preservings

exploring, preserving: past, present


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Simple Recipe for Whipped Shortbread

My last post mentioned some of the favourite Christmas cookies baked in my home when I was growing up. A reader asked what Whipped Shortbread was, so I just couldn’t resist whipping up a batch, providing the recipe below!
Traditional shortbread recipes have brown sugar in them. The cookies are buttery, sugary, and (sometimes described as) dry. Whipped shortbread recipes tend to use icing sugar (or confectioners sugar) instead of the brown sugar. The butter is still there, but this recipe does what its name requires of it–whipping the sugar and butter together until fluffy. Traditional shortbreads are rolled and cut; whipped shortbreads must be either spooned carefully onto a baking sheet or created using a cookie press. I invested in a cookie press with an assortment of tips and attachments years ago, and I enjoy making whipped shortbread cookies with this. Obligatory as a finishing touch is a small piece of maraschino cherry to brighten the cookie up and provide an interesting flavour and texture mix. They’re melt-in-your-mouth good!

Whipped Shortbread

Whipped Shortbread

Whipped Shortbread Cookies
1 cup butter or margarine, softened (I do recommend butter for its distinct flavour)
1 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose works very well, if you have cake flour handy this makes the cookie more fluffy!)
1/2 cup icing or confectioners sugar
diced maraschino cherries for garnish

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Combine butter, flour, and sugar in a bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat until very light and fluffy (the more air incorporated, the better…usually a good 5-10 minutes of effort needed!). Use a cookie press to place individual cookies on cookie sheets. Cookies will spread to approximately double their size while baking, so leave enough room between cookies to ensure cookies do not touch and stick together during the baking process. Place one piece of maraschino cherry onto centre of each cookie. If you get really creative, a larger red maraschino in the centre with two small narrow green pieces can look like a Christmasy poinsettia! Bake for approximately 17 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned. Remove, let cool 5 minutes on cookie sheet, then transfer to cooling racks. Don’t leave cookies to cool on the pan, they will stick!

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Saturday Upside…Mom’s Christmas Baking

Growing up with a mother who is an excellent baker, the weeks leading up to holidays were always busy and special. November was always a month full of preparations for Christmas, with a long list of “must be baked” favourite cookie recipes and the obligatory Christmas fruit cake (which was not dry like the rhetorical/proverbial ones many people speak of, it was so very yummy and glazed with sherry…mmm. Wait, that’s for another blog post! Back to cookies….)

Mom had a list of special requests that had to be baked every Christmas: whipped shortbread, scottish shortbread, chocolate ladyfingers, soft white iced cookies, date cookies with corn flakes coating, sherry-soaked fruit cake, mincemeat tarts, butter tarts, and that’s not even half of the list.

My mother Margret, on the right. I love this picture of her!

My mother Margret, on the right. I love this picture of her!

From my elementary-aged years on, I always wanted to help out with the baking. I learned her cookie recipes and I’ve made them many times since then.
This year, I tried a brand new cookie recipe. I think it’s a keeper, one that will be added to our ever-growing list of “we have to bake this for Christmas!” list. The recipe for these “Everything Cookies” is created by me, with the Chipits Chocolate Cookie recipe as a starter/inspiration and what was in my cupboards at the time as the many additions and adjustments! Please try it out and let me know what you think!

"Everything" Cookies cooling on the rack.

“Everything” Cookies cooling on the rack.

Everything Cookies
1 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup oatmeal
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 cup craisins
1 cup toffee bits
1/2 cup whole flax seeds
2/3 cup flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar together in a bowl. Add vanilla and eggs to this, whipping the mixture until fluffy. Gradually stir in flour, baking soda, salt, and oatmeal. Add remaining ingredients gradually (chocolate chips, craisins, toffee bits, flax seeds, coconut).

Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. Let cool slightly on pan, then remove to cooling racks while still warm. Do not let cookies cool on the pan or they will become hard and stick to the pan!

Recipe makes about 6 dozen cookies.


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Beautiful Bread and Butter #Pickles, or 4 Hours of My #Canning Life

bread and butter pickles

My recipe for bread and butter pickles comes from my mother. That recipe stems from a now unlocateable newspaper clipping, and years of adjusting the recipe to family’s tastebuds.  At the end of this post, I will share the recipe with you.

To me, there’s almost nothing more pretty than a perfectly canned pint of bread and butter pickles. This is another preserved item that I simply did not like at all growing up–something about all those onions–and now I just love the taste, texture, colour…everything about it. It’s a recipe that is much more time-consuming than dills, however, because of all the slicing.

Slicing can become dangerous if you’re not careful. I have a wonderful, very sharp, mandoline for slicing the cucumbers and onions. My husband is impressed with how perfectly uniform the slices are (hey, that’s what a mandoline does!).

This is approximately 4 pounds of cucumbers sliced with 3 large sweet spanish onions.

The slicing is what took up an hour of my time. It took about half an hour for me to staunch the bleeding from my thumb, which I nicked on the mandoline while loading it into the dishwasher (sigh). When discussing this injury with my mother yesterday, she proudly proclaimed that this was the first year she had not injured herself while making bread and butter pickles. Oh, the sacrifices we make while canning and preserving!

Because my dominant hand’s thumb was now bandaged and slowing me down, what would have normally taken only an hour or so more than doubled, as I packed 14 pints for processing.

Waiting for processing…mmm!

The turmeric spice is what adds the gorgeous colour to the pickles after they are processed. Lovely as well as flavourful!

I will share the recipe with you in this post–it’s a favourite of my family’s and I hope you will try it and tell me what you think!

Bread and Butter Pickles  (makes 7 pints)

4 pounds cucumbers

3 large sweet onions (Spanish or Vidalia work nicely)

1/2 cup salt (can be adjusted to less if on lower salt diet)

1 quart (1200 mL) pickling vinegar

3 cups sugar (can be adjusted to less if on low sugar diet)

2 tsp mustard seed

2 tsp celery seed (I have sometimes substituted fennel seed, adds similar flavour)

2 tsp ginger (fresh grated is best!)

1 tsp turmeric

Wash, then soak cucumbers in cold water for 4 hours (if coming straight from the garden or storage shed). Alternatively, chill cucumbers in fridge in preparation for slicing. All you really want is cold cucumbers to prevent losing too much juice while slicing.

Slice cucumbers without peeling them. Slice onions after peeling and stemming them.

Prepare jars in your water bath, or sterilize jars and keep them hot in the dishwasher. Keep lids on low simmer while waiting for processing.

Prepare brine by heating vinegar, salt, sugar, mustard seed, celery (or fennel) seed, ginger, and turmeric to dissolve salt and sugar and activate spices. Typically, canning recipes ask for spices to be in cheesecloth bag, but I mix them all in and strain them out later. Save what you strain so you can put a bit of the spices into the top of each jar you process!

Tightly pack jars with sliced cucumbers and onions. Put one teaspoon of strained spice mixture in each jar. Pour hot brine into jars, leaving approximately 1 cm head space. Use rubber spatula or wooden utensil to remove air trapped between slices, and add more brine if necessary to adjust head space. Seal jars finger tight.

Process in lidded, boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove lid, let sit for 5 minutes, then remove. If you remember my past posts about troubleshooting tips, you’ll flip those jars upside down on paper or cardboard (something where leaks are easily noticeable). Leave upside down undisturbed for 12-24 hours. If leaks develop, retighten and reseal. Reprocessing is not necessary if contents are still hot as vacuum will still form in cooling process.