Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Maybe I Have More Energy?

It's been a long, slow summer. The heat hasn't helped. Not only has there been a drought impacting the farm share and the local PYO options, but it's also made me not very excited to stand next to a stove. Or really do much of anything!

But today, since our summer travel is over, I started a batch of sauerkraut. Last year's batch didn't ferment for as long as I thought it should, so I got rid of it. Just in case. From the farm, I had four heads of cabbage and two leeks, about seven pounds worth of produce. I sliced everything thinly and mixed it all with 4 T. of salt and packed it in my crock. Tomorrow I'll see if I have to add some brine, it may be necessary. After that, as long as I keep the water seal refreshed, it should do its thing with minimal fuss. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Mixed Bread and Butter Pickles

This week we have the farm share to ourselves, and there were almost enough cucumbers to make a half-batch of bread and butter pickles. But not quite. So I added one small, cucumber sized zucchini and that was perfect. With the onion and Hungarian hot wax peppers I also got at the farm today, I was able to make four half-pint jars of bread and butter pickles. Which is good, as I think we ran out about a month ago.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Peaches

Last week, we visited family in Ohio. As with the prior year's trip, my in-laws got two big boxes of peaches from the Georgia Peach Truck. I had ambitions to make pies, crisps, jam, and other peachy things. But chaos ensued, as it usually does. I couldn't find a rolling pin so rather than a pie I made one crisp. And one batch of jam. But since my in-laws weren't sure where the canning pot that I'm positive we bought on a prior trip ended up, I did the "flip the jars over" thing to seal them. It worked, and it won't take them long to work through the 5 and a half jars of jam I made for them. 

Because I didn't have huge amounts of time I intended to bring home enough peaches for another two batches of jam, thinking I could make some to enter in the fair (and seal in a boiling water canner, the preferred way). But the peaches got bruised, and even though we put them in a fridge at the B&B we stayed at en route, the next morning we discovered they were starting to rot. 

We managed to find 5 good ones which we left with our lovely hosts and they kindly threw out the rest for us. I felt badly that didn't work, but we still had a lot of time in the car to go and it was almost 100˚F outside and the trunk wasn't as cool as I'd hoped it would be. So they really wouldn't have made it the rest of the way. 

Speaking of the Fair, it's really snuck up on me. I'm not done with the shawl I'd hoped to enter. It turns out, you have to actually knit in order for knitted items to be completed. Who knew? But I haven't gotten to it in a while. I only have the mulberry jelly to enter, having missed strawberry season and not having any peach jam. I haven't even made any pickles as the farm share hasn't had as many as prior years. So between the lack of produce and my general lack of energy, I'm not sure I'll manage to get anything else made by the time I have to enter. 

Friday, July 1, 2022

Do Over

Yesterday's batch of mulberry jelly did not set. I think the pectin was old, which is a direct result of me not canning very much. It was my last box, so I'll be refreshing that supply soon.

In retrospect, there were a lot of "odd" things that should have tipped me off. First of all, there wasn't any foam after the hard boil. Then the jars took much longer to "ping" than usual. The jelly wasn't really setting on the spoon, either.

When I realized the jelly was runny, I put all the jars in the fridge overnight. This morning, I had gooey syrup. Not jelly. So I reprocessed them, using low-sugar pectin, more water and sugar, and a little lemon juice. All the correct signs were there to indicate that it worked this time. Oddly, I ended up with one less jar.

While I am sad that I wasted all those lids, I do think the Great Canning Lid Shortage of 2021 might be over. I found lids in the hardware store when I was buying jars, and they're no longer listed as out of stock on Amazon. I did buy a few boxes when I saw them yesterday, but I still have a lot of the Bernardin ones I got before. Because I haven't been canning much. Which, hopefully, will change.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Mulberry Jelly

After a few trips to the mulberry tree I had enough juice to make a batch of mulberry jelly, which I did this morning. I decided to put aside 2 jars for the fair, and the rest of the jelly is in 4-ounce jars so I can get started on that gift stash. While I was picking berries yesterday, a chipmunk sat in the branches and gave me its best angry face as it chittered away at me. It was adorable. 

This is the first batch of canning I've done in quite some time. It's not been a convenient year for picking berries yet. Our usual strawberry place had 2 days of picking, on weekdays, and then it was too cool for the berries to ripen so they didn't have any more. They do have cherry picking but, again, it hasn't really worked out that we can go as a family. I'm not sure what's going to come from the farm share in the next few weeks, I haven't seen any mention of strawberries from them, either. We still have so much jam from previous batches that I don't need to make much. I'll just have to keep an eye out for what's available. 

Friday, June 24, 2022

Mulberry Tree Visitors

The mulberry tree in the backyard, which I can see from this desk, is laden with berries for another year. In just this morning alone it was visited by a pair of cardinals, a pair of orioles, blue jays, robins, chipmunks and squirrels. This afternoon I also paid a visit and was rewarded with a solid pint of berries (currently being made into juice) and the many angry chirps (cardinals) and squawks (blue jays) of indignant birds. I am surprised that the chipmunks would rather run up and down the branches instead of eating the mostly ripe berries that fall on the ground but I am not a chipmunk so apparently I just don't understand. 

It's unclear at the moment what I'll do with this juice, but maybe I'll make a batch of mulberry jelly to start the gift stash for the year. And also to enter in the fair.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Off to a Good Home

Today my beekeeping mentor stopped by to pick up my hive boxes and random gear. He keeps bees for one of the Audubon sites and will be able to use the boxes and frames. He even took the flow hive even though he's not a huge fan. They're definitely harder to get bees to use, so maybe the fact that I had some comb built in mine might help his bees find their way.

I must admit I have mixed feelings here. I enjoyed keeping the bees, and watching them work. I learned a lot about the natural world around me by doing so. I did not enjoy those times when I lost colonies, or got stung a lot (obviously). But there has been too much on my plate for a while and I needed to take a few things off. This is one of those things.

My backyard will still be a bee and bunny (and other wildlife) haven, hopefully the neighbors aren't too upset about that. I'm really leaning into the "No Mow May" movement. I seeded the patches in the grass in the backyard and covered everything with burlap and hay to hopefully get the yard growing well again. I did see a vole eat up a bunch of seed so hopefully the critters don't eat all of it before the grass sprouts.