Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Quixotic Quince

I was gifted with a big box of quinces a couple of weeks ago. They've been in the garage, which doubles as my cold cellar, and making my husband's "smoking lounge" smell heavenly. In the past I have enjoyed putting a few in a bowl (after grabbing them off the ground when they fall from neighborhood hedges or trees--no one knows what to do with these fruits! I am an inveterate fruit forager) and letting them scent the house for weeks; as they mellow in the bowl the sweet but herby fragrance is wonderful.

I once gave some quinces to a friend who was a mead brewer and he made some amazing mead from them; this is a fine use for these fruits if you know any mead makers.

But I recently learned they make a really good jam, and since they have so much natural pectin, I get to use my tried and true method for jam making, which is, you guessed it, not using pectin. I found this simple recipe and this website seems to have a pretty straightforward approach to canning and preserves.

I visited the Cloisters in New York two years ago in early November when the quinces were enormous on the trees: perfect, round, yellow, blemish-free. The garden there also has some delightful herb gardens and some espaliered pear and apple trees.

Alas, the fruits I have are likely to be worm-ridden...but I get I can still get some jam out of them!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Orchard Visiting

I've visited some orchards over the last few weeks, both wild and cultivated, and took many photos! I'll share a few of them here with you.
This is one of the orchards at Indian Ladders Farms, in Altamont, NY. A beautiful place with many acres of old and newer orchards. They have a wonderful shop and cafe, too, featuring fresh cider doughnuts (of course!), cider, gifts, jams, and local cheeses and other foods.
It was a gorgeous sunny day when we visited two weeks ago. They were no longer offering "pick your own" apples, alas! The trees stopped producing a bit earlier than usual with the weather this year. But we bought a nice big bag of Jonagolds which have been delicious.
Plenty of dropped apples remain. I wonder what they do with them? Let the deer eat them? Make cider? I imagine they must clean up some of them. They do bottle some good cider, but I'd love to see them sponsor an event like Cider Days, featuring hard cider craft brewing.
The orchards stretch along a mile or so at the base of the Helderberg mountains, which were ablaze with glorious color. It's always a lovely drive there, but doubly so at the height of autumn's changing hues.
This is one of the older wild apple trees at the Brushwood Folklore Center near Jamestown, NY. I was there for the weekend of Hallowe'en/Samhain for a ritual and potluck feast and party. It was cold, windy and rainy for much of the weekend, but invigorating! I was also there the weekend prior, and it was warm and sunny!
There weren't many apples this year. A few remain on the trees. I brought some drop apples from my neighborhood to spread around for the deer and will bring more in December.I did some pruning in the orchard last weekend, to help the trees produce more apples. This also gives us some nice apple wood to burn in our campfires, when the branches dry out.
Last year, I designed a calendar at Lulu.com which featured photos of the wild apple trees at Brushwood, and I'm working on a new one for 2011. I'll link to it here when it's ready. I hope you enjoy my orchard visits!