We haven’t had a blog post in quite awhile – been too busy in the garden and in the kitchen preserving the harvest. Well, that and a vacation, home renovation project and general Minnesota summer business.
So, where to begin? How about the bees. We have done three honey extractions now and our hive produced about 10 gallons of honey – that’s in addition to the load of honey we’re leaving for the bees to eat over the winter.
The first batch (previewed in separate post) was light and clear; subsequent extractions produced darker, later-season honey likely supplied largely from goldenrod. All three honeys taste delicious and only slightly different, and unless you were tasting them side-by-side or were the honey world version of a sommelier, you probably couldn’t tell the difference. Bottom line: We got a ton of honey in our first year, and that’s awfully exciting. I have two neighbors who homebrew, so honey-for-beer with them will be a great barter system.
The chickens are doing OK, except one fell ill and died a few weeks ago, a death I think was exacerbated by the extreme heat at the time. The remaining five however are in fine shape and laying like the dickens.
Leita was determined this year to finally load up on apples from a tree in our neighborhood that nobody ever seems to pick. There are two trees, actually, on a business block that produce abundant apples, so finally we said “Go,” took a ladder over there and gleaned the heck out of those trees. Leita came home and canned several gallons of applesauce only using about half the apples – we gave the rest to a friend for canning. It’s amazing the amount of food that can come from just one or two trees, and hopefully our “secret” trees will remain that way for years to come.
I kept canning pickles as the cucumbers came in, and I’m freezing my canning tomatoes for making pasta sauce. This is a great trick I learned a few years ago – core your tomatoes and freeze them; when they thaw the skin peels right off, the liquid drains away and you’re left with the pulp for sauce making. No blanching, no ice bath. Also we had a bumper crop of basil that’s making a lot of pretty pesto to be frozen for winter.
Then a trip to my parents’ house in Wichita, Kan., resulted in a load of peaches from their peach tree. I canned about eight pints’ worth of a recipe from my Ball book for “honey spiced peaches” – those were a lot of work, but boy will they be good. Then I took the extra peachy syrup and boiled some water with the pits; I filtered off the liquid and am macerating it with vodka and spices to make peach liqueur. Who knows how that will turn out, but peaches + sugar + vodka has to equal something decent, doesn’t it? Up next is homemade cranberry liqueur, which I made last year and turned out terrific – here’s the recipe.
The garden is definitely winding down, but we’re still getting tomatoes and peppers, and our late-season crop of lettuce is coming up nicely.
The last photo here is during our recent vacation to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where we stopped at an Abbey bakery where they sold cranium-sized muffins and thimbleberry jam. Next time, I’m going to take a cooler to bring home Michigan blueberries – the ones we bought at the co-op in Marquette were fantastic and incredibly cheap at $4 a quart.