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Blueberry Bonanza

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I keep a handful of my beehives at Blakelock’s Berries, they have young, early season blueberries and three varieties of luscious blackberries. My wife and I both love blueberries and was able to satisfy some of our cravings from the early picking at Blakelock’s.

The go to place for blueberries on the north side of Houston has been out at Moorehead’s off FM 1314. The berries are abundant but the parking, traffic and lines at the checkout station are much more than my crowd anxiety can put up with.

Today I made a discovery, a Blueberry Bonanza! Pioneer Berries at 2512 Pioneer Lane north of Highway 105 and just west of Cleveland, TX. It seems like a looooong mile north of 105 but trust me, you won’t miss it on the right side of the road.

The blueberry plants are younger than Moorehead’s but much more mature than Blakelock’s. If you like to pick when the weather is cooler, hit up Blakelock’s – their berries are ready to pick in mid April and are done by the end of May. If you want to stock the freezer you have early and late choices.

How did I stumble across this place? Well, even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then! I went the the bee supply store near Conroe and was headed to Splendora to check on my beehives. I chose Highway 105 as it was the most direct route. Cruise control was set at 60 mph, yes it really was, and I went right past the sign pointing north off of 105. Safe U-turn and I was on my way to Pioneer Berries.

Plenty of parking for the weekend crowd. They don’t get overrun like Moorehead’s.

Look close many ripe berries and many, many more to come.

Oops, the berries are not in focus but they are still very tasty, blurry image and all!

This typical. I picked for less than 15 minutes as I had the bees calling me.


3 Point 9 pounds of berries laid out to dry, sort through, remove stems and soft berries. Oh yes, a little to snack on before bagging and freezing.

The left bucket is some nice light honey from 77339, about 18 pounds has already been bottled. The right bucket is from 9 frames I extracted after berry picking today. It will be about 25 pounds after I clean up and drain the extractor and uncapping tank. The jars on the right are a nice dark red-amber honey – a little over 15 pounds. Part of this dark honey will be converted to Cinnamon Creamed honey by the end of next week.

The bees are really packing in the honey right now. I am looking forward to a very good spring/early summer harvest.

I will be off to Blakelock’s in the morning to round up some berry farm honey for what he expects to be a big day on June 2nd. I will be sell honey from zip codes 77345 & 77339 – Kingwood/Porter, 77328 – Splendora and 77302/77306 – Grangerland. I will also be selling my homemade jams, strawberry, blueberry and blackberry. Come on out for a good time picking Blackberries at Blakelock’s and if you want safe and sane blueberry picking, head on over to Pioneer Berries.

TTFN

Bishop

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Strawberries, Beets and Other Musings

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Let’s start right out in the field.

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This was the first of three buckets I filled in about 20 minutes of picking. The result was 14 pounds of luscious hand picked berries. Wood Duck Farms just 25 minute north form Kingwood….Organically grown and very sweet. http://www.woodduckfarm.com/

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A little clean-up and sorting….I had intended to freeze all of the berries but as it was the day before Easter my bride suggested that I make a plate of the nicer looking berries for fresh eating at our Easter luncheon……Yes Dear! I still manged to sort, clean and slice up about 10 pounds for the freezer to be made into jam. I have picked enough for two batches from my garden so I will have plenty for gifts and for a sale or two or three or more.

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A few of the berries dedicated to our Easter  Luncheon

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Two batches of low sugar strawberry jam….Sure-Jell light recipe, pink box….just 4 cups of sugar per batch vs 6 cups of the regular recipe…..And three pints of Pickled Beets.

Side note on the beets….. I used about 12 medium sized beets and roasted them in the oven at 400 deg. F for 40 minutes inside of a foil pouch. Included in the pouch were 2 tsp olive oil, 2 peeled shallots and two sprigs of Rosemary. What a great aroma….peeled and thinly sliced the beets and layered them into the pint jars with Frenched Red onions….I also learned how to French to onions……old dogs can learn. The brine was boiled for a while to allow the spices to meld. Processed in boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

  • 1 1/2 cups Tarragon wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 tbsp of pickling spice.

The bees are coming – can you hear the buzzzzzzzzzzz – 4 packages of bees from Navasota on Saturday April 14 and 6 NUC’s from Jennings, Louisiana on the 12th of April…..looks like I will be a busy boy this spring!

