Christmas in J-town

Christmas Eve found me far from my Brooklyn stomping grounds. I’m in Jerusalem again, and yesterday evening Ricky and I had guests.

Cesar and his beautiful wife, Marina, are Russian. They are foragers and gardeners and make their own pickles, sausages, and other food preservation recipes. I’ve had the privilege of eating in their home, and so I knew that A) they’d be appreciative of homemade preserves and unusual ingredients in that way that only my foraging buddies and extreme foodie friends are, and B) I had to come up with something interesting.


I’d brought a jar of homemade jellied cranberry sauce with me from NY because you can’t really get cranberries here (except the juice,) and also because I thought I might be jonesing for a Christmas dinner.

So at my request, Ricky roasted turkey legs in the oven on a bed of salt, along with fennel bulb, carrots, and sweet peppers. I made mashed sweet potatoes with some of the maple syrup we bought in Massachusetts last year, a salad of steamed cardoons (an artichoke relative that we picked up at the market), tomatoes with herbs from the terrace garden, the olives I cured back in October, and refrigerator pickles.

Dessert was homemade lemon curd with store-bought gingersnap cookies. My dad and I came up with that combination – lemon curd plus gingersnaps – and it never fails to please. Homemade cookies would’ve been even better. Next time.

Christmas morning found me walking between pine trees and poking around in the pine needles. My hunt was rewarded with these darlings:


Suillus granulatus and S. luteus are bolete mushrooms that are good eating once you peel the slimy skins off their caps. They’re not the best for frying, but are delicious in soups, stews and such. Here’s what today’s haul looked like once I’d cleaned and trimmed them:


I also collected some olives, the last of this year’s crop. I’m going to preserve this batch with a dry salt cure.


Other Christmas day food projects include making stock from the bones of last night’s turkey legs, cooking chili con carne, and mulling wine.

I wish you a warm and wonderful Christmas!

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