Cranberry & Sour Cherry Jam

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We are starting the holiday season with a bang this year. Right now it’s snowing heavily and doesn’t plan to stop any time soon. We’ve been outside in the snow. We have a fire going. And we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon! Tomorrow we’ll have a small feast, just the three of us, and while we miss our families, there is something nice and quiet about this day that we spend with each other. I don’t get too riled up about cooking on Thanksgiving–it’s easy comforting fare, and when it’s this small there are very few worries. I do hope a similar day of comfort and thanks is headed your way!

Lately, I’ve been somewhat uninspired in the kitchen, wondering what to eat and whether it’s worth it. Cranberries provide some spark of hope for me. They are always fun–they seem to go so well with so much. This year I tried yet another new take on the ubiquitous sweet preserve on the Thanksgiving table. Good hoarder that I am, I had a bag of frozen tart cherries still in the freezer.  Let me tell you: tart cherries go smashingly with cranberries. I know it’s probably too late, and tart cherries are so precious to hoard, but one day give it a whirl.

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1 cup pitted tart cherries (slightly frozen are always easier to pit)

1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)

1/2 cup sugar

Add all three ingredients in your jam pot, and bring to a nice foaming boil. Use the spoon test to check your consistency. It will boil down, become glossy, and all this will happen pretty quickly; about ten minutes. Pour it in a nice jar and stash it in the fridge for the main event.

Nothing more! I so wanted to add some booze or clementine juice, but I kept it simple and I’m glad I did. This will go incredibly with some juicy dark meat. It’s tart times two, and has the slightest bitter zing at the finish. The tart cherries really take center stage, which I was surprised by.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Chocolate Chestnut Tart

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I can’t believe it’s already November 18th! I’ve been missing this place, to record what I’ve been doing and thinking. Life takes over sometimes, and my sacred place to be me usually is the first thing that gets squeezed out. But I’m muscling my way back in! Just like the acupuncture appointment I made last week, I’m trying to take back the time for me. It’s always the hardest space to carve out, isn’t it?

A while back, a pal of mine gave me a bunch of chestnuts from her lovely old chestnut trees that grace her backyard. A picnic table is under them, lights are strung from them, and food drops from them. Their beauty and worth are not without trial though. In the fall, the chestnuts and their mace-like sheaths litter the backyard, which becomes a mine field for a few weeks a year. I hope you don’t step on one in your bare feet!

A little about chestnuts: there aren’t many American chestnut trees around due to a chestnut blight long ago. You might be seeing Asian chestnut trees. And don’t mistake a horse chestnut for a chestnut! One of the problems that chestnuts from someone’s backyard might have is worms. It’s sort of gross–these industrious worms will bore a perfect circle out of the nut and any plastic container you have them in so they can return to the soil to make more worms. The trick, I have found is to boil them for twenty minutes in 120 degree water. It truly works.

Once you’ve de-wormed your nut, you can move on to other more pleasant tasks, like making sweetened chestnut paste. And then onto this simple yet elegant chestnut tart that needs no crust, and has no added sugar because the paste is sweet enough. It tastes like a very soft chocolate chip cookie. That might not be the best press, but think comfort and refinery at once.

Chocolate Chestnut Tart

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have ready a buttered 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom.

1 cup chestnut paste

1 stick of butter

1.5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped

½ teaspoon of baking powder

2 eggs

Put chestnut paste and butter (chopped in chunks) in a food processor and puree until smooth. Add chocolate, and process until smooth. Then the baking powder and eggs, again until smooth. Pour batter into the tart pan (optional: sprinkle some coarse sugar on top before baking; it creates a bit of a crunchy shell.) Bake for thirty minutes. The batter will have puffed up and will be set in the center. It will deflate a bit upon cooling. Serve as is, or dress up with a bit of powdered sugar or creme fraiche.