I have decided that my experimenting with banana growing is halting… not enough joy! lots of space consumed and the returns are minor….I need to do this in Belize…..OK – I can dream. I’ll stick with mostly tried and true….with an experiment or two along the way.

Hoisted a swarm trap up onto the big oak in the back yard today. A lot of reports coming in on the “Beek” forums here in Texas with success stories. I need to be careful and not exceed my self imposed limit of ….. No more than 25 hives.

Three more batches of strawberries in the freezer awaiting their fate….Jam is such a sweet fate…And more pickings everyday from my garden. A few asparagus sprouts are being snacked upon, more beets to be picked, snap peas for a bit longer, cucumbers and beans are climbing, potatoes in pots and a few quarts of blueberries in a few weeks. I should also haul in a big load of blueberries from Blakelock’s Berry Farm in a few weeks –  Yum.

 

TTFN

Bishop

Too Busy is my Excuse

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I really have been busy. Bees, garden, substitute chicken farmer, setting up new apiary and more.

The bees first….two of the four top bar hives look very strong, one is toast and one may need an infusion of brood from a stronger hive. The remaining four Langstroth hives are doing very well. The swarm I rescued just after hurricane Harvey is now residing at Blakelock’s Berries out in Grangerland. At the berry farm I scored a major coup. An acquaintance of mine, through my consulting, had previously kept three bar hives(only one held a colony) out at Blakelock’s but life happened and he needed to step back from beekeeping. So, for a very fat and thick piece of comb honey I was able to take possession of the boxes. Thanks David!!!!!

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A wide shot of the new apiary at the back of the property. Great exposure to morning sun and should receive late afternoon broken shade. Paul, the berry farmer, has three varieties of blackberries and some relatively young blueberries growing on his property. The blueberries began blooming a few days ago. I set the Langstroth hive Saturday and visited the girls yesterday. I wandered through the blueberries and saw not a single honey bee, Apis millifera.  I did see a small variety of bumble bee, actually many of them, visiting the flowers. I am not a bumble bee expert but Paul may have a variety called the American Bumble Bee(Bombus pensylvanicus) working his blueberries. I struck out trying to capture an image with my iPhone. I will take a better camera and lens out on my next visit.

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A little closer look at the 8 frame Lang beautifully painted by my wife!!!!!! The small topbar in the background once held a colony of bees. I have cleaned it up, added swarm scent and a rescue bar with some comb from one of my other hives.

IMG_4453One of the rescue bars holding comb……I like the design of these and will build a few of my own going forward. Fingers crossed I get a swarm to move in. I do have some package bees coming in early April if I don’t have luck. I also gave to other two topbar boxes  a shot of swarm attractant.

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Day two on site and they are settling in. Undertaker bees hauling out the dead and dying.

“But I’m Not Dead Yet!”

“One of the most fascinating aspects of beekeeping is watching the numerous activities of the colony.  Every bee has a specific job, without which the hive as a whole could not exist.  There are bees that build wax; nurse bees to take care of the babies; field bees to collect water, propolis, pollen and nectar; bees to make honey; guard bees to protect the hive; and undertaker bees who clean the hive of carcasses…………..”

Excerpt from an article on http://www.beverlybees.com take a read….an amazing web site….informative and fun. Check it out.

https://www.beverlybees.com/bring-out-yer-dead-the-undertaker-bees/

Ok, I’m running out of steam….Very shortly look for garden stuff…..maybe even tonight.

Thanks to Paul for letting my set up a mutually beneficial apiary. Just an FYI, I have made many, many jars of blackberry preserves over the past two years featuring his berries. The blueberry plants are young but I was able to pick 10 pounds or so last year for fresh eating, freezing and jam making. Looking forward to more!!!!!!

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

End of the Week

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It has been a busy week. The bees have occupied some of my time, weeds too much of my time, lovely carrots so sweet when roasted, removing the fading sugar snap peas…..replaced with English Cukes & Straight 8 cucumbers, two loaves of sourdough bread just pulled from the oven moments ago…….fortunately we are  not web-camming as the drool drips from the corners of my mouth, trimming back banana plants to maximize production, making strawberry jam, yard cleaning/kitchen table office cleaning……sister-in-law arriving this evening…..I am already tired and ready for my nap.

The bees, the queen and brood going back into the original top-bar hive over the weekend seems to have gone very well. The companion Langstroth hive is filling with honey!!!!!! Yee Haw! I am also helping the property owner get his garden up and going, feeding his chickens, harvesting eggs and mowing his grass. The things a beekeeper will do to for the host!

