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Friday, August 4, 2017

Like a rolling stone (fruit)

Since I've launched my jam making biz I'm on the hunt for the best fruit I can find. I took a chance on a flat of organic yellow 'Sweet Dream' peaches from Murray Family Farms out of Bakersfield. I felt good about the purchase after tasting an unripe white peach. If that tasted good they'd likely be awesome once ripe. Needless to say I was NOT disappointed.

I got to work and made two batches. One with organic sugar and one with lavender infused honey. Both with skin on. As much as I wanted the honey batch to blow me away it just didn't quite meet my expectations. The honey was very overpowering and really took away from the peach flavor. The plain batch turned out excellent. Real fresh, peach flavor. I'm not dismayed by the honey batch and will seek out a lighter variety that will complement the peaches and perhaps combine with white peaches to diffuse the harshness. But that's the fun! The experimenting, testing and ultimate mastery.

One customer described it upon first bite as tasting like "summer in a jar". I couldn't have asked for a better testimonial. But she's spot on. Straightforward, fresh peachy taste. When you use fresh, ripe, organic fruit that tastes wonderful raw then you know you'll end up with the best tasting preserves. This flavor has sold out temporarily but I'm fixin' to make another batch this week so check back soon!

The other stone fruit I absolutely love is apricot. Growing up my mother would make this delicious apricot tart. Although the apricots were canned they had a wonderfully plum yet soft texture that lended well for this dessert. She made a sweet pastry crust with vanilla sugar we got at the German market. And for the filling she would simmer the juice from the can and add a couple tablespoons of vanilla pudding to thicken it up. Poured over the top of the apricots and baked in the oven. And always served with fresh whipped cream.

So, when making apricot jam it was automatic for me to add vanilla. It just goes with it in my opinion. The key is finding super ripe fruit. As in too soft to eat but not going bad. I did not skin these either and simply tore them half to remove the pit. 

The scent of gently simmering apricots in their own juices, a little sugar, lemon juice and vanilla is divine. 
The resultant concoction is rich, sweet, a little tart with balanced perfectly with the addition of pure vanilla. This would be incredibly good served atop a plain vanilla scone. So far I haven't gotten past eating straight out of the jar. But next logical step would be inside a German pancake (French crêpe big fat cousin).

If you're at ALL interested in sampling any of these outrageously good jams come by the Toluca Lake Farmer's market on Sundays between 9:30am and 2:30pm. If you're not able to please visit my online store at

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer Plums and more jam

With the demands of my day gig finding time to leave town for a few days is difficult to say the least. When I do take time off it's usually to visit my parents up in the Bay Area. They're both in their 80's now so seeing them as often as I can has become a priority. It's always a pleasant respite from the daily grind being back home and enjoying my mother's garden. There are only three of the original residents (that I know) on our block remaining; the Graybeals, the Quans, and the Bornschlegels. During my visit Mrs. Bornschlegel gave us a big box of her gorgeous home-grown plums. I believe they're Santa Rosa. What a treat! Immediately I thought about making jam. But before they get reduced down to a thick, sweet, concoction I had to imbibe in the freshness of these beautiful fruits. And as we were in the middle of a heatwave, these sweet, juicy plums, nice and cold from the icebox sure hit the spot.

Plum as a jam on it's own is very good but they also make a good base to create new flavors. The first thing I thought to add was cardamom. I buy them at the Indian market as they're bound to be the freshest. I have an old mortar and pestle that belonged to my great grandfather. He likely acquired it while travelling in the South West a century ago. Stored in a box for years I released it from captivity to be reborn again as it was originally intended. I used it to crack open the dried cardamom pods. While it functions as a grinding tool it isn't quite as efficient as my old coffee grinder which processed the seeds to a fine powder. But this ancient food processor makes for a prettier picture, don't you think?

The key to super flavorful fruit jams and preserves is to pick fruit at their ripest and macerate in sugar for several hours to overnight in the icebox. This softens the flesh releasing it's juices. Adding a touch of cardamom further enhances the flavor. The result is pronounced, fresh and fruity jam. I've been swirling it in my morning yogurt the last couple of days. Mmmmm!

