Festive Plum Preserves

festive plum preserves title

Plums are in season in the late summer and early autumn weeks. Right now that is, and I think they are unfairly underrated. This fruit is not getting the recognition it deserves, and that needs to change!

An incredibly nutritional powerhouse, plums are rich in fibers and antioxidants, high in potassium that helps control blood pressure, fortified with vitamins A, B and C, and have a low glycemic index to help control blood sugar.

Brought to Europe by Roman legions from Asia-Minor, this undemanding plant is grown throughout Hungary. And yet, all we seem to be making from it nowadays is szilvapálinka (seel-vah-pal-in-kah, a strong fruit spirit) whereas not so long ago, thousands of cauldrons were bubbling with another traditional plum product this time of the year.

The almost black, very thick plum jam distinct of this region was made with no added sugar on an open fire for 10-20 hours, requiring constant attention and quite the physique to stir. Of course, very few people want to make such labour-intensive things lately, but back in the day especially in poor rural territories you could not possibly let any food go to waste.

The original, hand-made variety is not easy to come by. However if you stumble across it – let it be a farmer’s market or a distant slightly masochist kinswoman – make sure to put your hands on a jar or two! It’s cooked for so long and to such a thick consistency that the jam keeps for years even without high vacuum (used to be stored in clay jugs simply covered with paper).

I am lucky to have folks living in the countryside who provide us with such traditional goodies every now and then, so I get to be the modernist when it comes to preserves. I don’t think it’s cheating to use a slow cooker instead of wood and matches, and I’m not willing to process truckloads of produce either, but rather mix different fruits and play with spices. Although my jam making is still in its infancy, the latest batch I cooked up is something I need to tell you guys about.

festive plum preserves prepared fruit

Bought really beautiful plums for such a sweet price last week that I decided to try a knockoff version of the spicy plum jam that was given to us by my soon-to-be mother-in-law last year. Although I did not have the recipe, I’d say the concept is heavily borrowed from her (credit where credit is due). And.just.wow.

Everyone knows cinnamon and plums are BFFs, but this jam is in a whole different league. Ginger-effing-bread spice, guys! That’s right. The house smelled like Christmas on an August afternoon while I was making it, hence the adverb festive. My long time fav is Kotányi’s spice mix – good news that they went international so you can probably buy it locally.

festive plum preserves seasoned

This preserve was ready in a fraction of the time required for the old-fashioned variety (sugar and some natural preservative needs to be added in return). I’d love to tell you an exact time, but it depends… so I just say this: look for the jellying point to determine when your preserves are done.

festive plum preserves cooking

You can use a food thermometer (105 °C or 220 °F is the number you’re looking for), or do this simple test: if syrup forms two drops that flow together and a sheet hangs off the edge of your spoon, it will set nicely.

festive plum preserves on bread

I’ll give you the recipe for 1 kg/2.2 lbs fruit (net weight), feel free to multiply.

Festive Plum Preserves

Ingredients

1 kg plums, washed, pitted, halved (or quartered if they are big)

30 dkg sugar

1 tbsp gingerbread spice

1 tbsp citric acid

Directions

  1. Put plums, sugar, citric acid and spice mix in slow cooker, set machine on medium. Fruit will start releasing juices.
  2. Bring to a boil, reduce to slow setting and simmer, scraping bottom occasionally to avoid sticking.
  3. When preserves reach jellying point, turn slow cooker off and transfer preserves to jars.
  4. Clean rims, adjust lids, and process in a water bath for 15 min.
  5. Let jars cool to room temperature, label and date.

Do you like plums? Is it a common fruit where you’re from? How do you eat them where you live?

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

Friday Finds

Whoever said summer should get a speeding ticket certainly had a point, don’t you think? Below, five refuse-to-accept-summer-is-over-soon images:

Peonies at a Paris market (art print available at Etsy from Georgianna Lane):

white peonies

For a happy life:

live simply, love generously, learn constantly

Serenity (found on Tumblr):

sea with gentle waves

This old chair repainted by Liz from Love Grows Wild:

painted antique chair

These juicy figs (photo by Aran Goyoaga):

figs

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Mentés

Celebrating 6 months of blogging

hells yeah balloon and cake with sparkler

Dear All,

After nursing the thought of starting a blog for quite a while but always managing to come up with excuses, I finally purchased a domain name and opened a WordPress account in February this year. 6 months and 50 posts later I invite you to celebrate a milestone with me.

