July 29, 2009

red currant jelly

slacker red currant jelly
I found them, the elusive currants and it wasn’t easy. It has been so wet and cold here on the east coast that currants, usually available in June, are now in season. I went on a few walkabouts before finding them, on one of which I found gooseberries, but that’s another story.

The Lorraine region of France produces the most famous currant preserves, Bar-Le-Duc. Currants, hand seeded with goose quills, are suspended in jelly. Considered the caviar of jams its berries pop in your mouth. A jar of this precious stuff, if you could even get it, will set you back $40.00. Originally done by monks, the seeding tradition is now passed down from mother to daughter. I am sorry, but that sounds like a mind dumbing, awful, tedious and might I say, thankless job. I hope they are well paid. Needless to say I am not seeding my currants, nor am I advising my daughter to go out and pursue a career as an épépineuse.

So I give you slacker jelly, poured through my moms trusty jelly bag. Not only did I not seed them but I have been advised, on high authority, to leave the stems on. I did a bit of research on this and came up with three possible reasons for leaving them on. Please, let me know if you can shed any light on the stem mystery.

1. The stems contain pectin
2. The stems add flavor to the jelly
3. Pure laziness and efficiency (I’m going with 3)

This was my first batch of currant jelly so I resisted the urge to add additional ingredients. Currants are high in acid and pectin so they gel quickly.
I love making jelly, it is so easy, no peeling or coring. I used the most basic recipe from the original Joy of Cooking.


  • Currants, washed with stems on
  • Water, ½ cup per lb of fruit
  • Sugar, 1 cup per cup of currant juice


  1. Place currants and water in a non-reactive pot, cover and bring to a simmer. Mash the fruit a bit and continue simmering for 20- 30 minutes. Drain the juice through a dampened jelly bag left to hang over night. Do not squeeze the bag! This will result in a cloudy jelly.
  2. Place equal parts currant juice and sugar in a preserving pot. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is disolved. Raise heat and bring to a slow boil. Skim as needed. Watch carefully for set, it happens quickly.
  3. Place jam in hot sterilized jars, seal. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Label and enjoy.

July 15, 2009

citrus pickled turnips with gin and juniper berries

citrus pickled turnips with gin and juniper berries

I am posting from Westport Massachusetts, proud home of the macomber turnip. Westport is considered by many the Napa Valley of New England. Its coastal rivers and miles of farms produce some of the finest food in the region.
I thought it appropriate to include my friend Dan Georges’ recipe for pickled turnips. Dan is a local chef and pickle guru extraordinaire. I was fortunate enough to eat one of Dans summer feasts, cooked by his catering company Smoke and Pickles. They served a whole striped bass cooked in his smoker, which he trailers behind his truck. As he drives down the road smoke pours from it, making mouths water for miles. He's the foodie Pied Piper of Westport. Fantastic sides from local farms accompanied the bass along with an array of his tasty pickles.
The recipe below, for his pickled turnips is completely unique, and a perfect pickle. He makes his with the infamous macomber but any fresh turnip will do.
It’s crunchy, briny, and citrusy and has something else you can’t quite put your finger on, a touch of gin. I am a big fan of pickles for breakfast, but you might want to think twice about popping one of these bad boys into your mouth before 10am.
This recipe is in Dans fantastic book, Quick Pickles, published by Chronicle Books.
Must go, I’m off to find some old lady, rumored to have fresh currants!


  • 2 lbs small turnip s ( peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick)
  • 3 tablespoon kosher salt
  • zest of 1 orange julienned
  • zest of 2 lemons julienned
  • zest of 2 limes julienned
  • 2/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup gin
  • 1/2 cup white grape juice
  • 2 tablespoons juniper berries
  • 4 teaspoons peeled , finely minced ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric

  1. In a non-reactive bowl combine the turnips and the salt and toss well. Set aside for about 1 hour , or until the turnips are limp enough to fold without breaking. Drain and rinse twice to remove salt.
  2. Place the turnips in a large non-reactive bowl or in glass jars with all of the remaining ingredients, cover and refrigerate.
  3. The flavors begin to develop almost immediately, but they improve significantly overnight as the juniper steeps in the liquid.
  4. These pickles keep covered, refrigerated for 3-4 weeks

July 7, 2009



I had never made this before; it has been sitting up for weeks. Remember my trip to Costco? Well, that was for the vodka.
A friend of mine swears the Kirkland Vodka is really Belvedere in a Kirkland bottle (Costco private label). He buys it, takes it home and puts it back in a Belvedere bottle where he believes it rightfully belongs, repatriating so to speak. No one really wants to see a Kirkland bottle on the bar, it just doesn't scream cocktail, or even yummy. As my friend Margo says, “I don’t care what I get for Christmas as long as it doesn’t say Kirkland on it”. But I digress, and am wandering the aisles of Costco again, attracted, yet repulsed.

I hauled the Rosé Vodkas out of their
dark storage lair last weekend for a unveiling. Unsure what it would taste like, and if anyone would like it, I only filtered two liters (I had put up three gallons) for my dinner party that evening. To my surprise we drank both. Everyone was busy mixing concoctions, creating their own signature cocktails. The Tommy was rhubarb vodka, sparkling lemonade with a lime wedge. The "Terry" was rhubarb vodka, Cointreau and club soda with a squirt of lime. They were all refreshing and unique, perfect summer aperitifs.

PUT UP three kinds of RV only two of which are worth repeating here. One had more rhubarb and sugar. It produced a lovely rhubarb liquor, a beautiful pink color that will appeal to everyone (except those who loathe rhubarb). The other had less sugar and a sprig of rosemary, inspired by my jam earlier in the spring. This produced a lovely pale rose hued, herbal liquor that was not the least over-powering. It tasted like spring and fresh cut grass with a hint of floral. Totally yummy!

I recommend experimenting, try two kinds, or invent one to suit your own tastes and then have a tasting with lots of mixers so everyone can make their own cocktail. I would to add a bit of
orange zest in with the rosemary.
Please post your results in the comments section and let me know how it came out.




• Put rhubarb, sugar and rosemary into clean ½ gallon jars (I used Ball)
• Cover with vodka and seal jars
• Store in a cool dark place for six weeks
• Filter, discarding solids. Keep refrigerated




• Put rhubarb and sugar into clean ½ gallon jars (I used Ball)
• Cover with vodka and seal jars
• Store in a cool dark place for six weeks
• Filter, discarding solids. Keep refrigerated


• Purists will probably shoot me, but I did not sterilize the jars. I washed them in HOT water and figured the vodka would kill anything in there. I used Ball 1/2 gallon jars.
• I highly recommend filtering through coffee filters; this is sure to remove any solids and give you a clearer product.