Monday, September 15, 2008

Humboldt Harvest

So among many other things, I have been "putting up" preserves. This is a chore that I have grown to love. A labor of love, I guess you could call it. Since I don't have a lot of my own fruit trees any more, I have to hunt. Yes, just like the guys trek through the forest looking for the perfect buck, I too must trek (or ride my bike or drive) through town looking for neighboring yards with lonely trees laden with fruit. When I find one that meets my needs, looks neglected with fruit dropping needlessly on the ground, I do what I call a cold contact. I knock on the door and ask if the owners would mind if I pick their fruit tree. Most of the time people say "Sure! Go ahead." So I do. Of course, I don't need to do this too often, as most of the time I can get what I need just from friends who have an abundance of fruit, like these little beauties from TJ & Mark.

While out with girlfriends the other day, I spotted a tree that I had been searching for. I hollered, "A quince tree. Stop!" Quince is a very oddly unique fruit that most people are not familiar with. Back in the day, a homestead would always include a quince tree. Why? Well, the fruit of the quince, while being very unpalatable raw, provides an essential ingredient for canning and preserving.

This strange looking little fruit makes a great source of pectin. And as any Canning cook can tell you, pectin is the one ingredient that makes or breaks a great jelly.
So, I went back to the house, drove up the long driveway to the house that we call the "Castle."
My kids said, "You went up to the castle?" The castle is a weird monstrosity of a house that is made of stone and comes complete with large turrets on every corner. The trees are largely overgrown and unkempt which gives it a very spooky kind of feel. I shyly drove up the driveway with my daughter, who opted to stay in the car. When I stood in the driveway, I felt strangley vulnerable, but determined to accomplish my mission. The owner came out cautiously to investigate this intruder in his domain.
As he gingerly poked his out from over one of the turrets, it turns out I know the guy from years ago and we actually had a really nice conversation! He was more than happy to let me have whatever fruit I wanted from his tree! When I can these things I will post some photos so you can actually see the process. It's quite involved.

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