How’s the weather in your neck of the woods today, friends? Here? It’s muggy. Perhaps my least favorite word (there are others, naturally, but this place is a good, happy place, and we needn’t sully or tarnish it with those nasty words). Let’s think, instead, of what makes muggy weather bearable, dare I say, solicited, encouraged, and welcomed. That thing, dear readers, that balm to the soul when you’d otherwise likely languish from humidity so thick it haunts you, envelops you, seizes you in its grip, that blessed release comes via the stone fruits of summer.
For the past several summers, I have been asked by the fine folks at the Washington State Fruit Commission if I might be willing to be a “Canbassador.” Aside from bragging rights (“Oh, you created the Large Hadron Collider? That’s nice. But are you a Canbassador?”), this position provides a shipment of Washington’s finest stone fruits delivered right to my doorstep. In years past, I’ve received boxes of resplendent cherries, ambrosial nectarines, and, most often, heady, ripe peaches, which is what I was sent this year. In two shipments (as the first had gotten a bit overripe en route), I was generously gifted with lovely, perfectly round, fuzzy, immensely juicy peaches.
The jars you see above are what resulted. Batches of my peach lavender butter and peach chutney (appropriated from my recipe for nectarine chutney) now happily line my pantry shelves, ready to brighten days after the height of stone fruit season has passed. I’ve provided both recipes for you below, so that you, too, may endure the mugginess of summer with a smile.
Do visit the commission’s website, Sweet Preservation. It is absolutely loaded with helpful information, recipes, and even downloable labels. There are still several more weeks of summer left, and plenty of fruit available to preserve. My stovetop has had a pot of something simmering on it nearly every day recently, and will continue to do so for well over another month. Thank you, Sweet Preservation, for tapping me for another year! I wear my Canbassadorship with pride and honor!
PEACH LAVENDER BUTTER (recipe from Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need To Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More, Lark Books, 2010)
Makes: 4-5 half-pints.
You Will Need:
-3 pounds peaches
-1/3 cup water
-2 Tbsp fresh or dried lavender buds
-3 Tbsp bottled lemon juice
-1 ½ Tablespoons lemon zest
-3 cups granulated sugar
-In a large pot of boiling water, place 4-5 half-pint canning jars. Bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat, and cover with a lid. In a small pot, place 1-2 inches of water and the lids. Bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat, and cover with a lid.
-Put the lavender buds in a small bowl. Bring the water to a boil; pour it over the buds. Cover, and steep for 15 minutes.
-In a medium-large pot, blanch the peaches for 30-60 seconds. Immediately plunge the into an ice water bath. Once cool enough to handle, peel, pit and chop roughly.
-Strain the lavender buds from the water. Set aside the buds; you’ll add them in later. Combine the lavender water, peaches, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a heavy stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
-Once the peach mixture has cooled slightly, either press it through a food mil, puree in a high-powered blender, or puree using a food processor or immersion blender. Return the puree to the pan, add the sugar and lavender buds, and bring it up to a gentle boil over medium heat. Stir continuously until the sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, until the butter holds it shape when mounded up on a spoon.
-Place the sterilized jars on top of a kitchen cloth on the counter. With the help of a canning funnel, pack peach butter into the jars, reserving 1/2 inch of headspace. Use a nonmetallic spatula to remove any trapped air bubbles, and wipe the rims clean with a damp cloth. Place on the lids and screw bands, tightening only until fingertip-tight. Using a jar lifter, place the jars in the boiling water bath. Process for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude as necessary.
PEACH CHUTNEY (from Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More, Lark Crafts, 2010)
Makes: 4 pint jars.
You will need:
-3 pounds peaches (can also use nectarines), peeled, pitted, and chopped
-1 large sweet onion, chopped
-¼ c. fresh cherries, chopped (½ c. dried)
-1 c. raisins
-½ c. golden raisins
-4 garlic cloves, minced
-1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated
-2 c. light brown sugar
-3 ½ c. apple cider vinegar
-1 Tbsp. mustard seeds
-1 ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
-1 tsp. ground cinnamon
-Place all ingredients in a heavy large stainless-steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir continually until brown sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Stir frequently to keep from sticking. If additional liquid is necessary, add water in ¼ c. increments.
-While chutney cooks, sterilize mason jars, lids, and screw rings. Fill a canner or large stockpot with water and set over medium-high heat. Bring just to boiling point. Place lids in a small saucepan, fill with water, bring to a boil, turn off heat, remove from stovetop, and set aside.
