Category Archives: infusions + syrups

Burnt Honey Bramble Cocktail + A Beyond Canning Giveaway

In autumn, I love that the chaos of summer slowly fades away and you suddenly have permission to take it slow for a while. In spring, at least for me, that feeling inverts and every fiber of my being turns needy: craving nothing but sun, dirt and fresh air (erm, and maybe iced coffee). Spring also means time to turn over the freezer and pantry inventory before new fruit grows to take its place, as the cycle goes. How is it that I still have at least three gallon bags of raspberries in the freezer? Time to find a way to use it all up, and my friend Autumn has just the ticket.

Seriously, the arrival of Autumn Giles’ Beyond Canning couldn’t be better. I read a lot of preserving books. (Probably too many.) I have had the pleasure of meeting Autumn in person (and swapping for some of her amazing marmalade) and I can vouch that her bubbly personality and knack for amazing flavor combinations shine through every page of Beyond Canning. While I have only made one batch of Autumn’s Raspberry and Burnt Honey Gastrique, I can safely say it’s found a permanent home in my regular preservation rotation. AND I have more than a few recipes dog-eared for this upcoming preserving season. I have never before made a gastrique, and I am impressed how this one does double duty as a sauce and shrub and is even quite delicious drizzled over vanilla ice cream. Autumn was kind enough to let me share the recipe and has offered to give away a copy to one of you.

Spring is here and Autumn has written a fantastic book. I propose we celebrate with a cocktail. (I’m so predictable.) Cheers!

Raspberry and Burnt Honey Gastrique
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup honey
1 cup fresh raspberries
Pinch salt

1. Measure the vinegar and set it aside before you start cooking the honey. Over medium-low heat, cook the honey in a medium saucepan until it darkens noticeably, about 6 minutes.
2. Carefully stir the vinegar into the hot honey. The honey will sputter a bit. Stir in a pinch of salt.
3. Add the raspberries and return the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat.
4. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the berries break apart and the mixture reduces slightly, about 10 minutes.
5. Use a fine mesh strainer to strain the liquid into a mason jar for storage in the fridge.
[Autumn goes on in Beyond Canning to provide waterbath processing instructions, if you think you’ll need them. I bet there’s no way this vinegar-based preserve will go ignored that long.]

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Burnt Honey Bramble
2 oz. mulberry infused bourbon
1 oz. raspberry and burnt honey gastrique
1/2 oz. Suze gentian liqueur
1 egg white
2 dashes cherry pit bitters
2 dashes aromatic bitters

Dry shake egg white in a cocktail shaker or mason jar for about a minute. Add the bourbon, gastrique and gentian and shake for another 30 seconds. Double strain into a short glass over ice. Top with bitters and savor spring.

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Catch the rest of the Beyond Canning Virtual Book Tour:
3/7: Food in Jars
3/8: Punk Domestics
3/9: CakeWalk
3/10: Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking
3/11: Snowflake Kitchen
3/14: Good. Food. Stories.
3/15: Heartbeet Kitchen
3/16: Brooklyn Supper
3/17: The Briny
3/18: The Preserved Life
3/21: Hitchhiking to Heaven
3/22: Hola Jalapeno
3/23: Cook Like a Champion
3/24: Local Kitchen

Today was nothing short of glorious. I worked a 3/4 day, went to the dentist, took a short hike with my dog in 70° sun. Then proceeded to break out the motorcycle, take a 20 mile ride to Harry’s Place for a most excellent cheeseburger, and come home before it got too cold, because it’s still April after all. And we got home not a moment too soon, because my hands went numb by the end of the ride. The only possible cure was a finger of whiskey, which is conveniently seated a foot to my right. An excellent day indeed.

And I’ve been quite lucky, because 2015 has been full of some pretty excellent days. Lately, its been surprise after surprise of new growth from bulbs and trees planted long before we got here. Yesterday, we found out we are the owners of a thundercloud plum tree (which apparently bears 1″ edible fruits that are a cross between a cherry and a plum and I AM SO STINKING EXCITED TO PUT THEM IN JARS). And I may be going out on a limb here, but I think we were pretty lucky to have the winter we had. As some of you might have noticed, February 2015 arrived on the scene bringing just a little bit of snow. Just a bit. Even though it was a helluva winter, in hindsight I can say the forced downtime wasn’t always a bad thing. It was certainly a good test of our resourcefulness, not to mention our roof rake. Plus, as ye olde enormous snowpack began to melt, cabin fever made me jump outside to begin the first project of the year: sugaring.

rolling boil

There are a lot of great resources out there for how to get started sugaring. That said – there are a few things I plan on tweaking next year.

