Mary's Veggie Garden

July 6, 2015

7/6/2015 Currant Events

Filed under: Currants,Fruit — marysveggiegarden @ 10:08 pm

My 4-year old currant bushes set a great crop this year. Last week I was able to harvest enough berries to make currant jam!

Currant jam - mostly Pink Champagne with a few Rovada for color.

Currant jam – mostly Pink Champagne with a few Rovada for color. The jars are cloudy because they are cold, removed from the refrigerator immediately before the photography.

I have five currant bushes. The varieties “Blanka” and “Rovada” were both good-sized bushes when I transplanted them from another location in 2012. I also have three “Pink Champagne” bushes, which I got by rooting branch cuttings in the spring of 2012.

My biggest Pink Champagne bush started ripening berries in early June. They were tart, with a hint of sweetness.  A month later the berries are much sweeter but with a tartness that keeps them interesting. I harvest a handful whenever I’m in the garden. Unfortunately the squirrels are getting interested in the Pink Champagne berries so last Thursday I harvested most of the berries – leaving only a few that were not yet ripe.

I filled a colander with the harvest – a bit over two pounds. I added a handful of red Rovada berries for color. Although deep red, the Rovada berries are still under ripe. I made jam using these two recipes as a basis:  http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2011/06/red-currant-jam-recipe/ and http://foodpreservation.about.com/od/Preserves/r/Red-Currant-Jelly-Recipe.htm and following these directions for jelling:  http://foodpreservation.about.com/od/Preserves/ss/How-To-Test-Jellies-For-The-Jell-Point-A-Step-By-Step-Guide.htm#step1.

My Recipe:

I removed the berries from their trusses and rinsed in several changes of water. I added the berries and .5 c. water to a stainless steel Dutch oven and cooked until the berries released their juice, using a potato masher to smash the berries.

I used an ancient Foley food mill to remove the seeds – removing 10 ounces of seed & skin from the 2 pounds of berries. I ran the juice through the food mill a second time and captured a few more seeds.

Returning the juice to the pot, I added 1.6 c. sugar, then boiled the mix until it jelled. That took at least 20 minutes. The yield was about 2 cups of jam. I didn’t can it, because we are using it right away.

This was my first time making jam, and I boiled it a bit too long. The resulting jam is much stiffer than commercial jam but it can be mashed with a fork. The flavor is intensely fruity, sweet, and tart all at once.  We are eating it on our pancakes instead of syrup.

If I do this again I would start cooking the berries very slowly, with little or no water and add less sugar, maybe only 1 cup.  I would also try for a softer jam. This was my first try and I preferred to err on the side of extra-firm jam, rather than a syrup.

Current Comparison

Currants compared:  red Rovada, Pink Champagne and yellow Blanka.

Currants compared: red Rovada, Pink Champagne and pale yellow Blanka. Some berries split as I pulled them.

Pink Champagne – smallest berry, best flavor, biggest seeds. Ripening first.

Blanka – medium-sized berry, starting to ripen now, not as fruity as Pink champagne.

Rovada – biggest berry. Beautiful, full trusses. Smaller seeds. Ripening slowest.  I hope the flavor develops as they ripen; today I would characterize the flavor as poor.

Pink Champagne currants awaiting harvest.

Pink Champagne currants awaiting harvest. The blush on the berries deepens as the flavor sweetens.

 

Rovada sets berries in long, full trusses. Despite their color, these berries are not yet ripe.

Rovada sets berries in long, full trusses. Despite their color, these berries are not yet ripe.

August 5, 2013

Harvest Monday 8/5/2013: Cherries!

Filed under: Cherries,Fruit — marysveggiegarden @ 4:25 pm
Tags: ,

This is a first for me: cherries harvested from my garden! I’ve been harvesting these little beauties for about a week now – straight from the bush to my mouth.

Bush cherry harvest: the berries are a smidgen smaller than a dime. Seeds are the size of those in sweet cherries.

Bush cherry harvest: the berries are a smidgen smaller than a dime.

The plants are bush cherries: Prunus jacquemonti x japonica  ‘Joy’ and ‘Joel’. I have one of each variety and I don’t know which is which because the labels got separated from the plants early in their life. Two varieties are necessary for pollination.

Bush cherries in bloom 3/26/2012

Bush cherries in bloom 3/26/2012

The bushes blossom profusely in the early spring: the last week of March last year in the mid-Hudson Valley. There is a heavy fruit set – almost every blossom must set fruit.

Young bush cherry fruit  5/29/2013

Young bush cherry fruit 5/29/2013

Last year I had a problem:  all the cherries disappeared while still green.  It happened gradually but by late July there was only a hand full of berries remaining. Last year there were lots of chipmunks – three or four all summer. I blamed them (I know they were eating all my cherry tomatoes) and resolved to net the bushes this year.

This spring I feared the worst. While planting peppers in the bed next to the cherries I found several clusters of 15-20 seeds buried in the soil.

Green bush cherries found planted in the garden.

Green bush cherries found planted in the garden 5/29/2013.

Comparing the buried seeds to the green cherries on the bushes, I am certain a chipmunk (or possibly a squirrel) was helping me by thinning the green cherries and planting them for later consumption.

Well, I never did get around to netting the bushes. But this year, at least, it doesn’t seem to matter. Both the squirrel and chipmunk populations seem to have crashed and there is only one chipmunk lurking in the garden. (Yeah, Coopers Hawks!)

Bush cherries ripening August 1.

Bush cherries ripening August 1.

Flavor: these cherries are mouth-puckering tart if harvested early. The cherries should be left to ripen to dark red on all sides when they develop their sweetness. If the cherry pulls off easily it is ready – and will be sweet-tart, good to eat. The cherries at the 9-11 o’clock positions in the first picture are under-ripe. I should have looked at the bottom before harvesting.

The two cherry bushes  fill a space about 10' wide.

The two cherry bushes fill a space about 10′ wide.

Growing: The bushes seem happy where they are growing. I planted them in a part of the garden that is too shady for most vegetables, next to my east fence where they get shade until 11 AM.  The soil is a loamy clay with a pH of 7.0-7.2.

Problems: Clearly something is nibbling on the leaves – but it isn’t severe enough to bother me. Of more concern are the shriveled cherries in the picture below. (Click on the picture to enlarge.) It could simply be a watering problem. July was very dry, trees are near by, and I haven’t been watering the bushes.

Shriveled cherries - too dry or a problem?

Shriveled cherries – too dry or a problem?

I looked at these berries with a magnifying glass. It doesn’t look like brown rot so I’m hoping better watering will solve the problem next year.

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