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Friday, June 18, 2010

Four Cherry Preserves with St. Germain

Last weekend's farmer's market brought the sad news that the annual tart cherry crop I depend on was hit by hail at the blossom stage, and the crop was lost.

I nearly had a full on anxiety attack. Life without tart cherries? Tart cherries are - maybe - my favorite food on earth. And every summer, I can 8 quarts of sour cherry pie filling and 12 pints of tart cherry jam. The one that didn't gel, as I lamented in my post on apple pectin. My cherry pie is anticipated at Thanksgiving's Dead Poultry Society party.

Don't worry. I've located some cherries. Once again, food52 connections came through - there will be a Canorama in Pennsylvania next month, with a world of cherries ready to be canned.

In the meantime, when I saw first of the season sweet cherries last week, I brought home deep red, nearly maroon, super sweet, velvety cherries, bright red slightly tart cherries and Emperor Francis, a yellow heirloom beauty, streaked with pink that straddles tart and sweet with rare perfection. The next day, I spied two pints of tart cherries (Montmorency) at another market. I had the weight for jam, but not the recipe.

After consulting several canning books, I came right back to Christine Ferber, of course. She has a half sweet and half tart cherry preserves, flavored with Kirsch. As I am not a big fan of Kirsch, and I am a big fan of herbal tones in jam, I turned to my favorite cocktail enhancer, St. Germain. Elderflower liqueur. So French!

AND -- drumroll please -- I used my new apple pectin. And it worked. Perfectly. This preserves has a very nice gel that's soft set, with the whole cherries suspended in the gel. It's beautiful in the jar, on the spoon, on top of homemade ricotta, stirred into yogurt, spooned over ice cream or pound cake.

If you don't have apple pectin, substitute one package of commercial pectin and follow the directions on the box for finishing the preserves.

Oh, did I mention my beautiful new copper preserving pan? I love it. Yes, it really does make a difference.

Four Cherry Preserves with St. Germain
makes six half-pint jars

1.25# sweet cherries, preferably varied in taste and color
1.25# tart cherries
2.5 c sugar
Juice of one lemon
2-5oz packages of apple pectin
1/2 tsp butter
1 oz St. Germain liqueur

Pit the cherries over a bowl, capturing all the juices.* Add the sugar and lemon juice and allow the mixture to sit for an hour.

In a preserving or other wide and deep pan bring the mixture to a simmer. Remove from the heat and pour the jam into a glass or ceramic bowl, cover with parchment and allow to develop overnight.

The next day, strain out the cherries, capturing all the juices in your preserving pan. Bring this to a full, rolling boil. Described in most preserving books as 'a boil you can't stir down.'

Allow the syrup to boil for 5 minutes and skim the foam as completely as possible.

Add in the fruit, bring the preserves back up to a boil, then add 2-5oz packages of apple pectin and the butter. Butter added at this point will break down any remaining foam.

Bring back to a boil for one minute, test the set. Once the preserves forms a jelly, turn off the heat, add the liqueur, stir well, and allow the preserves to rest for five minutes. This will keep the fruit from floating to the top of your jars.

Fill half-pint jars, leaving 1/2" headspace. Seal with lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Remove to a towel on the counter and allow to sit, undisturbed, for 24 hours. The preserves will further set up during the resting period.

*I have never used a cherry pitter, but I've only canned tart cherries, the ones that need only the thumbnail to pluck the pit out. The sweet cherries are a whole different beast. Now, I'm in the market for a cherry pitter. Anyone have a favorite?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Luvey's Eight Day Sweet Pickle Chips

This recipe looks complex, but it really isn't. I'm sorry I don't have more photos, but I'm still hunting down pickling cucumbers this year. These are pictures of last year's pickles.

This is a pickle like nothing else you've ever tasted. The most heavenly, crisp, sweet and tangy pickle chip you could ask for. Best ice cold. Perfect chopped in tuna or egg salad. Or potato salad. Or remoulade. Or layered in a ham sandwich.

