Friday, August 28, 2009

Canning & Preserves: Abundance with Summer Peaches

While at my godmother Sonja's beach house for a few days this past week, one afternoon we stayed in preserving summer peaches from the farmer's market. "We will appreciate these peaches during the winter," said my 86 year old godmother.

A very good friend of mine, Eugenia Bone, a brilliant writer, wrote a book on preserving. "Gina" is a food aficionado like most of us. We share the same gym; whenever we are in the locker room, we will be chatting about anything from  wild mushrooms in Pennsylvania to the best gadgets for making spƤtzle.

From a recent New York times article comes her simple recipes for preserving pears. A light simmering in syrup does little to prepare the fruit for a long hibernation in the pantry; to make them safe, you need to process them—place the closed jars in a pot, cover with water and boil for 20 minutes.

Gina has her way of using fruit and alcohol. 

“With water-bath canning, you’re really just poaching,” she said. 

“So I thought, the canning can be the cooking.”

She used firm Bartlett pears, which she said are best for canning because
they maintain their shape, and warmed them through in a thyme
syrup. (Heating the pears before canning pulls some air out of the fruit.)

After transferring the pears to jars, she covered
them with the syrup, adding bay leaves, peppercorns
and lemon zest.

Eugenia Bone, author of Well Preserved 
You will need two pint-size wide-mouth Ball or Kerr jars with bands and new lids. 

Monday, August 3, 2009

Weekend Trip: Hudson Valley, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, Rhinebeck, Culinary Institute of America

We started our trip late one Friday morning after rush hour, from the New York City's west side, heading to Blue Hill at Stone Barns. It's a good 50 minutes pleasant drive on the Taconic Parkway. We stopped and had lunch at Blue Hill, which is a working farm for the restaurant as well as for those who wants to volunteer. On Saturday, the market is open to the public from 2-4 pm. They serve organic meals such as duck panini, roasted beet salad, and the fluffiest egg salad you've ever tasted.

We continued onto Route 9 toward the town of Hudson and decided to stay in 
Rhinebeck, NY (another 1.5 hours further away).

Some choices for staying include:

Olana at Hudson, NY
  • Madalin Hotel in Tivoli, NY. A perfect stay in a gorgeous restored historic landmark, located in the heart of Tivoli, NY.
  • Rhine Cliff Hotel in Hudson Valley is also a nice and serene. It's a boutique country hotel that's tucked away near the Rhinecliff Amtrak Station -- 5 minutes into the heart of Rhinebeck by taxi for shops and restaurants.
  • Belvedere Mansion in Staatsburg, NY is where we stayed. Although, the rooms are very small, it has an outdoor pool and great tennis courts, useful for us since we're both avid tennis players.
  • Maple Stone Inn is another hotel located in New Paltz that has a cozy, intimate feel and provides an excellent breakfast.
  • Journey Inn is a contemporary style, with a good location near tourist sites such as the Culinary Institute of America.
Many talented chefs have opened restaurants over the years here in the Hudson Valley. Some of places that we've visited recently:
  • Terrapin Restaurant in Rhineback, NY. Josh Kroner is the chef and owner. He uses local vegetables from farms and provides excellent service every time we go. I particularly enjoyed their small dish menu.
  • Arielle is a new restaurant in Rhineback, NY that is run by the Belvedere Mansion's owner. It had very good French and Mediterranean cuisine and a beautiful outdoor space.
  • Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, NY. See great chefs on site while classes are in sessions. An amazing selection of desserts and small dishes to sample at their cafe' or if you feel like white table cloth service, you have choices from French to Fusion-inspired restaurants...It's the world's premier culinary college!
Things to do and places to see:
white peaches at meads farm.

  • Wings Castle in Millbrook is also a delightful place to visit and view the famous tourist site of castles and such.
  • Fisher Museum is another place to take a look at for performing arts and incredible picnic ground located in Annadale at Bard College.
  • Storm King Art Center
  • Dia Art Foundation is another museum that is "internationally renowned for initiating, supporting, presenting, and preserving art projects, mostly collections from the 1960's."
  • Dutchess Tourism provides many options of tourist sites that you may visit during your stay.
  • Opus 40 is "about one hundred miles from New York City, tucked into a pocket of the Catskills near Saugerties, lies one of the most extraordinary pieces of sculpture ever created by a single man."
  • Meads farm is also a perfect farm for family outing to pick succulent white peaches, cherries and berries this time of the year.
  • Olana Estate Historic Site is my favorite where I took a great nap after 45 minute tour of the mansion over looking incredible view of the Hudson Valley and prestine Catskill. It's 250 acre, historic estate of Federick Church who made his fortune with Hudson Valley paintings and built the mansion based on his travels in the late 1800's, also 20 minutes from our hotel. There are many great trails for hiking with incredible views; so pack some water and great walking shoes, you are ready to explore New York in the country side.