Category Archives: goblin fruit

Goblin Fruit Jam 2015 ~ OR ~ Canning Season Is Upon Us

So, a year or two ago, I wrote a story. It was a little tiny thing, only a thousand words, and I wrote it so that I could tell it from memory at a local storytelling open mic. It was a story about a small, fictional town (Emerson, Ontario, for those keeping track) and the annual Jam Jambouree put on by one of the churches.
Mrs. Phillips always won the Jam Jambouree…
It was a story about a kid who’d had Mrs Phillips for an English Teacher and hadn’t had a very pleasant time of it, and who decided to show up Mrs Phillips just to Show Her that not everybody was willing to bend over backwards and make themselves small, just so she could feel big.
My main character made “Goblin Fruit” jam – or jelly, really – out of a summer’s worth of black currants, choke cherries, and blackberries, along with a glug of vanilla, a hoarded piece of candied ginger, and a nip of creme de casis from a tiny, dusty bottle in the back of her parents’ liquor cabinet.
My particular version of Goblin Fruit jelly, for 2015, includes the following:
Black currants from a harvest of the Booth Street bush down near Scott (which, fyi, contain a heap of their own pectin) (protection, abundance)
Choke cherries (harvested this morning, just before the rain hit, from the tree on the corner of Arlington and Bronson) (luck, love, passion)
Red (oh well) raspberries from the Everbearing bushes down the alley – only about ten, I picked them as I was coming home from getting the choke cherries (love, protection, passion)
Sweet cherries (again, only about 10) that came out of a bag in the freezer and come from nowhere near my neighbourhood (luck, love, passion)
A vanilla pod given to me by a friend (love, passion, & happiness)
A dash of ground allspice (luck)
A cube of candied ginger (love, and a magical energy boost)
As you can see, there’s a bit of a theme running through all of this. 😉
Because I don’t go in for jewel-tone clear jellies, but strain as much of the fruit pulp into the mixture as possible, I’m inclined to call this stuff “jam” rather than “jelly”. Regardless, it should be a dark redish-purple colour when it gets done, and it should taste roughly like cherry candy.
Wht I wound up with, after I’d simmered the fruit (in two rounds) and strained it through a sceive, was 2.5C worth of juice-and-pulp, which I poured back into the (washed) sauce pan with an equal amount of granulated sugar (and about two tablespoons of red wine vinegar, just to be on the safe side), and I’ve been quietly simmering that mixture on the stove for the past hour and a half or so while I wait for it to thicken up. It probably would have taken less time if I’d opted for a wider pan (thus allowing for a shallower depth of juice, more surface area, and as such a faster thickening process).
As it stands, I’ve filled 5 half-cup jars already, and am quickly boiling three more in order to use up the rest. If I have a drizzle left over, it might (maybe) get whipped into some cream for tonight strawberry-raspberry shortcake confection (we’ve got company coming over).
Meliad. 🙂

O is for Overwhelmed and “Out of Order” – Pagan Blog Project 2014

I’ve just spent a chunk of the afternoon reading this frightening and somewhat perlexing piece and this (less scary) piece that linked to it, and now I want to freak out.
Which isn’t actually helpful or useful.
There are things I can do, sure. Stop buying plastic is a big, but more than slightly difficult, one. Switching to LED lights and eating more and more locally (both in the sense of organic-cotton-clad-hippies-at-farmers’-markets and in the sense of knowing which plants in my neighbourhood are the ones I can eat on the regular) are big ones, too. But, while these actions have a huge impact on my life, they feel like they would accomplish absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things.
So much of what I could do – solar panels, larger windows, better insulation, geothermal heating, wood stoves – if I had the option, which I don’t living in a low rent apartment building with electric heat, limited natural light, no balcony, and enough of a building-wide bug (and, to a somewhat lesser extent, mould) problem that growing food indoors just seems like an entirely bad idea… seems like it would do little beyond giving me and mine (and “mine” are a very small number, if I get right down to it) a chance at pretending that things are “okay” for longer.
It’s overwhelming.
It’s terrifying.
The questions I ask myself are things like:
We could (just about) afford to move to The Country – two hours away from the nearest suburb of the city we live in – but could we manage that, if we did it? Could we deal with having to drive Everywhere[1]? Could I deal with seeing 99% of the people I care about no more than a couple of times per year? Would my own loneliness drive me crazy, drive my wife to leave me? Would the isolation mean nobody would visit? Would my nearest neighbours be anything like me, want to know me as I am? Would whatever I learn or do, create or cultivate or produce, be of any use to anyone if I’m so far away from everyone?
Gordon quotes the following in this post:

“[…] Community wealth defined by community knowledge, community sharing of information, and community definition of truth derived in transparency and authenticity, the latter being the ultimate arbiter of shared wealth.”

