Out-of-Bed Camp

Lugging out the big pots, peeling, chopping, stirring, boiling, canning, then cleaning up before starting over with something else might not be your idea of a Bed-Camp Day but, this time of year, it is for me.

Bed-Camp Days don’t always have to be in bed. Sometimes, it can just be making the time to do something you’re passionate about. When the Union Square Farmers’ Market is flush with the best offerings of the year, when the threat of the end of the summer starts to show itself with the late summer strawberries and the earliest gourds, I love to bring home the bounty and start canning. Produce at its peak is so beautiful and aromatic and delicious. Peaches. All kinds of berries. Juicy plum and beefsteak tomatoes you buy by the 25-pound box. Once home, you know you have to take your time and just settle in.

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Alone in the kitchen with my thoughts and good (loud) music, creating winter treats for me and family and friends, my mind clears, and body and soul relaxes. This is, in a different sort of way, for me, as relaxing as reclining in bed with a good book…and the house smells like a summer version of Christmas.

I have just a small galley kitchen. Even with the back door open, it gets hot. It gets cluttered. It gets splattered and messy. It gets sticky. It fills up quickly.

Oh Happy Bed-Camp Day.

PEACH JAM WITH ROSEMARY

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Begin at least one full day before processing.

Just four ingredients

  1. 5 pounds of firm and ripe peaches
  2. 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
  3. 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  4. A few springs of fresh rosemary

Wash and halve the peaches, removing the pits. Cut each half in half again and place in a large and deep pan. Add remaining ingredients.

Place over medium flame and let cook for about 15 minutes, letting the juices flow. Allow to cool and transfer to a container. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least overnight but not more than four days before processing.

Remove the container from the refrigerator and bring the peaches to room temperature. Pass the mixture through a food mill fitted with the coarse plate into a heavy bottomed pot. One of my best purchases last year was a Maslin jam pot. Stirring in a smaller bottomed pot is much easier and there is less splattering on the stove.

Bring the peaches to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 215 degrees. This will take about 15 to 20 minutes.

Transfer to sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace and process in a water bath for 10 minutes. Makes 6 half pint jars.

I’ve assumed reader knowledge of the canning process. If incorrect, please refer to canning safety instructions and processes at http://www.freshpreserving.com/getting-started.aspx

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Happy Birthday Julia!

Today is Julia Child’s 101st birthday. Dinner with friends is planned for tonight, of course. I was going to make something with lots of butter and cream, but it’s a beautiful fall day in the middle of August and I have to be outside enjoying it. Instead, I’ll split and roast a chicken, take extra care with the vegetables and make a dessert topped with whipped cream. The wine will be French, of course.

Bon Appétit!

There is a recipe for Broiled Butterflied Chicken in Child’s The Way to Cook book. It’s the most dog-earred book in my cookbook bookcase and the one most often given as a gift. For a Mark Bittman video to show you how to butcher a chicken, which you won’t have to do all of for Julia’s recipe, see

http://www.nytimes.com/video/2011/03/10/magazine/100000000715898/chickencutting.html

So Easy to Keep it So Simple

Fruit in a green leafy salad is not something new. Pears, apples and orange citrus have been in my fall and winter salads for years. Fruit is at its prime right now and I’ve gotten a bit more creative with it this summer.

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I start with fresh mixed greens, then check to see what protein I have on hand…goat gouda is a favorite this summer, but leftover chicken or hanger steak works too. A handful of either walnuts or almonds gets tossed in — healthy as well and good for a crunch.

Now comes the fun part — look around and be creative. Berries — blue or straw, melon, cherries — pitted and halved, grapes, even peaches, as well as apples, pears and oranges.

For the dressing, I add a bit of either tarragon or mint to my basic vinaigrette and use it sparingly.

I try to make the time to wash and spin the greens when I get home (and yes, I do also buy pre-washed). While I’m at it, I’ll wash the fruit, cut the melons into bite-size pieces, pit the cherries (don’t wear light colors!) and get everything ready to ‘eat on the fly’.

Can’t get enough fruit this summer…breakfast this morning –

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Acknowledge

July is done and today is ‘hump day’ of the first full week of August. Sunset is inching back closer to 8 o’clock. The wind-down to fall is beginning. Most of the sale merchandise is gone and fall fashion hangs from the racks. Summer is far from over, but it is time to take stock.

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  • Take ten minutes and make a list of the nice/good/wonderful/soothing/ nurturing things you have done for yourself so far.
  • Take another ten minutes and make a second list of the things you still have time to do to make this a summer you want to remember.

August Food Celebrations

Lots of fresh food holidays this month. Some of my favorites:

National Sandwich Month – does bacon between two slices of tomato count?
National Peach Month — so good this year
Goat Cheese Month – think goat gouda topped with fig jam
And my favorite — NATIONAL EAT DESSERT FIRST MONTH!!

Some Day Celebrations:
14th – National Creamsicle Day — who doesn’t go back to their childhood on the first lick?
16th – Bratwurst Day — on the grill, of course
19th – National Hot & Spicy Day — just bought a jar of ‘Traditional Harissa Spread’ for the occasion
20th – Lemonade Day — we need a holiday for this in the middle of the summer?
22nd – Eat a Peach Day, though it’s also National Peach Month and National Peach Pie day on the 24th
29th – National Lemon Juice Day — make note to self to make a white wine jelly with fresh lemon juice and rosemary

Does anyone else see the glaring omission? Where is the tomato lobby? I found no mentions of a National Tomato Month. Major Major Omission.

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Every year I promise myself, and it’s a promise I keep, to eat a tomato every day during August. Course, it carries on through most of September.

Is there anything prettier than a perfect tomato?