It all started with a boat ride.
Ralph and I had spent the morning working at the farm when he asked if I’d like to go for a ride in the boat. I never have to be asked twice. We ended up down river visiting friends who were days away from leaving for Italy. A year ago, they’d invited us to join their group of friends for a week in Tuscany. I’d declined knowing I’d be busy with the restaurant. As they chatted about their upcoming trip, I said, “I wish we were going.”
“Come with us. One of the couples had to cancel”, they said in unison.
“But you’re leaving in a week”
Very quietly, Ralph said, ” let’s go.”
“Michelle, you still have a few more weeks before you start at the restaurant. Do you think you’d ever regret going?”
Four days later, all arrangements made, for the first time in my life, I spontaneously took a holiday and loved it! Having been to Italy so many times, we decided rather than search for new treasure places we’d revisit places we already love. And so, we spent ten glorious days eating and drinking our way through all of our favorite and a few new trattorias in Cortona, Siena and Montepulciano.
I was home for two days, repacked and then flew to Toronto. This trip had been planned for months. Three crazy days of catching up with way to much information for a mom to hear, fabulous neighbourhood restaurants, very hip bars, a chic hotel night and incredible seats at the Adele concert. My girls fill me to the brim.
I’m home now and gnashing at the bit to get this restaurant open. With any project of this size, delays are expected but never welcomed. My partners and I talk each other off the ledge when necessary and keep each other on the rail when we stray off course. In a year of detailed planning, it’s easy to fall in a rabbit hole. I’m speaking in metaphors. Let me be clear; building a restaurant is hard. I am beyond grateful for the kindness, willingness, openness, honesty and kick-ass gumption not to mention the vision, expertise and energy of my partners, Gord and Liz.
The build has had me on an emotional roller coaster which has wreaked havoc on my ability to focus on anything other than the restaurant. My time in the kitchen has been consumed with researching, creating and testing recipes for our new menu. That’s why I haven’t been sharing recipes here. I miss you guys and yet with all the crazy in my head I haven’t been able to string a sentence together. All I’ve had is construction chaos stream of consciousness. Trust me, better that I’ve been silent.
Before we left for Italy, Ralph and I harvested as many apples from our farm as we could. Our trees are old and unidentifiable, but the fruit is delicious and perfect for preserves. My Apple and Spiced Rum Conserve is a quick and easy condiment to serve with roasted meats, as part of a cheese board, a topping for ice cream or spooned into tartlet shells.
Apple and Spiced Rum Conserve is an old fashioned fruit preserve thicker and chunkier than jam.
APPLE AND SPICED RUM CONSERVE
- 6 cups apples, peeled and chopped
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 3 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 3/4 ounces powdered pectin
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup golden raisins
- 4 ounces spiced rum
- Prepare your jars and lids according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Place the apples, water, lemon juice, and spices in a large pot over medium-high heat.
- Cook until the apples are softened, 5-10 minutes – stir often to prevent the apples from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Stir in the pectin until dissolved.
- Bring to a boil, and then add and stir in the sugar, all at once.
- Stir in the cranberries, raisins and rum.
- Boil hard for a minute then remove from heat.
- Ladle the hot mixture into the prepared jars, leaving 1/4″ head-space.
- Place the lids and bands on top, screwing on the bands just until fingertip-tight.
- Let the jars cool.
- Makes 6 eight-ounce jars.
THE LOVE: Chop your apples as uniformly as possible so you get an even cook. Play around with different apple varieties and different combinations of dried fruit and spices to make it your own recipe.
Thanks for reading.