The split in Splendora on the “Cowboy” hive failed…..I feel guilty, as it was my mismanagement that lead to the failure. The only saving grace is another lesson learned to add to my prior mistakes. The remaining hive out there is doing well but may have earned a re-queening this coming fall. They are a bit defensive…..yes another one popped me in the face….on the nose.

Strawberry Jam. My “Goo” friend John’s daughter gives me the ultimate compliment for my strawberry jam – when she runs out of mine she falls back to “Smuckers”, she says mine is sooooo much better than store bought…..According to Brittany. I am a fan of the low sugar recipe from Sure-Jell light. Seems to let the taste of the berries shine through. I use Sure- Jell light for all my berry jams!

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The jam, cooked, ready to skim the foam prior to canning. The foam does not go to waste, my wife uses it on her egg-white/oatmeal frittatas.

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Six half pint jars and 3 – 45 ml jars for fun and gifts.

I have to share more about my carrots. As I have mentioned before, my soil has lots of clay but the adding of compost for four years has improved the soil, somewhat. I plant varieties that are shorter, stockier and tolerate the heavy soil better. Well, either a seed mix up or a rogue carrot in my patch. This guy was pretty hefty!

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Frame of reference – I have to order XXL beekeeper gloves and would love to find some XXXL gloves.

Just had to add a bee picture.

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There she is….tucking some pollen away. The symmetry is almost mind-blowing! I just marvel at what nature can accomplish.

Now, butter, knife, warm bread and some strawberry jam. Next slice, butter, knife, warm bread and honey.  Next slice, butter, knife and warm bread! Why can’t I lose any weight??????

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Proofed for 28 hours…..the sourdough flavor is outstanding!

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

Good Things From the Yard

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Nearly started off with an interesting typo! “Good Thongs From the Yard” – that could have raised some eyebrows! Spring is here and good things are showing up. 

One of the yards that hosts a couple of hives also has chickens. For my garden I receive some chicken fertilizer…. nice way to say it! Almost as good are the excess eggs I receive. Yum! 

Little ones, medium ones and big ones! He has about 20 chickens and they are laying very well now! 

Carrots, I grow short ones because of my clay soil. They may be short but they are very sweet. 


Unwashed but yummy. I put them on the grill the other night with some asparagus and chicken. Very yummy. When the sugars carmelize they are so yummy. 

Snow peas and sugar snaps are blooming and producing. The early pods never make it to the house. Insert smiley face and tongue licking lips here! 


 And yes…..strawberries. I have made two batches of preserves so far. One plain and the other with vanilla. I am hoping for so much more. 


And bees too. The Meyer Lemons are blooming and the bees are working. Mine and many others. Such remarkable creatures!


Ok, enough for now! Just one sting today out of 6 hives inspected today! I can always attribute a sting to a faux pas on my part! Yes, I have made a mistake or two! Most of the time I have no swelling but this one……hit my left hand and sure enough –  a little ballooning on the back of my hand. Ok Hun- please kiss it and make it better. 

TTFN

Bishop

Wild Harvest

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The lazy approach to this post. I have made jam from Texas wild dewberries and jelly with wild plums. I and anxious to add a jam or jelly from each to the wild Texas offerings from below. This is an article from Texas Parks and Wildlife, link included.

Use Texas’ bounty of native fruits for your next pie or jelly.

By Dyanne Fry Cortez

Illustrations By Clemente Guzman

http://tpwmagazine.com/archive/2013/aug/ed_3_wildharvest/

I still recall the summer I discovered mustang grapes.

I was 18 years old, working in a Youth Conservation Corps camp at Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery. One of our projects was clearing undergrowth from the Colorado River bank west of the rearing ponds.

When we started, the place was a jungle. It had huge, lovely shade trees, but they were hard to find in the tangle of weeds, shrubs and vines. Any visitor who wanted to bushwhack a path to the water risked a run-in with poison ivy. Within a week, nearly everyone on our crew had a rash.

Less hostile, but equally abundant, were the gray-green, heart-shaped leaves and twisty, grooved wood of wild grapevines. I’d seen them before (they’re everywhere in the Hill Country) but didn’t know they actually produced grapes until I glanced at a vine we’d just chopped down with our loppers and pruning saws. It was loaded with small clusters of round, deep-purple fruit.

