Perhaps it is because we miss having a garden (some may even call it guilt for not putting in a garden). Or it could be that it appears to be a bumper year for all the things that grow. Or perhaps still, it is the most delightful warm Autumnal weather we’ve been experiencing since the deadly July heatwave. Whatever the reason, we find ourselves pulled into the woods and trails in search of berries this summer more than ever.
Of course, we made batch upon batch of tasty apple butter in our first summer here, but the jars that weren’t eaten right away went bad. There were a number of things we could have done wrong. We could have tightened the rings too much, I am quite certain I heated the lids more than once, I washed the jars, but didn’t sterilize them, and lastly, I didn’t “process” them in a boiling bath after sealing. We will do it differently this year with the help of Ashley English’s book (in fact, her whole Homemade Living Series is a wonderful resource) and some diligence.
In June we picked and froze 15 quarts of organic strawberries from Ellenberger Organic Farm and made a wonderfully large jar of garlic scape pesto from the large bag of scapes they graced us with. I made it just like a basil pesto and we ate it over pasta with tomatoes. With the leftover scapes, I blended them in the food processor with olive oil and froze them in ice cube trays for cooking throughout the year. It made about 35 cubes.
We own about 4 acres, but are surrounded by about 80 more which is owned by a lovely couple who only camp here a few time per year. I have fond memories of picking the abundant blueberries while we visited Mike’s home of Newfoundland, so we were quite excited to find a couple handfuls along the shore of the pond a week or two ago. They were no comparison to Newfoundland’s berries, but it was a bit like finding treasure.
We have both pin cherries and choke cherries here as well, but this is the first year they have produced like this. Chokecherries don’t taste like much when eaten off the branch and the seed apparently contains cyanide, but when made into a jelly, they remind me of childhood and fall. We were able to pick 3 quarts from the two small bushes behind the house and made 12 125 ml jars plus a pint. We went by the book this time and they all sealed successfully. We have plenty more on the property so another batch or two may be in order. I think they will make nice Christmas gifts this year.
While picking the chokecherries we noticed crazy amounts of blackberries (or what we assume are blackberries) growing fairly low to the ground on what we assume to be young bushes. We are a little unsure now as we found two types while we foraged for our dessert yesterday afternoon. In abundance, we found the smaller berries low to the ground, but then we happened upon some larger/taller bushes with the more characteristic shape and size of blackberries. Both taste similar, and both types came off with the rasp inside (unlike a black or red raspberry where the rasp is left on the bush). No matter how you slice it, they tasted decadent, still slightly warm, atop our Kawartha Daily french vanilla ice cream. The kids were in their glory despite the mosquitoes and scratchy bracken that was often taller than them. Berry loving Poppy was especially happy to pick to her heart’s content which she quietly did while Silas made sticks into swords, put rocks in his basket, and saved himself the tedious task of picking the berries himself and thieved from mama and daddy’s baskets. We covered a lot of ground and spent over an hour for only a quart and a half, but it was fun and we figure we’ll be going out each night for our dessert until they dry up.
The apples look a bit small, but oh so abundant and just beginning to blush. We’ve purchased a clamping apple peeler, corer, and slicer in preparation for our apple-filled fall.
So though we may not have a garden this year, and though we’ve only made it to one farmer’s market this season, we are still enjoying the fruits of the season and we’re ever so grateful that so much of it has been found in our own backyard.
go gently + be wonderful