Sunday, September 30, 2012

Longing for Fall

Today is the last day of September and I am longing for autumn. The calendar says it is fall. The autumnal equinox occurred last week on the 22nd. And, the harvest moon was last night and then again tonight. The days are getting shorter. But, it still doesn't feel like fall to me. There have been too many sunny days and warm temperatures. Portland has seen barely any rain since July. The only measurable rain in September was 0.04 inch, which came earlier in the month. That makes this is the fourth driest September on record. But, this is Portland, Oregon...the Pacific Northwest. There should be rain. I know I will probably regret writing this sometime in February when there have been some many grey and drizzly days that I have lost count, but I miss the rain. I want that lovely balance of drizzly, grey mornings with the sun breaking through in the afternoon (charmingly referred to as sunbreaks in this part of the Lower 48). And, then there is the smell that fall has here. A deep and earthy scent of turning leaves with a touch of decay and change that the brisk air enhances. I hope autumn arrives soon. My soul is craving it.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Apple Season

Autumn is here and that means apples. Lots of apples. Dan and I headed out the weekend before last to the Hood River Valley area known as the Fruit Loop. It's a gorgeous part of the state that is filled with farms and farm stands, plus wineries (that's a whole other post). The Saturday that we visited was part of the annual Pear Celebration weekend. And, we did indulge in pears. But, I was focused on apples. Why? Because I wanted to make more apple preserves. It's not a fancy recipe, just one from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. However, it is a really tasty recipe that Dan and I discovered a couple of years ago when some friends gifted us about 10 lbs. of Gravenstein apples. We needed to do something with all of them and there are only so many crisps and pies that you can make and eat before they go bad. Plus, we did not have enough room to properly store them for any length of time. So, since we had just started learning to can, we decided to make preserves. Much to our delight, this recipe turned out to be a keeper. It is not a preserve that is great on toast. But, it is fantastic with pork and even better with cheese. Wonderful to add to a cheese board when you have guests over. Needless to say, we picked up a few pounds of Gravenstein apples and I made a batch of preserves earlier this week. Last year, we made a batch of this preserve with some Tokyo Rose apples. It was good but not as good as with the Gravensteins. We might give another variety of apples a try for second batch just see which we like better. It is fun to experiment with the different varieties of apples. 

Our next project involving apples is making hard cider. More on that to come...

Winter Squash

It's hard to believe that back in May, I planted several, tiny winter squash plant starters and I have ended up with actual squash. This is the first time that I have had any success growing them. Given the size and the huge growth of all of the vines, I thought for sure that I would be harvesting dozens of squashes but that was not the case. A number of them literally died on the vine. And, though, it was not a large haul, it has been gratifying nonetheless. I am looking forward to using some of them for autumn and Halloween decorations. And, a few, like the Baby Blue Hubbards and Sweet Dumplings, I look forward to eating. I cannot wait to grow more next year.