Preserving Season Begins
Chocolate Box Cottage Diary Vol. 1
Week 32: August 13, 2021
This week feels like a continuation of last, and I suppose that is entirely correct. Preserving season begins with small harvests spaced out between weeks: a tray of berries to freeze and herbs to dry for food and medicine.
It starts small, but soon turns into an avalanche and no matter how well-prepared I think I am, it is always overwhelming.
Sam and I went back to our favorite picking spot and picked another 2 1/2 gallons of huckleberries. I made a double batch of Huckleberry Lime Jam with Pomona’s pectin. The flavor is a delight and so is the fact that it is mostly fruit and very little sugar when compared to using traditional pectin.
It was a pleasure to add eleven jars of delicious jam to the pantry shelf, minus the one we ate immediately with a loaf of Farmhouse White Bread made with Dakota Pioneer Everlasting Yeast.
Preserving Season Begins with a Trickle of Berries and Herbs ~
The generous bounty of a harvest kitchen always warms my heart. In addition to bread and jam, there are plump zucchinis to turn into Zucchini Velvet Soup base for the freezer and a nearly-full basket of Dragon Tongue beans; yellow with vivid purple streaks, the beans will be eaten and shared.
Find the Zucchini Velvet Soup base recipe here: https://chocolateboxcottage.tv/recipe-box/zucchini-velvet-soup/
Freezing Huckleberries ~
Blackberries, blackberries, and more blackberries…
I could pick 2 gallons every other day, given the time. My goal is to freeze 10 gallons of blackberries every summer. This takes us through oatmeal mornings, berry muffins, cobblers and crisps, with plenty for jam or to make into syrup for waffles and pancakes.
Homemade Berry Fruit Leather ~
Using (eating) what was stored in preserving season is part of the natural cycle.
Berries remaining in the freezer when berry picking season rolls around again are converted into Fruit Leather rolls, a jammy, sweet portable treat the whole family loves.
Berries are best picked in the cool of the morning, before the sun softens them. Still, I end up with berry-stained fingers. I don’t really mind. Being able to step outside and pick berries in summer reminds me of my childhood and imparts contentment.
August 2021 Walkabout ~
A walkabout is just what it sounds like. A walk about our homeplace, notebook in hand, a time to notice what is happening with the landscape, the plants, trees, and animals. Sam and I do this at the beginning of each month.
While Sam and I have long done occasional walkabouts together, usually on Sundays, I credit Donna Sullivan Smith, herbalist and founder of Miss Magnolias Moxie’s Learning Community, with bringing clarity and purpose to these fun excursions.
Donna provides a monthly list of questions to ask ourselves as we wander our property. It is a great tool for getting acquainted with your property and/or neighborhood’s resources. I’ll drop a link to Donna’s learning community below and invite you to join us!
Overgrown Cucumbers ~
One more aspect of preserving season is making use of imperfect product.
If you garden, sooner or later you end up with overgrown cucumbers. These cucumbers, believe it or not, are PICKLING cucumbers.
Pickling cucumbers are meant to be harvested small, 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) long, while their skins are thin and tender and before the seeds have a chance to toughen. Young cucumbers make crispy pickles, which is what we all want!
Still, there are uses for overgrown cucumbers. One of them is a quick curry, not at all authentic, but quite delicious with poached fish or chicken.
Feel free to leave your ideas for using overgrown cucumbers in the comments below. I read every one and appreciate your ideas.
Fennel Appreciation ~
I leave you with this picture of our fennel planting. The umbels (flower heads) are in various stages of readiness: some are blooming, to the enjoyment of pollinators and Swallowtail butterflies, others are heavy with seeds ripe for picking.
Fennel seeds are what give many sausages and Italian and Indian dishes their signature flavor. Mild, slightly sweet fennel seed is occasionally compared to anise. Fennel bulbs are edible and delicious, also. Do you use fennel in your kitchen or apothecary?
This may not be what some would consider a pretty picture, but knowing the delights and benefits of fennel surely increase its attractiveness!
Blessings to you this week, Michele 🌸🏡
Ps. Click the link below to read last week’s Cottage Diary entry.