A Guide to Creating Fall Jam

Fall is such a sublime season. When we’re hiking through the mountains, the vibrant color changes give us such breathtaking beauty wherever we look. Even the air tastes different. If there were one season you could capture and bottle up for remembering and future savoring, this would be my choice.

And good news! We can.

Most people think about making jam when berries are at their richest and ripest, neglecting the more golden autumnal variety. This is a huge mistake. You’ll agree if you’ve ever tasted a bit of fig jam spooned over goat cheese or my favorite pear jam paired with … anything. Including eaten straight out of the jar with a spoon. 

Berries make a luscious jam, of course, but you don’t want to miss out on the warm flavors of autumn, too. Try pear jam with a wonderful crusty bread and goat cheese, or a touch of gorgonzola sprinkled on top, and your day takes on a hint of magic.

Homemade jam also makes a thoughtful gift. If you want to get a jump on the holidays, a jam made with wine is the perfect accompaniment to crackers and cheese, but also a nice sauce for many main dishes.

Are You Up for the Challenge?

First of all, don’t get intimidated. Canning looks difficult, but it’s actually not that hard. If you have the basic equipment and pot, you won’t struggle.

All you’re really doing is cooking the fruit, pectin, sugar and spices together in a pot, loading the mixture into jars with a funnel, wiping down the mouths of the jars, covering and then boiling the jars together so they’re safe to store on your shelves. Another bonus is that you’re doing this in the right season. Canning in the summertime is more grueling because of the heat.

To get you started, here are two exceptional jams we make in our own home.

Spiced Pear Jam

  • 8 cups chopped pears
  • 4 cups of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • splash of vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 6 half-pint ball jars

Prepare jars in a hot boiling water bath to sterilize. In a large pot or dutch oven, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until thick, typically 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. As the jam starts to thicken stir more frequently.

Remove from heat and ladle into sanitized, hot half-pint ball jars, leaving 1/4 inch at the top of the jar. Remove any air bubbles, wipe the rim of the jars clean and adjust the rims and lids. Process for 10 minutes in a water canner or submerge in a large pot of boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove carefully and let cool.

This recipe does not require pectin.

Spiced Plum Jam

  • 8 cups pitted and chopped plums
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
  • 2 (3-ounce) packets liquid pectin
  • 4 1 pint jars or 8 half-pint jars

Prepare jars in a hot boiling water bath to sterilize. Combine the plums and sugar in a large pot and stir to mix the plum juices and sugar while heating to a boil, and then add the lemon juice, zest, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Let the jam continue to cook for 15 – 20 minutes, until it looks like a thick syrup. Add the pectin and bring to a rolling boil for 5 minutes. It will be done when it is thick and shiny.

Remove the pot from the heat and ladle into the prepared jars. Wipe the rims and adjust the lids and rings then place in boiling water for 10 minutes. Make sure that the water completely covers the lids.

Either of these recipes are wonderful with toast, cheese, or poured over vanilla ice cream.

Don’t forget to try your hand at apple or pumpkin butter. Of course, fruit butters are a divine topping for toast, but they also pair beautifully with yogurt or oatmeal. Serve either meal with chopped pecans, too, and you have the makings of a memorable meal. You can also cook fruit butters in your slow cooker and your house will smell wonderful. 

If you try your hand at a lemon jam, try serving it with Cypress Creamery’s Purple Haze: a fresh goat cheese flavored with lavender and fennel pollen. The two together make a stunning combination. Add fresh blackberries to the plate for absolute perfection.

Thank you for checking in with our blog today. We’re so pleased to have a part in the creation of your gracious home. 

Enjoy the recipes!

How to Create the Perfect Tablescape For Your Next Dinner Party

Throwing a dinner party is an art form all on its own. It’s an act of creation that can fill the hearts of your guests with warmth and memories for years to come. This kind of hosting takes finesse, taste and generosity.

But it doesn’t have to be difficult. 

In fact, if you’re at ease and comfortable during the party, your guests will also be relaxed. A few simple touches create a beautiful space that you and your guests can enjoy together. This kind of artistry promotes conversation and makes your delectable meal taste even better. 

The Lighting

The time and the season should greatly influence your dinner plans. If you’re throwing your get-together during the summer, there should be an abundance of natural lighting you can use to your advantage. If you’re inside, keep the curtains open and let the light pour in to reflect off the elements on the table. Consider using shimmering glassware or perhaps deeper, colored glass like cobalt blue or lemon yellow.

