Lughnasadh is not a pagan sabbath that I have ever felt much connection to, but this summer I set myself some goals about bringing more magic into my daily life, so I decided to find my own way to honor the holiday. I honor this the same way I honor just about any holiday: with food and booze.
I wanted to create a combination that encompasses the flavors, colors, and memories of late summer in Northern California. For me that means the rolling golden hills dry from summer heat and drought. It means heady perfumes of Alyssum and Lavender growing through clay soil baked hard in the sun, and dust in the air whose earthy scent always reminds me of something like old books and vanilla.
Today’s first recipe is an adaptation of Marisa McClellan’s Pear-Lavender Jam recipe on foodsinjars.com. Hers is my absolute favorite canning resource for her creativity of flavors, small batch recipes, and accessibility. She has also published recipe books which I highly recommend. I’ve modified it to capture my own sense of late summer and the start of harvest season that Lughnasadh is meant to celebrate.
3 1/2 lbs peeled, cored, and chopped tart green apples
3 1/2 cups white sugar
1 vanilla bean
3 tsp dried lavender flowers
Juice and zest from 1 lemon
Prepare 3 pint jars or 6 half pint jars and a boiling water canner. Place lids in a small pot and bring to a very low simmer.
Combine chopped apples, sugar, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla in a large pot. Stir to coat the apples evenly with sugar. This will start bringing liquid out of the apples in a process called maceration
Put your lavender into a tea ball or Muslim sachet for infusing so you can remove them later. If you don’t have these options, you can grind up the flowers then add them loose, but you won’t be able to remove them.
Put pot on stove and heat on high. Bring jam to a boil, stirring regularly. Make sure not to caramelize the bottom. Continue to cook over high heat until apples become fully translucent and the jam thickens. It should have a even glossy appearance once the pectin in the apples is activated.
When jam is done (about 20 minutes) turn off heat and quickly pour jam into prepared jars for canning.
Wipe jar rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes for shelf stable jars or refrigerate immediately and consume within the month.
This jam tastes amazing with a punchy cheese like Asiago or Stilton to balance the floral sweetness.
The second recipe of the holiday calls more to my German heritage and memories of summer days in my great grandmother’s big green garden. I have faint but fond memories of sitting in the shade picking currants and gooseberries into a big yellow glass bowl and climbing a short ladder into the branches of the cherry tree. The tiny red cherries were so sour than I couldn’t eat them fresh, but my mother and grandmother did, spitting pits over the fence into the neighbor’s flower beds. We pitted cherries on the balcony and my hands and face would get covered in little red spatters of juice, fingers stained pink for the rest of the day. All the fruit would get coated in sugar and set to marinate in its own natural syrup to be served over whipped quark, a soft sweet cheese like something between creme fraiche and ricotta.
4oz cherry juice
6oz soda water
Garnish with Morello cherries and serve over generous amounts of ice for a wonderfully refreshing drink on a hot day. I think this has got to be my new favorite and I went out and bought more cherry juice as soon as I figured this one out so I will have no shortage during our current heat wave.