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Bramley’s Seedling Apple: Eye on the Pie


bramley’s seedling apple

Gracie is banking on my poor sense of balance and propensity to be easily distracted.

Today is hug-a-Brit day, as I’d like to personally thank the island nation for not only bringing us the most beautiful dog breed in existence, the British Bulldog, but also for cultivating the best baking and pie apple to bless a tree, Bramley’s Seedling.

My young tree is vigorous, productive and unscathed by the usual apple villians: coddling moth and apple maggot. The apples are surprisingly large, very firm, and tarter than a mouthful of Jolly Ranchers and lemon drops combined. If you’re looking for a baking apple, this is the pomme for you.

Description from Dave Wilson Nursery,

Bramley’s Seedling Apple: England’s favorite cooking apple. Large in size, with very tart, creamy yellow flesh that makes highly flavored pies and sauce. Also good for cider. First-picked fruits are mostly green, riper fruit greenish-yellow with uneven reddish or brownish stripes to brownish orange with little or no green. Fully ripened fruit is firm, juicy, less tart and suited to fresh use. Very high in vitamin C. Mid-season harvest, about with Golden Delicious. Keeps two months. Spreading tree is heavy bearing and disease-resistant. Originated in England in the early 1800s. Estimated chilling requirement 800-1000 hours. Sterile pollen, pollenizer required.

Related: The History of the Bramley’s Seedling Apple

Indian Free Peach Jam: Deliciously Different



indian free peach jam
Indian Free Peach Jam – a rare treat

While the garnet color of my Indian Free peaches still fascinates me, it’s their flavor that leaves my tastebuds at odds. There’s the lingering aftertaste of peach, but only after the tastebuds take a one-two punch of cherry and blackberry, respectively. It’s crazy; but more importantly it’s delicious.

To prolong this gift from the orchard, I make jam and it really is as easy as 1, 2, 3; just follow a couple rules. Don’t double recipes or you’ll enjoy a lovely runny fruit  sauce for your efforts. Be patient and don’t rush with high heat. Sugar burns. Here’s how I make peach preserves or jam.

Peach Jam Recipe

  • 3 pounds of peaches
  • 4 cups of sugar
  • 1 big lime
  1. Wash peaches.
  2. Don’t peel. (Big waste of time in my book. Peel adds a nice texture and color and more times than not dissolves)
  3. Slice peach halves into quarters
  4. Layer peaches and sugar in thick bottom stock pot.
  5. Drizzle lime juice over peaches and sugar.
  6. Stir gently.
  7. Refrigerate overnight to draw out juices
  8. Next day, heat very slowly
  9. Bring up to a simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring regularly
  10. Don’t skim foam. (Unless your making clear jellies, this step though unneeded in my experience, is always suggested in other recipes.)
  11. Remove from heat, let sit until room temperature.
  12. Refrigerate again overnight
  13. Next day heat slowly to simmer
  14. Remove from heat when jam thickens a bit and heated jam forms double drops when  hanging from a horizonatally held spoon.
  15. Done. Let it cool and sample your reward with nothing less than a gravy ladle (though I’ve heard teaspoons work nicely as well).

I usually bottle my jam in half pint jars but that process is a another entry.  In the meantime, here’s a link that tells you how to can it safely from Virginia Tech. Enjoy!

Yep, those are peaches (and Boz, of course)
Yep, those are peaches (and Boz, of course)

Indian Free Peach Delicious, Unique on All Levels

sliced peaches Indian Free
Indian Free peach flesh color can change depending on growing conditions each year; sometimes the flesh is white and red, and other times as richly red as a raspberry.

Indian Free Peach: Now here’s a peach that pushes the envelope on being a peach. I first discovered it in my research to find another peach leaf curl resistant variety for my Pacific Northwest orchard. Because I don’t spray my orchard and use organic practices, I look for fruit trees that can stand up to our incessant spring rains and cool summer climate.

Indian Free Peaches
One year the peaches were almost solid red.

Reasons Why Indian Free Peach is one of my favorites!

  1. Thrives in cool clime of of coastal Pacific Northwest
  2. Scoffs at peach leaf curl. (Ha! take that  Taphrina deformans!)
  3. Sports a thick fuzzy Mahogany brown skin
  4. Enjoys freestone status and very firm flesh
  5. Tastes sweet then tart, with strong overtones of blackberry and black cherry
  6. Surprises first-time eaters with its rich red flesh and juice
  7. Keeps well (so far for two weeks in fridge)
  8. Harvests very late (beginning in early October), but still ripens nicely

Nursery Sources for Indian Free Peach

(Bare-root peach trees are usually available in the winter and spring)


Turning a New Leaf on Chard: Easy Greens to Grow

bright lights chard
Bright Lights Chard: A dependable grower that brightens up any table

Fresh-picked chard: planted in April, still going strong in October

I used to think that chard was better to look at than eat (even insects seem to avoid it) but I was just being lazy in the kitchen. A good green deserves a good recipe. And lucky for me, The New York Times recently featured some great new chard recipes that I’m working my way through. So far, so very good: Bitten Blog, A Refrigerator Staple: Cooked Greens, and Recipes for Health.

