My brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life.


Archive for the ‘gifts’

Make Marmalade in March 3

Posted on March 12, 2011 by crankycheryl

It’s March and the birds are singing like it’s spring.  I don’t know if it’s a lion or a lamb, but our colossal snow fall is now running down the streets in rivers of rain water.


Things just seem to becoming more and more, I don’t know, richer, deeper, entwined.  Now a dear friend’s daughter is coming to spend a night with us every week since her family’s having a hard time.  E. is in the school play, along with children with people I knew 20 years ago when I was young and crazy and looking at them across the school gym is just like looking across a dark club at them and I’m wondering if I still find them intimidating.   At church, Z.’s class is making soup to share with hungry neighbors so we’ve got beans on the stove to add to tomorrow’s soup pot.   My heart catches, twisting as I watch the kids coming into their own lives, laughing, earnest and wild.


And it’s March, it’s my father’s birthday month and it’s peak citrus season.  He loves marmalade and so I made him a big batch for his birthday.  Marmalade always feels like a special success when it works.  Whereas a berry jam has some body, marmalade is really just sugar with juice and peel so it really has to set up just on the basis of getting it to the right temperature.  I find this usually takes a bit longer than recipes indicate – if you go ahead and make it, just make sure you’ve got the hands-on time it needs.

Orange-Grapefruit Marmalade
6 1-cup jars
Adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

1.  With a sharp paring knife, remove the zest from:

  • 3 lbs. mixed organic oranges and grapefruit.

Far be it from me to question the canning gods over at Ball, but I found their instructions to score the fruit into quarters, remove the peel a quarter at a time and then use a paring knife to scrape out the bitter pith unworkable.  So I pulled out this and used it instead:

You can also do this with any vegetable peeler as long as you’re careful to leave as much of the white pith behind as you can.

2.  Set the fruit aside and place peel in a stainless steel saucepan with enough water to cover generously.  Bring to a boil and boil gently for 10 minutes.  Drain off the water, cover again and repeat, until peel is softened.

3.  Over a saucepan or bowl to catch juice, use a sharp paring knife to remove the pith from the fruit, and then separate the segments from the tougher membrane.  Put the fruit into the saucepan and squeeze the membrane to make sure all the juice is in.  Toss out seeds and pith (but if you have a use for them please let me know).

4.  To the saucepan with segments add:

  • the cooked peel
  • 4 cups of water

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce the heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until peel is very soft, about 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and measure 6 cups, adding water if necessary to reach that amount.

5.  Prepare your canner, jars, and lids.

6.  Ladle 3 cups of the cooked mixture into a deep stainless steel saucepan.  Ladle remaining mixture into a second saucepan.  Bring both to a boil over medium-high heat.  Keeping it at a boil, slowly stir:

  • 3 cups sugar

into each pan.  Boil hard, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches the gel stage.  Remove from heat to test, and then keep cooking if necessary (My recipe said it would take 12 minutes, but it took 45.  Here’s how to test.)  Once you’ve gotten there, skim off the foam.

7.  Ladle hot marmalade into jars, leaving 1/4″ head space.  Remove the air bubbles by poking down the side with a chopstick, and add more marmalade if necessary to get the proper amount of headspace.  Wipe rim, center lid on jar, and screw the band on without overtightening.


8.  Place jars in canner so that they’re completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil, cover and process for 10 minutes.  Remove the canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars to cool and listen for that satisfying little pop that means the jar has successfully sealed.  (If it doesn’t, just keep it in your fridge and eat up in the next couple of weeks.)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Thank You Cookies 0

Posted on December 17, 2010 by crankycheryl

These are the cookies we make to give our letter carrier, garbagemen, firefighters and our other year-round helpers.   And when Z.’s teacher asked his class to bring in something from a family holiday tradition, these were the first thing that came to mind.