  1. Equipment: You really don’t need fancy stuff. I got this kit as a Christmas present and combined it with a few months worth of saved milk jugs and orange juice bottles, which worked wonderfully. I love the galvanized pails and hooks, but at $35 each, it was just not practical. Plus, by using collection/storage containers with lids, I could walk over to one tree, remove the bottle, add a new container, throw it in my backpack and walk to the next tree. Closed containers were an added bonus for storage in the fridge for a few days in between boiling sessions.
  2. Tap Height: I tapped my trees at whatever height, but made sure they were facing south. Well, genius, when the snow melts, if you are using DIY containers (like me), you need to tap such that your lines will still reach the bottles when they are resting on the ground, too. Obviously this is more of an issue in years like 2015 with enormous snowpack. Something to keep in mind.
  3. Containers: I used half gallon containers. Next year I might consider gallon sized ones, as some of my trees produced at least a half gallon per day at the height of the season. Most of the time I could empty them every day, but on the off chance I couldn’t it, would be a waste.
  4. Type of Tree: Next year, I plan on segregating and storing my sap by type of maple. This year, I mixed all my different sources in each batch, which made for some interesting woody flavors in my syrup. Not bad, just… interesting. I also should identify which kind of maple trees they are next year, as some of them are definitely not sugar maple. One looks suspiciously like a Norway maple. Oops. I plan to tap our hickory and black walnut trees next year too.
  5. Sap Storage: I am going to need another fridge next year, and will plug it in exclusively for sap storage. Unless I can find some way to store it outside when the temp is still below freezing. There is no way I have enough room to store sap AND food in one fridge without boiling at least every other night. Which is a process I don’t plan to repeat. On the bright side, boiling almost every night, then sticking the pot outside in the snowbank to cool was really effective.
  6. Boil Outside: You know how most sugarers boil in large metal pans outside? Yeah, there’s a reason for that. At least it will be easy to take down the wallpaper in our kitchen now?
  7. Removal: Oh yeah, when it’s all done… no one tells you this key piece of advice: take out your taps with pry end of a hammer.

pint jarsAll said and done, it was fun to get eight pints of syrup for not a ton of work. Our stove really deserves most of the credit. I admittedly burned a few batches too, which I hope to not repeat. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve picked up a new habit. And for an even newer habit: the first package of bees gets delivered in a few weeks. Here’s to 2015 continuing on the glorious end of the spectrum.

MxMo LXXXVII: Shiro Plum Rye Smash

I had exactly a million and one ideas swirling about for my very first Mixology Monday. This month’s theme is The Smash. Of course, all those great ideas all went out the window (thanks procrastination, humidity and stress!) and I decided instead to make one with what was on the shelf and in the fridge in between massive canning projects. ‘Tis the season, after all. This version turned out quite nicely, as most smashes I usually make are firmly on the sweeter side of things. Which gets old. Quickly.

As a preserver, I usually have fruit and syrup in excess at my disposal: in recent memory I’ve put up mulberry syrup, shiro plums in honey syrup, smoked cherry syrup, rhubarb in syrup, pickled blueberries, two kinds of cocktail cherries, and jams galore. This cocktail, as a nice change of pace, prefers instead to straddle the sweet-sour fence, with help from rosé and tart shiro plums. A nice change from your average smash, topped off with some funky, piney propolis bitters from Stonewall Apiary which take the drink over the top. I may make variations of a whatevers-in-season fruit smash a lot folks, but this riff is a keeper. Shiro Plum Rye Smash | Snowflake Kitchen

Shiro Plum Rye Smash
1.5 oz Rye (I used New England Distilling’s Gunpowder Rye)
1 oz rosé (Something from Spain)
.75 oz rhubarb syrup (homemade)
1 shiro plum, pitted and chopped
1 teaspoon Stonewall Apiary Propolis Bitters
1/2 teaspoon Sweet Annie Pollen
Crushed Ice

Muddle pollen, plums and rye. Add rosé and rhubarb syrup, and stir well. Add crushed ice, and a few dashes of bitters. Top with a more creative plum garnish than what I can come up with. Cheers!

mxmologo

Cherries in Cinnamon, Bay and Cassis Syrup

Don’t blink – in case you missed it, cherry season has come and just as quickly gone again as suddenly as it appeared. In the midst of buying a house and all the insanity that comes part and parcel with that big life step, I took a lovely break to go to Belltown Hill Orchards with friends. We completely binged on the first day of cherry season – picking eight pounds in about forty minutes, not counting the ones in our bellies.

