Jerusalem Artichokes


Last week the house was filled with the smell of quinces. It is a smell with a strong presence, floral and fruity. I was making lots of jam and jelly with that box of quinces I posted two weeks ago, and that smell and it’s rosy hue has put me in a good frame of mind. The porch is also putting me in a good frame of mind, as it’s doubling as the walk-in fridge now that it’s getting colder. I only get this option for a few weeks until it becomes too cold to leave anything out there. For now it’s like a grocery store: there are still apples, a small bowl of quinces, celery root, jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, onions, and squashes. Some will keep longer than others, like the squashes, and some will go quickly–like the jerusalem artichokes, also called sunchokes. I’m afraid I neglected them in favor of the quinces. Now it’s time to get to them, as they don’t keep long once harvested. Because of this I usually harvest half of the crop, then a few weeks later I harvest the rest.

Jerusalem artichokes are that wondrous crop that takes absolutely no effort for consistent harvests year after year if you have them in a nice sunny spot. They are also beautiful, tall and graceful with sunflowers that bloom at the end of summer into fall. No work at all. Just plant them and every year after that you can dig them out and eat them. That is, if your digestive system allows it. You don’t want to overindulge with sunchokes.  I might try this fermented Jerusalem artichoke pickle from Linda Ziedrich, which is also an amusing read on the indiscretion of this particular tuber. Some people do think that fermenting makes them easier on the digestive tract. Also low and slow cooking seems to help some people.

The other day I slow roasted a bunch in a pan with a whole chicken and they came out amazingly savory with a touch of sweetness, their outsides get crisp and the insides turn to creamy pudding. Cooking them long and low seems to inhibit the concentration of inulin, thereby creating less gas in the digestive tract. (Or that’s what some people say.)  There were a few roasted chokes left, along with parsnips, potatoes, onions and excellent chicken stock. Cooked up and then pureed, it turned into the best creamy and velvety soup.

I’ve started a celery root and Jerusalem artichoke kimchi, inspired by the book Fermented Vegetables and the recipe they shared from Cultured Pickle Shops. The original recipe is for Fennel and Sunchoke, so I’m looking forward to seeing how this comes out. How about jerusalem artichoke kraut, I wondered? I thought once grated, and fermented, they would stay a long time and be perfectly suited to become delicious fritters. I’ve only fermented them in thin slices before, and I feel that grated might be easier to incorporate in recipes. There was some dill in my fridge that needed using up, so I threw that in as well. I’ll check back here with an update on how they taste, but I will write down the recipe here if anyone out there happens to have some Jerusalem artichokes that need eating up!

Jerusalem Artichoke Kraut with Dill

3 pounds of cleaned, grated jerusalem artichokes (I do not peel them)

2 tablespoons of salt (sea salt is fine, but I use canning salt)

about a handful of dill, chopped coarsely

Grate all the chokes, put them in a bowl and sprinkle them with the salt. Mix with your hands, squeezing the mixture, adding in the dill. Let sit for a few hours to let the liquid collect. Pack tightly in a half-gallon jar which just fits it all in and cover with whatever it is you use for fermenting, in my case a smaller jar that fits in the wide mouth of the mason jar. In my case there was not enough liquid to cover the mixture properly, so I made a brine of one quart of water with 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt and once the salt was dissolved I used it to cover the kraut. Once the bubbling subsides, I will taste it to see if it’s ready. It might take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks.



Maybe I was mistaken that the fall this year would be fleeting, as it is so often. This week we’ve had highs in the upper 60s–not a snow flake in sight!– even though the leaves continue to fall. There are birds frolicking all over my yard at the moment: the ever present nuthatches, a flock of bluebirds really seeming to be having fun, looking in at me typing on the porch, some woodpeckers–a yellow bellied and a downy–tapping in the trees that surround the house. Yellow-jackets hover around the porch screens, they can sense the baskets of fruit that line the wall inside, in particular the bowl of heady quinces on the table. A lazy fruit fly buzzes a wobbly line of flight. Thick leathery mahogany red oak leaves flutter down without stop, it seems, baring all the squirrel nests that dot the upper branches.


One of the things I do enjoy about the falling of the leaves is that so much is revealed. The houses across the small valley are now visible, the ridge seems closer now that all the leaves are gone, and cars can be seen and not just heard from way down the road. A warm breeze floats up the hill I’m on, and it makes the last leaves on the trees rattle, a sound I note with some sadness. Despite the warmth, my neighbor’s chimney is puffing out a thin line of smoke that moves with the wind. The smoke changes the way the air smells, along with the the mold of the leaves’ decay, the damp smell of leaf litter.


I hope to have something more substantial than seasonal musings up here next week, but for now, I’m outside enjoying the fine weather, the dried out milkweed pods and their silky seed parachutes inside, the slowly changing glow of copper and russet, the mesmerizing fall of leaves, the exquisite change of life to death.


