August 27, 2014

Bears Love Peaches

Today I woke up with one thing planned "work up" the wagon load of peaches that have been set to the side to become fully ripe.  Jam, jelly, pie filling. I was ready.

I had already canned some peach jam from some of our trees, and our neighbor generously asked if we wanted the peaches from a tree they had that was fully loaded and as I discovered - with branches breaking under the weight.  I went ahead and picked most of them, loading up a small utility cart/wagon we had. Alot of the peaches were not quite fully ripe yet - but no problem, a couple of days and they would be ready.  That day arrived.

Except a bear beat me to them.  Apparently during the night, a bear visited the wagon of peaches (parked a few feet from our porch).  Smart bear, not wanting to bother with picking his own, when someone else went to all that trouble already and put them in one big bowl for him.  (I am calling it a him for now). Our dogs had alerted on something during the night - in the forest.  And earlier today, our alpha male dog was barking ferociously at something in the forest (a few feet from our back door).  As hubby and I stepped out to investigate we heard something heavy crashing through the trees - so we knew it wasn't deer.  And then I saw it. The tipped over wagon.  ... ... ... Bear.

This wagon was heaping with peaches
before the bear got to it.
Obviously the bear gorged on peaches in the wagon during the night and came back to finish what he started.  Eating the peaches and leaving the pits and other presents... Bear scat right next to the wagon.
Who takes picture of bear scat!
Well, I do, I guess.
And more bear scat five feet away from the tipped over wagon.
A whole lot of peaches will do that to ya.

Bother.  There goes my plans of canning more peaches.  At least I had enough left to make some peach ice cream.  I will now be more hyper-alert when I leave the house to do some work outside.  This bear (judging from the size of the scat) isn't a small bear - probably twice or more the size of our largest German Shepherd who is at one hundred fifteen pounds.  He didn't touch my garden produce or bother the chickens. I am thankful for that.

Well, pickling cucumbers are ready.  And I need more dill relish.  And the dill is ready to pick.  So canning goes on tomorrow.  Just not with peaches.

As soon as I posted this, our dogs started barking again and there was a large black bear at our front porch.  I tried to video it, but it is not good enough to share.  I guess he wanted to come back and say thanks for the peaches.

August 23, 2014

Crescent Roll with Blackberry Pie Filling

Crescent Roll w/Homemade Blackberry Pie Filling
Songhurst Farm
Yesterday, I posted about making blackberry pie filling.  It smelled so good, that I just had to try it.  One thing I like about this filling, is that it is so versatile.  It can be used in a variety of baked goods from extravagant to easy.  I opted for very easy to try it out. 

I so happened to have a can of crescent rolls in a can.  After popping it open and unrolling the rolls, I placed them on a lightly oiled (I used Pam in a can) foil-lined cookie sheet.  

I put a dollop of homemade canned blackberry pie filling toward the wider end of each crescent roll.  Then I carefully rolled each one up making sure the point was on top as I laid it carefully in the pan.  I was nervous that the filling - which I could see on around the edges of the roll - would be one big mess as it baked.  I was relieved to find after baking at 375 degrees until golden, that it didn't make a mess.  The pie filling (made with Clear Jel) didn't run as much as it would have with other thickeners.

Waiting until they cooled, I drizzled the rolls with an almond flavored glaze (powdered sugar, milk, almond flavoring) - okay, I couldn't wait...I drizzled the glaze on before the rolls cooled and enjoyed the warm taste of roll and filling and glaze.  Sigh!  It was soooo good.  Got to say.  I did have the presence of mind to snap one picture of it.  Easy, delicious, and oh, so mouth-watering delicious.  Another one sounds so good right now. to go....

August 22, 2014

Canning Blackberry Pie Filling


One of the most abundant wild plants growing in western Washington state is the wild blackberry.  Thorny.  Invasive.  And growing everywhere.  However, when the weather conditions are just right - not too much rain - but just enough - mixed with plenty of sun - they are forgiven for a time while one fills pails, sacks, and baskets with the ripe fruit.  It is common to see cars pulled off the side of a country road and their occupants precariously balanced, leaning to reach berries protected by thorns.

At the Songhurst Farm, the wild blackberries have been cleared from the land, except for one tiny section which we maintain in order to reap the harvest each summer - that is until our domestic THORNLESS blackberry bushes are more mature.  That all to say, these last couple of weeks I have been happily picking wild blackberries and turning them into blackberry pie filling. This has been a good summer for flavorful wild blackberries and they will taste so wonderful in a pie on a winter day. 

(Note:  This post does not replace safety precautions in canning.  I encourage the reader to research safety at Ball canning site.)


Pick (or buy) enough blackberries for 1 quart or 6 quarts.  The recipe that follows will have instructions for both.