They are chewy and fudgy, somewhere between brownies and cookies, delicious and chocolate-y and very addictive, which is why I only make them once a year.   (Though, full disclosure: 5-year old “Stewie” in Zander’s class didn’t like them because he doesn’t like fruit with his chocolate.)

Whatever, kid.

Herrick Family Thank You Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food Black Forest Cookies

Makes 36

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners and set aside.

2.   In a medium bowl, whisk together:

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, spooned and leveled
  • 2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
3.  Place in a large glass or otherwise heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water and stir until melted and smooth:
  • 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

4.  Remove from heat, then whisk in separately and thoroughly:
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 2 large eggs
Whisk until smooth.
5.   Whisk in flour mixture just until combined. Fold in:
  • 1 package (about 12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries or tart cherries
Cover well and refrigerate until firm, 30 to 45 minutes.
6.   Drop mounds of dough (equal to 2 level tablespoons) about 2 inches apart onto prepared sheets. Bake just until edges are firm, 11 to 13 minutes. Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Pumpkin-Cinnamon Swirl Bread 1

Posted on October 14, 2010 by crankycheryl

We’re blessed with a whole flock of new babies in our lives, and that means baking for the new parents. There’s a simple rule I follow in providing food for new parents of second and third children:

Give them delicious and healthy food their older children will eat without whining.

This way, the parents can feed their firstborn, and snitch a bite or two and receive just enough nutrients to survive another round of round-the-clock babycare.

E.  & Z. & I had a lovely version of this when we popped in at Great Harvest recently.  It’s near where we’ve started martial arts classes, and it takes all the bribery and threats I can muster to get my #1 son there.  I definitely credit Great Harvest’s sugary offerings and riding toy collection with my being able to bamboozle him to the dojo last week.   And the bread was so good that even in my traumatized state I was inspired to go home and make some of our own, which we then gifted to some of the new parents in our lives.  It’s like a cinnamon roll in loaf form, and reasonably healthy-ish as far as these things go.

Pumpkin-Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Bread adapted from Joy of Cooking
Filling adapted from The Weekend Baker
Makes one loaf

1.  Stir together in a large bowl:

  • 1 c. bread flour
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 package (2 1/4 t.) active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 t. salt

Add and stir very well:

  • 1 c. very warm water
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. pureed pumpkin, acorn, or butternut squash

2.  Add 1/4 c. at a time, mixing by hand, or a hand-held blender:

  • 3/4 – 1 c. bread flour

Add flour until the dough is moist but not sticky.

3.  Turn your oven to 350 degrees for exactly one minute and then turn it off.

4.  Knead for 10 minutes, either by hand or in some fancy machine with a dough hook, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  But set the timer and don’t cheat your dough, even if it seems nice and elastic before you’ve kneaded for the whole time.  Then coat a large bowl with oil, place the dough in it, turn it over once to coat it, then cover with a damp tea towel.  Let rise in the oven (make sure you’ve turned it off!) for about 45 minutes, or until doubled in volume.

5.  While the dough is rising, prepare the cinnamon filling.  Beat together in a large bowl with a handheld mixer on medium speed until very thoroughly combined into a thick paste:

  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar*
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar*
  • 1/3 c. unbleached flour
  • 2 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. (4 T.) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 c. applesauce or apple butter

6. Preheat oven to 450.   Grease a standard (6-cup) loaf pan.  Punch down the dough, then stretch it out into an oblong about the width of the loaf pan and about 12″ long.  Leave a 1″ border on one short end, then spread the cinnamon filling to about 2″ from the other end, going to about 1″ from the sides of the dough.  (You can freeze any leftover filling or put it on your oatmeal or mix it into cookies.)