Mustang Grapes

Mustang grapes make a zingy grape jam.

Assured by a supervisor that they were safe to eat, I picked one and gave it a try. Extremely tart, but it had a definite grape flavor. Within the fleshy outer skin, a sweetish blob of white pulp enclosed several seeds. I looked up and saw more grapes hanging in the trees. Not the kind of thing you’d eat by the handful, but they were so pretty. In my teenaged, tree-hugging heart, I just knew they had to be good for something.

On my next off-duty afternoon, I “rescued” a tub of mustang grapes from the riverbank and dropped them off at my mom’s house in Burnet. When my summer gig ended, I came home to jars of zingy grape jam.

Since then, I’ve spent many a July day in search of wild grapes. Along the way, I’ve gotten acquainted with dewberries, agarita berries and prickly pears. There are wild fruits all over Texas. Finding them, gathering them and turning them into something good to eat add up to a great recipe for connecting with the outdoors.

Free food, you say? I wouldn’t call it that. Some wild fruits grow in inconvenient places. Many are armed with thorns or other natural defenses. Some seasons produce abundant crops; other times, it takes a lot of foraging to gather a batch. And some harvests are followed by days of work in the kitchen.

Maybe it’s the challenge that attracts me. Or maybe that first spoonful of mustang jam gave me a lifelong taste for untamed flavor. Here’s a sampling of what Texas has to offer.

Agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata)

Range: Edwards Plateau and Trans-Pecos, may appear in other areas
Harvest time: May to early June

agarita

Agarita

With sharp-pointed leaves and red berries, this hardy shrub resembles a holly, but actually belongs to the barberry family. Agarita grows under oak and elm trees, along fencerows and at the edges of wooded areas. Plants that get sun at least part of the day are more likely to produce fruit.

Picking agarita fruit is hard work. The berries are small, a quarter-inch or less, and well protected by the prickly foliage. My favorite way to harvest them is to spread a sheet on the ground and whack the bush with a broom handle or other suitable stick. Scraping branches with barbecue tongs works, too. You’ll lose some fruit in the dirt (but they’ll be enjoyed later by wild creatures), and you’ll get a lot of leaves and twigs mixed in with your harvest.

Back home, I dump the whole collection into a large cooking pot, fill it with water, and let it sit for several hours. Leaves and dirt sink to the bottom; berries float to the top, where I can scoop them out with a strainer. That’s the idea, anyway, and it sort of works. If I spend half a day picking and wind up with two gallons of cleaned fruit, I feel as if I’ve done well.

Agarita makes a pretty red jelly with a flavor all its own. I’ve also seen recipes for a sweetened juice cooler and an agarita wine.

Dewberry (Rubus trivialis)

Range: East and Central Texas, coastal river valleys
Harvest time: May

Dewberry Agarita

Dewberries

Dewberry is a wild blackberry that grows on a low, trailing vine. Its thorny stems and white, five-petaled flowers mark it as a member of the rose family. Berries start out green, then turn red, but are sweetest when they’re black and fully ripe. This is one wild fruit that’s good to eat right off the vine. It’s also good for pies, cobblers and preserves.

Botanist Scooter Cheatham, director of Useful Wild Plants Inc. and lead author of its multivolume encyclopedia, offers this tip for Texas wild harvesters: “When the dewberries are ripe, the green [mustang] grapes are coming along. If you can’t find enough dewberries, put in an equal amount of green grapes, and it makes a scrumptious cobbler.”

Mustang Grape (Vitis mustangensis)

Range: Eastern two-thirds of state
Harvest time: May through July

Several species of wild grapes are native to Texas. The tart, highly acidic mustang grape is the most common. It climbs trees and drapes itself over fences. Large, old vines can be found in wooded areas. I’ve gone hunting many times and found a good bit of fruit hanging too high to pick, even with a good ladder. When they’re within reach, grapes are easy to harvest. Pull them off the stem one by one, or clip clusters with a small pair of garden shears and remove the stems later. Wear latex gloves: the acid in the fruit can irritate skin and leave hands itching for days.

Guten Appetit!, a cookbook published by the Sophienburg Museum in New Braunfels, offers this advice on picking green grapes for preserves or cobbler: “Use grapes that are not mature, about the size of an English pea and before the seeds are hard.” For my own jam, I wait until they turn purple in July.

