Monday, September 6, 2010


Mike and I just returned from a few Indian Summer days on the river, where Mike diligently pulled weeds (puncture vine and cockle burr) and I picked blackberries and plums. We are in the thick of the harvest now. Our second wave of Bunchgrass Beef customers are hungrily anticipating their September deliveries. The garden is overflowing its borders in a tangle of pumpkin and winter squash vines. And the trees are weighted down with fruit.

Usually we think of a windfall as a stroke of unexpected good luck, like finding out your old horse blanket is really a Navajo rug worth thousands of dollars. But when it comes to fruit, windfalls are often viewed with disdain, i.e.: those annoying piles of rotting apples collecting in the lawn.

I could have felt that way about our transparents. The tree has been battling some kind of leaf curl, but still produced fruit this year. The small, hail pocked, easily-bruised and quick-to-rot apples were becoming more and more numerous in the grass under the tree. I kept thinking if the apples would just stay on the branches longer, they would get bigger, and I would be more inclined to work with them.

But no, they kept falling off and a little voice inside my head kept saying, "Waste not, want not." Therefore, I added the apples to the growing list of garden stuff destined to be tucked into jars, freezer bags or drying racks. This included: peaches (lots), pears (quite a few), blackberries (the tale end), green and yellow beans (tons), sour yellow plums (plenty), cucumbers (just starting) and raspberries (last gasp).

Looking into the bucket of wimpy apples, I was humbled by the fact that imperfect fruit can still yield great food. Working up the apples reminded me how I love the feel of a good knife in my hands, the weight of a fruit balanced against gravity while the knife does its work. The peel falls away, the seeds are nipped from their bed, and into the pot go the serviceable and delicious remains.

There was a lot of trim on those apples, but after cooking them and running them through the hand mill, I combined them with the tart yellow plums to make a beautifully golden batch of plum-apple butter. Luckily, after the jars were filled, there was a "windfall" dab left over to spread on crisply toasted, butter-saturated chewy whole-grain bread, the perfect snack for hungry harvesters.

From Sara at Magpie Ranch, home of Bunchgrass Beef