Cherries | SnowflakeKitchen.com

It was the perfect antidote to forget about it all. At least for a few hours. But the serenity found in the PYO orchard is not just preserver’s therapy. You see so many different types of people in the cherry orchard – families, couples, all generations – all out to get ’em while the getting’s good. True to form, the cherries were picked out the next day and gone for the rest of the year shortly thereafter.

So what to do with the fleeting bounty of local cherries? I’ve made cocktail cherries before. Luxardo-ed to the max Maraschino Cherries and Cherries in Bourbon Meyer Vanilla Syrup. And I’ve discovered a few commandments cardinal rules of jarred cherries along the way. First, thou shalt stem and pit your cherries the same day you plan to can them. Second, unless you have specific plans for them, spike the syrup with a tablespoon or two of alcohol just prior to the waterbath instead of fruit in full-on spirit. This makes for a much more versatile preserve. Third, make more than you think you’ll use, because the syrup and cherries themselves are equally delicious. Here is this year’s version, which are already being enjoyed with seltzer and lime bitters, but equally anticipated in a black Manhattan someday soon.

Cherries in Cinnamon, Bay and Cassis Syrup | Snowflake Kitchen

Cherries in Cinnamon, Bay and Cassis Syrup
5 cups sweet Bing cherries
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
5 whole cloves
Creme de cassis
Bourbon
1 cup cane sugar
2 cups water

Add spices into a jelly bag or cheesecloth bundle. Make 1:2 simple syrup by bringing the sugar and water to a boil and add spices. Simmer on very low heat for about 5 minutes and infuse for as long as you can, up to overnight. When ready to can, prepare canner, jars and reheat syrup. Pit cherries and cold pack into hot jars. Pour one tablespoon each bourbon and creme de cassis over the cherries and top with syrup. Leave approximately 1/2″ headspace and process for 10 minutes.

No Waste Strawberry Cordial

Has it really been a month? In my defense, I moved house and home (and jars) since we last spoke. Now I am in the unpacking stage, which is really more difficult and time-consuming than packing: you have to force yourself to get it done, otherwise it can languish for-ev-er. I say this because I’ve lived here for almost a month and I still see boxes of jars in corners. Somehow, my roommate hasn’t asked me to leave yet.

In the month span, Connecticut strawberries have come in like a deluge. The heavy rain and generally weird weather made them come in almost all at once. Luckily, a few select orchards have my cell number and can put out the call to round up seconds at a moment’s notice. It’s a win-win – they still get paid for their hard work, and their hard work doesn’t spoil – and I am all too happy to take it off of their hands. So if you are thinking about any sort of jam making – hook up with your local farm and orchard. You’ll be glad you did.

I answered one such call two weeks ago, and lo and behold came home with 23 pounds of strawberry seconds that had to be hulled that night or wouldn’t make it 24 hours. The best kind, really, and the only kind I get these days. So I hulled away on the couch (because the dining room table is, ahem, still covered in flats of jars) and then all 23 lbs went in the fridge to macerate. And no, my roommate still did not ask me to leave when I quickly filled 2/3 of the fridge with strawberries, rhubarb and various projects. Miraculous. 

No Waste Strawberry Cordial⎥Snowflake Kitchen

The true miracle, though is what came out of the waste. I am not a meticulous strawberry huller – especially not when faced with 23 pounds of overripe fruit. Just a paring knife and some repetitive motion, and I will get there. But I’ve taken to throwing the hulls into a jar for later use. Many of the hulls have quite a bit of red on them – like I said, not a meticulous huller – which made for a beautiful infusion. Most of the time I will infuse, then add simple syrup (for a limon- or whatever-cello like cordial) but this time straight strawberries and vodka were perfect. Simple, exceedingly sweet (thanks to the beautifully grown overripe berries from Easy Pickins Orchard, I’m sure) and sips perfectly all by itself. Though occasionally a few bubbles can’t hurt. If you still have strawbs in your neck of the woods – make this! I do always love making something out of nothing, but this idea turned out particularly great. You won’t regret it for a second.

