The weather's sunny and warm, everything is fresh and dewy, growing like gangbusters, but it's still not quite time to dive into fresh and local fruits yet.
That doesn't stop me from itching to make something, though.
I restlessly roam around the kitchen, taking stock of last year's preserves. Still some strawberry, some blueberry. I overshot the tomato jam and have an embarassment of varieties - basil, yellow cherry tomato, pepper. One lone jar of peach, waiting to be snarfled.
The apricot, long gone.
Any promise of home-grown apricot jam this year was quickly put to rest with the freeze that hit our tree last week. Three small, green, fuzzy pre-apricots managed to survive, and I check on them each morning as I walk past on my way to work. The nectarine has a few glossy green nubbins, the peach has four. They swell just a little each day, and it's hard to imagine that they will one day soon be ripe and juicy.
The apple tree, only four blossoms this year. Still, better than the one blossom from last year.
The plum, still a stick and definitely not coming close to pulling its own weight yet.
We must have a serious talk, that apple and plum and I. I expect more from you both.
I have high hopes for you, fueled by the timely arrival of Nigel Slater's Ripe.
Lucky for me, the rhubarb plants I put in last year are growing like gangbusters. Six might have been a bit excessive, given that the husband can't stand the stuff. Pretty soon each of them will have enough hearty red stems that I won't feel I am asking too much by cutting one or two from each plant. Maybe I will try Nigel's recipe for rhubarb custard fool. Maybe I will try Paul Virant's recipe from The Preservation Kitchen for Rhubarb-Beer Jam. Soon I will have so much rhubarb that it will seem like a curse, rather than a gift.
I look forward to that day.
Until then, I scratch the must-make-something itch with some fine-looking citrus. A fresh leaf from my bay plant, bought at the landscaping store and now gracing a pot in my living room, satisfies the need for home-grown and local, if only just barely.
In the interest of diversity in future jam making endeavors, I lean towards a smaller batch this time. I am trying to aim for modest volumes of preserves, to facilitate variety per available shelf space and number of jars. Easy to say until I fall into 10 pounds of perfectly ripe strawberries just crying out to be made into jam. That day seems so very far away, I know, but will be here in an instant.
Until then, there's always marmalade.
White Grapefruit and Bay Marmalade.
Makes 2 cups and a little extra of marmalade.
1 medium (or 2 small) white grapefruit, about 600 grams
4 fresh bay leaves, bruised
2 3/4 cups white sugar
You will also need sterilized jars to hold the marmalade.
Juice the grapefruit and reserve the juice.
Scrape out the pith from the inside of the grapefruit shells and slice as thin as you prefer. Put the bay leaves, grapefruit juice (should be about 1 1/4 cups) and 2 1/2 cups cool water in a medium sized, non-reactive glass or plastic bowl and add the sliced grapefruit rind. Soak overnight.
When ready to make the marmalade, put the grapefruit juice and rind mixture in a large pot and add the sugar. Stir well on low heat until the sugar is fully dissolved, then turn the heat up and bring to a boil. Process until the marmalade reaches a set, according to your favorite method of checking: plate or spoon in freezer, thermometer. I always check for temperature, 220 degrees F.
Put the marmalade in the sterilized jars and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.
Store in a cool, dark place. Keeps for up to a year.