Throughout my entire childhood, my lunch menu featured one item, and one item only: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The ingredients evolved as I grew, from the most basic white bread, creamy pb, and grape jelly of my early days to wheat bread, crunchy pb, and strawberry preserves of my adolescence. I’ve probably prepared thousands of this classic over the years, always finishing with a generous smearing of sticky, sweet fruit spread, but I don’t ever remember considering the possibility of a homemade version. The notion that this condiment could be fashioned from fresh fruit and sugar never crossed my mind, but now I can happily say I’ve seen the light! With my first batch of preserves and subsequent canning completed, I’m eager to tackle all sorts of luscious jams and jellies while the bountiful summer produce is at its peak. Without a push from Margot of Effort to Deliciousness, I may never have attempted the Strawberry-Ruby Grapefruit Preserves in The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. Thankfully, her daring SMS selection left me with four jars in my pantry, just calling out to be utilized creatively- and first up, a new recipe for jam thumbprints!
I must admit, I was hesitant at first to undertake this project, but help from a friend gave me a sense of direction and ultimately put my mind at ease. Steph, of the always fabulous blog, A Whisk and A Spoon, was kind enough to point out an article in this month’s Cuisine At Home Magazine, that is chock-full of valuable at-home jam making and canning information. Armed with a number of essential tips plus the tools and glass mason jars I picked up at Walmart, I set up my pots, supplies, and ingredients with confidence and anticipation. By slicing, juicing, stirring, and boiling, the simple list of ingredients- strawberries, apples, grapefruit juice and zest, and sugar- transformed into a deep, dark, thick, gooey mixture that permeated my kitchen with a bright and tangy aroma. After filling the prepared jars, I “processed” them (or placed them in a water-bath at a rolling boil) in my biggest stockpot lined with a make-shift rack of an open metal steamer basket. I had to wait overnight to see if my efforts paid off, and thankfully, my jars passed the lid-popping test signifying that my first canning adventure was a success.
With a bit of extra jam left over in the fridge, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to test-drive a cookie recipe I’ve had my eye on. In a few months, I’ll be baking for my cousin Chrissy’s wedding shower, and jam thumbprints were requested to accompany afternoon tea. After some searching, I discovered many positive reviews of Ina Garten’s recipe, so I was excited to see if it was truly a winner. Fortunately, my search ends here- delicate, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread coated in lightly toasted coconut, and balanced by a bejeweled center of fruity topping- the ultimate thumbprint. If you’re a thumbprint fan, and hey, who’s not?, most definitely give this variation a try. I give it two big thumbprints up! I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist. And bonus- it’s the perfect vehicle to show off your mouth-watering homemade preserves. That is, if you have any left over after you devour the most sophisticated PB&J ever made!
Thank you, Margot, for going out on a limb, and turning us bakers into jam-makers! Head on over to Effort for Deliciousness, where you’ll find the delectable preserves recipe, and check out what everyone else did with their jam by exploring the SMS blogroll.