Favors: Cranberry Jam

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

-A bit of thanks for everyone.-

"So what kind of ceremony were you planning to have?" asked Kate, my and Fiance's friend and wedding planner. A tall brunette with librarian's glasses and a designer's wardrobe poignantly market with Kate Spade (natch) I watched her mentally tick off various aspects of the big day as she took stock of what then, depending on our answers, needed to be done.

"Um, just a short one I think?" Kate gave me a rather concerned glare. I looked to Fiance who had conveniently turned away and proceeded to examine the rather impressive and near-to-scale and intimidating recreation of Stonehenge that our host, John, had built a few years back on a gardening whim so as to appear unaware of the question. I turned back to Kate, "Like, ten minutes long. Or so?"

"Yes, but what kind? Like a sand ceremony or what?" she queried harder, hoping her example would spark some kind of flame in my nuptial noggin. Sadly, her flint was weak. Or, more likely, I lack the tinder.

-Or a bit of both...-

"Kate, I have no idea what the words you are saying mean."

"Okay, how about a chocolate and wine ceremony?" The C-Word got Fiance's attention but he didn't know the question. We met her, this time together, with blank stares. She sighed and rubbed her temples. "Okay, it's a ceremony that uses chocolate to symbolize the bitter times and wine to celebrate the sweet times. Very fun, very unique, very foodie. I'd think you guys would like it."

Fiance and I exchanged looks, nodded, and gave our assent to the planner that yes, that sounded lovely. She then began to talk about processions (we'll have a short one), corsages (just for me as Fiance will be in military dress), wedding party (none, it's a guest list of 50 for Christ's sake), and so on. The bulk of the exchange was poor Kate lobbing darts at the board of our collective likes and dislikes and seeing what stuck.

I began to suspect that my lack of answers to apparently the most basic questions about various wedding considerations was beginning to exasperate her. The entire concept of planning a wedding to us is probably more confusing to us than reading sanskrit, contemplation of the universe and our place within it, and Michele Bachman. Still, she just mostly smiled through the whole thing and like a mother leading a toddler through a crowded place delicately made sure I knew what I was doing and that Fiance and I made sound decisions that would be right for us.

Who knew so much went into one of these hooplahs?

-This is what I get for not watching wedding reality television.-

Lucky, we do have Kate, a professional wedding planner and good friend of ours. I actually met her through the blog during the first year I was writing it. I was giving away a batch of zucchini cupcakes to a local winner. Kate, one of my readers, won the cupcakes. We hit it off rather well and have been close friends since.

When she found out about the wedding Kate insisted that her gift would be herself. She would be our wedding planner, free of charge.

I couldn't have asked for anything better because holy balls I don't think I would have considered one-tenth of the crap she was talking about until the day before. Who considers things like walkways lights in the garden for when it gets dark besides a planner or the number of servers you'll need or sound system placement?

Of course, it isn't just Kate helping us put this wedding on. The whole thing has become a rather communal event. There is no registry for gifts. Instead we're asking people to bring themselves and their craft.

We asked my old baking teacher, Elaine Baker, to make the cakes for the wedding as a gift. As long as there was no fondant involved she was thrilled to be asked. Assuring her that, no we hated the stuff because - though pretty - it was absolutely horrid in flavor. Plus, how effectively can you fondant a vanilla bean cheesecake?

Our friends Blair and Scott, who work at wineries in Healdsburg, are getting us some champagne and wine at cost. Food blogger Amber Stott, a fine gardener if there ever was one, has pledged to grow plenty of tomatillos and a variety of other delightful fruits and veggies in order to craft some fantastic salsas.

So on and so forth.

We've been particularly blessed by our friends Peg and John who have opened their incredibly beautiful home in the mountains on Lincoln, California and allowed us to have the wedding in their Lemon Garden, a beautiful Italian-style palazzo overlooking hundred of acres of California wilderness.

We simply cannot wait.

-Thank you, Peg and John! We hope these tiny jars of jam will express our thanks for inviting strangers to your home and having a party there.-

Unfortuneatly, however, we have to trough through the other stuff. Like the design for the wedding invitations (which will be sent over e-mail via paperless post), and questions from Kate like,

"So how are we doing cake and music?"

"Um, there will be some of both? Is that the right answer? We like cake and music," Cue me looking for Fiance who is now happily talking to John about how awesome tamales are and how excited they are to have them at the wedding leaving me to stare and Peg and Kate in total dumbfoundary.

Fiance and I did have a few things already pinned down. For example, we have a favor in mind for all of our guests come The Big Day. We're busy at work making jam. Lots of jam. All in adorable 4-ounce jars that will be charmingly labeled somehow or another. Something unique, edible, memorable, and totally us.