Fresh Wild Blackberries
Songhurst Farm
I put mine in the dishwasher and let them run on wash and rinse while I am preparing the filling.  The jars need to be make sure the drain in your dishwasher is cleaned out if you use it for this step.  The ladle and funnel go into the dishwasher, too.  The jars need to be hot when you put the pie filling into them.
Sterilizing Canning Jars
Songhurst Farm
I put the lids and lid bands into a pan of water and bring to a boil.  Don't let the water boil, or you may warp the lids so that they don't seal properly.
Preparing canning lids.
Songhurst Farm
Put hot water into the water bath canner (with a rack in the bottom) - enough that it will cover your jars by a couple of inches.  This must be boiling before adding the jars of filling into it.
Water Bath Canner
Songhurst Farm

Wait until the water in the canner has begun boiling and the dishwasher has gone through it's final rinse cycle before you begin to prepare your filling.  I make the 7 quart batch, and have learned to use a deep pot to make the filling. When it begins to thicken and boil, it does splatter and can land on your hand or arm.  In the pan, add your sugar, Clear Jel (I will explain later what this is) and cinnamon.
Use liquid measuring cup for liquid.
Songhurst Farm
I use a whisk to break up the lumps and the use a loooong-handled wooden spoon to get into the corners.  Make sure your burner is on medium-high.  Stir continuously until the mixture starts to thicken - at which time you may need to use a whisk again.
Use whisk to break up lumps.
Songhurst Farm
When it comes to a boil, add lemon juice and boil one minute.  Remove from heat and add your blackberries.  Fold the mixture and blackberries carefully together with a sturdy wooden spoon over and over so as not to break the blackberries, until thoroughly mixed. (Don't worry if you do smash some, it is impossible not to break up some of the blackberries). I have learned to take my time and tilting the pot while doing this helps to get the mixture from the bottom.
Add lemon juice and boil one minute.
Songhurst Farm

Grab the funnel, ladle and one jar from the dishwasher.  Carefully pour the filling into the jar, trying not to spill.  Fill to the bottom of the neck (one inch from top rim).  Continue with remaining jars.
Ladle berries into hot jar.
Songhurst Farm

Using a clean lint-free towel, dip a corner into boiling water.  Let towel cool enough to handle and wipe each jar rim and neck.  Using another clean lint-free towel, do this one more time to ensure each jar rim is absolutely clean.  Now put the lids onto the jars, screwing tightly by hand.  Use a clean wet towel and wipe each jar before setting into canner.  Make sure the jars are not touching.
Wipe rims of jars.
Songhurst Farm
Carefully place jars into hot water.
Songhurst Farm.

When the water in canner begins to boil again, begin the 30 minutes.  Quarts and pints should be processed for 30 minutes and then removed from canner.
Make sure jars are not touching.
Songhurst Farm

Upon removing the jars from the canner, the lids will have a dome shape.  Let the jars cool undisturbed for 24 hours.  During this time, the lids will "ping" as they seal and the dome shape will disappear.  Test each lid by touching in the center, if the center does not flex up or down and you cannot pull up the lid (you will need to remove the lid band to do this) then it is sealed.
Pints and quarts of berry pie filling in cooling process.
Songhurst Farm

(for 7 quarts of filling)

6 quarts fresh blackberries
7 cups white sugar (can make slight adjustment for tartness of berries)
1 3/4 cups Clear Jel
1 teaspoon cinnamon
9 1/3 cups water
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice (this is for safety)

1.  Rinse berries.  Set aside.
2.  Measure lemon juice.  Set aside.
3.  Combine Clear Jel, sugar, cinnamon into large saucepan.
4.  Add water and mix until smooth, stirring during the thickening process (critical for a smooth end product).
5.  Heat stirring until it bubbles.
6.  Quickly add lemon juice and boil one minute, stirring constantly.
7.  Remove from heat and fold in berries.
8.  Fill 7 quart jars.
9.  Process in boiling water canner 30 minutes at sea level.

(for 1 quart of filling)

3 1/3 fresh blackberries
1 cup white sugar (can make slight adjustment for tartness of berries)
1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon Clear Jel
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/3 cups water
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon bottled lemon juice (this is for safety)

1.  Rinse berries.  Set aside.
2.  Measure lemon juice.  Set aside.
3.  Combine Clear Jel, sugar, cinnamon into large saucepan.
4.  Add water and mix until smooth, stirring during the thickening process (critical for a smooth end product).
5.  Heat stirring until it bubbles.
6.  Quickly add lemon juice and boil one minute, stirring constantly.
7.  Remove from heat and fold in berries.
8.  Fill quart jar.
9.  Process in boiling water canner 30 minutes at sea level.

What is Clear Jel?
Clear Jel is a brand name and a starch modified to produce excellent sauce consistency even after fillings are canned and baked.  Other available household starches break down, causing a runny sauce consistency when used in these pie fillings.  Clear Jel is available at local county Cooperative Extensions or through sources on the internet.  DO NOT SUBSTITUTE flour in these recipes.
Clear Jel is a starch.
Songhurst Farm

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