It was sunny in the grove of cedars that surrounds Ellen’s magical home as we arrived last Friday. We came bearing baskets full of peaches, plums and pears, dried figs, cherries and rose hips, jars of Oregon grape juice, bundles of sage and rosemary and handfuls of ripe salal berries. This months gathering was to be about canning. I brought my supplies to provide a basic overview but expected a lot of experimentation and was excited to see what amazing creations would come from the day.
Ellen, who eats only raw food, created both delicious and interesting “preserves.” She used a few different raw food tricks that I’m sure she would be better explaining than me but included in the list was a peach and salal berry sorbet and an Oregon grape, pear and lemon zest leather made in the dehydrator. She then experimented using Irish moss seaweed as a thickener to make a jam out of Oregon Grapes, Pears and a touch of lime. But the most amazing preserves she made came at the end of the day when she paired garden sage with peaches and made a sauce simply by blending the two items together and another puree of peaches in which she added rosehips and vanilla to the mix. The combination of the sage and peaches was more than delicious. Please try it!
Mira arrived with mounds of peaches she had gathered from a neighbor’s tree and began blanching, peeling and quartering them. She filled several quart jars with the peaches and covered them in a simple syrup made with agave, these were to be canned and eaten as is. She then began simmering some peaches and rosehips on the stovetop before she had to go. I finished off the jam by adding agave to sweeten, a touch of cinnamon and a bit of the sage at Ellen’s suggestion and finished the jam in jars. I think that it was definitely one of the better cooked jams ever made.
Megan created a masterpeice with the jam she made by adding dried figs and fresh apples to a pot and simmered them until they were a uniform consistency. She then added rosemary and lemon juice and poured a lovely glistening earth colored preserve into her jars. She also blended salal berries that she picked directly off the bush in Ellen’s yard, with Oregon grape juice, blueberries and cherries to make into a fruit leather. The resulting mix of berries was heavenly.
I arrived with two baskets of red plums and asian pears from the trees on my land and a bundle of sage from my garden. I first made a simple preserve by blending some of the pears and plums together and cooked them down. I then made a jam that included only the plums as well as sage from my garden and a 1/4 tsp or so of cinnamon. I haven’t tasted them yet as I came home with a jar of the peach , rosehip and sage jam and that was what I eagerly opened to serve with breakfast on Saturday morning.
After so much time in the kitchen I watched as Megan and Ellen made some moxa out of mugwort they had gathered and dried. Megan lit some and calmness overcame the room, outside the weather began to change and clouds rolled in. We talked of dreams, plants, burning man, relationships and Saturn’s return.
August has ended and though the summer is not over it reminds me that it is on it way out and the seasons of drawing within are upon us. Though this meeting we did not harvest any herbs we indulged in the abundance of the pacific northwest. Blessed with wild fruits and cultivated fruits that grow with ease in our yards and feral on the roadsides ,we harvested the abundance from summer and brought it within and preserved them to be used throughout the darker months. I am grateful with for the time of communion in a kitchen with beautiful women celebrating the summer and welcoming the fall.
Peach and Sage Sauce – Peach, Sage, Rosehip and Vanilla Puree – Peach and Salal Berry Sorbet – Oregon Grape, Pear and Lemon Zest Leather – Oregon Grape, Pear and Lime Jelly
Peaches in Agave Nectar – Peach and Rosehip Jam
Fig, Apple and Rosemary Preserves – Salal Berry, Oregon Grape, Blueberry and Cherry Leather
Asian Pear and Red Plum Jam – Red Plum, Garden Sage and Cinnamon Preserves
Peach, Rosehip, Sage and Cinnamon Jam
Next month: Hawthorn, devil’s club and other things to be decided.