My clever friend Sue invited us over last week for a party with a motive so simple and compelling that it was positively brilliant: to eat pie. As you can see, people took the pie pot-luck directive very seriously.
People brought their A-game. I contributed a savory tomato and zucchini pie (a recipe I’d share, but it needs some perfecting). My offering, however, was no match for the rhubarb beauty with ribbons of doughy latticework; a thick egg and kale quiche; the wild blueberry with a buttery crumble top; a delicate apple galette, a bacon, egg and onion dish or the layered coconut number that I sadly didn’t even have room for after sampling most of the others.
It was an excellent way to spend the first official chill-in-the-air fall day here in New York, and I’ll be practicing my technique for the winter session.
With whipping wind, sideways-falling snow and ice slicks on every block, it’s been important to keep in mind that there will be life after winter. In New York, that also means remembering a tidier time – before sidewalks were hedged with diminutive mount trashmores (complete with Christmas tree husks) covered in snow, ice and slush.
Right now a little bit of sunshine goes a long way, blue sky days are that much better and best of all is when the forecast calls for a chance to leave the house in something other than clunky snow boots. So I’m even more appreciate than ever of the friends who preserved, canned and bottled summer’s sweetness and shared it with us. Our pantry is stocked with bright marmalades and dark fruit jellies that give us hope for the possibility of budding trees, picnics in the park and far less trash on the sidewalk.
Here is my friend Sarah’s recipe for her red currant jelly so you can have your own spot of brightness on a cold day. We’ve been slathering it on toast and mixing it into plain yogurt.
2 pounds currants (washed and stems removed – can be frozen until ready to use)
1 cup sugar
Place the currants in a large pot, add the water (about 1/4-1/2 cup) and sugar (1 cup + to taste, some people so equal parts but I like it more tart than sweet). Cook over medium heat. The currants will start to release all their juice and pop out of their skins. Once you have a more liquified consistency, about 20 minutes, drain the currants over a bowl. I did this using cheesecloth and the help of a mesh strainer. Be careful not to squeeze the cheesecloth or you’ll get more of a cloudy jelly. Once all the liquid has been drained, you can pour into canning jars and process in a water bath (water bath canning instructions here).
There are always those recipes that call for a tablespoon of this, a dollop of that or a quarter cup of an exotic or rarely-used ingredient. Said item then sits in your refrigerator, ducking behind those everyday stars – like milk and orange juice – just taunting you to make use of it before it morphs into a science experiment.
The latter is usually the way those things go over here. But there are those rare moments when I become this resourceful (not wasteful) keeper of the kitchen. And so I had to share this recipe for a lemon buttermilk cake that saved me from dumping the creamy remains of this icebox lurker.
It’s spongy, lemony and all-around delicious – the only thing I would change is to double up on the glaze. With the dairy-heavy ingredients, I have this vision of this recipe as one handed down between the generations of a farming family. Somewhere out in the Midwest, on a green patchwork of well-tended fields, the creamy batter would be stirred with love and efficiency in a farmhouse kitchen, and placed in a window to cool only just until a small hand couldn’t resist crumbling off a corner any longer.
Agrarian roots or not, this is a darn good cake, and perfect excuse to use the leftover buttermilk taking up space in your fridge.