Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry


Leave a comment >

For Christmas this year my wonderful brother-in-law bought me two new books related to cooking and preserving: Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber, and The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich. Both are books I’ve learned about relatively recently on various food blogs I’ve been following, and I’m really excited to have them. These two books are already starting to affect my plans for the new year.

I’m definitely looking forward to trying my hand at some pickles next year. The pickles I made last year were good enough but there is definitely room for me to do a lot better.

The jam book I was expecting to contain some extremely deep and complicated recipes, drawn from an internationally-recognized master. I expected to be barely able to read and follow along, and be exposed to a world so incomprehensible that I could only stare in awe.

I was…wrong. These recipes seem extremely simple. The hardest part might be, as is stressed repeatedly in the book, to get fresh-picked local ingredients. Actually, if I can’t duplicate some of her recipes it’s precisely because I don’t have a source for some of her more specific ingredients (she uses things like Morello Cherries, Vineyard Peaches and some specific plum varieties that I haven’t been able to find locally). When I realized how simple some of these recipes were I went through something like 5 stages of grief:

  1. Denial: There’s nothing special about any of this. It’s all stuff I know how to do already, just in slightly different combinations than I’ve ever tried before. I could have figured all this out on my own from reading the internet (if those adorable cat pictures would just stop distracting me!)
  2. Anger: What is this crap? I was expecting to learn from the master, and instead she’s telling me things I already know! What makes her so famous that she gets a book published about Jam? I could write this book and it would have booze and blackjack too. In fact, forget the book!
  3. Bargaining: Maybe she’s holding back the real knowledge. Maybe she’s a fraud. I’ll go buy a different book about jams and maybe that book will have the real nitty-gritty that I’m trying to learn.
  4. Depression: What’s the use? Maybe the few simple little things I’ve made, and the few techniques I’ve learned is really all there is. Maybe Jam-making isn’t a skill that’s worth studying and practicing, because there isn’t much to learn. It’s a shallow well.
  5. Acceptance: Why is Christine Ferber famous and I’m not? What makes her so special? Then I have my Socrates moment: I don’t even know how much I don’t know. She’s on a different level from me, and I don’t even know why she’s so famous. What’s her trick? What’s the secret? I really need to read that book carefully.

So I started reading. And reading. I found some recipes that looked positively delicious, fruit and spice combinations that I might have never considered on my own. Her techniques were simple and seemed easy to follow, but it’s exactly that simplicity that makes me worry about doing it right. I picked a recipe that I wanted to try right off the bat, and got started cooking (I’ll post details if it turns out okay!).

2013 is looking to be an awesome year for this domesticated guy, and I’m really looking forward to all the cool recipes and projects that I’ve got on the horizon.