I’m not a hedge witch. I’m a hearth witch. I want to know what grows here – native and naturalized and cultivated, all of the above – so that I can encourage it to grown in a patch of land that I can steward for a long time. The “English Country” flower garden that I dream of is mostly multipurpose flowering plants that work as edibles, medicinals, magicals, and that encourage pollinators and beneficial predatory insects[2]. I want to be growing enough food, and out in my (currently mythical) yard often enough, that I can hand off stuff to my neighbours, have enough to give away. I want to welcome people in, build community, strengthen ties. Going Away… doesn’t do that, even though being hermits might, in the long run, keep us safe.
The Medicine Woman offers the following:
“We don’t have to live in a virgin wilderness or lush forest to connect to place, the plants of our regions pop up in ghettos and suburbs, in barrios and busy downtown districts. And cities have their own internal ecosystems of street tough weeds and wildflowers.”
I am a city witch., and so “going to the wild”, re-wilding myself, needs to happen in a forest of sky-scrapers where wild means feral cats, squirrels, and racoons, means toadstool mushrooms and fallow scrub lots. It means following the curve of the river (full of bass, carp, zebra-muscles, catfish, crayfish, cattails, river grass, brown trout, muskies, an Old Lady sturgeon on the bottom, below the rapids, who’s been there for longer than I’ve been alive). It means hive-hotels for solitary bees, and Making Arrangements with the blue-black hornets who go wonky in the hot days of mid-September, after the frost-warnings of early Apple Moon (or labour day weekend, as you will). It means listening to the crows who fly (in a river of thousands), south to north across the city, every evening at sunset. It means seeing the harrons on the Redeau, or tracking their flight along the length of Bronson from Carleton U to the Ottawa River. It means catching the tok-tok-tok of the big raven whose territory covers most of Hintonburg and part of China Town, and recognizing that the pigeon carcass (all wings, and not much else) had a fatal run-in with the falcon who lives on top of the tallest apartment tower on the block. It means having a good idea of where the lead isn’t when you harvest those dandelions, those wild grape leaves, that garlic mustard. It means skipping the roots of Chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace, and opting for windfall apples, choke cherries, black walnuts (that are a mess to crack, but that taste like blue cheese, if you like blue cheese). It means knowing that “we are nature, working” (Starhawk, The Earth Path) and, as such, trying not to behave like an autoimmune disorder.
So what do I do?
I say “excuse me” when I pass pigeons (or human neighbours) on the sidewalk, and wave to the crows.
I pay attention when I’m walking, looking at who’s around, plant-wise, getting to know the neighbours, looking what says “Notice me!” (for example, I’ve only just started noticing a member of the mint family with fluffy white flowers, growing all over my neighbourhood[3]).
I greet the river, the sun, the moon, and the plants (cherry and serviceberry, apple and crab apple trees, grape vines, raspberry and currant bushes, plots of dandelions, milkweed, feral spearmint, wood sorrel, purselane…) that I eat from. I acknowledge the crossroads, the soil under the concrete and asphalt. Cheer for the rain and the thunder storms.
When I make offerings, I try to make sure that they’re… the work of my own hands. I’ve heard it said that offering a bouquet of wild flowers to Nature is a bit like yanking off someone’s finger and then presenting it to them like a gift. But clean water and hot-cooking compost heaps, the work it takes to build up a water-lens (using swales and the like) or clean up other people’s garbage[4] in a public space (whether that’s a wild public space or a more cultivated one, either way), art[5], or raw materials transformed into something that the rest of nature can’t make on its own (fresh-baked bread, maple syrup, yoghurt or butter, country wine…) are often cited as good bets.
I try to do my animal bit to distribute the seeds of fruiting plants, tossing apple cores, red currants, raspberries, cherry pits into neglected, sunny spots where, hopefully, they’ll find ways to take root and grow.
Meliad the Birch Maiden
[1] Ignoring for the moment both the question of my learning how to drive (again), and the other question of what about when there’s no more gasoline? …Could I use a bicycle to get around? How many bicycle-hours away from the nearest transit way station am I willing to live in the mean time? (Would something like this work?
[2] Queen Anne’s Lace, motherwort, chickory, purple cone flower, bone set (queen of the meadow), catnip, tansy, foxglove, mallow, hollyhocks, spiderwort, marigold, juniper, cedar, sunflowers, black cohosh, bee balm, bergamot, sweet william, centaury, Joe Pye Weed, blue cohosh, bouncing bet, mugwort, skullcap, mullein, slippery elm, wood sorrel, scilla, sweetgrass, giant (purple) vetch, borage, yellow evening primrose…
[3] Turns out it’s (probably) catnip, which can be used to make a lemony, minty tea that will (in theory) help you sleep, and which can be chucked into spells to draw good luck, particularly good luck in romantic/sexual endeavors, your way. Apparently the oil also works as a mosquito and tick repellant. Yes/No?
[4] I know. I know. It all has to go somewhere, and amalgamating a bunch of it into a (most likely plastic) bag that is then sent to a landfill doesn’t actually fix the problem of we use too much disposable, non-biodegradable, crap… but it does keep things contained a little better, and makes it marginally less likely that other people in a lot of different areas are going to swallow, or get tangled in, our Tim Horton’s cups and six-pack rings.
[5]Songs, stories, poetry, dances, sure. But clay sculpture and temporary visuals – a picture rendered in wet sand (or plain chalk?) that will disappear with time, rain, and spring floods or tides, wherein the work of creating it is the offering.