So, if you're interested in tasting this new flavor you may purchase jar at my online store. This is a small batch and supply is limited. So get 'em while they're hot!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Hearth & Larder is open for business!

Hearth & Larder (aka me) has a brand new look - new jars, new labels and a new store! You will be able to purchase online and either pick up locally or stop by the Toluca Lake Farmers Market on Sundays starting in July.

Presently, I have five flavors to choose from: Meyer Lemon Blueberry, Meyer Lemon Strawberry, Meyer Lemon Triple Berry, Thick-cut Orange Marmalade and Pineapple-Cardamom Jam.
Only $10 per jar.

On Sale! I have a few of my old jars (jam is not old just the jar style) available at a discounted price of $8 per jar. Such a deal! Here are the flavors as follows:

Traditional Orange Marmalade, Blood Orange-Tangelo Marmalade, Oro Blanco Grapefruit Marmalade with Fennel Seed, White Grapefruit Marmalade with Smoked Paprika and only two jars left of Meyer Lemon-Cranberry Marmalade. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Got my labels!

Hearth & Larder launch checklist:

  • CA Food Handler Certificate - check
  • DBA Registered and published - check
  • Cottage Food Operator Class A License - check
  • Home Business Occupation Permit - check
  • Burbank Tax Certificate - check
  • Jars and labels - check
  • Online store - check
  • Delicious marmalade and preserves - CHECK!
Still left on the list is getting a canopy and table set up and finally the permit from the LA County health department to sell at the Toluca Lake Farmers Market. Aiming for July! Stay tuned...same Bat Channel, same Bat time. (RIP Adam West). 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

RECIPE: The best Meyer Lemon marmalade ever. Plus new marmalade flavors for 2017!

Got a whole lotta marmalade goin' on here! For the last two years I have been harvesting oranges from my parents' Navel Orange tree. Or shall I say, I have been asked to..."take some home" and end up with about 30 lbs. No problem I can put these to good use! And now that my mother's Meyer Lemon tree is in full production I can "take some of those, too". About a giant grocery bag full.

I set to work and spent the better part of the weekend with my face in front of a boiling batch of citrusy goodness.

My mother's oranges always make wonderful marmalade and I couldn't be more satisfied with the outcome, however, the stand out for me this year is the Meyer Lemon Marmalade. I tried a new recipe and result is a thick, sweet and tangy, oh-so-lemony flavor without a hint of bitterness. For a bit of variety I made a cranberry version, as well. More cranberry forward in flavor with a stiffer gel with a balanced lemony flavor. All in all this was a very successful weekend!

Meyer Lemon Marmalade Recipe
(adapted from Food & Wine)
12 - 14 Meyer Lemons (or 3 lbs), washed
3 cups sugar

Hearth & Larder Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Hearth & Larder Meyer Lemon Marmalade
Hearth & Larder Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Hearth & Larder Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Wash the lemons thoroughly. Next halve the lemons crosswise and juice them, reserving the juice. With the edge of a spoon, scrape the membranes and seeds from the halves revealing the pith. Cut halve the halves then slice the peels 1/8 inch thick. Discard seeds and membranes. The pith in the peels provides ample pectin to gel.

Blanching tenderizes the peel and removes bitterness.
In a large, heavy saucepan, cover the strips with 8 cups of cold water and bring to a boil. Boil for about 1 minute. Drain the strips and rinse under cold running water. Blanch two more times. On the third time, drain the strips but do not rinse them.

Return the strips to the pot and add the reserved juice and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue boiling (stir periodically and keep an eye out so it doesn't boil over) until the marmalade sets, about 30 minutes.

That's it! Spoon the marmalade into sterilized jars and seal. Makes about 4 - 8oz jars.

Hearth & Larder Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

I could blather on about butternut squash soup and paint a pretty picture of chopping farm fresh vegetables in the warmth of a cozy kitchen while the cold winds blow outside in the blueness of Winter but I know what you really want is the recipe, right? So, without further adieu, I present you the...