Now make something delicious…and eat your greens!

Blacktail Mountain Watermelon: Hot Melon for a Cool Climate


blacktail mountain watermelons homegrown

Blacktail Mountain watermelons convening on the counter

Every year I try to grow watermelons and every year by late summer the sprawling vines, lush in vegetation, hold melons the size of limes. This year was different. Even with a remarkably cool summer where tomatoes failed to fein even the slightest blush, I had a bumper crop of watermelons. The trick: I finally found the right variety for the maritime Pacific Northwest in a melon from Idaho called blacktail mountain.

After reading a mouth-watering description by Amy Goldman in her Melons for a Passionate Grower, I was hooked and hopeful. Nine months later, I’m harvesting really crisp and sweet and remarkably prolific watermelons (and I planted the seeds directly July 1). Even the smaller ones with a paler flesh are delicious.  If you’ve never had success growing a watermelon, give this one a try.

Blacktail Mountain: Description from
Developed by SSE member Glenn Drowns when he lived in northern Idaho, where summer nights average 43 degrees F. Round 9″ dark green fruits weigh 6-12 pounds. Sweet, juicy, crunchy, scarlet flesh. Does well in hot, humid climates too. Reliable crops. 70-75 days.

Blacktail Mountain: Description from  Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
70 days. One of the earliest watermelons we know of, superb for the north, but it also grows well in heat and drought. The flesh is red and deliciously sweet, the fruit have a dark rind and weigh 8-12 lbs. each. This excellent variety was developed by our friend Glenn Drowns, owner of the Sand Hill Preservation Center in Iowa. A favorite of many gardeners across the USA. One of the best we have ever tried!

Bayernfeige Violetta Fig Finishes Out the Season

Violetta Fig and Leaf
Bayernfeige Violetta Fig fresh from the tree
(Big fig; that’s a 10-inch dinner plate.)

Clogged gutters and one wet Tom welcomed October this week, and while I have some rock hard green figs that have no chance of ripening in the chilly downpours of recent storms, my Bayernfeige Violetta fig came through with a handful of juicy gems. A feat I don’t take lightly, especially for a three-year-old tree shaded by a pair of healthy douglas firs.

Bayernfeige Violetta Fig: Good grower, productive after three years, does well in the cool summers of the Pacific Northwest, great flavor and good color.  The skin is thin and flesh firm with nice texture. One of the most popular figs in the PNW is Desert King, a green fig that is great for cooking and jams. I like the Violetta better for fresh eating, as the Desert King has a thick green skin and a softer flesh. Still good  but I like the firmer texture of Violetta and for me, its richer flavor.

The Violetta fig was recently introduced from Germany and has several UK and US distributors. Oddly I found mine at grocery store, but I’ve seen in them at the West Seattle Nusery.  Negronne or Violette du Bordeaux is my favorite fig here on Vashon, but Violetta is a very close second. They ripen about 3-4 weeks apart, so plant both and have a nice long season of figs.

UPDATE 2017: Bayernfeige Violetta Fig started off with a bang, then petered out, producing little if any figs, and then weaking until I finally took it out. Seemed amazingly frail, and difficult to grow and produced little fruit, at least for me in the Puget Sound area of Washington state. Have planted Olympian fig in its place. Results to follow.

Favorite Savory Fig Recipe: Goat Cheese & Bacon & Figs, Oh My!


cheesy fig bombs recipe

Cheesy Fig Bombs Recipe: Figs wrapped in bacon stuffed with goat cheese


If there are figs in your fridge or on your tree, do I have a recipe for you: cheesy bacon fig bombs. Simple, salty, sweet, savory and delicious, figs stuffed with goat cheese wrapped in bacon is about as good as a recipe gets. Three ingredients, minimal prep time, and an explosion of textures and flavors.

goat cheese figs bacon
Assembly time! A delicious mess featuring my homegrown figs.

A Fig Tree Grew on Vashon

As we leftthe ferry dock, lumbering up the steep hill of the island’s spine, someone was quick to point out that yes, I had already pointed out the loaded fig tree on the westside, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and now Friday. (I must have missed the bus on Tuesday.)  He followed up with one more admonishment: my remarks were repeated round trip in frequency.

While some may project such observations as prattle, fig lovers will understand my obsession at seeing an ignored harvest-ready fig tree branches buckling under the weight of perfectly ripe golden figs (either White Genoa or Peter’s Honey, I believe). To add insult to injury, it was the only fig tree on Vashon ignored by the crows.

As the lone tree (and fellow bus riders) mocked me, I found solace in the fact that I had three homegrown figs (1 Violetta, 2 Negronne) chilling out in my fridge; and I knew just what to do with them. I must thank my friends John and Beth for introducing me to this perfect culinary trinity last year at a cookout.

cheesy fig bombs
I never said I was a neat cook.

