Brandied Cranberry Pear Preserves

cranberries peCranberries are one of the things that make me buy non-local fruit.  I just can’t not do it. I love them.  I want to put them in everything I make.  The pears are local! They’re from my friend’s farm in Potter Valley! I drove all the way over there by myself way out into the boonies out of cell phone range on a dirt road in my frail old pickup truck with the engine light on! That’s how committed I was to those beautiful bartlett pears.  That should forgive the fact that I bought cranberries in a plastic bag from the grocery store.  Shhh.  SHHHHH.  No judging.cranberrypearpreserves The obvious use for cranberry preserves is to put them with roast turkey, but I really love this preserve on regular old whole wheat toast on all kinds days that aren’t Thanksgiving.  I think it tastes best when it’s cold and gray outside and you make a cup of tea and some toast.  I am a huge fan of fall, winter, rain, sweaters, fires in the wood stove, etc., and this jam fits right in with all that stuff.

Also,  if you want to be fancy it’s pretty amazing with soft chèvre or brie.

BRANDIED CRANBERRY PEAR PRESERVES

Cook Time: 1 hr., plus waiting overnight for fruit to macerate

Makes: 4 1/2 half pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 4 c. diced pears (peel and core first)
  • 2 c. cranberries
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 2 tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • a splash of brandy (how big is up to you)

Day 1:

Combine all the ingredients in a nonreactive container.  Stir well to coat the pears with sugar.  Press a layer of saran wrap over the top of the mixture to prevent browning.  Put the container in the fridge for 24 hours.

Day 2:

Bring boiling water canner to a boil and prepare jars and lids.

Transfer the mixture to a large, nonreactive pot.  Turn the heat to high and cook until the jam reaches the gel point, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Partway through cooking, I like to give the mixture a few mashes with a potato masher to break up some of the fruit pieces to get a jammier texture.

Remove the bay leaf and discard. Ladle hot jam into hot, clean jars leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Wipe rims and attach lids. Process for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude if necessary.

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Fall Projects

This is a monster post with lots of projects because I’ve been awful about keeping up with things here. Unfortunately, life’s been too busy for blogging.  It hasn’t been too busy for canning, though.  (That would be awful. A nightmare! Can you imagine?)fall preservesfrom left to right: fig preserves, stewed heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomato jam, wild elderberry preserves, barlett pears in red wine syrup, barlett pears in maple syrup, roasted sweet peppers, oven dried figs, and stewed tomatoes with fresh herbs

Depending on where you live, you might be able to do some of these projects still.  If not, there’s always next fall …

TOMATOEStomatoesMy revelation this year is that I don’t actually care much about canning tomato sauce; plain stewed tomatoes prove to be much more versatile.  During the rest of the year, I use them in all kinds of soups, stews, curries, braises and sauces.  This year I canned as many heirloom tomatoes as I could using this method (which also happens to be really, really simple).

STEWED HEIRLOOM TOMATOES

Ingredients:

  • heirloom tomatoes: my favorites varieties are yellow and pink marbled, such as old german, hillbilly, and pineapple
  • lemon juice
  • salt (optional)

Wash the tomatoes. Remove the core with a pairing knife.  Slice them in half, or quarters if they’re really huge. Put the tomato halves in a large, nonreactive pot with a cup of water.  Cook them on medium low, stirring occasionally, until they’ve reduced in volume by about half.  You’ll be able to see that they reduce their juices during the beginning of cooking and everything looks very watery, but after an hour …or two or three (it depends on the batch size), most of the water cooks off, leaving just stewed tomatoes. Season with salt if you want.

Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids.

Add 1 tbs. of bottled lemon juice to each pint jar and 2 tbs. of bottled lemon juice to each pint jar (you can use whichever size you prefer), and then ladle the hot tomatoes into the jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Process pints for 40 minutes and quarts for 45 minutes.  Remember to adjust for altitude if necessary.cherry tomatoesAlso, I’ve been making tomato jam using this recipe from last year, just swapping out those yellow plum tomatoes with cherry tomatoes. I added some curry powder to one of the batches and it was lovely.  Cherry tomatoes make fantastic jam. You should do it. Seriously.

