17 September 2013

The F word

I know I mentioned the F word in yesterday's post but, well, really. Before the equinox? It's just not cricket.

16 September 2013

Bean counting

The dried beans have been piling up over the last few weeks. On the left are the star performers - Cherokee Trail of Tears, which have been wonderfully productive. Next are the Hidatsa Red and Early Mohawk beans - respectable but not huge producers. On the right are the frankly rather disappointing Deseronto Potato beans. Only one of the beans I sowed germinated - there are more beans still to come from that plant, but I'm going to have to save them all for seed for next year so won't get to taste them this winter.

Nearly all the Trail of Tears beans have been picked now, but the plants don't give up that easily - there are flowers and baby beans visible on them again. I doubt these will reach the dry bean stage before we get a frost, but you've got to admire their persistence!

07 September 2013


If I had to summarise the summer of 2013 in a single word, that's the one I'd go for. Not that there has been endless rain, and we didn't get the horrendous floods that Calgary and Toronto saw this year, but there's definitely been more rain than we've had in recent summers - and it seems to have come in good long spells, rather than short thundershowers, which has been great after last year's dry season. The fact that I've now harvested several cauliflowers is evidence of that.

The temperatures were dead-on average for August and slightly higher than average for July, which just goes to show that my perception of the summer as being a cool one is completely wrong. Maybe it's just in comparison with earlier summers.

It's been a good year for the regular potatoes - this is my crop of 7kg of Pink Fir Apple potatoes.* I've still got to lift the Russet Burbank ones and the sweet potatoes, although the vines of the latter didn't grow as much as I was expecting them too. Sweet potatoes like hot and dry conditions, so I'm not expecting a stellar crop of those this year. Some you win...

*The dog was no help at all in digging them up, despite the proprietorial impression he's giving here.

03 September 2013

Plum preserve

When we lived in the UK I used to buy a fruit preserve by Bonne Maman - I think it was plums or peaches (or perhaps both). It was good as a fruit pie or crumble filling or to go with ice cream - it was softer in texture than a jam, but sweet.

I haven't seen the same product over here, but when I saw the plums coming along in the orchard I remembered it and thought I'd aim for something similar if the crop was a good one. The variety we're growing is 'Stanley'.

Mike and I harvested the plums today, fighting the wasps for them. There were over eight pounds in all - not bad for our first harvest - and I've converted all of them into preserve, in two batches. Once they'd been stoned and quartered, each batch weighed about four pounds, to which I added four cups of sugar and a little water. Then I just brought the mixture to a boil until my cooking thermometer read just under 100°C/210°F. As it's not a jam, you don't need to worry about reaching setting point and they don't need long cooking - about 15 minutes at boiling point is plenty.

The skins turn the cooking liquid a deep, ruby red, which looks fabulous with the light behind it.

This quantity of plums made nine one-pint jars of preserve. I processed eight of them in a hot-water canner to make sure they won't spoil in storage and thought we'd have the other one in the next week or two as a dessert. But Child#2 spotted the jar this evening and thought it would be really good to have it in a plum crumble RIGHT NOW. For quality control purposes, naturally.

He knows me too well. Guess what's in the oven...