From Garden to Kitchen: Blooms, Beasties, & Blackberries!
Jul. 20, 2012 1:02 pm
Updated: Aug. 6, 2012 7:39 pm
It seems to me that every since the early days of joining AR and making some wonderful friends they have been urging me to share my gardens and gardening knowledge in a blog or blogs. Quite honestly, I thought their confidence in my abilities rather misplaced.
Yes, 20 years ago I did see this cow pasture where we built our home as a blank slate. I was so sure I could create a garden area that would not only be beautiful but also furnish herbs, fruits and vegetables for our table. No, I never paused to consider that
those large picturesque gardens I've seen on TV neither have a staff of 3 (me, myself and I) nor were they built on a skimpy shoestring budget. That didn't stop me from forging ahead and starting one garden then another and another... I even became a Master
Gardener in my pursuit of the perfect garden. A title that doesn't mean I know everything just that I'm supposed to know where to look for answers or whom to ask for answers to those plaguey problems that I always seem to run across. I do have a few reoccurring
ones as well as new issues cropping up every year. So what to share of my garden to kitchen adventures? First, I tried looking through the eye of my friends at the gardens to see if any on thing stood out. From a culinary standpoint, I do grow a large variety
of fruits, herbs and vegetables or I should say attempt to. Take the herbs; there are roughly 70 some scattered around here. Nope, no typo I'm counting everything classified as an herb that I've planted. Granted, I still don't know what to do with each of
them but I'm learning. This year with the help of friends and quests on the Buzz, I have tried several new AR recipes and finally used some formerly unused herbs. Still where to start, which garden and its bounty or lack there of. Finally, I found the decision
an easy one once I stopped worrying about trying to share any excellent gardening or culinary tips. After all Google is fantastic for fact-finding, Organic Gardening is on FaceBook and we all have AR to help with the rest. I decided it was really about coming
along with me through the gardens and seeing what ended up in the kitchen. My original garden is first up along with my foray into the blackberry jungle and the resulting blackberry creations.
Yep, this is how you get to it. I keep thinking that bridge will go at anytime. Years ago on this little island of land, I started my main gardens. Getting water over there was always a challenge and as the gardens around the house grew, the island went by
That's what it looks like from the island side.
The necessary attire for the job even though it was a humid 85 degrees with an expected high in the upper 90's later. Sweating profusely, in order to have most of your hide left intact resulted in that lovely outfit. Yes, I know there are thornless cultivars
but when I planted my patch, I used plants from my grandfather's farm and 10 purchased plants. They used to be in carefully tended rows but now look like this.
They were loaded this year despite the heat wave. It must have been the early rains that got them off to the right start.
They certainly got tall!
I found these unexpected blooms from an old flower garden. I'm surprised the glads were still there. I guess the heavy grass cover keeps them from freezing to death in our winters. I know I certainly wasn't freezing on the days I picked. Yes, you have to go
several times because the berries don't ripen all at once. Always something to look forward to, more opportunities to impale yourself on thorns. Let me tell you blackberry thorns are as vicious as fishhooks.
It was while I was extricating myself from one bush that I noticed I was not alone on the island. Yep, I could hear something farily large moving around in the brush. And me with my vivid imagination could just conjure up all kinds of possible beasties. Deer
have been using the island as both restaurant (there are 2 apple trees) and shelter but we have had bobcat and cougar sightings in the area. What were the odds some large fanged feline would be stirring in this heat just to get my hard won blackberries? With
dogged determination, I kept picking and my unseen companion settled down. Thank heavens because I really wanted to try a new recipe with some of my berries. I'd been waiting for a couple of summers to try it. Patience is a virture when dealing with Mother
First, you have to clean the berries of all the extras that managed to get in the bucket. Did I mention it is rather hard to pick with heavy leather gloves on but it beats the alternative of shredded fingers.
Since we had been invited to a July 4th BBQ, blackberry pie was the first of my berry experiments. The BBQ was buffet style and I thought making mini pies would be better than having to slice and serve big ones. Just because I had never made mini crusts nor
the fact I can't seem to make pretty piecrust no matter how hard I try didn't stop me. I just hopped on the Buzz and asked away. Marianne sent me to a pie making video. Then Mother Nature opened her oven door so no bake pie filling seemed ideal to keep from
having my oven on as much. My thinking was if I could just get the crusts down on a cooler day then I could make and fill them the day of the party. So back to the Buzz and old Betty Crocker (I have Mom's 1956 edition) for consults. Thanks everyone for your
My crusts were light & flaky and tasted great. I use butter only, chilled vodka in place of water and AP flour. As you can see, I still didn't master the fine art of pretty crusts. Deep sigh. The pie filling I did do on the stovetop using sugar as needed, cornstarch
and whatever additions I thought necessary for the fillings such as cinnamon, vanilla and lemon juice. After all, why stop with one filling when I could do 3? Despite the lack of rain, my peach tree yielded small but some of the best tasting peaches ever.
My sister sent several bags of her strawberries after cleaning out her freezer so I figured I would use them up too. All in all everything worked out pretty well and they did taste good.
This ice cream was a by-product of THE recipe I really was looking forward to making. I just wish it had been a little clearer on using the resulting soused fruit. It said don't throw it out but save for use in sauces. After watching the AR video of the easy
homemade ice cream, I thought I would whip up a batch of homemade blackberry ice cream by tossing some of that fruit in. Unless you really enjoy a particularly crunchy ice cream, the blackberries really need to be sieved and the remaining juice sans seeds
used as the flavoring. See, I may not have any great tips garden or culinary wise to share but I am confident I can ALWAYS tell you what not to do!
Now for the recipe I had been waiting so long to make, Homemade Blackberry flavored Brandy. Every since reading Mother Ann's heart warming story of her family sitting around drinking blackberry brandy left over from making their special cranberry sauce and
sharing stories, I have wanted to make my own. Why? Because I figured it would taste better than store bought and I really like Mother Ann's special recipe
http://allrecipes.com/personalrecipe/62566117/debs-awesome-baked-cranberries/detail.aspx< . My whole family agrees that cranberry recipe is the best they have ever had. I think the homemade blackberry brandy is excellent. I even made some blackberry flavored
vodka which is really good. It is so easy to make too.
1 quart blackberries to 750 ml of alcohol
You need a clean 2-quart container (I didn't have one so I used a quart mason jar and a pint jar). Carefully wash and pick through your fruit. Add to jar and then mash berries with a fork. Add alcohol to cover and seal tightly with plastic lids. You do not
want any headspace; oxygen can cause fermentation, which you don't want. I found that older not perfectly in their prime fruit can too. Yep, talk about percolation in a jar, not pretty. Store jars in a cool, dark place and gently stir or shake jar ever day
or two. You will see the color change and you can sample to see if your alcohol has reached the infused flavor you want. I stopped one batch after 7 days. I have another still infusing at 3 weeks. When ready, filter out the fruit. You can use paper towels,
coffee filters or cheesecloth to achieve a clear liquid. This takes time! I ran out of patience so my liqueur isn't going to be crystal clear. You can add sugar at this point if you want, using a simple syrup to make an after dinner liqueur. Honey or brown
sugar can be used also but the resulting liquid will turn cloudy says the recipe. Return the liquid to its original bottle and store away from heat and light. The longer it ages the mellower the flavor will become. Honestly, I find it quite good after 3 weeks
and I didn't add any sugar!
I hope you enjoyed today's journey through my garden and into my kitchen. Until next time, may your garden whatever size it may be help set your table!