PEPPERS

I swore that this year I wouldn’t just turn all my peppers into hot pepper jelly, like I usually do. Instead, I used a bunch of them to make these marinated roasted peppers from Hitchhiking to Heaven.  They’re absolutely going to be a new pantry stale for me.  It’s a lot of work to roast and peel all those peppers, but it’s well worth it.  peppers for roastingI didn’t really do much to the recipe except omit the smoked paprika because I didn’t have any and I was too lazy to go get some. One note, though: roasting peppers indoors under the broiler will make your house smell really weird and funky.  Or at least, I thought so.  Next time I’m doing it on the grill, outside.

FIGS

I made fig preserves, but they really didn’t turn out quite as good as I was hoping they would.  I’m way more excited about the oven-dried figs that I made after that.  They’re delicious on their own, but I’m trying to save them for the holidays so I can put them in fruit cakes.  figs

ELDERBERRIES

I made wild elderberry preserves for the first time this year.  They’re …  weird.  Elderberries have a very unique flavor.  There’s an earthiness to them that I haven’t quite wrapped my taste buds around yet, but I think it might grow on me.elderberriesI’ve read that elderberries have immune-boosting properties and can shorten the duration of the flu, so I cooked them with honey, lemon juice and spices to make a loose preserve that I’m planning to mix into green smoothies during the winter time.  I can’t decide if I love my recipe or not, so instead of sharing it let me point you to a great Mother Earth News article that includes several recipes for elderberries.

and last but not least….

PEARS

Local bartlett pears are hands down my favorite fruit to preserve of the year.  They’re divine.  I made pear sauce, oven dried pears, canned pears in maple syrup, pear cardamom jam, pears in spiced red wine syrup, and a new one for this year – spiced maple pear jam, which I think deserves its own post, so stay tuned. bartlett pear

White Nectarine Preserves

A  friend of mine gifted me a box of white nectarines from his farm.  They’re sweet, ripe and juicy, and once we ate as many as we could, we turned the rest into this simple, lovely preserve.  white nectarines

I’ve been playing around with a couple different variations on this recipe.  I think my favorite is spiced with vanilla bean, but I also really enjoy a version with warm pie spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, some ground ginger.  nectarine jamWHITE NECTARINE PRESERVES

(Makes: I forgot to write down how many half pint jars. 7? I think it was 7.)

Cook Time: an hour, plus overnight to macerate the fruit.

Ingredients:

  • 4 1/2 lbs. white nectarines, pits removed and sliced into quarters
  • 2 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • optional: 1 vanilla bean

In a large, nonreactive pot, combine the sliced nectarines, sugar,  and lemon juice.  If you want to add the vanilla bean, scrape the seeds into the fruit mixture and then nestle the pod in with the sliced fruit as well. Cover with saran wrap (right up against the fruit to prevent browning) and refrigerate for around 24 hours.

Bring boiling water canner to a boil and prepare jars and lids.  Cook the jam, stirring to prevent burning, until it gels (click here if you don’t know what I’m talking about) or reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer.  About half way through the cooking time, I mashed the fruit up with a potato masher to make it more of a jammy consistency.  You don’t have to; you could leave the fruit in bigger pieces to make it more like a preserve.  Alternatively, run half of the cooked jam through a food mill to remove the skins and really make it like a jam instead of a preserve (thicker, with fewer big chunks of fruit). It’s up to your own personal preference.

Ladle hot jam into hot, clean jars leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Process for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude as necessary.

P.S. You could make this recipe with yellow nectarines too, but you might not need as much lemon juice since they’re more acidic than white nectarines. Taste them and see.

June Cook it! 2012 Resolution

It’s time.

The Cook it! 2012 June Resolution is:

MAKE JAM

I’ve been absolutely slammed with work for the last few weeks. Yesterday, in the middle of all this, I found some ollalieberries, fresh from the farm.  Sweet and tart, dark and juicy, they’re the berries I’ve been waiting for all winter long.  What started out as a stressful day with too many things that needed to be done instantly turned into a happy afternoon of jam making.  (Yes, when I see ollalieberries, I buy all of them and drop everything I was doing to make a pie or some jam. I’m a fruit nerd, what can I say).

Whether you’re a complete beginner or you already have years of canning experience, there’s really nothing quite like the joy of making a really simple batch of jam with some really excellent fruit — fresh off the vine, still warm from the sun.