7.  Roll up the dough as tightly as you can, beginning on the short end with the filling that comes closest to the edge.  Tuck and push as you roll to get the neatest loaf possible.  Place in the loaf pan and bake for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 350 and bake for 30 more, or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped.  Remove loaf to a rack and let cool completely.  Eat within three days, or freeze for up to two months.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Blackberry Chutney Recipe 2

Posted on August 09, 2010 by crankycheryl

My inner hoarder has come out to play and I’m in an absolute frenzy of food preservation.  So far:

  • 26 jars of blueberry jam
  • 8 jars of gooseberry jam
  • 6 jars of gingered zucchini marmalade
  • 6 jars of blackberry rhubarb chutney
  • 4 pints of canned peaches
  • 10 pounds of frozen blueberries
  • 6 quarts of frozen blackberries
  • 4 pints of frozen shredded zucchini and carrots
  • 4 pints of frozen roasted tomatoes and garlic
  • 3 freezer bags of various roasted vegetables
  • 3 pints of frozen rhubarb
  • 1 bag of Czech plum dumplings

My kitchen is now a living fruit fly museum, the house is a wreck and I’m busier than if I had an actual job.  Is this because having a basement filled with food helps assuage the upheaval of part-time contract work?  Because Z. is starting kindergarten and I’m trying to maintain an illusion of control?  Because it’s an especially delicious harvest year?  Who knows.  I keep claiming that I want to stop with all the fuss and crankyGreg keeps telling me that I won’t.  He’s probably right.

Maybe you need a recipe to help with your own neuroses, or for some more sane purpose like gift giving.  Here’s one I adapted to use up the blackberries that have been going crazy around here, as well as some late-season rhubarb and gone-to-seed cilantro.  It’s tart, sweet, and a little spicy in addition to being beautiful.

Blackberry-Rhubarb Chutney
Adapted from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

Yield: 6 8-oz. jars

If this is your first foray into canning, read this and this.

1.  Prepare your canner, 7 8-oz. jars, and lids, and keep warm.

2.  In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine:

  • 3 cups fresh or frozen blackberries
  • 1 cup chopped rhubarb stalks
  • 1 cup shredded peeled green apple
  • 1 1/4 c. finely chopped onion
  • 1 can of chopped pineapple in juice (or else 2 large grated peeled green apples)
  • 2 T. finely chopped ginger
  • 3 cloves finely chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 t. orange or lemon zest
  • 1/4 c. orange or lemon juice
  • 1 c. red wine vinegar

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat, cover and boil gently for about 15 minutes.

3.  Add to the mix in the saucepan:

  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar (make sure it’s cane sugar when you’re canning)
  • 1 c. golden raisins (I left these out, but would have thrown them in if I had had them around)
  • 1 c. water

4.  Make a spice bag with some cheesecloth or a stainless steel tea ball with:

  • 1 T. coriander/cilantro seeds (fresh if you’ve got them on your bolted plants in the garden, dried if not)
  • 2 hot peppers, as hot as you like.

Boil gently until thickened, about 15 minutes.

5.  Ladle hot chutney into hot jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Remove air bubbles by poking a chopstick or similar implement around the sides of the jar, then adjust headspace by adding more chutney if necessary.  Use a clean damp cloth to wipe the rim, then center the lid on the jar.  Screw band down until fairly tight, but don’t over-force it.

6.  Place jars in the canner so that they’re completely underwater.  Bring to a boil and then process for 10 minutes.  Take off the lid.  Wait for 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store in a cool place once you’ve made sure the jars have a good seal.

There.  Don’t you feel better?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Blessed Silence Sunday: Experiment 0

Posted on July 18, 2010 by crankycheryl

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Cross-Posting from Red Wagon Plants: The Garden Season Starts 0

Posted on March 16, 2010 by crankycheryl

[I’m excited to be doing some blogging over at Red Wagon Plants’ great site for the season.  I’ll cross-post here so you can read along with this season’s kitchen garden adventures if you like.]

Oh, my garden is perfect in March – all imagined blue blossoms and bursting red tomatoes and lush with shiny leaves.  I can picture it so well in these days before reality has arrived.  But still, I’m excited for the real thing, the dramas and surprises and smells and harvest.  And I’m looking forward to sharing my amateur garden adventures here on the Red Wagon Plants blog this season.

