Sunday, July 20, 2008

Young at Heart, Canning Notes on Honey-Reduced #1

This morning's batch was the first honey-reduced apricots of the year, and now I am completely out of pints. I've bought all the pints they had at big lots [[From the editor--Mom, what does this mean?]], and a collection of jars at a local yard sale. I especially like the yard sale collections because of the wonderful mix of antique and modern jars, and because I like to think about how many times a jar has been filled with food, from how many gardens, orchards, farms; to wonder how many families have been fed from it, and how many times it has been given from one household to another filled with something wonderful.

It has been hot again, and there are trees full of soft, ripe fruit, and some red and green mixed in; I am hoping that there will still be some fruit hanging on the trees a week from today, when my daughter will visit me. HOORAY! How precious the time together is.

Today I saw the movie Young at Heart for the second time. Linda and Pat went too, as did Linda's friend, Sally. It was a great reminder how short and precious life is, and I think it is my new all-time favorite movie. Wednesday is the last day it is showing here, and I will probably go see it again before then.

P.S. If this post still contains misspellings, questionable punctuation usage, and lacks capitals, it is because my editor is traveling. She might even delete this little part when she reads it. Hi, editor, thanks for making me look good [[Hi, Mom]]

Now, off to the orchard for more joy of apricots.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Canning and Harvest Notes, Apricot Habañero 2 & 3

Today, Pat came over and together we canned about 120 pounds of apricots. That's two batches. I put three times the amount of habañero paste in #2 as was in the first batch. added only one pack of pectin--otherwise it is the same as the first batch. I thought that I was out of jars, and had three pints left over. I put that into batch number three, thinking the dilution would completely hide it. That third batch was the regular quart of honey and apricots to fill the pot. Hours after Pat went home and the jars had ceased their pinging, I tasted it, and the pepper heat is decidedly there. Batch number three is delicious. Batch number two is very hot.

Tomorrow begins standard honey-reduced apricots. A neighbor from up the street a mile or two will probably come over and pick.

Today was the first day this year the temperature made it to 100 F.

My tomatoes, jalapenos, and milder chiles are beginning to ripen, and I have a slow but consistent supply of eggplant, plenty of basil, sweet peppers, onions and garlic. I'm getting at least one big handful of ripe raspberries every day, the strawberries are done, and the lettuce, though bolting, is still tasty.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Apricot Habañero 1

Today, I canned my first batch of apricots. There was so much going on, it was hard to pay attention to the details. I decided to make this a warm one, with about the amount of heat i prefer for a peanut butter and jam sandwich: wonderful. flavorful fruit that seems to sparkle in my mouth, and once I swallow, I feel a delightful warmth in my throat. That was 1/3 cup of habañero paste in five gallons of apricots.

What else: approximately 45 pounds pitted apricots, 1 quart raspberry honey, 1 quart sugar, 2 boxes pectin. It took the whole morning to get through the whole process. Yield: 38 pints, which are cooling right now.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Wonderful Morning

I've just had the most wonderful morning in my garden. I am expecting 2 or 3 sets of visitors in the next week; I love showing off, and I love visitors to enjoy my garden, but sometimes it is difficult to know where to step. Even I can forget where I have seedling echinacea and rudbeckia, feverfew, cosmos, zinnia, and marigold. I have starts of bee balm. I have Mexican Hat flower that I have moved from one place to another, and right this minute I have a lot of shoulder-high amaranth, and even taller sunflowers.
My little Fourth of July rose is having a difficult time getting started, though it is its second year here, it is only ankle high. I have lots more, but I think the point is how lush the garden is, and I made the pathways more clear this morning. That should make the visits a lot more fun than spending the whole walk in the garden with me telling people where to put their feet, at every step.
I cut the clover and mint next to the main water course, restoring that pathway, and used the cut vegetation as mulch out where the wild things are (which is mainly dry weeds). The morning just went on and on... I cleared most of my waterways, which I love. To me when the sunlight reflects off them and shines up through the flowers they look like braided skeins of silver. There is a mint blooming dark purple, and the Vitex will soon be in flower. My purple day lily is blooming under towers of hollyhock and sunflower.

The passionfruit has taken hold of its "trellis" and is climbing, with tiny buds on it. Can it truly be, that it will bear fruit here in Western Colorado, survive the winter and return to fruit again next year? What magic. Other experiments with "plants not designated for this climate" are going well. The California bay tree/ Oregon myrtlewood, the persimmon, the lemon, the pomegranates are all looking healthy.

I watered the gourds (which seem to be getting a late start), but I do remember that last year once they got going, they ate the whole garden, so perhaps all is well, and a fine gourd crop is in store. Speaking of fine crops, the apricots are certainly abundant.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


The apricots are ripening, hanging in the orchard of 70+ year old trees like great rosy-golden bunches of grapes; no problems with pollination in this orchard. During this time of year, following a slowly warming spring, I have too many apricots.

Apricots flower very early, and once the fruit is set, are vulnerable to late freezing. This year's crop, when pea sized, was snowed upon. It was a warm snow, and no fruit was lost. (A not-so-warm snow or mild frost can take out a third of the crop overnight, and a second cold night can take a third of the remaining fruit, and so on. A hard frost will take it all. As late as Memorial Day we can get a hard freeze, making the question of thinning a real puzzle. If I thin, and successive frosts thin the remains, then where will I be?)

The fruit is late ripening, and coming on fast. The newspaper ran a story about apricot ripening dates this century: the last week in June five times, and the first week in July three times. Of course, the paper says the fruit is ready to begin picking now, which is not true in my orchard, but it does give an idea of the range of dates ripening occurs. I have also had ripe apricots the first half of June. There are years when we lose it all to a late freeze. I wish I knew when to plan on apricots. In the years I spent away, I used to plan on late June, and traveled just to preserve apricots, only to have green fruit. I started planing for the 4th of July, and if I had been traveling this year I would have again been stuck with green fruit. It is a hit-or-miss thing. I think I would still go with July 4th, because this year is very unusual.

I have eaten a few, and they are firm and tangy. I know how much better they will be in another week: then I will begin serious (joyful!) canning. The flavor is beyond description in very ripe apricots. I pick the first bucket and, cleaned and pitted, they go straight into the pot. Then I add enough honey (approximately 5 cups) to get the fluid to run, and begin to warm them. I keep picking apricots and adding to the warming reduction to fill the (7 gallon) pot and simmer while stirring until it turns glossy. Then, into the clean jars it goes. The yield is about 5 gallons.

Yummy! This year I think I'll begin to devise a salsa or habañero-apricot preserve. My scalp feels warm just to think of it.