Sunday, June 22, 2014

it was a berry good weekend (sorry, i couldn't resist)

it is a very good year for strawberries. they came on just in time for sabin's party last weekend and we were able to pick a huge, impressive bowl that day. then we were too busy to pick more than just enough to eat instead of after dinner, until saturday. saturday, i decided i'd do a major picking of the entire bed (whose bright idea was ten rows of 50+ plants each?).

i thought it might take me a couple of hours, but i was wrong. my first bucket was full after moving only one meter (yard) down the first row. i managed to enlist some help from a couple of teenagers, but, as you might imagine, they didn't last that long, tho' admittedly they lasted longer than i thought they would. by the time i entered full-on burnout and decided to just continue the next day, four hours of picking had gone by.

picking strawberries apparently just made the girls hungry and they went off to make waffles to eat with a big bowl guessed it...strawberries. we were going to have fresh honey to go with them as well, but husband checked the hives and decided to wait another week before our first harvest. that was ok, because i had enough to do with picking and cleaning and hulling the berries.

woody was very helpful. he would lie on the best berries, protecting them, i'm sure. the cats were all happy that we were out there, hanging out in the garden and molly and little bear also stopped by to "help."

with so many berries, i was on the lookout for creative ways of using them. we're not big jam eaters around here and tho' i will make some jam, i didn't want to use all of these berries for jam. so with the help of some suggestions on facebook and a bit of browsing around pinterest, i made a couple of 1.5 liter jars of something called a strawberry shrub (just google it, i can't be bothered to hunt down a link and i didn't use one in particular, but combined several). it's a vinegar-based drink that can be mixed with alcohol or just fizzy water - kind of a new (or perhaps ancient) form of tangy cordial. i ended up making one of cider vinegar and another of balsamic, as strawberries and balsamic vinegar make a surprisingly good pair.

i had a 3 liter box of vodka, so i also made three kinds of strawberry-based vodka: one with only strawberries, one with rhubarb and strawberry and a bit of ginger and one with strawberries and elderflower. can't wait to make cocktails using those. it's rather interesting how quickly the vodka begins to strip the color from the berries. when i strain them in a few weeks, i'll have to bake a cake or something with the boozy, but faded berries.

and speaking of berries, it won't be long before the blackcurrants are ready. they're some of my favorites of which to make cordials. we planted a couple more bushes, but they're still small and not producing much yet. but the two larger ones are doing well and we'll get some cordial to hoard away for the winter.

we have loads more redcurrant bushes and they are doing well. the first few berries are starting to get their ruby blush, but it will be a few weeks before they're ready in earnest. they have such high pectin, i always have to be careful that my cordial doesn't turn to jelly!

after a friend told me how dead easy and very delicious elderflower champagne is, i gathered some of the last elderflowers and made a vast vat of it. what's awesome is that you're supposed to forget about it for a week or so and let it start to ferment. turns out i'm pretty good at that. too bad i always threw it away when i did that, rather than realizing it had turned to alcohol and trying it out. silly me, i didn't know! i'll definitely let you know how it turns out.

five and a half hours of picking berries and another four hulling and preparing them over two days resulted in 9 (tho' only 7 are pictured) bottles of cordial, in addition to the vodka and shrubs above. it's a gorgeous, deep red color and is going to make for awesome cocktails.

working in the strawberry beds, i was reminded of why we moved out here to the countryside. picking berries, while time consuming, felt good for my soul. in this hectic, crazy, distracted world we live in, it's nice to do something that just takes the time it takes. i listened to music, but mostly, i enjoyed being in the garden, talking to the cats and picking the bountiful berries, just being in the moment with the task at hand, knowing that come next winter, i'd be glad i did it, as we enjoy the fruits (literally) of my labors. i think it's good for us to do things that result in something tangible, rather than the rather ephemeral labors we engage in on a daily basis at our desks. my berry stained fingers will attest to my labors tomorrow when i'm back in the office. and i will smile as i look down at them on the keyboard, happy from a productive, sweet weekend.

1 comment:

Sammi said...

Reading this I was just thinking, THIS is why they moved to the countryside. I still find it so impressive that you find time for all of this!

My life is am muddle of trying to find time to get anything done and work- especially mixed in with blogging, which is so much work that doesn't involve writing a post, either. Ugh! I've just been up for the last two hours writing a cleaning rota for my new bosses- because they're driving my absolutely f'n crazy!

Wish I was on the receiving end of some of that vodka, haha!