I’m not the type of person you’d call spontaneous, so rather than taking an in medias res approach, I’ve immersed myself in research first. I usually (as in every time) over-plan and over-think, so the hardest part for me was indeed starting. If I’d waited until I thought I was all prepared and ready, My Chest of Wonders would still be a dream.

But I took a deep breath, got my photo taken and the website went live with the first post. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing and I literally searched Google for every.single.thing. I’m learning something new every day, blogging is a constant lesson about myself and my ideas, shaping my vision and aesthetic.

Since My Chest of Wonders set off, I more or less deciphered SEO, plugins, widgets, stats and such gibberish, bought a decent DSLR, read tons of blogs and some blog related books too, created a Facebook page, linked my Pinterest and Instagram accounts to the blog, and started interacting more on social media.  It’s intense!

The toughest decision I was faced with was probably the matter of the blog’s language. I live in Hungary and I knew part of my family and friends will not be able to read my posts if I were to choose English over my mother language. I don’t regret making that sacrifice though. Yes, it means that I lack some feedback from home-base, but in return I got to have all of you guys from Algeria to the US and another 50 countries from around the globe. Wow!

I’m thrilled about the future and so happy to be sharing the experience with you guys. Thanks for being part of the journey!

Love,

Fruzsi

P.S.: This blog would not have been possible without the constant support and encouragement of my Fiance. Thank you for pushing me towards the first keystrokes! Oh, and let’s not forget fearlessly volunteering to try the results of all my experiments in the kitchen. I love you to pieces!

“Hells Yeah” balloon available at Thimblepress, photography by Delbarr Moradi

Friday Finds

Tomorrow is St. Stephen’s Day, Hungary’s 4th of July with fireworks and all, also known as Foundation Day, Constitution Day and the Day Of The New Bread. Wishing you a happy August 20th and sending much love to all! Below, this week’s visual inspo:

Succulents by Emilie Ristevski via VSCO:

pale succulents

He was a poet and playwright too (via Tumblr):

Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist - Pablo Picasso

Scandinavian simplicity from Mono Online Shop:

natural storage baskets

Favorite vacay outfit by Sincerely Jules:

summer outfit Sincerely Jules

Amazing food styling by Aubrie Pick:

fish in salt

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Pantry Staples: Herbes de Provence & Herbes de Toscane

pantry staples: herbes de provence & herbes de toscane title image

The best of summer might well be gone, but it’s not too late to further exploit your herb garden: pick and dry some more to use in spice blends!

In the world of spices, there are a few combinations that have withstood the test of time. The classic blends I’m going to tell you about today have been used for centuries to flavor meat, fish, poultry, soups, stews and vegetables and are a building block in every home cook’s pantry. Lucky for us, we can make them for ourselves with no effort.

Mixing your own spices also means you’ll add what you want and avoid what you don’t. I for example am not a big fan of cumin, so I simply exclude it. What you also won’t get making your own blend is the additions some manufacturers put in commercially mixed spices such as MSG (or E621, which is a flavor enhancer) or anti-caking agents like silicon dioxide. I think we all agree that we can live without them.

Spice mixes are more art than science. Therefore, the two mixtures below will have many other versions floating around. Consider this as a guide and initial inspiration for how you can add more complex flavor to your cooking. Salt is listed in the ingredients for if you choose to make flavored salt instead of a simple spice mix. Here I added ChanteSel Coarse Sea Salt that I buy at my local Lidl.

To store your spice blends, use glass containers with tight-fitting covers. Empty jars from mustard, baby food, capers or jams are perfect, and their small size will remind you not to make too big quantities. Keep in a cool, dark place.

Prepare your senses to experience the essence of the Mediterranean!

