The Ups and Downs of Concord Grapes

They are beautiful viewed from a distance in the evening, but up close, the billion perfect clusters of unripe Concord grapes we had going are doing mysterious and terrible things. Also, an army of Japanese beetles has arrived to drive me crazy for the rest of the summer because I have no experience with them. I don’t know if the above damage is because of them or because of another issue.
I found this Identification Guide to the Major Diseases of Grapes pdf, but I don’t feel confident about any of their pictures compared with mine. A neighbor said the previous owner used to add lime to the soil when they were growing and it would straighten the grapes out, so I’m researching pH issues as well.

strawberry rhubarb jam (and other reasons to buy tons of strawberries in May)

I spent the majority of May focusing on strawberries. I dehydrated pint after pint of beautiful red gems purchased from one of the many Thompson farms in this area. I also made conserve, strawberry lemonade, popsicles, and roasted strawberries to eat along with the piles of raw ones.

By far the best use was this strawberry rhubarb jam guest post by Marisa McClellan, author of one of my favorite food blogs, Food In Jars. I can’t say enough good things about this jam. It’s our new favorite. I add a tablespoon of rosewater to the jam as it cooks, but other than that I follow it exactly, because it’s pretty much perfect.

The finished product doesn’t have a noticeable rosewater taste, it just enhances the flavor of the fruit. You could probably just add an extra tablespoon to get a more pronounced flavor.

ramps – pesto and pickles

I went poke picking in Elizabethton hollers with a fellow student from my foodways class and came back with two plastic bags of earwig-riddled leaves to clean and cook down. It was an extremely enjoyable experience and not the focus of this post.

On the way there I made an impulse buy of six bundles of ramps from the farmers market, mud and decaying leaves in their tangled root-tresses, that I made into pickles and pesto and ate raw with J rolling up everything we could find in the green leaves and chasing them with the fiery tight red bud stems.

There are a wealth of ramp pesto recipes out there. Many of them use the whole ramp, and some supplement with parsley or basil and use pine nuts or walnuts. I decided to start with Ramp Pesto from Food 52 as a guide, which was also the inspiration for a beautiful spread on ramp pesto from The Tart Tart. I used mostly the green part of the ramp with a few bulbs thrown in to round it out since I wanted to pickle the rest of the bulbs. I did some batches with pine nuts, some with walnuts, and some with pecans. The result in every case was neon green and insanely addictive. I froze the pesto in ice cube trays to pop out rampsicles in manageable amounts when I needed them.

It was much more difficult finding a pickle recipe. I hadn’t realized that few people canned their ramp pickles. I found plenty of beautiful refrigerator pickles, but since I’m still developing skill and confidence as a canner, I didn’t really trust myself to adapt one of those recipes. Most of the water bath canner recipes I found were reposts or variations on Tom Colicchio’s sweet and sour pickled ramps. The recipe looks sound, but I’m picky about sweet and sour foods. Maybe I’ll experiment with it one day if I can keep all the wild rabbits off my ramp patch long enough to have a larger abundance. For now, I finally went with this recipe from ehow. I’ve never used this site for food information before, but the recipe was sound and similar to other pickling methods I’ve used, and the simplicity of it meant that I would have an unadulterated perspective of the pickled ramp to start with. The end result was too salty, but crunchy and alluring in the way raw ramps are. I would love to find something similar with less saltiness.