Where has the summer gone? It seems like we were just picking strawberries and now it is almost fall. One of the first signs, or rather smells, that makes me think of fall is of apples in a nearby orchard. Ted and I often ride our bikes in the morning or evening on a nearby back road where there is an orchard with peaches, pears, and apples. When we start to notice the juicy, fruity aroma of apples, we know that summer is on the wane. Just the other day I noticed this for the first time. Soon it will be time to go over to Nichols orchard and pick apples for cakes, pies, and sauce, and to have in a basket on the porch for all to enjoy. We have done this for over 30 years!
Another end-of-summer harvest activity is making pickles, relishes, jelly, liquors, and herb vinegars. In olden days, people did these because it was a way to preserve fruits and herbs for winter use. When mint, rose geranium, or any other herbs are added to a plain apple or white grape juice jelly, wonderful flavors happen.
When hot white vinegar is poured over various combinations of herbs and spices, a flavorful vinegar is produced that lasts almost forever! Dill and garlic in vinegar is a great dressing for cucumbers or beets in the winter. Raspberries, a few cloves, and a cinnamon stick make a great topping for lettuce. For a good flavor, remember that the spice or herb is best left in the vinegar for at least 6 weeks.
Sometimes a creative mix of all kinds of herbs and a small hot pepper from the garden makes an exciting vinegar that is delicious tossed with olive oil, grated cheese, and salt and pepper.
One of our favorite dishes is cucumber and sour cream salad. Slice cucumbers, soak in water for an hour or so, drain and wrap in a damp towel, and place in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight. Make a dressing of sour cream with enough sugar and vinegar to make it taste sweet and sour. Everyone likes this different, so I usually say taste it. Add lots of freshly chopped dill. Use dried if you don't have frozen. Be generous with the fresh dill. Slice a sweet onion very fine and then stir all together. Cover the cucumber slices with the sour cream dressing. Garnish with a large head of dill that is a pretty greenish yellow.
We also like beet salad with an orange juice and horseradish dressing. Another recipe made by taste, using horseradish, a little vinegar, half a cup fresh or frozen orange juice, and a few spoons of brown sugar.
Try also a book written by Alina Zeranska, Janina Domanska (Illustrator), entitled The Art of Polish Cooking