Herbes de Provence: Formerly simply a descriptive term, this blend of spices wasn’t actually sold until the 1970’s. It is especially good mixed with olive oil to coat chicken, fish, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini or chunks of potato for roasting, adding to pizza sauce or sprinkled over game or kabobs before roasting. It’s also used for seasoning salads and cheese, as well as soups and stews. Store bought Herbes de Provence made for the US market usually includes lavender, although it is not used in traditional southern French cuisine.

Herbes de Provence

Ingredients

2 tbsp dried rosemary

2 tbsp dried thyme

2 tbsp dried basil

2 tbsp dried marjoram

1 tbsp dried oregano

1½ tbsp dried sage

(5 tbsp coarse sea salt)

Directions

Mix all ingredients in a jar. If adding salt, allow to infuse at least a week before using.

homemade spice mix with sea salt

Herbes de Toscane: Or Asperso, if salt is added. The name translates to „sprinkle” in Italian. This concoction dates back to medieval times when it was used as a meat cure, but you can put it on everything: roasted or grilled meats, sautéed vegetables, roasted potatoes, you name it. Traditionally the herbs would be combined and stored in a terracotta urn.

Herbes de Toscane

Ingredients

1/8 cup whole black peppercorns

1/2 tsp juniper berries

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tbsp dried sage

1 tbsp dried rosemary

1 tbsp dried thyme

(¼ cup coarse sea salt)

Directions

Mix all ingredients in a jar. If adding salt, allow to infuse at least a week before using. Grind coarsely in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder before using, and then, you know, sprinkle.

It goes without saying that a pretty label and a few inches of twine can make your spice blends fit for gifting. Make sure to include suggestions for use!

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

“Store shelves with goods” illustration featured in title image © Redspruce

Friday Finds

If you’d ask me about my favorite color, I really couldn’t answer. The closest would probably be everything pastel. It’s easier to tell in pictures, so I gathered a few near-neutral images that represent a color palette with my very favorite soft, muted hues.

This romantic bouquet on a vintage chair (Photo by KT Merry):

romantic blush bouquet on vintage chair

Set your goals accordingly:

attract what you expect

Pure light (Photo by Nina Holst):

white curtains and hardwood floor

“Reach” art print by Carrie O’Neal:

carrie o'neal art print

Linen Shirt in Stripes by Ichi Antquites:

Linen Shirt in Stripes by Ichi Antquites

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Mentés

Knotted Macrame Lantern

 knotted macrame lantern title image

Guys, I know it’s been some time since I last posted a craft project, summer has been more about food & drinks for me this year. But since outdoor soirees are far from over and adding new DIY pieces to your decor is always fun, today I’m going to show you how to make fishnet style knotted macrame lanterns!

I’ve been eying these nautical inspired pieces for a while, but always found something more important to do. I guess most of you understand the phrase „pinned for later” all too well. 🙂 The other day though, arriving home sweaty and exhausted, I was in need of an instant distraction and decided to instead of procrastinating, just go for it. Grabbed a glass of rosé, a spool of twine and a jar, and took it to the patio.

Well, not just any jar. I have this really old one from my 90-year-old granny that’s been filled with the most delicious jams every year for decades, but got out of rotation because it has no proper lid. I absolutely love the color of antique glassware! Did you know those stunning shades of bluish to greenish aqua are actually the result of iron impurities in the sand used for making glass? They are considered lower grade as opposed to their boring unstained siblings. Total beach vibes though!

I’m pretty OCD about candles too (aren’t we all?), and there’s never too many lanterns and candle holders in my home. So pour yourself a glass of your poison and join me crafting!

What you’ll need:

  • empty jars in whatever size you’d like
  • jute twine
  • scissors
  • ruler (if you don’t trust your visual estimate)

tools for knotted macrame lantern

Instructions:

Turn your jar upside down and measure twine around it (from top, to bottom, to top). Multiply this length by 10 if you want to hang your lantern, or by 5 if you don’t. Cut 8 pieces of twine at this length.

measuring twine around jar
Image source: fix.com

 

 

Divide twine into 2 bunches of 4, cross them at the center and tie a lanyard knot. Here’s how (Thanks, Martha!):

lanyard knot template

Measure the diameter of the bottom of your jar, divide it in half. Tie 2 adjacent strands together with an overhand knot at this distance all the way around (totaling 8 knots). This makes the bottom part of your net.