We do so love to make and can jam, you see.

We already started with a delightful batch of cranberry jam laced with vanilla bean and tarted up a bit with some orange juice. Scarlet and fragrant, it's a delightful jam that will make for a unique flavor to have on toast or with ice cream come August when people receive them.

We feel rather blessed to have all these amazing people in our lives. People who want to be a part of an important moment in our lives. The wedding is partially for us, but it's also to share something with them.

The reason we want to do this wedding is so we can tell each other we love each other in front of our loved ones, and then have a real rockin' party with them afterwards.

But, of course, a few dozen spots of jam always helps.

Cranberry Jam

36 ounces cranberries (3 bags)
16 ounces sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 vanilla bean, seeded + the bean
1/4 teaspoon butter

Combine all the ingredients together in a large sauce pot over medium-high heat for about 20-30 minutes. Halfway through mash up the cranberries with a potato masher. The mixture will get very thick very quickly. Ladle into sterilized jars and process in boiling hot water.

Makes 14 4-oz jars.


  1. Good thing your friends are helping, as it sounds like you are overwhelmed, understandably so. Were there supposed to be instructions with the jam? And your second sentence needs a touch up on the descriptor of Kate's wardrobe. The scones were marvelous. I have always disdained scones as hopped up biscuits with junk, but your recipe has forced me to reconsider! thanks

  2. burnttoast: Whoops! Added. This is probably the quickest jam you'll ever make as cranberries are all pectin. =)

  3. Don't skimp on making your own traditions. I think that one of the greatest things about same sex weddings (other than, you know, being equal in the eyes of the law) is that there is total freedom to make your wedding whatever you want - there are no expectations of what you "have" to do.

  4. Robinson: Though I'm not sure I want a wedding traiditon. This is hopefully the only one I have. ;) LOL

  5. Spread the Love - used for my sister's wedding years back, strawberry jam

  6. @Robinson: Very well put - I 100% agree!

    @Garrett: I think Robinson means more on the side of, traditions that you pass on to your family and kids - not ones you pass from wedding to wedding. ;)

  7. Just wondering - what qualities does the vanilla bean add to the jam? I love the sweet tart tang of cranberries but I can't imagine how the vanilla complements it. Help!

  8. Unknown: The vanilla adds a nice mellow creaminess to the jam that only intensifies with time.

  9. Super belated congrats on the engagement! how wonderful and exciting for you guys. I'm definitely one of those girls that keeps an eye on the prize re: wedding planning. but i make sure to keep it all quietly to myself. the cranberry jam sounds like an awesome gift! one of the weddings The BF and I went to this summer had homemade bottles of limoncello for the guests, that was pretty awesome. anyway, yay for you guys!

  10. Congratulations on your engagement! I've been reading this blog about an year, and this is my first comment. I planned my wedding a few years back. I really wished I had a wedding planner. It's awesome you have great friends. The home cranberry jam sounds like a great favor.

  11. All these generous offers show how much your friendship is valued Garett and how happy people are to see you and Fiance happy! Happy Planning

  12. Thanks, Miri, Erina, and sprinkle!

  13. I've been waiting to see this recipe since I spotted the photos on Flickr, and it looks wonderful. I think I'll make a batch for my sister, who's also getting married in August. Congratulations!

  14. Keep on with the "rockin party" plan and don't get lost in details. Having just come off my own "big gay wedding" two weeks ago, I can tell you the day will fly by and you/your guests won't remember whether or not the napkins were plain white from Wal-Mart or embossed w/ wedding bells.

    If your friends are like mine, one lesson learned...don't bother with beer. Champagne, Scotch and vodka (lots and lots of vodka).

    Congratulations and have a GREAT time!

    ps: thanks for the recipe...was wondering what I was going to do w/ all the leftover cranberries in the freezer.

  15. First and foremost, Congrats to both of you. True love is hard to find, so when you do find, hang on tight! Second, the colour on that jam is gorgeous!! Looks amazing! All the best to you and your love!

  16. I am so excited for you! The event sounds divine, and I am going to make a batch of that jam this week. Sold to an American!

  17. I am contentedly listening to the pop-pop-pop of the lids as they seal even as I type. This is special stuff: not at all too sweet but with that mellow vanilla perfume to soften it. Yum, thank you for the recipe! I got to it later than I meant to, but made up for it with a double batch. :)

  18. how long do you process in water bath?


Hey, you're leaving a comment! That's pretty darn cool, so thanks. If you have any questions or have found an error on the site or with a recipe, please e-mail me and I will reply as soon as possible.

Vanilla Garlic All rights reserved © Blog Milk Powered by Blogger