Rosemary Sugar

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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!

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Tomato Plum Jam

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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.

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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!

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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

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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.

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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.