Tuesday, July 16, 2013


One trug full made this many, plus a quart or a pint and a half of syrup being reduced right now. So, guessing about the half-liter jars, about 11 pints.

It's unattractively whiny of me, but I'm starting to be the least little bit tired of canning apricots.

Now I'm going to unload the dishwasher and make zucchini bread.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Undeserved Abundance

Sometimes people new to gardening ask me questions that suggest they're actually kind of frightened of the whole enterprise: "But isn't it hard?" "I'm afraid of starting with seeds." "What if I mess up?"

The last one usually makes me laugh. My gardening adventures are sort of a lurch from mess up to mess up. For instance, while taking a walk today and seeing zinnias all over, I realized that none of my flowers, not even the stalwart sunflowers, sprouted. That's probably because of my ongoing irrigation problems. Mess up!!

What I tell neophytes, and what I've been telling myself over the last week or so, is that the garden and you are on the same side. Seeds want to grow, plants want to bear, and you presumably want the same thing.

That's a teensy bit more difficult to hold in my consciousness when it seems that what the garden wants to do is to bury me under a groaning mass of unrelenting harvests. But why complain?

The Blenheim apricot trees, despite a whole lot of neglect on my part, have so many apricots on them that one tree is in danger of losing limbs. They just hang out there, looking like little flame-colored jewels, but not getting much riper.

Until yesterday. The signal apparently went out. I've been trying to keep up.

Meanwhile, the zucchini are mounting a sneak attack, coming to ripeness under big leaves (so far unvisited by powdery mildew, thank you very much). Hey, did you know you could fight the dreaded PM with milk? Go, check it out. I'll wait. . .

Anyhow, zucchini after zucchini after zucchini. I'm making bread, making sautee'd zucch, and am thinking of making tortilla soup.

The real stars of the too much of a good thing olympics have been Marketmore 76 cukes. I only planted one vine, estimating correctly that that would be enough. Last year I was gobsmacked at how gorgeous they were, and they're just as beautiful this year. And yet. . . I don't eat that many cucumbers!

The kids are all over this year -- camps, preparing for a national frisbee tournament, hanging out with friends -- I"m never 100% sure if I'm going to have one to eight people to feed. Unfortunately, none of the potential eaters have proved to be great cucumber devourers.

So I'm quick-pickling slices (that's two huge cukes in a quart jar) and my refrigerator has a designated "preserves" corner, so folks will know where to look for peppers in oil, pickled beans, or jars of fruit that didn't seal. I know from observing the signs that some kids are eating after I go to bed -- maybe they will be tempted by the new display. Unfortunately, that jar didn't make a huge dent in the piled up cucumbers in my refrigerator. I'm having a tea tomorrow, so there will probably be cucumbers in sandwiches, so that will help. Of course, I know the plants are out there conspiring. . .

If you head over to Daphne's blog, you can see what other people are harvesting from their gardens.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Brilliant Repurposing

At least that's what Ellie called it.

220 yards of spindle-spun-and-plyed baby camel and silk. I needed to use all kinds of kitchen tools to get it from the spindle to the skein holder, which is also somewhat jury-rigged. In the absence of the 1" dowels, salad tools worked fine.

Odd how months of spinning, in odd moments, and often forgotten, wound off the cop, whooshing on the hook in the tea cup, in less time than it takes to take pictures.

220 isn't enough to do a lot, but there is much more left unspun, and much spun but not plied. It's a satisfying project.

Friday, July 5, 2013

June and July, how they fly

I make up blog posts in my head. This generally happens while I'm puttering on something -- picking berries alone, picking beans, cooking, and the only drawback to this is that moving the post from my head to the computer is often not done.

And thus, the portmanteau post. Imagine gorgeous, reflective prose about each of these events. Instead of the long, thoughtful disquisition on patience, and ripeness, and busyness, and preserving moments in jam jars, I give you annotated pictures.

June starts birthdays. Denise got a chocolate-peanut-butter triple layer cake, smuggled to the park in a box for surprising purposes.

Somebody turned eight in July -- and her strawberry cream cake, from Cook's Illustrated, was made with two days' worth of homegrown Tristar berries. Not only did it feed family, friends, and cousins, but some of us may have had slices for breakfast the following day(s). Ahem.

Ignoring the fact that the Blenheim apricot trees are simply loaded for bear, and I'm going to have to figure out how to manage thirty or so pounds of apricots, I ordered some cases of peaches to can. Ellie loves, loves, loves, canned peaches, and I told myself, "How hard can it be?"

 Equipment gathered and canning stations readied, the first day, when I had help, the peaches weren't ripe. Denise and Kevin and I went berry picking and made jam instead. The blackberries on the next island over from us seem to be three distinct varieties.

The little round ones are arranged on sprays of stems -- they remind me of fireworks. Lots of them, and they ripen all at once on a branch. They taste the least sweet. The middle ones have leaves that always look utterly blighted, but they taste good and I think they might be boysenberries. The right ones are classic Himalaya blackberries -- syrup-sweet, but only one or two ripen on a cluster at once. We get lots of those. They also grow in rather distinct bands along the fence. This is my regular picking area, so I spend a lot of time cataloging the patterns of growth and ripeness. This year is a Very Good Year for berries, what with late rain and lots of heat.

The day after next, they were. I rearranged all of the items.

And got to work. Blanching, peeling, splitting, protecting against browning, heating in light syrup, canning, filling, and finally processing in the pressure canner for three cases took me much of a day. Fortunately, I had my niece and nephews as company, too. They would have preferred that I play with them or watch them play, but perseverance was the day's watchword.
As I was staggering around wondering if it was, in the end, worth it, and whether or not I was just being weird and privileged and kind of obnoxious for actually buying organic peaches to can, instead of just buying stupid jars of peaches if the kid wanted them, I noticed the variety.


Today, Denise and I decided that another trip to the berry patch was in order. Jam is always a good thing, right? We picked 32 cups of berries in about two hours. It will be the work of much self-control for me not to go tomorrow too. Maybe I'll post a general "Go and get those berries" notice somewhere, just to feel like they're not going to waste.

Since it was late, three batches of jam-destined berries are macerating under plates in the basement. One bowl is sitting in the kitchen, and one bunch just got cut into in this format


 The boy and girl tell me it's tasty. I was waiting for two things. One, for it to cool, and two, for the Frangipane and Apricot Tart to come out of the oven and be dessert for me.


 Apparently freezing or jamming or canning isn't the only thing I can do with them.