September 14th, 2012 / Comments
Tomato Sandwiches by Don & Charles
When I was at Fable Farm picking up our CSA share, I got a basket full of cherry tomatoes that Charles and our friend Don used to make a plate full of amazing tomato sandwiches with just a smear of mayo and an artful sprinkling of fresh dill. The pile of zucchini there reminded me of the first time I made pickles with my cousin Sis and her mother, Aunt Ann, who we called Antenna. It was a hot, sticky day in late August and they invited me to the cool cellar to help.
There were baskets of pickling cucumbers, bunches of fresh dill, dill seeds, garlic, jugs of vinegar, boxes of mason jars, rubber rings and lids, enough supplies for a small factory. The cellar was primitive, with two large laundry sinks and two gas burners that were used exclusively for pickling or canning.
I was the cucumber-sorter, a perfect job for a hot day. I stood on an up-turned box, up to my elbows in cold water. Cucumbers floated in cold water in the deep sinks. … read more
May 21st, 2012 / comments
Do you still have snow? Is the sap running? Have you seen mergansers on the river?
These familiar questions are heard at the post office, the Creamery, the market, and at community dinners in the early spring.
It was a bright morning last April, when I saw pink sprouts pushing up through the cold earth. Within a week, there were pink stems topped with dark green leaves. Rhubarb! It would be the first harvest from my garden. Along with the phoebes that nest in the rafters of the barn, it’s rhubarb that announces the arrival of spring in Vermont. … read more
May 6th, 2011 / Comments
“If you’re ever in a jam, here I am,” is a line from the song “Friendship” written by Cole Porter. I know he wasn’t thinking about jams or jelly when he wrote that line but I have been. My most uncomfortable jelly moment occurred at a chic, cocktail party in Washington, DC. Waiters passed trays of hors d’oeuvres, conversations were peppered with dropped names, it was a party for ‘the movers and shakers’ on the political scene.
Grapes - watercolor painting by Carol Egbert
There was caviar, pate, platters of unfamiliar cheeses and even an oyster bar. I was twenty-five years old and impressed. In the midst of this exotic spread, there was a chafing dish filled with sweet and sour meatballs that were irresistible. I asked a fellow meatball-spearing guest if she knew how the meatballs had been prepared. “Oh,” she said, “these are always served at Peter’s parties. He’s related to the Welch’s, the grape people, and this is his favorite way to eat grape jelly.” Trying to keep up my side of clever party banter I added, “Yes, of course, and the meat balls are filled with peanut butter.” With an un-amused shake of her head she said, “Actually, the sauce is made by combining equal portions of Heinz chili sauce and Welch’s grape jelly, the culinary merger of two important families,” and walked off.
Jam unexpectedly came to my rescue when I was a passenger on a Russian train traveling from Mongolia to Siberia in the mid 1980’s. I was weary and homesick and craved a pot of freshly brewed tea flavored with a squeeze of lemon and a bit of sugar. I went to the dining car and asked the waiter, chef and busboy (all the same person), for a pot of tea.
The tea came in a small, dented metal teapot, along with a chipped mug, a spoon and a small pot of strawberry jam. I asked why he had brought me a pot of jam when there was nothing to spread it on. He explained that there were no lemons on the train or probably anywhere else in Siberia and, more importantly, real Russian tea was flavored and sweetened with jam rather than with lemon and sugar. I put half a teaspoon of jam into the mug, he shook his head, took the spoon and added a very rounded spoonful of jam to the mug, filled it with tea, stirred it vigorously, handed the mug to me with an expectant smile and hovered as I sipped. The tea was very strong and quite smoky, the addition of the strawberry jam made it palatable and a few hours later we parted as friends when the train pulled into the station in Irkutsk.
It was a jar of peach jam in my pantry that saved the day last summer when I was preparing the dressing for a brown rice and papaya salad for a potluck picnic. I had forgotten to buy a jar of mango chutney and had no time to make a trip to the market but I did have a jar a peach jam in the pantry. Combined with spices, vinegar and oil, it provided the sweet note that made the salad sing. Since then I always use peach jam rather than mango chutney when I make this salad. Here’s how I did it: … read more
December 15th, 2010 / Comments
Apricot almond conserve, flavored with amaretto liquor is a golden mixture I made to send to my sons for their holiday dinner.
Apricot Almond Conserve
I used scissors to snip half a pound of dried apricots into strips. I combined the apricot pieces with one cup of golden raisins and three cups of water. I covered the fruit and left it to soak overnight in the fridge.
The next morning, I tipped the fruit into a saucepan and added about a cup of water to make the liquid come halfway to the top of the fruit. I added the grated zest of one orange and simmered the mixture for fifteen minutes. When the fruit was very tender, I added one cup of orange juice and the juice of one lemon and two and a half cups of sugar and cooked the conserve, over medium heat, stirring constantly until it was thick, about thirty minutes. I added half a cup of slivered blanched almonds and cooked it for five minutes more, removed it from the heat, stirred in three tablespoons of amaretto liqueur and ladled the conserve into four sterilized half-pint jars. I sealed them following the manufacturer’s directions, labeled the jars when the conserve had cooled and asked Charles to package them up so that they could be mailed to the Noah and Matthew.
There are labels for these goodies that can be downloaded and printed from my blog, a little gift from me to you.
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December 15th, 2010 / Comments
I tasted red pepper jam for the first time at a Christmas open house hosted by my friend Leah. She had centered a block of cream cheese on a red plate, dumped (her word not mine) a jar of red pepper jam on top and surrounded the cheese with crackers.
Leah comes from Atlanta and was amazed that I had never tasted this party classic. She generously shared the collection of cream cheese dip recipes that she had found in her Junior League cookbooks. Leah is a self-described ‘dump-cook,’ she doesn’t measure ingredients and doesn’t cook what she canbuy. She used pepper jelly from the market but I prefer the flavor of homemade hot and sweet red pepper jam. This jam uses liquid pectin to thicken and has never failed to gel. Here’s how I did it:
… read more
December 15th, 2010 / Comments
Jellies, jams and conserves packed with sugar and spice are gifts that are welcomed by almost everyone. They bring glowing color to the table and add zing to savory dishes as well as to sweet ones. Consumable treats in recyclable jars are a sustainable way to say happy holiday and they don’t need to be dusted.
Even though berry season has passed, the wild grapes are gone and any apples still on trees belong to hungry birds or deer it’s possible to make preserves with dried fruits like apricots, peaches, raisins and seasonal fruits like cranberries, oranges, lemons and grapefruit. The addition of spices, herbs, vinegar or liquor makes these gifts from the kitchen special.
Bright, ruby red, cranberry-rosemary jelly is the right color and flavor for the Christmas season. The color comes from the cranberries and the combination of citrus and rosemary makes it compatible with pork, turkey and if a hunter helps supply your larder, with venison and game birds. Here’s how I made it: … read more