Rosemary Sugar


Did you love cinnamon toast as a child? I did, and I still do! It was a crucial part of my young cooking arsenal. I wonder why we never spread any other kind of sugar on our toast? Well, rosemary toast is a thing in my world now. You might want to try it. I was recently doing some experimenting with rosemary, to see if I could make it stay green and fresh longer. My standby, and the method I’ll probably stay with, is to wrap it in paper towels with a sprinkle of cold water and then keep it in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer. I’ve also been known to keep it in a glass with an inch or two of water, like flowers in a vase, then cover it with a plastic bag and stick it in the fridge. That’s just asking for trouble, though, whether you have a seven year old in the house or not.

However. If you are using your rosemary in a sweet application, like I was in this cause for experimentation, I thought: why not whiz it up with some sugar? Just like I did with that basil salt from a few weeks ago. Take the needles off of a few twigs of fresh rosemary–maybe you have a half of a cup? Add that and a half cup of sugar in the  food processor for a good 30 seconds until it’s chopped and mixed well. The rosemary will release some liquid and the sugar will become a little bit coarser or clumpier. Keep it in a jar in the fridge. When you have a slice of toast needing to be dressed, butter it well and then spread it with some of this.

But it’s not just good for toast! It’s also good mixed in with a jam, or in a fruit pie, especially apple pie. Rosemary is great with so many things. Fruit is one. Another one is nuts. This pine-y, sticky sugar is great for a quick nut mix. Lightly grease a large cast iron pan–I used coconut oil–toast up some almonds, about a cup. (Don’t walk away like I did, you will likely burn your nuts! Which is NOT pleasant.)  When they are nice and toasty, put a tablespoonful of the sugar in the pan and mix it up with a rubber spatula, evenly coating all the almonds. Remove to a plate to cool and sprinkle with some Maldon salt. Or add a spoonful to a cookie batter, or shortbread. In a cake batter, in a pie crust. The sweet options are many!


Tomato Plum Jam


This bowl has been sitting on my kitchen table for more than a few days. It was haphazard–a few elephant heart plums, Italian prune plums, and some of the last tomatoes from volunteer plants in my garden. I don’t know what kind of tomatoes they were, but they are large and pretty, with a faint tinge of pink. The other day I came close to the bowl and the smell of these fruits together rose up together in a gloriously perfumed way, and I knew this bowl was to become a batch of jam.


I’ve been making tomato plum jam for a few years now. Last year’s batch was really special, made with Japanese Black Trifele tomatoes that were incredibly delicious and some prune plums. Tomatoes and plums are such an amazing combination–slightly mysterious because we don’t always expect tomatoes mixed with plums. I’ve been seeing a lot of salads with plums in them, and I can attest that they are amazing together. This salad (above) with Santa Rosa plums and figs mixed with tomatoes and basil was pure summer heaven. I hope you are doing the same before they are all gone!


Tomato Plum Jam

Yields 4-5 half pint jars

1 pound of tomatoes, large reds are nice, chopped coarsely, squeezed of a little of their water

1 pound of plums, mixed is fine, pitted, quartered

1 pound of sugar (about 2 cups)

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Let the fruit sit with the sugar for several hours to overnight, covered and in a cool spot. The fridge is fine, too. Then boil in a good jam pot until the mixture has become thick and jammy. Process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes or keep in the fridge.

Basil Salt


The serious preserving season is upon us now, and the sweet feelings we felt towards the first tender vegetables of the season have long since gone. I’m not sure I need to see another green bean for a long while, to be honest. This summer was incredibly dry, which had its upsides. The bugs weren’t that bad, for one. However, the acorns seem to be dropping very early this year, and as I write this on the porch I can see a yellow leaf from the linden tree gently falling to the ground. It doesn’t bode well for colorful fall foliage–a dry summer means early leaf drop.

I’ve already pulled most of the cucumbers, mostly because they seemed finished. This dry summer did them in– they became bitter because of my uneven watering, I must admit. I have never tasted anything so bitter! This year’s cucumbers were also sneaky. I lost many a cucumber to gigantism. I know–there are ways to pickle even those large yellow sneaks, but I’ve done it before and I don’t feel it’s worth the investment of time. Into the compost they go. The potatoes are all up, and buckwheat has been sowed in their place to help out a new patch of garden soil I opened up this year. The potatoes break up the soil, and the buckwheat will bring nutrients. And so it goes.

