Monday, January 24, 2011

Of French Copper & Blue Chairs

Santa Claus brought me a French copper preserving pot for Christmas this year. Confession or admission? I'm afraid I'm becoming a jam person - like a cat lady or a jazz fanatic. One should have a healthy distrust of such narrow obsessions and secret societies. But since I own a cat and listen to jazz I'm beginning to see a disturbing trend.

Jam making, while relatively simple, is fraught with subtle and nuanced potential disasters that are rarely, if ever, addressed or articulated in preserving cookbooks. They're pretty consistent in this regard. I'm not sure if it's a lack of thoroughness on the authors' parts or a smug presumption that you already know the arcane tricks of the trade–as if to say, "If you have to ask then you're obviously not one of us."

But fear not! I have found my guru and her name is Rachel Saunders. The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook is my bible (my wife has started referring to her as my "jam girlfriend" as compared to my eldest daughter who is simply my "girlfriend" or my youngest daughter who is my "new girlfriend.")

Although I'm determined that this blog won't review books or restaurants, I'm going to make an exception in this case. For anyone interested in making preserves or who, like me, just likes collecting beautiful cookbooks–stop what you're doing right now and run as fast as you can to your local book purveyor and get a copy. Every aspect of jam-making is explained in clear, thorough and beautiful detail, from process and equipment to the stages of cooking and the dreaded "setting point." There are neat tricks for sterilizing, seasonal recipes and a whole back section that just talks about fruits. In fact the whole book has a quality I find irresistible in a cookbook–it's a great read. (Note: when you start taking cookbooks to bed for your evening reading you can rest assured you have a problem.)

I am now armed and dangerous and heading to the kitchen to make Orange Campari Marmalade.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Winter's Garden

"Even in winter an untidy garden is an eyesore. Keep mulches of straw and leaves well held in place."

"Between now and the first of March prune your grapes."

-Richardson Wright

The snow falls and falls
The mountains and meadows sleep.
Only an old mill
Stays awake.

-Okakura Ichijitsu