"The story of preserving food is really the story of civilization itself," says Kevin West, reformed magazine journalist turned impassioned proselytizer of all things pickled and preserved.
"It's a story that crosses centuries, oceans and continents—because as long as we've been farming, we've been looking for ways to take food that's at its best one season and eat it in another season."
West's book, Saving the Season ($35), published last summer, is an evocative, thoughtfully observed personal journey down what he calls the "rabbit hole of obsession about the whole history and culture of fermenting and pickling and sweet preserves."
The story he's telling today is smaller, more intimate. It's the story of a summer day, when the bramble berries are at their ripest and rosé wine is on our minds all the time. And how best to capture and keep the flavors of this passing moment by mixing them with a touch of sugar and cooking them down to a sweet, spreadable memory (see the recipe).
"You're capturing the flavor of the fruit as well as the mineral acidity of dry rosé," West says. "But you're also getting summertime in a jar. The amazing thing about jam is that you can open it again in January and you've got summer again."
People are sometimes surprised by the affinity for jam and wine, West says, but its results—elegant and not oversweet—are fantastic. "You're essentially replacing lemon juice, which is the expected acidity in jam with the rosé, the archetypal wine of summer."
Consider how other wines and spirits might play well with fruit. Bandol rouge with blackberries and bourbon-drunk peaches are two of West's other favorite summertime pairings.
"Because I'm a Southerner and a booze-hound, I like using alcohols in sweet preserves," he says. "And the best thing is it works in every season. Rhubarb with mezcal in the spring. Apple jelly with red wine and bay leaves in the fall. In winter, citrus and marmalades really get along with smoky, peaty Islay Scotches.
"The best thing is you need only a little rosé," West says, sprinkling the wine over the fruit and sugar and setting to work mashing the appealing red mess together with his hands.
"The rest is what you drink while you're making it. And that," he says, taking a sip, "is summer."
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