One fine morning, we rose early (taking a break from that prolonged, distracting state that we call moving house) and headed to the farm with our buckets, hats and snacks.
A summer isn’t right without a few trips to the local farms, strawberrying, raspberrying. I feel rooted and stable when I’m eating food we’ve gathered ourselves, and I see the children are so content.
We are so lucky to know a farm that uses organic practices. (If you’re on the southern part of Vancouver Island, visit Nicholas Farm, they’re wonderful, I’m so grateful to live nearby.) Not a chemical to worry us, and such beautiful rows of heavy fruit.
Be sure to bring your young blueberriers with you. They are nimble and close to the little bushes, and if you ply them with sandwiches they may pick quite a heap.
My small one shouts “Jackpot!” upon finding gigantic berries. Extraordinary things. Six of us picked 120 pounds of gorgeous fruit in a short morning on the farm.
Berries to cook into jam or kiiseli or tarts; to dry, to sink in a jar of gin, to freeze. I could live on the beauties. Soon we’ll plant our own little patch and go blueberrying at the lakeside cottage.
By the middle of July the red currant bush is heaving with ruby fruit. Each year I see it fruiting, all glamourous and jewelled, and a few possibilities go through my mind.
Red currant cordial, a boozy version with rum and spices? Red currant jelly, lightly sweetened with apple and stevia? Frozen red currants to throw over ice cream and other lovely things! What would you make? I’m still considering the delicious prospects.
My sweetheart is fond of marmalade, so I got some Seville oranges to make it for him. I’ve just begun to learn to preserve. Sometimes it isn’t as easy as it sounds to me when I’m inspired! Still I highly recommend it. This recipe is from a glorious book, Sloe Gin & Beeswax, which a dear friend of mine gave me when we moved into the cottage.
It’s old fashioned marmalade, though unusual in that it begins with cooking the oranges whole.
Then halving them and scooping the pulp & pips into a separate pan;
Slicing the peel and dissolving sugar on low heat, along with the pectin and lemon juice, then boiling til set. This is where I ran into trouble, and didn’t get an expert set. This is okay. My jars were no longer hot, so I needed to juggle hot jars, stubborn rubber rings, and dinner. However it did give the marmalade time to settle, so the peel didn’t float to the top!
I’m awfully pleased with the result, despite the wobbly set. We had it on toast for breakfast, and it was like eating a little bright bit of morning sunlight. I’d like to store them where I can gaze at their wonderful colours.
Speaking of colour, I’ve been painting the antiques in serene shades, and got through half of the chairs, finished painting one table, and I’m ready to polish the wax on another. Very exciting!
I had never made jam, and the whole process made me quite nervous. Excited – but nervous. We went raspberrying in July and brought home a bushel and a peck, and I had to face the berries. In Canada we have a large freezer, and I could have used it in cowardice. In England our freezer is the size of a large dictionary, and truly, I want to learn to make jam that sits prettily, efficiently in a pantry through winter.
Still, I was daunted, so my small girl and I decided we would make jam, but not preserve it. That’s a good step, yes? We followed the instructions on the pectin box, and cooked up some gorgeous raspberry jam, sweetened with reduced apple juice. We kept it in the fridge and shared it with friends and family. Next year I swear I will preserve a row of these. Do you make jam?
Little by little is just fine.