Crabapples!


I picked these crabapples yesterday morning! I drove about 20 mins to a friends house and picked them in the park across the street from her house. There were tons of beautiful, ripe crabapples there! These are the big kind, 1" - 1.5" across! I only need about 15 to 20 lbs to make crabapple wine, which is about two buckets full. I knew there would be a lot of waste, so I picked more than I needed.

After sorting and cleaning, I had about the right amount. Some were still a bit too green to use for wine, although they would be great for jelly. There is more pectin in the slightly green ones.

The secret to making good jelly from the very tart, wild things is to use only the clear juice, without any pulp in it. Use a very fine strainer or straining bag and do not squeeze it. This includes, but is not limited to, rhubarb, wild grape, crabapple and choke cherry (which I fully intend to make next year). It probably also includes wild strawberries and a few other things as well.

These things usually have a lot of acid or tannin which is what makes them so tart. So I don't usually add acid to the recipe, although I will for the crabapple, I think. Raw apples, as a general rule, are low in acid. I have a new acid tester now, so I can test the finished juice after boiling and straining and add just the right amount of sugar to it.

I have enough to make crabapple jelly! (It's TIME that I don't have!) Maybe I will just put those in the freezer for now and make jelly later. No pectin is needed for apple jelly. Apples have a lot of their own pectin. As a matter of fact, you can make pectin for general use from apples and crabapples, if you have enough.

Crabapple Jelly Recipe

8 cups fresh crabapples
water as needed
3 cups white sugar

1.Remove stems and blossom ends from crabapples, and cut into quarters. Place them in a large stainless steel or other non-reactive pot or saucepan. Add enough water to be able to see, but no so much that the crabapples are floating. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. The apples should soften and change color.
2.Strain the apples and juice through 2 or 3 layers of cheese cloth. Do not squeeze. Use just the clear juice. You should have at least 4 cups of juice. Discard pulp, and pour the juice back into the rinsed pan. Bring to a simmer, and let cook for 10 minutes. Skim off any foam that comes to the top. Next, stir in the sugar until completely dissolved. Continue cooking at a low boil until the temperature reaches 220 to 222 degrees F (108 to 110 C). Remove from heat.
3.Pour the jelly into sterile jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in a hot water bath to seal.

Pruning Tomatoes

To prune or not to prune, that is the question. Some people throw a cage on their tomato plants and just let nature take it's course. This means that their tomato plants will grow into a bush with a dozen separate branches.

I prefer to prune off the suckers and secondary branches, most of the time. If it is still early in the season, I will let a tomato plant split into two and sometimes three, if it gets ahead of me and I miss one, but I try to take off any suckers that grow.This is my Gordon Graham tomato plant. I have let it split into three stems only because it got ahead of me when I wasn't watching.


Pruning makes the tomatoes plants grow taller, so most of my tomato plants are staked instead of caged. I have tried caging them but they just grow over the top of the cages and fall over. I have seen tall homemade tomato cages that will do the job well, however. I still prefer to stake them and prune off the suckers. I find that this makes the tomatoes larger, with less per plant, and easier to see and harvest. These are my Portugal tomatoes, staked and producing wonderful, large tomatoes!

 
We were blessed with a pile of strong metal fence posts that I have used in the garden. I have hammered these into the ground and strung heavy coated wire between them. This is where I am growing the tomatoes this year. I just tie the plants to the wire as they grow up. Since I rotate the plants every year, I won't be growing tomatoes on this wire next year. I will probably grow cukes and pole beans on it. There is always something I grow that has to go vertical.

Suckers are little stems that grow in the leaf nodes. If left alone, they will split the plant into separate stalks, each growing tall, making a bush. About twice a week, I play in the tomatoes and nip off the suckers and tie up the stalks. It's an enjoyable activity and gives me a chance to keep a close eye on them.
I also prune the leaves on my tomato plants. I don't cut them all off, just a few. I trim off the ones that touch the ground. I think this might help to keep slugs off the plants. I also cut off any that interfere with the development and room needed by growing baby tomatoes and I prune leaves to open up the plant and let light and air circulation into the fruit. I do think it is important to leave a few big leaves on the plants to make food.
The 'San Marzano' tomatoes grow huge leaves that cover the entire plant. They have to be cut back some.


Raspberries



Our raspberries are ready! We love the tart, fruity flavour of fresh raspberries! A few raspberries added to things can raise the flavour to a whole new level.We have three large red raspberry bushes, producing for the first time this year. We have purchased our fresh raspberries in the past. These bushes have produced enough berries to make one pie and one small cobbler, so far.

