Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Harvest of Apples and Grapes Continues

For someone who doesn't even cook dinners more than once or twice per week, I have been doing a LOT of home canning lately.  First was the apple juice from the "mystery" apple tree.  Then a few batches of mint syrup from the chocolate mint in my garden.  Then I did that batch of grape juice from the grapes I needed to pick a bit prematurely last week.  Funny how such green grapes can turn into such pink juice:
Anyhow, today I picked some of the apples from the espalier tree, mostly to thin the top-most apples, since I have been a bit neglectful recently, and to pick the bottom-most apples which are ripe.  I also picked some of the asian pears, to lighten up the branches.  This is what I brought in today, and I have much more on the two espalier trees :
Since some of the apple (top-most ones) were too tart, I decided to make juice from some of the apples, and from some of the grapes left over from last week which we didn't end up eating.   (I picked some grapes today, and they were much sweeter and easier to eat.)  I ended up with a large juice jar, and small individual size juice jar.  The apple-grape blend is particularly tasty but ends up pretty drinkable, without adding much water (although quite a bit of sugar).

The bottom-most apple was ripe, but many of them appeared to be bruised, even though I know they didn't fall.  That must be some sort of disease, which shows up as brown spots inside the apple.  I don't remember it last year.  Does anyone recognize this condition?
Anyhow, I still have more fruit coming, in addition to the apples and asian pears.  The italian plums produced a very light crop this year, not a heavy one like last year, but when I sampled one today, it was sweet.  I would have asked my husband to help climb a ladder to pick them today, but we'll be mostly away the next couple of days, so won't likely have a chance to eat them.  Better we wait and pick and eat them fresh.

The fall gold raspberries are absolutely amazing, with large and sweet fruit.  I ate quite a few handfuls today, when I was out cleaning up the garden.  I put in about 3 hours today, and had my 13 year old join me also, and managed to haul out 8 wheelbarrows of weeds and cuttings!!  Mostly blackberry vines and morning glory vines, which were quite out of control this year.  The few areas I tackled look MUCH better now.

On a totally unrelated topic, I stumbled upon these adorable bear-hugging-a-nut cookies at this site, and had to share them.  Wouldn't that be awesome for a kids' party (except for a nut-free one!) ? :

Monday, August 25, 2014

Premature Portion of the Grape Harvest

I have a crew coming tomorrow to repaint the white trim on my house and my shed, so tonight my son and I cut down the grape vines which were climbing through the railings of the shed.  The grapes probably need a few more weeks to be fully ripe, but I decided to harvest this section early, and at least I can make juice from them, it will just need a bit more sugar added.

We were out for dinner and visiting my parents briefly, so only had half an hour before it became dark, so we had to work quickly.  By the end, the mosquitoes were already biting.  But I was amazed at how many grapes we harvested.  The basket I usually pick into, was full and spilling over, and this is only about half of the grapes!  I look forward to harvesting the remainder when they are riper.
One of the varieties is softer and sweeter, and almost pleasant to eat.  The other one is only good for juice, in my opinion.  But I've been impressed by the vigour of the vines, and the good crops over the years.

Looking back in my blog, I've been too lazy to posting my grape harvest photos consistently (although I'm sure I take photos of them every year), but here is the grape harvest in 2009, and the grape harvest in 2011.  The grapes are definitely plumper in those photos, but there were MUCH more of them this year.  Yay!  I must be doing something right.

Oh, and the Fall Gold raspberries are bearing their second crop now.  This is the crop where they are super large and juicy.  Yummy.  I didn't have time to pick them tonight, it was too late when I was finished with the grapes.  I also needed to come inside to finish making the mint syrup I had started a couple of nights ago.  I finished three batches.  This is two of them :
The syrup "recipe" is extremely simple.  One part mint leaves and stems, cut into sections (with the flowers removed), to two parts water.  Bring to a boil, turn off, and let steep for about 10 minutes.  Mmmm, the house smells absolutely wonderful at this point.  Remove/strain out the mint, and you have a very strong mint infusion (tea).  Then mix one part infusion with one part sugar, and bring to a rolling boil.  At that point, the frothy water will become clear and dark, and the bubbles, if any, will disappear.  Add a few drops of green food coloring, to your preference.   Then I keep this syrup at or near boiling temperature while I boil jars and lids, and then scoop / pour the syrup into jars.  One day I should buy some nice jars, so I can be proud to give them away to friends.  I save so many, I haven't needed to buy any.

The mint syrup is wonderful on ice cream, in milk, in steamed milk, in hot chocolate...  Or this summer, I tried making mojitos with it.  Yumm.  One part lime (or lemon) juice (I use the "Realimon/Realemon" stuff, and it works fine), about 2 parts mint syrup (or to taste), and maybe 5 parts cold water.  Very refreshing for summer.  Rum optional.  I don't like rum.

Tomorrow night I will run the grapes through the juicer.  I love this time of year, even though it can be quite busy, making the best of the harvest.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"Mystery Apple" Harvest

While we were away last week, my mom emailed me that apples were falling off my "mystery apple" tree at the back, and she picked up a few and made some applesauce with them.  So today, after recovering from my cold, and waiting for the rain (yay - that was welcomed after such a stretch of dry weather) to stop, I went out, and sure enough, there were quite a few apples on the ground.  So I picked those up, and picked any in the tree I could reach or pull into reach.  This was the best harvest yet from my "mystery" apple tree (when I bought it, it was unlabelled, so I'm not really sure what variety it is) :
Apple harvest.
Unfortunately, since my fruit trees are 100% organic and untreated, they are a bit scrappy : I decided to make apple juice.  After 2 hours in the juicer, and a bit of sugar, I had a couple of liters of fresh apple juice in the fridge :
Fresh made apple juice.
...and from the mushy apples left behind in the juicer, I pressed those through a sieve, and got a similar quantity of applesauce :
All that's left of the apple harvest is one apple who looked too nice to juice, so will be eaten raw :
Organic apple from my garden, unknown variety.
I still have lots of apples and asian pears coming on my espalier trees.  I look forward to harvesting those soon, too.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Peach Harvest

When we planted our little Frost Peach tree a few years ago (in 2010), we didn't know how much fruit, if any, to expect.  I don't think I've ever had more than one to taste, and when I did, I picked it a bit early, so the squirrels wouldn't get to it first.  This year, the tree produced nine peaches!  Here is 7 of them:
I picked one earlier today, to sample it.  Wow!  It was really amazing, and I don't usually even like peaches, I prefer nectarines.  Very sweet and just juicy enough.  It separated nicely from the pit, as I like them.  Here are a few photos of that sample :
I'm really impressed.  The tree is still young, and very small.  It really doesn't look like it could bear so much fruit successfully :
I took photos of the peaches before picking them, since they look so beautiful on the tree:

Ha ha, this one is hiding next to our Black Veil Brides / Blood on the Dance Floor themed bird house.  That is a painting of Andy Biersack from BVB :
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