- Place hot jars on top of a kitchen cloth on the counter. With the help of a canning funnel, pack chutney into jars, reserving ½-inch headspace. Use a non-metallic spatula to remove any trapped air bubbles and wipe rims clean with a damp cloth. Place on lids and screw bands, tightening only until fingertip-tight.
- Using a jar lifter, place jars in canner. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water bath. Remember to adjust for altitude.
Hello friends. I hope that wherever you are, all is calm, all is bright. Because where I am, all is some kinds of wild. I’m on the writing homestretch for the picnic book, I just received a copy of Quench (officially publishing October 21st, which is also Huxley’s 4th birthday!) and am completely smitten with how it turned out (click on the book cover on the top left corner of this page to pre-order, if you’d like!), I’ll be doing a photo shoot on Saturday (if the 80% forecast for rain holds off!), and I’m teaching not just one, but TWO classes this week, including one tonight. Like I said, wild times!
If you’re in the area and interested in learning the basics of keeping a flock of backyard chickens, come on out to AB-Tech tonight. You can find details on the Continuing Education page of the college’s website: www.abtech.edu. Then, Sunday, I’ll be sharing all that I know about getting started with home canning at my dear friend Natalie’s lovely West Asheville urban homesteading supply store, Villagers. A few spots remain, so come on out!
Lastly, I’m prepping for Write: Doe Bay in October. I talked a few posts back about how long I’ve wanted to head to the San Juan Islands. To get to teach there, and in such illustrious company, is a gift beyond measure. Here’s a bit about the event, from the event coordinators:
Write: Doe Bay Fall takes place October 9-12, 2014 at Doe Bay Resort and Retreat on Orcas Island. Write: Doe Bay features returning Best Selling author Claire Bidwell Smith along side New York Times Best Selling Author Jillian Lauren, popular Homemade Living writer Ashley English, and Seattle’s own singer-songwriter Erin Austin of OK Sweetheart. A very limited number of tickets remain to this always sold out and incredible workshop experience. Write: a Doe Bay Workshop is more than a writer’s workshop. At Write, narratives stretch across genres and stories unlock as an incredible group dynamic takes hold. Through shared meals and shared housing, a new vision for a writer’s retreat will take place. Community will flourish, walls will break down and love will flow. At Write Doe Bay, we are all storytellers and we all have a tale to unlock, whichever genre our words choose, and we’ll present the key to unlocking the raw narrative inside. Write: Doe Bay Fall will pair with The Orcas Film Festival (orcasfilmfest.com) to feature a screening of award-winning short films. At the heart of every great film is a great story, and at the heart of every great story is a powerful narrative. More information, including a link to Write workshop registration and ticket sales is available at www.writedoebay.com.
Hope to see/meet/greet/hug/chat with you at one of these three events, blog buddies!
Years ago, in its former incarnation, our property used to house an edible organic herb and flower farm (say that 5 times fast!). After Glenn purchased it, and then I came along, we realized there was more land then we’d use ourselves. The idea arose for a land share, wherein we’d let someone else that wished to grow crops, for personal or commercial use, use the space. In exchange (and in lieu of money), they’d help us around our garden and in other areas of the property where we were growing things.
We both knew, though, that it would take just the right person to be fit that position. We live in a pretty secluded space, and, though we entertain a good deal, and even write about entertaining for a living, we really value our privacy (in fact, maybe it’s precisely on account of those reasons that privacy means so much to us!). The idea of the land steward maybe even bringing some kind of r.v. or other living quarters out onto the land with them was tossed around, whenever we’d talk about this ideal situation. They’d gain a place to grow crops, and possibly live, while we’d gain someone to help us out with our own growing and gardening needs.
Well, friends, it’s been years in the making, but that day, and that person, have finally arrived, and I couldn’t be more excited. Natalie Pollard and I connected in the spring of 2011. I can still recall, clear as day, the April afternoon she came out to the house. At the suggestion of our mutual friend R. Brooke Priddy Conrad (who made my wedding dress), Natalie was seeking advice on creating and stocking an urban homesteading supply store in Asheville. Brooke thought, with my history in writing books on such topics, that I might be of assistance to Natalie. A relationship developed that day, that’s gone on to see the opening of Natalie’s gorgeous store, Villagers, and my using it as the setting for my “In Touch With Your Roots” gathering in Handmade Gatherings, as well as a place I’ve both taught and attended classes.
