honey preserves

Taking Stalk

This morning I visited the Rose Geraniums in the garden. I read the fresh sheet from Billy's Gardens (in Tonasket, WA) with my breakfast which made me think about the preserving schedule for the next couple weeks. Quince, glorious quince, will come in from the orchard soon and then I will start dismantling the Rose Geraniums one sprig and stalk at a time to make Quince Rose Geranium Grappa Marmalade, one of my all time favorite preserves to make and eat. Amy has taken beautiful care of the two, now gigantic Geraniums that have grown all summer in preparation for quince season.

In the pots this weekend, strawberries and Pluots cooked down to make jam for my co-worker Alex's pop up brunch this coming Sunday at Vif, the adorable, go check it out now if you haven't, coffee and wine shop on Fremont Ave less than a block north of The Book Larder and Dot's. Alex and I work together at the Whale Wins and he and the sous-chef of the Walrus and the Carpenter are presenting a 3 course brunch on Sunday the 15th. There might be a few seats left...check out vifseattle.com. The Strawberry Pluot Honey Jam comes near the start of the meal, with a scone naturally.

What else?
Before heading into cook dinner at the Whale Wins tonight, I stop by Marx Foods in Lower Queen Anne. Marx is an online and local Seattle specialty food store. Marx puts the products to a panel of tasters so I'm bringing 8 jams and marmalades for them to sample.

And...I finally finished and submitted my application to the Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance, which connects to my final piece of news. The bike trailer. For my birthday, Amy, my sister Moira, and my brother in law Andy gifted me a honking 300 lb. hauler of a bike trailer from an Iowa company called Bikes at Work. Amy assembled the (as she calls it) "puzzle" this weekend. The finished product is a utilitarian kind of dazzling. It's pretty and useful! Now I can get the jam to the farmers market.

I'm still figuring out how to use the Squarespace app and sprinkle the pictures into the text. The last one is the nightly view I see when I emerge from the jam kitchen.

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Kumquats, Pears, Lemons, and Fools of Jam

IMG_0722 This is a rare three-day weekend. Yesterday I played all day, waking up early to ride the Metro Seattle bus my partner drives every weekday morning. I'd never seen her at work in this capacity of city bus driver. I love seeing how people work and remembering all the realms we live in as human beings from the domestic to professional and the qualities these realms bring out in us. After the bus ride, I spent the next couple hours reading Vanity Fair and drinking tea in Pioneer Square waiting for Bar Sajor to open, but it turns out they are not yet open for lunch. The wind whips through downtown Seattle giving the neighborhood its own unique weather patterns. The gusts sent me home for lunch, but later when the sun started to show around tall, voluminous clouds, I walked down to South Lake Union for 50 cent oysters at Flying Fish. And finally, that grilled chicken I craved from Bar Sajor happened in Wallingford at a friends house where a group of Irish visitors gathered around lots of boiled potatoes, salad, chicken from the grill, and salmon.

After all that play yesterday I easily settled into marmalade preparations this morning. I sliced and picked out seeds and watched over pots of simmering fruit.

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I'm working on two rounds of Lemon Pear Marmalade and a Kumquat Meyer Lemon Marmalade, which is a Kumquat jelly with slices of Meyer Lemon.

I make winter fruit subscription deliveries this week and though I have boxes and boxes of jam jars ready to go, I always feel a little more prepared when there are also preserves working on the kitchen counter and stove. I'm sitting at a shop three blocks from home with an evening coffee, but back in my apartment kitchen kumquat halves slowly seep flavor into water, juice collects in bowls set under colanders that contain spent, cooked-out pear eighths that simmered for three hours.

To accompany my coffee I brought along Nigel Slater's Ripe. I've mentioned this book on here before. It is an ultimate tome for thinking about fruit in the kitchen, in the pantry, and in the entire context of a meal. I cannot recommend this book enough and to do so I want to start pointing at some of his fruit cookery ideas. I'll start with something really simple. Fool. It's cream, sugar, fruit, a small serving vessel, and a slight chill.

Slater doesn't specifically give a recipe for making a fool with jam, but he points at the concept with " A Damson fool ", page 225. For 4 people, he cooks 1 pound damson plums with 5 Tablespoons sugar. He food mills this. He whips cream (1.25 cups) til it barely holds its shape and to it he adds the fruit and sugar mixture. It's chilled in small cups and eaten several hours later. I have never measured my proportion of cream to fruit. At home, I just whip some cream and add jam to taste, but I knew someone out there would have more helpful information. And here it is. She works with Strawberry Jam. What jam do you have around?

