Friday, August 29, 2014

Delicious Blueberries

Last Friday my daughter and I visited the blueberry patch at our local produce market, Colello's.  We spent a little while picking berries appreciating how much easier and a lot less painful picking blueberries is compared to picking blackberries.

Once we had picked all of the ripe berries from one row of bushes, we decided it was time to head indoors and finish our shopping.  We ended up with 6.75 pounds of berries.  I wasn't sure how many pounds I needed for the recipes I had planned.  All I knew is that I needed about 18 cups.

My berry picking partner in the berry patch

Lots of berries to ripen soon

Concentrating on those berries

So many berries.  Makes me want to go back and pick more

Our basket full of blueberries

The goodies we made with the fresh-picked blueberries

It turns out we picked just enough blueberries for the syrup & jam I had planned.  As I mentioned above, I needed 18 cups of berries.  We picked about 19 cups.  So close!
I was able to make 8 half pints of Blueberry & Lemon Syrup and 8 half pints of Spiced Blueberry Jam.

I would actually like stop by again to pick more berries before the season is over.  I found a blueberry conserve recipe that sounds delish and would also like to make some yummy desserts with fresh-picked blueberries.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Foraging for Blackberries

Before moving to Washington State last year, I didn't realize how prolific blackberries are in the Pacific North West.  The brambles can be found growing just about everywhere...including in some of my flowerbeds where I'd prefer them not to be.  We have a few different areas where the vines have gone wild, but luckily they haven't completely invaded our property.  Don't get me wrong, I love blackberries, but would rather not get tangled in them while trying to clear some our land to use for farm animals.

Fortunately, we have a local park where blackberry brambles surround a large grassy field.  We've successfully filled our harvest basket twice this month.  The third time we weren't so lucky.  My daughter and I spent 2 hours picking berries, wincing in pain, pulling thorns from our hands and clothing and nearly getting stung by a swarm of bees and barely reached the half-way point of filling the basket.  And the worst part- I had to throw all of those berries in the compost the following day.  I can't describe the feeling except that it made me nauseated....for 2 reasons.  1~ We worked so hard picking those berries, two hours of cooking ourselves in the sun along with the pains listed above.  2~ The larva. Eww the larva!  The following morning the berries were full of insect larva!  It was disgusting.  I'm assuming since it was getting later into the season, the fruit flies had begun laying their eggs on the berries.  I'll have to  remember that next year and be sure to pick early in the season...and watch for bees nests as well.

Picking blackberries in the parking area

I still wish we could have kept the berries from the 3rd picking.  I used all of the berries from the first 2 days and didn't save any for the freezer.  I did make jams and syrup however, so we'll be enjoying the berries through the winter regardless. 

The filled basket from day 1.  So delicious!

The basket again about a week later

Blackberry Cobbler

Blackberry cobbler

I was able to make a blackberry cobbler twice.  This is my Go-To recipe for cobblers.  It works for berries, peaches, apples, etc and is very easy.  I use one bowl and a baking dish.  I mix up the filling in a large bowl, pour it into the baking dish, wash the bowl and mix up the topping.  It's quick and doesn't make a huge mess in the kitchen.

1 cup sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg OR 1/2 tsp cinnamon
4-5 cups blueberries (or any other berries, peaches, apples, etc)

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 egg, slightly beaten
3 Tbsp milk
3 Tbsp sugar

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In large bowl stir together all filling ingredients except fruit. Stir in fruit and pour into 13x9 or similar size pan.  Wash bowl and stir together all cobbler ingredients except butter, egg, and milk.  Cut in butter until crumbly,  Stir in egg and milk just until moistened.  Crumble mixture over fruit; sprinkle with 3 Tbsp sugar.  Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly around edges.
Serve with sweetened whip cream or vanilla ice cream.  8 servings

Blackberry Sonker

I also wanted to try a new recipe that I had come across in Ashley English's "A Year of Pies".  You can find her info {here}.  Anyway, I had never heard of a "sonker" until I found this recipe.  According to Ashley's book, a sonker is a type of deep-dish cobbler-like pie native to North Carolina and is served with a custard-like sauce.  It has a few more ingredients than the simple cobbler above, but was easy to make and was simply delicious.  

