July 26, 2012

Jamming!


Jamming!

It's August! Too quickly summer days slip like coins through my fingers. I want to save each sweet second. So, I jam. Year's ago, women like me labored hard, sweaty hours turning backyard berries and plums into necessary provisions. I act out of longing. Putting up preserves captures summer's fresh flavors like a snap shot of sunshine. Making jam is so easy you almost don't need a recipe. The fruit just needs to be cooked long enough for its juices to reduce until thick enough to coat a spoon. Then, it's turned into clean jars with those rubberized lids, set in boiling water for about 10 minutes, and stored in a cool dark place. If you don't want to mess with that "water bath" process, you can freeze the jars after they've cooled. Use whatever fruit you have on hand -- raspberries, blueberries, peaches, and plums. Summer is the season of improvisation and spontaneity, so, roll up your sleeves and jam.

Raspberry Jam
Makes 4 pints

2 pounds fresh raspberries
4 cups sugar of less if the fruit is very sweet

Put the berries into a wide, non-reactive saucepan. Set over medium, high heat and cook until the juice begins to run. Gently stir in the sugar slowly until it's fully dissolved. Increase the heat and bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

To test, put a teaspoon of jam on a cold plate. If it wrinkles when you press it with your index finger, it's set. It should reach 220 degrees F. on an instant read thermometer. 

Ladel the hot jam into the hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch of "headspace". Wipe the jar rims and place the lids on the jar. Screw on the bands until they are just finger tight. If processing the jars, set them in a large pot with enough boiling water to cover by 1 inch. Boil them for 10 minutes then let turn off the heat them stand in the hot water for another 5 minutes before removing the jars. Cool the jars for at least 12 hours before storing them in a cool, dark place. 

July 16, 2012

Corn Sweet Corn!



Corn!

"Summer ripens the fields golden with wheat and rye; on a warm night, when the bright moon is up after a shower has fairly wet the earth and waked up the drowsy corn, I will swear that you can see the stalk stretch and swell in its new sheath, rise through the contracted lips of the upper blade to crack and burst and murmur in green-tounged speech... as the potatoes murmur to each other 'move over.'" -- Meridel Lesueur, North Star Country.

Summer and the cooking is easy. Especially this year, when everything is early, and so fresh that bothering with the stove seems redundant. Leave me alone shout the peas and radishes. Keep me cool whisper the cucumbers. Salads are a cooks solution to those over heated and reluctant appetites, teasing forth hunger with light, crisp tastes -- a hint of licorice scented basil, a drizzle of bright lemon and suddenly we're ravenous. Here is one of the easiest combos ever. You can start from scratch, but I prefer to toss whatever leftover vegetables I have on hand together, chill them down, and call it a meal. Serve this as a side dish or add diced roast chicken or roast beef for a full meal. Vegans might welcome grilled tofu; a little cheese is lovely, too.

The recipe is simple -- grilled or steamed corn, green beans, diced onions and lots of chopped fresh herbs (use a combination of thyme, mint and basil). Then douse the dish with the Lemon Thyme and Mint Vinaigrette.

Lemon, Thyme and Mint Vinaigrette
makes about 2 cups

1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
1 small clove garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons sugar
1-1/4 cups vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put everything except the oil into a medium bowl and whisk together. Slowly whisk in the oil in a slow stream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. This will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator.