This summer has been particularly enjoyable thanks to the opportunity to participate in The Edible Garden at the New York Botanical Garden. This Wednesday, July 29th, check out my blog post on Plant Talk, detailing my recent visit to the Garden’s Greenmarket, with a recipe for a deliciously different spiced tomato pickle.
I spent a gorgeous July morning at the Greenmarket, eating, talking to farmers, and visiting with some of the delightful people responsible for the Edible Garden exhibit. As I headed back from my trip, the river sparkled a beautiful blue-green, the usual New York City traffic was nowhere to be found, and I had some time to imagine the possibilities for the produce chilling in its refrigerated bag on the car seat beside me.
This preserve is one of those “one time only” products, born of late-night creativity and a little bit of the “why not?” sensibility that I feel is necessary for wonderful cooking. It features late-season blueberries, early-season Empire apples, and a memento of a happy family vacation from many years ago, an aged Barbardos rum with hints of vanilla, nutmeg, smoke and sunshine. I chose to add blackberries and a bit of organic applesauce because of their high pectin content – I wanted a good “jell”, but didn’t want to add powdered pectin to this beautiful, organic work of culinary art. Tasting as I went along, I decided that a little balsamic vinegar would not be amiss. I finished with a tiny grating of fresh nutmeg and just a pinch of cinnamon.
This recipe made three 12 oz. jars of finished preserves, plus a small bowlful that I put into the fridge so everyone could taste it. It’s amazing on toast, spread on pound cake, or perhaps just eaten from a spoon while standing in front of the refrigerator.
I’ll be back at the Edible Garden one more time this summer, on Saturday, August 8th. Our topic will be Home Canning, and I’ll be showing you how to preserve the bounty of your garden or local farmers’ market. I hope to see you there!
Blueberry and Empire Apple Preserves
2 pints blueberries, carefully washed and picked over
3 Empire apples, peeled and finely chopped
4 oz. blackberries
2 cups sugar
¼ cup aged Barbados rum
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¾ cup prepared applesauce
A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
A pinch of cinnamon
Bottled lemon juice, about 1 tablespoon per jar
Place blueberries, apples, blackberries, sugar, rum, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar and applesauce in a heavy, non-reactive pot. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for 35 minutes. Add cinnamon and nutmeg, and cook for about 10 minutes more. You will know it’s done because it will be thick and delicious, and it will look like preserves. This recipe is high in natural pectin thanks to the apples, applesauce and blackberries, so it will jell a bit more upon standing.
Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 “ headspace. Top each jar with enough bottled lemon juice to leave ¼” headspace, about 1 tablespoon. Place lids on jars, and screw bands to “fingertip tightness”. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
This preserve will keep in a cool, dark cupboard for up to a year. Any leftover jam that doesn’t make it into a jar will keep, well-covered, in your refrigerator for 2 weeks.