Black Currant Coffee Cake (and Syrup)

Okay, so today, on the way home from my contract-job, I stopped and picked about two cups of black currants off a wayside bush that I discovered last weekend. The upshot of this is that I now have about 1½ cups (in a pint jar) of black currant syrup cooling (after processing) on my counter AND about a quarter cup (maybe a third of a cup?) of black currant pulp (and tiny, tiny, crunchy seeds) left over from getting the juice out of the berries to begin with.
Now, while some fruits might become kind of bland and bitter and gross after you’ve leached the juice out of them (I admit I’m theorizing here, and thinking mostly of apples and pears), black currants are (a) kind of bitter – along with very sour – to begin with, and (b) have Flavour to spare, even after being boiled for an hour and then smushed into something resembling paté (at least if paté were maroon).
Readers, I did not want to just chuck the maroon paté into the compost bin with the stems and leaves and such-like.
So I cooked up (literally – ahaha) the following coffee cake to put it to use. I’ll know if it’s any good in about 30-45 minutes (here’s hoping).
Black Currant Coffee Cake
½ C whole wheat pastry flour
½ C polished wheat (white) all-purpose flour
½ C ground almonds
1 C granulated sugar
1 tbsp cassonade (maple sugar)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
Pinch Salt
¼ C mashed black currant pulp
1 egg
½ C oil, scant (think “minus one tablespoon” when measuring)
½ C plain yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Mix everything together in a big bowl
Bake in a greased pan at 350F for an hour (or until it smells done)
Allow to cool
Serve with fruit preserves, vanilla yoghurt, Black Raspberry Thunder ice cream, whipped cream, or whatever suits your fancy
Anyway, that was my adventure today. 🙂
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Well… I Guess This Means It’s Canning Season…

