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The Briar Patch Garden

Ebbleskewers, Milkweed Pod and Teasel Weed

M-C HartmanWow!  What a great, fun visit down memory lane this month’s edition of Capper’s Farmer magazine was!  The wonderful Susi Jacobson article “Foraging for a Fall Wreath” brought back memories of Mother pulling over the car repeatedly throughout the fall while travelling down roads and byways to “harvest” teasel weed, milk weed pods and other interesting dry plant materials.  Mom was very creative and would turn these articles of nature into pictures, flower arrangements, wreaths and other wonderful decorative products with a little glue, glitter, paint, and brain power.  I grin thinking of her creativity every time I buzz by a patch of milkweed pod bursting, or teasel weed standing tall and prickly in salute.  

And then farther on in the magazine I turned the page and low and behold a magnificent article on what we called in our family “Ebbleskewers”!  Mom’s Grandparents came over on the boat from Denmark, so one of my inheritances from her is her Ebbleskewer pan.  I got so excited reading the interesting and creative recipes shared and so much of the history of this wonderful “pancake” from my childhood that I promptly began soaking bread overnight in milk, dug out the pan, and the next day invited Dad over for a brunch with Mike and me.  Linsey Knerl, thank you for reminding me of my Nana and that wonderful joy.  And for giving my Father, husband, and myself a special brunch together to boot!  For us, Ebbleskewers were an extra Christmas time treat.  We have a basic recipe passed down to us which I thought I would share with you.  It is not the lovely fancy ones listed in Linsey’s article, but it is a nice recipe that is not hard to make if you have the pan.

Nana’s Ebbleskewer Recipe

Soak 3 medium slices of white bread in one quart of buttermilk overnight.  Add four cups flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon baking soda, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 2 tablespoons melted butter.  Beat 4 eggs well and add.  Slice thin pieces of apple to insert into the batter after poured into the pan.  Heat Ebbleskewer pan on medium heat.  Fill greased Ebbleskewer pan ½ full.  Turn Ebbleskewers (we just turned them fully over 180 degrees one time) using a fork once the bottom sections have browned.  Serve with confectioner’s sugar and/or honey.

In our more health conscious age, I used sprouted wheat bread instead of the white bread, and whole wheat flour instead of standard flour.  Dad still liked them and Mike told me in all the years we have been married he did not remember me ever cooking them, so he did not have anything to compare them to.  They were a hit and I am looking forward to trying Linsey’s recipes.  We were too busy enjoying the food for me to remember to take a picture for you, so please enjoy Karen Keb’s pictures in Linsey’s article instead!  And her recipes!

Meet Our Organic/Certified Naturally Grown CSA Farmer Reuben DeMaster

M-C HartmanOur CSA Farmer Reuben DeMaster is an entrepreneurial farmer who is always busy adding to his offerings.  For instance, this year he has added a Saturday farm market to his delivered CSA where he not only features his own organically grown produce, but local farm products from other organic growers (such as grass fed beef and honey), his own roasting chickens, lamb, pork, eggs, and some lightly sprayed fruit from nearby farmers.  Because his farm is tucked into the Northwest corner of Lehigh County, PA, he also features some unique and unusual products to entice customers to travel to him.  These include whole grain breads, desserts, and pizza baked in his wood fired outdoor brick oven.  When we arrived he was busy making a Margarita pizza.

Reuben DeMaster with his brick oven.

Reuben and his brick oven. Photo by Mike Hartman.

Reuben DeMaster making pizzas.

Reuben making pizzas. Photo by Mike Hartman.

This year he is also adding in a fall CSA. (Now accepting members.)  He also creatively added a chef this spring to make Saturday evening dinners featuring seasonal dishes created from products grown on the farm, as well as teach cooking classes.  Alas the chef left before we could take advantage of his expertise.  He hopes to add in more children’s education and activities in the future.

We have participated in his wife’s yogurt making class which was delightful.

His farm, Willow Haven Farm, is included in the Naturally Grown organization as a member, with stricter standards than the government defining organic practices.

Reuben’s intern of two years Imbert, indicated that moving his family out from the city to become Reuben’s Intern was the best decision he had ever made in his life.  This man grins from ear to ear when you meet him at the farm.

