Harvest Apples for Sauce and Jelly

October 6th, 2010 / comments 5

The delicate, white blossoms of spring have been transformed by sun and rain and with help from the bees into the bounty of red, green and yellow apples of early fall. They fill trees that have been planted in orderly rows in orchards, solitary trees carefully tended in gardens and trees growing wild in abandoned pastures and at the edge of the forest.

apple basket 02 c egbert Harvest Apples for Sauce and Jelly

Nine months after we moved to Vermont, I saw branches of white blossoms on trees near a deer trail. I mucked across a muddy stream and discovered that our house had come with a long abandoned, five-tree apple orchard. The trees were growing in a hollow, overrun with weed trees, sumac and tall grass. We left our first harvest to the deer whose narrow paths had led me to these trees. The following year we rescued the trees from the weeds. Since then, we share the apples with the deer.

The first step in making anything with apples is harvesting them. I found a small wire fruit picker that looks like a basket with fingers at the hardware store and clamped it to a long pole. It made it possible to harvest the apples without dragging a ladder to the orchard. Apples have a natural, waxy coating that prevents dehydration so I don’t wash them until I’m ready to cook them. After I picked the apples, I made applesauce and apple jelly with the same pot of apples. Here’s how I did it:

… read more

Grape Jelly with Fox Grapes

September 16th, 2010 / comments 3

I was driving home from the library when a bear ran across the road in front of my car. It’s the third bear I’ve seen that wasn’t behind bars in the zoo. The other two were performing bears, dressed in vests and hats on the street in Istanbul. This naked, energetic, black bear brought to mind, Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey’s book for children that combines the joy of finding and gathering wild food with the possibility of meeting an animal or two in the process. Although it was too late to look for blueberries, the sight of the bear reminded me that September is wild grape time in Vermont.

grapes 01 Grape Jelly with Fox Grapes

It’s easy to spot wild grape vines that have climbed trees, utility poles and wires to reach the sunlight and their yellowing leaves are the signal that it’s harvest time. When cooked with sugar, the grapes that Charles and I harvest each fall become an intense grape jelly. I made eighteen jars of jelly with this year’s harvest. We will spread it on toast, use it to flavor yogurt, give it to friends and enjoy the rest slathered on sponge cake in divine jelly rolls. With just grapes and sugar and a bit of water the jelly is easy to make. Here’s how I did it:

… read more

Tomato Time – Oven Roasted Tomatoes

August 19th, 2010 / comments 9

Two summers ago, when I had more tomatoes than we could eat, I preserved jars of oven-roasted tomatoes for the pantry.

summer bird 02 c egbert 5 in  Tomato Time   Oven Roasted Tomatoes

I used them as a base for pasta sauce and for grilled pizza during the gray days of the following winter.

Whether I added them to pasta sauce, used them to top pizza or on toasted bread for brushetta, I always began by pureeing the tomatoes with either a food processor or an immersion blender. The intense flavor of the roasted tomatoes satisfied my tomato desire until I emptied the last jar on Town Meeting Day.

Here how I did it: … read more

Raspberry Jam – Sunshine in a Jar

July 21st, 2010 / comments 5

We couldn’t ignore Ken’s special announcement in the Order of Service at church on Sunday. It said “Raspberry Emergency – Help!”

 Raspberry Jam   Sunshine in a Jar

The announcement went on to say that Ken had many more raspberries than he could possibly pick. Although I wasn’t dressed for raspberry picking, I was willing to help. Charles and I followed the directions, drove up a bumpy, country road, dappled with sunlight and found Ken’s house.

The enormous, overgrown, raspberry patch was behind an equally large vegetable garden. Raspberries, the fruit of perennial plants whose name comes from a European variety called Rufus ideaus, (which translates as “with red fruit”), need lots of sun and water. From the look of his raspberry patch, this hot, Vermont summer has been perfect for the berries. When Ken planted the raspberry canes 20 years ago, he was told that he had planted them too close together and that they would die. The canes are more than five feet tall and loaded with berries that are as big as the tip of my thumb.