Other Vitis species grow in various parts of Texas. Wherever you live, there’s probably a vine nearby that could provide fruit for jam, jelly, cobbler or wine. All of our native grapes are dioecious, producing male and female flowers on separate plants. Only female vines will bear fruit.

Western Mayhaw (Crataegus opaca)

Range: East Texas near Louisiana state line
Harvest time: April through May

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Western mayhaw

Mayhaw is a type of hawthorn, a small to medium-sized tree that flowers in spring and produces a cranberry-red fruit. It grows in acid soil along rivers and sloughs, often standing in shallow water, but will also grow on dry land. Jim McNeill, a jelly maker of long experience, had a grove of large mayhaws at his home in Nederland.

“They were probably in excess of 75 years old, but Hur­ricane Ike flattened them,” he says.

The fruit falls off when it’s ripe, and mayhaw pickers harvest it from the ground. McNeill would spread a sheet under his trees, catching the fall over several days. If spring rains come at the right time, some locals gather the fruit by taking boats up the backwater sloughs. Rising water lifts fruits that have fallen at the river’s edge, and people scoop them up with nets.

McNeill uses a three-pot steamer system to extract juice for jelly. “Raw mayhaw extract is so bitter it would roll your tongue,” he says, “but the jelly is tops, I gotta say. It’s about the best, other than maybe fig preserves.”

Texas Persimmon (Diospyros texana)

Range: Central and South Texas, Coastal Plains and Big Bend area
Harvest time: Fall

persimmon

Texas persimmon

A small tree with attractive peeling bark, Texas persimmon produces black, tomato-shaped fruits about an inch across. As with the wild grapes, fruit appears only on female trees. Common persimmon (D. virginiana) grows in East Texas and makes a slightly larger, orange-colored fruit. Persimmons contain high levels of tannin and are not fit to eat until they fully ripen, begin to wrinkle and go soft.

“When they look bad, they’re actually good,” reports Scooter Cheatham.

Ripe fruit can be eaten fresh or baked into puddings and breads. I’ve seen recipes for persimmon jelly, but never had much luck getting it to jell.

Plums (Prunus species)

Range: Statewide
Harvest time: July through September

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Plums

Texas is home to several species of wild plums. The most common, perhaps, is the Chickasaw plum (P. angustifolia), a small tree that forms thickets on prairies and savannahs from East Texas to the Rolling Plains. The rose-colored plums can be picked and eaten right off the tree. Mexican plum (P. mexicana) trees grow larger, up to 35 feet, and are more likely to be found scattered among other trees in riparian woodlands. Its purple fruit is less palatable on its own, “but it makes wonderful preserves,” Cheatham says.

Prickly Pear (Opuntia species)

Range: Statewide
Harvest time: Late summer to fall

Prickly Pear Cactus

 

Prickly pear

It may take an expert to identify the particular species, but most Texans know a prickly pear when we see one. The plants produce showy flowers that mature into cylindrical fruits known variously as pears, cactus apples or tunas. The flattened stems are usually armed with wicked spines. The tunas have spines too: clusters of tiny stickers called glochids, more treacherous because they’re so easily overlooked. Tunas can be eaten fresh, but take care to peel them first.

When harvesting prickly pear tunas, it’s best to wear protective gloves, long pants and boots. Katy Hoskins, who grew up in the Trans-Pecos area and now lives in Sweetwater, uses barbecue tongs to pick tunas off the plant.

“Then I hold them with a meat fork and use a hand-held propane torch to sear off the spines,” she says. Prickly pear fruit makes a hot-pink jelly, a syrup for flavoring candy and drinks or a wine that turns golden yellow after a few months on the shelf.

The Responsible Gatherer

You don’t need a hunting license to stalk wild fruit. However, some practices followed by good hunters apply to gathering as well.

Know your target. Just like shooting the wrong bird can get you a stiff fine, sampling fruit from the wrong plant can make you sick, or worse. Don’t eat anything you can’t identify.

Respect the resource. Birds and wildlife eat wild fruits, too, so don’t take more than you can use. And don’t gather fruit or seeds from rare, threatened or endangered species.

Be careful where you pick. It’s against the law to collect plants or plant parts in state and national parks. Parks run by local governments may have similar rules. Picking on public roadsides is not recommended because of safety concerns. Your best bet is to collect on private property, with permission. If you don’t find any of these plants at your own place, check with a friend or relative who owns some land. Many people lack the time and inclination to harvest their own wild fruit, and are happy to let someone else do the work — especially if they get a pie or a jar of jam as part of the deal.