Last week Julie from Red Wagon came over to talk about our plans, and we took a stroll around my Burlington condo, looking at the remnants of last year’s garden that haven’t yet been cleaned and gotten ready for the season.  It isn’t pretty, but there’s all that March imagination – and there was Julie with her excitement and amazing knowledge.


We talked about my goals, and looked at the space.  Within a general theme of edible landscaping, I want to grow:

  • Beautiful plants that we can enjoy through the season.
  • More of the things I never get enough of through our CSA share (especially tomatoes).
  • Plants that will help with my gift-giving for the holidays.  Last year I made some crazy nasturtium liqueur and I want to do more with cordials from the garden.  Plus I’m aspiring to make hot sauce to share.

I showed Julie my challenging spots – the north-facing edge that faces our neighbors’ units where I grew red-veined sorrel last year (pretty leaves, but unwieldy and inedible).  Julie suggested currants, which will tolerate lots of shade, plus give us flowers and fruit.


We looked at the north-east corner where I don’t have anything except one gooseberry bush planted.  Julie wondered about making this shady spot a garden for pollinators – bees, birds and butterflies.  She pulled out her laptop and pulled up a long list of plants that could be in the shade.  We agreed on:

The longest side of my house faces east, which means a short day of direct light.  Last year, I had grown leeks (never got bigger than scallions), chard, kale, and other greens there, along with a big patch of nasturtiums.  After talking about what I wanted, we settled on:

  • Rhubarb (I’ve been interested in rhubarb for a while but because I have young children, I’ve been scared of the leaves that I had always heard were terribly toxic.  Last year I learned that it would take 10 lbs. of leaves to reach actual lethal levels, so I now can relax and allow it in the garden.)
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Dill
  • Bronze fennel
  • Bulb fennel
  • Chives
  • Chervil
  • Meadow rue

We walked around to the south, where we talked about taking advantage of the heat and light and growing pots of tomatoes and vines along a south-west wall, and putting in a container with:


So our plans are big, and the plants are growing.  Can’t wait to get started.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Peppermint S’more Cookies 1

Posted on December 23, 2009 by crankycheryl

You know, I’m not trying to make a food-blog career of self-deprecation.  I know that if you tell people that you’re a complete loser often enough, they will tend to start to believe you.

So I’m not a complete loser, no.   I’m creative and funny and have a great sense of flavors and textures and sense of culinary adventure.

But I do frequently find my food ambitions a bit at odds with my native talents.

To wit: my plans for Peppermint S’more cookies for gift giving.  Now I have perfectly wonderful cookies I make every year.  They’re a crowd pleaser that always have people looking at me with love in their eyes and requests for the recipe.  I could have made them.  Everyone would have been happy!   But no:  this was to be the year of the homemade s’mores.

So I made the graham crackers from the envy-inducing Smitten Kitchen.

And marshmallows from Alton Brown:

This was where I first erred.  I should have made the graham crackers and let them cool completely before getting started with the marshmallows.  Instead it was sort of a simultaneous production.

While I was saying something on the order of, “Oh fudge,” I began to temper the chocolate.  As far as I can tell, the process is a carefully guarded secret that its keepers obscure with bizarre instructions involving precise temperatures, exact percentages of chopped chocolate, spreading on marble slabs and the like.  Here’s how it started in my make-shift double-boiler:

It was around this time that I realized the marshmallow mix was done and was about to begin to set.  So with further muttering, I scraped the fluff out of the borrowed stand mixer and spread it into its pan to firm up.  After a few hours, I came back, sliced it into squares and placed them on top of the cooled grahams.

