Purple, Packing, Patching, and Picking

Lilacs in

Still working on moving.

Spackling choices at the store

Packing and patching and painting.

Cherries that are growing and still green
These cherries aren’t quite ready yet

But trying also to enjoy things and not get too bogged down.

Asparagus

We have picked asparagus and strawberries so far this season.

5 lbs box of picked strawberries

I tried to make strawberry jam without added pectin, but due to a number of errors ended up with 4 pints of strawberry sauce. Tastes great, but a little too runny for sandwiches. So far I have added it to yogurt. Maybe pancake topping will be the next experiment.

Hope everything is going well for you.

P is for Preserving Food

Two summers ago I tried canning for the first time and loved it. Last year I did even more food-preservation projects.

Cherries were first. I canned some sweet and some sour, and I also made jam for the first time. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I’m still getting over how much sugar goes into jam. It’s hard to dump 6-7 cups of sugar into a pot of something I’m making.

Canned cherries and cherry jam

Later, I made blackberry jam. It was such a nice day picking these blackberries that I used some photos for my entry in the photo challenge called Good Day.

Homemade Blackberry jam

I also canned peaches. At the time, I felt like I had packed the jars full of peach halves, but after canning they kind of shrunk and floated, making it look like I could have fit more in.

Jars of home canned peaches

Throughout the summer, I was canning tomato sauce. Each week I would bring home tomatoes from the farmers market and make sauce.

Quarts of home canned tomato

Sometimes you can find tomato “seconds,” which are fruits that aren’t in perfect shape, but are still definitely edible. There may be bruises that you have to cut off, splits, or minor things like that. These are sold at a discount, or sometimes given away for free. They still make excellent sauce, so they’re good enough for me.

Chopped heirloom tomatoes in pot for tomato

In all, I think the things that I canned were: cherries, cherry jam, tomato sauce, pickled beets, spicy peppers, applesauce, picked roasted bell peppers, peaches, blackberry jam.

Canned spicy peppers

It got so hectic that I wasn’t keeping up with writing down or taking pictures of the stuff I canned, it was hard enough just to get it done and still have my tiny kitchen cleaned and ready to cook the next meal. But I really loved it. The chaos and mess were totally worth it.

I love the idea of preserving good products at the peak of freshness to enjoy later. It’s nice to have control over the process of what goes in it. I’m looking forward to doing more this summer as things come into season.

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I’m participating in the A to Z Challenge for the month of April. The idea is to post every day, except Sundays, and end up with one post for each letter of the alphabet. It’s a good challenge to help me to blog every day.

A to Z Challenge badge

Cherry Pie Heaven

Cherry pieI baked this pie with some of the cherry pie mix that I froze after my cherry picking adventure last month. Fresh sour cherries are just fantastic, and I’m looking forward to picking them again year after year. Or to one day having my own tree, of course.

The crust comes from Simply Recipes. I kind of rushed through it and didn’t think it would turn out so deliciously flaky and light, but I was lucky. Great pie crust recipe.

Here’s wishing you happy baking with whatever fruit (or chocolate) is in season near you!

Cherry Abundance

Inside a sour cherry tree
Inside a sour cherry tree

Say what you want about the weather this spring, (it’s been bat-shit crazy!), it produced some excellent cherries. This was only my second year picking my own, and everyone at the orchard said what a terrific crop it was. Last year there were no sour cherries and a limited amount of sweet ones. This year the trees were simply dripping with them.

A row of sour cherries
A row of sour cherries

What did I do with them? I tried making jam for the first time. It came out OK, but I still prefer the brand that I’m used to buying. My jam isn’t sour enough, so I guess next time I would add more lemon juice. I don’t think I’ll do that anytime soon because I’m still getting over the massive amount of sugar that I had to add. I mean, I understand that this is how jam is made, but 6 cups?? It’s a lot to dump in all at once.

Several different types of sweet cherries.
Several different types of sweet cherries.

I made some sour cherry juice that I mixed with some sparkling water to make a little refreshing drink. I froze a few batches of cherry pie mix and hope to test one soon.

Sweet cherries waiting to be picked
Sweet cherries waiting to be picked

For the most part I canned the cherries in an extra light syrup so I have options for using them later.

The cherries back in April
The cherries back in April

This is what the cherry tree rows looked like in April, with the plain white flowers just starting to bloom. Not the prettiest cherry blossoms, but it’s not like these trees had any delicious fruit on them. Or these.

Cherry season is short and sweet. It was a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to picking my favorite fruit again next year.

Canned cherries and cherry jam
This should keep the cherry party going for a while

Cheery Cherry Picking

We went back to the farm this week to pick my favorite fruit: cherries.

red cherries on a tree
Red, ripe, and ready to eat!

One month ago these trees were in bloom. Flowers are pretty, but I prefer to see trees like this, filled with fruit.

Cherries are so juicy, sweet, and luxurious. One thing I can’t figure out: How can the flavor be so concentrated and rich? I usually pop another one in my mouth and contemplate….

red cherries on a tree
Let me check to make sure these are ripe.

I learned from the farmer that cherries are a difficult crop to grow. The trees here are protected from the rain by an open-sided greenhouse structure. The arches overhead are covered with plastic to keep the rain from falling on the fruit. Too much rain will make the cherries burst.

cherries growing on a tree
Plastic overhead keeps the rain off the cherries

Another problem with growing cherries is that the birds also think they are a tasty treat. The plastic greenhouse-style roof that keeps the rain off is connected to nets that are staked into the ground. This helps keep the birds away from the trees. In addition to the nets, the farmers put up several speakers playing a very loud bird call. The farmer explained that it’s a distress call, so that when birds hear it they will stay away, thinking that something horrible is happening to one of their feathered friends over there.

flowers in front of the farm store
Flowers in front of the farm store

The combination of the 90° heat and the plastic tarps overhead made cherry picking a rather sweaty endeavor, but we were cheered by the delicious, juicy cherries and the baskets we brought home.

American flag and a flag with a strawberry
The farm also does strawberry picking.