No Waste Strawberry Cordial
Strawberry Hulls
1 clean jar with a lid
Vodka to cover

You can rinse your berries before hulling, but dont feel like you need to be meticulous here, as you will catch everything at bottling. Pack the hulls to within 1 inch of the top of the jar, before moving onto a second (or third! or fourth!) jar. Pack them medium tight – leave enough room for the vodka to do its thing. Top with vodka and let sit for anywhere from 3 days to 1 week. Swirl each day to circulate the infusion, and start tasting after 3 days. Mine was ready in 4.

No Waste Strawberry Cordial⎥Snowflake Kitchen

To bottle, strain through a coffee filter and store at room temperature. If it isn’t sweet enough for you, you of course can add a little simple syrup or soda. I particularly like it with an oaky bourbon and splash of ginger ale.

Double Duty: Grapefruit (Candied Peel + Syrup)

I think it happens unconsciously most of the time, but in general I like my food to reflect my spirit. When my heart is in the food that I make – I like to think that you can almost see the adjectives: Frugal. Simple with an unexpected twist. Local. Solid flavor. Tasty. At the same time, if you lined up recent eating: Passive-Aggressive. Broke. Unhealthy. Unplanned. Kind of depressing. Something is definitely up here. Like life re-evaluating. I don’t want to get into it too much, but on a food level, it speaks volumes.

It’s almost like I had unconsciously planned for this. I had multiple soups in the freezer, some my own and some from our local foodswap, ready to go for when I woke up and lunch was the furthest thing from my mind. I had jam and pickles and cheese, and could throw a few things in my bag and not throw off my whole day or go out and spend more money I didn’t have. That’s really the heart of putting things in jars, isn’t it? Preparation for the future. I mean, the ability to have a gift at any given moment is nice, but I like to think not the primary reason. Maybe I’m naive.

I planned ahead for when I couldn’t possibly have an appetite, but I also planned ahead with a few great distractions. Well – that’s not entirely true – I always have one or two major kitchen projects in the works. Though things didn’t work out for an order of beautiful Texas Ruby Reds, I did score some organic grapefruit at my coop. Salted grapefruit lime jam, a riff on Kaela’s Salted Cranberry Grapefruit Jam, while tasty came out far too cooked for my liking. There were some lovely grapefruit bitters and straight up segments, but far too much leftover rind. I figured if this idea didn’t work out, at least it would only cost me some sugar and time, so why not? I am so glad I did. And not just for the distraction.

grapefruit

Photo credit: Laura Stone Photography

Candied Grapefruit Peel
Adapted from Candied Clementine Peel on Epicurious
5 organic grapefruits, preferably red
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups granulated sugar
Vegetable oil to grease drying rack
1 1/2 cups vanilla sugar

First and foremost – yes, you do need to spring for organic fruit here, as with any application that uses the rind of fruit. Take care to remove your peel – either by peeling the fruit or juicing. You need to accomplish two things: small, finger-sized pieces of peel that are completely without fruit and also have minimal pith. Do not make the peels too small here, you can always break into smaller pieces later. Some pith is, of course, fine – and I like that it makes the grapefruit peel not 100% sweet. That said – do take some of it off, and if you can take care to make it smooth it will help when the candied peels are air drying.

Take your trimmed peels and cover with water in a saucepan. I like to use one that is about 4″ deep – enough for the peels to float plenty but not a huge pot, either. Add a half teaspoon of the salt, and bring to a boil. Boil for approximately 10 minutes, but be careful that it doesn’t boil over. Drain the peels, but take care – they are somewhat delicate. Repeat the process twice more, starting with fresh salted water each time.

At this point, add the peels, granulated sugar and water into a clean pot. You are making a thin simple syrup that will gradually reduce into a thicker one while infusing the peel with sugar. Bring to a rolling boil and then reduce to a low boil. This step may take anywhere from 20 minutes to more – depending on your environment. You know the peels are done when they are translucent and the syrup is thick.

