Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams

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For some reason I still don’t understand, I volunteered to do some baking for prizes to give out at the Pie’s final video game tournament before we move.  Because the group is called Newfoundland Fighting Jam, the Pie and I thought it would be funny to make up some Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams.

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You may have heard of jam jams.  From what I understand, the general version is a round sugar cookie sandwich with jam in the middle, where the top cookie may or may not have a hole in it.  The Newfoundland version of this uses a softer molasses cookie.  If you don’t want to make your own you can order some from Newfoundland’s own Purity Factory.

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Of course, because we can’t leave well enough alone, we had to mess with the recipe a little bit, and we used our ninjabread cutters to make the cookies.  Keep in mind that below is a doubled recipe, so unless you want a million cookies, I suggest you cut it in half.

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Start with 1 cup butter and 1/2 cup shortening (both at room temperature).

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Cream those together in an electric mixer with 1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar (the darker the sugar, the fluffier your cookie will be, due to the high concentration of molasses).  Beat the crap out of those ingredients until they’re super fluffy.

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Now beat in 3 eggs, one at a time, waiting for each one to be fully incorporated before you add in the next one.  If you want to halve this recipe, I would use one egg plus the yolk of another.

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Add in 1 cup molasses (fancy or whatever, whichever intensity of flavour you prefer) and 3 teaspoons vanilla extract.

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Look at that silky, creamy molassesy goodness.

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In a separate bowl, sift together 6 cups all-purpose flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons ground allspice, and 2 teaspoons ground ginger.

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Slowly add your dry ingredients to your wet ingredients until you form a nice soft dough. And I mean really soft. Resist the urge to add more flour. The squishier your dough is now, the squishier your cookies will be.

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Split the dough into 4 parts (2 if you’re halving it) and chill it for at least an hour. Two is preferable. And you want to have all your working surfaces, tools, hands, etc., as cold as possible while you’re working with it.

When you’re ready to go, preheat your oven to 350°F, line some baking sheets with parchment paper, flour a work surface, and get your rolling pin handy. And you’re going to need a lot of flour. Like for the work surface, for your pin, for your hands, for the dough … It’s tacky stuff.

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Working with one part of your dough at a time, leaving the others in the refrigerator, roll it out to about 1/4″ thickness (or about half a centimetre, if you’re feeling metric), and cut it out with your cookie cutters.  If you’re doing a circular cookie, some jam jam aficionados like to cut a small hole in the top cookie for the jam to poke through, but that’s up to you, my friend.

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If you’re making something other than circles or symmetrical shapes, remember to flip your cutter over so you can make a top and bottom to your cookie.  Our ninja cutters had a duller edge on top, so it made it a little harder, but we persevered.

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Eventually we developed an easy system, but it took a bit of time. You will probably sort something out yourself.

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If your dough gets too soft, huck it back in the fridge for a bit to stiffen up.

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Bake your cookies, rotating the pans halfway through and keeping a close eye on them, for somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes, depending on the heat of your oven and the size of your cookie.  You want these babies to be nice and soft, so make sure to pull them out before they get too brown.  If they don’t look done yet, don’t worry — they will continue to cook on the baking sheet.

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Spot the corgi for bonus points!

Allow the cookies to cool completely, then take a wodge of your favourite jam (I used raspberry here, but you could go full-Newfie and use partridgeberry or bakeapple if you want to be truly authentic) and spread it thinly on the bottom of one of your cookies. These ones used about a teaspoon of jam per cookie.  Press that cookie’s pair on top of the jam and then heave the whole batch into a warm oven (like 250°F) for a few minutes to make the jam all cement-y.  This also warms up the cookies again and makes them soft so you can do a little bit of repair work if any of them got bent too out of shape.

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TADA.  Newfoundland Fighting Jam Jams.  A mouthful to say.  A mouthful to eat.  A win-win situation for everyone!

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I made this up after doing a bit of research, and my main inspiration for ingredients came from these four down-home recipes, in addition to my own family recipe for Molasses Gems:

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Missing the Rock: Jam-Jams

Salt Junk: Jam Jams Cookies

Mmm…ade: Newfoundland Jam Jams

Rock Recipes: Soft Molasses Cookies or Giant Jam-Jams

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A Weekend in Gros Morne

Today is a holiday in Newfoundland — Orangemen’s Day — so I thought I would share with you what I did on my last long weekend (which was just last week, actually), when the Pie and Gren and I went with Miss Awesome and Ranger P (formerly P-with-an-E) to camp in Gros Morne National Park.  What a trip!

While not a fan of car rides, Gren was a trooper for the trip.