We shouted, “Hello!” to our fellow, emergency raspberry helpers, found a shady, bug-free place to pick and got started. In almost no time, my small basket was filled and I transferred the berries into a large flat box so that the berries on the bottom of the pile wouldn’t get squashed. After half an hour, we had eaten our fill and harvested about eight cups of berries.

I froze all of the berries, except for what we planned to eat that evening. I lined two rectangular cake pans with aluminum foil and filled them with a single layer of raspberries. After half an hour in the freezer, the berries were frozen enough to be transferred to a resealable plastic bag. It took two batches to freeze all of the berries. Freezing the berries before packing them in plastic bags makes it easy to use a few berries at a time.

Raspberries, high in vitamin C and a good source of natural fiber and antioxidants, come in many colors: red, black, purple and gold. They are expensive to buy because they are soft, bruise easily, spoil quickly and don’t ship well. It’s much better and more fun to pick your own.

Having ruby red, homemade, raspberry jam waiting patiently on a shelf in my pantry is like having summer sunshine in a jar. Here’s how I made it: … read more

Asian Pickled Apples with Red Onions

July 13th, 2010 / comments 3

It’s been nearly thirteen years since that church supper that inspired all this pickle making.

hash poster c egbert Asian Pickled Apples with Red Onions

I’m not quite so naïve but I still marvel at the beauty of Jersey cows’ eyelashes, I’m a member of that church and I design the poster for Red Flannel Hash Supper each year.

apple basket c egbert Asian Pickled Apples with Red Onions

I decided to use apples is this recipe that is the last, for the moment, in my refrigerator pickle series. In all of the refrigerator pickle recipes, measurements are arbitrary; the amount of sugar and spice can be varied.  When I don’t have enough liquid to cover the fruit or vegetable, I use vinegar to top off the jar. These pickles will keep in the fridge for at least two months. These pickles are nice with a sandwich or served with grilled chicken. Here’s how I made them: … read more

Radish Refrigerator Pickles

July 7th, 2010 / comments 5

Lynda was our first houseguest when Charles and I moved to Vermont. It was our first November in Vermont and we were naïve flatlanders learning about wood stoves, wells and cows everywhere.

cow c egbert Radish Refrigerator Pickles

Lynda had been living in the Northeast Kingdom for ten years and was an old Vermont hand. At breakfast on Saturday morning, she suggested that we go to the Red Flannel Hash supper at the Woodstock Unitarian Universalist Church that evening. I assumed that red flannel was the dress code because I had been told that it was important to be visible to hunters when walking in the woods and I was pretty sure that it was hunting season. Lynda patiently explained that red flannel was a type of hash and that I could wear whatever I chose. It was at that dinner that I learned how important pickles could be.

We sat at a long table with seven strangers and were served plates piled high with hash and a scoop of baked beans. Red flannel hash, an amazing magenta really, is a mixture of ground beets, potatoes, cabbage and corned beef. Along with bread and butter, there was a bowl of pickles in the center of our table. Red flannel hash is an acquired taste – one I hadn’t acquired. I did my best with it and used a chunk of crispy, sweet/sour pickle as a chaser after each forkful. I soon gave up on the hash and focused on the pickles, commenting with delight on their flavor each time that I asked that the (much too small) bowl be refilled. As pie was served I was introduced to the woman sitting at the end of the table. Her name was Alice and her hazel eyes sparkled as she told me that she had made all of the pickles for the supper.

pt v radishes c egbert Radish Refrigerator Pickles

You can download a label for your pickles here.

Although I don’t make red flannel hash, I make pickles of all sorts. Rather than preserving quarts of cucumbers with vinegar and dill, I make small quantities of refrigerator pickles with vegetables and fruits that are in season. Refrigerator pickles are ready to eat in six hours, require no cooking, do not need to be heat processed and the possible combinations are limited only by the varieties of vinegar, sugar, herbs and spices in the pantry. I made four different kinds of pickles to take to a fourth of July picnic. Here’s how I did it:

… read more

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the preserves category at Vermont food from a country kitchen – Carol Egbert.