While the syrup is reducing, set up your final station with a drying rack and bowl of vanilla sugar. It helps greatly to lightly both oil the rack (canola oil is great) and place parchment paper underneath to catch excess syrup. Once finished, transfer the peels to the drying rack. They really do need half an hour to dry – do not shortcut this step. You may cut them into smaller pieces once they have cooled, if needed. Toss with vanilla sugar and continue to dry on the rack overnight. You may have to turn them several times and/or toss again in the sugar. Once sufficiently dry (it may take longer than you expect), store in a bowl or jar. If you put the peel in a jar and it re-liquifies, it needs more drying time.

Salted Grapefruit Margarita and Candied Grapefruit Peel by Snowflake Kitchen

Grapefruit Syrup

A lovely byproduct of the above recipe. Simply strain the leftover syrup, bottle, and use at will. Because it results from sugar, water, zest and pith, this syrup has a decent bitter note. Added to seltzer it makes a great grapefruit soda – one that isn’t too sweet like some off-the-shelf grapefruit beverages. Added to either gin or tequila, it also is a fabulous base for a paloma or margarita. I’m sure you could can it, but I prefer to use this syrup fresh.

Windham Gardens CSA Weeks Four and Five

In the Bags: Pickling Cukes, Basil, Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Garlic, Kale, Sweet Corn

This is pickle season. I mean, it can be pickle season anytime, in that you can pickle veggies of any season, but what I mean pickling cukes are in season now. My pickling cukes this year were a combination of fail: direct seeded outside extremely late, half eaten by something before they really took off, and of course slugs took the remainder. Luckily, Erin grows some awesome picklers. There will be bread and butters, dill relish, sweet relish, garlic dills… all given as holiday gifts in a few months.

I am clearly not a card-carrying pickle hater. That said, I pretty much don’t eat any of the cucumbers I put up. Processed pickles are good – far beyond any storebought ones – but I think the best pickle is a crispy, cold one. I am firmly in the camp that believes cucumbers are best when they are fresh and not when they are cooked. Hence, I am a fridge pickle devotee.

My fridge pickle recipe is simple: 1) Fill jar with spices, about 1 teaspoon each of your choice of fenugreek, coriander, mustard, dill, garlic, red chile flake, etc. 2) Fill jar with cucumbers, sliced in coins or spears 3) Fill 1/3 with vinegar. Since these are fridge pickles, you can stray from the 5% white vinegar mandate. 4) Fill 2/3 with water. 5) Cover, refrigerate for at least a week before tasting.

Basil: Pesto & Infused Vinegar

A very double duty kind of use. The basil leaves go into the food processor with toasted nuts (usually cashews), the last of the garlic scapes, salt, pepper, and enough olive oil to blend everything together. I freeze it in ice cube trays or small portions. When I defrost it, then I add more oil and parmesan before serving.

But you don’t get just basil leaves in your CSA. You also get stems, and sometimes flowers. These go into a quart jar of vinegar for later use in salads, vinaigrettes and marinades. What’s your favorite early summer CSA use?

Double Duty: Cherries (Whole Fruit in Syrup + Infusion + Preserve)

I’m pretty sure you don’t know how good you have it. Yes you, folks in the Pacific NW, where cherries are no big deal. Varying levels of tragedy have struck our local crop over the last few years… no one seems to grow them anymore as cherries are, at least in Connecticut anyway, a giant pain in the ass to maintain. The birds love them as much as we do (read: massive amounts of netting), and if we get a sudden unexpected rainy spring, much of the crop tends to split (read: very finicky). So – in short – though very few orchards grow cherries, and to do so around here they must be a little masochistic, we are very thankful that they are.

This post isn’t really double duty, it’s really triple duty. Because local cherries are $4.99/lb even when I pick them myself, and because I adore all things cherry – I am going to stretch every dollar I can carve out for them.

First Tour: Cherries in Bourbon Meyer Vanilla Syrup

Cherries + lemon. Cherries + vanilla. Cherries + bourbon. (Ok, who am I kidding – almost anything + bourbon.) YES. Why not all three? I pitted waaaaay too many sweet cherries (thanks Sarah for the help) and reserved the pits (you’ll see why in a minute). I used sweet Bing cherries, but you could use whatever kind of cherries happen to fall into your lap – sweet or sour. Now, for the laziest of infusions: I filled a few quart jars with fruit, poured 1/4 full with Bulleit Bourbon (my new obsession), topped the rest with a thin syrup, stuck in a split & scraped vanilla bean and the zest of a meyer lemon. It may not sound lazy, but it really is just pitting, making syrup, and stuffing things into a jar. Then the waiting period.

