Category: seasonal

Bachelor’s jam.

Just when you think you’ve made almost every kind of jam there is, you find a new one. Or at least, thats my story anyway. I present to you today, “Bachelor’s jam”; one of the oldest kinds of fruit preservation there is. Yep. You read that correctly. One of the oldest. And might I add- the easiest.

Bachelor's jam, aka rumtopf. Fruit layered with sugar and soaked in alcohol.

In Germany, it’s known as rumtopf (rum pot). Perhaps you’ve heard of that. Let’s see what Wikipedia says:

Rumtopf (Danish: Romkrukke), which literally means rum pot, is a German and Danish dessert, traditionally eaten around Christmas.[1] Once a popular traditional dessert, Rumtopf has become rather unfashionable in recent years.[2]

A mixture of various kinds of fruit, high-strength rum, often Stroh’s, and sugar is filled into a large stoneware pot (the eponymous rum pot) and matured for several months until the fruit is very soft and completely saturated with rum. Suitable fruit includes berries, cherries, plums and apricots. Not all fruits are appropriate for Rumtopf, and the overproof rum should be of only 100-110 proof (50-55% alcohol by volume), which is not commonly available at retail in all regions, but can be prepared by blending more common commercially available 151 proof and 80 proof rums.[3][4][5]

Traditionally, the pot is set up in a cool and dark place in Spring, and different kinds of ripe fruit are added to it over the months as they come in season. The fruit is thereby preserved to be eaten in Winter, when the Rumtopf is matured.

Bachelor's jam, or rumtopf.

In France? It’s known as confiture de vieux garçon, or bachelor’s jam. And sometimes it’s even called “officer’s jam” (which is even better & more appropriate for us!). I happen to think that’s a far more intriguing name, so that’s what I’m going with.

In order to make this, there is little to no effort on your part. Seriously. If you can chop fruit, and you have both alcohol and sugar in your possession, then you can make this. No canning required. You don’t even need to add herbs or spices or fancy stuff; it’s fine on it’s own. And best part? NO COOKING. At ALL. Not even turning on a burner on the stove!

Continue reading

Mini cherry Pimm’s pies.

Mini cherry pies with Pimm's liqueur.

I told you. I have had a lot of cherries. I received an amazingly large shipment of beautiful Northwest cherries from Rainier Fruit Co, and while I used most of them for canning and preserving, there were a decent amount that got too soft or weren’t right for that purpose. And that’s okay- it happens! They were excellent for eating fresh right out of the bag. But I needed to bake.

You know how that is. When you just have to bake something, even if it is 90º?

Well, yeah. That happens to me, anyway. So I decided to bake up some mini cherry pies… with a twist: I added some Pimm’s No. 1 Cup to them.

Pimm's cherry pies.

Continue reading

Surprise in the garden: Black swallowtail caterpillars!

…just when you think you’ve seen it all…

In today’s edition of “Things I’ve Found in the Garden,” we have quite the intriguing specimen. Imagine this: it’s a hot summer weekend day. Your parents are over having drinks on the porch waiting for a barbecue, you’re watering the garden, leisurely taking some pictures of Indy…

Indy in the backyard.

And of course taking artsy pictures of your tomatoes that you will edit & filter to look like they’re right out of 1970 (because Photoshop)…

When all of a sudden, your husband calls you over, his voice sounding slightly surprised and a little skeptical, to see some “bugs” on the dill. So you walk over, completely expecting to see those crazy looking candy-striped leafhoppers that are irritating the hell out of you (and your eggplants) when you look at where he’s pointing and see this:

Black swallowtail caterpillar on Fernleaf dill.

Freakin’ caterpillars! Not that many, maybe about 5 or 6, spread out all over the Fernleaf dill. Now, one thing you should know about me is that I am a geek. A total nerd. A science and history-specific geeky nerd person. So this stuff, this nature & science stuff, it totally gets me going.

So immediately I do a Google, and come to find out some very interesting facts-

The (Eastern) Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes), also called the American Swallowtail or Parsnip Swallowtail,[1] is a butterfly found throughout much of North America. It is the state butterfly of Oklahoma. An extremely similar-appearing species, Papilio joanae, occurs in the Ozark Mountains region, but it appears to be closely related to Papilio machaon, rather than P. polyxenes. The species is named after the figure in Greek mythology, Polyxena (pron.: /pəˈlɪksɨnə/; Greek: Πολυξένη), who was the youngest daughter of King Priam of Troy.

Continue reading

Green tea + Jasmine cherry preserves, for our independence.

Ahhh, Independence Day. A day where Americans can reflect on what our forefathers went through to create this nation, and to remember how far we’ve come. But mostly just shoot off fireworks and get hammered. Totes legit. Go ‘Murica.

Anyway, because I’m certifiably insane I usually like to make red, white & blue themed desserts for this weekend. Like a sweet cherry cream pie, or strawberry shortcake cupcakes, or blueberry hand pies. This year I wasn’t feeling it- it’s actually too hot to have that oven on. So I did something totally different. I made cherry preserves. Because I have a lot of cherries, in case you didn’t know.

