Author Archives: sb

Birthday Traditions

Today is my eldest’s 4th birthday, so I wanted to share my annual tradition with you.

Every year, after the kids go to bed, I sit down and write them a letter.  It’s a couple pages long, and is very introspective and emotional.  I write about their year, things I’m proud of, things I hope for their futures, and such.  It’s a chance for me to reflect on how lucky I am, and to touch base with all of the things that I want to teach them as they grow.

I seal the letters, and write “To ____, on your __ birthday, All my love, Mommy” on the outside.  I don’t read them again.  I will give them all of the letters at some point when they’re grown (I haven’t decided what age yet).  I hope they love reading them as much as I love writing them.  In fact, today I asked a friend if she thought I’d still write the letters when the kids are grown and I’ve given them all of these letters!

Also, even though my eldest was born at 5:59am, I always make sure I’m awake and reflecting about bringing her into the world.  When she’s older, I’ll actually wake her up (insert evil laugh here) to tell her all about it, each and every year.  My youngest is lucky in that she was born in the early evening, so she won’t be sleeping, so I’ll just have to find another way to torment her.  I won’t be able to do what my mom did for me (that being to call the school and have them announce my birthday over the intercom…), but I’ll come up with something!

Vinatarta – tackling a family tradition

Growing up, my favourite thing that my mom made at Christmas time was vinatarta – an Icelandic Christmas cake.  My mother-in-law has tried to make it for me too, but it’s just not the same (I think it’s because she uses cinnamon instead of cardamon).  I have my great-aunt’s recipe, and have often thought of trying to make it myself.  This year, with the decision to spend more time at home over Christmas, I thought I should finally be the mom that makes it part of the tradition for my girls!

The dough:
1 cup butter
2 cups white sugar
5 eggs
4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cardamon

Cream butter and sugar well. 

Beat eggs and add to the butter mixture along with the rest of the ingredients.

Refrigerate for one hour or overnight to make dough easier to handle.

Roll dough and use plate to cut circles in dough.

If using a non-stick cookie sheet, you don’t need to grease it, but if it’s not non-stick, make sure you grease. Bake at 375 for approximately 8 minutes or until golden brown.  Be very careful when taking them off the sheets as they break very easily. Cool layers.

Filling:
2 pounds of pitted prunes
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Cover prunes with just enough water to cover.

Cook until tender.  Puree in blender or food processor with other ingredients.  Cool.

Assembly:

Spread filling between laters of cooked dough circles.

Leave the top layer plain. You should have 5-6 layers.  (Note: my great-aunt’s recipe says this should make 3 cakes of 5-6 layers each, but I’m thinking she must use a smaller plate, as I only got one cake out of it.  Then again, I also broke 2 layers transferring them from the cookie sheet to the cooling rack.  And I ended up with a ton of filling left over…)

Wrap in plastic and then aluminum foil. Leave on counter for at least a day to season. Cake freezes very well (and will actually likely be better if you do freeze it for a couple of weeks).  For serving, cut cake in slices and then each slice into 3 to showcase layers.

I won’t know how mine tastes until Christmas comes around, but the leftover stuff I have seems to be good so far!

I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly

Hello there! I’m excited about having the opportunity to guest blog here!

I recently tweeted about having an excess of crabapples from the tree at our new house. Our resident domestic goddess, Samantha, suggested that I make crabapple jelly. Anyone who knows me knows that domesticity is NOT my forte. The thought of canning gave me the cold sweats. However, with the promise that it was easy and that I really could do it (as well as 20lbs of apples that I had no clue what to do with and a sale on jars at the grocery store), I decided I had nothing to lose. I used this recipe at Samantha’s suggestion.

First, I started with 6lbs of apples (which wasn’t as much as I thought it was!)

Next step was to cut off the stem and blossom ends (I was very happy I didn’t have to peel or core them all).  Then, I covered them with 6 cups of water in a dutch oven.  I boiled them for 10 minutes, then mushed them up with a potato masher, and cooked for another 5 minutes. 

Now, the recipe says to use a jelly bag to drain the juice out.  Being that this was my first attempt, a jelly bag was not something I had kicking around in my kitchen.  Samantha told me that I could line a colander with cheesecloth and let it sit and I’d get the same result, so that’s what I did.  I put the colander in a bowl while I dumped the contents of the pot in, but then transferred it back to the pot to finish draining because it needs to be slightly elevated to allow for proper draining.

The biggest thing to note here is DO NOT SQUEEZE!!  In order to get nice and clear jelly, you need to allow the juice to just drain on its own.  Now, I know that there’s the “do not squeeze” rule about pimples that people sometimes think is OK to break, but really, resist the urge.  Walk away from the apples.

Once the juice is completely drained (which took a few hours!), you add 4 1/2 cups of sugar and stir it together.  Before you start heating the mixture, put several teaspoons in the freezer for testing if it has reached the jelly stage later.  You should also, at this point, get your jars boiling in your canning pot (with at least an inch of water over the top of the jars) for 10 minutes.  They need to be hot when you put the jelly in.  You should also prep your lids – put them in a pot of boiling water as well (just the seal part, not the ring part). 

Now you get to start really cooking!  Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, then boil for 15-18 minutes, until the jelly stage has been reached.  You must stir the mixture constantly (don’t I look excited?).

In order to test if the jelly stage has been reached, take a frozen spoon and dip it into the mixture.  When you pull it out, it should “sheet” off of the side instead of dripping off.  (My apologies at this point.  I wanted to take pictures of this to illustrate, but the whole process took longer to do than I thought, and hubby and I had supper reservations that we had to get to and I still wasn’t dressed…)  Once this is ready, remove from heat (and make sure you’ve got your jars out of the canner). Skim the foam off the jelly.  Using a funnel, pour the jelly into the jars, leaving 1/4″ of space at the top.  Wipe off the lips of the jars.  Put the lids on, and then the rings.  Tighten until resistance is met, then fingertip tighten.  Put the jars back into the canner (ensuring still covered by about an inch of water – and yes, you can just use the same water that you boiled the jars in) and boil them for 10 minutes to seal them.

From this recipe, I got 5 jars of jelly.

As you can see, it turned out nice and clear (I resisted the urge to squeeze)!

That’s it!  It turned out great, and my kids love it.  I especially love that I can give it to my baby, since I know what’s in it, and it’s not a berry jam.  I feel so rewarded when I look at the jars in my cupboard (I’ve since made another batch, which also turned out well). Part of me wants to give them away, but part of me wants to save it all for my family – it’s really yummy!  I do still have about another 10lbs of apples to deal with, so I may end up with more jelly than I can eat, but I DID IT! I never thought I’d ever (a) be inclined to can anything, and (b) do it successfully!

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