Tag Archives: jam

Meditation on a Fine Cup of Tea

13 Jan

During the holidays, we hurtled around parts of England, Wales, and Ireland. December in the British Isles is just a wee bit grey, windy, and wet. But it was a lovely trip–not the least because at every turn,  there was a cup of tea: early morning, mid morning, afternoon, and evening. The perfect antidote to a wintery climate, the perfect reward for a long day out and about, and the perfect way to transition from activity to rest. In my admittedly biased view, nothing beats the rich, deep, reddish brown of a fine cup of  black tea (“black” tea being a slight misnomer). And there is no better way to have a strong cup of tea than milky and sweet.

Ok, there is a better way– having it milky and sweet, and accompanied by scones, clotted cream, and strawberry  jam. The ecstasies engendered among our family members at the sight of a proper cream tea cannot be adequately described. Suffice to say, we partook, and then partook some more (and then a bit more). 

All photos taken at the delectable Lucy’s Tearoom in Stow-on-the-Wold, Cotswolds, England.

Bay Area 2: Fruit and Vegetable Envy

25 Jul

While in Berkeley,  I was able to spend a lovely day with long-time family friends, and admire (ok, envy) their garden. It is a productive one–full of fruit trees and tomatoes and other vegetables–with not a rampaging dog in sight. The fruit trees–apple, fig, pear, persimmon, and plum–were all bearing fruit or on the verge of doing so, and the tomatoes were glistening. The sun was shining, the air was crisp, the birds were chirping–and everything I saw appeared jewel like. The contrast to my own garden was stark: the sun shines here, too, but the air is hot and thick, the neighborhood birds chirp only when the dogs are inside, I have no fruit trees, and my tomatoes have run wild (along with the zucchini plants–after just one week away, I came back to discover that two finger-sized zucchinis I had left behind were suddenly longer and thicker than my forearm–or anyone else’s forearm for that matter). Sigh.

But back to our friends’ garden. The photos below are of Satsuma plums, Seckel pears, and Sungold cherry tomatoes. This year was the first bearing year for the Satsuma plums, so jam making is on hold until next year when there is more of a crop. But how our friends will manage to set aside any plums for jam making is beyond me–I’d barely be able to get the plums from the tree to the kitchen without eating all of them. Perhaps when there are many, many plums to be had, the law of diminishing returns kicks in and people find the willpower to think longer term….

Satsuma plums

The Seckel pears also looked gorgeous, though I did not taste one since they were not quite ready to be picked. Last year was the first bearing year for the pears, so our friends ate what they harvested, gave some away, and did not have any left to store. This year, they will have a bumper crop and are trying to come up with a plan for what to do with them. Canning suggestions? Recommended pear recipes? We usually just eat them as they are or cut them into a fruit salad drizzled with a light honey-lime syrup. (Now that I think of it, I haven’t made that in a while; it would be perfect for a summer weekend brunch.) But I’d be happy to expand my pear repertoire if any suggestions come in.

Seckel pears

The Sungold cherry tomatoes really caught my eye. With multiple orbs of various colors (from green to gold to deep orange) hanging on each vine, they looked like garlands. There were also some Principe Borghese tomatoes in the garden, though I didn’t get a good photo. Those tomatoes are destined for sun drying — by pulling up the whole plant at the end of the season and hanging it upside down to dry in the sun. Our friend has not tried this before, but is counting down the days until she can conduct this natural experiment.  I’m counting down, too, since I’d like to know how that experiment works. My own non-cherry tomatoes have exploded (did I mention the 90+degree weather?), but my plants are not nearly as neat and tidy as their Berkeley counterparts because I didn’t know what I was doing when I planted them. The stakes I put in are not nearly tall enough, the space the tomatoes are in is too crowded (and there are roses there, too–a very bad idea of mine since thorns make tomato harvesting a tricky proposition). But, I may still try to sun dry some of the Romas, if I can get my act together and build a black box with glass lid in which to put them. Our neighbor in Australia did this every summer, and it worked like a charm.

Sungold cherry tomatoes

Until then, I will live vicariously through our friends, and wonder whether I can squeeze in a Satsuma plum tree somewhere in my own garden….

Recipe: Raspberry Oatmeal Bars

25 Feb

Quick, easy, and full of oaty goodness, these bars work multiple jobs: they can be a snack, dessert, or even part of breakfast. They are also a good way to use up jam or preserves if, like us, you have a variety of half-full jam jars in the fridge (a state of affairs that arises when family members each have a favorite). Whenever I want to clear out the fridge, I make these bars. But truthfully, fridge clearing isn’t the main reason to make these; we quite frequently open new jars of jam just for this recipe, starting the cycle all over again. The bars are worth it.

This weekend, I actually did use up all that remained of a jar of regular raspberry preserves, but there wasn’t quite enough for the recipe. Solution? I topped up the measuring cup with a bit of black raspberry jam. That’s the other good thing about these oatmeal bars –they are very versatile: a blackberry, blueberry, cherry, or strawberry/rhubarb filling would work quite nicely, too.

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars
9 or 16 servings

3 c. quick-cooking oats
2/3 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. canola oil
1/2 c. maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla
2/3 c. raspberry (or other fruit) preserves/jam, stirred until smooth


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray (or lightly oil the pan).
2. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Combine wet ingredients, and add to dry ingredients, mixing well.
4. Put half of oat mixture into baking pan, and press firmly and evenly into place with the back of a spoon.
5. Spread the preserves/jam evenly over the oat layer. Loosely cover the filling with the remaining oat mixture.
6. Bake for 35-40 minutes; let cool 15 minutes before serving.
7. Cut into 9 squares for hearty servings, or 16 squares for smaller bites.