I arrive to the office at 7.20 am. It’s a wee hour by all standards and I am practically opening the parking lot. My office is a good hour plus drive from New York City, a commute that I do not mind in the morning when I am still fresh from the shower and my brain is cheerful and energetic, the wheels inside spinning full steam, eagerly awaiting new problems to solve. Actually, I look forward to my morning commute. The evening one is an entirely different story.
The building is quiet, almost ghostly, offices are dark and aisles are resonating with silence. I like this feeling; it is a much-welcomed break from the hectic city I left behind and the hectic day that lies ahead. I enter the building, take a pause and breathe the silence. And then I notice it, a faint scent of cut grass lingering in the air -- it must have gotten in through the vents and decided to stay for a while! I sense its presence, I feel it touching my nostrils; barely audible at first, followed by the explosion of perfumes, an out-of-this-world fragrant symphony, and suddenly it is everywhere: in the alcoves and corridors, in the lab and around cafeteria, jumping up and down the stairwells, until the entire building begins to vibrate with this scent.
I coil in a big leather chair at the alcove and enjoy the moment for good fifteen minutes. I cannot help but think about how we pay top dollars for restaurants and Broadway tickets, how we pay to hear people sing and see them perform, we pay for the movies, wines, chocolates, museums, exhibitions, carousel rides, books, magazines... I wonder what would be the price of this moment, if only we realized how precious it is.
The scent stays with me for the entire day. I carry it with me as I go to meetings, write emails, as I drive back home. My new companion makes the dreadful evening commute close to bearable. I play with it, pondering its personality, dissecting its character; a note of green apple, a hint of celery, close to invisible touches of basil, thyme, mint and lemongrass, one tiny drop of lime. Another tiny drop of lemon...
It is late when I arrive home. Miss Pain is already sleeping. Perhaps I should too, this was a long day. But I cannot let it go, so I walk into the kitchen and proceed to preserve this scent and this feeling.
Green Apple & Herb Jelly
Jellies and cheeses are the best of friends. Cheeses and moi are the best of friends. I work around the clock to please my buddies and find jellies that would complement their unique personalities. I like to pair the blues with cranberry port jam, aged Manchego with tomatillo pates de fruits, while my favorite sheep’s product, Paški sir from the island of Pag in Croatia, cultivates close relationship with yellow pepper and rosemary jelly. And then there is Selles-sur-Cher, one of my extra-special goat cheese friends, an ash-coated bundle of perfection, a round little fellow of great complexity and character... For a long time the little guy resisted all attempts at finding him a jelly spouse. I kind of expected it, because when you are a genius, you are allowed to be difficult. They say that the taste of Selles-sur-Cher is reminiscent of the gentle valleys of Loire. They say that it carries the aromas of freshly cut grass mingled with the herbs and plants from the fields it came from. And that is how, entirely by accident, Selles-sur-Cher finally made its match.
* 1 packed cup basil leaves
* 1/2 packed cup mint leaves
* 2 packed tablespoons thyme leaves
* 1 stalk of lemongrass
* 1 stalk of celery (about 1/2 cup chopped celery)
* 2 granny smith apples, cored and cut into cubes
* 2 1/2 cups water
* 3 cups of sugar
* 4 tsp apple pectin powder
* 1 tbsp lemon juice
* 1 tbsp lime juice
* 1/4 tsp kosher salt
1. Wash and coarsely chop all herbs. Cut the lemongrass in half lengthwise and then chop it into small pieces.
2. Place all herbs in a small bowl and crush them with the bottom of a tablespoon or with pestle.
3. In a small saucepan mix the herbs and water. Bring slowly to a boil and boil for about 10 seconds. Remove the saucepan from the heat, cover and leave it for about 10-15 minutes for the flavors to release.
4. Strain the herbs into a bowl.
5. In a food processor, pure the apples and celery. Pour the mixture into the strainer and strain carefully into a deep saucepan. Press the pulp with fork until it releases all its juices. You should have about one cup of apple juice. Measure out two cups of herb water and add it to the apple juice.
6. Mix the pectin with 6 tbsp of sugar.
7. Bring the apple herb liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat. Once the liquid is simmering, add the pectin-sugar mixture while whisking continuously. Once pectin is incorporated, add the remaining sugar in several batches. Continue to whisk until the liquid comes to a boil.
8. Once the liquid comes to a boil add the salt. Continue to boil, while whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 220°F. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the lemon and lime juices.
9. Pour the hot jelly into hot, sterilized jars (see here for more on how to sterilize and preserve). Leave 1/2 inch head space and seal at once with sterilized lids. Enjoy!