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  • Written by Madelaine Bullwinkel

HUNGARIAN GREEN BEAN SOUP

 

 

 

 

My father lived as an American citizen for more than five decades, but his appetite stayed firmly attached to the cuisine of his native Hungary.  He passed on pizza, hamburgers, French fries and remained faithful to the flavors of pork fat, sour cream and paprika his entire life.   

My mother tried her best to please him with a diet of meat and potatoes à la Indianapolis, her home town. Much later, I would drive to Chicago's only Hungarian butcher on the far north side to purchase fresh blood sausage and other cuts of meat we had enjoyed on a family trip to Budapest in 1985.  I learned to prepare his favorite dishes, but my heart wasn't in it.

 A search in my Hungarian cookbooks for something healthful left me feeling trapped in a culinary time warp.  How was I going to make a meal that was both easily digestible and consistent with a cuisine that boiled and blanketed vegetables in a heavy white sauce?  Even Hungarian salad recipes produced sad, limp layers of sliced cucumbers swimming in flavorless oil, vinegar and sugar dressing.  

 

 

 

The late, great Gourmet Magazine came to my rescue one summer when it published a chilled green bean soup that proved Hungarian cuisine could shake off its heavy winter coat to reveal a sleek, shapely figure.   What set this soup apart from others was the way its delicate balance of sweet and sour flavors complemented the beans. The recipe included the obligatory cup of sour cream, but its richness was muted and welcome in this water-based soup. The beans, cooked al dente, offered a satisfying crunch.

This clean, elegant formula with its refreshing taste, as you may imagine, has made it a family favorite.  Now my father's great-grandchildren enjoy it every summer.  I consider it my contribution to our culinary heritage.

 

 

LINK TO HUNGARIAN GREEN BEAN SOUP RECIPE

 

  • Written by Madelaine Bullwinkel

A YARD TO TABLE STORY

 

 Chances are slim that you will someday buy a house with its own cherry tree. How many of us have even asked a realtor to find us a house with a fruit tree in the front yard?  I guess we were just lucky.  

To be honest, I had mixed feelings when I first appraised our unexpected bonus last August.  This cherry tree had grown up as wild as an unrestrained child.  Branches sprouted at odd angles and tangled in the electric lines.  I was relieved to see an abundance of last season’s shrunken, unpicked cherries on all these willful boughs.  This hopeful sign dimmed when the tree unexpectedly shed its leaves well ahead of the others leaving a bristling silhouette in an otherwise green landscape.  I was embarrassed for it.

To my relief our cherry tree came to life early this spring in a profusion of leaves and blossoms.  Nature cleverly saw to it that each delicate blossom quietly and efficiently pollinated itself.  It was only when the small green peas that replaced the flowers matured two weeks later into bright red fruit did everyone suddenly notice the bountiful cherry tree in our front yard. 

 I had no trouble recruiting a team of underage cherry pickers in the form of our granddaughters for whom this sort of labor is fun.   I’m guessing they ate as many of the sweet fruits as they picked.  I didn’t complain, and neither did they when it came time to pit the cherries by hand for their individual cherry tarts. (That recipe is still classified.  Another time.)

This is the point where I direct you to a cherry jam recipe in my newly reprinted cookbook Artisanal Preserves.  Except there are only recipes for sour cherries in the book not sweet ones.  Never mind.  I went ahead and created a new recipe.  I will walk you through the process.

All cherries have very little pectin, the component in fruit that creates a gel when sugar is added.  Rather than add a high pectin fruit to the cherry puree as I did in the sour cherry recipes, I took a simpler route.  I made a jam of thicken cherry pulp and sugar.

There still is the question of how much sugar to add and how long to cook the jam.   I knew that if I were making a fruit gel, I would add the same volume sugar as fruit.  Since these cherries are already sweet, I guesstimated they would need only half that much sugar.  It's also true that appearance and consistency of jam determines the cooking time.  It’s differs slightly each time. Instead of giving an exact length of time, I describe how to test the jam’s thickness in the recipe.  

My first batch of cherry jam was tasty but not quite as interesting as I had hoped.  I added a small amount of almond extract the second time and was very satisfied.  Click on the title under the photo for the link to the recipe.  Cherries are still in the grocery and reasonably priced at the end of the season.  Enjoy!

 Sweet Cherry Jam with whipped cream and a Cornmeal Muffin (Artisanal Preserves, pg. 164)

Sweet Cherry Jam Recipe

Purchase your copy of Artisanal Preserves

  • Written by Madelaine Bullwinkel

Jamming on Rhubarb

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.