Recipes

Wild Plum Jelly

(From Janell Turner of Claude)

5½ cups prepared plum juice (see below)
6½ cups sugar
1 box Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin
½ teaspoon butter or margarine

Start with about 5 pounds of plums. Remove pits; do not peel. Put in pot with 1½ cups water and cook until tender. Mash through colander to strain. Bring juice to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Measure 5½ cups juice into 6- or 8-quart saucepan. Measure sugar into separate bowl. Stir pectin into juice. Add butter. Bring mixture to full rolling boil on high heat, stirring constantly. Quickly stir in all sugar. Bring back to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, skim off any foam with metal spoon. Ladle quickly into prepared jars.

Persimmon Chiffon Pie

Graham cracker crust
1 cup persimmon pulp
4 eggs, separated
1/3 cup and ¼ cup sugar
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
¼ tsp salt

Beat pulp and egg yolks together. Mix 1/3 cup sugar, gelatin and salt in saucepan. Add pulp and yolk mixture to saucepan. Cook and stir until mixture just comes to a boil. Remove from heat and cool, stirring occasionally, until mixture mounds up on a spoon. Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add ¼ cup sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Fold in the cooked persimmon mix, pile into graham cracker crust and chill.

Online Extra: More Recipes

About jellies and jams

When great-grandma made jelly, she cooked it until it jelled using the natural pectin in the fruit. That’s possible with many of the fruits mentioned here, but it’s tricky. When I’ve faced chiggers, rattlesnakes and Texas heat to harvest my fruit, I don’t take chances in the kitchen: I use powdered pectin (Sure-Jell and other brands). The basic cooking and canning instructions are in the box, so the recipes in this section won’t go into detail about that.

The challenge is getting your harvest to the cooking stage, then figuring out the right proportions of fruit, pectin and sugar – because the recipes in the box usually aren’t written for wild fruit.

Agarita Jelly

Place cleaned berries in a large pot and add enough water to cover fruit. Cook until berries start to pop open, or until they appear tender when pressed against the side of the pot with a spoon. Pour fruit and water into a jelly bag and let it drip overnight. It’s okay to squeeze the bag once or twice, gently. Combine one box of pectin with 6-1/2 cups juice and 7 cups of sugar.

Dyanne’s Low-Sugar Mustang Jam

I’ve made grape jam according to a standard Sure-Jell recipe (5 cups grapes, 7 cups sugar), but sometimes I like to dial back the sweetness and let the tart flavor really come through. This requires specially formulated pectin. It’s a little harder to find: look for a box labeled “light”, “low-sugar” or “no sugar.”

Wash grapes, add water to pot and boil for an hour or so. Pour mixture into a sieve and stir vigorously, forcing through quite a bit of pulp along with the juice. Discard seeds and leftover skins. Use one box low-sugar pectin, four cups pulverized fruit and 2-1/2 cups sugar.

Mayhaw Jelly

(Gail Smith, Harvest Time Farm Stand, Canyon Lake)

Cook mayhaw fruit, mash and strain. Use 4 cups juice to 1 box pectin and 5 cups sugar.

Prickly Pear Jelly

(Reprinted with permission from Native Plant Society of Texas News, July/August 1988)

Rub fruit with a heavy cloth to remove the tiny bristles. Or, better still, hold it over a flame and burn the bristles off. Wash and slice the fruit into a saucepan, then add 2 cups water for each cup of fruit. Cook until soft – don’t hurry! – and strain the juice through a jelly bag or several thicknesses of cheesecloth.

For jelly, use:
3 cups prickly pear juice
½ c lemon juice
1 package pectin
4-1/2 c sugar

Marmeladenkuchen (Marmalade Cake) with Green Grape Preserves

(From Guten Appetit!, Courtesy of Sophienburg Museum, New Braunfels)

Preserves
Pick stems and wash grapes (use grapes that are not mature, about the size of an English pea and before the seeds are hard). Put in large kettle with sugar, a pound of sugar for each pound of grapes. For 5 pounds of grapes, add 2 cups of water. Gently boil until a dark red in color, about 3 hours, stirring often.  Pour into sterilized jars and seal.