We were only there for five days, and two of those days were spent traveling to and from the park (it takes about 8 hours, with pee breaks, to get from St. John’s to Gros Morne), so our time there was short.  We were also limited in the places we could go, because Gren is still young and doesn’t yet have the stamina he will develop when he’s full-grown.  There are also places in Gros Morne that dogs are not allowed (like on Gros Morne mountain itself), so we had to choose carefully how we would occupy our time.  In addition, though the weather forecast predicted rainy days with a high of 15°C, we ended up getting full sun every day and highs nearing 28°C, so we were all hot and tired after even our short hikes.  None of us thought to bring shorts.  Summer just isn’t like that in St. John’s.

So anyway, a bit about the park.  Established as a reserve in 1973, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, and then recognized as a national park in 2005, Gros Morne is the second-largest park in Atlantic Canada, and the mountain itself is the second-highest in Newfoundland, belonging to a branch of the Appalachians and dating back about 1.2 billion years.  “Gros Morne” literally translates from the French as “big sombre,” but “morne” is also understood to mean “large mountain standing alone.”  In Portuguese, “morne,” roughly translated, means bleak and dismal, and considering that the mountain in question is rather bald and often enshrouded in cloud, the name fits.

The park plays host to a number of natural and historical wonders.  The geology of the park is incredibly varied across the breadth of the park, and often serves as a benchmark for geologists seeking to understand the way the earth works.  Many geological features in the park offer supporting evidence for plate tectonic theory, while others provide clear examples of the process of glaciation.  In one afternoon you can go from barren desert to lush peat bogs to stunted tuckamore forests to glacier cut fjords.  All in one spot.  And if you’re lucky you might see a moose.  From a safe distance, of course.  And the flora in the park is just astonishing.  I saw so many plants that I had never seen before.

So now, our trip, in as few words as possible.

Berry Hill Pond

We stayed at the Berry Hill campground, near the wee village of Rocky Harbour.  On our first morning, the Pie and I took Gren on a morning stroll around Berry Hill Pond.  The trail is really not much more than a moose track, winding its way around the 2km circumference of this still pond, but in the quiet of the early morning, even the mosquitoes were tolerable as we got our first taste of the western coast of the province — which is as different from the east coast as another planet.I simply adore these rocky shores.Gren on the moose track, surrounded by crackerberries (not to be confused with crackberries).

Woody Point

We stopped here to have a bit of a wander and enjoy a quick picnic.  First settled in 1849, Woody Point displays to best advantage many historical buildings.  What’s neat is Woody Point is one of the many enclave communities within the park and yet separate from the park.It’s definitely a picture-postcard kind of town.

The Tablelands

From Woody Point we headed to the Tablelands, a section of the earth’s mantle thrust up to the surface.  We got to take a little GPS video thing with us.  You can watch it here.  Because of the chemical composition of the peridotite forming the mantle, it is hard to support life in that area.   Weathered peridotite is brown and rusty-looking, while unweathered rock is dark green and kind of waxy.

It is amazing, however, what can survive in the harsh surroundings.  These rare yellow ladyslippers are most commonly found in areas containing lime.Barren conditions mean that plants have to work hard to get all the nutrients they need.  These wee carnivorous plants were about the size of my thumb.

And let’s not forget the official provincial flower, the pitcher plant.

Creeping juniper is Newfoundland’s answer to the bonsai tree.Newfoundland Zen garden:

It was like being on the moon.  We were all absolutely gobsmacked by everything we saw. 

We went off-trail and followed a glacier-fed stream up to its fall point.

Gren tried to save us all.

And followed the trail into a canyon.  It was extremely windy.You should go there.

Norris Point/Neddies Harbour

Next day we headed out to Neddies Harbour, an offshoot of Norris Point in Bonne Bay, to visit Miss Awesome’s Auntie, who is pretty awesome in her own right.  She took us down past the Neddies Harbour Inn to a wee beach, where we enjoyed some sunshine.It was a very relaxing day, and after saying our goodbyes to Auntie Awesome, we headed up to the Norris Point Lookout to see the whole town.

Western Brook Pond

On this day we had to say goodbye to Miss Awesome.  She had to head back to Town to go on with her lawyer job.  It was just the dudes now, and me.  We had been told that Western Brook Pond was not to be missed, and, although we couldn’t afford the boat tour (nor did they allow dogs on the boat), we could readily enjoy the 3km hike to the dock and back.

The vistas on this trail, from the very beginning, were absolutely breathtaking.  We joked that we expected to hear the Jurassic Park theme playing while dinosaurs grazed in front of us.  The pond is in a fresh water fjord surrounded by peat fens and everywhere you look there is something beautiful.