This is my recipe for raspberry pie filling. This makes two pies:

9 cups washed berries
3 cups sugar
1 cup flour

Cook on top of stove until thickened. Pour into prepared crust and bake at 350F for 45 mins.
I also made a raspberry cobbler with the filling I had left. I just cooked a pot of filling from the amount of raspberries that I had saved. I picked them every day as they ripened and just kept adding them to the bucket in the freezer until it was full. I cooked them in a pot, sweetened to taste and thickened with flour dissolved in a little cold water until it was sweet and thick enough for pie. I filled the pastry and had enough left for the cobbler too.


If I don't have enough of a fruit for a pie, I make a cobbler. A cobbler is a baked fruit thing without a bottom. (A flan is a baked fruit thing without a top.)

I have been using this cobbler recipe since I was in high school. Its the best one I have ever used and it is so simple and easy!

It is very thick and is just spooned on top like biscuit dough.
This is my cobbler recipe. I make it in a loaf pan.

4 cups sweetened berries or enough to fill a loaf pan about 1/3 full.
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup soft butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk

Combine dry ingredients with butter in a mixing bowl then add the milk and mix with mixer until well blended. Spoon on top of fruit in loaf pan. Bake at 375F for 45 minutes.


You can also make raspberry wine and raspberry cordial or liqueur. I collected enough berries, with the addition of some wild black ones, to make some raspberry liqueur. I just put the washed berries in a lidded jar and covered them with tasteless alcohol (vodka works for this) and added a little sugar. Its sweetened to taste. You might want to put a lot in. They will sit in there for about six weeks while I am going to shake it daily or whenever I think of it. When the six weeks are up, it will be strained and bottled and left to age. It can be imbibed immediately, but gets mellower with age. After a year it will be fabulous! I don't think it will be here in a year. You can pour this over ice cream or other desserts and light it for a fancy dinner.

Raspberry jelly is also a favourite at our place. I run the berries through the juicer first, then make jelly with the juice, sugar and certo. I didn't have enough berries this year. I still have a few dozen jars of strawberry and peach freezer jam from two summers ago, sitting in the freezer. We don't eat very much jam.


Any leftover raspberries get frozen in ice cube trays. I freeze everything in ice cube trays. I have bags and bags of frozen cubes of all kinds in the freezer.

Frozen cubes of rapsberries make great
blender drinks on a hot day!

Wildcrafting

Autumn is upon us and it's time to think about making some nature crafts. Grapevine grows in abundance here, as do a lot of seed pods and acorns.We have grapevine in abundance on the farm, especially on the various fencing. We try to pull out the thickest and longest pieces whole. It'll grow back quickly next spring. 



The grapevine has to be cut and shaped within a day or two, then left to dry. When the wreath is full enough, I will wrap it with another piece of grapevine, then wire that in place until it is hard. This makes a fairly secure, thick wreath. The leaves have to be stripped too. Our chickens love them!

We have three huge old oak trees that are dropping acorns now. We picked this tin (below) 3/4 full in about 15 minutes, only taking a few steps in a small circle. There are many wheel barrels full still on the ground. I sometimes feel a little guilty for taking food from the deer and the squirrels, but the guilt is short lived and there's plenty for everyone. 


 Selling boxes of acorns to crafters is something I am contemplating. If you live nearby and are interested in purchasing some large, prime acorns, please send me an email. I'll gladly trade acorns for ribbon and dried filler or small silk flowers.


Collecting the seed pods, nuts, berries and other native odd things will be fun and interesting. These things will have to thoroughly dry as well, before being glued to the wreaths. The piney forest beside us yields a lot of great pine cones, large and small. I like to use the tiny, 1" cones for wreaths, but these are harder to find than the big ones.




One seed pod I collect is "prunella vulgaris", also called "Heal-All". It's an herb that used to be taken for everything. It produces an interesting seedpod for wreaths. Also pretty on a wreath are the seed pods of "Queen Anne's Lace" (wild carrot) in the picture below.

After collecting what we need, I can spend a few very creative, fun days making up the wreaths. I will have to start shopping for ribbon and dried filler now. Any bits of flowers and dried filler can be added to a wreath for a colour. Color combinations are important. In making wreaths to sell, one has to keep the current colour trends in mind.

Making the wreaths is something I do a little here and there, when I want to do something a bit different and the ground is, perhaps, too wet to dig and the grass too wet to cut. The shaping is usually done on the front veranda, so it is something I can do in the rain. I store the unfinished wreaths on the walls of the veranda to dry. It takes about a week for them to be completely dry and hard. 


Most of the craft work is done on the front veranda. It's a great three season work space. It is also a great space for contemplation and coffee/tea drinking, even wrapped in a blanket.

I will be adding more pictures as we collect the things to go on the wreaths and start 
making them.