After last week’s super cold spring weather of 20°F at night and then the snow (hey it least it was warmer) I’m happy to say that not all the apple blossoms died. This morning I noticed a lot more blossoms have opened and the bees are all over them which means I might get a reduced crop but won’t be wiped out completely unless we get another bitter cold night. Looks like we are back to warm days again as well. Yea!
Harvest season is full blast right now. Started out with our Home Grown New Mexico ‘Jam On’ class where we made a Strawberry-balsamic jam and a terrific Blueberry jam.
Then the grapes ripened-ate lots and dried some into raisins for later.
The cucumbers ripened so fast I was making lots of pickles. First I made bread and butter pickles, then cornichon pickles and then dill pickles-crock, refrigerator and canned. Must have about 30 jars+ and now the 5 gallon crock is full where I am fermenting some with salt brine. After I was bored with pickles, I made some sweet pickle relish which I haven’t tasted yet. Will probably make more of that with the giant cucumbers I miss when looking for little ones. So far I’ve made pickles with Jody, Nick and Elodie.
Then I bought 20 lbs of peaches from the Farmer’s Market and Mernie and I made 3 different peach jams.
Now the tomatoes are coming in and I’m starting to make the raw tomato sauce that I freeze in gallon plastic freezer bags. Later in November after I recover from harvesting, I will take them out of the freezer and make different pasta sauces like puttenesca, marinara, penne alla vodka and good ole spaghetti sauce.
Soon I will harvest potatoes too.
and we will harvest honey from the bee hive.
Of course then there is all I take to the Farmer’s Market that I harvest every week-tomatoes, eggplants, shishito peppers, beans, tomatillos and sometimes rhubarb, kale and chard when I have the room on the tables. Phew! Busy time of year!
The best part of it all is I haven’t bought any vegetables in the store since early July and I’ll have a full pantry for winter when harvest season is done.
This year my grape vines are doing fantastic and I only have 3 plants. The variety I planted 4 years ago is called Himrod which is a cross between Ontario and Thompson Seedless Grapes and is an American seedless table grape. It is a great eating variety to grow for our Zone 5-6 areas. It produces bunches of green seedless grapes with honeylike flavor and are juicy. The taste is divine!
Last year we had many hail storms that destroyed the grape leaves and bruised the grapes so badly that there was no harvest and that would have been our first year of harvesting. This year I covered them every time I thought a hail storm was going to hit or if I left the house and it paid off. We have so many grapes we are now drying some of them. It’s interesting that the beautiful green grapes turn brown when they dry. The raisins taste great – can’t wait to cook with them.
Yesterday I raked out all the old leaves from my strawberry bed and sprinkled some fertilizer (I use yum-yum mix) and a fine layer of compost over the bed. This is the first year I’ve done anything for it in about 3 years and I noticed last year my strawberries were smaller so hopefully this will help.
The patch looks pretty rough and dry, dry dry so I watered heavily for about 1 hour after adding the amendments to give it a good drink. I did water it 2x during the winter but we didn’t get any appreciable snow this year so I hope it rebounds. I’ll also need to put the row cover back on tonight as it is supposed to get down to 29-28°F the next two nights as a few plants are already flowering—the cold will kill them if I don’t cover them.
This year we have a bumber crop of apples. I mean the apple trees are so heavy with apples that some branches have broken. So I decided to make some applesauce. This is what was left in 35 gallon container after I gave most of them away and I have lots more. If you have a food mill it’s easy but you must cook the apples first.
Cut the apples into quarters. No need to peel them or seed them. Put them in a pot of water and bring it to a boil and cook them about 10-15 minutes till tender when poked with a fork. Drain hot water off and cool them with some cold water. Then using a slotted spoon, put some in the food mill.
Here is the food mill. Notice the bowl on the left where the applesauce will come out. The bowl behind it will collect the apple seeds and skins. Just push the soft apples through with the plunger while you turn the handle. The mill separates the apple sauce from the seeds and skins.
