Spring arrives in my kitchen with the first batch of rhubarb jam. I know the recipe by heart: simmer rhubarb chunks, sliced ginger root and lemon strips for ten minutes, then add sugar. I stop at this point, cool a spoonful of the hot jam, and taste for just the right balance of sweet, sour and spicy flavors. Am I finished? Not quite....
This year I let two stems of fresh mint steep in the hot jam for a few minutes. They just happened to be in the kitchen that morning, a gift from my daughter-in-law’s garden. The result was pure serendipity (one of my favorite words). The mint oil’s cooling fragrance added a new refreshing finish to the preserve. It felt like a real discovery.
The art of fruit preserving offers the cook a number of private pleasures. First is the enjoyable flow that comes from working with ones’ hands, then there’s that elation of discovering a new flavor combination, and finally the smug satisfaction of having jars of jam to share with family and friends.
You can try your hand at making jam and jelly with me on July 29 at the Alliance Francaise de Chicago (810 N. Dearborn Pkwy). We will prepare recipes from my newly reissued cookbook Artisan Preserves, formerly entitled, Gourmet Preserves, Chez Madelaine.
The book’s official launch is on the preceding Sunday, July 23, at Read It And Eat (2142 N. Halsted). Stop by for afternoon tea, a discussion of the book and your signed copy of Artisan Preserves.
The contents of Artisan Preserves are as timely as they were in 1984 when the book was first published. Only the title is new. It remains a guide to the chemistry, basic techniques and the creative potential of fruit preserving. There is a also a section devoted to the breads, pastries and desserts that will showcase your delicious homemade preserves.