I thought I had done what I was supposed to with the chocolate, so I used a pastry brush to spread it on the cookies.  I placed it on the rack to cool just a little and then sprinkled some with chopped candy cane.  (Not all of them, oh mint-hating Mom, don’t worry.)  They looked good!  Like this:

And I packed them away in coffee bags (perfect for cookies).  Then a couple of days later, leopard spots began appearing in the chocolate, meaning I think that the heat had gone too high in the tempering process.  And when I ate one of the extras, the marshmallows that had started so billowy and nice had a sort of al dente quality.  Dangit.  But still:  homemade marshmallow!  Homemade graham crackers!  Made for you with love!

And next year?  Back to the cookies.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Apple Truckload Saturday 2

Posted on October 17, 2009 by crankycheryl

applepicking 006

Today was Shelburne Orchard‘s Truckload Saturday, and some neighbors and I went to load up – $50 for two carloads of Macs, Galas, Liberty’s, and Empires.  These neighbors, in fact:

applepicking 021

CrankyGreg says we looked like a bunch of hip, radical nuns, which I can live with.  We took our blessed selves and went and scavenged the “falls,” and jostled the last attached ones out of their branches.  And I’m wildly pleased to report that I climbed a tree to chase down some high-hanging Galas.

After a couple of hours we had two cars full of apples and were hungry, so we went up to the Orchard’s store and food area, where we found an enormous apple pie,

applepicking 019and these nice people frying up onion rings made with Ginger Jack in the batter,

applepicking 025

and sausages roasting inside their brick oven.

applepicking 028So now I’ve got 4 bags (about 2 bushels) of apples hanging around.  I’ve taken the first batch and started some Crock Pot Apple Butter.  With the rest, I’d like to can Apple Pie Filling, but can’t seem to find the Clear Jel I’d need.  Maybe more applesauce, maybe something else, whatever it is I’m sure E. & Z. will be tired of it long before it’s gone.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Blessed Silence Sunday: The Plum Obsession Lives 0

Posted on October 04, 2009 by crankycheryl

liqueur 0343rd jar of plum-nasturtium-honey liqueur in the making.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Local, and Good Enough 0

Posted on October 03, 2009 by crankycheryl

Butternut Squash Harvest from Burlington's Intervale Community Farm

I’m still ruminating on the EatLocalVT challenge.   And surprised by how much the whole prospect has made me think.

If you read along with me in recent weeks, you know I had some cynical twinges, some eye-rolling moments when I just wanted to throw in the towel, feeling like I ought to feel guilty because I didn’t do without something or other.

But, while true, there was something more.  Something more spiritual than the tangible goals of supporting  neighbor farmers, of keeping our dollars in the local economy, of reducing the environmental impact of getting our food to us.

I found honesty and depth in eating the food that comes from the very land under our own feet.  There’s a primal connection in eating from places we can walk in and breathe deeply of, in eating food grown by people we know and value.  It feels like real living, to be sustained by what is here and now.

And there’s something else that quietly whispers, “What is around you is enough.”  I’m far from pure, but I see more now how I’m confused by the constant presence of everything all the time.

What do you do with it?  It’s nearly impossible to ask the average person to eat local Vermont food all the time, all year long.  And should we  be asking that?  What about the new book that points to other problems in our food production and distribution system?  What about the cynics who find the whole proposition laughable in thge first place?

To choose to eat and enjoy the things that are from here and now is not to be deprived, but is a celebration of what is real.  And delicious, of course.  I’m closing this quickly so I can run down to the farmer’s market to get as many of the last of the great local plums as we can.  Then I get the boys and we’re off to Pumpkin Day at our CSA, then home for homemade localvore chicken soup, and a doubled-up dessert so I can bring a treat to a neighbor who’s recovering from surgery.

What could be better, in any sense of the word?

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  • About

    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

    Stats: 301 Posts, 640 Comments

  • Recent Posts

  • Foodie Fights Winner

  • Kreative Blogger

  • Foodie Blogroll

  • CrankyCakes on Twitter

  • Recent Comments

  • Categories

↑ Top