Have candles nearby that you can light when the sunlight fades to create an atmosphere of intimacy.

If your party is during colder months, adjust your lighting to suit the mood your striving for. You can use lower lighting from electrical sources and light candles, or keep the chandelier cheerfully blazing. 

For Starters: Food That Decorates

When your guests begin to gather, consider having a platter with fruit and cheese available while they wait for the rest of the guests or for dinner to be served. 

Nothing creates a more lovely tablescape than dusky grapes spilling over themselves, surrounded by pears, apples and berries. Leave the cheese in wedges with small knives so guests can cut their own portions. Small plates your guests can hold while mingling with each other is a necessity!

Even if it’s nothing more than water, make sure to have drinks available for thirsty guests. 

Linens

For Boho chic and charm, mix and match our hand block print linen tablecloths and napkins. You can achieve a softer, more subdued table with colors like pewter or sparrow, or use one of our more neutral tablecloths to mix with any of our napkins in more vivid colors.

A festive, vibrant look is easily achieved with a “Here Comes the Sun” tablecloth in cardinal red or tanager yellow. Match with napkins in a complementary color

Decorative Touches

Heaps of blossoms or an interesting arrangement of greenery is a lovely focal point. Think less centerpiece and more of a natural touch to bring out the beauty of your table. If you’re using the fruit platter as the decor idea, you can leave that front and center with a few blossoms tucked here and there for contrast. 

However, if the appetizer proved popular and was decimated by your hungry guests, remove the platter.

A runner of flowers or greenery that curves down the center of the table is a lovely style. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to achieve this look. You can also use accents from the seasons like pine, mini pumpkins, or small eucalyptus branches interwoven with simple white blooms. 

The benefit of a runner is you can easily place food around the decoration, or arrange the runners around serving dishes, and no one’s view is blocked from anyone they want to talk to—which is a common problem with tall centerpieces.

The Art of the Dinner Party

As life gets busier and we tend to be more isolated from each other, throwing a dinner party is an act of love. In addition to your beautiful tablescape, have some soft music playing that doesn’t interfere with the conversation but does promote a mood of friendship and serenity. 

Consider choosing a menu that can be made in advance as much as possible. This way you can mingle with your guests and make them feel welcome and relaxed. 

Be sure to find out any food allergies your guests may have or any expectations. They may think you know they’re vegan. They may be wrong.

Nothing spoils a dinner faster than not being able to serve one or more guests, so be prepared. If people can’t eat, the tablescape won’t make up the difference, no matter how elegant or charming. 

Best wishes for a fabulous party!

5 Fall Dinner Recipes Your Guests Will Love

Autumn may be the loveliest time to host a cozy supper. The fiery heat of summer is fading and the air is gentler and the light is golden. 

Outdoor entertaining is still an option and has the advantage of flickering candlelight as the sun sets sooner. As the air cools, insects make themselves scarce and we can enjoy each other’s company without suffering the presence of theirs.

It’s perfect.

It’s also a wonderful time to hit the Farmers Markets and snag some seasonal gems. You’ll get the freshest, brightest vegetables and also be supporting your local farmers. Here are several of my favorite recipes that you’ll love.

Pesto

Pesto gives a powerhouse boost of flavor to your recipes, whether you’re adding a dollop or featuring it as the main ingredient. Take a regular soup and add some pesto and you have a dish that everyone in the family will be begging for seconds!

It’s also a fairly simple process to make your own pesto at home.

Easy Homemade Basil Pesto and Pasta

This pesto is rich in flavor and super easy to make, especially during late summer / early fall when you have loads of fresh basil in your garden. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) pine nuts
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 Put all of the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend till smooth but still a little chunky.  

Prepare 1 box of your favorite pasta – I prefer fusilli because it holds the pesto in the curls to give you a sensational flavor with each bite. 

Toss the warm pasta with all of the pesto.  Add more olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.

Garnish with a cluster of basil leaves tucked in at the edge of the pasta, and a few sliced grape tomatoes for a pop of color, if you’d like.

 *The pesto can last in an airtight container for a week but I prefer to use it all at once so it’s super fresh. 