This year’s garden was the most unambitious yet, mostly because I felt like the garden needed a rest. I barely had any tomato plants (well, there are nine–six were given and three were volunteers–but who’s counting?), and I devoted large patches just to herbs. For almost ten years I have been gardening this patch, and I thought that now would be a good time to give it, and, truth be told, me, a rest. I already feel success in that I am looking forward to next year’s garden. I hope the soil feels the same.

I am quite busy with work these days so the preserving I do for the home must be tamed. When I am outrageously busy it’s often something I bring upon myself. How many times have I not been able to resist a half-bushel of fruit one minute, only to be petrified later by the hours ahead that I must devote to putting it up. Restrain yourself, I say to myself. It gets easier as one gets older and tireder.


One of the things I need to attend to is the basil. There is quite a bit of basil. I know some folks could eat pesto all the time, but I’m not one of them. I do love it, but the jars of it loaded in the freezer seem to lose their luster after a few months. This year, to take care of the glut of basil I have, I did my typical armchair preserving and made basil salt. Simply take a few large handfuls of clean, dry basil and maybe a half cup of kosher salt and blend them together in the food processor. I was scared this was going to turn black, as basil often does, but it stayed bright green. Keep it in a jar in the fridge. It has been delicious sprinkled on tomatoes, eggs cooked any way, and I’m sure it will be helpful over the winter, seasoning already canned tomato puree and a top of many a pizza. A little goes a long way, maybe all the way into next summer.

Apricot Almond Tart


Soon all the summer fruits will have had their fifteen minutes. Strawberries seem like forever ago! All you have to do is go away for a week, and you’ve missed something. I almost missed the elderberries this year, but luckily I now have portions of it’s intensely colored juice mixed with honey from my neighbor’s bees to stave off winter viruses. (The coming winter is predicted to be more of the same as last year. Shiver!)

One of my very favorite fruits to make jam out of is apricots, and I was gone right when they were at their peak. So when I returned, I was on a mission to find the last of this precious bounty! I called a few places I know of to no avail. Finally, I found some! It was the very last case of the very last apricots, probably about 18 pounds of them. I made two large batches of jam for Half-Pint Preserves. My son must have eaten about five pounds all by himself. And the last few I made into this tart. It is incredibly good.


The original recipe is nothing short of genius. Lazy person that I am, I wanted a tart but didn’t want to make a pie crust. I searched around and found this brilliant recipe for plum almond crustless tart from Kitchen Vignettes. I take no credit for this very easy and very delicious recipe. I only tweaked it a little.  I’ll be making it again soon with plums, but I think I may add a sprinkle of cinnamon so it’s a bit like a German plum kuchen. It works as breakfast with a spoonful of Greek yogurt, but also is an elegant dessert.

Apricot Almond Tart

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have ready an 11-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, greased well.

2 cups almond flour (or start with raw almonds–about 1 1/2 cups should yield 2 cups flour)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 eggs

1 pound of apricots, pitted and halved

(Optional: 1 tablespoon of sugar to sprinkle on top before baking)

You can use a food processor for this entire recipe. First put the almonds in to finely grind them into flour. Then add the butter and sugar to cream well. Add the flour, the extract and the eggs, pulsing after each addition. Spread batter into pan. Push each fruit half into the batter leaving room between each piece. The pieces can be up or down, or both. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 45 minutes.


Summer’s Wane


Summer has us firmly in its grip, but still one can’t help but to notice it is on the wane. We are a good ways past the summer solstice and you can see the difference in the evening sky. The days are hot but the morning has a bit of autumnal chill to it. My summer has mostly been about being with my almost seven-year-old son–we don’t do camp, so he’s my full time job. It also happens to be the start of busy season for jam-making and preserving, so my lazy days are punctuated by bits of frenzy, in the small windows where I can do my work.

