Sunday, September 2, 2007
I was at the Haymarket Saturday trolling for deals, and I saw flats of fruit for sale for $1 apiece. For some reason, I find that fruit that's being liquidated for ridiculously low prices (e.g. these pears and these tomatoes) is often of better quality than the average fruit that's being sold there, probably because supply-side issues cause temporary surpluses. At first I thought they were Asian pears, but the packaging said they were honeydew nectarines, from the famed Ito Packing Company, so for less than $.10 a pound, I just had to try them.
Although the fruit I got was a little past its prime, the nectarines were sweet with a very appealing floral aroma. The texture was less juicy than a nectarine and more like a white peach though. I've also been meaning to try making Ball freezer-jam, so this sudden fruit boon was just the right opportunity. Haphazardly, I mixed a packet of pectin with about six cups of crushed nectarines, some linden honey, and the juice and zest of four lemons (I find the smaller round ones to be much better than the large football shaped ones, and the 20 lemons I got for $1 at the Haymarket gave off an ambrosial aroma) together and put it in the freezer. It actually made a delicious sorbet! Serendipity at its most satisfying.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
There are many reasons to love Ikea - it sells low-cost, smartly-designed furniture in a cheery atmosphere, it is owned by the largest non-profit foundation in the world, and it's a firm that seems to genuinely care about its impact on society and the environment. But actually, one of my favorite things about Ikea are its in-store Swedish food markets which introduces delicious Swedish fare to many of us who would not otherwise try it. I don't go to Ikea often, but when I do I always have to restrain myself to trying only a few new things at a time, lest my food purchases exceed my furniture purchases.
The stores sell a variety of products from huge Swedish-style crackers to frozen seafood, but some of the most tempting ones are the preserves (mostly from the Hafi brand) made from native Scandinavian fruits. Last time I was there I bought three kinds of preserves - cloudberry, lingonberry, and gooseberry.
The cloudberry preserves are perhaps the most unusual for American tastes. The jam is made from the wild and seedy yellow-orange berries and is very sweet with an assertive fruity flavor. The flavor isn't much like anything common in the US, although it reminds me slightly of concord grapes. I really love this jam, and you'll have to taste it for yourself to know what it's really like.
The lingonberry preserves are also made from wild fruit and would be more familiar to the American palate, with a taste and texture similar to cranberry sauce. The jam is mild with a grainy texture reminiscent of applesauce and pears, and perhaps most of all, lingonberry jam reminds me of that favorite Chinese fruit, haw.
My favorite preserve of the trio , however, is the gooseberry preserve. Cape gooseberries are one of my favorite fruits, and while the gooseberries in this Swedish jam are from a different species altogether, I seem to have a particular fondness for fruits called gooseberry. The flavor reminds me a little of white grapes, and there are very nice texture contrasts between the seeds, the chewy-crunchy flesh, and the jelly-like matrix. I also like this one because it's much less sweet than the others, and it's not tooth-shattering to eat right out of the jar.
I love all of these Swedish jams for their unique and unusual tastes, which are brought out much more artfully than even most domestic preserves that are loaded with sugar and texturized to homogeneity. Each preserves the distinct texture and quality of the berry, and I love that the cloudberry and gooseberry preserves include the crunchy and flavorful seeds.