It is autumn and the leaves are turning beautiful colors of yellow, orange and red. We know winter and the rains are coming, but first we have the task of gathering all the beautiful fruits of the season and preserving them into something equally beautiful to last until next autumn. The autumn fruit is ripening and so far we’ve been successful in reaping the harvest before the birds and raccoons got to them. Surprisingly, the raccoons only ate the fruit from one tree, early in the summer, and I think they ate all the grapes that we left on the vines that we didn’t like.
The first fruit to ripen was the Asian Pears. Oh my, they tasted lovely, fresh and ripe from the tree. I never really liked them before, because in the stores and farmer’s markets they are not ripe, and not delicious, and they don’t ripen on your counter. They are the one type of pear that ripens on the tree. They are also one of the few fruits with a low acid content, so we had to be very careful in choosing recipes for canning.
So, instead, we decided to dry the Asian Pears even after the dried grape, AKA raisin, debacle. The grapes took forever to dry and did not look at all appetizing, and they had an odd flavor. One of the things we should have done was to dip them in fruit fresh to give them a more pleasing color. We also had them in the dehydrator too long and it was just not good. I didn’t even take any photos–too scary.
So we cut up the pears in exact 1/2-inch pieces and dipped them in a fruit fresh solution and dried them until they were pliable. Oh my….they are like candy. What a treat! This fruit is wonderful fresh and dried!
Asian pears in the front of the basket; dried Asian pears in the jars
At the same time we had a large amount of Italian plums so we dried them also. They are very good; a lot more tart than the pears, but chewier. The two complement each other very well.
Next up were the Bartlett pears, and we had so, so many of them, and even after picking bushels of them, we still had some left on the tree.
We seem to have a bumper crop of pears, or maybe it just seems like it because we don’t like canned pears. So what to do with them all? I looked through all the canning books and came up with a list of what seemed to be the most interesting and unusual recipes. We started with Pear and Rosemary Preserves which have a beautiful color and a delicious flavor. Second was Ginger Pear Chutney. Third up was Pear and Chocolate Jam, then Pear and Port Compote and lastly Pear Caramel. Okay, I like sweet foods, but this was ridiculous. Everything tasted so good and I tasted too much of them all.
from left to right: Ginger Pear Chutney, Rosemary Pear Jam, Chocolate Pear Jam, Pear Compote, Pear Caramel
In between all the pears and plums we also processed huge amounts of grapes–the fore-mentioned raisins and also grape juice. We used the same red flame grapes at two different times but the two batches of juice turned out to have different colors. We had to buy a steam juicer at Bi-Mart for this operation. The grapes go in the top third, the boiling water is in the bottom and when the steam hits the grapes they release their juice and it goes into the middle chamber and out through a tube.
We ended up with many quarts (I forgot to count them). We keep meaning to buy some sparkling water to mix with it, and I think it will be a nice refreshing drink…if we ever remember to buy it.
Red Flame grapes; we think the green grape is used for making wine. It is not good for eating or making raisins
We now have a big basket of plums cooling down in the basement and I am determined to make Plum Sauce. A friend gave us a jar last spring and it is fabulous! So I want to make as much of that as possible. It’s just that we are also busy preparing for the Master Food Preserver Salsa and Tomato class, working at the class, then working at the Sauerkraut class. I hope we can get to those plums before they go bad…
Several weeks later: The Salsa and Tomato class went well as did the Sauerkraut class. We brought home 3 big jars of sauerkraut-to-be. It takes quite awhile for the cabbage to turn into kraut. We also made the wonderful Plum Sauce. It is a savory sauce, used on meats.
In October, the apples finally got ripe enough to pick and we have boatloads of them! Good thing too, because we wanted to continue to tradition here of having an Apple Cider Pressing Party. Our friend, Dave, volunteered to come over and help us pick the apples and we had a great time. Thank you, Dave! We picked the Melrose and Golden Delicious, but decided the Granny Smiths and Winesaps were not quite ready yet. They did get ripe about a week and a half later, just in time for the party. There will be a separate post on the party. I have to say though, that the Melrose apple is just about the most perfect apple I’ve ever tasted–crisp, not too sweet, not tart, and juicy. I haven’t tried baking with it, but I did read that it is good for that also.
Golden Delicious and Melrose apples
We had one last crop; kind of a surprise, but a good one. We have an old hazelnut tree and a new one that we planted this year. I had gone out to see if there were any nuts on the old tree, but didn’t find any. Bruce came in a few days later with a handful of them. Oh boy! We put them in the dehydrator and dried them for a couple of days and with much anticipation cracked them open. Cracked every last one of them open. They sure looked good on the outside, but there was no meat on the inside. What a colossal disappointment, especially when we went to a local U-Pick farm and they had TONS of them. So, we are hoping for a good crop next year. We know we can grow hazelnut shells, now our goal is to grow some nuts!
“Bittersweet October. The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect pause
between the opposing miseries of summer and winter.”
– Carol Bishop Hipps