Friday, August 30, 2013

Dilled Red Carrots

In yesterday's farm share there were red carrots.  At first glance, they didn't look all that red, but when I got them home and compared them to regular carrots then it was obvious.  Pinky red.  There were a lot of them, part of the 6 pounds of mix and match that Stephanie and I split.  I brought home 2 pounds of very petite carrots, thinking I could pickle them whole.  Today that's just what I did.

I'd grabbed dill flowers while I was at the farm, enough for 6 jars of carrots.  Using the Dilled Carrots recipe from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving I made a full batch of brine because I thought I would get 4 or 5 jars.  After scraping all the carrots they were so skinny I only got 3 jars.  There are a few orange carrots mixed in which only serve to make the rest stand out.  So pretty!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Tomato Blight has Struck Again

The farm from which I get my CSA share has been struck with a late blight.  This is a little different from previous years, in which the blight was early and there were almost no tomatoes at all.  This year we have gotten a lot of tomatoes already but this week, with the blight present, the staff picked every tomato they could.  This week's share was 8 pounds of tomatoes plus a quart of "Defiant" tomatoes (so named because they are blight-resistant).

It seems that every year the farm is vulnerable to something, whether it is blight, or a hurricane, or an early frost, or searing heat in the summer.  I find it fascinating to watch how the plants respond and also to see how the staff balance what they plant every year in anticipation of what might happen.  It's good that the farm has such a variety of crops.  But it is interesting to think about the food chain and how it all fits together.

Bishop's Crown Peppers. Aren't they cute?
I came home with 4 pounds of tomatoes plus a pint of Defiants, onions, hot peppers, cabbage, broccoli, mixed greens, carrots, pattypan squashes, garlic, beets, parsley, blackberries, dill flowers, and a large bouquet of cut flowers.  Recently my husband had noted that salsa was one of the few things we ate out of a jar that was store-bought.  I decided I'd better change that!  I used the same salsa recipe as the last time I made it 2 years ago but used the immersion blender to make it smoother.  Partly because I'm still working through a collection of oddly shaped peppers from my mason's garden.  He brought me banana peppers, long skinny green peppers that looked like they should be hot but weren't, and Bishop's Crown peppers.  Those last ones are the weirdest peppers I think I've ever seen!  So, ultimately, this batch consists of: 5 pounds of tomatoes, 3 onions, lots of little peppers, 1 habanero, 1 jalapeƱo and 2 other chili peppers, and 2 cloves of garlic.  It made 6 pints.

Tomorrow I plan to make dilled carrots and then sometime soon I'll make grape jelly with grapes from my friend's yard - she brought me 4.5 pounds today and they're in the freezer.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


That's what my rose hip jelly looks like.  Sunshine.  See?

I used a different recipe this time, for low-sugar pectin.  I got it off the pyo website and thought maybe I'd try it.  The recipe says it'll make 7 cups but I only got about 5 and a half.  I made 4 half-pint jars (2 for the fair, 2 for us) and 2 half-cup jars for gifts, and the rest is in the fridge.  Here's the recipe:

3 cups rose hip juice
2 T. lemon juice
3 drops yellow food coloring
1 package low-sugar pectin
4 cups sugar

It tastes better than I remember the previous batch tasting and I'm quite happy with it.

Yesterday I enrolled online for the fair.  So far, I've entered 3 classes:  Other Jelly (for this one), Raspberry Jam (for the Lime-Black Raspberry, but if I make regular raspberry I'll swap out with that one) and an assortment class of 3 jams, all different.  I plan to use the Lime-Black Raspberry, Triple Berry, and Seedless Blackberry.  If I make the red raspberry in time, I will enter the Lime-Black Raspberry in the Other Jam category instead.  I have to have my submissions in on September 14.  That doesn't give me much time!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Walk on the Beach

Yesterday, the weather was perfect.  It was warm but not too hot, not very humid, and there was a nice breeze.  The rose hips are ready and I went out to the beach with Lisa to pick some.  It was just the thing to do on my birthday!

I saw beach peas and sea beans, too, but didn't have a whole lot of time so didn't go exploring.  I did get a bag full of rose hips, ultimately about 10 cups once they were all cleaned.  These were simmered for an hour with 2 quarts of water and drained through a jelly bag.  I got about 6 cups of rose hip juice.  I'll use a bunch for jelly in the next day or so, and then save the rest for smoothies - that rose hip mulberry smoothie was really terrific and I'll try to recreate that with some other berry.

