The inspiration for this jam came while vacationing in the south of France a few years ago. My husband and I had rented a cottage with a small kitchen so that I could shop at the local farmers’ market and experiment in the kitchen – a dream vacation for me!
It was late September and the extraordinarily fragrant little Poires William (the ones used to make the famous brandy) were flooding the market’s stalls. I couldn’t resist, I bought an entire basket of them. When I returned to our cottage the little rosemary bush outside the front door caught my attention, and in a flash, the idea for this recipe came into my mind.
I made the jam that very day and served it with an assortment of local goat cheeses at different stages of ripeness. Needless to say, we ate every last morsel of both the jam and the cheeses!
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!
Every week, I drive up to our local orchards to stock up on fruits. The Orchards of Concklin, a family-run farm since 1712, is only a short, scenic drive from my home and only one hour north of Manhattan.
I come home loaded with peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, little sweet sugarplums, blueberries, gooseberries, red currants, and even gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. I set my loot in large bowls on one of my counters and it all looks so abundant that I could easily open my own stand!
It seems that my eyes are always much bigger than my stomach, though, and invariably, within a few days, some fruits are too ripe to eat on their own. That’s when I pull out my pots and start making jam.