Thursday, September 28, 2006

ripe autumn olive berries Posted by Picasa

Autumn Olive Jam ~ the Saga

Before I retired in June of 2004, I would bid farewell to this summer home and head back to work each fall. I would return in October to feverishly plant my garlic in a few days, and so I missed one of the great bounties of September … the autumn olive berries.

I spied them first in the fall of 2004 with their deep red color enriching the fall landscape. And then last fall my friends from Walatoola found a jar of autumn olive jelly which I devoured this spring. So I thought perhaps I should try my hand at making some myself.

I have never canned anything in my life. I don’t own any canning equipment. But I decided there’s a first time for everything.


I walked out on a sunny morning last week. The air was still and the berries glistened in the morning sun. As I made my way into the high grass, wet with the morning dew, the smells of wild mint wafted up as I crushed the grasses. I carried a paper bag and would take berry laden branches and lean them into the bag and strip the berries. Soon I had eight cups.


Now this part was interesting. First I had to separate the berry from its seed. So I added 2 cups of water to my berries and cooked them for about 20 minutes. I then put the mash through a sieve and had a little more than 5 cups of pulp. It looked like I would be making jam, not jelly. Just in time I received an email from my friend Jim (canner extraordinaire) and he provided two links that helped me decide on how to craft my own recipe. (see below)

Well I will spare you the details, but my jam did not set. So I was left with 7 jars of what I call “Autumn Olive Coulis.” It is actually pretty good … How does this sound for an over the top menu description? “Fresh local lamb chops rubbed with garden mint and fresh rocambole garlic, grilled over mesquite and served on an autumn olive coulis.”


So on Sunday I went out again to gather berries. This time the wind was howling and the branches flailed as I tried to tame them into my bag. BUT the 5 extra days of ripening made a significant difference in the size and sweetness of the berry.

This time I read the directions on the Sure-Jell BEFORE I started and I believe I have five nice jars of Autumn Olive Jam to show for it.

Recipe for Autumn Olive Jam

Gather 8 cups of ripe autumn olive berries. (For me in coastal Massachusetts, the pick date is September 25)

Add 1 cup of water to the 8 cups of berries and bring to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Run the mash through a sieve and you will have about 5 cups of pressed fruit.

Measure out 3 ½ cups of sugar. Take ¼ cup of the measured sugar and mix it with the contents of a package of no-sugar-needed Sure Jell. Mix it in with the pressed fruit and bring to a rolling boil. Add the remainder of the sugar to the boiling liquid and return to a rolling boil and let it boil for one minute.

Then can according to canning directions and cool.

I ended up with a little more than six 8 oz. jars of well set jam. Nice and tart.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

the tomatoes keep marching in ! Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 18, 2006

a lumpy rutabaga only a mother could love Posted by Picasa

Rustic Rutabaga

In years past when I have planted rutabaga only a few have come up, so this year I decided to plant nearly three rows.  They pretty much have all come up and it’s a LOT of rutabaga.  I grow them because they are an obligatory part of Thanksgiving dinner.  Or put in a more positive way, it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without them … in the way that a Seder would not be a Seder without the bitter herbs?  Rutabagas are like the mortar that holds all the flavors together on the Thanksgiving plate.  

So I was quite pleased last year when I ran into a post about rutabagas by a gardener in Illinois. Actually I didn’t really “run into it.”  I was actually so without a life that I was searching for “rutabagas” on a Saturday night.  But find it I did, and I invite you to visit this entry by Eyebrows McGee.

The ones I’m pulling out of the ground right now are pretty ugly.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Autumn Olive berries Posted by Picasa

Moving toward fall

I like to spend a few minutes each evening sitting on the back deck to watch the shadows lengthen over the garden. Sadly that time of day is coming earlier and earlier these days as the sun seems in a hurry to “get south.” I can spy the yellow of the goldenrod and a splash of red from a young sumac and the red berries clustered on the autumn olive. Soon there will be telltale signs of differentiation as the once all green landscape reveals a yellow leafed vine wrapped around a juniper or a willow.

But I have more tomatoes coming out of my garden right now than I have had all summer, so I am going to make myself a BLT for dinner and pretend it's not over yet.

all together Posted by Picasa

Glorious Blue

Hanna's comment about morning glory color has prompted me to confess that I have been trying to capture that color in a morning glory watercolor recently. With the help of my friend, Chris, who was an art teacher in a former life, I have been struggling to capture that piece of the sky hung on the garden gate. So far I am only a beginner. What a heartbreaking blue it is.

Monday, September 11, 2006

glorious ... Posted by Picasa

glorious... Posted by Picasa

morning glory Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 08, 2006

Voila! Posted by Picasa

Garlic Braid

I had a Martha Stewart moment last evening. It was Chris’s birthday and I wanted to bring something from the garden. I gathered some grasses and sumac and goldenrod and then pulled out a dozen softnecked garlic. Voila!

the final assembly Posted by Picasa

assembling the pieces for a garlic braid Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Garlic Observations

from dirty

to clean

I started cleaning the garlic about ten days ago . For the stiff necks that involves cutting the roots and the stalk and peeling back to a clean bulb. For the softnecks which I like to braid I do the same but leave the stalk or more accurately the leaf sheath. By the time I’m done with this task there are paper skins blowing all over the yard and stacks of stalks. It is a mindless task that puts me in touch with the crop and helps me decide what to plant for next year.

My Spanish Roja was a disappointment this year. Usually these are my largest bulbs, but they never quite made it to largeness. I suspect this has two causes. #1 I used my own seed stock and not the large bulbs from Filaree Farm. #2 I don’t think the nutrition was right and this holds true for the whole crop. Hopefully I will get it right this year. More on that later.

These hardneck varieties will only be fresh until Christmas so I need to use them first. And within the hardnecks different varieties last longer than others. The porcelains outlast the purple stripes and the purple stripes outlast the rocamboles. I am eating rocamboles now.

I have decided to drop some varieties this next year. For my climate, anyway, they just are not working. Goodbye to Nootka Rose and Oregon Blue. Both are softnecks that come in small and discolored every year.

The new varieties I tried last year were Pskem, Khabar, Sandpoint, Polish Hardneck, Sicilian and St. Helens. They all thrived with the exception of the St. Helens, a silverskin, that I harvested too early.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

after many years of trying, I FINALLY have a crocosmia growing near my corner fencepost Posted by Picasa

Let the pictures speak

I seem to be stuck about what to write about, so to get UNstuck I just went to the garden and started snapping pictures of what's growing in my garden.

summer squash and ... Posted by Picasa

... winter squash Posted by Picasa

one more artichoke Posted by Picasa

tomatoes are finally turning red Posted by Picasa

beets Posted by Picasa

rutabaga Posted by Picasa

a volunteer, late season cucumber ... Posted by Picasa

... and one HUGE cherry tomato volunteer in the compost bin Posted by Picasa