I bought two baskets of Ontario miniature cucumbers today, and am brining about 2/3 of them (cut into spears) for this year’s batch of garlic-dill cucumber pickles[1] and the rest of-which will be chopped up and fresh-eaten in salads[2] over the next four days or so.
I also picked up a few golden zucchini – also Ontario-grown – and blanched two out of three of them. They’re sliced into super-thin rounds and freezing (not exactly IQF, unfortunately, but close) in the chest freezer[3] along-side a couple of cups worth of local alleyway raspberries, all of which will be transferred to freezer bags in the next 24 hours or so. My plan for the next hour is to wander over to a neglected patch of red currants (not quite in my neighbourhood, but close) and collect enough for a pie and, potentially, enough to freeze a few for later use.
I admit what’s more likley to happen on that front is that I’ll use last year’s red currant hoard (such as it is) in the pie, and freeze this year’s bunch to make (months from now) a simple, sweet-tart fruit sauce that more-or-less works in lieu of cranberry sauce. Or possibly another pie, or possibly an addition to breakfast muffins or a struesel loaf or something. You get the idea.
Anyway. With these projects under way, I think it’s safe to say that Canning Season is upon us – or at least upon me in edging-towards-full force.
Right now I have:
2 C asparagus relish
2 C black currant curd (made with ribena – aka black currant simple syrup – about a month ago)
2 L (or so) frozen serviceberries
1-2 C (flattened out in a single freezer bag) edamole (made from previously frozen edamame)
1-2 C (flattened out in a single freezer bag) Vietnamese Garlic pesto
2-3 C frozen (well, freezing) golden zucchini rounds[4]
2 C frozen (freezing) raspberries (hoping to collect more early next week, if I can swing it)
6+ pints (3+ litres) of cucumber spears – currently brining, but the end result will be pickles
…Plus the preserves I have in the cupboard, still, from last Summer – four cups of fruit butter, two and a half cups of various jams, a pint of cucumber pickles + a half-cup jar of raddish pickles, two cups of chutney, and an acient jar of grape jelly that I need to find a use for ASAP. (Got suggestions? I’m wondering if I can use it, mixed with some red wine vinegar, as some kind of a glaze…)
As for that red currant pie… Taking this and this as my starting points, I’m aiming for:
2-3 C red currants, washed, stemmed, and tossed in –> 2 tbsp flour
0.5 C sugar (or more to taste – red currants are pretty sour on their own)
0.25 C plain yoghurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
0.5 C black currant curd
1 single-crust pie shell – possibly a crumb-crust made with ground almonds, brown sugar, a little flour, and some butter (likely)
Spread pie-shell with black currant curd
Combine upper ingredients in a bowl, then dump into pie-shell (on top of curd)
Bake at 350F for 30-45 minutes
Allow to cool for half an hour (to set)
Serve. Possibly with vanilla yoghurt OR whipped cream OR chocolate (or vanilla or berry) ice cream. Enjoy. 😀
Meliad the Birch Maiden
[1] The irony, if you can call it that, being that finding Ontario garlic at the moment is going to be a tad tricky. (I’ll have to check the Parkdale Market – possibly today – to see if anyone has some uncured stuff up for sale). Woops. :-\
[2] Specifically, think diced cukes + red kidney beans + cooked quinoa (or couscous) + dried herbs (dill and cilantro, probably, plus some of my frozen Vietnamese Garlic pesto) + plain yoghurt. It’s basically a meal, and I like it that way. 😀
[3] I am so freaking glad that we have this, I can’t even begin to express it! Stocking up! Without having to cover everything in sugar! 😀 😀 😀
[4] The idea is to have them on hand – along with (I hope) some frozen roasted-and-diced eggplant and a lot of different blanched-and-frozen greens (muffin-cup sized “pucks” of them), and as many jars of crushed/sauced tomatoes as I can manage to create – for making stews and braises over the winter and into the spring.

Cherry Triflesque (not actually a recipe, but close)

