It really is winter. We do not have any snow on the ground, alas, but still it is winter. Recently the weather has been awfully cold-- even in the single digits. There is not a whole lot being harvested right now in northern New Mexico-- certainly not any fruit. But for one young, up-and-coming Albuquerque entrepreneur, it still seems like it is fruit-harvesting season. Dominique "Mickie" Dupont, the founder of Urban Orchards, is hard at work, continuing to process the fruit that she and her team harvested over the long summer of 2012-- a season that produced an amazing over-abundance of cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines, apples and pears.
Dominique, who has a Master's degree in landscape architecture, recently came up with a brilliant solution to many a local homeowners problem-- too much fruit. There are a LOT of fruit trees growing in this city-- a few here, a few there, adding up to thousands. If you are one of those owners, Mickie will come and harvest all the fruit that you don't have time to pick, so it doesn't end up smashed all over the ground in your yard. She basically sees the whole urban sprawl of Greater Albuquerque as a very, very big orchard. Once she picks your fruit, you simply pay $25 to become a "member" of Urban Orchards. This entitles you to 10% of the delicious jams, jellies or sauces that she makes out of your-- and many of your fellow fruit tree owners-- fruit. The rest she sells in local stores and at the Grower's Markets here in Albuquerque.
Her products carry on a family tradition-- rooted in the Alsatian region of France and in New Mexico as well-- of creating very delicious foods from the produce that grows nearby. She has always loved making jams and jellies, and each recipe that she has developed is influenced by that tradition. Her recipes also meet the exacting standards at the NMSU Process Authority in Las Cruces. They test each one to ensure that it is not only delicious, but also safe to store on the shelf.
Last summer, she was not only written up in Edible New Mexico, but in Time, as well. Mickie has been interviewed on KUNM radio and her products are showing up in other people's blogs and on the shelves at several small shops around Albuquerque, including Delicious NM Tiendita, Sheila's Sweets, Model Pharmacy, Olo Yogurt Studio, The Grove, The Range and, soon, Hartford Square. And from May until November she and her husband can be found at their booth at the Nob Hill and Downtown Growers Markets.
Where does she make all this delicious fruit sauce and jelly? Urban Orchards is one of the many start-up food businesses that have been able to work out of the large commercial kitchen at Bernalillo County's South Valley Economic Development Center. The Urban Orchard team is able to reserve space, whenever they need it, and get to work creating and canning everything from Apricot Sauce to Pear & Apple Jelly. Urban Orchards employs three part-time workers in the busy season, for manufacturing and sales.
What's next for Urban orchards? This coming summer, Mickie hopes to be harvesting even more of Albuquerque's vast urban orchard, as she grows her network of members. She also plans to gather together all the many creative and innovative culinary uses people have put her products to and showcase them on her website. Be sure to watch for that, on their website and Facebook page.
Her brilliantly-colored sauces capture the essence of those fruits from the hot months of summer, and they are a excellent addition to so many recipes. They are wonderful over french toast and pancakes, oatmeal and granola, yogurt or ice cream...or stirred into a glass of sparkling water or white wine.
I have gone a little crazy, myself, trying them in/on everything. A couple of my warm weather favorites were the plum sauce stirred into a glass of chilled sparkling Gruet, and that peach sauce over ginger-peach pancakes. But in this cold weather, it seems like a warm cherry pastry would be just thing to start the day...
This recipe is inspired by one I found in a favorite blog, Fresh New England-- I created a winter version, though. Instead of fresh cherries I used jarred Morello cherries and some of Urban Orchards' Cherry Sauce to make the filling. Here is what you do: for two Cherry Pinwheel Pastries, you will need 1 sheet puff pastry, 14 cherries, 1 egg, a bit of confectioner's sugar and some cherry sauce or jam.
1) Thaw one sheet of frozen puff pastry. Fold in half to make a long rectangle. Cut in to two square pieces. Roll each one out to make a 6" square. Cut a 1 1/2" slit on the diagonal in each corner (see photo). 2) Drain 14 cherries. Place one in very center, and six more around that one, so they touch. 3) Spoon about a tablespoon of cherry sauce or jam over the cherries. Fold one side of each section (as shown) in to the center, to create a pinwheel. 4) Mix egg with a fork, and with a pastry brush, carefully brush all of the exposed pastry with the egg wash. 5) Carefully slide pastries onto a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Cool slightly, and sprinkle with confectioner's (powdered) sugar, if desired.