When I waste time on the internet, it seems like everyone has been canning forever now and it’s no big revelation. If I happen to buy jars or pectin at the grocery store, though, without fail someone will stop me and ask about it.  Sweet little old ladies have stopped me in the aisle to say that it’s nice seeing me buying all these jars, that no one knows how to make jam or can food anymore.  (I thank them for the nice words but assure them that it’s become all the rage again.) Then, of course, the people in the checkout line, who will glance at my cart and say:

what are you doing with all those jars?

making jam, i say.

… oh, i’ve always wanted to learn how to do that….

To the cashier who bought a canner and cookbook but it’s been sitting on the shelf for a year now: don’t wait any longer, it’s time! To the lady in line whose grandma used to make pickled watermelon rind, just like my grandma did: dig out that recipe and get yourself a watermelon! To the guy at the farmers market who said he wished he had a women around who knew how to make jam: man, you don’t need to be a girl to can, just grab some of those strawberries, a couple jars and get to it!

Consider this your personal invitation to join the party…

In honor of the june resolution, summer, and all the people who are making jam even though it has nothing to do with the Cook it! 2012 project we’ve been working on, I thought I’d share a couple of the things that I’ve learned along the way.

TIPS FOR TOTAL BEGINNERS:

This isn’t meant to be all-encompassing, more just some information that might help when used hand-in-hand with a good recipe.

  • There are lots of posts out there on the internet that can explain the basics.  Food In Jars has a whole section of Canning 101 posts that explains some important stuff.  My recipe for peach jam with vanilla bean jam has step-by-step instructions to show the whole process from beginning to end if you want to take a look there.
  • When you’re just starting, make sure to find a recipe from a trusted source.  The best canning cookbook I own is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  The pectin box also counts as a trusted source.  The internet, especially if it’s just some really random looking website, does not necessarily count as a trusted source (I know, you’re reading this on the internet, right?)
  • There are, essentially, two different styles of jam making.  One uses commercial pectin (Ball, Clearjel, Pomona’s, etc.) to make the jam set.  This method is usually a pretty quick cooking time, and you just follow instructions included in the pectin box.  The other style uses the natural pectin in the fruit, which means that you combine the fruit, sugar and sometimes lemon juice, then cook it for awhile til it gels.  Usually you use a candy thermometer for this, since you really just have to cook it til 220 degrees).
  • Use a really big, thick-bottomed pot.  When jam boils over, it leaves awful burnt black crusty sugar all over your stove, which is virtually impossible to get off.
  • If you’re using commercial pectin: when they say “full rolling boil” they really mean “full rolling boil.”  The jam will boil up furiously and you’ll really know it when you see it.  A low simmer is not a boil.  If you only bring it to a low simmer for a minute, it won’t set right at all.
  • When they say “clean the rims of the jars,” they mean perfectly spotless, immaculate.  Not “basically clean” or “pretty much clean.”  I like to use a paper towel to do this.  If you leave any little bits of anything on those jar rims, the lids won’t seal later on.
  • A boiling water canner is really just a huge pot filled with water that has a rack on the bottom to set the jars on so they don’t clank around and break.  They’re cheap, often under $20.
  • Don’t touch the lids of the jars when they come out of the canner.  The need to sit and cool, which pulls down on the lid and makes it seal.  If you touch the lid, jostle the jar around, poke it and say “wow! I made jam!” you can potentially mess up the seal and ruin the batch.
  • In plain english, (hopefully to convince someone that hasn’t made jam before that it isn’t scary):  Canning jam is just cooking fruit with sugar and then putting it in clean jars.  You screw the lids on and basically just put it in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes* to sterilize the jar and make the whole thing shelf stable.  Once the lids seal after they’re out of the canner, they’re good for a year.
  • Know your farmer.  Fruit for awesome canned goods comes from right from the farms/farmers markets, not the grocery store. I don’t care how cheap the peaches are at the WalMart superstore, it’s not worth it.  Sure, any old mediocre peach with a bunch of sugar is going to taste kind of good, but it’s not going to be the life-changing kind of experience that fundamentally changes the way you eat food and feed your family.