Blackberry Sonker with melted butter drizzled over the top, ready for the oven

Blackberry Sonker just out of the oven

Blackberry Sonker with the dip ready for serving

Blackberry Jams & Syrups

I also spent a couple days in the kitchen making Blackberry jams and syrup.  I was able to make:
5- half-pints Blackberry & Sage Jam 
4- half pints Pinot Noir & Blackberry Syrup
9- half pints Blackberry & Lime Freezer Jam
6- half pints Blackberry & Orange Freezer Jam

We'll be enjoying these with homemade biscuits, pancakes & waffles. 

~ Gingered Pinot Noir & Blackberry Syrup ~ Blackberry & Sage Jam ~
~ Blackberry Orange Jam ~ Blackberry Lime Jam~

~ Gingered Pinot Noir & Blackberry Syrup ~ Blackberry & Sage Jam ~
~ Blackberry Orange Jam ~ Blackberry Lime Jam~

Hope you're able to preserve some of Summer's fruits to enjoy through the cold Winter.  Check back tomorrow for a little bit about blueberries.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Garden Update for August 25th

This week's garden update~ Just a few pictures & captions

August 26th- Garden Overview

August 26th- Spaghetti Squash hiding like Easter eggs

August 26th- Still picking a few peas

August 26th- Overgrown Kale...Cabbage & Brussels Sprouts behind it

August 26th- 5 young cabbages growing, 2 green & 3 red

August 26th- Still waiting on the majority of the tomatoes

August 26th- Hot Pepper

August 26th- The melon vines have grown even more, lots of blossoms, 
hoping we get melons before the weather cools off too much

August 26th- Eggplant, covered in blossoms, no fruit yet

~Harvests From This Past Week~

August 20th- No explanation needed, I think we've all seen plenty of these by now

August 23rd- Another acorn squash and our first large tomato, Cherokee Purple

August 26th- Collard Greens, 2 more tomatoes- Mortgage Lifter

August 26th- A mountain of kale

That's what's happening in the garden this week.  It's time to start Fall Clean-up already.  There are lettuces that have bolted and spinach that's scraggly.  I'm hoping to have a little time in the evenings after it cools down to start pulling spent plants.  There's always, always something that needs attention.  
Happy Gardening & Harvesting & Preserving!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Garden Update for August 18th

Yes, you read that date correctly...I'm a week late posting this garden update.  I took the photos last week & harvest photos prior to that and would like to share them even if they are a bit overdue.  I'm hoping to get this week's garden update posted tomorrow.  I've been busy making jams & syrups and canning green beans and putting zucchini in the freezer.  I'll make it quick and just post photos with captions...Enjoy

August 18th- Garden Overview....Notice the green grass?
Still not much rain, but using the sprinkler to water the garden is helping the yard. 

August 18th- The melon vines are really starting to spread

August 18th- Hot Pepper (can't remember at this point what it is)

August 18th- Lima Bean Blossoms

August 18th- Brussels Sprout Plants

August 18th- Little baby Brussels sprouts beginning to form

August 18th- The deformed Cinderella pumpkin...It was wedged & trying to grow between a sunflower stalk & the garden bed edge.

August 18th- Another Cinderella Pumpkin

August 18th- Sunflowers are still blooming

August 18th- Another Sunflower

August 18th- Catmint has filled out nicely.
I think I'll be drying the leaves and adding them to some handmade toys for the kittens

August 18th- Catmint blossoms

August 18th- Some of the potted herbs...They've grown quite a bit since I posted about them

August 18th- Thyme growing under the bench.  It's really grown a lot since I planted it.

August 18th- You can see when I planted the thyme seedlings in the flowerbed makeover {here}

August 18th- Pear branch weighed down and resting on the ground

~Harvests Since The Last Update~

August 12th- The first tomatoes

August 13th- More tomatoes

August 15th- The first bell peppers

August 17th- The first red cabbage

August 18th- Plums, Elderberries & Blackberries

August 18th- Our first pear harvest

August 18th- Pears

That's the overdue garden update.  Check back tomorrow for this week's update.  I should also be posting about blackberries & blueberries this week as well.  Happy Gardening & Harvesting!