Preserving berries and fruit

I crave fruit and berries these days. I desperately crave them. And for days I wanted grapes. I found some big juicy grapes at the local supermarket and was thrilled. But the joy was short-lived. With a pregnancy comes superpowers, some are cool, some not so cool. The senses of smell and taste improve immensely! And thus as I put the first grape in my mouth, it was spit out again just as soon. The rest of the grapes were torn from Son’s hands. I could taste the pesticides and yuck that are sprayed upon these delights. The taste was foul! It felt like I was poisoning both myself and Son.

I discussed this with a colleague of mine a few days later. We are both inclined towards buying organically grown fruits and vegs, but juicy grapes and other foreigns fruit are too hard to resist. My colleague explained how she thoroughly cleans all fruit she buys. Especially if it has already travelled the globe.

I came across a tip on pinterest, and have had great success following it. The clue is to rinse all berries in a bowl of water, in which you have added just a tablespoon of regular vinegar. The vinegar helps reduce yeast and bacterias that result in mildew and rot. I tried this with the berries I bought over the summer. I also did it to the berries before making them into jam or ‘saft’. And it works! The berries stay fresher for longer. Now I have started doing the same to all the fruit and vegs I buy that I don’t boil or peal.

The vinegar does leave a hint of smell (that could be just me picking that up, Husband and Son cannot smell it), but by quickly running the fruit under cold water gets rid of that too.

Berries in my parents’ garden

Last weekend we spent a day at my parents’ place, or rather in their garden. They were about to leave for a week long vacation and had no intention of using the many berries in their garden. I thus took Husband and Son with me and picked clean almost every bush.

It’s has not been a very good spring or summer for certain types of berries. I had hoped to find at least a few litres of blueberries, but they were scarce, sour, and small. The currants, black and red, were also scarce this year, and we only found about half a litre of each (despite the 6 bushed of black currant!).

My mother helped relieve the gooseberry bush from its heavy burden

One bush that really surprised me was the gooseberry bush. Never before have I seen a gooseberry bush carry as many berries. Each wee branch was heavy from the big berries. They hung like clusters of grapes. Unfortunately though, I believe I am the only one in the house who likes the taste of gooseberry products, and after about ten litres of berries we decided to stop.

During a short visit at my grandparents’ we picked about half a litre of raspberries.

Recipes to follow 🙂

Berries in the backyard

As mentioned some time ago, my parents live in a rural town not too far from here. They still live in the house I grew up in, which is surrounded by quite a big garden. I’m not talking farm-size, but big enough for some fruit trees, bushes with different types of berries, a small play-house, and more than enough space to roam around.

Black currants

Every year around this time the garden is full of berries. I tell myself every year that I will take advantage of this and gather the fruits and berries. But for some reason it is never first on my to-do list when the season comes around. This year I have a few gooseberries in the freezer, as well as a few red currants, all picked my parents. Time will show what I’ll use them for.

Red currants

Plum season is here now, which is a true sign that summer has come to an end, and autumn is taking over. We bought, and ate, almost a kilo of them today. Opals, the best kind. Soon the fruit vendors in the city will display a vast variety of delicious plums and apples. I can’t wait.

Gooseberries

The Climb

My parents live in a rural town of about 6000 inhabitants. I was raised in this town and spent 19 years of my life there before leaving it behind. Naturally we often visit, as both my parents and grandparents still live where they ‘always’ have. It’s only an hour and a half away from here.

They’ve had Son visit them alone for a few days at a time the past weeks, as I have started work and Husband is offshore. I spent part of the weekend with them before taking Son home again. While there I made time for a hike in the mountainous area surrounding the town.

The starting point for the hike

Five minutes from my parents’ front door I find myself at the foot of the mountain. Up a small hill and I’m in the middle of the forest, junipers, birches and grass dominate the landscape as well as smooth and often slippery roots. The path is not very well thread, I wade through high grass and often have to climb over knee high rocks to continue on the path. The first part of the walk is steep. I realise the treadmill I use to get my heart pumping is nothing compared to the real deal. I can feel my pulse, I pant and increasingly find myself leaning my hand and upper body on my knee as I climb the largest rocks. After a few minutes I find myself on the first plateau. I stop to catch my breath, sit down and eat a few blueberries. The proper kind of blueberries that make your tongue and teeth blue, while the fingers are left with purple stains. I enjoy the scenery and fresh mountain air before I get up again and walk towards a clearing at the edge of the plateau.

