Summer Fruit Crisp

Oh, how I’ve missed my little blog!  What with surprise out of town visitors (twice in one month, no less), a visit to the lake, a very scary but thankfully minor illness for one very special little Bassett Hound, and myriad other last minute activities, I’ve been so wrapped up in trying to get enough sleep that I haven’t had time to tell you about all of the wonderful things I’ve been making.  I just couldn’t bear it any longer though, especially with this wonderful little summer dessert to share with you.  Although, if I’m honest with you, I’ll admit that I ate a little of this for breakfast a few times, and also as a snack – it’s really very versatile, and so good that you’ll want to take a spoonful every time you open the fridge and remember it’s in there.  I’m really very proud of this dish for another reason as well – I made it up all on my own without using a recipe!  It is a crisp, and so simple to make that if you’ve made one before you can probably make one again without any help, but that doesn’t make me feel any less accomplished.  It turned out beautifully, and I hope some of you will attempt to make something “free-style” and enjoy the results as much as I did.

This dish came about because, as so often happens at my house, I had bought some fruit and then promptly forgotten about it.  Actually, I bought Rainier Cherries for the first time on the recommendation of a friend and did not eat them quickly enough – although I have no idea why since they are so delicious.  Not at all like other cherry varieties, most of which I don’t care much for.  They were sort of sweet and tangy, but with a mild flavor.  I loved them, and will definitely buy them again next summer when they are back in season. Also, I had picked blueberries from my Mama’s bushes that needed to be used (or frozen, but really it seems like such a waste to freeze something that tastes so darn good fresh), and I had bought more peaches that were sitting on the counter waiting to be used.  Since I had all of this fruit laying around I decided to dump it all together and make a crisp…really it was the only thing I could think of that would allow me combine all my fruit and still taste good.  I peeled my peaches and sliced them, and pitted my cherries, then mixed them with the blueberries in a large bowl with a couple tablespoons of flour and about half a cup of sugar – but you can certainly adjust the sugar depending on the sweetness of your fruit, and how sweet you like your crisps to be.  I let that sit for a minute while I buttered my baking dish then I poured it all in and let it cook in a 350° for about 45 minutes.

I stirred it a couple of times while it was baking, and when it was all bubbly (and mine was very purple from all the blueberries) I pulled it out to put the topping on.  I made a topping that I’m very familiar with – it’s based on the one that my mama puts on her sweet potato souffle at Thanksgiving – I just adjusted the amounts to get what I wanted to cover my fruit.  I started with equal amounts of flour and brown sugar, but I’ll admit that I added a little extra sugar because I like the topping so much. I also added rolled oats, for a little crunch, and some cinnamon and ginger because I wanted to.  Then you drizzle the lot with melted butter, mix thoroughly, and pour evenly over the top of your crisp.  Bake the whole thing again for 18-20 minutes or until the topping is golden brown, and Voila! Summer Fruit Crisp.   I was really pleased with the flavor of mine – It was not too sweet, just a little tart, and altogether perfect.  The cherries stayed somewhat firm after being cooked, so they added texture as well as flavor to the dish, and I think that was my favorite part.  The peaches were soft and sweet, the blueberries tart, and the cherries just brought everything together by being the middle ground between the other two.

As I mentioned earlier, crisps are really very basic and are one of the most easily adaptable recipes out there.  You can use just about any fruit to make one, and it is completely appropriate to eat at almost any time of day – warm with ice cream for dessert, or cold for breakfast, etc.  This particular crisp is going to be a favorite of mine, I can already tell.  Since it contains peaches, which I consider to be the very essence of summertime, and my new favorite fruit, Rainier Cherries, I think I will probably be making it for many summers to come. Enjoy!

Summer Fruit Crisp

  • 2 large peaches, peeled, pitted, and cut into slices
  • 1 pint Rainier Cherries, pitted and halved
  • aprox 2 cups blueberries *
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
For the Topping:
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar *
  • 3/4 – 1 cup rolled oats *
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6-8 tbsp melted butter *
  1. preheat oven to 350°
  2. Toss fruit, sugar and 2 tbsp flour in large bowl to combine.  Butter an 8×8 square baking dish. Transfer fruit to dish and bake for aprox 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fruit is bubbly. Remove fruit from oven and increase temp to 400°.
  3. While fruit is cooking, mix the flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, ginger, and salt together.  Drizzle with the melted butter and mix.
  4. Pour topping evenly over fruit and return to oven for 18-20 more minutes, or until topping is golden brown.  Cool slightly and serve.
* For these ingredients I used approximate values because I really just used whatever I though was appropriate and didn’t measure as exactly as I should.  For the blueberries, I just had a bag and poured most of them in.  For the brown sugar, I started with that amount, but added a little (I probably had about a cup total). I like the oats, because they make the topping crunchy, but you can omit them if you want, or add more to your taste.  For the melted butter I used enough to moisten the other ingredients and make them a little sticky, but not enough for them all to make one big clump.
Play around with it.  Use other fruits if you have them, or change the seasonings in the topping to suit you…that’s what I enjoyed most about it.  And by all means, if you do change it, please let me know how it turns out!

