Summer’s Bounty

I can’t remember a summer where I’ve enjoyed the fruits and vegetables of the season more than this one. Although it was a busy summer with work and more house projects, there was always a chance to spend time in the garden, to stock up on local produce at the King George Farmers Market, and to get creative in the kitchen with fun ingredients. For the most part, baring a few calamities and skinned knees along the way, summer has been a very joyous occasion.

Blackberry Invasion

One of my favorite Saturday mornings was spent picking blackberries, trying to avoid the impending one-hundred-degree heat index that has pervaded the last month. With winding paths mowed through the tall grass, long sleeves, canvas pants, and enough DEET to take down a small elephant, I ventured out to return with more berries than I consumed. That’s a very tough order.


I returned with just enough to get started on my favorite blackberry cobbler, which would be the primary course at lunch that day (don’t judge), with another made later in the week. (The second one would definitely be topped with vanilla ice cream). The recipe is a perfect balance of sweet, tender biscuit, and fruit juice that has simmered into a syrup.


Over the next few weeks, we picked pound upon pound of blackberries that we froze or made into jam. Blackberry jam is one of my necessities for year-round survival, and sometimes I simply eat it with a spoon, it is so good! A few years ago, my friend Nicole told me that cooking jam in copper was the only way to fly. So last spring, I bought my first copper jam pan and gave it a try. I don’t know if it’s the increased evaporation, the contact with the metal, or just the sheer beauty of cooking in copper that makes the jam so much more delicious. Regardless, I’m hooked and will only go back to stainless for jam when it’s a necessity.IMG_0026

Five pounds of wild blackberries simmering in the copper jam pan. The fruit seems to glow!


The first batch of blackberry jam for the summer

The Garden

In the garden, some of my favorite varieties have really taken off this year. I’m hoping it’s the hard work I put into amending the soil and preparing the beds, but somehow I think it’s just good luck. You might remember my love for white acre peas, which I planted extra of this year. Other favorites that made an appearance include bowling red okra, straight eight cucumbers, early yellow squash, and pineapple cossack ground cherries. What are you growing in your garden?


The ground cherries look like small paper lanterns on the bottom of the basket


The white acre peas have been prolific this year, much to my liking

With another few weeks of summer left, the final tomatoes are just now ripening and fall planting will be underway. Here’s to the dog days of summer as we all look to cooler breezes and another joyous season just around the corner.

In a Jam

It’s been over three weeks since our last post and since that time, our appreciation and understanding of this new farm life has changed, in most ways for the better. You could say that we got into a bit of a jam – part of our silence has been the immersion in renovation projects and part of it attributed to a nasty case of Lyme disease. I never understood what a wicked affliction it could be until the multiple doctor appointments where it was misdiagnosed, time in the ER, and the discovery of its ability to attack the body neurologically. Thank goodness it was caught early enough and meds are underway. Unfortunately, it knocked us off track just slightly – and probably made me lose several many pounds of blackberries that I could have been picking! (But as I learned yesterday, there are now more berries than there were a month ago.)Jelly Jars

Blackberry Jam

And speaking of being in a jam, even with the minor loss of blackberry potential, we were able to preserve about fifteen pounds of berries using one of my favorite recipes. It’s simple, it lets the sugars do all of the work, and adds just a minor amount of lemon juice for balance. In one variety, we steeped a few sprigs of lemon balm that grows wildly on the property in the cooked jam. That batch was definitely my favorite, adding a very subtle hint of lemon. Those of you who know how much I love jam will know that fifteen pounds won’t go that far… it’s a good thing there are plenty more to pick!

And what can I say, of course we set up a blind taste test to ensure the quality of our product. In each trial, the unknowing lab rats identified batches C and D as their favorites. I can only infer that this means we got better as we progressed!

Trifoliate Orange

Now we are waiting on the hardy (trifoliate) oranges that will ripen in early fall. I’m already planning a devilish marmalade – something to pair with the intensity of those thorns!

All in all, we are getting back on track and taking each summer day as it comes. And jam really does make everything better.