May Day 2014. Clarence does not run so much as flies. And with a mud dipped face and flying ears he looks like some kind of bat wolf.
Rhubarb, first fruit of spring, after the hardest of winters (and not quite done yet!) you surely merit a second flavor. And this chock-full preserve lives up to its long name: rhubarb preserve with vanilla bean and Earl Grey.
Inspired by the recipe on the sensible and appealing Food in Jars, the predominant notes are rhubarb, cut chunky, vanilla beans scraped clean, and very strong brewed Earl Grey tea. The tea is a most subtle background note in a complex layering. Whereas that pink jelly below is a bursting zing of rhubarb flavor, this preserve takes a more seductive approach. The rhubarb becomes almost creamy, the tiny vanilla seeds are teensily crunchy, and the tea hovers round. The perfect thing on buttered toast for teatime on a blustery day.
And is that white stuff in the frame outside the window— can it be— yes, several inches of snow that fell overnight, in mid-April (o cruellest month!!), snow which was on top of ice, which was what the windswept rain had turned into when the temperature plummeted during the evening. It changed fast enough so there were areas of ice that were as frozen waves inching across the yard. Amazing. Truly one must have a sense of humor to bear weather in the Northeast.
Like a Highlights challenge, on the upper right side of the frame you can see branches of the prolific though biennially producing crabapple tree that made for so much fine jelly last fall. Dried and frozen fruit still clings, and it fed birds, deer, possum, and any other number of hungry comers through the hard winter. And if you look just to the side of the jar on the lower left you will see Clarence’s head, nose pointed upwind, on early morning woodchuck patrol…
Rhubarb, like you may not know it. A silky flavor-packed cool sweet essence of rhubarb, that stalky fruit we love so well in pie. But this jelly will give that pie a run for its money. And oh, the color! It is a guava pink that fairly sings of coming spring. For though the calendar says we’re two weeks past the Equinox, the weather is just beginning to get with the program. The treacherous six-inch deep ice pack on the northern side of the house has, finally, succumbed: there must be hope….
It’s the time of year when folks escape to warmer climes…but for those of us staying put in the tundra-like Northeast of 2014 there are other strategies to employ. On a very very cold Sunday a few weeks ago, simmering up a big pot of Meyer lemons with plump limes and fresh fragrant rosemary provided the perfect antidote to the threat of two-minute frostbite. The vibrant yellows and greens are a splash of brilliant color in the chill blue light of winter, and the aroma is just, well, heavenly. Thus was born the fourth flavor of les collines, Meyer lemon rosemary.
Meyer lemons are thought to be a cross of either mandarin or regular oranges with lemons. They are slightly rounder (and truly cuter) than regular lemons, with a thinner skin that is a warmer, just slightly orange-tinged shade of yellow and a juice that’s a degree less pucker-inducing.
Of course in these frosty climes the citrus is not locally grown (yet—til we have a greenhouse!) but it is organic—important to me as the entire fruit goes into the pot.
This jelly is very tart with an edge of marmalade-like bittersweetness and a preamble of pure rosemary. My sources say it is a little addictive even on its own…try pairing with mild creamy cheeses, glazing a pork roast or Cornish hens, or drizzling on a grilled or cedar plank salmon. Then close your eyes and you can just about feel the warmth of the sun…
Spotted in a window display at the wonderful Olde Hudson on Warren Street. The place to go in Hudson (the Hudson River town recently received a three-page spread in the New York Times) for the best in everything food, local to imported. Fantastic cheese!!! Stop in and say hello.
So now it is really, really cold outside—like, polarly cold—you will need some extra jelly and preserves to go with that buttered toast, that pork tenderloin, that cheese plate…time to stock up!
Just in time for the first snows of December…golden, fragrant quince has arrived. This fruit is related to apples and pears, all members of the rose family. However unlike its cousins, it is not easy to work with nor is it usually eaten raw. But those who take the time to peel it, chop the hard, white flesh and cook it down with sugar are rewarded with a gorgeous amber rose-hued preserve that is best eaten by the spoonful, preferably with Manchego.
You can find les collines at these gems of stores: In Columbia County, at the Hillsdale General Store in Hillsdale and Olde Hudson in Hudson, and in northern Dutchess County at Harney & Sons in Millerton.
Crabapple is nearly gone for the season! We will miss its lush garnet tartness…til next year. But cider sage will be with us through spring and quince will get us through the worst of the winter. Look for a new flavor in January…
It is November, and the cold wind is blowing. But the sunny golden warmth of October brought basket upon basket of crabapples, hardly bigger than cherries and as red, and they have produced gallons of juice that became perfectly clear, garnet-hued jelly. It is the ne plus ultra of jelly for buttered toast, hands down.
This year has also seen a bumper crop of apples in the County (including the orchard behind my house!) and they have found homes in lots of sauce chez moi. They are being made into some fantastic cider at local presses, as well. Samascott in Kinderhook is a favorite, and mostly what I use for my Cider Sage Jelly. Pure apple cider melds with an infusion made from fresh sage leaves to become a perfect garnish for toast or scones…but also for roast turkey, chicken, pork…divine!
Coming soon is Quince Preserve, delicious anytime but ideal in a threesome with Manchego cheese and Serrano ham.
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