It’s Friday night. The altars are lit[1], the wine is chilling (it’s a Muscat/Muscado, so it’ll be sweet), and I’m blogging about dinner.
Go figure.
See, as-you-know-bob, I’m kind of a preserving nut. I don’t go nearly as hard core as, say, Erica over at NW Edible Life (link goes to a recent post about maintaining a working larder/pantry), but I forage and I glean and I freeze and I can and, invariably, I wind up with a lot of stuff left over once spring starts suggesting that it might be turning up[2].
Now, I’m getting better at both (a) using my preserves, and (b) making preserves that I will actually use. But I still tend to over do it on things where, well, where the main ingredient is free. In 2013, that was apple butter and serviceberry jam, and that’s likely to be the case in 2014 as well.
Now, apple butter I can use up. It makes a great binder in pancakes (and other cakes) and can lend a velvetty texture to whatever baked good you’re inclined to turn your hand to. But the jam is… I’m not sure what to do with that.
On top of those, I’ve got a dozen jars of fruit butter (not a problem – I won’t be making more until August/September, so that’s fine), a variety of chutneys, and a small heap of things like Ground Cherry Curd… as well as, this year, a heap of frozen fruit.
I spend months avoiding using my frozen berries, because I was, well, I was essentially hoarding them. I didn’t want to run out. But now I’m looking at July – which is not that far away, and hoping for another glut of serviceberries[3], and I’m trying to find ways of using up All The Fruit.
So, the other night, I stewed some of my frozen cherries with a little sugar (and a little, totally unnecessary, water) and threw together some sweet tea biscuits, and between the two of them and some plain yoghurt, make a pretty kick-ass simple dessert, if I do say so myself.

The Reddest Stollen Cherries...

The Reddest Stollen Cherries…

Above are the cherries – not even close to all of them, I’ve still got a bunch in the freezer – stewing in their syrup. Tastes like candy. Seriously. O.O
The finished product.  The perfect mix of sweet and tart. :-D

The finished product. The perfect mix of sweet and tart. 😀

And this is the finished product. The tea biscuits are based off the “Stratford Hall Biscuits” recipe in Laurel’s Kitchen, though I tweaked it a little and sweetened it up just a bit. I’m calling this one “Cherry Triflesque”, but it could just as easily be one of Nigella Lawson’s “deconstructed trifles”, if I wanted to get fancy.
So there you have it. It being Friday, and therefore it being Fabulous Friday Dinner tonight (which is not *that* fabulous, but will be very tasty), I think I will whip up something similar using serviceberry jam and ground cherry curd, and we’ll just see how things go. 🙂
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] One of them is topped up with lard, fyi. I’ve got a tonne of the stuff – or, well, about 12 cups, I suppose is more accurate – lying around, half in the freezer and half in the fridge, and I’ve started using it for cooking in lieu of butter (for main course stuff – it’s not rendered gently enough to not taste like pork, and that was the idea), but it’s also slated to become much-less-expensive-than-beeswax candle fuel and, to that end, I’ve (finally) started topping up my altar candles with other forms of fat. You know how that goes – you burn your tealight, and it extinguishes itself in some weird way, leaving half the wick-tab exposed, but also a heap of unburned wax around the edges? I’m using lard as a bit of a stop gap to feed the flame (and, thus, conserve the wick), while the remaining beeswax heats up enough to feed it the rest of the way. We’ll see how it works. 😉
[2] Which is now. It’s early March, and we’re still technically in “late winter” by local standards. But the sun is actually warm, and the wind isn’t quite so bitter, and it was (briefly) above freezing today. I was wondering what to name this lunar cycle, since “sugar moon” seems like a distant dream, and I’m thinking “thawing moon” might be just about apt. We’ll see what the weather does, and I’ll let you know.
[3] Note to Self: This year? Double the ammount that you freeze, and make half as much jam. Seriously. Maybe less.

Full Moon – Berry Moon Crests

So, strictly speaking, the full moon was on Monday. Late again, late again. None the less, let’s get into it, shall we?
I have about a litre of sour cherries frozen in a zip-lock bag in the freezer (that’s on top of a cherry pie and a few cups of cherry-chocolate spread). I regret not picking even more of them but, unlike the serviceberries, these are all from trees in other people’s front yards. Goblin Fruit means that you can’t just take everything, y’know?
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Strawberries, Sour Cherries, and Red Currants (Jam and Fool)

So I had to be out of the house for a bit today. I walked up into the Glebe, talked to a guy who wants to start what sounds like a combination artists’ commune and artists’ temp agency… or something, and got to explain to him what forest gardening is. It seemed right up his alley, so hopefully he’ll look into it further when he has the chance.
I also hit up a couple of grocery stores and a few local fruit trees and bushes and brought home the following:
16 pickling cucumbers
About 2 C Quebec strawberries
About 1 C sour cherries
About half a cup red currants
Chocolate ice cream
Whipping cream
Two tins of lemon-dill tuna
A package of bacon
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Making Chutney After All – Serviceberry Chutney Recipe

