If I make a list of my favorite authors, Joanne Harris will feature in the top 5. I have read everything she has written, and with two exceptions, liked them all. Blackberry Wine, our book club's pick for this month and the second book of her food trilogy, is my favorite.
The book flips back and forth in time. Between three summers in mid-seventies that a teenaged Jay Mackintosh spent with Jackapple Joe, ex-miner and amateur gardener/winemaker who brings a little of everyday magic to Jay's life. And a time in Jay's life some 20 years later as a has-been writer who is struggling to find himself. A time when Joe enters his life again, in form of six bottles of Joe's fruit wines. Bottled memories, he calls them.
This is the happiest book Joanne has written. No, everyone in the book isn't happy all the time. But you will close the book with a very good feeling. Layman's alchemy, Joe calls it and I agree.
I cannot make wine. But the book inspired me to bottle memories. In my case, the last strawberries of the year. I made strawberry preserve.
I made this preserve not from a recipe, but inspired from my favorite brand of sugar free jams. They claim that they sweeten everything with grape juice so I thought I'd give it a shot. Zipped a cup of black seedless grapes in a blender for a few seconds, then sieved them to extract the juice. Washed a cup of strawberries and halved them. Then heated the grape juice in a pan until it came to a boil and added the strawberries. Let it cook, covered and at a low heat, until the juice almost dried and strawberries had cooked but still retained their shaped. This isn't your regular jam and we aren't looking for pulp here. I like my preserves to be chunky and not overly sweet and this is what it was. No pectin, and no preservatives. But that's because I made such a small quantity that none was required.
And other members of "This Book Makes Me Cook"?
Siri took the French route and made Savory French Breakfast Muffins.
Sweatha followed Jackapple Joe and made Crushed Potatoes.
Now on to the author who started it all. Jane Austen, with her Victorian settings and elaborate tea time rituals, was the inspiration behind This Book Makes Me Cook. And April is Jane Austen Special. You pick your favorite Austen, read it, cook from it and post your recipe on last sunday of April. If you want to join us and want to know more about the club, do leave a comment here and I will get back to you.