Taking a class with Valerie Gordon of local treat maker Valerie Confections and Kevin West of the blog Saving the Season might change that bit of family culinary history (or lack thereof). I jumped at the chance when invited to attend a session of hands-on instruction, since we already consume jars of Valerie's preserves made from local organic farmers' market-sourced ingredients at a frightening pace.
We've got the no-knead bread happening all the time, so makes sense to have fruit preserves to go with it. And what a perfect way to spend an afternoon away from my kids while doing something that benefits them. Right? Especially since most toddlers will eat just about any pickled vegetable.
Next, we sliced rhubarb into matchsticks, quartered fresh strawberries, and macerated them with sugar and Meyer lemon before boiling it all down into a pretty pink burbling mass, and then the mixture was dosed into individual jars for us students to bring home.
After the dirty work was done, we sipped New Mexico-made Gruet sparkly and sampled some of Kevin and Valerie's preserved veggie and fruit handiwork, laid out in a very attractive and appetizing manner, of course. Aesthetics are crucial when deliberately taking the freshness out of inherently beautiful foods.
It didn't take long for the class's utility value to prove itself. When stumped with what dessert to serve to guests the night after I took the class, I whipped up some cream (kids never get enough of the standing mixer), folded in the strawberry rhubarb jam as per Valerie's suggestion, put in glasses garnished with a dollop of jam and fresh strawberries. The mint leaves were my personal touch. Insta-dessert.
Check the Valerie Confections website for info about upcoming larder-oriented classes such as cocktail ingredients, BBQ condiments, and cheese accompaniments. Sadly I don't have the free time as I'd like to preserve and can as much as I'd like to, but I'll get back to it. Since I'm committed to making baby food this round, I've got extra preserving needs. I already invested $3.95 in a handy jar lifter at Sur la Table.