The view from the first plateau

The town is stretched out beneath me. I call my father who takes Son out in the garden to wave at me. We then hang up. Son calls me from the porch. His voice carries all the way up to where I stand. I’m amazed at how well the sound carries. I raise both my hands up in the air and wave the best I can for him to see me. He claims he did.

I turn off the path and continue along an even less thread path than the previous. I again wade through high grass, climb rocks and even fight my way through tall junipers. I scratch my arms and sting my fingers on the needles. I’m not sure where this path ends up, I have been in the area many times before, but the paths have been wider. The path suddenly comes to a halt in between two tall junipers. I am about to turn, in doubt about whether I have actually found a proper path. I am reminded of a song by the Proclaimers, one line goes “do you want to follow paths or blaze a trail”. I smile at myself. I’m no quitter at least. I barge through the bushes and continue in the same direction. I hear the river roam somewhere in front of me and thus would always find my way, even if my own sense of direction would abandon me completely. I am headed for a narrow, country road, I’m not sure where exactly on the road, but I know I will find it soon.

The tall grass covering the path, the path got worse, before it got better

After the path had widened

The sun is high in the sky, it’s warm and I am now on the narrow road. The air is drier than in the forrest, and there is no shade along the road.

Tourists often complain about the speed limits in Norway, as do many Norwegians, but I've never seen a tourist drive according to the speed limit on this road. There's a reason why there are many good rally drivers from this country 😉 (btw, the sign sets the speed limit to 80 km/h - about 60 m/h)

I’ve left my bottle of water at home, and am now getting thirsty. I eat a few wild raspberries. The quality and taste is the same as those found by the sea. There are more of them here, outside the city.

Wild raspberries

The scenery around the road is different to how it was last time I was here. Many trees have been cut down, and a large water pipe has been removed. The forest is still very much the same, and has not suffered much. In fact the changes might even be good for the fauna.

There have been waterworks in the area for many decades. These are now rebuilding and changing their location slightly. I pass an old English looking house. The house was built at the same time as the first waterworks as Brits assisted with their knowledge and a bit of work force in the initial phase.

A taste of England in Norway

I continue along the road. Climbing. It is longer than I remembered it to be. I turn right at another dirt road, and soon find myself by the river. It is dammed, but there is still a proper river running down the mountain and hills towards the town. A new bridge has been built. I cross it and find myself in a different world. The descent will follow tomorrow

The bridge

The last strawberries

It seems the summer will soon be taken over by autumn. It is sad, but true. Fortunately I have had a good summer and am ready to taken on the many joys of autumn. However, Son and I came across a fruit vendor (or close to that at least: a man selling berries off a table near a gas station) who still sold Norwegian strawberries. I’m not much of a nationalist regarding strawberries, but I prefer buying local produce rather than strawberries that have barely had time to ripen before they are shipped across a continent to be placed in my local supermarket. I was surprised to see someone still sell strawberries, as I thought the season was over. The berries weren’t as sweet as they have been earlier in the summer, neither were they as red or juicy, but they definitely served their purpose well: the last local strawberries of the summer of 2011. We bought about a kilo worth of berries. Some we put on sliced of bread and sprinkled with a wee bit of sugar (just as much for the crunch as making them sweeter) the rest we ate straight from the box.

This summer I’ve tried strawberries from both Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and it is impossible to pick a favourite. However, they are all a lot better than the importer berries from Belgium and Portugal (there are the most common imported strawberries in Norway). I think I could live on strawberries alone during the summer, and some days I have been close to eating nothing but strawberries. Now, however, I am happy to wait some ten months before I again taste the delicious berries.

Usually when I start to let go of a season, and start preparing for the next, the weather god put on their sarcastic faces and completely surprise me. Some days ago I talked to someone about the weather, and we both agreed that autumn was just around the corner. Consequently the next days were the sunniest days we’ve had in a long time. There is a bit of a cold breeze though, and the shade is no longer as pleasant as it has been. I’m sitting outside at the moment, showered in the warm rays of the sun, but I’m still a bit cold, despite jeans and a sweater. I’ll pretend it’s still summer for a few more days though.

Strawberries are ‘jordbær’ in Norwegian, which translates directly to ‘earth-berries’ (pronounces something like ‘your bear’) Fun fact of the day 😉