How we found Reuben is a short story involving both the Lehigh County Annual Farm Tour and my slow realization that our backyard garden/mini farm needed to morph into something different than annual vegetables and weeds.  At the time, our internet connection was slow and frequently disrupted, making it difficult to do research, so when our local paper advertised the annual farm tour, my hubby and I went to enjoy the day.  We were impressed with him and his farm and signed up to receive several boxes of vegetables that fall.  The initial vegetables were terrific and in January we signed up for his summer CSA.  Having the vegetables delivered to our home made the CSA doable for us.  If we had needed to travel out to the farm to pick them up, it probably would not have worked for us.  Currently we are in our second year of participating in his CSA.  Reuben has a great cooperative spirit and has worked out arrangements with some local families to deliver the vegetables weekly on Wednesday afternoons to his customers in exchange for their own shares.  He also works other arrangements out for people who choose to help out on the farm.  Please check out his website listed above for more details, but know from a customer perspective, he has done a lot of creative thinking and implementation.  Each time a box is delivered to us it is like getting a little bit of Christmas – always a delightful surprise!

Corn Blanching and Freezing

M-C HartmanA reply to Nebraska Dave:

Thank you so much for your kind welcome! Both of our Black Eyed Susan varieties are perennials. Perhaps some of those would work in your lovely garden. Good luck to you on that!

Now to continue on with seasonal eating techniques from last week’s blog …

Most of three dozen ears of sweet corn found their way into our freezer following the peach sauce canning. However, to fit them in I had to remove one of the packs of rhubarb and the red currants I froze before our trip and can them. We now have 7 cup size containers of rhubarb-red currant preserves, Splenda sweetened. It tastes pretty good (though I am not sure about the Splenda taste in it) and could be used for a sauce on its own rather than just on toast, as long as it is in small doses. There is another pack of rhubarb left to can. I purchased an additional plant recently because I did not have enough to freeze for all the great rhubarb recipes I wanted to try. The other two plants are still looking great. 

So I thought I would share a bit about freezing corn following up on the peach canning in the last post. We have a great tool from Pampered Chef to remove the corn from the cob once it is blanched. However it does not seem to be on their website anymore, so I am posting its picture in case you come across one sometime to pick up. A warning though, when you are tired or hurried it can slice your fingers pretty well, so please be careful!

Corn Stripping Tool

The Pampered Chef Corn Stripping Tool

Also if anyone is unfamiliar with the blanching process, an important step is to make sure you have enough ice to cool the corn (or any other vegetable you are blanching) quickly once it comes out of the boiling water. I used almost half an 8 pound bag for the three dozen ears. Otherwise you end up with mushy vegetables when you go to cook them.   Corn on the cob gets blanched for 4 minutes in boiling water, then immediately cooled.  Shuck and de-silk the ears, then when your water boils place them in the boiling water for the four minutes. Immediately place into ice-water to cool. A pasta pot if available helps to keep some of the splashing of boiling water down.

Pasta Pot with Strainer Insert

What a Pasta Pot Looks Like

Corn in Ice Bath After Blanching

Corn Cooling in Ice Water Following the Boiling

The best way to freeze it that I have found is initially on cookie sheets, then once frozen, placed into proper storage bags, ideally the kind that remove the air and allow you to keep them from getting freezer burned for a year. The Foodsaver machines work great for that.

Today I also blanched broccoli, but instead of the cookie sheet step, it was able to be placed individually by spears directly into the freezer bags used with the Foodsaver machine. These tidy little machines also help you keep your produce, meat, etc. better organized in flat (if frozen), space saving format. Broccoli blanches for about 3 minutes in spear form, shorter time for pieces. Last year I did not cool it quickly enough and learned about the mushy veggies noted above by that experience. I’m great at experimenting with things so I thought I could save some other people grief by finding out 99 ways not to make a light bulb along with Thomas Edison and passing the info onto you!

Peaches and Questions

M-C HartmanIn the first blog entry, I wanted to share some flower beauty with people. In this one, I would like to begin dialoguing with people and exchanging information. I suspect many of Capper’s Farmer’s readers are well versed in many areas of growing and living life, and I hope I will be able to share some things that may benefit others as well as learn from you. I also have a correction to make. In the first blog, it appears as though I wrote that the Yukon was part of Alaska! Actually it is the Yukon Territory of Canada which sits right next to Alaska. Guess I was tired. My apologies to all the fine folks we met in the Yukon!

