The Tyranny of the HarvestJuly 11th, 2009 by Diane Fish
Picked 25 pounds of raspberries last night and while we are still reeling from the abundance of the strawberry harvest there is no rest for the weary. Keeping up with the sheer volume of produce coming in this time of year is a perpetual challenge. Frequently, as a matter of self-defense, I will simply stick stuff in the freezer to deal with at a later date. This of course, leads me to scramble in making jam from last year’s berries to free up space for the new harvest (see my earlier entry “Jammin’”!)
The raspberries have just begun producing and we should get about 3 weeks worth of berries off the patch. It is amazing to me that my huge and shaggy row began with 18 humble little slips of root. Raspberries were part of the master plan when we began clearing land for the garden and orchard but life being what it is, we hadn’t gotten quite that far when providence smiled on us. Ray showed up, out of the blue in mid-March four years ago, with six high bush blueberry plants and a peat pot full of raspberry roots. Overwhelmed by his generosity and the grace of good friends and neighbors, I stuck all the plants in the manure pile and kept them watered and we scrambled to get the ground ready to plant. We finally got them in by the end of June, which all the books tell you is Too Late. Despite our tardiness the plants flourished and today the row of berries is 30 feet long and 6 feet wide. Once established the once humble beginnings have produced amazing crops of beautiful berries ever since!
Today, despite the heat, I got out the steam juicer and began extracting juice for jelly. I found my steam juicer at the local thrift store – and after years of using old pillow cases to extract fruit juices for jelly and canning I feel BLESSED. The steam juice has three sections. You place fruit in the top section, which has a perforated bottom (think collander). The middle section has a small spout (which has the tube attached to it) and has a chimney to funnel steam up to the fruit so it looks sort of like a bundt pan. The bottom is a flat pan which you fill about 3/4 full with hot water. Put it on the stove, load the top with fruit, add water to the bottom, bring the water to a boil, put a container on the floor to catch the juice. Once the water comes to a boil you turn it down to simmer and leave it for a couple of hours, making sure you don’t run out of water. Ideally, you put it on the back of the stove while you do other things. After steaming for a couple hours, let the fruit sit and drip for another couple hours to extract all the juice possible. I put one large yellow tupperware bowl of berries in the steamer and extracted a gallon of juice. We will probably drink some of this batch of juice – it is the perfect thing for a hot summer day. Mix the juice with equal parts water, add sugar to taste and enjoy!