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Apricot Jam

This weekend’s activities included production of apricot jam and freezing a few gallons of blueberries.

The apricots were acquired at Lone Pine Farm north of Eugene, which they had sourced from Idaho (apricots are difficult to grow in our part of Oregon).

We bought a lug and processed about half of it into 17 half-pint jars of jam.  The remaining fruit will go into recipes this week and/or be dried.

The blueberries (sorry no pictures) came direct from Berkeys farm near Sweet Home.  The variety is Draper, which are large mild flavored berries.  We will enjoy these throughout the year, especially in fruit smoothies.

Dessert tonight featured figs from a young tree we planted in our back yard only 2 years ago. We made our first picking of this season and so far netted about 15 fruits.  This is about half our summer crop, and it looks like we’ll get about as many this fall.

They are tasty right off the tree, and incredible in this very simple preparation, a recipe Amy found at Food and Wine. http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/honey-baked-figs-with-ice-cream

These photos show the fruit on and off the tree, and then arrayed in the baking dish that we put on our weber gas grill. A fabulous caramel sauce self-generates in the bottom of the baking dish which becomes a topper for the ice cream.  This dish was the highlight of a great summer dinner with friends.

“W” stands for…

We are back in business.  With a WOLF.

Believe it or not, we have been without an oven for nearly a year.  It’s a long and difficult story to explain, so never-mind that part.   Let’s just get this blog back in motion!

Our new Wolf is a 30″ wide dual-fuel unit (gas burners on the stove top and electric oven below).  It is exactly the same make and model we had at our prior home on Eastwood Lane, which we dearly missed the past 3.5 years.

Breaking the Wolf in on its first weekend, Amy made dutch babies the first morning and the next day my sister and I made carmel rolls from the Damn Good Food: Recipes from Hell’s Kitchen (Minneapolis restaurant) cookbook.   Here are the results (the best tasting carmel rolls I’ve ever had).

We’ve done a light amount of winter gardening this year.   Shown above are carrots and beets that were seeded last June and left in the ground until now.  We’ve been selectively harvesting since summer, and decided to perform a clean out this weekend, making room for spring peas.   The beets and carrots kept perfectly in the soil over winter.  We had a beet salad tonight and there was no compromise in flavor or texture.  All seeds are heirloom varieties, but I can’t remember exactly what they are.

Shown here is a patch of very poor soil in a low spot on our property.  We are giving it a shot at improvement with these nitrogen fixing fava beans over winter.  These plants are doing far better than I would have guessed, and we are now looking forward to a nice crop of delicious beans in a few months.

Our hen-count is currently 3.  All very sweet bantams that are easy on the yard.   One is a buff cochin (far), one a rhode island red (middle) and one mutt (left).  We are averaging almost one egg per day.

We are really enjoying our bean and grain CSA, brought to us by Lonesome Whistle Farm. Look for a post about that one of these days.

Grape juice and applesauce

Over the weekend and into today, we focused our efforts on these sweet fall treats.  The grapes were harvested from vines on the property of a home Amy lived in before we were married and she still owns.  Its not a particularly large planting, but it did produce enough fruit to make it worth our while in processing.  Shown below are grapes on the stem, then picked, then crushed.  After the first crush they were boiled for 10 minutes, then strained.  That’s all it took to make this fine half gallon jar of juice.   It’s very tasty with no sweetener needed.

The apple sauce process was slightly more involved, but overall still pretty easy.  We started with gorgeous Mutsu green apples purchased at Detering Orchards a week ago (see our most recent past blog about that).  This varietal choice for apple sauce was a recommendation from Roger Detering himself.

After giving them a rinse we used our hand-cranked all-in-one peeler/corer/slicer.  This is a brilliant and super easy-to-operate invention.  A must-have tool.

After the skins and cores were gone, the “meat” went into large kettles with a little bit of sugar and lemon juice.  A few hours of cooking down progressed the apples to a sauce, a little on the chunky side the way we like it here.  Heavy sampling prior to canning indicates that this too is a big hit.  The box of apples, minus a few we spared for near-term baking, netted us 18 pint jars to enjoy this winter.