We have done our fair share of swimming, in the mountains, rivers and streams, a bit in the ocean. Some major milestones were reached: actual swimming! head under the water! riding a bike! It’s all very exciting but it doesn’t leave much for my own projects or creativity. My weekly writing has fallen steeply. This is all fine, because as everyone says, this sweet time will be over in a quick blink of the eye. There will be plenty of time for more canning or learning or career advancement (ha!). I’m not saying I’m always so aware of this wisdom. Sometimes I can be quite the child myself! Writing it down seems to help. One day I’ll long for these days spent reading children’s books over and over, playing Legos, and pretending to be a shark in the water.

In the meantime, as my creativity wanes along with the summer, I am finding inspiration from other places. Here’s some of them:

I had a great time with Eve, who writes the very delicious and detailed blog Garden of Eating, when I had her over for lunch. Check out this post she wrote about a tip I gave her – thanks, Eve! I’m always impressed by her photography, and I always want to eat what she’s eating!

Shae, from Hitchhiking to Heaven, is writing beautiful missives from her travels in Alaska at Fairfax to Fairbanks. I am lost in this in the very best way. I know I’m not the only one!

This had me at the first line of the recipe: “10 cups of gin-soaked black currants.” It’s a recipe for Black Currant Chutney from Marie at 66 Square Feet (Plus), after using the berries for black currant gin. My kind of recipe!

This beautiful photo-heavy post on wild mushrooms from Laura at Glutton For Life had me wishing for rain, as most of our fungi has dried up and disappeared, to return when the time is right. (Did you know Beatrix Potter was a mycologist? I didn’t. Thanks to Brain Pickings this book is now on my to-read list.)


Just have to note these three best desserts I made this summer:

All-in-One Chocolate Cake from Nigella Lawson. So darn easy and straightforward. See it above. And this tip about putting parchment paper under your cakes in strips so when you are done frosting the plate will be clean was priceless for me, as I am not the best cake maker.

Almond Flour Berry Cobbler from King Arthur. Wow. So good! I made this with peaches and blueberries.

Cherry Bars from The Recipe. Tip o’the hat to Mrs. Wheelbarrow for clueing me in to this one.


It’s also high pickling season–it’s been cucumberville over here. I’ve been relying a lot on a great book I got in the fall, Fermented Vegetables. The thing I love best about it is how each vegetable is listed in alphabetical order and gives thoughts and recipes on each one, if they are recommended!

I’ve been making lots of that smashed/smacked cucumber salad with the tinier cucumbers in my garden. It’s addictive. I’ve been taking a little from these three recipes and making my own. I hope I get around to writing it down! Here, here and here. If you have a preferred recipe for this, let me know!

Okay, over and out. I’m going deeper still into summer. I hope to see you when I pull myself out!

Hansen’s Cherry Sauce


Do you remember when you were little how the sun would still be out when your parents put you to bed in the summer? I recall lying on my small skinny bed with the springy coils next to the open window, waiting to fall asleep. It would get dark, and I would still be up, looking out the window at the night sky. I remember hearing the sounds from our town a few blocks away: muscle cars revving their engines outside a bar, people laughing and yelling, bottles breaking. It’s a very vibrant memory in my mind, one that comes back to me all the time. Those sounds of the world outside of my little life were so exciting, and I didn’t even know why. I didn’t realize then that I was listening to some punks outside of a seedy Long Island bar, circa late ’70s. To me it was more exotic than anything I could think of.

For some strange reason, linked to this memory of late-night bar rabble sounds is Kermit the Frog singing It’s Not Easy Being Green. I think I had a dream with Kermit in it, and then woke to the bar sounds. I feel like there’s something in this about the wistfulness of that song paired with the wondering about other people’s lives, through the lens of a child’s eye. The longing for something more exciting has always rumbled in my interior. I often–still— get the feeling that I should be somewhere else, somewhere more exciting. The reality is that I really like where I am, and truth be told, where I am is often filled with discoveries that I might not realize living the gypsy’s life that I sometimes long for. I’ve been living in this area now off and on for 25 years (more on than off) and I am still amazed by the things I find. Of course, some of those things are in my backyard, my literal back yard, the property I actually planted! And they still surprise me!

