Monday, August 24, 2009

Wild Fruit, Tame Fruit

Summer is a time of such lushness and beauty and fresh flavor and abundance! While I love the promise of Spring, I revel in the harvests of summer, and this summer here in Montana has been yielding especially abundant harvests. First of all is the wild harvest, with our native chokecherries weighing down the branches of these tall bushes along the rivers and roadways. Chokecherry syrup is a favorite treat for me, and I've been picking the cherries and making the syrup, experimenting with methods. I've found that the best way to get the unique flavor from the cherries is to cover them with either water or fruit juice and boil, energetically mashing them with a potato masher to release the flesh from the pits. The mashing also gently releases some flavor from the pits, which I think gives the syrup its special wild quality. Then I strain the pulp, mashing more to release juice and flavor. I put the residue back into the pan, cover again with water, and repeat the boiling, mashing, and straining. I measure the juice, add an equal amount of sugar, and boil until the liquid becomes syrupy. If you used water instead of fruit juice, you might need to add some pectin to thicken the syrup to the right consistency. I pour the syrup into clean jars and refrigerate them. You could process the jars into a canner so they will seal and can be stored in the pantry if desired. We tried the syrup out on out of town visitors and had to give them a jar of it to keep up the friendship!
Later this week we visited Forbidden Fruit Orchard in Paradise, MT, a perfectly named enterprise--the peaches are so luscious it almost seems a sin to enjoy something so much. Look closely at the photo, and you'll see a hidden surprise among the leaves.

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