Saturday morning, we paid a visit to two of our favorite local orchard farms.  First we went to River Bend Farm & Pleasant HIll Orchard, which is a few miles west of Pleasant Hill.  They have an attractive market store with their products nicely displayed.

We picked up a few apples to eat and a gallon of cider.  They also sell a variety of other vegetables, honey, hazelnuts, prepared foods and baked goods.

Next we made our way to Detering Orchards, which is located between Coburg and Harrisburg.  This farm caters to a larger crowd.  This weekend they offered hayrides, a hay bale maze, free apple cobbler with ice cream, and lots and lots of pumpkins.  Bulk fruit is one of their specialties.  We picked up a full box of Mutsu and Ozark Gold apples that we will process into applesauce.

They have quinces for sale too.  We couldn’t resist their sales line of “makes great jelly”, and bought about 8 fruits to try our hand at a small batch.

We also picked up a full box of italian plums.  Friends of ours who joined us stocked up on squash big time.  Shown is all of the produce loaded in the back of my pickup truck.

Yesterday and today, Amy has been busy converting our plums into three different preserves – a chutney, an asian plum sauce, and a Pinot Noir jam.  Pictured is the chutney cooking down and then getting poured into jars for canning.

Basil to Pine Nut Pesto

A 6-pack of basil starts supplied us with fresh basil we picked periodically through the summer, and then delivered as the main ingredient in a final batch of pesto we processed tonight.  The leaves you see in the two large bowls above packed down to 8 cups, and then were ground down further ultimately netting four 1/2 pint containers.   We used a very basic pine nut pesto recipe which calls for 2 cups packed basic leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 3 tablespoons pine nuts, 1/2 cup of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt.  We held out the cheeses for now as we sent these containers to the freezer for a future meal.  Shown below are steps in the process.

This weekend we made our way to the coast range in search of chanterelle mushrooms, a food finding adventure in nature that we’ve been partaking in for the past few years.  In a short span of arriving in the forest – which is all we have these days to keep our almost 2-year-old content on being bound up in a backpack – we amassed a mighty fine collection of them.

These photos are from the forest.

Tonight Amy found a perfect fall recipe for them that allowed us to utilize a number of other seasonal vegetables that are readily available (including tomatoes, corn and red peppers).

It is “Corn and Mushroom Ragout with Sage and Roasted Garlic” from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

Pictured at the bottom is the result.  It was delicious.

What you see is a cross section of 4 of our heirloom tomatoes.  Starting with the green one and going clockwise we have Green Zebra, Persimmon, Speckled Roman and Brandywine.  It’s been raining a lot here this week, and many of our tomatoes have been cracking.  Amy harvested a good load of them today and we went into cut and grind mode tonight.   The photos below are snippets of the main varieties going through the our food strainer.  The last image shows them getting mixed together.  We put the raw product into jars tonight and will finish processing them this weekend – purpose to be determined.

Heirloom Tomato Harvest

Shown is today’s tomato harvest from our garden, one day after the equinox and minutes before our first big rain in a long time.  Considering how summer took so long to arrive here and how we’ve had less-than-stellar results growing heirlooms in past years – we are a bit surprised and thrilled at the results.  The varieties – that we can remember – are Green Zebra, Speckled Roman, Brandywine (purple), and Persimmon (yellow).  We purchased one starter plant of each through Eugene Local Foods – from the following farms:  MoonTime Farms near Veneta and Mountain View Farm near Junction City.

The Speckled Roman are probably the best surprise of all.  They are a plum tomato with yellow/orange stripes.  They have been prolific with several very large fruits.  We are processing these into a barbeque sauce.

The persimmons are very large fruit – about the size of a softball – and have been designated for a yellow-colored catsup.   We have over 20 fruit this size on one plant alone.  Todays persimmon harvest – about 1/3 of the total it will produce – yielded 4 quarts of cut up tomatoes, just right for the sauce recipe.

Yesterday we made a tomato tart with a mix of our cherry tomatoes.  It’s a superb recipe found in the Harvest to Heat cookbook.  Shown below is before and after cooking the tart.  It was a big hit.   Thank you to my mom for gifting us this great cookbook, and suggesting the recipe.

And THANK YOU to the nearby farms growing these starts and keeping these special varieties in supply and convenient for us urban farmers in the city!

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