Pear Cider Syrup


The fall is well on its way–foliage is now at what I see as its second peak. The first peak is when the leaves are screaming their bright colors, but there is still enough green that all the colors sing. The second peak is a bit more subtle, rich, not as demanding of your attention. Everything has more or less turned, many leaves are down, and a subdued wash covers the whole countryside. Last week was the first, and quick, wave, glorious fall days full of sun and blue skies.

The beginning of this week we had a serious cold snap. When I woke up at 6 a.m. the thermometer outside read 25 degrees. That is cold! A hard frost killed some soft basil left in the garden, turning it black. As my son and I walked to the bus stop, leaves were dropping at such a pace that it looked like snow falling. Large flakes of golden and orange snow. It was beautiful. I couldn’t stop watching it. I took several videos, but as always it fails to grasp the real magic of it. This is where the second wave starts–the more mellow peak.

What is it about autumn that so captures our sense of wonder and appreciation of beauty? Is it that it goes by so fast? “Wow, that fall just dragged on by, didn’t it?” Said no one ever. Every day there is a newness that most people’s eyes can’t resist. We are all feeling so great, even though it’s almost winter! How can that be? Is it some kind of drug the leaves are putting out in their last moments on earth that lulls us into this good feeling?

I have read that feeling gratitude is a good way to keep your mood on the upside. It has been easy with all the bounty that is falling our way, along with the leaves. My porch is filled with baskets of various apples, pears, tomatoes, chestnuts, drying herbs, and mushrooms. I feel a little bump of joy every time I pass them by. Such abundance! Lucky us! The fridge is also full: with soups, and stocks, and ciders. As soon as I clear something out, there’s something new to fill the void. Sometimes it’s a bit too full. There’s a lot of planning and thinking regarding all this food, and thankfully for me, it’s one of my favorite things to do.

The other day I bought a half-gallon of pear cider, which is always a treat for our family. You don’t see it as often as apple cider, which we also love. But this pear cider was a bit flabby, as they say in wine tasting circles. It was overly sweet, with no acidity to make it lively. Even my son, who, like most kids, loves cloying sweets, didn’t want to drink it. What to do? Why, make cider syrup of course.

This is super easy, a non recipe, a method. All you do is boil the cider down until you have syrup. You will boil it so much that you think it’s not going to work. A half-gallon will turn into a half-pint. But you are just boiling out water, and leaving all the good stuff, so it takes a while. All that sweetness that we couldn’t drink, turned into a slightly caramelized, glossy and thick syrup that I can’t wait to drizzle on vanilla ice cream (maybe that ice cream is on top of a slice of pear pie?), or use in an autumnal cocktail with rye whiskey, or maybe even tossed with some sautéed carrots in place of maple syrup? There are a lot of possibilities in that little jar of concentrated fall.




It’s that time of year! Where I grab my buckets and a sweet hoe/rake combo that I acquired somewhere, and head out to the various apple trees I have met in the past ten years. I am much less zealous than I ever have been, because I have been brought down by too much fruit in the past. There’s just so many apples you can eat, you know? I just avert my gaze now when I see trees full with fruit that people are neglecting.

All I make these days with apples is applesauce and lots of it. I wouldn’t make so much if it weren’t for my son, who loves it. This year I added some pears to my applesauce, and my son declared it the best applesauce I’ve ever made. (Honestly, I think he’s realized that complimenting my food makes me happy, so he does it a lot now, which is, of course, very charming.) It’s also a good thing to have on hand if you want to make this chocolate applesauce cake, because don’t you want to make that? I do!

If you are setting out to make an apple pie, however, do you cook your apples first? I’ve always made apple pies with uncooked apples. Always. When I was a teenager I worked in a restaurant that did catering, and we made billions of pies. It’s how we did it there, and it was how I learned apple pie at my mother’s side. However, I think I may have just changed gears. The other day when my son turned seven, he requested an apple pie instead of cake. I had read about the precooked apple idea recently, I forget where, and thought: I should try that. More than not, I’m disappointed by a high risen top crust and a liquid-y apple mixture. It seems like it was always hit or miss. Always tasty, but somewhat aesthetically off, in my opinion.

For those of you that can apple pie filling this time of year, you are probably shaking your head at me with pity. I never liked the idea of pre-made pie filling, but I really do see its benefits for throwing together a quick pie. It has just never been my thing. Maybe now I’ll change my ways. What I did this time was to gently sauté the apples in some butter and sugar, adding cornstarch at the end. I followed along with this recipe from the Times. It was probably the best apple pie I’ve ever made, and you know, I’ve made some pies in my life.

What do you make with your apples? Brandied apple rings? Candied pickled apples? Apple tomato chutney? Apple vinegar? Apple pectin stock? Let me know!


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.

Staying Hungry


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