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How to Make Jam: Jamming with the Cast Iron Stomach

4 Sep

Today’s guest post is courtesy of my friend Brad. Brad is my oldest friend in life — which is saying a lot for a girl who attended 4 elementary schools, 4 junior high schools and 2 high schools. I have known him since I was 14 years old, where we met under our desks during a disaster drill (remember those?) in Mr. Seifert’s class.

The way they were . . .Brad and Karen in 1988 from our high school yearbook (Aren’t they adorable?!)

Brad and his BFF Karen (who also attended our old alma mater) are just kicking things off at their new foodie blog Cast Iron Stomach. (Check out his post on The Bad Egg— great primer on how to tell fresh eggs.)

Just one of the many glorious tables at Brad’s famous wine and cheese party

Anyway, I LOVE Brad (and by proxy Karen, too!) The man has always had a great sense of style (Generra and Swatch in the 80’s anyone?), an awesome sense of humor (he once bought me a can of Pringles for my birthday because I loved them so much!) and a flair for the written word (you should see the poems we co-authored in journalism class!)

When the “oh so very rad,” Brad (Yes, I am a product of California circa the 80’s, lol) told me that he and Karen were starting a new food blog and I found out that he’d recently spent a day making homemade jam, I begged for a guest post to share with you all.

So, without any further adieu, I give you my dear friend Brad and his out of this world jam (one jar of each flavor, I hope is on its way to my house right now. Hint, Hint, Brad!)

In the interest of fairness — me in 1989 (I’m in the black and white skorts.)

The Way of the Jam

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve always been surrounded by fresh produce. Every year my parents would plant a summer garden consisting of everything from zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes to green beans, corn and peppers. There was always an abundance of produce when growing up.

When my parents were not growing produce in the back yard of our house in San Lorenzo, the family would often make trips to Brentwood for U-Pick produce: Tomatoes and peaches were always on the list, but we always came home with a trunk full of different fruits and vegetables.

Since we couldn’t possibly eat all this produce before it went bad, my mother would turn to what every mother at that time and before hers turned to; home canning. When she made homemade jam, my brother, sister and I could hardly wait for it to cool. We just wanted to dig in.

Twenty-something years later, I decided to give canning a try of my own. About 10 years ago, I started canning tomatoes and peaches (separately of course) with my mom in my tiny apartment kitchen in Alameda, producing excellent results.

The tomatoes I canned were great in soups and stews as well as tomato sauces for pasta and chili. The peaches were fantastic in peach cobblers or straight from a bowl. Yummy.
A few years have passed since I’ve pulled out the canning equipment, but this past Spring I decided to haul it out and start making jam.

Jam Research & Equipment

I did a good amount of research, turning to my mom for advice as well as talking to others about the process. I had almost all the equipment I needed, but one thing I ultimately desired was a French, unlined copper confiture pan, which I quickly went out and purchased at my local Williams-Sonoma. Note: You do not need a copper pot. A stainless pot, or any non-reactive pot, will work just fine.

Over the next several months, I made several batches of jam: Apricot, Strawberry, Fig and Blackberry. Each batch turned out wonderful. (I credit the copper pan for that.) My favorite, however, has to be Apricot.

Apricot Jam — YUM!

As summer 2012 winds to an end, summer’s produce will soon be replaced by autumn’s fresh citrus. My father’s favorite marmalade will be my next canning journey. I hope I’ve inspired you to make some jam for yourself. Jam making is a comforting and enjoyable process — definitely worth the extra effort.


Brad Michaelis

Cast Iron Stomach

Brad’s Tips for Beginning Jammers

  • Be organized.  It’s best to lay out all your ingredients and equipment before you start making jam.
  • Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. Be sure to sanitize ALL your equipment before you start especially the jars, lids and bands.
  • Keep jars hot in the dishwasher or in a pot of boiling water until ready to use.
  • Buy the best, freshest produce possible.
  • Follow your preferred canning instructions precisely. (I use the water bath method outlined in the Ball Blue Book)
  • Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.