Peach Jam

Is it just me or is that the prettiest jam you’ve ever seen?? It seems like I’ve been saying that a lot lately, but seriously, I’m just so impressed that I did that!  To me, jam has always been one of those things that your grandmother makes (or in my case, my Aunt Ruth) and sends you home with when you come to visit.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it when that happens – my Aunt Ruth makes the world’s best pepper jelly – but I had this vague inclination that canning was this mysterious process that required all sorts of strange equipment and days and days of boiling and stirring and stuff.  Well rest assured everyone – canning is quite easy, and actually fun!  A few weeks ago, I spent a day with my Aunt Ruth learning how to make jelly, and since then I’ve been dying to try it on my own.  So when I had to find something to do with these peaches, I decided to give it a try.  I used a combination of two recipes, one that came with the pectin I bought, and one from here, but really I just sort of winged it.  So here goes.

I should probably tell you that peaches are my favorite fruit (except when strawberries are in season, but that’s beside the point).  I live in Georgia (the Peach State!) and we always have an abundance of beautiful, fragrant peaches in the supermarkets come summer time.  So when the canning bug hit me, I only had to look at the overflowing fruit bowl in my kitchen to find inspiration.  I bought a “Home Canning Discovery Kit” that came with 3  jars, and a basket-type device to lower/lift them from the water, but this ”canning supplies” kit is what I’d really recommend, or something similar. There are a variety of supply kits you can purchase, but the special tongs are very helpful when arranging your jars in the boiling water, and the little magnet that you stick down in the pot to get your lids out is indispensable.

So you always start out by washing your jars and lids out really well in soapy water and rinsing them.  Then you put them in a large pot that is deep enough for the jars to be covered by about an inch or so of water.  You bring the water to a boil, and once it was boiling happily, I just turned it off and let them sit.

The basic canning instructions that came with my jars really just listed the optimum ratio of sugar to fruit, and gave very basic recipes, so I did a little looking in the blog community and found this jewel: Food in Jars. This is an excellent canning blog, and one I will probably continue to refer to.  She had a recipe for peach jam that included cinnamon and nutmeg, which really intrigued me, so I decided to go with that.  I only had 4 jars, and no idea at all how much fruit to use to fill them, so I just used my basic instructions to get an idea of amounts, and the Food in Jars recipe as sort of inspiration for the seasonings.

I started out using 9 medium sized peaches and 3 cups of sugar, which is what my instructions said would approximately fill my 4 jars.  I peeled and chopped my peaches, put them and the sugar in a large heavy-bottomed pot, and brought them to a boil.  I did have a little hiccup at this point – I tasted them, and they were so syrupy sweet that I, a lifelong sweet-tooth and dessert addict, could barely stand to eat them.  So I turned them down to a simmer and ran back to my cutting board for 2 more peaches, one of which was huge – as big as two of my others.  I prepared them as quickly as I could and threw them in the pot, hoping to dilute the sugar a little.  (I have no idea if that worked or not.  I know that the sweetness of the fruits will vary, so maybe I just had super sweet peaches, or maybe I just can’t measure and added way more sugar than I thought I did, but either way, it turned out wonderfully.) Both of my recipes called for lemon juice, and the Food in Jars recipe called for the zest as well as the juice, but I had no lemons, and only a little tiny bit left of my bottled lemon juice, so here I improvised.  I had two naval oranges that got left out of a pitcher of sangria (YUM is all I can say about the sangria – more later.) so I zested one of them, and juiced it as well, and added that, along with about a 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice. I think I’ll probably do that on purpose next time since it turned out so well.  There was just a little orange-y, citrus-y flavor in the jam that I think made it very unique – I really loved it.

Back to the recipe:  After I added my “emergency fix-it” peaches and the orange juice, I also added the cinnamon and nutmeg from the Food in Jars recipe and boiled that pretty vigorously for about 15 minutes. At this point, if your fruit is still quite chunky, you can use an immersion blender or a potato masher to squish it up a little.  It really depends on how you like your jam – I like mine a little chunky, so I get the texture of the fruit, but that’s just me.  I mashed mine up a little, but didn’t really spend too much time on it.  After that I added the pectin and boiled for about 5-6 more minutes.  Then I pulled my jars out of their water bath and poured the jam in (here again that canning kit would have come in very handy, since it comes with a funnel the exact size of a standard jar).  I set my jars on a rimmed baking sheet so I wouldn’t have to worry about my counters. Then you wipe the rims – (be careful! Hot!) and screw the lids on tight.  You put them back in the hot water bath for about 10 minutes, then take them out and let them cool.  They should be all sealed up.  Your jars should have an indicator button on the top that “pops” when you open the jar – if it is “popped” now, it means they haven’t sealed.  I have no idea what to do to fix that, or what causes them not to seal, but if I find out, I’ll let you know.