Like these three little Hansen’s cherry bushes that I planted years ago, and moved a few times, and never got a cherry from. Finally, giving up on them, I moved them into a cluster by the stream and gave up. This year they put out such a huge load of cherries, I couldn’t even believe it. It has been a banner year for all cherries. Which is nice because I can’t remember when I was overloaded with cherries. Ends up that although they are gorgeously translucent red, looking just like choice little rubies, their pits are pretty big in comparison to their flesh. They are super tart with a good cherry flavor, closer to sour cherries than sweet. The best thing to do in these cases, is to cook them off and pass them through a food mill. Then add to that pulpy mixture sugar to your liking and boil hard until it reduces to a thick sauce. I canned this and hope to add it to some apple sauce come fall. I think it will also find its way into smoothies, and maybe even a sauces for roasted pork.

Hansen’s Cherry Sauce

yields 2 pints

3 pounds of cherries

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Sugar to taste, about 1.5 to 2 cups of sugar

Put cherries in a pot with scant water (about 1/4 cup). Boil to soften the fruit enough to mill. Pass through food mill to remove pits. You will have about four cups of puree. Add the rest of the ingredients, start with the smaller amount of sugar and taste. Boil about ten or fifteen minutes, until thickened and slightly glossy. Process in a water bath for ten minutes.


Jostaberry Jam


A couple of years ago, my mother had four jostaberry plants sent to me for my birthday. If you know me, you’ll know that a fruit plant is always a wise gift to give me! What is a jostaberry, you ask? Well, if you want to get very specific here’s a link to its Wikipedia page, but for the most part it is a hybrid of black currant and two different gooseberries. It’s a hardy, disease resistant plant that yields large, dark purple berries. It’s got the tartness of the gooseberry and some of the complexity of a black currant.

This is the first year that I’ve had a significant harvest, considering last year’s was all of four berries. This year I’ve taken a few pounds already, and there are more hanging on the bush. I believe I am taking them well before they are ready–about a third are dark purple which is the ripe stage, a third are maroon with tinges of green, and a third are green because they just came off. Why haven’t you seen more jostaberries around? Well, I’ve found out first hand: they are hard to pick even though they do not have thorns like gooseberries do. I’m surprised it is said that birds will get them quickly, because the berries don’t seem to want to come off the stem. You really have to pull, hence all the green ones I’ve gotten. I’m going to let the rest of them get really dark and see what happens. As you may know, some unripe fruit is good for a jam. The levels of pectin are higher in unripe fruit, and therefore your “set” (or how firm a jam is) will be easier to reach.

I’m excited to experiment with this fruit, as it seems that they will do well in both sweet and savory applications (I’m thinking pickled jostaberries), but my predilections always run to jam first. My first batch was a real treat: deep garnet in hue, sweet and tart with a chewiness I appreciate. You can detect the black currant undertones, which I can only describe as a mix between deep forest and red berry. There are a few seeds in the berry which I don’t mind, but some may wish to pass it through a sieve. Today I might try a batch with a traditional gooseberry flavoring: the elderflower, which is blooming profusely all around my yard. For now these are the basics of this jam, if you see it at a market I hope you try it!


Jostaberry Jam

Yields two 8 ounce jars, plus a bit for the fridge

1 pound of jostaberries (about a quart), topped and tailed

1/2 pound of sugar (1 cup)

1/4 cup water

First, you must top and tail the fruit. I have heard you can leave them in, but the stems and dried flowers are rough and scratchy, so I prefer them off. What exactly does top and tail mean? On one end is the stem, and on the other end is the spent flower–take them both off. You can snip them with sharp scissors, but using your fingers seems just as quick. It’s sort of a pain, but find the zen spot of it.

Put the topped and tailed berries in a pot with 1/4 cup of water. Boil gently for ten minutes to soften the berries. Add the sugar, and return to a boil. The mixture will quickly turn magenta, deepen and start to form large glossy bubbles. It will take about ten minutes to reach the gel stage. If you boil it too long, you may end up with a very firm jam, which might be fine with you depending on your preferences. I use the spoon technique, and watch for two drips. It’s very unscientific, but I’ve found it’s the best indicator of a when jam is done, even more so than the cold plates method, which I find very fussy.

There is no need to add lemon, as the berries are very tart. You may process these in a boiling water bath for ten minutes to keep them on the shelf.

Staying Hungry


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 178 other followers

%d bloggers like this: