Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Preserving a Dish with a Rare Bird

I think maybe the title for this post sounds like a sentence out of a Gertrude Stein manuscript, but I promise it all makes sense.  The idea for this post came from my recently renewed fascination with homemade jams - which I'm sure is part of a larger infatuation with all things "throwback" or "vintage".   For me, the leading preservationist in the jam craft are celebrities nearly as much as Brad Pitt might be to the average person: June Taylor, Eugenia Bone, and, of course, Christine Ferber of Mes Confitures fame - they're the people I'd like to see on Conan.  While I don't exactly hang their posters around my kitchen or anything, I'm pretty sure I'd ask for their autographs and to take a picture with them if I were to bump into them on the street, and that's more than I'd do for any of the cast of Gossip Girl.

Lately here in Chicago there has been a new name on the scene that has been continually peaking my interest: Elizabeth Madden of Rare Bird Preserves.  Madden's jars of unique fruit combinations were available this past Summer at my local farmer's market in the Andersonville neighborhood.  I'd find myself overwhelmed with curiosity and pass by the crowded booth once, twice, and then a third time: it seemed whenever I happened by there was never a lull in the groups sampling for me to be able to make my move and start asking my gazillion questions.  I limited myself to mutely sampling from jars with rapturous parings like strawberries and chocolate.

Thankfully later in the season the Chicago Reader featured an article about Rare Bird and it's mastermind that answered most of the questions for me, and only served to validate my interest.  To boil it down (get it?), here are the things that I love about Rare Bird:

  • Preserves are made in small batches, out of in-season fruits.  If the ingredients aren't up to par, that particular recipe is on hold until they are.
  • Madden uses natural pectin sources, like lemon and apple peelings.  No powder in sight.
  • The varieties are the definition of whimsical: from Chocolate Orange to Meyer Lemon Rosemary.

At this point I should probably go on record to say that as of the writing of this, the people at Rare Bird, including Ms. Madden have no idea who I am, and have likely never bumped into Peas Love Carrots during a web search.  I decided to whip up a recipe based on one of her preserves just because it seemed like a nifty thing to do - and a good excuse to buy a jar and steal spoonfuls during cooking.  

So here you go - if you're not fortunate enough to be able to get your hands on this awesome preserve, I've included substitutes you can use, and even just any preserves as close to this one could work, I'd suppose... it just won't be as much fun to snack on the leftovers...

Five Spice Pork Loin with Apple-Hibiscus-Plum Glaze

What to get...

1 whole boneless pork loin - fat on (approx 2 lbs)

For the wet rub...

2 tablespoons of 5 spice powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons cracked Szechuan peppercorns (or regular)
2 cloves of garlic - crushed
Salt to taste

For the glaze...

1/2 cup Rare Bird Apple-Hibiscus-Plum preserves

- OR -

1/2 green apple peeled and julienne
3 tablespoons apple jam
1 plum, skinned and chopped
1/4 cup hibiscus tea, brewed
(Add all ingredients to a small sauce pan and simmer for 20 mins or until thick)

What to do with it all...

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Combine rub ingredients and coat pork loin with them
Heat a large oven-proof skillet on high and sear your loin on all sides until brown
Spoon over preserves or substitute glaze
Place skillet in the oven and roast until internal temperature is 145 degrees (about 1 hour) for a slightly pinkish center
Broil on high for 1 - 2 minutes on top rack to get a little extra caramelization on the glaze
Remove from oven, cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 15 - 20 minutes
Serve with braised red cabbage

Please vote for my Vietnamese Moo Shu Pancakes on Foodista!


  1. Seriously gorgeous!I've been reading quite a bit lately about the health benefits of hibiscus, seems it may lower blood pressure...bonus!

  2. Really cute first photo!

    I don't know why the link to the Rare Bird website refuses to work :( I must find out where to buy some. I love the fact that she uses natural pectin rich fruits and seasonal ingredients.

  3. Hello This is Elizabeth from Rare Bird Preserves. we did find you! This is gorgeous and looks delicious. thanks for including us. Our website is wacked out today. I hope to have the issue resolved by tonight.
    thanks again. love it.


  4. Wow, Apple-Hibiscus-Plum! Sounds super-mega-delicious. I must must must get me some. I'm going to ask my Chicago friends to visit the store and send me a case! :)

    I was a bit freaked out by the title, but this is a gorgeous dish and awesome showcase of a well-deserving hero ingredient!

  5. @Kathy Vegas - Thanks for pointing out the healthful benefits of hibiscus! I'll need to tout any superfood ingredients more ;)

    @Erika - Looks like Elizabeth at Rare Bird found this post and it looks like the site is down temporarily! I know you can get it at The Goddess and the Grocer and City Olive, both in Chicago. Let me know and I can send you the links if you want!

    @Elizabeth - I'm thrilled you found the site/post and enjoyed the recipe! I hope to do this again - it was a lot of fun working with your preserves!

    @experimental - Ha, yeah, I guess from the title you could imagine, like a roast bald eagle or something, come to think of it! I'm glad you took the risk and kept reading :D

  6. Wow, so awesome that Elizabeth found this post. And what a tasty-looking pork loin.

    Sorry for my long absence from Peas Love Carrots and Foodbuzz. Hope to get caught up soon :)

  7. Wow, the Apple-Hibiscus-Plum Glaze sounds incredible!

  8. That looks so pretty and sounds delicious! That last photo with the little star anise in there is gorgeous. And the meat looks so moist. Yum.

  9. @Chick - It's so great to see you back! I'll stop by and say "hello" to your site! :)

    @5 Star - I can't take an ounce of credit for it - That's all Rare Bird... but thanks all the same :)

    @Tasty - It was nice and tender, thanks!... and I've been dying to use a star anise in a shot, I'm glad you noticed it! ;)

  10. This sounds delicious (x3!)! On the whole, I don't really like jammy, fruity flavours in savoury food, particularly with meat. But because this is with red cabbage, I bet it's perfect.

    Lovely photos too!

  11. Mahtea, your website it phenomenal. The food you make seems like it must taste as good as you make it look in every photo. This picture of this pork has succulent all over it! Hope I get around to making it. I'll let you know.

    Thanks for the comments on my site!

  12. Voted for your Moo Shu Pancakes on Foodista as well. Good luck.

  13. Wow, what a lovely picture! It's enough to assure that it does taste good,..... juicy.

  14. Ah Mathea you are a fairy you could come to make me like red cabbage !!!
    cheers from cold Paris

  15. When I read this I immediately thought of some sort of big bird with a sword and shield standing in front of a big platter of food in order to protect it. Boy was I wrong. :| Come to think of it, WHY WOULD it mean THAT? :| Obviously waking up at 11am on a Sunday was indeed not enough sleep. Anyway, I love these pictures! And the wet rub would be so good on tofu or paneer- I would love to give that a go! Oh and I missed you! I've been waiting for a new post for aaaages! :D

  16. The pork looks so scrumptious! And your photos are beautiful as usual :)

  17. That sounds amazing. I'm going to have to see if I can track down this company.

    Your recipe sounds great too!


Thanks for commenting - I'm always happy to hear from you!


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