Apple butter is one of those items that just signal fall to me. They are a little thicker and spicier than their cousin, apple sauce, but you can use apple butter in a variety of ways. Fruit “butters” are really just thick fruit jams, often made with stone fruits or other fruits that you don’t often see in jam version. However, a “butter” is not a jam, it is much more concentrated and requires a long time of boiling the fruit down to make a thick butter. In the end, all that time is worth it because you can use your butter in a variety of ways. I like to put apple butter on bread with figs, goat cheese and baby greens to make a quick, sweet sandwich. You can also put apple butter on bread or mix it up with actual butter and maybe add a pinch of caraway seed to spread on home-made biscuits. (The Roebling Tea Room, a popular restaurant in Brooklyn, make a version of this butter/apple butter mix and it is a-ma-zing.) After the jump, I will take you through the process of both making and canning apple butter.
Now that it was warming up and the bugs were starting to drift off, I thought my garden would be drama free for the rest of the summer. Unfortunately, I was in for a surprise: powdery mildew! I have a few squash plants growing in my garden: zucchini, pumpkin and butternut squash but a few weeks ago I started to notice white powdery spots on the leaves of my zucchini which quickly started to multiply and spread to my pumpkin and butternut plants. Oh no! Luckily, it wasn’t as serious as I thought it was and I found an incredibly simple solution. Continue reading
I know I previously mentioned tomato blight, an infection that can do some serious damage to tomatoes in damp summer months, but I thought it would also be good to just go over some basics about tomato growing. Tomatoes are probably one of the most popular vegetables for home gardeners to grow. They are pretty easy to grow but if you take the time to learn some very basic steps to care for your tomatoes you can increase your yield and improve the health of your tomato plant. These steps are mostly the cause of trial and error on my own part (my tomatoes last year were no bigger than a quarter), but now I have nice and healthy tomato plants growing up on my roof. After the jump, find my five basic steps for growing tomatoes.
Gooseberries aren’t that popular in the United States, but they are enjoyed in parts of Europe where they are often used in jams and syrups. Before I made this gooseberry-ginger jam, I had never tried gooseberries but I was intrigued when I saw some for sale at the Greenmarket and was told they were a good alternative to sweet fruit. (I’m not a huge fan of sweet things.) Gooseberries also come shrouded in an aura of danger since according to Wikipedia–the most accurate, never-wrong source since Truth was invented by George Washington and Joe the Plumber back in 1821–the gooseberry is outlawed in some parts of the US! I have been told, however, that they are pretty easy to grow in containers–particularly if you live in an area that gets a good cold winter.
This jam, from Doris and Jilly cook, is really great. Everyone I offer it to goes mad for it. The sweetness of the sugar is undercut by the tart gooseberry and a hint of ginger gives it a sort of candy-like, but not too-sweet, quality. Perfect if you are trying to avoid saccharine jams. One note, about the recipe since they didn’t make a note about it when it was posted: the recipe will yield about 5 half-pint jars with a half-inch head space.
(photo via Flickr)
You may have heard something about the Northeast’s latest bout of late blight or “tomato blight.” We in the Northeast have been cursed with some real dreadful weather as of late. Thunderstorms, humidity and a seemingly never ending stretch of gray clouds have made this summer downright lame. Farmers were worried that if it didn’t start to warm up soon (you know, like how it is normally supposed to be in, uh, JULY?) that late blight might infect tomatoes across the Northeast region, ruining possibly hundreds of crops, driving up regional tomato prices and seriously hurting local farmers. Well now, it seems, the tomato blight has even gotten to lifestyle expert Martha Stewart who posted a picture of her infected tomato crop on her Twitter.
Sigh. If not even Martha, with her army of gardeners, could save her tomatoes, what does that mean for us mere urban gardening plebes? Luckily, I planted my tomatoes a little late by some people’s standards (I just planted the seedlings in May and they should be ripe by September) so hopefully the blight will be killed off by then. (Late blight is killed off by summer heat; however, this weather is starting to make me think my crop may be in danger as well.) I hope that things improve soon because not only do I hate to see local farmers and gardeners hurt by late blight but I also don’t want to have to scrap my annual tomato canning mania this Fall.
NOTE: If you’re tomatoes have been infected by late blight, pull up the entire plant (yes, the entire plant), bag it immediately and throw it away. Do not compost plants infected by late blight or any disease! This disease can also effect potatoes so be sure that you keep an eye on your spuds as well and dispose of them in the same way.
(Pic via MarthaStewart)