Natalie studied landscape design at U.C. Berkeley. She’s also a trained herbalist and just an all-around very cool, true blue, righteous lady. We dig her. Huxley digs her. Dexter and Fly (our dogs) and Harold and Maude (our cats) and the chickens and the bees dig her (in fact, her two hives are now out in the apiary with our own two!). She’s already planted some seeds for a fall garden in the raised beds and will be putting in some starts there soon. Her little house, created by local company Nanostead, made its way to the cove on Tuesday evening. It’s tiny and adorable and comfortable and we’re delighted to have it here, keeping the yome company down in our lower field. Yay!
Speaking of Villagers, per the flyer above, I’m teaching a class there coming up on Sunday September 7th at 5 p.m.. We’ll be discussing all things related to home canning. I’ll also make some kind of canned good (still deciding on what that’ll be!) and each student will take home a jar of it, along with handouts and a recipe for what we make. Hope you can make it!
Cheers to canning season, tiny houses, and mutually beneficially relationships!!!!
Happy Friday, friends! Do you feel summer starting to wind down? I do. I’ve seen the harbingers of autumn-the acorns, the falling leaves, the goldenrod, the earlier sunsets. What’s funny, though, is that as someone who has a known reputation for not particularly caring for summer, I find myself feeling the slightest tinges of “oh, not just yet, please!” I’m not quite ready for the fresh tomatoes to disappear, or for the ability to justify ice cream consumption at any time of day to pass, or the profusion of ripe, ambrosial peaches to fade from market shelves, or the trips to the community swimming pool to end. If we could just keep all of that goodness around for a bit longer, and add cardigans and mugs of hot toddies to the mix, that’d be just grand.
In other news, here’s a smattering of this and that’s that caught my attention:
*My talented friend Chris Bryant, who served as the art director on Keeping Chickens, Canning & Preserving, Keeping Bees, Home Dairy (which was recently translated to Russian!), and A Year of Pies (now available in Dutch!), has a book of his own coming out. It’s on chips-all of them. All the chips. You will most definitely want to add it to your cookbook collection. Oh, and Chris just started a blog, Extra Slaw. Good things coming at you, for sure!
*Imagine Childhood is hosting a giveaway of “Handmade Gatherings“, and offering up my recipe for Spiced Apple Poundcake from the book. Also, their autumn look book is up and it’s amazing!
*This essay on not succumbing to the “tyranny of trends” is equal parts hilarious and brilliant. Really puts things into perspective.
*There is little better than a chilled soup on a hot summer day. Here are 10 recipes to help you keep your cool.
*Mother Earth Living magazine did a feature interview of me for their current issue. You can check out the story here, which also includes three of my tips for hosting successful potlucks and my recipe for Butternut Squash & Herbed Cider Soup from Handmade Gatherings.
*Smokey Eggplant Dip, hallelujiah!
*Liesl Made is a fun new-to-me blog and shop.
*Feeling like a new pair of shoes for autumn and these Faraway Fields Oxfords are calling my name.
*Natalie‘s tiny home is pretty much done. Which means…..next week, she moves it out here! Woohoo! In exchange for putting her home on our land, she’ll help us out a few hours each week with gardening and other outdoor pursuits. She’s already planted crops in five beds in the garden and brought out chicken feed from her store for our flock. I am beyond excited about this partnership!
My mom has been in the hospital since this past Sunday. She has a host of health concerns, the most serious of which is atrial fibrillation, or a heart arrhythmia. She was having trouble getting her heart back into rhythm, and there was talk of attempting to “shock” it back into synch. Huxley and I went to visit her yesterday afternoon, and right before we arrived, it turned out that her most recent EKG showed it had gone back into rhythm. She gets discharged today and we’ll pick her up and take her back to her home. YES! It’s been a challenging week, for her physically and for me emotionally. I know that, in the hospital, she’s in the best place, given her health concerns. That said, she’s my mom, and I don’t like the idea of anyone being holed up in the hospital for an extended period of time, having a battery of tests run on them, trying to coax them back to health. I’m thrilled to know that, come this evening, she’ll be back in the comfort of her own home, padding around in her slippers, and cozying into her own bed.
We’ve got another picnic to photograph this Sunday. It’ll be the 13th one, of 20. My manuscript is due to my editor on October 1st, so we’re down to the wire now. SO much work, but so much fun, too, because, PICNICS!
Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!
*I typically post a photo of Huxley in my What I’m Digging round-ups because, truly, he’s what his Papa and I dig the most. Today, though, I’m showing a collection of images of many things I’ve been enjoying lately, including (from the top): lush walks down the driveway with my fellas, mountaintop picnics, annual pie competitions (my Peaches & Cream Crumble-Top Pie from A Year of Pies is at the far right corner of the second pie image), a Table To Farm picnic, new overalls (thank you, Thred Up!), our humble yet cozy home, and summer eats!
