BERKSHIRE PRESERVES thanks Paul at Taft Farms taftfarms.com in Great Barrington for providing us with glorious local apricots and peaches and divine tart Italian Prune Plums. What a bounty! Tafts is a wonderful farm and garden (and fishing tackle stuff, too) store with their own fruit, corn, berries, greens, tomatoes, breads and muffins, healthy plants and a knowledgeable, friendly staff.
As I write this the apricots are giving up their juice to make my Intense Apricot Jam. It's a slow process - and a sticky one. There isn't a knob, surface or hand (not to mention clothing) that doesn't have a layer of fruit on it. Forget aprons. This stuff works its way under and over the damn things; splattering all surfaces, including my face. Thank goodness for the stainless steel of commercial kitchens. And my clothes washer.I look at the dried splatter on my face as a non-chemical peel. Watch out all you dermatologists, I've found a better way.
Sunday, July 25th was the Egremont on Parade town fair. BERKSHIRE PRESERVES took a booth and sold 46 jars of our finest jams and marmalade to a discerning crowd. So, thank you friends, neighbors and visitors who tasted and were converted to the finest preserves. Commercial brands, watch your backs, BERKSHIRE PRESERVES is so much better than you !
People are funny at times. There are those who ask if my marmalades are local. Well folks, I live in western Massachusetts and the nearest citrus trees are in Florida, so no, the fruit isn't local. The berries and stone fruits are, mostly. People also ask if I've cooked forever. Well, even though I admit to only 48 years on this planet, the facts are incontrovertibly against that notion. Certainly I haven't cooked all my life. I may have been a smart ass youngster but I wasn't precocious enough to stand at the stove when an infant. In fact, I didn't learn to cook until I was married which was sometime between the dinosaur and John F. Kennedy. And, I didn't learn it from my mother who was a decent enough provider of meals but had no particular flair for experimentation. I learned on the job. Here's the short story:
When I was first married and freshly home from our honeymoon, I went to the grocery story where we lived - in Washington, DC - and brought home food for dinner. Let it suffice to say that I had never before really been in a grocery store as anything other than a companion to the one who was actually shopping. I also had never, ever, cooked a meal other than to boil a few eggs. Somehow, miraculously, food always appeared on my table. So there I was, frantically searching for something for us to eat and I brought home the only two recognizable things....a box of Oreos for me and a box of Hydrox for him. And milk. Well, he thought I was adorable, but really? After a week the adorable part wore off and I was hungry. So, I bought the Time Life cookbook series and started in on my cooking lessons. If any of you are familiar with that old, now thankfully defunct series, you'll remember that every recipe was for a farm family of 24 people. The series came with a box or two of index cards with the recipes printed on them. The first recipe I made was for a beef stew. I made the grocery list, went shopping for the ingredients and a large pot and followed the recipe precisely. How was I to know that 8 pounds of chuck, 16 carrots, a head of celery, 3 pounds of green peas,16 cups of beef broth would make more than was needed for 2 urban people? I didn't get to that part until I turned over the index card and saw that it served 24. So, first lesson learned: read the recipe in its entirety before cooking. Second lesson: buy a real cookbook...which I did, The James Beard Cookbook. And from that bible, I learned how to cook.
Anyway, it is time to get back to the jam on the stove.
It's been a long time coming, and still not quite here, but products are now sort-of available for sale on this blog. The new labels are at the printer and once they're on the jars, the photos will be uploaded.