How to Make Apricot Jam

Adapted from The Blue Chairs Jam Cookbook by Rachel Saunders

  • 6 pounds Patterson apricots, pitted and halved
  • 2 1/2 pounds cane sugar
  • 2 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice
 (Makes two batches)

Slice the apricots in half and remove the pits.
Divide the apricots and sugar in two separate bowls.
Mix well.
Cover and let macerate in the fridge for at least 12 hours or overnight.
The next day, remove the apricots from the fridge.
Uncover and pour one bowl of apricots into the jam pot.
Reserve the second bowl for your next batch.
Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat stirring frequently.
After the apricots have boiled for three or four minutes, begin skimming off any foam that forms on the top of the mixture.
Decrease heat and continue to cook for about 30 minutes or until thickened.
When the jam seems ready, test it for doneness. (Refer to the Ball Canning cookbook for specifics.)
If not set, cook the jam for another couple of minutes.
If the jam is set, pour into sterilized canning jars and process as recommended by the manufacturer’s instructions.
Cool and enjoy.


Live Food Blogging at the IFBC Portland

24 Aug

This weekend I attended the International Food Bloggers Conference held this year, right here in Portland. It was three days of work (I volunteered), networking, and learning.

This post is from a crazy attempt at “live food blogging” during a speed tasting event we did on day 1. By the end, I was too hopped up on sugar and coffee to make any sense of anything. Though there were 21 vendors present, each table only made it through about 10 vendors each in the time allotted.

Here is my valiant attempt to blog live, as I tasted and conferred (with the lovely Janelle over at Talk of Tomatoes), listened and was brochured, typed and procured (goodies for my temporarily absent table mate, the irascible, Vicki Winters over @mybigmouth on Twitter, who was checking into the hotel downstairs.) In the end, I got a little too loud and silly (after 2 extremely small cups of coffee and about 5 pieces of chocolate — I am such a lightweight!) with the wonderful ladies at Table 22!! Cheers to Janelle, Miss Vicki, Megan, Jacqueln and the gorgeous gals of Maxwell PR — had a blast with you all.



First up: Oregon Blackberry-Ginger Dressing over Salmon and Summer Vegetable Salad

Served: by the Chef from Adalu Stew (uses food as the foundation for cancer care to optimize health) on a small bamboo app spoon

IMPRESSION:Delish, fresh, light, clean and with a clear asian influence


Second: Silverspot IPA (Pelican Pub and Brewery)

IMPRESSION: This beer is 6%ABV English style IPA, not hoppy, the IBU is 55 (not gluten-free)

BONUS: Portion of the proceeds goes to collaborative habitat restoration for the threatened species of Oregon silverspot butterfly


3rd: Nicky USA Purveyors of specialty game and high quality meat (local PacNW)

Dish: Tartar Water Buffalo on a cracker, Jacobson’s sea salt, lemon, capers

IMPRESSION: So delicious, fresh and savory, yet light with the lemon


FOURTH: Rockfish Bakery Cafe, Lincoln City, Oregon

DISH: Sourdough Bread

IMPRESSION: I didn’t taste it (not gluten-free) but tablemates say it’s very good bread, great chew, good crackle,and a mild sour flavor. “It’s worth the carbs to eat bread this good!”

Cool Stuff: Naturally risen bread, takes 2 days to make, simple ingredient recipes


5th: Wild Caught Oregon Albacore (, Lincoln, City, Oregon)

DISH: Classic Tuna Salad sandwich

IMPRESSION:Yum! Looking at the fresh canned/jarred tuna and finding out how to get from my local Oregon fisherman (will fill you all in later on a future blog!)


6th: Jacobsen Sea Salt

DISH: small bites, sourdough bread with butter, honey and sea salt

IMPRESSION:Lovely seas salt, knowledgeable purveyor

7th: Happyrock Coffee Roastery

DISH: Coffee (just a taste in a dixie type cup)

IMPRESSION: nicely roasted flavor, not too acrid and it packed a caffeinated whollop!


