Flowery Friday.

ABFPNormandeau

I didn’t quite realize it before we moved in last summer, but our new home is situated on a property containing a delightfully large number of apple trees.  There appears to be several different cultivars. I have no idea what they are (it’s a bit easier to narrow the ID on them when they fruit!), but what a treat to see them blooming right now.  The sight – and lovely sweet scent! – makes me smile each time I head out the door.

Which fragrant flowers in your garden are your favourites?

 

Book review: Apples of North America.

books

Apples of North America – Tom Burford (2013, Timber Press, Portland)

Here is THE book for anyone who loves apples – whether that means eating and cooking with them or growing them. Orchardist Tom Burford has assembled a thoroughly-researched guide to 192 apple varieties found in North America, offering tips on how to successfully grow apples in both orchard and home garden settings, from seed to harvest and storage.  There are even detailed instructions for cooking apple butter, drying apples, and pressing and making apple cider (my favourite!).  The individual apple portraits are the best part of this book:  each page is complete with photographs (so you can see the variations of colour and striping), and a short blurb about the apple’s history, outstanding tree characteristics, interior and exterior descriptions, notes about disease resistance, and ratings for use (dessert, baking, frying, drying, cider, applesauce, vinegar, landscape design, etc.) and storage.  Not only informational, this book is a delight to pore through – I wasn’t familiar with most of the varieties in the book as few of them make it to our grocery or markets, so it was a treat to see how they all varied in size and colouration.  The breeding history of each one is fascinating as well – Burford goes beyond the science to tell the stories behind each apple.

Mmmm…now all I can think of is apple crisp warm from the oven (can you tell I haven’t eaten breakfast yet?).

What are your favourite apple varieties – and your favourite ways to eat them?

Recipe: Sea buckthorn and apple jelly.

(Photo credit:  R. Normandeau)

My hubby and I managed to get out this past Saturday morning and gather some sea buckthorn fruit so that I could try my hand at making jelly from it.  If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll recall that I made a sea buckthorn beverage last year – I just love the citrusy taste of the berries and their gorgeous sun-bright colour.

Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is a fairly common roadside plant here in Calgary – the City planted many of them years ago, mostly for erosion control on slopes.  It’s one of those shrubs you’d be hard-pressed to kill:  it’s tough-as-nails, drought-tolerant, pollution and salt-tolerant (good for our winter roads and all that de-icing salt), and a fairly aggressive spreader.  You don’t find it employed as an ornamental landscape plant very often, but it’s really very pretty, with silvery-green leaf clusters and the brilliant autumn fruit.  (Both male and female plants are required for fruit production).  Sure, some people may be turned off by the thorns, but they contribute to the shrub’s rabbit and deer resistance, which can’t be a bad thing, right?!

The only thing that irks me to no end about gathering sea buckthorn berries is that it’s just such a difficult process – the fruit only comes off the stems under extreme duress.   The kind of duress that leaves you standing there with bright orange seabuckthorn juice all over your clothes and squirted in your eye.  I’ve read that commercial harvesters of the shrub just go along and prune off fruit-bearing branches, freeze them for awhile, and then “shake” the berries free…but I didn’t give that a go.  I ought to have – it took me FOREVER to get the berries off of the branches.

But it’s worth it for this jelly.  Trust me.  It’s so yummy and pretty!

Small-Batch Sea Buckthorn and Apple Jelly

(I added apples to this recipe because I didn’t use commercial pectin – sea buckthorn doesn’t have very much natural pectin, so the addition of a high-pectin fruit helps the jelly set properly.  I had some British Columbia-grown ‘Sunrise’ apples, but use any variety you love.  Crabapples would work as well).

4 cups sea buckthorn berries, washed thoroughly

3 apples, washed, peeled, cored, and diced finely (if you don’t want to go to the trouble, and your apples are organic, you can leave the peels on)

1/2 cup water

Place berries, apples and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer fruit for 20 minutes.  Stir periodically and crush the fruit against the side of the pan with the back of the spoon.  (It all mashes down pretty well on its own, and won’t require much additional help).

Strain the fruit through a jelly bag (or several layers of cheesecloth) over a large bowl.  Don’t force the fruit through the bag – this will make the jelly cloudy and you don’t want that!  Set it up so that the fruit can slowly strain overnight.

In the morning, sterilize your canning jars and lids.   Measure out the juice.  I ended up with 2 cups using this recipe, but your measurement may vary slightly.  Place the juice into a saucepan and mix in an equal amount of white sugar.  Bring the sugar and juice to a rolling boil and boil, stirring constantly, until you’ve reached gel point.

Carefully pour the jelly into the sterilized jars, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (don’t forget to adjust the length of time according to altitude, as specified in this handy chart).  If you plan to eat the jelly soon and don’t want to go to all the trouble of processing jars for storing, you can just pop the jars into the fridge once the jelly is cool.  It is a very small batch, after all…and you’ll be hooked once you have a taste!

Do you grow sea buckthorn in your garden, or do you forage for sea buckthorn berries?  

 Looking for more sea buckthorn berry recipes?

My sea buckthorn berry recipe book, Sea Buckthorn Bounty: Recipes is now available here!

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