In which I carry buckets around because fresh food tends to appear
Summertime, and the fooding is easy...
|I no longer carry a bashed up pallet in my vehicle, |
but there are always buckets in the car in August.
Blackberries are the obvious easy target here in the Swampland--they are everywhere. This year's harvest promises to be a good one, as we had a damp Spring and a sunny Summer so far. That makes lots of big, fat, juicy, sweet berries.
But blackberries aren't the only food that runs amok locally. There are also apples.
|The "feral" apple trees of my youth have mostly aged out and died, but many folks have domestic trees|
and are eager to share the bounty!
At Fish Creek, an elderly apple tree was so heavily laden that two major branches broke off.
|This 2014 photo shows the venerable tree in the background at photo left, behind the grey horse|
We harvested the apples from those branches right off the ground. Dick told me that the tree was considered "old" when he bought the farm more than 40 years ago! Alas, it will probably not survive much longer.
But the apples, combined with some blackberries made excellent blackberry-applesauce.
The recipe* is at the bottom of this post.
The buckets are also used at home, of course.
|They consider themselves "very good with legumes."|
This year I planted 4 varieties of beans. We ate almost all the purple bush beans fresh. They ripen first, when we are enthusiastic about eating many beans at many meals every day.
I planted Blue Lake and Dragon Tongue pole beans for canning and pickling. In the garden, they like to grow taller than my bean poles, so I interplant Mammoth Sunflowers with the beans so the beanstalks can twine up the sunflower stalks.
|purple flowers will soon become speckled beans|
Jim and I have to schedule bean canning so we make sure that we set aside a whole day to do it.
|I plant and nurture the beans, and harvest and chop them.|
|Jim is detail-oriented, and is very adept at turning green beans|
into canned food for winter.
|14 quarts of canned beans.|
The pickled beans are a tasty snack, and good for gifts--we'll tackle that task in another week or two.
|7 quarts of blackberry-applesauce|
All this food: it's good.
*The promised recipe. But first, a note:
Have you ever watched me cook? More precisely, have you ever watched me looking at a recipe?
I consult books all the time--it's a kind of obsession for librarians--but here's the thing. I rarely follow the recipe.
I'm more like, "Oh, pumpkin soup, that sounds good, but I don't have any of the ingredients including pumpkin. I'll just throw in some butternut squash instead. And some yogurt instead of cream. And corn, because I like corn. And beans, maybe, there are a bunch of dried beans in the cupboard...."
Soon, the original recipe is nothing but a fond memory and a smeary page in a cookbook, which hopefully wasn't a library book.
This is as close to a recipe as I can make. (It's similar in tone to my recipe for soup, actually...)
you will need:
a big bucket of apples
Here in the Swamp, we take apples seriously. For example: you will rarely see a Swamplander eating a Red Delicious apple voluntarily, because there are so many good alternatives. Yellow Transparent is the traditional variety used for applesauce, but if you can get your hands on some Golden Delicious or Jonagolds, use those. Otherwise, use whatever you have--except Red Delicious. Feed those to goats, seriously, life is too short for Red Delicious apples.
some lemon juice or lime juice if that's all you have because you've been drinking summer rum drinks....
The lemon/lime juice keeps the apples from turning brown and unattractive. You won't taste the juice in the finished sauce.
a smaller bucket of blackberries
Blackberries are good for so many things. Jams, syrups...and applesauce! They make the finished product a brilliant color and give the flavor a boost. And, um, blackberries cover up slight browning in the apples if you've been drinking a lot of summer rum drinks and are running low on lime juice.
Notice that there aren't any measurements here. If you like a strong apple flavor, use mostly apples and relatively few blackberries. If you like blackberry flavor but don't quite want jam, use more blackberries in the mix. I used an apple/blackberry ratio of about 5:1, which makes a bright pink/purple sweet applesauce.
Peel, core, and slice the apples. No need to kill yourself doing this. If you plan to make a lot of applesauce, or if you plan to make some every year, get one of these to do some of the heavy lifting:
|We got our apple peeler/corer/slicer at the local hardware store, |
you can also order one online.
Dump the chopped up apples in a big pot with a bit of water, and simmer them down to softness over low heat. If it's really hot and you lack air conditioning (as we do), set up a camp stove or bayou burner in the shade outdoors. Make yourself a summer rum drink, and imbibe as the stuff starts to bubble.
When the apples are soft but not mushy, dump in some rinsed/drained blackberries.
Let the whole thing continue to simmer until it's mushy. Stir it sometimes. Let it cool a bit before the next step.
At this point it's traditional to mash the whole thing through some kind of strainer, but seriously: that is hard work and life is too short. I use a blender.
Blend until it's as smooth as you like. Some people like chunks of fruit, I prefer smooth. It's all good.
At this point, you can preserve your sauce several ways:
#1. Don't preserve it. Eat it all immediately! This is perfectly valid.
#2. Freeze it. Ziploc bags are good.
#3. Can it.
If you decide to can your sauce, you must follow the directions. It's too easy to kill people with botulism spores if you get casual at this point, which is why I back away and let Santa Jim take over the process of canning. He swears by the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. (It's one of the few books I think you should buy instead of borrowing it from the library...the library copies are all smeary, anyhow.)
Can your sauce using the water bath technique, set them out to cool on a counter where the cat can't reach.
|Why is Esmeralda not making eye contact, I wonder?|
Serve blackberry-applesauce over pancakes, oatmeal, or just eat it with a spoon.