Tag Archives: canning

The Opposite of S.A.D. and 50 Jars of Jam

I have a dear friend who struggles every winter.  It’s dark; it’s cold; the days are short; the sun isn’t around.  She has Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) and needs extra light in the winter to stay healthy.  I have just the opposite problem:  I hide when there’s too much light. She’s an anthropologist and assures me that my ancestors didn’t LIVE in caves, but sometimes I’m not so sure.

It’s a funny thing for a gardener–I don’t like summer.  I’m passionate about gardening in the fall, weeding, seeding, planting, building.  I plan great empires of gardening during winter, reading books, drawing designs, perusing catalogs, winter sowing and continuing to build and plan.  I start off with a bang every spring, waiting impatiently for last frost dates, buying and planting great volumes of plants and seeds.  Then about June, it gets HOT, and I retreat to my cave in the forest.  Okay, it’s not really a cave; it even has windows that show the sunlight outside.  This year was hotter than the last couple of years, so I was even less motivated to get outside.

But that undefinable moment has come.  Deep inside, I can tell fall is coming.  About two weeks ago, I got an urge to venture outside and view the devastation wrought by summer.  Surprisingly, the yard’s in pretty good shape.  Thank heavens for heavy mulch–where it didn’t keep down weeds, they’re not too hard to pull.  So I’m hard at work, pulling weeds, taking inventory of beds, planning what gets added this fall and spring.

I started the year with plans to eat more sustainably–local, organic produce is the ideal, and it’s particularly nice if it comes from my own yard.  Then I broke my ankle in February, and I’m still walking carefully and putting ice on it in September.  Nothing out of the ordinary for this kind of recovery, but not helpful for gardening on a large scale.

Despite that, I’ve learned a few things.  I didn’t make huge changes, but I’ve made some small changes.  We’re paying more attention to where our food comes from, and trying to make better choices.  We switched to some organic canned goods, tomatoes & peanut butter in particular.  I can make ranch dressing from scratch, so my house has one less jar of scary chemicals in it, and it’s something we eat a LOT of.

After Berry Picking, 25 August 2012

I’ve visited a farmer’s market or two.  I’ve gone berry picking a couple of times.  I’ve made my own flavored vinegars (chive flower & tarragon in the spring, raspberry this weekend.)  I’ve found at least a few things I love to can.  The Onion-Maple Conserve was so popular I need to make another batch.  I tried Pomona’s Universal Pectin, and the whole family loves lower sugar berry jam.  A conventional recipe calls for 6-1/2 cups of sugar for 4 cups of fruit–we’re made multiple batches with 1-1/2 cups of sugar for 4 cups of fruit.  It’s amazingly good, and very easy to make.  We’ve gone berry picking the last two weekends, picked about 30 pounds of blackberries and raspberries and canned about 50 jars of jam.  There’s also a small batch of blackberry cordial steeping.

Berry Jams, 19 August 2012

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Re-Learning How to Can

Grammy & Greenhouse Tomatoes

My paternal grandmother canned, and my husband and I visited a few summers after we were married and canned with her.  That was over 20 years ago, and we haven’t done any canning since.  Until two days ago.

May 13 was our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary in addition to being Mother’s Day.  Our long standing tradition is to celebrate holidays that involve going out to dinner either well before or well after the actual day to avoid crowds.  Since we knew every restaurant on the planet would be mobbed all weekend, we found other things to do.

The highlight of our weekend was canning together.  The Chief of Implementation and I collaborated on a batch of Onion Maple Conserve.  We’re fond of sweet & savory together and this new recipe turned out extremely well.  We’ve already opened the second jar so another batch or two may happen.  We cooked 2-1/2 pounds of onions down to six 4 oz jars of maple and onion goodness.

Onion Maple Conserve, 13 May 2012

The recipe is from a Better Homes and Gardens special interest publication and I’m hoping that’s a safe source for recipes.

I also made two herb vinegars–rice vinegar with chive flowers and apple cider vinegar with tarragon.  They’re stored at the front of the peanut butter and snack cabinet for 4-6 weeks of aging in a warm dark spot where I’ll remember to turn them every day or so.  After that, I’ll filter them thoroughly and bottle them attractively.  I’ll watch the chive flower rice vinegar very carefully because it’s 4.3% acidity instead of the needed 5% for safe food.  I figured that out AFTER I’d put every available chive flower from the garden into it.  (Oops!)

Herbal Vinegars, 13 May 2012

We’re off to a small but happy start preserving our harvests.  Hope everyone is starting to enjoy garden bounty.

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Filed under Cooking, Gardening, Sustainable Living