I must admit that I haven’t bought jams for years – I much prefer making my own, as making jams is one of the most delicious ways to preserve a season’s harvest. Whether using fall fruits, strawberries from a local orchard, or berries from my own garden, I end up stirring jam many times over the course of a year.
A Thanksgiving feast doesn’t feel complete without a bowl of cranberry sauce. Undeniably, the tangy condiment has become as much of a showpiece as the traditional turkey it’s served with.
This jam is best made with local strawberries from your farmers’ market, or with strawberries that you picked yourself at your local farm. Commercial strawberries – even the organic ones, with their firm shape and pale flesh – don’t even come close flavor-wise to local seasonal berries.
It’s not often that a vegetable impersonates a fruit, but with its striking crimson stalks and voluptuous green leaves, the rhubarb plant has done just that.
For many centuries, rhubarb was prized for its medicinal properties, although it also found its way into soups and stews. Then, in the 1800s, when sugar became more affordable to home cooks, rhubarb made the fantastic leap from vegetable to fruit. The now-iconic rhubarb pie was soon born.
Since then rhubarb has gained much popularity; it is often paired with apples, strawberries, orange, cinnamon and even ginger in a multitude of desserts.
But to me there’s nothing more seductive than the pure essence of rhubarb — all of which is captured in this simple but intensely flavorful compote.
Making cookies, jams, infused honeys or sauces for gift-giving has always been part of my life, but never more so than in 2008 when the downturn in the economy made so many of us re-think what gift-giving really means.
So last year, all my gifts (with very few exceptions) were prepared in my kitchen. It took several days to make all the goodies and package them beautifully, but the result was that long past the holidays, friends and family members would call me to thank me for the gifts they were still enjoying.
This made such an impression on me that I’ve committed to do the same every holiday. It’s not a small commitment — making gifts from your kitchen takes time! — but with a little creativity and planning I find that it’s not only doable, it’s downright enjoyable!