Shout out to The Washington State Stone Fruit Commission and Rainier Fruit Co. once again for their gorgeous fruit. I love being a Canbassador!

Rainier Fruit Co. cherries! I put 'em into some green tea + jasmine cherry preserves!

But, because I’m a wackjob, these are not just ANY cherry preserves…

They’re cherry preserves made with green tea + jasmine!

Green tea + jasmine cherry preserves.

I had this tea series my dad got me for Christmas, the Boston Tea Company‘s Boston Harbour Series. And seeing that and putting that together with Independence Day, plus all these cherries I have… it gave me an idea. Why not go back to my old standby for making preserves: infusing them with tea!?

The Boston Tea Party was pivotal in the formation of the United States, after all. It should get some credit!

Continue reading

Cherries in the snow- uh, syrup.

Cherries in a light almond-y syrup. #sweetpreservation

Remember that Revlon lipstick, Cherries in the Snow? I believe they still make it. I remember as a kid my mom wore it, and I loved the name. What a great name for a lipstick. It was one of their best sellers for many, many years by the time I came along. Anyway… I always think of that lipstick when I see cherries, so it was more than a great name, it was great marketing!

This post isn’t really about Revlon or makeup or anything related to it at all, actually. It is, however, about cherries. Sweet, perfect cherries from the Rainier Fruit Company. And of course, part 1 (part 1… yes, there will be more) of what I did with them!

Rainier Company cherries! #sweetpreservation

Continue reading

Raspberry cinnamon basil jam.

Did you know how many types of basil there are? In my short life experience with growing it, I’ve grown Thai basil, Genovese basil, sweet basil, amethyst basil, Greek basil & cinnamon basil. And there are plenty more varieties. This year, we kept it to 3 kinds; sweet basil, purple ruffles basil (which has deep purple ruffled leaves & has an almost anise smell to it) and cinnamon basil. And it’s not just basil I love experimenting with. We have two types of dill, two types of oregano, three types of sage…

I love having them around, especially to sneak into jams and preserves. They’re always unexpected, and leave the taster saying, “Wait.. what is that flavor?!”

Small-batch raspberry cinnamon basil jam.

Two years ago I did it with blueberries and regular basil. The year before that? I popped some cilantro into raspberry jam with jalapeños. Last year I made my dad an experimental small jar of mixed berry jam with cinnamon basil, and it was such a hit I decided to try it again. This time, I’m doing a plain raspberry jam… with a sneaky little bit of cinnamon basil strewn in.

Cinnamon basil -which is also known as Mexican spice basil- smells like a strange combo of basil & cinnamon; moreso cinnamon. It’s a very unique smell & flavor. It actually contains the same chemical (methyl cinnamate) that gives cinnamon it’s flavor. When popped into a jam, it really helps the jam straddle that line between sweet & savory.

Continue reading

The garden life.

Living the garden life, 2015!

Well, last post was about the start of my married life, this post is about the updates to my garden life.

I’ve had gardens for years. You all probably know how I feel about this, but I’ll say it again: if you have a piece of land, you should be growing SOMETHING on it. If you have a terrace or patio or small deck, you can grow some small peppers or patio tomatoes. If you have a window box, you should be growing herbs. There are no excuses! I started growing herbs myself, outdoors on a bigger scale, in “container gardens” in 2008. In 2010, I expanded to create an entire veggie container garden with a few tomato plants, a few pepper plants, and some zucchini, eggplant and cucumber. I really didn’t know what I was doing, to be honest, and while I got one or two paltry cukes, the zucchini didn’t give me anything that year. I later learned that the zucchini wasn’t being pollinated, and I would have to do it myself, which was unsuccessful. I did get some zucchini blossoms out of it, however.

In 2011, I had quite a large setup and everything was doing awesome! I had even gotten some cukes that year! But my nana had passed away in July, and then thats when Hurricane Irene hit us in August. And while she wasn’t as bad as we expected, she was bad enough. She decimated my plants, ripped the growing eggplants off, and ruined a few things. But that year I realized that the best results come from attracting lots of bees!

By 2012, I had learned a thing or two more about how things go, and what should go with what. I planted basil with my tomatoes, and the tomatoes were sweet and juicy, and the peppers were amazing. I wasn’t an expert yet by any means, but I was headed in the right direction. The next year, 2013, I just grew herbs. It was a transitional year for me in a lot of ways and I just didn’t have the heart to have a lot of things to “take care of.”

Baby leaf spinach.

And last year brought my  new raised garden bed! Jay agreed to build it for me and it turned out to be his new hobby/favorite thing ever. And so we really expanded. We ended up with TONS of veggies & herbs… and a few lessons learned the hard way; i.e. cucumbers should be by themselves because they will over take EVERYTHING, and tomatoes and dill should not be planted in the same area! Whoops.

Continue reading