Autumn is Coming

As I walk the dog twice daily and as we drive to church twice weekly, I realize the season is beginning to change.

In the early mornings, the mist wraps itself like a scarf among the mountains.  In the evenings, a crispness is in the air.

There is the bright purple of the Iron Weed, the yellow of the Goldenrod, and the majesty of the towering Queen of the Meadow.

Ironweed
Iron Weed
Ironweed
Iron Weed
Goldenrod
Goldenrod
Goldenrod
Goldenrod
Goldenrod
Goldenrod
Queen of the Meadow
Queen of the Meadow
Queen of the Meadow
Queen of the Meadow

 The trees are loaded with apples and pears, and the black walnuts are beginning to drop.

Black walnuts in the tree
Black walnuts in the tree
Black walnut fallen
Black walnut fallen

 The chirp of the Cicada is heard more than the songs of the birds.

Vegetable gardens are fading.  The potatoes are ready to be dug.

The sweet scent of mowed long grass reminds me of drying hay from the farm on which I grew up.

Mowed long grass
Mowed long grass

The sunlight angles from a different spot.  Darkness comes sooner.

 The calendar reads “August”; but nature says, “Autumn is coming!”

*I must give credit to one of my children who one day on a walk said, “Look at the fog on the mountain.  It looks like a scarf!”

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Canning Peaches in Pennsylvania

The children and I were blessed to be able to make the long drive to Pennsylvania to spend two weeks there. We spent a week at church camp where we were refreshed spiritually through worship and the Word. We then went to my parents’ house where there was plenty of time to play at Grandma and Grandpa’s and with cousins.

Part of the plan was for my mother and I to can peaches while we were there. The area where I grew up is blessed with many orchards and farms. As a child, I certainly took for granted all the delicious local fruit and produce that was available. With the late spring this year, we were not sure that the Sunhigh peaches we normally can would be available in time. When a generous man from the church found out we were looking for peaches, he offered for us to come pick at his farm. He had not got around to thinning his peaches, so he could not sell them.

Peach trees
Peach trees

Fairly early Monday morning, we set out to pick peaches. I had picked apples and cherries, but I do not think I had ever picked peaches. After an hour, we had a little over five bushels of peaches. The smell of a fresh ripe peach is exquisite and the taste is so delicious. We all enjoyed a taste in the orchard before heading home.

5 bushels of peaches
5 bushels of peaches
Peaches
Peaches

Every morning found my mother and I, and sometimes a little helper, working on peaches. As a child, I remember canning peaches with my grandmother and mother and sometimes another relative. My favorite thing to do was eat the skin that was peeled from the peaches. I had to chuckle as my children slipped peach peels from my pan. We canned over 90 quarts that week. Our families will enjoy the bounty all winter.

My mother, niece, and daughter preparing peaches for canning
My mother, niece, and daughter preparing peaches for canning

I have been asked about how to can peaches, so here is my method. Wash peaches. Cut peach in half, remove seed, and peel each half. Slice peaches and put in quart jars. Shake jar as you go to settle peaches. Fill jar to top. Fill jar with syrup until it reaches the bottom of the neck. (The syrup recipe I use is very light: 1/2 cup of honey or 1 cup of sugar to 10 cups of water. You can make it sweeter if you like.) Make sure the rim of the jar is clean. Place jar flat on jar and tighten ring. Fill a boiling water bath canner with jars of peaches and water. Bring to a boil. Once water is boiling, turn heat back to low for 20 minutes. Remove jars from canner and allow to cool overnight before removing rings.  This is one way to can peaches, but one thing I have learned through the years of working with various people is that everyone has a different method.

Canned peaches
Canned peaches

Making Chow Chow

For a number of years, I have wanted to try making chow chow; but there never seemed to be enough of a variety of vegetables from the garden ready at the same time. This year, I looked around my kitchen and was pleased to see I had the vegetables I needed to give it a try. After perusing recipes from both cookbooks and the internet, I realized there is not just one way to make chow chow. I combined ideas from what I read, and here is what I did.

Raw vegetables
Raw vegetables

In a food processor on low, grind 3 large onions, 5 tomatoes that are not fully ripe, 3 bell peppers, 1 small head of cabbage, and 6 small cucumbers. Place mixture in a large pot. Add 2 cups of corn and 2 cups of green beans cut in 1/2 inch pieces to pot. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of real salt. Let stand overnight. Drain. (I saved the liquid to use in soup.) Rinse. Combine 3 cups sugar, 2 cups apple cider vinegar, 1 cup of water, 1 tablespoon mustard seed, 2 teaspoons celery seed, and 1 teaspoon turmeric. Pour over vegetables. Bring to boiling. Boil for 5 minutes. Put in jars and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. This recipe made 7 pints and a bit more to taste.

Canned chow chow
Canned chow chow

The chow chow was delicious if I do say so myself! I love it on the side of a meat, potatoes, and vegetable kind of meal. Plus the colors of the vegetables make a very pretty addition to a plate or table.

Children husking corn
Children husking corn

Dock Seed Crackers

A few months ago, I mentioned that the children and I participated in a class where we learned about wild edibles. My friend who led the class mentioned that you can make crackers from dock seeds. On our daily walks, I noticed plenty of seeds. I thought I would give the crackers a try, so I did an internet search for a recipe. Here is my version.

Dock seeds
Dock seeds

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Collect the dock seeds. Wait until they are dark brown and dried to harvest. Gently slide the seeds off the stalk. Grind 1 cup of dock seeds in a food processor. Mix with 1 cup of whole wheat flour. Add 1 tsp. of salt. Stir in enough water to make a pliable mixture, not sticky. Roll onto a cookie sheet. Score with a knife about 1 inch squares. Bake at 350 F degrees for 12-15 minutes or until crisp.

Harvested dock seeds
Harvested dock seeds

These are hearty crackers and quite tasty with a bit of peanut butter. While I would not use this recipe frequently, it is gratifying to know how to make nourishing food from the wild.

Crackers made with dock seeds
Crackers made with dock seeds