Continue tying the strings with this method until the net is enough to cover your jar. You don’t have to use the same distance as for the bottom, make net as dense as you prefer but keep knot distances consistent throughout.

making fishnet with overhand knots
Image source: fix.com

Fill jar with sand, pebbles or shells and add a candle or LED tea lights to be extra safe. If you planned to hang the lantern, tie to a branch with the remaining length of twine, careful to never let the flame come in contact with the twine.

knotted macrame jar lantern with candle

And you are ready! If you need further visual guidance, you can check the video tutorial over at Martha Stewart. Invite family and friends over, and enjoy chats and good eats illuminated by your new light fixtures!

Fruzsi

Friday Finds

August: the best of the summer gone, and the fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.

Sylvia Plath

Before we get summertime sadness, the images that inspired me this week are…

This amazing centerpiece (photo by Jose Villa):

coral oystershell candles centerpiece

These words of wisdom:

to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishmentt

This view of the Aegean (photo by Ezio Zaia):

aegean with olive tree

This lovely necklace with seaglass (found on Etsy):

seaglass necklace

These frozen yogurt blueberry bites by Sarah of Live Eat Learn:

frozen blueberry bites

Happy weekend!

Fruzsi

Garlic Confit

garlic-confit-title

Garlic. We all heard of it’s many beneficial health effects. Hippocrates used to prescribe it to treat a variety of medical conditions and he of all people should know, right? Antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal, garlic is known to boost the function of the immune system, have a significant impact on reducing blood pressure and can also lower cholesterol.

Also, I’m borderline addicted to it. I mean, there must be a “too much garlic” line somewhere, but I wouldn’t know where to draw it. I order garlic bread even on a date and double however much a recipe calls for (Always appalled by those saying to use ONE garlic clove. I’m sorry, but are you even listening to yourself?). Furthermore, I strongly suggest that we adopt National Garlic Day from my soulmates across the pond.

OK, so now you see my level of crazy. But what is garlic confit? In this recipe, garlic is slowly cooked into the most delicate, rich, meltingly tender texture, transforming the cloves to be astoundingly sweet and subtle. Just superb, along with a by-product of fragrant and delicious garlic oil. It’s the second year I’ve made it and had to double on the amounts because it become such a favorite in the family.

Olive oil is my preferred oil to confit garlic in, but you can use others too. Since the temperature of the oil doesn’t get too high the natural flavor of virgin olive oil will be preserved, but again, olive pomace oil (a lower grade olive oil that is extracted from olive pulp after the first press) is totally fine.

The confit cloves are the perfect gourmet condiment. Can be used to flavor soups, sauces and marinades, salads, pastas, mashed vegetables or vinaigrettes. For the most sublime treat though, spread them on a crusty slice of bread and enjoy with soft-boiled eggs, one of my favorite Sunday breakfast.

Important! Garlic is a very low acid vegetable. When stored improperly, a toxin can be produced in it that causes the very serious illness botulism. Learn more about the acidity of foods and food safety from my blog series Preserving 101 here and here. Use a sterile jar with a tight seal to store garlic confit, cool the garlic and oil to room temperature and refrigerate. This way, it keeps several months, but you can also freeze it. Just remember to use a clean spoon to dip into the jar and to keep cloves covered in oil.

As a variation to the basic recipe below, add a sprig of rosemary, thyme, and/or a few bay leaves to the saucepan along with the garlic to cook.

Garlic Confit

Ingredients

1 cup peeled garlic cloves

2 cups olive oil

Directions

  1. Place the garlic cloves in a heavy-bottomed saucepan
  2. Add the oil to cover garlic completely
  3. Heat over medium heat until small bubbles form and rise to the surface, but make sure the oil never comes to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to maintain a temperature below 99°C (210°F) and slow-simmer for about 1 hour until the cloves are completely tender and look pale-golden.
  5. Remove pan from heat and let cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Makes 2 1/2 cups

garlic-confit-plate

Are you crazy for garlic too? Share your favorite recipe with us!

Fruzsi

Photo featured in title image by Marili Forastieri