It’s peach season here in Pennsylvania, and I would really appreciate your help on some issues. Our peach tree has bravely started a nice crop of peaches the last two years, all of which have failed to mature and have fallen off. I am adding a picture of the tree which we planted a few years ago. Should I prune it? Use organic fertilizer on it? Something else for next season? I would appreciate some suggestions. I suspect there are a lot of Capper’s Farmer readers who have a lot more experience in peach growing than I have.

Peach Tree

Peach Tree

To that end, I needed to go to one of our local farm markets again this year and pick up some peaches to can into sauce. This year I picked up a half bushel of “Johnboy,” which since I do not add sugar to my peach sauce, will need some cinnamon, as they seem a bit on the bitter side. Does anyone have a suggestion as to a good variety to can with without using sugar? I prefer yellow to white peaches.

An interesting side note, for the first time in years in canning, a bottle failed shortly after being placed in the hot water canner. Has anyone else ever had one break during the hot water process?  I did not detect any cracks in the jar before I used it.

So here are a few pictures of the peach canning process to share.

Whole Peaches

Whole Peaches

Peaches Cooking

Peaches Cooking

After washing and cutting your peaches, cook them down like you do applesauce. No need to peel them. Use your food mill to easily strip the peels off.

Food Mill

Food Mill

Can them 20 minutes from boiling point, in your hot water canner like you do applesauce. A good basic resource is the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing and Dehydration. When done, they look quite pretty.

Canned Peach Sauce

Canned Peach Sauce

Counting the jar that broke, the half bushel of peaches made 10 pints of peach sauce. At $16.00/half bushel, that comes out a bit pricey, but it is a nice change from Applesauce come February!

Well, I hope this information is useful to someone. Please feel free to share your expertise on these matters!

Post-Vacation Blooms in the Garden

M-C HartmanIn Carol Deppe’s marvelous book, The Resilient Gardener, she has a gracious way of giving both herself and her readers permission to have a less than perfect garden. She begins her book with a story about tending her ill mother for 10 years, and how her garden both sustained them through her difficult time and also at times was a burden. “Hard times happen” is her summary of what kind of gardening she prepared for following this decade. Wisely she prepared for the oops! in life.

Inevitably in our garden, “life happens,” which is my way of viewing what she so beautifully said. A recent example of this is that my husband and I had a 16-day Yukon vacation in the middle of July. Here in our zone 6 Pennsylvania garden, many of those 16 days were 90+ degrees with abundant rain. The consequence upon our return was a backyard overflowing with morning glory vines crawling and sprawling over everything, from rose bushes to the raspberry patch. Three garbage cans full later, the morning glory “volunteers” and a few others that contained seeds not fit for the compost pile were on their way out. That is only the beginning of the needed weeding that still waits.

“Life happens” of course not only means the “volunteers” and other issues that make their less than wonderful presence known, but also the beauty and abundance of life in our organic garden. The flip side of the morning glories is the abundant flowering we arrived back to. One of our native plant gardens sprawls along the back fence, which is a semi-shaded southern exposure not fit much for vegetable production. The perennial sunflowers were in full school-bus-yellow bloom, as well as two varieties of Black-eyed Susans, the Jerusalem artichokes, and much to my amazement since they are still entrenched in the holding container waiting to be planted, the cup plants. Combined with the white from some daisy-like wanted volunteers, the backyard was by far the prettiest it has been all summer.

Perennial Sunflowers
Perennial Sunflowers blooming

Shorter Black-eyed Susans
Shorter variety of Black-eyed Susans

Taller Black-eyed Susans
Taller variety of Black-eyed Susans

Jerusalem Artichokes
Jerusalem Artichokes blooming

Cup plant blooming
Cup plant blooming

The cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) is a native American prairie perennial, which grows 5-10 feet tall in full sun to partial shade and attracts birds and pollinators. It is perfect for the back end of our east native plant garden. I began growing them from seed from Seed Savers Exchange last year. Prolific bee and butterfly attractors already, they are gracing the non-heated greenhouse frame from the 9-year-old, awaiting-replacement-this-fall greenhouse that my father kindly made me. There is a very nice description of the cup plant and its pollinators at The cup plant derives its name from the shape of its leaves, which come together to form cups along the stem.  These collect water and allow birds and insects something other than your bird bath to drink out of. I am looking forward to getting them planted after I get the fall garden planted and enough weeding done to find a space for them!

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