The metaphor of precious jewels is irresistible when describing the season of canning. Reds, golds, vibrant indigo, plum – I now understand that the color “plum” refers to the cooked fruit, not the fresh- those colors of the harvest, as seen through sparkling glass jars, is one hallmark of Fall for us. It’s a frenzy, though, a race to get through the abundance of everything that has ripened all at the same time. This year, aided by the steadfast attendance of the bees, we’ve discovered fruit bursting from previously-undiscovered nooks and crannies.
Herein lies one of the most difficult lessons of managing a very full life. Get as much done as you can and let go of the rest. It rang familiar to me as I typed this, and I vaguely remembered feeling a similar sentiment in the past. Oh yes – last year’s garden recap post. Hee hee.
There are, at this moment, no rotting tomatoes on my kitchen counter (yet) but the little sweeties I’ve set aside for drying are starting to tap their toes. Setting up shop at my local Farmer’s Market has proved to be a handy impetus to can like a dickens. I managed to follow through on several years of intent by harvesting elderberries this year and making jam. A thick, sweeeeet jam, but one that will still prove quite handy at banishing winter colds. The biggest surprise was that I was able to pick all the berries I needed from our own bushes, without having to forage elsewhere, a feat made possible, no doubt, by the bees.
Stewed tomatoes were my opening act. See how strange and oblong these beauties are? They look like giant red peppers. What you can’t see on the inside is their delicious flesh, almost completely absent of seeds and juice. They are Federles – chosen specifically for this fleshy-ness. They can up like a dream – all tomato and little juice.
Isadora joined me in the Sisterhood of Canning this year, as a very promising skin-peeler. I can’t quite put it into words, but I’ve started to get a sense of an almost-primal connection to a larger community of women doing the very same thing this time of year. I know that, as I blanch and peel and fill my jars, that Mom and Grandma and Aunt are doing the same, perhaps even that very day. Neighbors, friends, passing acquaintances from the market, too. It’s hard to describe how satisfying that is, how rhythmically appropriate and in tune with the season, and how visceral the pleasure from so literally providing for my family – from seed, to plant, to fruit, to jar. Gosh, that’s good stuff. But it’s a lot of busy work. A lot. Pulling elderberries from their clusters took me hours and was one of those activities that teetered between mind-numbing and meditative, depending upon your mood. I swayed more to the mind-numbing side, sadly.
What great strides I’ve made over last year. In the cellar are proudly displayed 10 quarts of stewed tomatoes, 6 quarts of the absolute best marinara I can muster (way better than last year), 6 pints of plums (plums! I bought them on a whim at a Farmer’s Market), the aforementioned elderberry jam, dill pickle slicers, dilly beans, pickled jalapeno-type peppers… and the harvest has only started. We’ve discovered an abundance of grapes (again, thanks bees!) that might make a nice jelly, there are so many more tomatoes in progress, as well as peppers. What remains to join these jewels in the cellar will be determined by whatever time and energy I can muster in the weeks to come. And grace. I’m holding tight to the satisfaction I’ve gleaned so far this season, in case these jewels manage to be the only ones I mine this year. Winter eating will be our best yet.