I have long avowed my love for Nigel Slater, Nigella Lawson, and the River Cafe ladies, but my deepest British crush at the moment is Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, thanks to his incredible beet chocolate brownie recipe in River Cottage Everyday. So when The River Cottage Preserves Handbook, named after Hugh F-W's homestead, was recommended to me, I nigh ran to the library to pick it up.
Now I will tell you that my mother has a major complaint about the various River Cottage handbooks...their format is perfectly suited to a handbook, but ill suited to a cookbook...and as a result she has practically boycotted them. She does have a point. The volumes are quite small and the binding does not allow them to fall open, and remain open, on your favorite (or any) recipe. But this is a flaw that can be overcome with a can of coconut milk (in my case) lain across the binding to hold it open.
Once this solution was employed, I was free to enjoy the recipes. And boy did I.
pickled spiced pears
Oftentimes when I peruse preserves books at anytime other than high fruit season I find myself depressed. But this book has got more gorgeous recipes for the cool months than it does for the warm...pear chutneys, apple curd, dried fig mostarda...River Cottage has made cool and dreary fabulous (although I suppose that given the book's English provenance this could be called making a virtue out of necessity). How cute are my pickled pears? So delicious. Tangy and sweet, I am determined to bring them home for Christmas to be eaten alongside roasted meats. I can't wait to give the mulled pear recipe a try next.
I always love the hot peppers from the folks at Oak Grove Plantation at the Greenmarket, but this is the first year I've really had anything to do with them.
chile pepper jam and apple lemon curd
This chile pepper jam is absolutely to die for. It tastes like an haute version of that sweet chile sauce that you sometimes find in Chinese restaurants, and would be fantastic on a turkey sandwich the day after one of the upcoming holidays. And the apple lemon curd alongside it? I've been spreading it on toast for breakfast nearly everyday since I made it. Tart and just sweet enough and rich and luxuriant, I have, embarrassingly enough, resorted on occasion to a spoon in the jar while standing in front of the refrigerator.
This is one of those rare books that continues to intrigue long after I've made the first few recipes...I've got visions of pumpkins and quince and beets and onions and plums in my cupboard in the form of compote and relish and chutney and cordial and marmalade, courtesy of the brilliance of the River Cottage.