Lush vegetation.

Everywhere.

Even in the peat fens.  These are dragon’s mouth orchids.When we got to the pond itself, Gren had a great time splashing about in the wavelets and rolling in the sand.  It was a great way to cool him down after the walk in the blazing sun.And then of course we all took pictures on the way back of things we’d taken pictures of on the way in.  There was so much beauty we’d forgotten what we’d already seen.

Lobster Cove Head

With some time on our hands after the short Western Brook Pond walk, we headed to the historical Lobster Cove Head and its teensy lighthouse, which guards the rocky and unstable shores in the area.  If you’re interested, the flags on the pole in this photo spell “SHIFT”.

The lighthouse grounds also play host to a miniature tuckamore forest, stunted balsam firs beaten (but not broken) by the harsh winds and the salt spray.And then we ran out of time, and had to go home.  You could easily spend a month in Gros Morne and not see it all.  We’ve got to go back.

You can check out more of my many, many pictures of our weekend on my Flickr site here.

For more information on Gros Morne, check out these links:

Encyclopedia of Earth: Gros Morne

Gros Morne: Wikipedia

Gros Morne National Park: Wikipedia

Gros Morne Teacher Resource Centre

A Trip to Ferryland

The day dawned foggy and damp but we were convinced it would improve, so the Pie and I piled Rusty, Mags, and Gren into our rented car and drove an hour and a half south of St. John’s to the town of Ferryland (population: ~529).  This was the third time the Pie and I had made it to Ferryland, but the first time that we were really able to appreciate it.  On previous occasions, we had arrived in town after an afternoon of iceberg hunting and were too tired to take the time to walk around this historical settlement.  This year is a bad one for icebergs, however, so we were rested and refreshed and raring to go.

I’ll give you a little background on Ferryland.

Originally an acclaimed fishing location for migratory French and Portuguese fishermen at the end of the sixteenth century, the area, known as “Farilham” by the Portuguese and “Forillon” by the French, was granted to the London and Bristol Company in the early 1610s.  “Ferryland” is the Anglicization of those names.

In 1620, the land was granted to George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore (there are nearby settlements called Calvert and Baltimore, respectively, and yes, this is the same Lord Baltimore of Baltimore, MD).  In 1623 Calvert appointed a dude named Edward Wynne to establish a colony there, which grew into one of the first successful European establishments in North America.  In 1623 as well, King James I granted Calvert a charter creating the Province of Avalon.  This gave Calvert carte blanche to control all administrative and territorial matters in the area, and he chose Ferryland as its principal settlement.

Like many settlements in Newfoundland, the rich fishing grounds around Ferryland were much sought after, and Ferryland suffered a raid from the Dutch in the 1670s, before being decimated by New France in 1696.  It was soon reoccupied, and has remained so to this day, predominantly by Irish and English descendants.  There is an active archeological dig site, which shows you how Lord and Lady Baltimore lived nearly four hundred years ago. 

There is lots to see in Ferryland.  Unfortunately, when we went this time all of the exhibits were closed due to a water problem.  Still, the historic Ferryland Museum has an immense collection of artifacts recovered from the dig site, and is a historical artifact itself, dating back to 1916.

The principal attraction in Ferryland, however, is the Ferryland Head Lighthouse. 

A two-kilometre walking trail stretches across The Downs and along a narrow strip of land sandwiched between two green coves. 

A stunted forest opens onto a rocky promontory, atop which sits the lighthouse itself, a sturdy red tower with a squat white house attached.

If you go into the lighthouse, you’ll meet the Lighthouse Ladies, who, for $25 a person, will provide you with a scrumptious picnic lunch.  

They’ll give you a signal flag and a picnic blanket and send you outside to find a good spot in the cushy undergrowth to have your lunch. 

Once you’re settled, they’ll bring you your lunch in a basket: hearty sandwiches on thick oatmeal bread, rich pasta salad, melt-in-your-mouth desserts, and fresh, tart lemonade, served in Mason jars.  Just some more shots of this amazing al fresco meal:

After your post-lunch nap (the ground really is nice and soft here, believe it or not), you can explore the area around the lighthouse.

This is Rusty and Mags getting their first taste of the North Atlantic.

Some radioactively green algae:

A rusty thingamajig:

An awesome example of geological strata:Then you have the long trek back to civilization.  But so worth it.

Check it out for yourself!

Lighthouse Picnics

Ferryland Municipal Website

Ferryland Wikipedia Page

Colony of Avalon Archaeological Site

Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism Ferryland Page