Easy Way to Preserve Great-Tasting Juice from Excess Fruit

… juicing with a steam juicer

  • a steam juicer sitting on top of an oven
  • looking into the fruit part of a steam juicer that has cherries in it
  • Jars upside down in a pan of water in an oven
  • six upside-down jars full of red juice sitting on a cutting board surrounded by nectarines
  • a bunch of collapsed cherries that have had the juice steamed out of them - skins deflated and limp

In an older post, we talked about juicing cherries for juice to ferment into a hard cider.

In this post, we preserve the juice by canning it for later use. We mixed fruits for “craft” juices, this time nectarines and cherries.

This is a great way to process excess, blemished or overripe fruit.

We use a NorPro steam juicer. It’s so easy. Dump the fruit in top (no peeling, pitting or pre-processing required except washing). Steam it up. Decant the juice into canning jars. Seal.

It took about 3 hours from start-to-finish to produce 8 quarts of juice preserved for later use. Most of the time is just waiting for the steam to do its work. You can multi-task!

The juice in these jars will stay good for years, but who wants to wait that long??!

The New Garden’s First Radishes

… following close on the heels of beautiful, abundant, spinach

We’ll have some with dinner this evening and let you know how they taste (taste update: they were mildly spicy, so we picked a whole bunch more!). The roots looked beautiful — they liked the soil! We have several varieties. With our heat wave, they may already be hotter/spicier than ideal, but we’ll see.

How many bags of frozen spinach does 10 gallons of leaves make?

… no, not an algebra problem, the answer is in the photos …

  • a row of large, green spinach leaves dwarfs a white bucket sitting next to it
  • a yellow container full of spinach leaves
  • a yellow container full of spinach leaves that says 10.57 u.s. gallons
  • six quarts of steamed spinach in zip lock bags reading for freezer

This was the most amazing spinach crop we’ve ever had. The leaves were tender and tasty. David picked and processed this batch this morning.

One of our favorite things to make with the spinach is something called spinach patties.

Spinach Patties

Recipe only in my head: 

boil a couple of potatoes with a sliced onion.

Drain very, very well and mash. 

Wash as much spinach as you can stuff into a 5qt pot, drain the spinach, stuff it into the pot, and turn the pot on low (the spinach will steam and settle without any additional water, just watch it closely and flip the whole mass over about half-way through). 

Mix the steamed spinach with the potato/onion mash, and add grated cheddar cheese, some mace, salt, pepper to taste. 

If you’ve kept everything very dry, you should be able to form the mashed-up mess into patties.  Roll the patties in oatmeal (you can slightly grind the oatmeal if you want finer flour coating), and then fry them in a small amount of olive oil.  

These are a bit of work, but yummy.  Good Luck. 

You may have to adjust ingredients to get the right consistency.

A Bowl of Cherries

… it’s just the tip of the iceberg

David picked about 20 gallons of cherries yesterday!

Pitting party, anyone??

Cherries can be a fickle crop around here. The tree that produced this bounty lives in someone’s yard in Chico. We’ve picked from it for years, but it hasn’t had a crop in the last several years. Our own, sweet cherry tree never manages a crop, and our friends with the large, organic orchard didn’t produce a crop this year, either. Cherries are really sensitive to temperature, light and moisture when they are blooming/setting. And then the birds get them! So these (and gallons more) are the only cherries for miles around.

New Garden Planted and Mulched

… just in time for an unusually heavy, springtime rain in the forecast!

  • a large, fenced vegetable garden with rows of green, growing plants and straw mulch covering the soil
  • a large, fenced vegetable garden with rows of green, growing plants and straw mulch covering the soil
  • a large, fenced vegetable garden with rows of green, growing plants and straw mulch covering the soil

Thanks to our friend Bob for the tomato plant starts. His are doing well. Something bad happened to ours and they are struggling to live. They germinated nicely, but are starting to shrivel and die – we have no idea what happened to them. So far, the other seedlings (peppers, melons) planted in the same potting soil (which we make from compost) do not appear damaged.

David worked very hard to get these rows set up and all the mulch down before 2″ of rain predicted. The rain has given me a reprieve from finishing the irrigation setup. I’m going to try and use gravity and a pool sand filter for water from the aqueduct above the arena. Irrigation tape supposedly works very well with low-pressure, and maybe the large sand filter will minimize all the work it takes to keep individual drip filters clean and functioning.

The mulch is there as a weed barrier and to conserve moisture. Since this is a new garden, we are going to struggle a bit with grasses and weeds trying to re-establish themselves, especially evil Bermuda grass. The mulch helps a lot to suppress weeds and grasses.

The gopher-proof melon boxes are created from locally grown and milled, incense cedar, and have 1/2″ galvanized hardware cloth on the bottoms to keep gophers from drilling up and pulling down the melon plants just when they are looking to produce beautiful melons.

Have I mentioned how unhelpful gophers are in the garden? They do move gladiolus bulbs around and eat a few, but not their favorite food and we have so many bulbs, it’s not a problem with those. We will struggle with gophers though for some of the other plants. There are hundreds of gophers in the surrounding pasture, just waiting to move in. David will be ready with traps. And: calling all owls!

Click on this link to the first post about this garden to see what the new garden looked like when we first started this project this year.

Celebrating the Return of Spring

a little rain, and a cool front — welcomed relief from early heat …

Chocolate cinnamon chip cookies fresh from the oven and a comfy fire in the fireplace

After weeks of intense, outdoor work, we were forced indoors by a pleasant cold front that brought a small amount of rain.

Yes, the swimming pool temperature is going to sink (it had reached 76 F), but any rain we get in California this time of year is welcomed.

We also took the opportunity to clean the house — something neglected with all the outdoor chores and no visitors because of the virus-related isolation.

Hope everyone is safe, sound, cozy and well — finding ways to enjoy some things that bring joy.

Amaryllis

The Great, 2020 Water Project – Current Status

So far, so good … !

  • water rushing over rocks in a creek
  • water trickling over rocks in the creek
  • 200' of pipeline stretches off into the distance
  • A view through something like a tunnel, 20' of rusted, corrugated steel pipe full of little white spots which are pin holes

We talk more about this project here: Water, and Our Essential, Antique Infrastructure. The last picture in the slide-show above shows the badly-rusted pipe we replaced. Imagine 200′ of that, under pressure. It was a giant water sprinkler — not good on the side of a mountain. Not good at all. We are so relieved that is fixed!

Benefits and Limits of ‘Growing Your Own’

Grown by us, here: lettuce, asparagus, beans (last summer from freezer), turkey, pesto (in pasta). Not grown here: pasta and flour in sourdough bread. David made the bread. There is also some grated Romano cheese on the lettuce. That cheese was not produced here, but we have blocks of cheddar aged and almost ready! Small amount of olive oil and margarine also not grown here.

We have experimented with growing our own wheat and making flour. It is a very tedious and labor-intensive process. Also requires a substantial amount of land to produce the grain necessary for the quantity of flour we use. If we had to grow our own grains for flour, there’d be a lot less flour consumption around here! We do have acorns and cattails (sources for flour used by Native Americans), but it would be hard to produce the volume and quality we are used to using. So, here’s a shout out to farmers who produce cereal grains for the world — what you men and women do is so taken for granted.

BTW, thanks Bob for the lettuce starts — they are growing beautifully, as you can see!