Warm fluffy biscuits and homemade jam makes even the most average morning extraordinary. This is the time that ripe strawberries are plump in the fields and ready to be picked. When your basket overflows with the quintessential berry of spring, eat some now and can any extras for later.
Even if you’re a beginner cook, these biscuits are in your future. Angel biscuits are sometimes called “bride’s biscuits” because they are virtually foolproof. And there’s no need to make them all at once. The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for several days, so the biscuits can be baked in small batches. Even better for an impromptu biscuit and jam craving!
Angel Biscuits: Makes: 32 biscuits
1. Combine yeast, warm water, and 1 tsp. sugar in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes or until foamy.
2. Whisk together flour and remaining 5 Tbsp. sugar in a large bowl; cut in shortening and cubed butter with a pastry blender or fork until crumbly. Stir in yeast mixture and buttermilk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead 5 times. Place dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill 8 hours or up to 5 days.
3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough 8 times. Roll to 1⁄2-inch thickness. Cut with a 2 1/4-inch round cutter. Re-roll and cut dough scraps once (discard any remaining scraps). Arrange biscuits, with sides touching, on an ungreased baking sheet.
4. Cover baking sheet loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
5. Preheat oven to 400°. Bake 16 to 18 minutes or until golden. Serve warm
with softened butter, if desired.
Strawberry-Basil Jam: Makes: 5 (8-oz.) jars
1. Sterilize jars, and prepare lids as described below.
2. While jars are boiling, wash and hull strawberries. Crush berries in a 6-qt. stainless-steel or enameled Dutch oven or other large, heavy, nonreactive saucepan using a potato masher. Add sugar and next 2 ingredients. Bring to
a rolling boil over high heat. Boil, stirring frequently, 10 minutes.
3. Sprinkle pectin over strawberry mixture, and stir well. Return to a rolling boil. Boil 1 minute; remove from heat. Skim foam from surface with a metal spoon; discard. Remove and discard basil sprigs.
4. Fill and process jars as described below. Store properly sealed jars in a cool, dark place. Let stand at least 1 week for the best flavor and texture.
To prepare for canning:
1. Use glass jars and two-piece lids specifically designed for home canning. Jars and lid rings can be reused, but you must always use new metal lids, which can be purchased separately.
2. Be sure that the jars, rings, and lids are clean, and that the jars are undamaged and the rims are free of chips or scratches.
3. Keep the lid rings handy, along with a wide-mouth funnel; a ladle for filling the jars; a thin, plastic utensil for removing air bubbles; a jar lifter; and a clean paper towel. Put a clean, folded towel on the counter near the canning pot, and a second folded towel on the counter in a nearby spot where the processed jars can be set to cool undisturbed.
To sterilize jars and prepare lids:
1. Put clean jars on a rack in a large pot, and cover with water. (You can use a specially designed canning pot or any large stockpot, as long as it has a rack to hold the jars off the bottom of the pot. It should also be deep enough to hold the jars and water to cover by 1 to 2 inches without overflowing when boiling.) Cover the pot, and bring to a full rolling boil.
2. To sterilize the jars, boil 10 minutes then reduce the heat, and maintain at a brisk simmer until jars are ready to be filled.
3. Put the metal lids in a heatproof bowl, making sure they are not stacked tightly together.
4. Just before filling the jars, ladle enough simmering water from the canning pot over the lids to cover them completely, and keep them hot until ready to seal.*
To fill and process jars of jam:
1. Using the jar lifter, remove the jars from the simmering water, and carefully pour all of the water inside them back into the pot. Place the jars upright on the folded towel you set near the pot. Put the funnel in a hot jar, and ladle in the preserves, jam, or jelly, keeping the ladle low and close to the opening of the funnel to prevent excess bubbles from forming inside the jars. Leave 1⁄4-inch headspace at top of each jar. Quickly repeat with the remaining jars.
2. Remove any air bubbles inside the jars by sliding a thin plastic utensil between the glass and the food, allowing trapped air to escape. Dip the paper towel in hot water, and use it to wipe the jar rims clean. Drain the water from the metal lids back into the canning pot.
3. Quickly place the lids, white sides down, over each jar, and then screw on the lid rings just until finger-tight—do not over tighten.
4. Use the jar lifter to return the filled jars to the simmering water in the pot, being careful not to tilt the jars and making sure that they are covered with water by 1 to 2 inches. Cover, increase the heat, and return the water to a full rolling boil. Boil 5 minutes.**
5. Turn off the heat, uncover the pot and let stand until the boiling has subsided, about5 minutes. Using the jar lifter, remove the jars from the pot (being sure to keep them upright) and carefully transfer to the second folded towel. Let cool undisturbed, for 12 to 24 hours.
6. Check to make sure each fully cooled jar is sealed. If the center of the metal lid cannot be pushed down with your finger, it is sealed. If it depresses and pops up again, the jar is not sealed. It should be refrigerated immediately and its contents used within a few days. Store properly sealed jars in a cool, dry, dark place. They will keep for at least 6 months and up to 1 year.
*Always check manufacturer’s instructions for preparing lids; procedures may vary slightly by brand.
**Sterilizing and processing times must be adjusted when canning at high altitudes. If you are at 1,001 to 6,000 feet above sea level, add 5 minutes boiling time. If you are at altitudes of 6,001 feet or higher, add 10 minutes boiling time.
For more information about Rebecca Lang, visit www.rebeccalangcooks.com
Photo credit: Jennifer Davick