You-Can-Do-It Bread!

My parents, who were born and raised on the westside of Los Angeles, moved to Santa Barbara a year and a half ago. They purchased a home near us where they knew they could have a lovely garden, and chickens, far from the craziness of westside traffic, where driving has become a sport for some, and almost war-like for others.

But in order to have the garden and those chickens, they had to make their home live-able. With no bedrooms on the ground floor, they embarked on a remodeling adventure that still isn’t over!

So close, though.

For all of this time they’ve lived virtually out of a suitcase, but just last week the final round of their things from storage arrived. What a big task, to sort and question, and figure out how to make this new home theirs, and what to do with all the Stuff!

To encourage them, we’ve been having them to our home for meals for these 18 months–not every night, but often. And though their home isn’t quite finished, we decided to barbecue at their place to mark the progress of it being Almost Done! My dad is a breadmonger, being a baker and all, and he really doesn’t eat a meal without a piece of bread near his plate. So I mixed up a batch of country French–a blend of white flour, freshly ground kamut, and rye, with some sourdough starter thrown in for flavor. We toted it over to their place, then I took the loaf for a quick tour of their new home. The real housewarming will come when the landscaping is done and all the furniture is placed, but here’s a glimpse into their current world–mess and stuff and all. (Made complete by the visiting neighbor dog, Puppy, who literally roams where she likes and spends at least half her day inspecting the workers and their work…)

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Paris

My husband and I jetted to Paris for three days this last week. What a treat!

Three days isn’t long enough for much, not for visiting museums or long boat rides on the Seine, but it’s plenty long enough for several wonderful meals celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary, a stroll or two across the Pont Neuf, at least one chaussons aux pommes in the morning, and a dinner with a niece. Plus,

The Wedding!

Family friends have a beautiful daughter who has been living in Paris for several years now. She found Gabriel, and now they’re married! They celebrated their vows at a church I’ve longed to see for many years, the Saint Serge Orthodox Institute.

I was delighted at the sight of the Chateau Champlatreux–the setting for the reception. What a lovely venue… and as we walked through the front door, there was the traditional Slavic custom of bread and salt offered on an embroidered cloth, signifying the gift of hospitality and friendship and the blessing of a new home.

Three days. Three days of Paris! Three days to celebrate our own 25-year journey and the blessing of a brand new union…

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Plum Jam :: Recipe

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One of the first things we planted in our yard, when we moved to Santa Barbara thirteen years ago, is a plum tree. I adore caring for fruit trees, and we’ve always planted a variety of trees and other edible goodies on all the properties where we’ve lived.

Our Santa Rosa plum gets plenty of sun, is carefully pruned (by me!!! I love pruning shears and ladders), and every year we have a three week blast of fruit that turns us into domestic plum mongers. We dash about, making jam, and fruit leather. We give bags and bags of fruit away, we make plum clafouti, and plum crisps, and we keep a bowl of fresh plums on the counter–that whispers an unspoken, mandatory message–MEYERS MUST EAT PLUMS NOW.

This year, the bounty was overwhelming, and one Saturday we woke up to discover there was a garage sale happening right across the street. We hastily set up store, and this little mister made himself a $30 profit in a short morning of calling out to the folks perusing the old pots and pans at Cindy’s house.

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Because I love to share things coming out of my kitchen with folks, and because this summer has been more about sharing plum jam and kumquat marmalade, than bread, here is a recipe that I make year after year, sun or fog, that you might like to try!

Plum Jam

We are not really a jam-buying family; we only eat what we make from the fruit we grow. I don’t like sweet, sugared-up jams and jellies–I prefer them closer to the natural state, so my fruit recipes reflect that. Since there is less sugar involved in this recipe than what you typically find, in fact there is NO refined SUGAR involved; I use honey; it takes a little longer to cook the jam down to the consistency that I like. I don’t mind slow when it tastes this good…

  • 5 cups of chopped plums—no pits (our tree is a Santa Rosa plum, make sure you leave the peel on the fruit!)
  • juice of a lemon
  • 1 cup plus a little drizzle more of honey

Put honey, lemon juice and cut plums in pot and stir. Let mash sit for an hour.

Close your doors and shut your windows before you turn on the heat. Bees like to zoom in and examine what sort of honey you happen to be cooking with…. Clover? Orange Blossom? Wildflower? Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring and skimming foam with a large metal spoon. Cook at medium heat for about 20 minutes. Then reduce heat to a low, low simmer and cook another 30-40 minutes to reduce water content and thicken. Stir occasionally.

Your jam is now done! You can scoop it into glass jars and keep it in the fridge for a long while, at least a month or two (or more–never really tried to see how long!). You can freeze it. I always can a number of jars by ladling the jam into clean, sterilized mason jars, then processing them for 20 minutes in a roiling, boiling pot of water.

Make sure you share! This jam is especially wonderful on a buttered piece of sourdough toast, added to a fruit smoothie, or mixed in with some hot herbal tea on a cold winter day…

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Ugly Transformed

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My last post was all about a really awful-looking loaf of bread. See it above? All wrinkly, white, dense and unpresentable? But with all those good ingredients inside, I decided to reuse what I had ruined. Ever heard of bread recycling?!

I I broke pieces of the ruined bread from day old loaves and made a very wet mix of new dough. I chose to use the no-knead method, and hoped that this magical recipe, which I have never ever ruined, despite the many variations I’ve tried, would help redeem my good ingredients…

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And voila!

The bread turned out beautifully, and off it went to be shared, with another loaf of no-knead that I mixed a jar of red pepper mix into…

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I like that all of this happened. That the ugly happened and that I was willing to do the work and search for a new beauty. It’s a good metaphor for me–because brokenness is around me, around all of us, but with work we can save the good and make something new and redeemed from the bad. It just takes effort, and faith.

And guess what? I’m off to Paris, friends, and will be writing from there! Sending you all love…