Category Archives: do-it-yourself

Raspberry freezer jam

For the past few months I’ve been having the urge to make jam, and now that summer fruits are in season I can scratch that itch. My first attempt was a batch of strawberry jam that didn’t set up right (but was nonetheless delicious stirred into Greek yogurt), but this time around, to use up a load of raspberries I got on sale, I used a different pectin and technique and think I got it down.

I’ve been making freezer jam for now because it requires very little cooking, letting the flavor of the fruit come through more, and requires less sugar, resulting in a jam that is infinitely tastier than what’s available at the grocery store (and more cost-effective, too). I’d like to eventually work my way up to water bath canning once I have the right equipment, but for now making freezer jam allows me to preserve the jam so I can enjoy it in the winter months, when produce isn’t nearly as tasty. Now that I have all this jam to eat, I’d better learn to make bread to go with it.

Raspberry freezer jam

Tweaked from the back of the package of pectin I used

  • 24 ounces fresh raspberries
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1.75-ounce package instant pectin*

Mash the raspberries with a potato masher (you want a little bit of texture to the jam, so it’s best not to puree them). Stir in the sugar and let it sit for 10 minutes; the sugar should be mostly dissolved by this point. Stir in the instant pectin. Pour the jam into a pot and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook the jam until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon–with the pectin, this should happen within a few minutes. Turn off the heat and ladle the jam into clean pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace to allow for expansion in the freezer. Seal the jars with lids and let them sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. At this point, store the jam in the refrigerator or the freezer. It will keep in the fridge for three weeks, and in the freezer for up to a year.

Yield: about 3 pint jars.

* Note that jam-making is a pretty exact science: if you don’t use the correct ratio of fruit to sugar to pectin, it’s not going to set up right. I used instant pectin for this batch because it called for less sugar than regular pectin. But whichever kind you use, make sure to follow the recipe on the box pretty exactly.

Homemade ricotta cheese, and a few ways to use it

A few weeks ago after a brunch I hosted for friends I found myself with a gallon of 2% milk left over and a few cups of spare buttermilk. That gave me the opportunity to make my own ricotta cheese, which, though it may seem intimidating, really is easier than it sounds. Armed with a recipe from the Smitten Kitchen and some makeshift cheesecloth, I made a double batch of ricotta cheese that was far tastier than anything I’ve bought at the store.

Of course, this left me with a whole lot of ricotta to use up. The recipes I’ve included below made good use of it. You can also use the ricotta in a classic Italian lasagna or in baked goods like muffins.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Michael Chiarello

  • 2 quarts whole milk (though I subbed 2% milk without any problems)
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

Line a wide sieve or colander with cheesecloth, folded so that it is at least four layers thick (I didn’t have cheesecloth, so I used two layers cut from an old, clean T-shirt; worked like a charm). Place colander in sink.

Pour milk and buttermilk into a wide, heavy-bottomed pot. Add salt and lemon juice. Cook over high heat, stirring frequently; scrape bottom of pot occasionally to prevent scorching. As milk heats, curds will begin to rise and clump on the surface. Once steam starts to rise off the mixture, stop stirring.

When mixture reaches 175 to 180 degrees, curds and whey will separate (whey will look like cloudy water underneath a mass of thick white curds). Immediately turn off the heat and gently ladle curds into the cloth-lined colander. When all curds are in the colander and dripping has slowed (about 5 minutes), gently gather edges of cloth and twist to bring curds together; do not squeeze. Let drain 15 minutes more. Discard the whey.

Untwist the cloth and pack ricotta into airtight containers. Refrigerate and use within one week.

Yield: about two cups. Can be doubled easily.

Roasted Ricotta Roma Tomatoes

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

  • 8 roma tomatoes
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, minced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2-3/4 cup panko
  • Olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Halve tomatoes lengthwise. Scoop the insides out of each tomato half and discard. Sprinkle the inside of each tomato half with a bit of kosher salt to help draw out excess moisture and set over a paper towel to drain for 10-15 minutes. Pat dry with a paper towel.

Mix ricotta cheese, herbs, and garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper. Fill each tomato half with a spoonful of the ricotta mixture. Put each tomato half face down in the panko crumbs to coat the cheese and then place face up on a baking sheet. Drizzle each tomato half with a bit of olive oil. Roast in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the panko is golden-brown on top.

Yield: about 8 appetizer servings.

No-Bake Blueberry Cheesecake Bars

Adapted from the New York Times

  • 8 whole graham crackers, crushed into crumbs
  • 3-4 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries

Combine crushed graham crackers with enough melted butter so that the mixture easily presses together between your fingers. Press evenly into bottom of a glass 8- or 9-inch square pan to form a crust about 1/4-inch thick. Refrigerate while you make the cheesecake layer.

Using a standing or hand mixer, or a whisk, combine cream cheese, ricotta, honey, lemon zest and salt, and blend until smooth.  Spread cheese mixture carefully and evenly over crust, smoothing top with a spatula. Cover with fresh blueberries and press them lightly into the cheesecake layer. Chill for at least an hour, or until set. Cut into squares or bars and serve.

Yield: 8 to 12 servings

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

Adapted from Bobby Flay

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Butter, for griddle
  • Syrup and fresh berries, for serving

Preheat a non-stick griddle. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk together the cheese, eggs, milk, and lemon zest and juice in a large bowl. Fold the flour mixture into the wet ingredients until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Brush the hot griddle with butter. For each pancake, pour approximately 1/4 cup of the batter on the griddle and cook on both sides until light golden brown. Repeat until no batter remains. Serve with syrup and fresh fruit, such as strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries.

Yield: about 4-6 pancakes