I love living in Ireland. Honestly. There’s always a learning curve when you uproot your life and move to a new place, but I honestly can’t imagine calling anywhere else home right now. I mean, where else in the world can you find this kind of beauty 90 minutes from your doorstep?
Not to mention enjoy that I can build sand castles on miles of beautiful beaches, go for refreshing sea swims, and devour fantastic fish and chips 20 paces away from the fishermen’s docks – Irish summer can be such a beautiful thing!
Unfortunately, all of these photos were taken LAST summer.
So far, things have been off to a rough start, with rain almost every day in May. Not gentle little showers either. Mean rain. Steady rain. Hailstones. Substantial gusts of wind. This is pretty much the normal view when I look out my back window.
The upside to all of this is that the garden is growing at a steady rate, which is fantastic news for our crop of rhubarb, which is thriving like never before. Aside from a rosemary bush that won’t quit, rhubarb is the one edible item that I’ve manged to keep alive. We’ve had it for the last three summers and our two plants produce enough fruit for the entire neighborhood…I’m probably known locally as the rhubarb pusher in the middle of the terrace because I’m constantly trying to give it away!
This year, however, I’m trying to branch out from crumbles and muffins and try to preserve the rhubarb in some new and interesting ways. Unexpectedly, I’ve discovered that rhubarb’s jeweled tones and sweet/tart flavour are the exact antidote to this wild weather. These recipes for Rhubarb and Vanilla Jam and Strawberry Rhubarb Soda Syrup have absolutely brightened these grey days of May.
The jam really couldn’t be any easier, provided you have a few clean jars and a bit of time. I also find a jam funnel very useful for preventing general stickiness and messy drips, but it’s not strictly necessary. It makes a fantastic host or hostess gift, birthday present, or thank you to your father-in-law who has picked up your kid from school on three rainy days this week (yep, I know this one from experience…) I’m loving it thickly spread on good white toast, or dolloped on corn muffins.
The next recipe is truly special and a winner even for those who think they don’t like rhubarb. It’s comes from one of my favourite food blogs of all time, Smitten Kitchen. If you don’t already own Deb Perelman’s cookbook, do yourself a favour and order it NOW. It’s amazing and I’m slowly working my way through everything. But I digress…a few weeks ago, Deb posted this gorgeous recipe, which looks and tastes like summer in a bottle.
I’ve used it to flavour soda water as a non-alcoholic offering at brunch, splashed it into sippy cups as a bribe to get my kids to drink more water, and made myself an indulgent Friday night cocktail. (Note to the wise: 2 oz. of vodka was probably too generous…1.5 would have been just fine…) This weekend I also see it being poured into a G&T, or possible a Rhubarb Collins, and I plan to use the pulp as an add-in to my yogurt tomorrow morning. I highly recommend RUNNING to your nearest greengrocer/farmer’s market and picking some up this weekend. Unless you’re one of my neighbours – you should probably come over and pick some from my garden. Seriously. It’s getting out of hand…