Sure - I’ve got deadlines, the garden needs weeding, and I can’t find the surface of my desk. Floors need sweeping and the kitchen needs painting – but those are chores for after dark…or winter! We’ve all got our own stress release practices and escape hatches, but this week I forced myself to get out of my lovely hammock and put down my Southern fiction – this summer’s “drug of choice” – to steal a concept from my friend Mary. Instead I procrastinated in a far more productive and delicious manner and transformed a 1/2 flat of beautiful, fragrant, ruby red local raspberries into 7 small jars of freezer jam and the beginnings of some gorgeous fruit vinegar.
A complete aside… as a little kid I used to get a huge kick out of filling small glass jars with water tinted with food coloring. Placed in a window, they shone like stained glass and to my tender 6 year-old eyes were the most beautiful sight on earth. Steeping preserves soaking up the sunlight in a corner of my needing-to-be-painted, dirty-floored kitchen gives me that very same thrill. What can I say?
The above photo shows my current roster of steeping projects. (Oh what a difference a year makes! This time last year, I was deep into crock pickles, fresh cheese, potted meats and lots and lots of jam!!! Darn deadlines are cramping my canvolutionary ways.)
Anyway… as I mentioned above, I have managed to put up a small batch of freezer jam. All it took was 15 minutes, tops. Really, true story. Everyone’s got 15 minutes. Beyond that, steeping jars of pretty things is about as ambitious as I can get.
From the left:
- Raspberry/blackberry vinegar. I used up leftover fruit after making the freezer jam and supplemented with a couple of handfuls of frozen blackberries I still have in the freezer from last year’s pickings. (see recipe below)
- Lavender & Rose Honeys. I written about the lavender version here. Even in the busiest years, I make time to put up some lavender honey. The rest of my household are not big lavender fans, so this is strictly a selfish, and totally fantastically delicious treat for ME! This year I modified my “recipe” and am steeping a jar with petals from my ‘Tuscany Superb’ gallica rose. The deep, velvety red petals have tinted the resulting honey a delicate – well, rose color, and the honey has a delicate rose flavor and a whiff of fragrance. Both lavender and roses are edible so I just leave the now candied petals in the honey where they add another layer of color and flavor to my hot buttered toast on sleepy winter mornings….uuuuuummmmm. Can’t you just imagine?
- Sweet n’ Spicy Lemon Pickle. This is new to my preserving repertoire this year. I got the recipe from MA, my good friend who by the way is also suffering an approaching book deadline…hmmmm, more preserving procrastination? MA got the recipe here. Tigress will lead you deep into the jungle of dawdling and avoidance of pending responsibilities with her adventuresome take on preserving. I don’t DARE look – but you totally should! OK, maybe just a peek – after all I have to go get the link anyway… I haven’t tasted my pickled lemons yet as they still have another couple of weeks of daily turnings and warm steeping, but they smell heavenly. I can only imagine what this complex, spicy pickle will bring to a simple winter meal of brown rice, veggies and maybe some chicken.
Ahhhh… I miss having the time to cook dinner. Truth be told I miss having the time for lots of things…like wasting time… and bathing on a routine basis. Sweeping floors? I don’t miss that. This too shall pass, unfortunately taking this summer’s prime preserving season with it. So I plan to have an extra good time at this weekend when I’m speaking at Molbak’s. My talk, based on my book Canning & Preserving Your Own Harvest, is this Saturday morning. Go here for details and directions; it’s FREE. I’m so looking forward to getting out and talking about one of my favorite things – growing, cooking, preserving and eating good healthy delicious food. Hope to see you there.
Jewel-toned fruity vinegars perk up salads and marinades and liven deglazing sauces for pork, duck, and chicken. Try a splash with fresh shucked oysters or mix several tablespoons with sparkling water over ice to create a shrub – an old-fashioned beverage that is particularly refreshing in hot weather.
Season: Summer through fall
Store: Refrigerator or cool, dark pantry
White wine vinegar
Sugar or honey
Pit and crush or chop the fruit well; combine with 11 cup vinegar for every pound of fruit and steep in a tightly closed containerin a cool spot for at least 2 weeks. For a stronger fruit flavor, repeat the procedure with a fresh batch of crushed fruits, steeping for another 2-3 weeks.
Strain the flavored vinegar into a nonreactive saucepan and add sugar or honey to taste. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook, uncovered, for 3 minutes. Cool the vinegar and skim off any foam. Strain into completely dry, sterilized bottles; cap, label, and store in a cool dark place.
Variations: Try peaches, pears, apricots, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, or a mixture of fruits.
From Canning & Preserving Your Own Harvest, by Carla Emery & Lorene Edwards Forkner, Sasquatch Books