Recipe: Cheesy Bacon Fig Bombs

Figs stuffed with goat cheese wrapped in bacon


  • figs
  • chevre (goat cheese)
  • bacon

1. Split fresh ripe figs.

2. Make a small ball of goat cheese and gently mush (yes, mush) it in the soft center of the fig.

3. Wrap the fig and cheese with bacon or lay a small strip over the top like a blanket.

4. Place the cheesy little fig bombs in broiler safe pan.

5. Broil and turn as bacon browns (if fully bacon wrapped), no need to turn if just half slices of bacon.

6. Remove when bacon is browned and cheese is gooey and figs warmed.

7. Let cool a bit, and eat with fingers.

8. Chew slowly, savor, swoon and say, “pass me another.”

cheesy fig bombs oven-ready

A note about prosciutto: I love prosciutto but I wouldn’t substitute the bacon with it, broiling dries it out like shards of jerky and ruins it in my opinion. If you want to use it, only broil the fig and cheese and then wrap with room temperature prosciutto once out of the oven.

Cheesy Bacon Fig Bombs on Foodista

Madrona Tree: A Sculpture Grows


Madrona Tree: A Work of Art

Madrona tree at dusk

The Madrona tree seems more living sculpture than growing tree.  Gnarled limbs and twisted trunk frame the sky like arms in pose.  Old bark, cinnamon in color, flakes and sheds its skin with each storm; new bark timid in its tender coat of pink, peers skyward only to be caught by a glint of the sun’s last call.

Saying Goodbye to Summer, Slowly



barn window & blackberry vine

By summer’s end, a bramble’s reach knows no boundary.

What my eyes witnessed my brain denied. The shadows were not lengthening; the mosaic of honey locust leaves did not litter the ground or create an artful flotilla in the fountain.  The sun did not rise and hang on the horizon complacent that it had reached its roost for the day.  The shadows did not slide onto the covered porch like dappled lace, revisiting floorboards that had spent the summer in unbroken hue. The bunting that honored the Fourth of July, managed to hang on the feeble, rusty nails through Labor Day, proudly facing the waning days of summer. If I did not remove the red, white and blue, the impatient breezes of September would surely do me the honor.

autumn leaves find a fountain         bunting on the porch

A week has passed and I admit that summer is indeed over, and the chill and low light of fall can no longer be denied. I have yet to take down the hammock; it remains a pendulum between the locust trees, rocking gently in the breeze, assuring me that this summer ride is just as good in a sweater and dungarees as it is in a tee shirt and shorts. 

Apple Jelly Recipe: Flavorful Chameleon


Bramley’s Seedling apple atop a jar of subtle sweetness

Apple jelly with Bramley’s Seedling Apple

Apple Jelly Recipe (As You Like It)

In the world of making homemade jams and jelllies, apple jelly is the starter kit. It’s your paper airplane, your pencil and paper, your tin roof sundae, your khakis and tees, your clean palate. Simplicity sets it apart; adapability provides its charm.  After I waxed on about its virtures in Jam Up and Jelly Tight, I forgot to share the apply jelly recipe. Here it is.

(I’ve made some updates to the recipe since the first post, including adding greater detail and reducing the batch size which tends to set the jelly more reliably.)

Fresh Apple Jelly Recipe

  • 3-4 pounds apples
  • 4-5 cups of water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • juice of one lemon
  • Add: herbs & spices of your choosing

Day 1: Prepare apples for juicing

  1. Mix and match your favorite apples (tart and sweet)
  2. Rinse clean
  3. Remove stems
  4. Chop apples (skins, seeds and all) into halves, then quarter each half
  5. Place apples into heavy stock pan
  6. Add water
  7. Simmer until apples are soft (30-45 minutes)
  8. Remove from heat, let cool
  9. Drain apple mixture in a seive or cheescloth to separate liquid from apples
  10. Give it a couple hours to drain
  11. Light pressure on the sieve, returns a less cloudy jelly
  12. Refrigerate liquid overnight.

Day 2: Making the Jelly in Small Batches

  1. Measure 4 Cups of juice into heavy stock pan
  2. Slowly bring up heat to simmer
  3. Add 3 Cups of sugar (3/4 C sugar for each cup of juice)
  4. Add lemon juice
  5. Simmer
  6. Add favorite spices to taste (or don’t)
  7. Combos I’ve used  below with great results:
    1. bay leaf & cinnamon stick
    2. rosemary (fantastic alone and my favorite)
    3. rosemary & dried cranberries
    4. allspice berries & whole cloves
    5. spearmint (peppermint, not so much)
  8. Continue to simmer until your reach 22o degrees for the jelly set
  9. If no thermometer, try the spoon test when you have to wait until the jelly mixture hangs on the spoon (when turned sideways) before dripping off, thickening as it cools. Here’s a link of what the spoon sheet test should look like.
  10. Put mixture into jars leaving 1-inch space from top
  11. Process in a waterbath to seal (10 minutes)
  12. When cool, the jelly sets in the jars
  13. Any leftover jelly in the pan can  go on the biscuits you are about to make.

This jelly makes a great glaze on meats or pastries as well.