Christmas Cookie Roundup begins with a heirloom thumbprint cookie


Nina Rizzo, founder and proprietor of a new New Jersey company called, appropriately enough, “Jersey Jams and Jellies,” has been working

Nina Rizzo and her thumbprint cookies

since the harvest to assemble some of the most beautiful fruit in the United States and turn it into jams, jellies and sauces.

Nina,  a member of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Hightstown, began experimenting with Jersey produce when Hendrick, the first of her two children, arrived five years ago and she wanted wanted to feed him the best foods she possibly could. She started by turning Jersey apples into an apple sauce  much in demand not only from Hendrick and later, little Sophia, but her husband, John, and relatives and friends.

She began decking jars full of apple sauce for Christmas and giving them out as gifts. One thing  led to another and another and another and now, she’s creating Jersey grown strawberry, blueberry, cranberry, apple, peach, beach plum  and grape preserves and sauces.

To accomplish this, she’s reached out to farmers around the Garden State for a harvest that is picked or purchased from local, sustainable and organic farms. She and her talented crew pride themselves on a quick turn around from farm to canning jar and the results, as I found at a Monmouth County Christmas fair, are nothing short of wonderful.

Her table was surrounded by foodies of all ages who sampled the jams, etc., spooned onto equally wonderful cookies, with great gusto.

With the cookie roundup approaching, I contacted Nina and asked if she’d like to contribute a recipe. The result was a scrumptious, low sugar, thumbprint cookie that was savored by all the Faithful Foodies at Keeping the Feast.

Nina talked about how she created the recipe, saying she’d  “tried several recipes for thumbprint cookies but my favorite is an adaptation of Smucker’s classic recipe. I substitute butter for shortening and use a mix of finely ground pecans and almonds for the ultimate nutty flavor without the discomfort of biting into large pieces of nut. Unless, of course, you like it that way…When deciding upon which jams and jellies to use, I go with the season. Jewel colored fruit looks beautiful tucked in this delicious low-sugar cookie dough this time of year. I also make a few batches with leftover cranberry sauce after Thanksgiving because my all-natural cranberry sauce is too nutritious (and tasty) to eat just once a year.

“Thumbprints make beautiful holiday gifts. Other cooks will appreciate the time and effort it takes to make them, and health-conscious friends will be grateful for a yummy treat packed with freshly preserved fruit and no artificial anything.”

Classic Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients:

Nonstick cooking spray

½ cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 sticks (or 1 cup) unsalted butter

3 eggs, separated

2 tablespoons water

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

2 cups flour

2 cups finely chopped pecans or almonds

1 cup jam, jelly or preserves

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Adjust rack to middle position so cookies don’t burn. Lightly coat two cookie sheets with nonstick spray.

Beat brown sugar and butter in bowl with electric mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes, or until fluffy. Add egg yolks, water, vanilla and salt. Beat until well combined. Add flour on low speed until well blended.

Beat egg whites in a small bowl until foamy. Place pecans (or your favorite nut or nut mix) in a separate bowl. Measure about 2 teaspoons dough for each cookie. Form into balls by rolling between your palms. Dip each ball into egg whites then roll into pecans. (This is a messy process. I roll all the balls first, then start the dipping.) Make an indent in the middle of each cookie – careful not to pierce the bottom – with your thumb or a teaspoon.

Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and check whether you need to make another indent in the cookies. Place about 1 teaspoon of high-quality jam, jelly or preserves into the center. Bake an additional 5 -7 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Makes 4 dozen.

Contact Jersey Jams and Jellies at 201-838-8318 or visit www.jerseyjamsandjellies.com

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