Thursday, August 29, 2013

We are an ASC

That one plum tree can put out so much fruit is boggling. The tree overwhelmed us this year, making up for last year’s  plum absence. We suspect there was a frost then, unnoticed by us as the tree was in full flower. This year the tree flowered and then fulfilled on its promise.

One branch of plums provided for eight pints of plum chutney (click here for the recipe), another branch for another eight pints. Yet another branch allowed for six bags of plums to be frozen for pie fillings, cobblers, and crisps. All of this canning and freezing turned my fingers brown with the tannin, and used up only about half of the plums.

Naively hoping that one baked dish would use up the rest of them, I baked a cobbler. Foolish me. I then picked two dutch ovens-full and prepped them for jam. Again, I went through the routine. Washed, plucked stems, halved, pitted, lemoned, and filled two large cooking pots. That was it; I’d had it. I was done.

Out to the tree I went and picked every last plum. Relieved every last sagging branch. Got out the Japanese handsaw and cut down a really tall branch that I could not reach. I plucked it all clean. I did not wash, stem, pit or lemon these. Packed them into grocery bags and carted them off.

To the local food pantry. This felt good. Bags of plums that I do not have to process. We signed up with the local Cooperative Extension for them to quantify our donations. Last year, gardeners in this county contributed 40,000 pounds of produce to food pantries. Many farmer/gardeners have become CSA's: Community Supported Agriculture. We are now an ASC: Agriculture in Support of Community. This, too is a good feeling. It feels gratifying. It seems like this connection is one that can work for us. -jmm

Plum or Peach Cobbler

Cobbler is something we look forward to this time of year as the tree fruits ripen. Easy to make, and freezes well. This is my adaptation of several cobbler recipes; some use a lumpy, biscuit-like dough, but I like mine smooth...! This recipe makes a lightweight dough that seems to compliment the fruit. Delectable! 
Plum Cobbler 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine in a mixing bowl and mix well, then place into an 8 x 8-inch baking pan, or a glass 7 x 9-inch oven-proof glass pan (with a plastic lid for frige or freezer storage):

6 cups halved, pitted plums or sliced peaches
Dash of lemon juice
1/2 cup raw organic sugar (not needed if the fruit is very sweet)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp cornstarch

Place in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly:

1 or 2 eggs, slightly beaten.
1/2 cup honey or raw organic sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup water

Combine in a small bowl and mix well, then fold into the egg mixture:

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

Place spoonfuls of the batter onto the fruit, and spread to cover. Bake for 30 minutes until the fruit mixture is bubbling and the topping is lightly browned.
To thaw a frozen cobbler, place covered in oven for 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Midsummer Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie

Fruits and berries are ripening, so why not celebrate with a scrumptious fruity pie! Our garden has provided the fruits listed in the recipe, but feel free to experiment with the fruits in your garden, or with some of this and some of that purchased at a farmers market. Combinations including berries of any type, apples, peaches or other stone fruits will work for this recipe.
Blueberries ripening

6 cups of mixed fruits such as raspberries, blueberries, rhubarb
1/2 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup of whole whear flour
1 tbsp cinnamon

Place ingredients into a large bowl, stir thoroughly. If you are using apples or stone fruits, add a dash of lemon juice, and stir. Allow the filling to sit for 15 minutes while making the streusel topping and the pastry crust.

Streusel Topping

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup raw sugar
2 tbsp molasses
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chilled butter

Place the raw sugar and molasses into a bowl and mix until they are combined. Add the flour and cinnamon and mix well. Add the chilled butter, cutting it in with a pastry blender until the mixture is a coarse texture. Set aside. 

Single Pie Crust

1 cup minus 2 tbsp of whole wheat flour
Dash of salt
1/4 cup chilled butter
1/4 - 1/2 cup of ice cold water

Place flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Stir well to combine. Using a pastry blender, cut in half of the butter until the mixture resembles small peas. Cut in the remaining butter. Sprinkle with a small amount of ice water and toss with a fork. Repeat until the dough holds together when you pick it up and press it together. Place the dough onto a floured surface and press it flat. With a dough roller, roll out the dough into a circle a bit larger than the pie plate. Fit the dough into the pie plate, fold the edges under and crimp.

Scoop the filling into the pastry crust. Evenly spread the streusel over the top.

Bake for ten minutes at 425 degrees, then turn oven temp down to 350, and bake for 30 additional minutes or until topping is browned and filling is bubbling.  -jmm

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Tree Stump in the Oasis

Carving a place for a house out of woodlands leaves plenty of stumps behind. Although most of them have been excavated or cut even with the ground (a lot easier than digging them up), the one in the middle of the oasis (see the oasis post here) has stuck around. It dates back to when the house was built, making it about fourteen years along.

The oasis, an area between house and driveway and with a pathway separating it from the rose garden was a little isolated area of forest. It had several sweet birch trees and assorted undergrowth. This oasis was my first experience with transforming forest into cultivated land. I went up the road to the hardware and bought an ax.
A good place for heather 
After the trees were out, I added some plants into the area. Around the base of the stump seemed like a good place for heather that had been brought from the previous residence. And it seems happy there. Its long stems lie against the stump making it look like it is rooted into it. An illusion- the roots grow into the ground around the stump.
Colorful things grow on the stump
After fourteen years the stump has a patina like an antique thing covered in mosses and lichens. Quite beautiful with all of those tiny, tiny things thriving on it. It’s a true wonder. 
A parking place for containers
The stump is useful for more than propping up heather. It’s also a parking place for rusted and earthen containers- yard art in lieu of pink flamingos. Aged, rusty, dented, torn and chipped, the objects seem right at home on top of the mossy, rotting stump.

How long does it take for a stump to rot? Will the rusty bucket give way before the wood turns pucky? By virtue of its natural beauty it deserves a spot in the oasis and will stay until it finally rots into nothing. It’s kind of nice to have a stump in the yard that will not have to be wrangled out of the ground. -jmm