Cake
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
¾ cup milk
4 eggs
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla
Pinch of salt

Topping
4 eggs
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups pecan bits

Marmalade – 1 pint green grape preserves (see above)

Cream butter and sugar together; add eggs one at a time and beat. Add milk that has been combined with vanilla, alternately with flour which has been sifted together with salt and baking powder. Pour into a greased and floured pan (9” x 13” x 2”) and bake at 325 degrees for 35 to 30 minutes.

While cake is baking, prepare topping. In large mixing bowl, beat eggs until light and foamy. Gradually add sugar, continuing to beat until very thick. Fold in vanilla and pecans. Remove cake from oven when done and spread marmalade over hot cake. Pour on topping and return to upper third of oven; bake until lightly brown and crusty. When cool, cut into squares and serve.

Mustang Sorbet

(Justin Arecchi, Justin’s Ice Cream, San Antonio)

Put 1-1/4 pounds cane sugar in large jug and fill with water to make 1 gallon. Stir and refrigerate overnight. Add 1 quart strained grape juice and freeze in ice cream freezer.

Berry Pudding

(Marie Offerman, New Braunfels)

Ingredients for 2 servings:
1 cup crushed dewberries (or any other berries)
2 to 3 T sugar
2T cornstarch mixed with cold water. Adding a small amount of berry juice won’t hurt.
Whipped cream

Combine sugar and crushed fruit in saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, being careful not to burn mixture. After sugar is melted and mixture starts to boil, stir a few spoonfuls into cornstarch/water mixture, then add that back to the saucepan. Continue stirring on low boil until pudding thickens. Put in bowls and cool. Top with whipped cream before serving.

Prickly Pear Juice – No-Cook Freezer Method

(Barton Hiatt, Dripping Springs)

Pick tunas when they are very ripe, almost ready to fall off the plant. Peeling is optional, because the tiny thorns will be filtered out in the final step. Mash thoroughly with wooden mallet and freeze, which will help break down remaining fibrous material. Thaw mash and push through a colander, then strain again through fine mesh. Juice from the first pressing will be very concentrated; it’s good for some recipes, don’t drink without diluting! You can get a second press from the same mash by adding water and putting it through the strainers again. Juice and concentrate can be frozen or used right away.

Prickly Pear Popsicles

(Courtesy of Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture)

2 cups prickly pear juice
1 cup water
2T lemon juice concentrate
½ cup sugar or agave nectar

Blend juice and water; add lemon juice and sugar. Freeze in ice-pop makers.

Prickly Pear Punch

(Courtesy of Baja Arizona Sustainable Agriculture)

Two 2-liter bottles lemon-lime soda
8 oz prickly pear juice concentrate
4 oz lemon juice concentrate (to taste)
10 sliced limes (to taste)
Ice (as much as possible)

 

Jammin’

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Although I have been quiet with my blogging I have been staying busy with the garden, the bees, the beer sampling and trying to make sense of the crazy politics. I promise that I will not bring politics into the mix…

I started picking my first strawberries in late December…not really enough to call a harvest but those that survived the trip from garden to kitchen were cleaned up and placed in a freezer bag. I tend to snack on the goodies when out in the garden, berries, snap peas and now the asparagus spears that are poking through. Thanks to a Valentines gift from my wife several years ago I have a little sink with running water in my garden. A quick rinse and I have a garden fresh snack.

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I don’t believe this one survived the trip into the kitchen. March has been a better month for strawberries and based on blossom count April should be awesome. I celebrated the first day of spring yesterday by whipping up a batch of strawberry jam. Results, 6 –  1/2 pint jars, 2 – 1/4 pint jars, 1 – 12 oz. jar and a miscellaneous sized cute jar found in amongst my canning supplies. FYI, I use the “SureJell” low sugar pectin and recipe as it allows, in my opinion, more of the fruit flavor to come through.

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Yum! I decided to label my jars with the label being used for my honey. The design for “Bishop’s Bees and Honey” is under revision….I hope to have a new logo and label design before first honey harvest around May 1st! By the end of April I should be managing 12-13 hives. I still have swarm traps out so that number could grow. I am more excited about those numbers than my wife is, but, she does do an amazing job selling my honey. My “honey” really knows how to move my honey!

Another brief note on berries…….the trails around our area are covered up with Dewberry blossoms. Dewberries are a small but tasty blackberry that grows wild here. This is the most amazing display of blossoms in the 12 years we have lived in Kingwood. I am looking forward to the harvest time….should be a good one.

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Just a sampling of what is to come.

TTFN

Bishop

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