Fall in New England has a multitude of treasures available nowhere else. The air is clear and the sky a cerulean blue. The first hints of orange, red and yellow show on the maple leaves and a faint smell of apple and wood smoke remind of the season to come. It’s the season of foraging. The woods are full of mushrooms. Hunting for Chanterelles, Chicken of the Woods, fall Oysters and Black Trumpets is more fun than panning for gold and you’re far more likely to be successful. The nuts are dropping but beating the squirrels to them is no easy feat.
My favorite foraging trips involve grapes. Fox grapes are easy to spot. The deep purple globes stand out amidst the large green leaves. They tend to grow in accessible spots too. Along stone walls is a likely location. The stored up heat helps the grapes ripen, I suppose. Up here in the hills, I like wander through our old cemeteries armed with clipping scissors. It’s fun to check out the markers and find the names of the ancestors of the people who still live in town. Many still farm on the same land as their forebears farmed when our village was founded. All of cemeteries are surrounded by just the kind of low stone walls grapes love to twine around. I nearly always find some.
I hit pay dirt on last Friday afternoon. My daughter and I found a huge patch of grapes and filled two large bags before heading home. We left a lot behind for the birds and chipmunks too.
I had a harvest of plum berries that needed preserving too, so I tossed the plum berries into my steam juicer along with the grapes and made a batch of the most gorgeous juice ever. The plum berries are sweet but bland. The grapes are tart and flavorful. Together they were just right and only needed just a bit of sugar.
The juicer made short work of the fruit. I like to run the first batch and then pour some of the hot juice back in the fruit basket. It seems to extract more juice from the solids left in the basket. When the final drop is collected, I filled up half-pint canning jars and gave the juice 15 minutes in my water bath canner. I’ll need to dilute the juice about 3:1 as it’s pretty strong. I could also use it to make jelly but I have lots of jelly and no local juice at all. That will soon change. The apples are turning red and cidering season is upon us. (But that’s another article!)
Our pigs were happy with the juicing day too. Bruce came up from feeding them and asked if anyone had any idea why the pig’s snouts were a deep pinky purple. Well, I had to do something with the grape pulp left in the juicer and the pigs seemed to love it.