Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back in the Apples

We got a call this week from Sierra Glen about the miraculous recovery of the Braeburns. They were hit with apple blight earlier in the season and that, coupled with a late frost, killed a lot of the blossoms. No thinning this year! But, they rebounded and we were called in to think about ten percent of the apples. It was a quick job. Of course I forgot my camera, again, but I got this shot of the apples we brought home to feed to the chickens.

Chicken update. Two are now broody and sitting on eggs. The first batch of fertile eggs was a bust and by this weekend we'll know if we get any action from the others. We aren't very optimistic.

For anyone who happens to be in our area and wants to adopt some apple trees, Sierra Glen is looking to expand the co-op program next year.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Squirreling Away Summer's Bounty

My first trip to Europe a friend and I visited Granada, Spain. The entire trip was very magical (probably because it was the first real travel experience for both of us and we still had the suffix teen attached to our ages) but what made Granada very special was this amazing little vegetarian restaurant (and the Alhambra too) that was close to our pension. We had mint lemonade with our dinners and I've been recreating it ever since. This weekend I switched it up a bit and used honey to sweeten it instead of sugar and the results were fabulous. Here's the rough recipe.

5-6 lemons
a cup or so of honey
a big handful of mint leaves

Steep the mint leaves in hot water and then strain them. I used to just throw the mint in the lemonade, but it would turn brown after a bit and look a bit unpleasant. Add the honey to the minty water and heat to dissolve. Fill your container about half full with cold water, add the mixture, add more water to fill the container, chill and serve with a sprig of mint and ice. My favorite vessel for ice teas and lemonade is a Strauss Milk Bottle that I keep around for such occasions. We've also experimented with making pops out of the concoction.

This look pretty much sums up the way I felt when I woke in the morning, not feeling well at all, to a MOUND of blackberries and strawberries that needed to be turned into jam.

The jam making was a success, even though I wasn't feeling so up to it. I made 7 jars of blackberry jam and 7 jars of strawberry jam. The quickly turning plums were staring at me, but i didn't have it in me to cut them up. I used Pomona's Universal Pectin which allows you to use less sugar or honey (my choice). The results seemed good, but what really impressed me is that I called the JamLine to ask a questions. It was a Saturday, no one answered, so I just hung up. It was the business line, but also a personal line. About 3 minutes later Pomona herself (that's not really her name, but I'm pretending it is) called me back. Recall that I had not left a message at all. She asked if I had a jam question and we proceeded from there (answer: you will end up with a lot of left over calcium liquid). Very impressive customer service Pomona.

Last year a friend of mine and I made blackberry jam from a recipe she found using cranberries as a natural pectin. It was very tasty, so I hope I'm not disappointed. I liked the tartness. I didn't use this recipe this year because we couldn't find frozen cranberries in this small town and I was pressed for time and couldn't look any further. Here is the recipe though. Maybe next year.

strawberry (or whatever else) jam
makes 2 cups

4 cups strawberries, hulled, washed dried and sliced
1 cup frozen, unsweetened cranberries
1 1/4 cups honey
juice of 1/2 lemon

1. in a medium-sized pot over medium heat, bring the strawberries, cranberries, and honey to a boil.

2 stir and reduce the temperature to low. simmer for 20 minutes.

3. at the 20-minute mark, stir and break up the cranberries by mashing them against the side of the pot with the back of a spoon. this helps release all their pectin.

4. raise the temp. to medium and boil for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn't scorch.

5. after 10 minutes, if it is somewhat thick and no longer runny, turn off the heat. it will thicken as it cools. if it is not thick enough, lower the heat and continue cooking, checking every minute until it thickens.

6. squeeze the lemon over the warm jam in the pot and let it cool to room temp.

7. spoon the cool jam into glass jars and refrigerate. this jam can also be frozen.

We did the full on can for this and it lasted us all year.

Last item to comment on (can you tell the grandparents are visiting?). I was listening to the Splendid Table today because that's what I do when I get a "break" to clean the house. My treat is to crank up a podcast, clean like there is no tomorrow (or more accurately, like the house won't be clean again tomorrow) and usually cry (maybe it's the heartfelt NPR stories or maybe it's the emotions of finally getting a bit of time alone). I usually listen to This American Life or Radio Lab, but have recently added the Splendid Table to the mix. Anyhow, today her word of the day was Femivore: A woman who considers herself feminist, but also devotes a serious amount of time to the old-time woman's work of feeding her family the cleanest, freshest food — even if she has to grow it herself — is a femivore. Hmmm. So I did some poking around. Here's an article in the NYT.

Again, a long post. I'll be off for a few weeks and probably won't be doing any updating. But, if anyone is actually reading this, I'm sure you already know that. So, see you in a few days Dad.