Okay, not that long ago, I was speculating that I probably wouldn’t be making a whole lot of chutneys this year, as they tend to hang around and not get used. However, I find myself wanting to make chutney after all – super-small batches (like: one cup only) that I can throw into the slow-cooker with a pork shoulder roast, or mix with diced bread or wild rice or nuts or something and then stuff into the cavity of a roasting duck or similar.
So I made a chutney today.
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Sour Cherries (also red currants)! :-D

The serviceberry trees are still heavy with fruit. And it’s dark and purple-blue, and so ripe it’s starting to fall off the trees. So if you haven’t been out to pick any yet, now would be the time. FYI.
I, however, have picked enough service berries to make two pies, a fruit custard… thing, a good litre and a half of frozen fruit, and – just this evening – three (ish – the third is only about half full) half-cup jars of serviceberry jam. The jam has a little bit of rhubarb thrown in, but it’s pretty much all berries. 🙂
I think I’m good for serviceberries this year.
Now my focus is turning to (a) sour cherries, and (b) red currants. I picked about a litre (meaning two cups, after pitting the fruit with a hair pin) of sour cherries off a neighbourhood tree this afternoon. They’re sitting, pitted, in my two-cup measure in the fridge. I have yet to determine whether they’ll be turned into pie, quick-frozen on a cookie sheet (likely), or just eaten fresh since, while they’re definitely not *sweet*, they are wonderfully refreshing on a hot, muggy day like today. (A bit like lemonade in that regard).
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Serviceberries A-Go-Go! :-D

This blog is almost two years old.
Know how I know?
Because I just went through my July 2011 posts to see if I could find the entry where I talk about picking service berries (turns out it’s actually on Syrens) and ran smack into the first entry on Urban Meliad instead.
You may recall that, this time (almost) last year, I was berating myself for having missed 100% of the serviceberry season? Know how we had an unusually early (and kind of disasterously early, if you’re an apple farmer or like apples) summer last year?
Guess what time it is! 😀

Serviceberries (AKA: Juneberries; Saskatoon Berries)
Courtesy of Leo Michels
Wiki Media Commons

I’ve been watching them ripening, like a hawk, for a month now and, at last, they’re ready! I’ve been picking them by the litre for the past two days! We had serviceberry shortcake for dessert last night and I’m freezing my second batch of them now. 😀
(To freeze: wash them, then layer them in single layers in a cake pan with sheets of plastic wrap, waxed paper, maybe even newspaper, between them. Freeze them solid, then dump them into a freezer bag or a tupperware. Done!)
There will be pie by the end of the week! 😀
Where am I getting all these delicious berries?
Whe, everywhere, my dears! 😀
There is a stand of them growing at the corner of Preston and Somerset. There’s at least one growing in the yard at the Plant Bath. There are half a dozen new ones recently planted along the new bike-path the flanks the O-train tracks. There are a few new ones planted along Bronson (and ajoining corners) as part of the Bronson Rehabilitation Project. There are half a dozen planted in front of each of two apartment complexes on Macleod. One burried amongst the box elders edging the front yard of a multi-story rental unit on Flora. There are at least five in Dundonald Park, and at least one on Cooper, outside a low-rise apartment building.
In the course of picking these available-to-all berries, I’ve introduced half a dozen or more people to the taste and edibility of them (inculding one guy who told me, confidently, that I shouldn’t eat those… and then looked at me very dubiously when I corrected him, told him I’d been eating them for years, and popped one in my mouth; and also the lady who exclaimed “Can you believe it?” over and over when she found out they were food. :-D)
I think that’s important. Much as I love having them available to me without much in the way of “competition”, there are so many, and I figure: If I get to eat ’em for free, I should probably make sure other people can, too. 🙂
Next up on the list of wonderful ripening things? Sour cherries! I give it a week, maybe ten days, and I’ll be hitting my usual haunts for bright red cherries in (hopefully) profusion. 😀
Meliad the Birch Maiden.