Luvey worked for my Grandmother Mary from the time I can remember. When my grandmother died at 103 or so (can no longer remember exactly as she lied about her age for years,) Luvey was still alive, but failing. She was a tall, charming woman from South Carolina, who went on cruises and saw the world after she semi-retired late in her 70s.

Luvey came to the house three days a week. She cleaned and ironed and polished everything. She ran the vacuum, did the laundry. She loved my Grandmother. She sat down and had lunch with Mary every day she worked. A lunch of hard boiled eggs or sardines, mustard, pickles, thin sliced pumpernickle bread, toasted, and a piece of fruit. Or some leftover roast meal reheated and reimagined as a sandwich, again served with pickles and mustard. And reheated coffee. (ack)

Until I found this recipe on a card in Mary's recipe stack (I've got Bea's and Jan's as well, so many cards to get through!) I didn't realize these pickles were a recipe of Luvey's. I remembered their tang and snap, and made two batches last summer. They are best made with early, small, just-picked, pickling cukes.

You'll need some equipment to make these pickles.

10 pounds of cucumbers, very fresh

Alum - a natural product that crisps the pickle - in many grocery store spice racks

Pickling Salt or Kosher Salt


Pickling Spices - My recipe follows, and makes about 1/3 cup. I found it at some point somewhere on the interwebs and apologize for not being able to recreate the link and give proper credit.

A large crock or glass jar. I like having a lid, but you can always use plastic wrap and a rubber band. I've made these pickles in large flower vases. Adjust the quantity you make depending on the size of your pantry. I'm giving you the process for 10 lbs. of cucumbers, which produces 6 or 7 pints of pickles. Or 3 to 4 quarts. The jars are not processed, so you can use any old glass jars of any sort, as long as they have a lid and they have been sterilized. I like to use old fashioned glass canning jars for this pickle. Running the jars through a hot dishwasher is suitable sterilizing.

A pot large enough to boil 4-8 quarts of water. The bigger the better.

Day One:
Slice cucumbers - do not peel - into 1/4" slices. A mandolin is very useful. Place the slices in the crock and cover with 4 quarts of boiling water.

Day Two:
Drain the cucumbers and then cover with a brine of 1-1/2 c salt dissolved in 4 quarts of boiling water.

Day Three:
Drain the cucumbers and then cover with an alum mixture, 3 T Alum dissolved in 4 quarts of boiling water.

Day Four:
Drain the cucumbers and cover with 4 quarts of cider vinegar heated wtih 1/4 c pickling spice.

Day Five, Six and Seven:
Allow the pickles to cure, covered, in a cool spot.

Day Eight:
Drain the cucumber slices. They will be surprisingly crisp. But they are not done yet. Put the drained slices in a large (really large) bowl. Dump 4 cups of sugar over the pickle chips and toss well, coating all the slices. The sugar will draw out pickle juice and makes a syrup. Magic.

Divide the chips into your jars and scrape the sugar left over into the jars.

Cover and allow the jars to sit for a couple of days before tasting. Turn the jars over every day.

Chill well before tasting. Cold, they are absolutely amazing.

I know. Delayed gratification. It's going to be a few days. But these are crazy good pickles.

Pickling Spice
(if you want to make your own)
1 tsp galangal
1 T allspice
3 cloves
2 tsp coriander seed
1 bay leaf
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 T mustard seed
2" cinnamon stick
Combine well. Crush stick and seeds a little. Store in a jar for one pickling season.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Loving Louie

 Meet our new guy - Louie.

He's one mess of a dog. Big ears. Scruffy beard. Wiry coat.

And I'm completely in love. It happened in 10 seconds. Seriously.

First I saw this photo online. He was in jail!

We contacted K-9 Lifesavers, the local rescue organization listed on as the group who could bring us "Fonzi." He was living in a high kill shelter in Vidalia, Georgia. K-9 Lifesavers transported this little guy up here and we picked him up at a dog boarding facility in Chester, MD.