Why 24 hours? Much longer and the cherries start to discolor, and you get a decent infusion after only a day. On Day 2, once the syrup has a slight red tint, reserve some of the fruit for Tour 3, and put up the rest a la Well-Preserved. Psst: save an unprocessed jar in the fridge for a few bourbons & soda – 1/3 syrup, 2/3 soda, a few cherries and ok, maybe another splash of bourbon. You won’t be disappointed.

Second TourCherry Pit Liqueur a la What Julia Ate

First, settle your internal debate over prussic acid. If you just aren’t comfortable, compost your pits. If you feel no fear, this recipe makes something out of nothing, which I adore. I always have vodka on hand for infusions, so that’s what I used. Next year, I’ll have to try it with brandy. I haven’t had the chance to taste it yet (still infusing!) but I have a feeling this is going to make it into an apricot preserve later this summer.

Third Tour: Cherry Bourbon Ginger Preserves

Those cherries that you reserved from the infusion? Put them in a pan, mash with fresh grated ginger for flavor and crystallized ginger for color. Cook down until you’ve reached a good set. Oh wait – you walked away and it cooked down too much? Add a few more chopped fresh cherries, splash with a little bourbon and water and pay attention this time.

All in all, a satisfying way to stretch our precious, exasperating, expensive favorite cherries.

Cherries in Bourbon Meyer Vanilla Syrup
Three quarts of cherries, pitted
1 quart thin 1:2 simple syrup
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Approximately 1 cup bourbon
Zest of one meyer lemon

Make a simple syrup with a 1:2 ratio of sugar to water (i.e. 1 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, boil briefly until dissolved) and let cool. Pit cherries, reserve pits. Add to a glass vessel of choice (preferably one with a lid). Fill the jar 1/4 of the way with your bourbon of choice. Split and scrape a vanilla bean into the jar, and add the scraped pod. Zest a meyer lemon into the jar as well. Top with simple syrup. Close the lid, shake well, store at room temperature for no more than 24 hours.

After infusing, prepare canners, jars and lids. Reserve the vanilla bean. I like to infuse in quart jars but pack into pint or jelly jars. Cold pack into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace. Top with hot, wet lids and process for 15 minutes.

Use in cocktails, reduced over ice cream, make into hand pies, even make your own soda. Even eat out of the jar. I won’t tell.

Cherry Bourbon Ginger Preserves
4 cups pitted cherries
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
Splash of bourbon

Let cherries infuse (or macerate) overnight – either with the above recipe or with jam ingredients. Mash fruit, add the rest of the ingredients and cook over medium heat until it just begins to thicken and the bubbles are about size of dimes. Pack into hot jars, top with hot, wet lids and process for 10 minutes.

This is a more liquidy preserve, but I like it that way. Spoon over yogurt, swirl into ice cream – this stuff is crazy delicious.

Double Duty: Rhubarb (Syrup + Preserve)

I preserve for different reasons. To support local farmers and focus my dollars on local eating year round. To give as gifts throughout the year. And my personal favorite, to sit back and enjoy a small taste of summer when I am housebound during the middle of a Nor’easter. But preserving in the height of the season brings its own set of challenges. Getting all of the rhubarb possible into jars before moving onto strawberries for example. Or trying to get anything into jars during the week while working ye olde dayjob. Or getting everything into jars in preparation for the upcoming heatwave.

But like almost everyone, I am on a tight budget these days. A endless to do list, meticulous list keeping, down to the dollar budget. So I stretch. I make batches of jam and chutney with what I have on hand – if I am missing an ingredient or a spice, I am not making a special trip. I make do. I also look for ways for my produce to do double duty. If I have to buy scallions for kimchi, then I guess I am also going to throw them into some rhubarbbq because I am out of onions – who runs out of onions?! And you better believe I am going to stretch those scallions into three or four batches and THEN plant them in the ground. So when it comes to fruit I don’t just want jam, I want a syrup AND a preserve. And maybe an infusion or two. This way, I can sort of justify those $4.99/lb local cherries.