Minestrone Soup

This is a basic minestrone recipe, but you can use any vegetables you have on hand. Feel free to substitute chicken broth for vegetable, if you’d prefer. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup diced leeks, white part only
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 cup diced zucchini
  • 8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Pink salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup cooked elbow macaroni
  • 1 spoonful of basil pesto per bowl, depending on taste
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add onions and stir until softened. Add the garlic, and stir for a minute. Add the rest of the vegetables through the carrot, and stir occasionally until all are softened about five minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients through the seasonings. Cook, partially covered, until all the vegetables are soft, about twenty minutes.

Add pasta, beans, and peas and cook for a few minutes longer.

Ladle the soup into bowls and swirl in the basil pesto, only going in one direction. Don’t stir it completely into the soup so a green thread of pesto shows.

Top with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and basil, for a gorgeous presentation.

Roasted Vegetables 

Remember what we said about the farmers market? Roasting brings out a vegetable’s sweetness and flavor. 

You’ll want to choose vegetables that will cook together and finish in about the same amount of time. Root vegetables work particularly well together, but really, you can make almost any vegetable work. 

Simple Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs vegetables like squash, parsnips, carrots,
  • 2 medium red, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Pink salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup thyme leaves, stripped from their stems for garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel and cut the vegetables into equal-sized pieces, about 1-in chunks. Toss the vegetables and thyme in olive oil in a large bowl and season generously with salt and pepper.

Spread the pieces out in a single layer on sheets or shallow baking pans so that the vegetables don’t touch. Roast until the veggies are browned and just tender, about 45 minutes or so. The time will depend on your vegetable choice.

Toss veggies with additional olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with thyme for a lovely presentation.

Roasted Vegetables in Phyllo

Speaking of a beautiful presentation, you can chop up those cooled, roasted vegetables and serve them in phyllo dough cups. You’ll find phyllo dough in the frozen section of your market.

Ingredients:

  • Vegetables from the previous recipe, chopped small
  • Several sheets of phyllo dough, thawed
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheese such as Swiss, Havarti, or Gruyere 
  • Olive oil for brushing

Stack 5-7 sheets of phyllo, depending on how thick you want the vegetable tarts. Any other sheets you’re using, keep under a damp cloth.

Brush each sheet carefully with the olive oil. Take each little stack and push them into an oiled muffin tin slot. Add 1/4 cup of vegetables and sprinkle with cheese. Fold over the phyllo dough towards the middle. The vegetables will be mostly covered.

Repeat the process so you have 12 vegetable tartlets. Bake at 350 degrees until the phyllo dough is browned, about thirty minutes.

If you’re using a tart cheese like feta or goat cheese, don’t use thyme when you roast the vegetables, Instead, mince a handful of fresh dill and fold into the vegetable mixture with the cheese before you scoop it into the phyllo cups.

Serve warm.

Chicken

A few touches can make a simple chicken dish into an extraordinary feast. Here, dates and green olives make this delicious main dish memorable.

Rustic Farmhouse Chicken

This recipe was inspired by The Silver Palate’s Chicken Marbella, which I first came across in 1991! It’s been a favorite over the years and I have adapted it to make it my own for ease of prep and ingredients. This is great for a crowd and the prep the night before makes it stress-free. 

Ingredients:

  • 8 – 10 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed (I use a garlic press)
  • 1/4 cup dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped fresh Medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
  • 1/2  cup capers with a bit of juice
  • 6 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

 

In a large bowl combine chicken thighs, garlic, oregano, vinegar, olive oil, chopped dates, olives, capers and juice, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Cover and let marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place chicken in a single layer in a 9×13 pan and spoon all the ingredients from the marinade over top, distributed equally. Sprinkle brown sugar over the chicken pieces and then pour the white wine over top and around the chicken.

Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, basting frequently with the juices from the pan. The chicken is done when a clear yellow, instead of pink, juice flows from the chicken when pricked. Transfer the chicken, olives, capers, and dates to a platter and moisten with some of the pan juices. Sprinkle parsley on top and serve the remaining sauce from the pan in a gravy boat.

This recipe can be served warm or at room temperature.

Serves 4-6 people

The pesto pasta also goes well with the chicken. Serve with a salad and loaf of crusty bread, which can soak up the juices from the rustic chicken.

We hope you enjoy these recipes and the company you keep. Put on some pleasant music, light the candles and create some lovely memories around the table with the people you love.

Bon appetit!