TIPS FOR EXPERIENCED JAMMERS

  • If you can find a wholesale source for bulk bags of organic sugar, you’ll save a lot of time and money.  A lot of the time, local natural foods stores can add on an extra 50 lb. bag of sugar onto their order for you and you’ll get a better price.  Then you’ll be ready to go when the fruit shows up.
  • Lemon juice always ends up being an issue if you’re trying to stay local.  I try to freeze lots of local lemon juice during the winter, but I almost always run out.  Costco has ridiculously cheap organic lemon juice, and Santa Cruz Organics makes semi-cheap bottled organic lemon juice that you can usually find with the other juices in the store.
  • Remember, if you run into a screaming good deal on super ripe, beautiful fruit, but you don’t have time to make jam, you can always prepare the fruit and then leave it to macerate, tossed with sugar in the fridge.  You can also prepare the fruit and then freeze it to make jam later .
  • Don’t forget to stay in touch with farmer friends (you do have farmer friends, right?)  Tell them at the beginning of the summer that you want to make a lot of peach jam, write down your name and phone number for them, and have them call you when the peaches are in.  Farmers like it when there’s a person that wants to buy a lot of fruit, because they want to make money and you want to buy their products.  Tell them to call you when they’re totally swimming in peaches (or plums, or whatever…), when they have so many that they don’t know what to do and they’re going to start rotting.  That’s your cue to stop in, buy them all for cheap, and stock your pantry for the year.

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If you want to be included in the jam round-up post, send me a link to the url or your post (or, if you don’t have a blog, e-mail me a picture of what you made)by June 15, 2012.  My e-mail is thejamgirl@gmail.com.

_______________________________________________________

P.S. I didn’t include the ollalieberry jam recipe because I didn’t really use one.  I glanced at the Blue Chair Fruit cookbook to check it first.  Their cookbook is right next to my Ball Cookbook, and I recommend buying it as well.  It’s a more advanced cookbook and doesn’t use commercial pectin, which is nice, and the jams tend to be much lower sugar than the Ball Book.  Plus the Blue Chair Fruit cookbook has super pretty pictures which will make you feel all warm and fuzzy about the whole jam and fruit thing.

I Love Rhubarb

I’ve spent the last few weeks totally fixated on rhubarb.  Before I move on to something new (there were cherries at the market last Saturday), I thought I’d gather together all the different crap on my computer desktop into one convenient spot.  These are the highlights from the great rhubarb extravaganza of 2012.

Jam

I’ve made many, many jars of this basic rhubarb jam that I posted a few weeks ago.  It’s a simple recipe that uses rhubarb, sugar and lemon juice, and it’s the perfect blank canvas for experimenting with different add-ins like vanilla beans, lavender, rosemary, cardamom….   (As the rhubarb season has progressed, the jams have gone from bright red to pale pink to greenish-brown….. )

Know what makes me really happy?  Greek yogurt + rhubarb jam + a drizzle of honey + granola.  You gotta do it.  It’s like dessert, but healthier.

Syrup:

Rhubeena, from The Hungry Tigress, should be considered a pantry staple like tomato sauce.  It’s that good. Before the rhubarb season is over, I also need to make this Rhubarb-Lime syrup, from Hitchhiking to Heaven, because  citrus sounds like the perfect partner for rhubarb.

Cocktails:  

Rhubarb Mojitos: a classic mojito pumped up with rhubarb syrup

Rhubarb Granita Cocktails: ridiculously good frozen cocktails made with rhubarb granita, vodka and soda.  (The other night, while I was drinking one of these, I decided that they’re the best fruity cocktail that I’ve ever had in my life, ever. I love these. They’re dangerous.)(We’ve also made Local Kitchen’s Rhubarbitas, because apparently, you know, I drink a lot and really like rhubarb.   I love me a fruity pink cocktail, what can I say).

Rhubarb Fruit Leather:

Making rhubarb syrups means that you’ll end up with some leftover cooked rhubarb pulp.  It depends on how long you’ve cooked the pulp, but sometimes there’s still a lot of flavor left in there.   I was pleasantly surprised by the way the rhubarb leather turned out;  the flavor in the pulp that was definitely a bit on the bland side concentrated in the oven and came out perfectly sweet, tart and bright by the time it was finished dehydrating.   You don’t need to own a dehydrator to make leather — it comes out fine in the oven using a cookie sheet with raised sides.

