When I was nine, my mom took me to a holiday fair at the church by my grandmother's house. It had all your basic carnival stuff — games and crafty bits and doilies for sale. What I remember, though, is sitting down at a table where some guy was walking a bunch of kids through the steps to make an origami crane. I was no newcomer to paper-folding, but I was impatient. And being antsy and getting ahead of myself, I probably fouled up a couple of crucial steps. And I probably ended up with something other than the crisp, lily-white masterpiece that could be hung from a tree. And I definitely remember being scolded by the guy, and how he reported back to my mother at the end of my time there that I was very bad at following directions. Evidently, all it takes to steamroll the patience of some well-meaning churchy type is a kid who can't fold on cue.
I'm still quite bitter.
But he was kind of right. Oh sure, I can read directions and understand them and even see the validity in them. I'd just like to think that I can simply intuit the proper course of action. I get ahead of myself and I just want to do what feels right. Alas, my instincts, like my sense of direction, often prove faulty, and before I know it I'm written off as that kid who can't get her act together enough to fold a freakin' bird.
And so here we come to bread in a jar. I've always wanted to try this. I mean, come on. It's the marriage of the two great loves of my life — sweets and containers. I HAD to try this. But when the recipe warned explicitly NOT to fill the jars more than stated, I looked at the amount of batter remaining and I snorted. How much could it rise? The answer, of course, is high enough to prevent closure of the jars. So, lesson learned. But what a mighty delicious lesson it was.
In past years, after the liqueur making, I drained the cranberries from the liquid and toss it out with the yard waste. This year, continuing the trend of reducing and reusing, I decided to put it to good use. That's damn good fruit there, all candy-sweet from its time spent in sugar and alcohol, nature's preservative. And, my, are they perfect in these breads. We're dutifully working our way through that first directionally-challenged, but still rather palatable, batch, and have found that a half-pint worth of sticky-sweet cranberry bread is quite suitable for any snacking environment. In the meantime, I whipped up another batch with the last of the cranberries and, filling the jars just so, achieved the little ping of the canning lids, indicating that the breads were properly sealed away, and that my latent direction-following skills haven't atrophied.
The other fruity by-product of the liqueurs this year was the dried apricot mash that I'd, for a few months, been salivating over, figuring out some good application for it. When we finally strained that liqueur and got our first taste of the macerated apricots, we decided two things: (1) it was too good not to share, and (2) there was nothing we could do with it that would showcase its awesomeness other than just putting it in a jar and sending it out. So that's what we did. I attached little spoons (they'd been gifted to me a year ago and had been sitting untested in a drawer ever since) to the jars. Because a cute little jar just begs for a cute little spoon.
I'd love to bake some of this up in a round of brie. Or serve it cold on a water cracker with prosciutto. Or spoon it directly into my mouth from the jar. Or spread it on a bagel with some salami and Muenster. Now, that's a good way to start the day.