From the moment Dennis saw him, he was smitten. But I was just goofy. Really - I couldn't keep my hands off him. He's so squeezable!
look how sweet he was, even on his very first walk - attentive and alert

Dennis has a new best friend.

Most of the photos and videos I took look like this. He's always in motion and he wants to snuff the camera.

Louie has made my heart whole again.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

21 Days - Yoga 5 Times a Week - 800 Words

Today is the Day One of Bindu Wiles' 21-5-800 project.

If you're on twitter and you don't follow @binduwiles, you're missing out on some really centering conversation, some big laughs, and a centering presence across the internet. I found Bindu pretty quickly after joining Twitter, but I didn't know how or why I was led her way, until this week.

You see, in the midst of the fog that is grief, Bindu announced 21-5-800 and I said - That's Exactly What I Need.

It's 21 days - three weeks - and it starts right now. That's a good thing. I need some regimen.

But five yoga practices a week? That worried me initially, until I read the fine print and learned that a twenty minute savasana could stand in for a yoga class.

I immediately focused on my first savasana, twelve years ago, when my back was in constant spasm. It was my very first yoga class, never having given much credit to the whole yoga thing. When the class ended and we were instructed to lie down in savasana, I realized it was the first time in a very long time I allowed myself to be quiet like that. No phone, computer, music, TV - it was so quiet and peaceful. I heard my own heartbeat. I cried a little. I realized how I missed quiet.

Bindu, I can't believe I ended up back in the loud world again, and forgot quiet. Today, I rolled out my yoga mat and, in the middle of my living room, put on the gamma waves music and gave myself the gift of savasana. Twenty minutes later, I felt light, peaceful. And all the daily-noise was gone. It was so wonderful; I could transition gently into the evening.

I did a lot of writing today. But not much of it here, not for the blog. I did all kinds of letter writing, emails, proposals. More than 800 words, but not that interesting writing I was hoping for.

You see, I have a project I've been thinking about for awhile. I'm not quite ready to share all the details, but a good portion of those 800 words a day will be devoted to my Secret Project.

In the meantime, we're hoping a new dog will be joining the Barrow household on Thursday. Watch this space, as they say.
pretty excited about this tomato - mortgage lifter - it's extremely vigorous

The garden pics are totally random, but all this talking about myself makes me nervous.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Updated Class Schedule (through October 2010)

Cooking Classes are held in my home kitchen and are limited to six students.
Skill building, healthful eating and a focus on seasonal ingredients.
Tuition is $50/class, unless otherwise noted.Bring a friend and two attend for $80.
Contact me at for further information.
I am also available to teach any class, or one we create together, in your home, for groups no larger than six.

Saturday, July 17 12 - 3 Basics of Canning: Jams & Chutneys
Students will take away canned goods they have made.

Sunday, August 8 12 - 3 DINNER PARTY: Indian Flavors 
Samosa Inside Outs, Saag Paneer, Vegetable Curry, Chicken Tikka Masala, Jasmine Rice, Lassi

Sunday, September 12th Canning Party - all dayCrushed Tomatoes, Tomato Sauce, Salsa

Saturday, September 18 12-3 Pies and Tarts 
Mile High Apple Pie, Plum Tart, Chocolate Raspberry Mini Tarts

Saturday, October 16 12-3 DINNER PARTY: Thai Flavors
Vegetarian Spring Rolls, Shrimp Pad Thai, Vegetable Red Curry, Grilled Eggplant, Dessert TBD

Late Fall classes
Dates and times will be posted at the beginning of September.

November - Party Appetizers
December - Candy Making
December - Holiday Cookies

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Two Preserving Projects: Apple Pectin and Rhubarb Rosemary Preserves

Sometime last year, I decided Sure Jell Pectin was a little weird. It just creeped me out. I'm sure it's fine. It's a natural ingredient, made from citrus peels, but I wanted more control of the exact ingredients in my jams. Organic is important to me.

And I really wanted some control over the amount of sugar used.

Now, let me just say, canners who use Pomona Pectin, have nothing bad to say about it. This is the one commercial product that works with less sugar. Last summer, I looked around for Pomona, couldn't find it, and decided I would try to make my jams without pectin.