1 large butternut squash (about 3 lbs)
2-3 slices thick cut smoked bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 celery stock, chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 poblano chili, roasted and skin removed
1 yellow bell pepper, roasted and skin removed
4 cups chicken stock or water
2 bay leaves
1 kaffir lime leaf (not essential but it give it a Thai flavor)
1 TB madras curry powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp kosher salt or to taste

ROAST THE SQUASH - Preheat oven to 400˚
With a sharp chef's knife halve the squash lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and (toast them for a snack!) or discard. Place the halves cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet or in a roasting pan, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Bake for about an hour or until flesh is very tender when pierced with a knife. Once the squash is cool enough to handle scrape out the flesh and set aside.

While the squash is roasting char the peppers over an open flame or under a broiler until the skin blackens. Place peppers in a container, bag or bowl covered with a plate and steam for about five minutes. Rub off skin under running water then chop and set aside.

Heat a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot to medium and add the bacon and cook until browned. Remove all but a tablespoon of fat then add the carrots, celery, onion, peppers and garlic. Saute until softened then add the spices and cook a minute or two, stirring constantly. 

Add the squash, bay leaves, kaffir if using, and chicken stock or water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a medium simmer. Cook for about 45 minutes or until flavors develop and everything is nice a soft.

Once you're happy with the flavor, remove the kaffir and bay leaves and process with an immersion blender or whiz the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth. There's no rule you have to do this if you'd prefer it chunky. It's a very forgiving soup! Adjust salt at this point and serve with a dollop of crema (Mexican sour cream) or just regular sour cream. A sprinkling of fresh cilantro would be great...or nothing at all. It's up to you! Pictured, it was served with hot Italian sausage and collard greens (what I had on hand) but most of the time I like to eat it with toasted home baked sourdough bread topped with mashed avocado. Makes a healthy satisfying meal. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sourdough Sesame Seed Hamburger Buns

Ever wanted to make your own hamburger buns?

Yeah, me neither. I'm kidding. But I hadn't thought of it until I had a dire need to do something with the growing supply of sourdough starter accumulating in my ice box. Because as of late, I've decided to get back to baking and made my own starter. As a result have a LOT of it. So, in an effort to purge my increasing supply I opted to make burger buns since we love burgers. 

Highbrow "artisan" burger joints tend feature fancy fresh baked brioche buns. Shiny and browned to perfection. They look fancy but you can make these at home. They're easy!

I've found a recipe that produces flavorful, light yet sturdy buns and makes good use of my excess starter! That being said, sourdough starter it is not required. But it is worth the effort to make it as you'll have many, many other wonderful uses for it. Plus there's the bragging rights. Here's an excellent video on how to make your own. Enjoy the eye candy on the way to the recipe below.

(adapted from a recipe in The New York Times for Light Brioche Buns)

1 cup warm milk
2 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup sourdough starter (optional)
1 TB sugar
1½ tsp salt
1 large egg
3 cups bread flour
2½ TB unsalted butter, softened

1 large egg beaten with 1 TB water
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds (or sprinkle on desired amount)


Use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; combine the milk, yeast, sourdough starter if using, sugar, salt and 1 egg. Mix briefly to combine. Add the flour to the bowl, and mix until incorporated. Mix in the butter. Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed for about 6-8 minutes. The dough will be soft and tacky, but adding too much extra flour will make the buns tough.
(Of course you can do this all by hand but in my case I opted for machinery).

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1-2 hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a dough scraper or a sharp chef's knife to divide the dough into eight equal parts. Gently form into a tight ball using the stretch and fold technique and place on the baking sheet, 3 inches apart. Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise again, 1-2 hours, until puffed up and nearly doubled.

Set a large metal pan of water (2-3 cups) on the lowest rack of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400˚ F with a rack in the center. Brush the tops of the buns lightly with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake the buns about 15 minutes rotating halfway through baking, until the tops are golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

You needn't limit your enjoyment to burgers alone...these make excellent sandwich buns!