I bet there are others out there who, like me, end the holiday season with a list of baking projects they never got to. I’ve wanted to make savoury thumbprint cookies forever, so once the spruce needles were swept up, the decorations put back in their boxes and the cookie tins fully emptied, I decided to give them a try.
These cookies are not the usual dessert-y type thing, but are meant instead to open up the meal—an appetizer in one bite, sharp cheese contrasted with sweet-tart jselly or jam. You’ll find lots of recipes online for fig, or tomato jam, or red pepper jelly. They’re all totally worth trying. Here though, I’ve gone with high bush cranberry jam—another project I never got to over the holidays and one that’s been on my mind since the fall. I went high bush picking with a friend and she gave me all her berries (so generous) and I’ve wanted to repay her with some jam or jelly ever since.
I don’t like using pectin if I can avoid it, but high bush jelly takes forever to boil down to the gelling stage and you lose so much volume in the process. My friend and colleague Lyn Fabio gave me the solution: make high bush jam, not jelly. Press the spent berries through a sieve (there’s still lots of juice in them) or a food mill, leaving the seeds behind, and combine them with the juice, sugar and lemon juice. You’ll get way more volume and a beautiful texture.
8 cups high bush cranberries
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
Juice of one lemon
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
- Put cranberries in a medium-sized pot and add one sprig of rosemary and enough cold water to just float the berries. Cover pot, bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer until the berries have collapsed and lost most of their colour.
- Strain juice into a clean pot. Press berries through a sieve into the pot, or use a food mill if you have one. You should have about 5 cups of combined juice and berry pulp.
- Stir in lemon juice, sugar, salt and remaining sprig of rosemary. Bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the jam reaches the gelling stage, anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes. Skim occasionally to remove the scum that forms along the side of the pot.
- Test by dipping a spoon into the jam, letting it cool for a moment, and tipping the spoon so the jam slides back into the pot. When the last bit of jam slides off the spoon in a sheet rather than in drops, it is ready.
- Remove the sprig of rosemary and pour jam into sterilised jars with two-part lids. Screw the lids onto each jar until finger tight. Immerse in a boiling water bath for 12 minutes.
- Remove jars from water and cool on a rack. When the lids pop you’ll know they have sealed. Put any jars that don’t seal in the fridge and eat that jam first. Makes 3 to 4 jars of 250 ml.
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds, pecans or walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups grated old cheddar
1 egg yolk
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp cayenne
- Preheat oven to 350 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Place toasted seeds or nuts in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped with a few bigger pieces remaining. Transfer to a dinner plate and reserve.
- Combine butter and cheeses in the food processor and buzz until smooth. Add the egg yolk, flour and cayenne and pulse until a soft dough has formed. Transfer the dough to a bowl or plate.
- Form 1-inch balls of dough (about 1 tbsp) by rolling them between your hands.
- Pour 1 cup cold water into a small bowl. Dip each ball of dough into the water and then roll in the chopped seeds or nuts. Place on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets spaced about 2 inches apart. Make a well in each cookie with your thumb or the back of a teaspoon. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
- Bake for 8 minutes and remove from oven. If necessary, re-make the well in the cookies with the back of a spoon. Bake for another 7 to 8 minutes, until firm and golden.
- Cool to room temperature and fill each well with a spoonful of high bush cranberry and rosemary jam. Makes 24 appetizers.