Cook Time: 8 hrs. or so

Ingredients:

  • a couple cups of cooked rhubarb pulp leftover from other recipes
  • lemon juice to taste
  • sugar
  • cooking spray or neutral flavored oil

Heat the oven to 150 degrees or the lowest setting available.  Use a blender to puree the rhubarb pulp.  Taste it, and add a splash of lemon juice if it needs some brightness.  Add a bit of sugar to taste, but remember that the flavors will concentrate and sweeten in the oven, so be careful not to overdo it or it will come out really sweet.  Lightly grease a cookie sheet with neutral oil or cooking spray, and then pour the rhubarb puree onto it.  The puree layer should be about 1/4″ thick.  Put it in the oven until it’s dry and looks like fruit leather, somewhere from 6-8 hours.  (Check it more often when it’s almost done so it doesn’t get too dry).

When it’s done, peel it off the cookie sheet and cut it into convenient sized pieces.   Theoretically, it will keep for a long time at room temperature in a jar or a tupperware, but we ate ours in just a couple days.

Desserts:

Everyone knows about rhubarb pie, but there are so many other sweet treats that you can make with rhubarb.  Like this cake (or is a tart? or a pie?):I give you: strawberry rhubarb kuchen, which is what happens when you stumble onto this recipe for Rhubarb Krack from the Hungry Tigress (which is an adaptation of  Cakewalk’s Rhubarb Kuchen recipe) and realize that you don’t have enough rhubarb to make it but if you just substitute some strawberries for part of the rhubarb, things could still work out well….There’s not really much point in writing the recipe out again since two other talented ladies have already done it.  The only information that really matters is that you can substitute some strawberries for the Tigress’ recipe if you don’t have enough rhubarb, but that it’s probably wise to reduce the sugar since strawberries are pretty sweet on their own.  I used 1 c. of sugar for the filling instead of 2 c. and it was plenty sweet for my taste.  (I also used all-purpose flour, not the whole wheat pastry flour that the recipe calls for, but it was only because I didn’t have the whole wheat on hand.)

I’m pretty sure this recipe would be amazing with any ripe fruit.  I’d love to try it with peaches, or pears, or plums….  That custardy fruit layer is really just everything I could ever want out of a dessert.

I wish I could say that I’m done working on rhubarb recipes, but I’m totally not. (I definitely still want to make the rhubarb mostarda from What Julia Ate and this Rhubarb Custard Pie from Saveur.) and I really haven’t experimented enough with all of rhubarb’s savory applications….  It’s a vicious cycle of rhubarb, it’s true.

Okay, I gotta go get a slice of that pie….

Rhubarb Jam

I’ve been making marmalades for months now.  There have been oranges, lemons, tangerines, kumquats, grapefruit and pomelos scattered all over every surface in kitchen. Every time I finish with one case of citrus, I’ll swear to myself that I’m not doing any more marmalades because I’m so sick of finely slicing things… and then about two days will pass, I’ll forget my vow, and then decide it’s a good idea to do something idiotic like make 40 jars of kumquat marmalade.  (About 5 minutes after I start, I remember that I totally meant to not go down that road again, but since I don’t like wasting things I end up powering through several cases of kumquats and getting a bunch of calluses on my fingers from all the knife-work.)

After this whole marmalade saga, I can say that as of right now, I’m officially down to one last single lemon. If you see me at a farmers market, please just say:

LISTEN.  DON’T DO IT. IT’S NOT WORTH IT. STAY AWAY FROM THE ORANGES.

(But just writing that, I start thinking – ah, but I don’t really have enough blood orange things in jars, and I never got to do anything with those rangpur limes that Shae keeps raving about , so I can basically guarantee that I’m going to continue down this destructive path of citrus addiction for atleast another month or two.)

I’m trying though! See? This rhubarb jam is completely different from all of the elaborate marmalades I’ve been working on.  It’s just plain rhubarb, no bells and whistles at all.  I wanted to make something that was bright and clean tasting and completely true to the flavor of the fruit. So the rhubarb ends up doing this sweet-tart thing that’s so, so tasty….  This is, without a doubt, in my top 5 favorite preserves.  I want to put it on everything.  I like it so much that I’m pretty sure I’m going to put in a twenty foot row of rhubarb in the garden so that I can really have enough to play with.  Rhubarb Jam

This recipe is my own, but very much inspired by the methods used in the Blue Chair Fruit cookbook and the vibrant colors of the jam over at INNA Jam, which I’ve never tasted before but I’ve stared at a lot on the internet.

