Fruit Syrups

Syrup. For most of us, the word brings to mind pancakes or waffles drizzled with—OK, drowning in—liquid maple sugar or its cheaper, corn syrup–based counterpart. But as you start harvesting from your garden, the word expands to endless options based on the fruits of summer and enhanced with herbs.

My love of fruit syrups grew when I learned how to extract bonus jars of the flavor-packed liquid from fruit solids intended for jam—and make jam more easily in the process. Syrups are less finicky than jelly but can still be processed for long-term storage or simply stashed in the fridge. Traditionally made from boiled fruit that’s been strained to separate its juice, I’ve found a cold method separates the juice even more effectively from almost any fruit and a roasted method gives an extra boost of flavor.
Learn to roast and freeze fruit for syrup

Herb Infusions

Salt and sugar get a bad rap for their effects on our bodies when consumed in large quantities, but their ability to act as a preservative is often underappreciated. Salt and sugar prevent spoilage and make it difficult or impossible for undesirable bacteria to grow. The rule of thumb for salt curing is that 20% salt keeps most undesirable bacteria at bay.

Although dehydrating and freezing are the most common ways to preserve herbs, the rising popularity of artesian salts and infusions has brought attention to herbs preserved in salt or sugar. The preservative pulls moisture from the herbs while keeping their flavor intact. Leaves plucked from the jar can be used as though they were fresh. The remaining herbed salt works best as the finishing touch, but infused sugar can also work within a recipe. A little of the flavored salt or sugar goes a long way, and the herbs keep a long time.
Learn to make Salt-Preserved Herbs and Herb-Infused Sugar

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (aka the Garden)

It’s early May, and the growing season looks so promising: You’ve weeded beds, added compost, and attached hoses. You’re buying starts and scattering seeds. Your garden looks neat and orderly, the rain’s handling your watering, and after winter’s gray you’re thrilled by the first daff blossoms and garlic shoots.

Fast-forward to late July, and it’s a different story. Your garden has exploded, or perhaps imploded. Weeds threaten to outpace desirables in every corner. Early plants have gone bitterly to seed, and late ones are suffering heatstroke. One day your basil gets a sunburn; to compensate, you overwater and drown your tomatoes. You’ve got 6 activities crammed into every weekend, and your planned garden-fresh dinner is supplanted by takeout. You look out the window, afraid to go deeper into your neglected garden. Why did you do this again? Here’s my secret to enjoying this personal jungle.
Read more about my secret to enjoying this personal jungle

Fresh Homemade Dairy

My first experience with making dairy products at home was yogurt. Long before Greek yogurt was popular in the United States, my travel bug had given me an insatiable craving for the thick, creamy fermentation. A hostel owner turned me on to a local maker of sheep’s milk yogurt, which I then ate mixed with honey and topped with fruit almost every morning I was in Greece.

American yogurts paled by comparison, so back home, I searched for an alternative way to get my Greek yogurt fix. I could strain almost any yogurt to approximate the consistency, but only expensive ones got me in the right flavor neighborhood. Then I learned all I needed was a little bit of good yogurt and a gallon of milk: Even with cow’s milk, homemade tasted better and was more affordable than anything I could buy. Which of course led to the question, Could cheese be this easy?
Read more about homemade cheese and yogurt