Preserving the Harvest :: Stem Preserves



We hope you all enjoyed a Thanksgiving filled with your favorite food and people.

We also hope you have been enjoying the wealth of greens in your CSA share each week. The kale, collards, Swiss chard, arugula, tatsoi, pak choi, mustard greens, and broccoli rabe have been plentiful lately! The only downside to so many greens is that you are left with a lot of stems, which are typically not included in recipes where you use the greens. You can always juice or add them to smoothies but we realize it’s nice to have other options. That is where this recipe comes in handy.

Sugar is the most recent category of foodstuffs to be vilified in the media, and for good reason. It’s not hard to find articles, like this one, this one and this one, that make you think twice about eating anything with a trace of sugar. But as with almost anything in life, moderation is key. Plus, sugar is a great preservative. The reason why is explained below:

“…sugar attracts water very well; the more sugar there is in any solution, the more water it tries to draw from its surroundings. This is bad news for any microbe that happens to be inside a jar of jam. High concentrations of sugar will suck the microbe’s vital water right through its cell wall, causing it to dehydrate. This process is called “osmosis,” and it can be deadly for bacteria and mold.”

So while I would never suggest adding a lot more sugar to your diet, I think preserving some items with the use of a simple, inexpensive ingredient can bring some simple joy to everyday life.

I originally developed this recipe as a way to use some beet stems that were way too pretty to toss into the compost heap. But why couldn’t it work for other stems as well? The stems are cooked down with sugar, bourbon and spices over a long enough period that any tough stems are sure to soften and take on the added flavors while imparting a little of their own too. And I think you can take the flavorings in all sorts of fun directions – play around with different types of booze, sugars and flavorings. I haven’t tested those below but really, how could they turn out bad?!

  • Gin, granulated sugar, rosemary, orange zest/juice
  • Gin, granulated sugar, Earl Grey tea, lemon zest/juice
  • Gin, pomegranate molasses, mint, lime zest/juice
  • Bourbon, honey, grapefruit zest/juice
  • Bourbon, granulated sugar, pineapple, ginger
  • Tequila, agave nectar, chile peppers, orange zest/juice
  • Vodka, honey, lemon zest/juice, lemon verbena
  • Vodka, honey, blackberries, rose

I used the stems from 4 beets in my original recipe and therefore only had about 1/2 cup of preserves in the end. Going forward, I plan to toss all of my unused stems into the freezer throughout the week. At the end of the week, I will thaw out the stems overnight and then thinly slice when ready to proceed with the recipe.

I think this would be an awesome addition to a cheese plate but there are so many other possibilities. Grown up peanut butter and jelly, anyone?!

Stem Preserves
makes about 1/2 cup


  • 1 cup thinly sliced beet stems (from 4 medium beets)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (I used 1816 Cask from Chattanooga Whiskey)
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1-3″ cinnamon stick
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 3″ piece of lemon peel, white pith removed
  • 5 grinds fresh black pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


  • Place all ingredients except the lemon juice in a medium saucepan and mix to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated but with a small amount of syrupy liquid remaining. Transfer to a small, air-tight jar and cool to room temperature. Taste, adding lemon juice as needed to balance the sweetness. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

2 thoughts on “Preserving the Harvest :: Stem Preserves

  1. Pingback: Weekly Farm Notes :: Dec 2nd, 2015 | Tant Hill Farm

  2. Pingback: Deep Winter CSA Starts Next Week! | Tant Hill Farm

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