Here I am back after a long weekend. On Saturday we went to visit our friend Simona at Canto del Maggio (do follow her on Instagram, where you can find her as @canto_del_maggio, for hospitality, events, and experiences in an enchanted location). It has been a convivial relaxing day with friends, cooking and eating, experimenting with new recipes, and eating some more.
We made butter from scratch with smoked salt to go with sourdough bread and anchovies, my yoghurt and spinach ravioli with lemon butter, a carrot hummus and an arugula and cannellini hummus, a fennel and blue cheese tarte Tatin, and the most exquisite choux craquelin. Did I mention the homemade butter? I wonder why I don’t make it more often! If you are interested, I could share the recipe in one of the next newsletters (Let me know in the comments below).
Sunday was for the family, while Monday, a holiday in Italy as it is our liberation day, we worked from morning till evening to clean and organize the studio and our outdoor veranda for the next cooking classes.
For dinner, I stashed a frozen pizza in the oven. Yes, we do eat frozen pizza every now and then. I’m only human, and after such a tiring day all I wanted was a ready meal. I added fresh mozzarella, our extra virgin olive oil, homemade pickled capers, and a pinch of dried oregano from Salento. It was a decent pizza after all - and yet another proof of the importance of a well-stocked pantry.
We’re warming up the engines, as after two years of pause our cooking class season is finally beginning again. This means I’m getting ready for the busiest season ever, as now a toddler entered the equation.
And what do I do when I am busy? I make jam, one of my favourite ways of meditation.
I find it a relaxing activity for moments of stress, and it has also a tangible output that I can stash in my pantry for future breakfasts and cakes.
In our new cookbook - you’ll have to wait a few more months to get hold of it - I’m sharing some of my favourite preserves - sweet and savoury -, but my desire to try new recipes and learn new techniques is relentless.
Even Ada Boni, in her Il Talismano della Felicità, a classic Italian cookbook dating back to 1929, agrees with me.
L’arte delle conserve è una delle più utili nell’economia domestica. E noi vorremmo che le nostre lettrici fossero delle manipolatrici instancabili di queste preparazioni, le quali possono arrecare tante piccole soddisfazioni alle previdenti massaie. Ada Boni, Il Talismano della Felicità, 1929The art of canning is one of the most useful in the home economy. And we would like our readers to be tireless manipulators of these preparations, which can bring many small satisfactions to the prudent housewife. Ada Boni, Il Talismano della Felicità, 1929 (my translation)
The perks of making jam
The absent-minded stemming, paring, dicing, juicing, weighing. While your hands are busy working, your mind is free to wander.
The comforting smell of cooked fruit, that immediately brings me back to late summer afternoons spent making jam in a hot kitchen with my mum.
The sloshing sound of the hot jam poured through a funnel into freshly sterilised jars.
The remote plock of jam jars that are sealed in a hot-water bath. Your job is done for today.
The glistening jars lined on your pantry shelf, colours and tastes reminiscing of seasons past by.
Having ready-made gifts when visiting friends: just pick a jar of their favourite jam, wrap it with some nice paper, and you’re set.
The perks of eating jam
Spreading your homemade strawberry jam on a buttered toast on an ordinary Monday morning. It makes everything look easier for a while.
Staring at the jam mingling with the butter melting on the hot toast.
Spooning jam onto your warm porridge along with a dollop of hazelnut butter.
Handing the spoon to your daughter to lick it when she screams Iaia (Livia), reclaiming her jam.
Watching your daughter licking jam from a spoon.
Baking a crostata with your favourite jam, and spreading it thickly on the crust.
Pear and rosemary jam
I made this recipe two years ago, and since then it has become a fixture in our pantry. It is delicate and floral, with the most poetic look. You can find the step by step recipe in the IG stories here.
Even though pears are at the end of their season, this is when I can buy them for a good price at the market, and when rosemary blushes all over our garden are in bloom.
If you need to print this recipe to keep it in your kitchen and use for scribbling down your notes, you find the printable PDF below and you can print just odd pages to avoid photos and save ink.
Makes 4 medium jars
2.8 lb/1.3 kg ripe pears (2.2 lb/1 kg prepared weight)
1 organic lemon
1½ cup/300 g sugar
a handful of rosemary flowers
Peel the pears, remove the seeds, and cube them. Transfer them to a large, thick-bottomed pot. Squeeze the lemon over the pears, then add the squeezed lemon to the pot. It will release pectin, which will help thicken the jam.
Cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until all pears are soft and begin to collapse. You should be able to easily squash them against the pot with a wooden spoon. Puree the pears with an immersion blender, then add the sugar.
Transfer the mixture to a large saucepan, stir to dissolve the sugar, then return the pot to the stove and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the jam reaches 221°F/105°C on an instant-read thermometer. The jam will still be very liquid, but it will thicken up once it cools.
If you do not have an instant-read thermometer, you can also check empirically whether the jam is ready or not with the plate test: Before you begin the jam, place a plate in the freezer. To test the jam, pour a drop of jam onto the chilled dish. If it thickens and does not slide when you tilt the saucer, the jam is ready to be poured into sterilized jars.
Just before pouring the jam into the jars, add the rosemary flowers and stir to evenly distribute them. Pour the hot jam into the sterilized jars and seal tightly.
Put the jars in a large pot and add water to cover them by a few inches. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer and set a timer for 20 minutes. When the timer goes off, remove the pan from the heat and let the jars cool completely in the water before removing them. You can store the preserves for up to a year in a dry, cool, and dark place.
For today’s (paywalled) recipe, we will delve into an early Spring strawberry jam.
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The recipe is adapted from Pam the Jam: The Book of Preserves, by Pam Corbin, my last purchase in terms of preserving books (I shared my favourite books on preserving here on the blog). Needless to say, it is already full of dog ears, as I’m going to slowly cook from the book through the seasons.
I started with her strawberry and vanilla jam.
Make it if you adore the smell of strawberries slowly simmering with vanilla.
My strawberries came from Basilicata, a tiny region between Naples and Apulia, the region where my nonno was born. They produce excellent strawberries, an early variety known as Candonga, that gives juicy, crisp fruits from January to June.
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