I prefer to eat local food, sourced as close to the farm as possible: I get fresher food, I help support the nearby farming community, and it tastes amazing. Sometimes, though, I make exceptions. Let me tell you about my experience with peaches.
I get asked this a lot: is making jam hard? People tend to assume it takes a lot of time; that every batch is unmanageably huge; that it’s scary and uses weird equipment. All this is so, so wrong. You can make jam in a skillet or saucepan in less than an hour.
We had snow and hail last week, but it’s in the 90s today: welcome to springtime in SE Michigan. I’m working on the garden this week – first setting the chives and all the other herbs to rights, and then planting my favorite tomatoes.
Looking at my preserves cupboard, I can see it’s been a good year for jams. Let’s see … there’s cherry jam three ways, blueberry-ginger jam, spiced tomato jam, strawberry-vanilla butter, peach, and apricot jams. But there are still a few gaps!
Necessity is the mother of invention. Sometimes you hit a roadblock; something knocks your plans horribly askew. So it was for me this week, when I planned to reduce a half-bushel (25-26 pounds) of tomatoes to thick tomato paste.
I love berries of all kinds, and am lucky to live where lots of them grow. Recently I bought some freshly picked blueberries at a farm stand: they were delicious! Some went into muffins, some on cereal, some were just eaten as a snack.
You don’t have to make huge batches of jams or pickles. Take this example: in a small batch, Strawberry-Vanilla Butter uses only 1½ quarts of berries, and yields 3 half-pint jars (plus a bit extra for toast or snacking.) You may double the recipe,
Let me just say this: I miss New England, especially the chowder! Local prices for ocean fish are sky-high: only to be expected in Michigan, but a problem for a frugal cook. Bottled clam juice just doesn’t have the flavor of a great fish-based stock.
If you cook for vegetarians, you will need vegetable stock on hand: so many dishes are improved by substituting stock for water. It’s hard to find the good stuff at the grocery store, so make your own at home.