For my birthday dinner, we had a pork roast, topped with my only jar of black walnut applesauce.  Yum.  The kids and my husband made a fabulous chocolate cake, with my raspberry jam as the filling between the layers and chocolate whipped cream for the frosting.

It was a perfect day.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Forageberry Crisp

Today we returned from our annual camping trip and, this time, I was armed with a very handy book!  It was a gift from Lisa, and I used it to identify some berries I didn't really recognize.  When we arrived and found our campsite was full of blackberries, I hit upon an idea.  I would collect every type of edible berry I could find and make a crisp or cobbler out of them when we got home.

Mostly I found blackberries.  Wild, small, tart blackberries.  I also found similar berries on a ground cover bramble - a different type of blackberry, it seems.  And I found Juneberries, blueberries, huckleberries, elderberries, partridge berries, and a single teaberry.  (It's a little early in the season for the teaberries (aka wintergreen), after all.)  I also ate a couple of bunchberries but, like the partridge berries, they were tasteless so I decided to leave them out of the final baking.

Once I got everything home I washed and sorted and got rid of any that had gotten squishy over the weekend.  Then I put them in a little 7 x 4 pyrex dish and made a wee little crisp.  It was pretty seedy but tasty!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Foraged in Stages

As I think I've previously mentioned, this has been an excellent year for berries in our area.  Everywhere I go, I find some sort of berry or other.  So far it's been blueberries, elderberries, and blackberries, with a few raspberries thrown in for good measure.  It is much more fun to go on a walk when one can stop and eat a few berries!

However I have also wanted to make blackberry jam.  But I never get enough at one place to make that possible.  So I have been going on lots of walks, carrying ziploc bags or little berry baskets, and getting a few here, a few there.  I have lots of blackberry areas staked out, and would give more berries time to ripen and go back.  It's paid off; I accumulated and froze 2 quarts of berries and, yesterday, got about 1 cup more.  Time to make jam.

I pulled out the food mill this morning and ran everything through.  The yield was 5 cups of seedless blackberry puree, just enough for a batch of jam with the powdered pectin.  Somehow it made 9 cups of jam, which was a surprise, as the recipe indicated I'd only get 7.  Whatever!  The 8 year old, who helped get a lot of the berries, got to lick the pot for breakfast.  How great is that?

The 8 year old and I also got 3 pounds of elderberries while we were out yesterday, from that same wonderful shrub I'd found before.  More were ripe this time, so it was easier.  Yesterday I smushed them with an immersion blender and ran them through a jelly bag, getting 1 quart of juice.  Today I mixed that quart with 4 cups of sugar and made syrup.  I ended up with exactly 3 pints, divvied up into 12-ounce and 8-ounce jars.  I used Hank Shaw's recipe - he has terrific recipes for foraged foods.  (As an aside, I'm hoping to go to his book tour stop in our area this fall.)

Two foraged canning projects in one day!  Crazy!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Now I See Them Everywhere

Last year, I finally discovered what elderberries look like.  It took a while to be sure I had correctly identified them.  I had just a few and made a single jar of jam.

This year, everywhere I look I find elderberry bushes.  I'd found some at the stables, but surrounded by thorny rosebushes.  There's one at the park down the road.  None of those berries were ripe yet, so I decided to stop by a few other parks with streams I knew of.  I found some in a nearby town today along with a bunch of blackberries.  I picked a few, as there weren't a lot of ripe panicles, and thought I'd come back in a few days or so to check again.  I left the park.  I walked across the street, to where the stream came back out and alongside an access road to yet another park.  It was there I found the motherlode of elderberries!  These ones were huge (in comparison, let's face it, they're still only about a quarter of an inch across), and the panicles were laden with berries.  Much more than any I'd ever seen. I picked a whole lot, and got them home to discover I had about 6.5 cups (some weren't too ripe, I saved those for the photo).  I wanted 8 cups to make a batch of jam, so I went back out to yet another conservation land and, sure enough, found some more.  Enough to make 8 cups.

To make the jam, I boiled the berries with 3/4 cup water for a few minutes then crushed them with a masher.  I should have taken the seeds out at this point, but didn't.  Now I know.  Next year, no seeds!  Anyhow, to this I added a package of powdered pectin and 7 cups of sugar and now have 10 jars of elderberry jam, plus more in the fridge.  I've had a few spoonfuls, just to make sure I was correct in my identification, before I feed it to anyone else.

If I feel inspired to pick any more berries, I might make elderberry syrup.