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Tuesday, August 13, 2019


Edgar-Award winning author Wendy Hornsby has been described as “a genteel college professor by day, and by night a purveyor of murder most foul.” After teaching for thirty-eight years, she abandoned all pretense of gentility in order to write full time. Learn more about Wendy and her books at her website. 

In a Jam
Among the greater pleasures of summer, for me, is mucking about in the garden. There is something therapeutic about digging in the dirt, listening to bird song, watching bees at their work, and, of course, seeing again the strange and wonderful process of plants maturing into whatever they were destined to become when I put seed into the soil. And then suddenly everything ripens at the very same time and has to be eaten or distributed or processed immediately.

It seemed natural to me that Maggie MacGowen, the protagonist of my mystery series, would have grown up, as I did, with big backyard gardens and that gardening would somehow find its way into my books, and even become the focus of a story or two.

Several years ago, my husband and I took what we now call the Eat, Drink, and Be Merry research tour of Normandy, France. We learned about making cheese and cider and decided that we loved the area so much that we should retire there. That dream, however, was entirely impractical. So I did the next best thing: I found a reason for Maggie MacGowen to go to Normandy as an excuse for us to visit whenever we could.

In The Paramour’s Daughter Maggie MacGowen goes to the Camembert region of Normandy to meet her birth mother’s family for the first time. Like my husband and I, she learned about making cheese and cider, and from her grandmother learned how to make jam from summer fruit, just as my mother taught me.

By the time the book was published, Maggie, who is far bolder than I am, had acquired a job with French television and moved to Paris, something I still dream of doing, as impractical as it remains. I know that Maggie visits the family farm in Normandy in summer to make jam and cheese so that she will have gifts from the garden to offer friends and hosts throughout the year, as I do.

On my webpage, you can find instructions for making Camembert cheese, but as the recipe begins with milk fresh from the cow’s udder, finding ingredients may be difficult.

Instead, here is the traditional French recipe for peach jam that I make every summer. The recipe calls for only fruit, sugar, and lemon juice, and no purchased pectin. The jam may not be as firm as the other, but it sets up well and as long as you keep the sugar to fruit ratio the same, you can make small batches. Don’t double the recipe, however. Instead, make multiple batches. The process looks complicated, but it gets easier with practice. Just make sure that all your equipment is ready when you begin.

French Method for Peach Jam
7 cups sliced peaches
3 cups sugar
Juice of one large lemon
1/4 tsp unsalted butter

If you’ve never canned before, you can find directions for preparing jars online. You need 2 big pots—one deep enough to cover upright jars completely with water and an 8 qt. heavy bottom pot for cooking jam.

1. Peel, pit, and slice peaches.

2. In a heavy-bottom pot, combine all ingredients. Let sit for 1-2 hours for juice to develop, then bring to a full boil while you mash the fruit with a stick blender or potato masher. Boil for 25-30 minutes, stirring constantly. Drop a teaspoonful onto chilled plate. Mixture should gel. If not, cook 5 more minutes.

3. When ready, skim off foam with metal spoon.

4. Ladle jam into sterilized jars to 1/4” of top. Clean jar rims, put on lids and rings, and place into pot hot water to cover. Simmer for 15 minutes.

5. Remove jars from water. The nipple on every lid should pop. Any that don’t, refrigerate.

A Bouquet of Rue
Filmmaker Maggie MacGowen moves to France ready to settle into a new job with a French television network and a new life with diplomat Jean-Paul Bernard. Maggie soon discovers that under the peaceful veneer of the leafy Paris suburb where she now lives, there are deep and troubling fissures. At first she is an object of curiosity, the woman taking the place of Jean-Paul’s beloved, deceased wife. But as she is drawn into the search for a girl named Ophelia, and tries to stop the persecution of a Muslim immigrant boy, she is viewed by the town an interloper, the outsider. As Maggie tells an interviewer, sometimes an outsider can hold up a mirror that reveals what we have become blind to. But are her new neighbors willing to look into that mirror? She will learn that the human spirit has tremendous resilience—until it snaps.

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