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School has been out for two weeks now, the sun is blazing, and the canning pot has reasserted its dominance on my stove top.  Hello summer!  Canning is usually a solitary sport for me, squeezed in the early hours of the morning or late at night when the kids have finally succumbed to sleep.  While the bubbling caldron of jam is still a bit much for my youngsters, they are quite capable of helping me to process the fruit.  My son found the cherry pitter to be quite a lot of fun and was thrilled when I handed him the knife to cut the cherries.  Who needs summer camp when you can enlist your kids in practical life skills at home?  (Of course, give me a few weeks and I may be screaming for them to go to any sort of camp that will take them!)

Cherry Rhubarb Jam is a delightful balance of sweet and tart with a rich background note of vanilla.  The color is absolutely divine.   This is my second attempt at this type of jam and it is an absolute hit.  There is a relatively small amount of sugar added.  Cherries are so naturally sweet that it is very easy to over-sweeten them. The fruit macerates for an extended time before cooking.  This reduces the overall cooking time, since the fruit has already given up its juice.  Shorter cooking times mean fresher tasting jam and more vibrant colors.  This jam is sure to a new June tradition in our house. Absolutely delicious!

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Our ice cream maker does not get much attention in the winter.  It sits lonely in the pantry, waiting to be remembered.  It is not that ice cream is not just as good in the wintertime, but I seem to be busy making other desserts and rarely break it out.  So the other day when our first hot days  coincided with my son’s case of strep throat, I knew it was time to make some ice cream.

The process of making homemade ice cream is simple.  Cream, milk, sugar and eggs cook into a custard.  The custard cools and then is poured into the ice cream maker to freeze.  The difficult part is making an ice cream that does not have an icy taste.  For a long time my go-to recipe was from Christopher Kimball’s The Dessert Bible.  It is a great recipe and as usual his descriptions of the process and what can go wrong are extremely helpful.  After reading a glowing review on food52 though, I decided to try a new recipe this time.  I was not disappointed.

This Vanilla Ice Cream is rich and smooth with beautiful bits of vanilla seeds flecked throughout.  It did not have the iciness that plagues so many homemade ice creams.  Do not be tempted to reduce the fat here.  Yes, this is a rich treat, but really you only need a small scoop.  Enjoy yourself in moderation.  If you really can not find a vanilla bean, you can use 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, but it will not be as good.  If you are new to vanilla beans and have questions about how to scrape the seeds, check out Marissa’s great video on Food in Jars.

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