Cornucopia Crooning

Happy are the plants in their hours of sunlight and rain in the garden, the gardener tending them. From seed to stalk, out from the dark, mineral rich manifestations divide and multiply, fruit to seed. The labor, the toil of weeding and watering, the sweat, the weather, the insect bites, the machinery! All forgotten in the harvest, like a mother after birthing, gazing at her babe. Love and respect for natural processes, knowledge and practice of principles, have created an environment for joyous fulfillment. How abundant and beautiful the cornucopia of nature is! 

Of Fecundity        collage detail           Lynn Horsky 2012

I have returned from an extensive trip up and down the East Coast, touring public gardens, and visiting with friends and family.  I have missed picking the peaches! Linda gives me one of many of the large bag of frozen peaches they saved of the harvest while I was errant. I will make Baked Spiced Peach Butter Preserves, see recipe below, at home overnight. Linda leads me to the cellar storage to gather boxes of Bartlett and Asian pear drops and the early pear pickings we will need to process before continuing to pick the ripening fruits in the orchard. We use a portable juicer and experiment with amounts of pulpiness to include, and net 6 quarts of Pear Cider to freeze. At Blase's request, one quart includes fresh ginger. A digestive tonic for the winter days. A basket of bright red and yellow cherry tomatoes is dropped off in the kitchen. They are quickly halved, then into the dehydrator they go. More nutritious snacking materials or for salads and pastas in the winter. Linda sends me home with a piled up quart of Asian pears. I make Vanilla Poached Asian Pears as a dessert for my family, recipe follows....

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Baked Spiced Peach Butter Preserves

Ingredients (net 4 pints)

6 lb peaches (peeled, chopped)

1/2 c brown sugar plus 1/4c raw sugar

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 t ground cinnamon

1/4 t ground allspice

1/8 t ground cloves

Sprinkle peaches with lemon juice, add the sugars and spices. Smash fruit with potato masher or stick blender leaving some chunkiness to fruit for more peach flavor. Place in large ceramic baking dish and cover, leaving a crack open for steam release, and bake at 200 degrees for 8-12 hours, stirring occasionally. The peaches will cook down to almost half as they condense and become thick and syrupy. Remove from oven. For use within 2-3 weeks, place in sterilized jars, bring to room temperature, cap, then keep in the refrigerator. For long-term storage proceed with placing capped jars in hot water bath and keep submerged for 10 minutes. Let cool. Store in cool dry place. 

Tasting Notes:  Blase remarked that the peach butter has a chunky sauciness, but not too sweet, with a peachy toothsomeness. The spiciness made Linda immediately think of Thanksgiving. 


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Vanilla Poached Asian Pears

Ingredients (serves 6) 

12 small (or 6 large Asian Pears)

1" vanilla bean

1 1/2-2 c white grape juice or white wine,  to barely cover pears

Place whole pears in tall saucepan. Bring to low boil, cover, turn down to simmer for 1/2 hr or more till thin knife pierces pears easily. Remove from heat. Remove pears to separate bowl to cool. Set vanilla bean aside. Place pan back on heat and reduce liquid in half till syrupy. Remove from heat. When pears cool, peel and slice in half. Core. Pour syrup over pears, slice open vanilla bean and scrape the seeds onto the pears, lightly toss. Arrange halves or slice onto serving plates. Sprinkle with fresh ground nutmeg or grated dark chocolate. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche, plain greek yogurt, or whipped cream.

Tasting Notes:  The firm texture and gentle flavor of the pears are enhanced by the hints of vanilla, and preserved in the light syrup. Not too sweet, a delicate, light dessert.


Boughs to the Earth

"Ripeness is All...."  -- King Lear

Anima Dreaming    detail    Lynn Horsky 2013

Metaphysics, myth and alchemy come to mind as I pluck a golden orb from branches so weighted down they are in a perpetual prayer pose. An immortal prize. The Asian pears, so ripe, the thinned skins burst at one bite and rewards one with a simple, clean, crisp, sweet juice that's difficult to keep from dribbling from the lips to chin! Delicious eaten out of hand, sliced into salads, or with cheese or nuts, preserving the delicate, exotic flavor is another challenge for the Old Frog Pond Farm kitchen.

