Friday, October 07, 2005

Niki's Jam & Memories of Breakfast in Vermont

A few weeks back I received a tasty little package from Niki at Esurientes - The Comfort Zone: candy (yay - I finally got a taste of Violet Crumble!), crackers, the cutest little platypus pin, a bookmark featuring a picture of Wattle (Australia's national flower), and Niki's own homemade jam. It was so sweet of her to send me all these goodies, but I was especially touched that she had included a jar of her own jam. She made it last January (summer for her, the depths of winter for me!) with plums and nectarines from her grandmother's trees. This was her first time making jam and I'd say it was a huge success! When I first tasted the jam I had a very pleasant surprise - I had expected sweet and tangy, but Niki's jam is also warmly spiced. It has the most fantastic flavor, not to mention wonderful chunks of fruit... just heaven!

I thought this special jam deserved something homebaked for its debut and last weekend I finally got around to doing some baking. I made some muffins, which are rather plainly named, Make Ahead Muffins. This is a recipe that my Mom got ages ago from a friend in our old neighborhood. I was reminded of these a couple of months ago when I spent a weekend in Vermont with Bob and Chuck. They had some muffin batter in the freezer that a friend had brought the weekend before. We baked off the rest of it for breakfast Saturday morning. When I got back I asked my Mom for her recipe, which I suspect is very similar to the one Bob and Chuck's friend had used.

I just love these muffins - they're very moist and slightly sweet. They have a flavor that is hard for me to describe, but one that is apparently etched in my memory. They are great for breakfast and are also wonderful alongside some soup for dinner. They were also the perfect foil for Niki's jam since they have a subdued flavor and aren't overly sweet. So here's the recipe for the muffins, maybe Niki will share her recipe for the jam... hint, hint!

I tweaked my Mom's recipe slightly. The original calls for All-Bran cereal, but on examining the package in the store I discovered All-Bran contains not just bran, but high fructose corn syrup, among other things. I replaced the All-Bran cereal with plain old unprocessed bran and a little extra sugar. I also replaced the shortening with oil, which I figure is healthier, easier to use, and cheaper (cheaper because I have taken to buying the kind of shortening that is not hydrogenated). This makes a huge bowl of muffin batter which will keep in the refrigerator for a while or which you can freeze. The recipe claims the batter will keep in the fridge for three weeks.

Make Ahead Muffins

2 cups oatmeal (I used quick oats)
1 3/4 cups unprocessed bran
2 cups crushed shredded wheat biscuits
2 cups boiling water
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
4 cups (1 quart) buttermilk
5 cups flour
5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Combine the cereals in a large bowl and then pour the boiling water over the cereal. Set aside. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside. In a mixer with a large bowl (I think mine is 5 qt, and it was just big enough), beat the eggs slightly then add the oil and sugar and beat just to mix. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, then add the cereal mixture. Beat briefly to break up and distribute the cereal. Bake muffins at 375F for 15 to 20 minutes. Yield: 4 dozen muffins

Here's a photo of our breakfast that Saturday morning. I love the lighting in the picture - we had breakfast on the porch and you can tell it was quite early in the morning. It was the start to a really wonderful weekend... wish I was there now!


Niki said...

It is the *strangest* feeling seeing something that was sitting in your own garage fridge for months suddenly pictured on a blog over the other side of the world! I'm so pleased you are enjoying the jam; I have to say I was pretty pleased with it myself.
As for recipes...well...I kind of played it by ear. I was referring to 3 cookbooks and sort of made it up.Downside is that I'll neve be able to replicate it, but it's just ripe plums, green (ie unripe) nectarines, water and a heck of a lot of sugar boiled for a heck of a long time!!

Cathy said...

Hi Niki! I know what you mean about the photo - I've experienced that same feeling with earlier BBM packages that I've shipped.

About the jame - you mean there are no spices?? That's amazing, it just tastes incredible! Did you use unripened nectarines because that's what you had or because of the taste or pectin or something?

Nic said...

That is one big batch of muffins, Cathy. The look tasty - especially with jam. What did you use for the wheat biscuits - Wheetabix?

Cathy said...

Hi Nic! My Mom always used Post Shredded Wheat cereal (the large biscuits). I used Barbara's. Both are 100% whole wheat, so whichever you prefer to buy. I've seen Weetabix in the store but never tried them - I looked them up on the web and it just so happens they're sold in the US and Canada by Barbara's. They are apparently sweetened and have added salt, so they're a little different than shredded wheat, but I'm sure they would make a perfect substitute in this recipe.

Niki said...

Well, al the fruit came from trees in my nonna's (grandmother's) backyard garden, and when the plums were rip, the netarines hadn't quite made it. In my extensive reading I had picked up thar ripe fruits didn't do a very good job of setting, and needed to be helped with pectin, lemon juice, or some unripe fruits; hence the unripe nectarines. Because they were unripe they were a bit difficult to cut up and never disintegrated fully: hence the fruit chunks. Probably not a good idea, experimenting on one's first try, but I'm so pleased it worked!

Niki said...

errr....ripe plum, not rip (I've had these awful acrylic nails put on my fingers for my friend's wedding last week, and you can't imagine what a trial they are. It's almost impossible to type!!)

Cathy said...

Niki - I type like that all the time and I can't even blame it on acrylic nails! :)

Anonymous said...

What a lovely posting. I have copied the recipe and will give it a go. I will also come back to visit this blog more often.Good day!!

Cathy said...

Hi Valentina - thanks so much! I hope you enjoy them!