Then I added sugar and cinnamon to taste. Voila! Done!
Here are the skins and apple seeds that came out in the other bowl. These are going to the worm composting area. Nothing wasted and super easy!
Lately I’ve been into making fruit tarts with our fruit harvest. The latest are these little strawberry-rhubarb tarts. The strawberries are over so I had to buy them but the rhubarb is kicking it and I’m looking for different ways to use it. A fiend of mine, Kathleen, asked for the tart recipe so here is the basic recipe for making tarts (from Julia Childs and Jacques Pepin) I like the tart pastry from Jacques Pepin better as I thought it was flakier than Julia’s so I put it in for the pastry. Get a tart pan if you don’t have one. I have both a big tart pan and little tart pans for individual servings.
TART PASTRY (Jacques Pepin)
1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 sticks unsalted butter (5 1/3 oz)
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 egg yolk
1-2 tablespoons water
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, butter and sugar and mix till butter is crumbly like the size of peas using a pastry blender or food processor. Don’t overblend. You don’t want it completely smooth as the butter pieces gives it it’s flakiness. In a small bowl, mix together egg yolk and water and add to flour mixture. Knead lightly until dough is smooth-do not over knead or dough will be tough. Form it into a ball and put in plastic wrap and refrigerate it if not ready to make. Then when ready, put it between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and roll out till about 14 inches round. Peel off one side of the wrap and put in tart pan and then peel off the other side of the plastic wrap. Then I roll my rolling pin over the edges to cut off the dough. Prick bottom and sides with a fork and put in oven. Cook from 15-20+ minutes till lightly brown. Your oven may be different so check it a lot. The recipe originally said 30 minutes but that is way too long at this altitude. If the edges get browner before the center, put some foil over the edges to keep from burning. This can be done up to 12 hours ahead. Leave out-no need to refrigerate.
CRÈME PATISSIERE (Julia Child) This filling makes a lot so you may want to cut it in half or even into fourths because you want a thin amount of filling to put the fruit on. I had a ton left over making the full recipe.
6 egg yolks
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon brandy
Separate egg yolks and blend with a wire whip in a heavy saucepan (cooks more evenly). Gradually beat in sugar until it is smooth. Add flour and whip in. GRADUALLY add hot milk stirring with the wire whip until smooth. Continue stirring CONSTANTLY with the whip till mixture is thick. As it turns lumpy whip harder till lumps are out. Lower heat and cook a few more minutes till thickened stirring CONSTANTLY. Have I said that word enough-‘constantly’? Remove from heat and stir in butter and flavoring. Put plastic wrap right on top to keep it from getting thicker at the top and refrigerate. Leftover mixture can also be frozen for later use.
ASSEMBLING THE TARTS
Several hours before serving, put a thin layer of filling on bottom of pastry. The fruit is the main star in this recipe not the filling. Put fresh fruit like apricots, berries, kiwi or strawberries neatly on top of filling. Make a glaze using apricot or currant jam. Heat up the jam and add a few drops of warm water till it is the consistency of a glaze-spoon warm glaze over fruit).
In this picture I cooked the rhubarb with lots of sugar (to taste) in saucepan and then added some cornstarch as a thickening agent. Mix about 1 tablespoon cornstarch first with a little cold water so it won’t lump up and stir in and heat till thick. You could do this with any fruit (take some of the fruit, add sugar then cook down and add cornstarch) if you want to make a glaze instead of buying jam.
Every 7-8 years, I get some apricots off my tree. This is year 8 and my second crop since moving here 16 years ago. Not a great success rate but usually here in Santa Fe, we have a freeze in late spring that freezes the apricot blossoms and hence no crop.
But this year, it’s been exciting as I’ve seen apricots everywhere in town and out-of-town. What a bumper crop this year! So I made apricot jam, dried some and the other day I got ambitious and made an apricot tart from one of Juliet Child’s books that my friend John gave me! I gotta say, it was good. Really good.