Happy Friday, friends! It’s raining and cool here in the cove today, a welcome break from the warmer temps we had this week. Really, though, who am I kidding, talking about “warmer temps” and other such nonsense? For my birthday last month, Glenn bought me a portable air conditioner, owing to how I get all kinds of crabby and wilty and otherwise unpleasant when really hot. It’s been so nice and cool, though, that we haven’t even had to fire it up! And halfway through the night, every night, we’re still pulling the comforter up around our shoulders. Even on the second floor.
When looking at my garden the other day, and feeling equally frustrated and guilty and anxious and discouraged and hopeful at its tandem successes and failures, several things occurred to me. To begin, four years ago, I was quite pregnant and it was also the hottest summer in 50 years, so the garden didn’t really happen. And then, over the past three summers, I have been writing books. When I’m working on a new book in earnest, there are some things that have to get sidelined in order to get the writing done while simultaneously take care of Huxley, and maintain the home, marriage, homestead, etc.. I’m also not a fan of the heat (see above). Finally, I still have so much to learn about organic gardening. I’ve been working on building up the soil, but I do live in a temperate rain forest, with its attendant plethora of insects. The challenges they present is ENORMOUS, people. Enormous.
It dawned on me that all of these things in combination have made it increasingly challenging to have the lush, verdant, abundant vegetable garden of my dreams come summertime. So I made a few decisions. For starters, screw the guilt. There’s an incredible organic farmer about 1/2 mile down the road from us that grows exactly what I’m working on here, but with multiple decades worth of organic gardening experience under his belt. At Hominy Valley Organic Farm, I can stop in on Fridays (open farm day), chat with Tom, and purchase some of the most beautiful, delicious vegetables I’ve ever encountered at a very, very good price. I can stick (for now) to growing what really works for me in the garden, and leave the battles with cabbageworms, squash vine borers, carrot fly, and more to him.
Secondly, my intuition keeps telling me that perennial gardening is where it’s at. Working with nature instead of against it and achieving a symbiosis is what I want. To that end, I recently purchased Gaia’s Garden. I’m getting all kinds of excited about implementing some of the perennial/permaculture techniques it details.Then I can have the garden I desire, purchase some crops from Tom, keep writing in the summer, and feel less crazy about the entire process. Amen to all that.
In other news, here’s a smattering of this and that’s that’ve caught my attention recently:
*The mason jar-use it for SO much more than just strawberry jam and pickled beets!
*Several weeks ago, when I was feeling a bit misanthropic (it happens to us all!), Glenn directed me to this. So, so good.
*When I was in college, I used to burn rosemary essential oil in a diffuser when studying for exams. Here’s why.
*My friend Jenna Woginrich, fellow author and blogger, has launched a Kickstarter campaign. She’s working on her first bit of fiction, a novel about (as she described it an email to me) “a farm in upstate NY in 1920, a farmy-paranormal piece of mystery and a heck of a lot of fun.” Check out the video and help her realize her dream, if you can!
*It’s tomato season. Genevieve has 28 ideas for what to do with them.
*Very sweet idea for a DIY campfire candle.
*Speaking of fragrances, I picked up a box of these cedar incense cones as a gift to myself on Mother’s Day. I begin each morning now by burning one, to clear the air and enliven the kitchen while I feed the animals, get Huxley going, and prepare the coffee. Good stuff.
*If you’re a mother, you might enjoy checking out The Ma Books, a collaboratively written blog about what mothering means to each of us.
*My father, his wife, and my sisters gifted Glenn for his birthday with this amazing book about the oldest living things. Exquisitely photographed, it is a sensory feast, and a reminder that we’re not the only beings witnessing what’s happening on this planet.
I’m back to working on picnics this weekend. We photographed 10 of them before Jen Altman, the book’s photographer, headed out of town for the month of July. She’s back, and so we’re back in action, as of Sunday, as we’ve got 10 (!!!) more to go. Fingers crossed the weather accommodates and our shoot isn’t caught in a deluge. We’ll be high atop a mountain bald up on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Should be epic if all goes according to plan!
Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, and whomever you do it with, may it be grand!
*I post an image of Huxley in my What I’m Digging posts because, truly, he’s what Glenn and I dig the most. This is him a few weeks ago, up at Black Balsam on the Blue Ridge Parkway. He said “This is a good hike, mama. I love this view!”