I read a lot of cookbooks. I mean a lot, a lot. I read them for fun, like novels, taking in the stories and beautiful photography, for research, looking at the science of how ingredients blend together and what I can create on my own, like poetry, how the components all marry together on a plate just so and for work, helping me pick the perfect book every month to review for the Just Food monthly column I write. I wouldn’t say I’m the authority, but I have some opinions.
From the moment I realized a fig tree grows in Brooklyn, I’ve been dreaming of Brooklyn-grown figgy jam. I’ve stalked the greenmarkets, traveled to Williamsburg where I know the Brooklyn Kitchen often carries them and tried to forage for my own in trees around Brooklyn. All fruitless ventures. Last year, I thought I finally figured it out. We moved from a 6-story apartment building to a two family rowhouse. While the new apartment doesn’t give us backyard access, our landlord’s luscious garden has a pear tree and not one, but two fig trees. I finally had access to my very own figs. Then winter came.
I’m sure you’ve seen the news about the fig trees dying out all over Brooklyn. The winter was a bit harsh for these Mediterranean plants. Back in April and May when every other tree was sprouting it’s greens, fig trees around the borough remained bare. Luckily the rumors of them completely dying off aren’t true. Eventually the leaves started coming back and just a few weeks ago I saw some green fruit hanging off a few dozen recovering branches. But still a bit too late to harvest any ripe fruit this year.
I have a confession. A couple of years ago I shared a peach salsa recipe. The original recipe was from Put ‘Em Up, still one of my favorite canning books. But the truth is, that was the only year I made that particular salsa. For the last two years I’ve been making a completely different peach salsa. And hiding it from you. Pretending Put ‘Em Up’s recipe was the best one out there. But no. I’ve found better. Can you forgive me?
I feel like a broken record sometimes but there are kitchen projects that terrify me for years, then I finally embark on and find myself stepping back thinking, “that’s it?” Granola and yogurt are two that immediately come to my head. But this time I was finally ready to try making mustard. Last year I made tomato jam for the first time and it changed my life. Seriously. I don’t know that I could ever go back to boring old ketchup again. What if all homemade condiments were like that? Mustard, mayo (still working on that one), hot sauce…
Hands down, cherries are my favorite part of summer. I usually can’t bring myself to buy them out of season because they’re just never as good. And the second best thing to fresh cherries in season is preserved cherries for the other 11 months of the year! I had so many plans. Aside from the usual suspects like bourbon cherries, I was set to make maraschino cherries, savory preserves, syrups and more. You can imagine my disappointment when I arrived to the market and learned my plans to bring home buckets of cherries wasn’t happening this year.