June 2016: Cast Iron, Cherries, and the Mason Jar Shimmy



June has a mouth that is stained with berry juice, and the smell of tomato vines comes from her hands. Tendrils curl like stray hairs from her tall green bean vines, and her squash blossoms are stars in a nest of green, rough leaves. Wear a sunhat beneath her dauntless shine, or see her roses bloom on your cheeks and shoulders. She’s fierce and gentle, bold and tender, loves campfires and barbecue and yes, walks on the beach at sunset. We’d marry June, we love her that much.

Since we can’t wed this lovely month, we’ll court her favor as long as we can, making the most of her bounty while it lasts, before she waltzes off into one of those summer sunsets she wears so well. Strawberries, cream, the first of the basil, the last of the peas. Stone fruits; plum and peach and cherry. Delight. A hearty dinner after a long summer day of work.

Like the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice, June stretches on and on, like an open road, inviting us to ride with her. How could we refuse?

Skillet Cornbread

You know what the best thing to put on that freshly baked cornbread is? Yep. Fresh-shook butter. Some might say that the proper term is freshly shaken. But there’s more of a shimmy to fresh-shook. And trust us, you gotta shimmy a little, if you’re gonna shake for this long. Do the mason jar shimmy.

Mason Jar Butter

Cornbread Strawberry Shortcake

The berries are here, the berries are here! The season of fruits is upon us, and these strawberries are the first in a parade of red ripe fruits that will grace our gardens, tables, and palates for months to come. We never get tired of their red ripe flavors, but we do like to explore different ways to enjoy them. To that end we offer you this desert. Frankly, it’s amazing. Make it with strawberries now, raspberries or blueberries or even apples later…We hope you like it as much as we do. Did we mention how delicious it is?

We’ll leave you now, with that sweet taste to linger. In all the buzz and the hustle and the busy and the bustle, we wish you many moments, sweet and savory alike, full of the tastes of springtime.

Amaretto Cherries

Cherries, like apricots, are another fruit that are hardly worth eating out of hand when they are not in season. Luckily for us, that time is now. While nothing beats the simple, pit-spittin' glory of a fresh handful of cherries, they are also delicious when enhanced by cooking, and paired with other powerful ingredients. What better way to enjoy their rich, fleeting flavor than stepped in an amaretto syrup? Perfect for summer bbq's, pie filling, or a taste of early summer when the rains come down.


amaretto cherry recipe


As the days stretch longer and longer into the summer, we find ourselves staying out later, waving away the mosquitos as we get one last wheelbarrow full of mulch into the garden, one more log on the glowing barbecue coals. Suddenly, it’s 9pm, and we haven’t put the chickens away, or washed the children’s faces…it’s hard to find the time to sit still, and record the goings on of garden and hive and pantry. But whenever we do manage to crack open the bindings on our various journals, we’re drawn deeper still into this swift season. Remember last year, when we made berry shrubs about this time? Those sound good, on a hot almost-summer day. Let’s do that again soon! The spring rains diminished some of the apricot crop, but there will still be enough to make a few pints of that rich golden jam, and certainly enough pits to make amaretto. Keep an eye out for the Amaretto recipe, coming soon to these pages. Wonder what an apricot shrub would taste like?…hmmm. Perhaps we should investigate. And blueberries are in full swing! Whatever shall we do with them, besides eat them by the bucketfull? They sure are good tumbled over that chevre cheesecake…or imagine them in a galette of their own, or drizzled with honeyed creme fraiche…yes, even with full bellies and full hearts there is always room to dream about the delicious future, while looking back at the past.

A late split of the beehive seems to be going well; they’ve requeened and are busily gathering pollen to feed their young. And the nucs of this year are off to a rollicking good start too; these late, light, intermittent rains have kept a steady supply of blooms fresh and ready for the gathering, as long as there’s not too many days of wet weather in between the warm ones. A recent talk at Bookshop Santa Cruz with author Kate Frey about gardening for the bees brought their particular foraging habits back to the forefront of our attention; honeybees tend to favor masses of a single ‘flavor’ or species of flower, as opposed to the ‘collector’s garden’ approach that many gardeners take, with one of each plant. We’re taking this to heart, though in a small space, and so many beautiful nectar plants to choose from, it can be hard to cede space to masses of plants, rather than individuals. Bees and flowers have grown up together, and have long-established patterns of interaction that we are learning to pay attention to, to better both bees and blooms. The wild hillsides are abloom this time of year, with masses and masses of chaparall plants; holodiscus, mimulus, chamise, and elderflower down by the creeks and shady places. From garden to hillside the bees are travelling, in long sweeping flights to and from the hive, home and back, home and back, carrying sweetness in their stomachs, pollen on their legs. Maybe this year will yield enough honey for a batch of mead. Fingers crossed!

We opened the last jar of fermented peppers the other day. We almost made it through the year eating nothing but our own fermented hot sauce, but it does look like we will be without for a month or two, while our small pepper plants grow tall and set fruit. Inspired by our friends at Burn Hot Sauce, we’re planting more potent varieties of pepper, and will experiment more with combining varieties for a full flavor.


Workshops & Events

We’re getting excited for our Spring and Summer classes, especially returning to the Santa Cruz Farmer’s Markets! Here are a few of the dates, but stay posted on our workshops and events page for more coming soon!

June 14th Felton Farmer’s Market
Kid's Day with free kid's activities, strawberry shortcake and our instructors making homemade fruit leather.
Saturday July 16 Scotts Valley Farmers' Market
Berry Bountiful
Canning Berry Jam, Dehydrated Berry Snacks, Berry Shrubs


June Staff Pick: U.S.A. Made Cast Iron Skillet

The cornbread recipe above features a U.S.A. made cast iron skillet. Available in multiple sizes, this versatile pan can be handed down for generations. An essential tool for the home cook.


It’s part of our mission here at Mountain Feed to help you make delicious, sustainable, homemade food more often. Stop by and say hello on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Or, as always, you can do it the old fashioned way and come by the store to speak with one of our in-house experts.