peach jam with bourbon and vanilla
Friends, there is, at once, much to tell and nothing to tell. August was a rough month – I’m hoping that September will be better. It has to be, to balance out the August mayhem.
I’m glad to leave August behind; a month like that leaves you feeling drained. A month like that – and I’m ready to leave the summer behind. And even though we just got back from a vacation, I could use another one right about now.
Truthfully, we had no business spending what we spent for the vacation. In the end, it turned into a slightly pricier affair than we’d intended. But looking back – it was well worth it. Who knows what will happen down the road. Mann traoch, Gott Lauch. This has been replaying in my head over and over. Try to live in the moment. Savor each day.
Last month started with a punch to the stomach and ended with another one, just as absurd. Mikey’s unexpected, untimely death and Jennie’s anguish and grief reverberated all over the internet – touching everyone’s hearts, from close friends to those who didn’t even know her or Mikey. A few days ago, in our building where we live, a young man lost his wife to post-labor complications. You don’t hear that very often – death from post labor complications. He is now a father to a toddler and a two-week old baby – falling apart is not an option for him – he must move forward and care for his two young children.
And it feels almost insincere to write emotionally about these events. They are not my events. I could feel sympathy, but to write about my own reaction seems almost inappropriate – it’s so easy to feel sorry, but how do you make the pain go away? All that you want to do sometimes is to just scream at the sky, powerless and impotent. And yet, another day rolls by and despite a desire to just hunker down, there is laundry to be done, groceries to be purchased, beds to be made. Life forces you to do these little things and step by step, minute by minute, it all sort of moves at a snail’s pace, but it’s those details that fill our days.
I’m trying to focus on the things in my life that bring me joy – I’m grateful for all the little moments and grateful for the bigger ones for there is much to smile about. Here are a few.
1. We went on vacation – and we had a wonderful time. We
almost tried to made the best effort failed to fully disconnect from our tethered life to our computers. I had a draft chapter due to an editor (see item 2) and another piece due out elsewhere. But the redwoods (!), the lake (!), the fields, large and beautiful, dotted with cows in the distance; the fog bathing the tree tops; more fields, more cows, more hills and mountains – it was all so beautiful, that at times I’d thought my heart might burst into a thousand pieces. There were moments when I got tears in my eyes. I kept thinking of Our Town and Emily’s parting monologue – we often take for granted all that is beautiful and joyous around us. Like children eating ice cream.
2. I’m co-authoring a book! [Repeat in loud whisper - I'm. Co-authoring. A. Book! Woot!] A few months ago, Melissa was kind enough to put me in touch with a woman who wanted to write a book about kimchi. As naturally fermented foods are becoming more popular (oh hi, kombucha!) and there are more and more conversations about probiotics, the centuries’-old practice of kimchi (it’s not just for Napa cabbage!) is gaining popularity in the West. Our joint effort, due out Fall 2012, will be published by Ten Speed Press. Once we have the title down and everything – I’ll tell you all about it. But for now, just keep it in the back or your head! There will be traditional recipes, modern adaptations, and dishes where kimchi hides out as a supporting player.
3. We adopted a cat! Thanks to Andrew Scrivani, whom I get to assist, and his amazing pet adoption matching skills, we have a new member of our household. His name is Forrest and he is 3 years old. He likes raw chicken, scratches under his chin, and sleeping under the bed on top of a suitcase. He also helps out in the kitchen by hanging out there whenever I’m cooking. I’ve high hopes that some day he might know how to finely dice. His first few days were spent under our bed/in the closet/under the couch. He hardly ate. He was afraid of all the street noises. He is now a fully trained office cat – invoicing is his strongest suit and he loves to organize those receipts. His favorite way to relax is to roll around on the floor and give you those I-know-just-how-cute-I-am looks. He purrs non-stop. He is nothing short of awesome.
4. We set a wedding date, whee! We saw some lovely places, some stuffy places, some places with a turn of the century shower that looked like a medieval torture device. And in the end, went with an informal, beautiful, low-key venue that promises amazing farm-to-table food. Which is exactly what we want. And to infuse the stereotypically stressful wedding situation with an obligatory curve ball, the place where I’m getting my dress made (deep breaths) is closing down on December 31, 2011. What that means for the dress – we have no idea. Stay tuned, folks! It’ll be curious indeed!
5. This jam. This amazing, seductive, luxurious, peach jam. If peaches had a higher calling, outside of bathing in honey caramel, this must be it. Yes, I know that it’s almost fall. I know that we’re about to lose stone fruit and tomatoes from the farmers markets (though I was promised tomatoes until end of September by one farmer!). So my advice to you is to get yourself some nice, ripe peaches, go home, and make this jam today, tomorrow, this weekend. Your house will get that intoxicating peach perfume – as if you’ve got an entire farm stand in your kitchen. And a splash of bourbon has that boozy, languid summer feel. It might as well be the height of summer on your stove. And with a little Billy Holliday in the background, it’ll make for a very nice celebration of a season about to make its exit – a the reminder of which you can spread on your morning toast months later, or give out as homemade gifts during the holiday season.
Peach Jam with Bourbon and Vanilla
2 pounds peaches
1 1/2 pounds granulated sugar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out
3 tablespoons bourbon
1. In a medium pot, bring 3 cups water to a boil. Make an x-shaped topical incision on top of the peaches, and blanch peaches for 1 minute; then plunge into a water bath until cool. Remove the skin, chop peaches into 1/2-inch sized chunks. Place the chopped peaches into a medium-sized pot.
2. Add the sugar, lemon, vanilla seeds (and the bean), and the bourbon. Bring everything to a gentle boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Skim the foam that will form on top. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until jam reaches 222 degrees F. To test if the jam is ready, drop a bit of syrup on a small saucer that’s been chilled in the freezer. The syrup should get viscous as it runs down the plate. If it does – the jam is ready.
3. Ladle the jam in sterilized jars. Consume within a month, or use a hot water bath method, for 30 minutes for long-term storage.
Makes 1 1/2 pints.