A few weeks ago Paula handed us our CSA box and warned us that the jar of sand plum "jelly" was actually more of a syrup — this particular batch hadn't quite thickened the way she wanted it to.
What to do with this imperfect and slightly strange food item?
The obvious way to eat syrup is on pancakes, so I added that to the meal plan. It was tasty, but not very original. Fortunately for me, my husband started brainstorming more creative ideas before we'd left the market. In no time he knew exactly the sort of meal he wanted to create around the sand plum syrup, and it was wonderfully unexpected.
We had discovered months ago that the stew beef from Morning Harvest farm is almost the quality of steak we get elsewhere—smooth-textured and juicy, but most importantly the meat absorbs seasonings and takes on flavors beautifully. He marinated some using about half the jar of sand plum syrup and a few other of his magic tricks I didn't catch, then after a few days, he cooked it up in a cast iron pan on the stovetop. Some friends provided rice and sautéed veggies (including kohlrabi from the CSA) to complete the asian-style meal. Sweet and salty tones blended together made for a meal that was both easy to prepare and stayed warm enough to savor over drawn-out conversation.
This whole sandplum adventure has underlined the fact that cooking with real food, though it may seem demanding at times, really teaches you to cook — as opposed to simply following the rigid instructions on the back of a box.
Because Paula wanted to minimize the additives (namely pectin) in her product, she was willing to experiment with times and temperatures in order to create a jelly without them. This batch may have been a bit of a flop, but this flop not only taught her more about the syrup/jelly-making process, it also gave us the opportunity to think outside the box. It may have been a flop, but it was far from a fail.
Have you ever had a recipe or experiment go wrong?
What did you learn from the experience?