a bitter flavor when cooked and I don’t recommend using it, but the normal red package low sugar Jam in a Jiffy works great.

Canned Jam in a Jiffy Jam

2 pounds fruit, crushed or chopped

1 package Jam in a Jiffy

1: Place fruit into a medium heavy bottomed sauce pan and bring to just below boiling. This will help to release juices and slightly soften the fruit.

2: Add Jam in a Jiffy mix and stir until completely dissolved.

3: Bring mixture to a boil and boil for 1 minute.

4: Fill jars, leaving 1/2 – 1 inch headspace.

5: Waterbath for 20 minutes for half pints and 25 minutes for pints.

6: Let jars cool, remove wings and move to storage. Remember to label and date your jars for proper rotation.

(This recipe has been lab tested and approved and found safe for home canning practices. Do not add more fruit than on the recipe without also adding more Jam in a Jiffy. The ratio of fruit to mix keeps the pH of the finished product at safe levels and the boiling and processing kills mold spores and bacteria. It it not recommended to use hot pack (tipping jars upside down) processing instead of water bathing.)

Mango Chicken Stir Fry

Mangoes have been on sale for the last little bit and I’ve been looking for different things to do with them. Mango Cake is always a fun option, but this time I wanted something savory and light.I had some chicken breast pieces and bell peppers which also needed using so I put everything together to end up with a Mango Chicken Stir Fry. Let me tell you this is a magnificent combination. The dish is chewy and sweet and crunchy with a little bit of spice and goes great over a little baked rice. This was good enough that we ate mango chicken for dinner, and then again for lunch…and another lunch…every scrap was eaten. That’s one of the things I love, a food where the leftovers are just as desired as the first go around!

I found more mangoes on sale this week and I think we’ll be giving this mango chicken stir fry an encore.

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Mango Chicken Stir Fry

1 pound chicken breast, sliced

2 medium mangoes, cubed

1-2 bell peppers, cubed

1 medium white onion, sliced

1 can sliced water chestnuts

2-3 Tablespoons soy sauce

salt

pepper

garlic

ginger

Leftover Teriyaki sauce (optional but gives it a great flavor boost or you can use a dollop of Cornaby’s Peach Habanero sauce if you want more kick!)

Ultra Gel

Heat a large skillet or wok. When the pan is good and hot add 1-2 Tablespoons of oil. Add chicken and cook until mostly done. Add fruits and vegetables and cook until tender. Add soy sauce and spices and cook for 2-3 more minutes. Add Ultra Gel as needed to soak up extra liquids. It’s usually 1-2 Tablespoons depending on how juicy your mangoes are.

Serve warm over rice.