Christine Ferber's preserve methods work best for this, as you strain the sugar-macerated fruit, make a syrup (boiled to 222°) and then add in the fruit at the end. But some fruits, especially cherry, just need that extra oomph the pectin provides in order to properly gel. I learned this the hard way - the cherry jam I made last summer is very runny. (I treated those jars as cherries in syrup, and candied them for ice cream, but that's another post.) And the pepper jelly I made without pectin was rubbery and too sticky. Feeling a little like Red Riding Hood, I knew there was a way that would be Just Right.

Mme. Ferber's jam methods also take much much longer to make. Often one, or sometimes two, days of macerating, straining, boiling down. It's a commitment. And sometimes I just want to be jammin' without all that delay. Even she uses an apple jelly to thicken some of her preserves (notably cherry.) She suggests making jelly out of green apples - early, nearly unripe, and full of natural pectin and then adds that jelly at the same time you might add pectin. Unfortunately, she adds sugar to the apple jelly, to preserve it, and I was so hoping to use less sugar.

You might remember, when I made mint jelly awhile back, I made apple pectin. That's when I started pondering this question. Then, two weeks ago, I noticed Trader Joes had organic small Granny Smith apples and I decided to try to make a simple, sugar free apple pectin for use throughout the summer.

To prepare for this experiment, I read articles all across the Interwebs, and then applied some old fashioned ingenuity to develop this method and recipe for apple pectin. I've tested it twice, in small batches, and find it works the same way the Sure Jell package works: added to the fruit and sugar mixture when it's boiling hard, this apple pectin thickens the jam as soon as the mixture comes back up to that boil-that-can't-be-stirred-down.

I'm excited about this experiment. I have 10-5oz packages of frozen pectin to try throughout the summer. I'll be reporting on these efforts as the summer goes on.

If you've made your own apple pectin, or if you try this recipe, won't you tell me about it in the comments below?

Apple Pectin
about 10 - 5oz packages

12 lbs green apples (either unripe or granny smith)
4 c water

In a large pot (8 qt or larger) add the water and apples, each one cut into 8 pieces, retaining skin, seeds, and core (as that's where the pectin resides.) Bring to a boil, then cover and cook for 30-45 minutes, until the apples are quite soft.
Line a large colander with a double layer of cheesecloth and carefully add the apple mixture. Press only slightly and not at all if you want to make clear jellies. Allow the pectin to strain overnight.
The next day, bring the pectin to a boil and reduce by one third.
Package your pectin in 5oz packages and freeze for future use.
Use one package with each 4 cups of fruit used -- at least that's the way it's worked for me! But, be prepared to add more pectin if needed.

And for those of you who aren't into the whole pectin project, here is a quick delicious preserves that is so good with cheese, you might just eat that entire container of Cowgirl Creamery Fromage Blanc (now available at the Bethesda Central Farm Market.) I know I was tempted.

Rhubarb Rosemary Honey Preserves
adapted from Mes Confitures
5 four ounce jars

1-1/2 lbs rhubarb
1 c sugar
3.5 oz forest flower honey (or any dark honey)
Juice of one lemon
5 sprigs rosemary

Cut the rhubarb into a small dice, add the sugar, stir and set aside for two hours.
Strain out the rhubarb and add the accumulated liquid and sugar to a 3-4 qt non-reactive pan. Add the honey and bring to a boil
Boil hard and bring to 222°, stirring all the time.
Add the rhubarb, juice of the lemon and the rosemary, bring back to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Skim foam as needed.
Funnel into sterilized jars, wipe the rims, add the lids and rings.
Place in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Remove and allow to cool for 24 hours on the counter.

PS Thank you so much, one and all, for your kindnesses over the last week. The loss of Dylan has made a huge hole in our hearts, and in our lives. We've got an application in for another scruffy terrier mix who needs a home. I hope to be posting some good news later this week. I just love you all and we're both so grateful for your support.