And that is that, my friend.  Peach Orange Cinnamon Nutmeg Jam.  The coolest thing I’ve ever made.  And Delicious, with a capitol D, if I do say so myself.  The spices were a great addition – they really gave the jam a depth of flavor that was just completely unexpected – at least to me.  I think of jam as being the flavor of the fruit that it’s made from and not much else, but this was a whole medley of flavors that mingled and combined to make the perfect lightly-spiced, summery fruit spread.  Amazing what wonders can come from those simple little glass jars.

Please, Please! If you have canning advice, share it with me!  I’m very inexperienced, but I would love to learn all of your little tips and tricks! Comment, or e-mail me at girlwithaskilletATgmailDOTcom.

Peach Jam:

The recipe inspired by Food in Jars

10-11 medium peaches, peeled and chopped

3 cups sugar, or to taste

1/2 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste

1 orange, zested and juiced

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 box no sugar added pectin (I used Ball brand, like the jars) – see note

  • Fill a large pot with water and add jars and lids.  Bring to boil, making sure that jars are completely submerged.  Once boiling, turn off heat and let sit until needed.
  • Combine fruit and sugar in a 6-8 quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat.  Stir to blend, and bring to a boil.  Add lemon juice, orange zest and juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg and boil vigorously for 15 minutes.  If the fruit is still very chunky you can use an immersion blender or a potato masher to break it down to your preferred consistency.
  • Add pectin and boil for 5 minutes more.
  • Remove jars from water bath and place on rimmed baking sheet.  Being very careful of splatters, pour the hot jam into the jars, leaving a half inch or so of clearance at the top.
  • Wipe jar rims with a clean cloth and screw lids on tightly.
  • Place jars back into water bath for about 10 more minutes then remove and let cool.
  • Eat and Enjoy!
A note on the pectin.  I used no sugar added, because my Aunt Ruth, the canning professional, told me to.  Her reasoning was that by using no sugar added, she had better control over the sweetness of her jams and jellies, and I agreed with that.  I like being able to decide exactly how to season something, so that’s what I did.

Look what I did!

Check this out:

I grew that stuff! All by myself!  Those thin peppers are cayennes, the light green one is a cubanelle, and there is one little bell pepper that got picked a little too soon.  And thousands of tomatoes!  I’m so excited I can hardly stand it!  This year is my first attempt at growing my own produce, and I can’t tell you how cool it is to cook with ingredients that came from my own backyard.  I started off very modestly – I’ve got 6 tomato plants, 1 cherry tomato, 2 bell peppers, 1 cayenne pepper, and 1 cubanelle pepper (I had never heard of the cubanelles before, but they are a mild, somewhat sweet, pepper similar to the bells but with thinner skin.  I’ve been using them in omelettes and in place of bells in some recipes).  I actually have 4 tomatoes and the peppers in large pots on my back deck, which is very convenient to my kitchen, but I definitely have to keep an eye on them – they need water every day or they will absolutely wilt, and they also need fertilizer more frequently than my “in-ground” plants.  Next year I plan to have a much larger garden with more variety, but even with just the small scale gardening I did this year, I get such a wonderful feeling every time I walk out to my porch and pick my own produce…It’s indescribable. I took these tiny little plants and helped them to grow and provide all this bounty for my kitchen.  Absolutely amazing.

In other news:

I finally got a Silpat!  I’m so excited to try it out, but the day I got it I had already planned to make these cupcakes and a silpat is pretty useless for that.  Happily, I found this artice/recipe about chocolate chip cookies that I plan to make very soon…maybe tomorrow.  I’ve been yearning for a silpat since I first encountered one on one of my favorite blogs (the Wednesday Chef) sometime last year.  I’ll let you know what I think, but really, who wouldn’t love a nonstick baking mat that keeps your baking sheets clean and helps your lovely baked good come away with perfectly intact bottoms?

Oh, and I bought these a few days ago and still can’t figure out what to do with them.  I’ve been eating them out of hand, but sometimes I don’t even want to do that, because they are infusing my kitchen with the most wonderful sweet, fruity, summery fragrance.

I may make a cobbler with them…or a crisp (yes, I know crisps are for fall/winter, but they make such a good (and actually healthy!) breakfast that I’m seriously considering it).  I’ll let you know how it turns out.