Distracted and Recipe Writing

This is an odds and ends post I think. It's Sunday evening. I've spent the day by myself both resting and doing laps around the house, laundry, defrosting sweatbreads and lamb tongue for dinner, dishes, napping, drinking a glass of mead, and costing out jam recipes I made last year. On Thursday I started a big feeling post about my mother's land back in Vermont. It's the farm I grew up on. I've had the property on my mind for years, but only very recently did I start sharing my dreams and designs for the property with my mother. She is a wonderfully practical woman so I have always thought that I needed a business plan and financial backing before I could come to her with my ideas. She is also (I am learning) very supportive and interested in putting the Vermont land she lives on back to work. This is a very big deal and it involves an intimacy with my home and my mother that is all new to me. Writing about a possible business with my mother back on the land where I grew up is a ball of emotion on the large side. For now the whole thing is sitting in my draft box so I can think more. I had a torrid love affair with a box of Seville oranges and my new copper jam pan.IMG_0690

Now my mind just skitters about. I look online at prices for commercial kitchen rentals here in Seattle. I continue to contemplate whether or how to start producing jam commercially on a level that allows me greater selling opportunities rather than continuing with the grassroots-friends-and-family-suggested-donation approach I currently take. In my head I imagine all the math I must do to establish how much every angle of a micro-jam business costs. Last weekend, I looked at the recipe for Blackberry and Damson Plum with Lemon Basil. Using conservative, ie, high, prices for the fruit, honey, and jars, I came up with a rough cost of goods per jar. Just for the ingredients I calculated a $4.67 cost per 6 oz. jar. I know that's a high price, but I actually found the numbers and their tangibility encouraging.

Then my brain ratcheted to another ongoing question of mine concerning the jam I make. What are its uses again? I spent the next couple days eating jam on toast. People tend to imagine bread first when they think of jam. I rarely eat jam on toast so I wanted to experience my preserves in their natural habitat. At first I loved my morning plate of bread slices, each adorned with a different jam flavor. Good stuff I thought, but by day three, the sweetness of the jam got insipid and I found myself heading for the tartest flavors I could find amongst my stores.

Once I ran out of bread I turned to my two current favorite cookbooks for thinking about fruit and cooking, Pam Corbin's Cake Handbook from the River Cottage Handbook series and Nigel Slater's Ripe. The recipes for Seville Orange Polenta Cake and Banana Bread in the River Cottage Cake Handbook stuck out to me. I decided to combine them into a cake. For my first take on this idea I used a Banana Bread recipe subbing preserves for the mashed banana. Testing out different kinds of honey last year I accumulated more batches of lemon marmalade than I could eat which made it the natural choice for the cake.

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How did it turn out? I am terrible at answering this question. At work it's my job to decide if something tastes "right", but when it comes to eating food at home I am so much less picky. Even more so when tasting sweets. I adore cake. Almost anything baked and sweet I love. Taste Notes, here goes: (Oh, I frosted the cake with a combination of creme fraiche and lemon marmalade.) Taste was good, sweet!, definitely lemony with a touch of that marmalade bitterness. I found the texture disarmingly soft, a zero-to-one-chew-needed-before-swallowing kind of softness. Keep in mind, this was my reaction after eating the cake several hours after it came out of the oven. The cake's mouth-feel improved and all the flavors integrated more by day two. By day four the cake was gone. I think it hit its peak on day three. This isn't unusual for cakes. At my work we currently bake a molasses spice cake that definitely improves with age. I want to make my Marmalade Cake again, tweak it some, maybe you'd like to work on it too? Here is my recipe for now:

Citrus Marmalade Cake

Sift together the following and set aside: 3 cups almond flour + 1/8 t salt + 1/2 t baking soda

Combine the following in 1 bowl and once mixed add to dry ingredients: 1 c citrus marmalade + 1/4 c honey + 4 eggs + 1/2 c yogurt + dash of vanilla extract + zest from 2 lemons

I baked this is in two cake pans in a 325 degrees Fahrenheit until done. Isn't that a maddening direction? Til'Done! No, but seriously my baking times will differ from yours and yours and yours. Just make sure to peep in the oven after 15 minutes and move the cakes around to ensure even baking. It's almond flour and honey so be extra vigilant, these ingredients brown quickly. These cakes should not take longer than a 40 minutes to bake.

Let the cakes rest for several minutes before you pop them out of their pans and place them on cooling racks.

While they rest, mix together the Citrus Marmalade Frosting: 2/3 c creme fraiche + 1/3 c citrus marmalade + 1/4 c honey.

Once the cakes cool completely, ice them up! Remember, this cake improves with a little rest time. Taste it over several days and see how it changes.

Refrigeration isn't necessary, just store covered in a cool place.