8th: Coastal Mist Chocolates

Dish: Box of chocolates for the table to share! Yay!

IMPRESSION: Gorgeous looking chocolates, not sure if they’re fair trade or not. Some flavors were really interesting like the yuzku, others (like the marshmallow filled) left something to be desired. All were beautiful looking though and it was awesome of them to give each table a box.

9th: Temptress Truffles

Dish: sliced apple with truffle salted caramel sauce

IMPRESSION: Divine — this was the BIGGEST hit at our table. Not only was her truffle sauce out of this world BUT she was just too sweet and adorable to not fall in love with her! You MUST support this micro-business — she’s the real deal!

10th & Final: Fishes Sushi and Japanese Cuisine

Dish: 1 slice of a crab roll with Oregon wasabi

IMPRESSION: Yum! But I needed more and some saki. 🙂




Bonus: Blackberries are high in antioxidants and fiber


Moist and Fluffy Blueberry Muffins — Gluten-Free

25 May

Warm, freshly baked blueberry muffins with sweet cream butter

Sometimes the weekend comes (especially Sunday mornings!) and you just want a little something special. Something sweet and baked and satisfying — something that makes you feel like a kid again. Blueberry muffins can do that for me — well, GOOD blueberry muffins can. Continue reading

Whole Foods Recipe Day: The Best Gluten-Free Pizza Crust EVER!

19 May

Psssst. . .come here. You want in on a secret? You want the recipe for the BEST tasting gluten-free pizza crust that will EVER pass your lips? Ok — well, listen — this crust is NOT really a secret. In fact, it’s been posted on countless sites BUT not with this method — I do one thing different from everybody else but this one thing, makes ALL the difference. So if you’ve tried a crust like this before and had it FAIL because it ended up soggy or you had to eat it with a fork, stay tuned for the recipe and the one simple change that makes all the difference. Continue reading

Dark Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes: Once you Go Black, You Never Go Back

18 May

Black Onyx Chocolate Lava Cakes

There is nothing quite like the dark. In the dark you can hide all manner of sins and indiscretions. The dark is where our deepest yearnings live, those much too black to bring out into the light of day. Those things so unspeakably pleasurable that we never dare let the words loose from our lips — even in a whisper. The secret life of the dark, can be exhilarating, damning, or take us down a path that’s inescapable.

This is true of cocoa too. Continue reading

Hazelnut Maple-Berry Cobbler (*Gluten-free)

19 Mar

Coombs Family Farms Maple Syrup sent me and the rest of the Virtual Potluck folks a sample of their wares. We got the choice of maple sugar or maple syrup. Since I have a household that adores real maple syrup — we chose the syrup. Continue reading

Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Dog Muffins (*Gluten-Free)

4 Mar

What? Wait? Did I say, “corn dog muffins?” OK, I did — but did I really say, “Gluten-Free?” (Yes!)

“No way,” you say, “there’s all kinds of fillers in hot dogs and usually that means wheat.”

Not when you use hot dogs that are filler and preservative-free (no nitrates or nitrites and no MSG — YAY!) and the great thing is these corn dog muffins taste every bit as decadent as their recipe title sounds (sans the gluten-free moniker.) I made them as something a little different for lunch one day and with a hubby and a young son in the house, for whom hot dogs are always a welcome sight, it felt like a no-brainer. Continue reading

Gluten-Free Lemon Chia Seed Teacakes

25 Feb

The REAL Chia plant (not its imposter Salvia carduacea)

I love a good lemon poppy seed cake. Not all the time and not all lemon poppy seed cakes, but when I find a good one– I’ll certainly dig in. So when I was trying to think up a recipe for Bob’s Red Mill’s Chia Seeds (which remind me of poppy seeds when they’re in food, at least in looks, if not flavor) my favorite poppy seed dish sprung to mind. To make the challenge all the more difficult, I have been abstaining from gluten recently (and seeing great results energetically and in terms of digestion) so I needed to come up with a recipe that would be gluten-free, delicious and taste similar to a lemon poppy seed cake but with the added health benefits of Chia seeds. Continue reading