Strawberries aren’t the only berry that we have an abundance of this year. Home grown cherries, blueberries, and currants have also found their way into our diets.
Although our cherry tree suffered quite a large fruit drop, and we split the crop about 50/50 with the robins in the neighborhood, I was able to harvest enough to make a cherry crisp and today’s dessert, a cherry pie.
Once our blueberries started to ripen they were disappearing faster than we could pick them. The robins have an advantage of being able to sit on the fence and wait until each berry turns just the right shade and then pluck it from their stem and enjoy it as a meal. We on the other hand show up once a day to pick whatever berries might be ripe, then save them in the refrigerator or freezer until we have enough for a meal. Thus we decided early on that netting the bushes would be necessary if we wanted to harvest any blueberries.
My husband pulled out this roll of netting that he found in somebodies trash a couple years ago. Last year we were happy to have this stored away, when we found it necessary to net the entire squash bed to save them from the deer. We have since fenced in the field gardens, so the deer eating squash, pumpkins, corn, etc. is not a concern. Cutting up the netting to protect our blueberries was a no-brainer.
The blueberry bushes are small enough that we could drape the netting over the whole bush.
Even as I wrapped the bushes these thieving little robins attempted to steal our bounty. Although it appears that this bird is trapped under the net, it is really sitting on the outside on the opposite side of the bush.
Since netting the bushes, we have picked and frozen nearly 4 quarts of blueberries and they are still coming on. There will be blueberry pancakes this year.
Unlike the robins that seemed to be deterred by the netting, there are a couple of these little birds that keep going at it. They are pretty clever, as they can find a small opening and are not afraid to go in under the net. I’m not sure what type of bird it is but I think it looks like a female Orchard Oriole. http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/564/_/Orchard_Oriole.aspx
You might not think of a couple quarts of cherries or blueberries as being an abundance but where the term really applies is currants.
Right now we have two red and one white currant bushes that we are harvesting. We have harvested an estimated 12-15 lbs. Currants are not a very popular fruit in our area and I suspect the following reasons. Currants are very tart. Although they are very productive, they are a chore to pick. They are very seedy, and they are a chore to clean.
I also think that people are unaware of the nutrition they offer, http://www.livestrong.com/article/444249-what-are-the-benefits-of-red-currant/ most notable their vitamin C content, and I think that people don’t know what to do with them.
Since the currant wine I made last year was a hit, I started with making wine with white currants and strawberries.
I then made juice with the rest of the white currants and put it in the freezer. I have also been making juice with the red currants that we have picked, but rather than cook the currants before mashing and straining the juice, I put the raw currants in my Nutri-bullet, blended them up, then strained them. (the chickens love the remaining seeds and pulp) I did this because heat kills the precious vitamin C. I sweeten this juice with honey and we have been enjoying this with our breakfast.
I also made a batch of currant jelly.
Currants have enough pectin that it is not necessary to add any when making jelly. I ended up with 5 1/2 pints (or so I thought). When you make jelly, that does not require pectin added, testing the jelly for doneness can be tricky. Using a candy thermometer is not an accurate measure, as I found out. 24 hours after I made this jelly it still had not set up. I let it boil for quite a while after it reached 220 F on the thermometer because it did not appear to be sheeting on the spoon yet, but I was also afraid of it burning.
So a few days later I poured all of the (almost) jelly back in the pan and cooked it down some more. This time I left the candy thermometer in the drawer and decided to use the spoon test, and watch for the jelly to “sheet” off the spoon.
After I got it to a boil I started doing the spoon test. It was coming off the spoon it drops.
As it boiled it became thicker and darker in color. It was still dropping from the spoon and I was still concerned about it burning or getting too sticky. So I was continually raising the spoon and letting it drop off. Doing this with my right hand and trying to snap pictures with my left (just as it was dropping from the spoon) was a bit of a challenge.
At this point the drops were getting wider, more “sheet-like” so I let it go for a couple more minutes and then decided it was ready. I put it into jars, put the lids and rings on and gave it a 5 minute water bath.
I ended up with 4 pints. After 24 hours they were much more jelly-like. I do think they could have cooked even longer though. I guess I should have follow the advice of one of the blogs I read that said,” when you think it’s ready, keep cooking it.”
I have certainly learned that there it an art to making jelly. I say “Kudos” to anyone who has mastered it, and while our jelly slides off our PB&J sandwiches this year I will affirm my vow to get it better next year.