Makes: a little more than 5 half pint jars

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/4 lbs. rhubarb
  • 4 c. sugar
  • lemon juice to taste, around 1/4 c.

Day 1:

Remove the leaves from the rhubarb stalks and discard.  Wash the stalks.  Slice the stalks into small pieces about 1/2″ wide.  In a nonreactive container (like a large tupperware or glass bowl), combine the chopped rhubarb and the sugar.  Cover.  Put the container in the fridge for a day or two to macerate.

Day 2:

Cook the jam: Bring boiling water canner to a boil.  Put the rhubarb mixture into a wide, heavy-bottomed pot.  Cook on high heat, stirring occasionally.  Try to be gentle when you stir so you keep some chunks of rhubarb; the pieces are very tender and fall apart very easily.  I didn’t use a thermometer when I cooked this; I noticed that the jam visibly thickened more than it really looked like it had gelled.  The rhubarb will start wanting to stick to the bottom of the pot towards the very end of the cooking time, so make sure to keep stirring and keep a close eye on it towards the end of the cooking time.  It ends up being  a soft set jam, but the texture is wonderful, thick enough.  Add in the lemon juice towards the end of the cooking time, going about a tablespoon at a time.  I wanted this to be pretty tart, so I put in a lot, but you don’t have to use as much as I did.  It’s fine to turn off the jam, let it sit for a minute, taste it, and stir in a little more lemon juice if it needs a more brightness.

Ladle cooked jam into clean jars leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Wipe the rims of the jars completely clean and screw on lids.  Process for 10 minutes, remembering to adjust for altitude if necessary.

NOTE: I like how simple this recipe is, but you could certainly use it as a starting point and add some other flavorings in.  Future batches might have things like candied ginger, orange zest, lavender, etc. mixed in, but I wanted something simple before I pulled out all the fancy stuff.

How To Use Up A Whole Bunch Of Jam At Once: Spiked Peach Bread Pudding

Every once in awhile, the kitchen kind of gets out of control with my projects: Eggs everywhere. A million jars of jam.  The counter cluttered with stale ends of experiments in bread-baking.It’s rainy and cold today, but I didn’t make this dessert because I wanted to have something sweet and warm;  I made it because I had to figure out something to do with all the crap lying around in the kitchen.The only sweetener in this bread pudding is jam, so you might need to adjust it for your taste a little bit.  I used a peach jam that was a standard high-sugar recipe for this, so if you want to use a low sugar or no sugar jam, you might want to add more (or add some honey).Spiked Peach Bread Pudding

Cook Time: 1 1/2 hrs.

Serves: a lot

Ingredients:

  • 8 c. bread, cubed, from assorted odds and ends of stale bread
  • 5 c. milk
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1/3 c. whiskey
  • 1 pint jar of peach jam plus more for serving
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. amaretto liqueur
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • garnish: powdered sugar, jam and mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10″ cast iron skillet.  Spread cubed bread evenly in the skillet.  In a pot on medium heat, combine the milk, sour cream, whiskey, jam, lemon juice, nutmeg, amaretto, and vanilla.  Bring to a low simmer for a few minutes and whisk everything together.  Once the sour cream and the jam have melted into the milk, turn off the heat and let the milk mixture cool for a few minutes.  Put the beaten eggs in a large mixing bowl.  This part is important: you can’t just combine the beaten eggs and the hot milk mixture together or the eggs will cook wrong and ruin the consistency of the custard.  Make sure that you follow these instructions here: Slowly pour the milk mixture into the mixing bowl with the eggs in a thin stream and whisk everything constantly while you pour. This is the custard for the pudding.

Pour the custard over the cubed bread and let it sit for 20 minutes to soak, then bake the bread pudding at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until the custard is cooked through.

Serve topped with powdered sugar and a spoonful of jam.

Note: All the important numbers (350, 375, 400, 450) have rubbed off the dial on my oven, and it doesn’t cook evenly or at the correct temperature anyway, so my cooking time might be off.  When I smelled the faintest bit or burning only twenty minutes into cooking, I realized that I had the dial set on, oh, 460? No good.  I caught it in time, though. I majorly need to buy an oven thermometer.