Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blueberries in December... with Cranberry Blueberry Jam, Jam Tarts, and Blueberries and Cream Oatmeal...

Yesterday, we took down our Christmas decorations, except for the outdoor lights on the balcony and the wreath on the door.  I felt like it was time - time to put everything away, move the green chair back to its spot in the living room, vacuum up all the fallen needles and glitter from the carpet - and even though we were able to enjoy all the decorations for a month already, it makes me a little sad to put it all away until next year.

Before Christmas there's so much anticipation and preparation...  and then it's over so quickly.  It's strange how fast a month can fly by.  And already, stores are stocked with pink and red and white for Valentines.

I've been craving blueberries lately, and with the warm days we've been having this week - nearly 50 degrees - I like the idea of something fruity and sweet and light, for a change from all the rich holiday desserts.  Unfortunately, it's not the season for blueberries.  They're not only incredibly expensive right now, but they're also missing that crisp taste that bursts in your mouth when you bite into one.

But I won't let that stop me.  With two bags of cranberries still to use up, I wanted to make more jam.  Before Christmas, I made a big batch of cranberry orange preserves, which was a little like a cranberry marmalade.  But I gave it all away, so to stock up a little jam for us, I made another batch, this time with cranberries and blueberries.  The sweetness of the blueberries were such a nice balance to the tartness of the cranberries, and cooking them into a jam masked the fact that it's not the perfect season for blueberries.

We're all stocked up on cranberry blueberry jam, now.  For some variety, I may make some more soon - I like combining two or three fruits for a more complex flavor.

After the jam was made, canned and cooled, I found some leftover pie dough in the freezer to make a few little tarts with.  To make these tarts, all you need are a few scraps of dough, pressed into muffin tins (or an individual tart pan, if you have it).  Fill each with about three tablespoons of filling, and the filling really can be anything you like.  I made two with caramel and chocolate, and two with chocolate and jam.  Lemon curd would be amazing, topped before serving with a dab of whipped cream.  Fresh fruit with jam would be delicious.  These can be made to suit anyone's taste, and what's great is you can make as many or as few as you'd like.  If you want a little taste of pie, but don't have the willpower to resist a whole pie sitting on the counter, then just make one or two of these little tarts for a sampling of something sweet.

And for breakfast yesterday, I added some blueberries and Greek yogurt to oatmeal for a healthy and filling breakfast.  The Greek yogurt adds such creaminess to the oatmeal while keeping it healthy.

Blueberries and Cream Oatmeal
printable recipe

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, lowfat
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • milk, optional

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil.  Add the oats, salt and brown sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to medium low.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes, until the water is mostly absorbed.  Stir in the yogurt until smooth.  Stir in the blueberries.  Cover and let sit for 3 minutes.

Spoon into bowls and sprinkle with nutmeg.  Add milk, if desired.

Yields 2 servings.

Cranberry Blueberry Jam
printable recipe

  • 2 bags (12 ounces each) fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 2 containers (6 ounces each) fresh blueberries (or frozen)
  • zest and juice of 1 small lemon
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 7 tablespoons classic pectin
  • 5 cups granulated sugar

 In a large stock pot, combine the cranberries, blueberries, lemon zest and juice, water, cloves and vanilla.  Over medium heat, simmer the fruit and spices for about 20-30 minutes, until the cranberries burst and the flavors develop.  Mash the fruit with a potato masher, leaving it as chunky as you like.  Stir in the butter (this helps prevent a foamy texture to the jam).

Sprinkle the pectin over the mixture and stir to combine.  Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, while stirring constantly.  Add the sugar all at once and stir to dissolve.  Return to a vigorous boil, while stirring constantly, and boil hard for 1 minute.  Remove from the heat.

Ladle the hot jam into hot sterilized jars and process in a water bath according to standard canning procedures, or simply cool and store in the fridge to be eaten within a few months. (See my previous post on canning.)

Yields 8 half-pint jars (8 cups) of jam.

Pastry Tarts with a Variety of Fillings
printable recipe

for each tart, you will need:
  • about 1/2 ounce of pie dough (1 standard pie crust should yield about 16 individual tarts)
  • 3 tablespoons of the filling of your choice (mix and match chopped chocolate, caramel, chopped fruit, jam, lemon curd, etc...)
  • egg white
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse turbinado sugar

Preheat the oven to 350.  If you don't have an individual tart pan, which I don't, then use a muffin tin to make your tarts.  Take half-ounce pieces of dough (about a heaping tablespoon), shape into balls, then roll out into circles that can be pressed into the muffin pan with a little overhang.  Tuck the edges under.  Spoon filling into the dough.  Brush the edges of the dough with a little egg white (to help it brown) and sprinkle with the sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes, until crust is golden brown.  Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then carefully remove from the pan.  Cool on a plate and serve warm or at room temperature.