Kitchen Experience: Anna Fialkoff is busy in the farm kitchen and pantry preparing trays of Fiesta and Honey Crisp apples for the dehydrator. Linda shows me the latest quarterly edition of the Northeast Organic Farming Association's The Natural Farmer, with a timely focus on food preservation, and we check out tips for processing. We inspect the first tray of apples, and notice how quickly the color is turning. We check other sources online to determine if an acidic is used to keep them from browning. Yes, some use ascorbic acid, but we don't have any on hand, so in the New England tradition, "Make do or do without", we experiment with a batch of apples tossed in lemon juice. We try drying the Asian pears as well, and soon every tray is full and the soft, 140 degree heat of the dehydrator will hum through the night, concentrating the essence of the fruits. 

Tasting Notes:  Both apples and pears dried quite crisply. Oh, they are apple and pear chips! An unbelievably sweet and tart crunch. The lemoned batch was even sparkier. Would be a perfect snack when in need of appeasing a sweet tooth. They could be added to granola, softened in oatmeal, etc....for the time being they are handed out as snacks at Old Frog Pond Farm's table at the Harvard Farmer's Market on Saturdays.

 Next batch exploration : Slice thicker, dry less time, for a moister, softer and chewier texture.

Please share your comments and suggestions, recipes, and related food and garden artwork or photography with us to post in this blog. Reap the harvest! Lynn


Berry Jammin'

August 7, 2013:

Kitchen Experience--a plethora of just-picked early raspberries and luscious large blackberries right off the vines begged to be preserved. Inspired by Kevin West's cookbook, Saving the Season, Linda and I experimented with small batch preserves that we could "put up" in a couple of hours in the late afternoon without using pectin or confining ourselves to the kitchen for hours on end. For our first batch, we nervously tested for the gel point with spoon drips to sheets, candy thermometers (220 degrees), and quick freezer reviews. We quickly became more confident as we progressed batch-to-batch (though we decided it could be used for syrup and on yogurt if it didn't gel firm enough for jam). We trusted the jam had jelled sufficiently and enthusiastically proceeded.

Batch 1:  Raspberry Preserves (half crushed berries, half whole). A two-step process net 5-1/2 pint (8 oz) jam jars. Mix 2 lbs. Raspberries (picked over for any stems, leaves, bugs!) with 1 T lemon juice, and 2 c sugar. Crush half the mixture (if you can't find a handy potato masher, nature provides!), leave half whole. Bring crushed mixture to full boiling point, stir constantly as it rolls. Cook at medium high, stirring for 6-8 minutes till gel point reached. Add whole berries and bring back to gel point (another 6-8 minutes). Pour into sterilized jars and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Listen for the lids popping!

Batch 2:  Raspberry Jam (all crushed berries). We quickly decided that the extra step of adding whole berries was not necessary. Most of the whole berries melted down and it took twice as long. This batch, all crushed, same proportions of ingredients (except for a little more sugar--approx 1/4c more) produced 6-1/2 1/2 pints (8 oz) jam jars. All-crushed-berries jam was definitely more "home" economical.  

Batch 3: Blackberry and Raspberry Jam. Time was short. We pulled out a larger pan and doubled up the "small batch" to use up the balance of berries we had left at a fast clip...2 1/2 lb Raspberries and 2 1/2 lb Blackberries, 4 c sugar, 4 T lemon juice. We're finished our preserving in a little over 2 hours. Net 12-1/2 pints (8 oz. jam jars)---plus one short for refrigerator jam....

Tasting Notes: Batch 1 gelled softly, a bit extreme on the sweetness, tart, deeply flavored raspberries.   Batch 2 gelled even a bit softer texture, sweeter if possible and brighter tasting. Batch 3 "We tried the raspberry/blackberry this morning -- very juicy and wonderful – not jammed thickly -- a real fruity sweet spread". --- Linda and Blase  

Perfect for yogurt or pancakes! 

Next Batch Exploration Try making own pectin from the early green apples and lemons for further preserving so that we can use less sugar and shorten cooking time when preserving. 

Fruit jams, spreads and syrups available for sale at the Farmstand. Berry On --- Lynn