Rhubarb is usually the first fruit of the season that carries double duty around here. (“Fruit” for the incredulous rhubarb haters, wherever you may be). This method though, of a light syrup and then a preserve can be applied to most fruits. So if the thought of rhubarb in all its stalky glory makes you want to hurl, try a berry, peach or citrus version.

First Tour: Rhubeena

I made rhubeena exactly as Tigress suggests, but with her later suggestion of less sugar. I used 2ish cups. I like that its more tart, and can stand up to some lime and tequila in Kaela’s rhubarbaritas. Yes THOSE rhubarbaritas, of which I have become obsessed. I may have made rhubeena exclusively for this purpose. Ahem.

Second Tour: Rhubarb Vanilla Jam

So you make your rhubeena, and you are left with all of this sweetened rhubarb pulp. I don’t let it drain overnight – only until the pulp is mostly dry, so it still has some moisture. This is not your traditional jam texture people – its between a fruit butter and a jam. That said – who cares? It’s crazy delicious. Like cant stop sneaking bites with a spoon delicious. Serve with granola & yogurt, over ice cream – heck, blend it INTO ice cream.

Rhubarb Vanilla Jam
Leftover sweetened rhubarb pulp from Rhubeena (approximately 5 cups)
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
Zest and juice of one lemon

Begin heating the pulp over medium heat. Add the vanilla, vanilla bean and lemon and heat until bubbly at 220°. If your rhubarb becomes too dry, add a little more water or vanilla extract as needed. This will be a thicker jam, so be sure to bubble your jars.  Spoon hot rhubarby goodness into hot jars, bubble as needed, top with hot wet lids and place into the waterbath. Process for 10 minutes. Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

Whatever-cello – another fruit+booze story

I made too much limoncello last year. Yes – really – REALLY – it is possible. I used my entire Lemon Ladies large flat rate box’s worth to make limoncello. After I made lemon curd, kiwi meyer lemon jam, preserved lemons, an incredible lemon tart, raspberry meyer lemon preserves, and more… they all went into TWO half gallon jars of vodka. So yes – a gallon of limoncello. After lots of adult lemonade by the pool and then lots of gifts at the holidays – I am just finishing up the last of it. And while it’s crazy good – I am so over limoncello.

This year, I am one upping my -cello. I may not live in California where rare citrus is all over the place like Shae or be close enough to Eataly like Autumn to grab some bergamots on my way home from work – but I am close enough to a Food Co-op that is well stocked in organic citrus. There are no rangpurs or mandarinquats, but there are limes, cara cara oranges, grapefruits and kumquats. Perfect to grab a couple, make some citrus tom collinses and have the rind leftover.

Part of the reason that meyer limoncello is so great is the lazy factor. You can use the whole rind without stripping the zest, i.e. – just toss it into the booze. The bitter pith is so thin on meyers that meyer-cello is next to no work. Meyers + alcohol + simple syrup + time. Kumquats are thin enough to just slice. With other citrus though, you really have to strip the zest and discard the pith. You can use a microplane, but then you would have to strain your -cello. I found my vegetable peeler made quick work of the other citrus, but – oh man – it was a whole other step from last year.

I’m going to let this batch sit for a week or so – shaking when I remember to – and I’ll probably leave out the simple syrup. I can always add it in later. Plus, that way – I can infuse the simple syrup. I’ve been scheming up a citrus-infused cocktail with black pepper and bay simple syrup. We’ll see what this summer brings, when I am screaming for an icy cocktail instead of shivering under my lap blanket on the couch. But remember – its not blood-orange-lime-kumquat-grapefruit-meyer-cello, its whatever-cello. And its delicious. And you should make it right now to enjoy later this year.

Whatever-cello
Method: Add citrus rind to your favorite glass vessel and cover with alcohol. You can use grain alcohol, but I prefer a lesser bite and use vodka. Plus – I’m a sucker for any alcohol with a snowflake on the label. Ahem. Add more as the citrus to the vessel season progresses. Keep everything covered – infuse for up to a month – but the first stage should be good after a week or so. At that point, add an equal part simple syrup to double the volume. Its easiest if you start with two jars of the same size – divide the batch in half when you add the syrup. Infuse another week to finish. Remove the zest and store in the freezer for up to a year.

If vodka isn’t your thing, and you are more tequila-inclined, check out Kaela’s Meyeritas. Or a citrus shrub. Or if citrus isn’t your fav, you can always try a pineapple infusion. If all else fails, make bitters!