The first food blog I ever read was Chocolate & Zucchini. I was searching for a recipe that would produce a chocolate and pistachio pound cake similar to my then-favorite afternoon treat from the cafe on the first floor of my office building. Although Google didn't turn up any recipes similar to the cake I craved, it did lead me to Clotilde's Pistachio Pound Cake post. Until that moment, I didn't know there was such a thing as a food blog. To be honest, I didn't know there was such a thing as a blog. I started clicking around the site. There were dozens, nay, hundreds of recipes. But what really drew me in was the writing - the recipes were preceded by wonderful vignettes about the author's family, friends, travels, life. Then I noticed the comments from other readers, and the links to some of their blogs. Before I knew it, an hour had passed while I clicked from site to site to site, exploring this new world. It was like flipping through a really great magazine, only better, because most of the bloggers weren't professional writers, chefs or restaurant critics... they were just ordinary people who loved food.
"Ordinary" is not really an appropriate adjective to describe this group, however. They are anything but. Some of these talented bloggers fill their sites with unique, creative twists on traditionally mundane dishes like parfaits or granola bars. Others share heartfelt stories of love, life, and sometimes, loss. Then, there are those who often make me laugh out loud.
Here's another thing. Since I stumbled upon (and into) this food blogging community, I have been struck time and again by the generosity and good humor of its members. Recently, a New Jersey husband-and-wife team were bemoaning the fact that they were not able to attend a food blog conference on the West coast. Rather than wallow in misery, they formed a hilarious online pity party with other food bloggers, complete with a website and an official drink. The organizers (who received no prizes or compensation for their efforts) even got "swag" for the participants - prizes big and small donated by various food bloggers and food-related companies. The swag drawing included a free pass to next year's conference, a year's worth of cheese and butter(!) and a goodie bag from Chef's Catalog. And one sweet and talented lady won a gift box of wine, cheese crackers, and homemade fig jam. I heard that prize came from someone who just wanted to give back a little to this community that has given me her so much encouragement since I she started my her own little blog. What can I say? Jam is good Karma.
Drunken Fig Jam
Adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2008
Cheese is a classic pairing with fig jam. We've found this jam is also delicious smeared on hot buttered biscuits, dolloped onto pizza with goat cheese and arugula, or spooned over vanilla ice cream. This recipe produces a very rich-tasting jam with a beautiful ruby-purple color; a little goes a long way.
Use organic whenever possible.
2 lemons - zest and juice
4 pounds ripe Black Mission Figs
4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup Cognac
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Remove stems from figs; cut figs into small (1/2 inch) pieces. You should have about 9 cups.
Combine lemon zest, lemon juice, figs, sugar, Cognac, and salt in heavy large deep saucepan. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Bring fig mixture to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium. Continue to boil until jam thickens and is reduced to about 6 cups, stirring frequently and occasionally mashing mixture with a spoon or potato masher to crush large fig pieces, 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from heat.
Ladle jam into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe rims clean and top with hot lids. Screw bands onto the jars just until finger tight. Process jars in a hot water bath (212°F / 100°C) for ten minutes. Remove jars immediately and set upright on a clean towel, or wooden surface, away from drafts. Let jars sit undisturbed for 12 hours. Check for proper seals. Label the jars and store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.
Makes 6 jars, 1/2 pint each. (I actually got 7 jars out of this recipe. My jam was a little loose, but I like it that way.)
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