August 31, 2009

Now and later: an adventure in food preservation

Posted in Daily life, Food tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:28 pm by Lauren

“So when can I have some of those peaches?”

Allen is referring to the three cans of peaches I put up in a simple syrup yesterday. I give him a look and say, “Later.”

He is not happy with this answer. “I can’t have any peaches now because we made them to eat later, when I can’t have peaches. But I can’t have peaches now! Because they’re all for later, when I can’t have peaches! Get it? It doesn’t make any sense! When can I have some?”

(I checked this quote with Allen – to ensure accuracy – and he laughed and said, “Yeah, that’s pretty good.”)

I agreed that he could have some peaches if he’d consider letting me buy 15 pounds of peaches at the farmers market on Friday after tasting the peaches and deciding that they were so delicious that we should have more, to eat later, when we can’t have peaches.

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All of this is to say that I did some food preserving yesterday, after being inspired by Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle where she not only talked about end of harvest canning, but brought up the point that local farmers have to live in December on what they earn in August (which, since I like the idea of having local organic food available to me, seemed like a good basis for a sort of humanitarian effort). I bought The Busy Person’s Guide to Preserving Food at Home, read it end to end, made a list of things I could possible can, freeze, or dehydrate, obsessed about dehydrators online (fruit leather!), and ultimately decided to either freeze or can (least materials required) whatever I found at the farmers market that looked good.

With this all in mind, I trekked to the Ballston Farmers’ Market on Friday with Stephanie and the girls. I picked up two containers of okra (some of it four inches long!), seven beets, huge red tomatoes, and quite a few fragrant peaches. I brought it all home and poured over my preserving book again. It took me two days before I actually got around to preserving it (by which point Trouble had impressed his teeth into two of the peaches and attacked the okra), and in that time I read and reread the recipes and information on preserving tomatoes and peaches. (In the meantime, I hid the produce.)

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Finally, I’d decided all their fates. Canning in a simple syrup for the peaches. Kingsolver’s recipe (from the book) for spaghetti sauce (which appealed because it called for nutmeg, honey, cinnamon, and lemon peel along with the traditional oregano, thyme, parsley, etc). For the beets, I decided to make a delicious beet puree soup from Cooking Light and freeze it. With the okra, I chose a repeat of a summer vegetable salad (also from Cooking Light). Of course these latter two recipes necessitated another trip to the (this time Columbia Pike) farmers market to pick up additional vegetables. The only things I could not find locally were green onions and lemons, so I cheated and picked those up at the grocery store. And thus I started my project.

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I found everything I needed for canning at Ayer’s, a “variety store” and hardware on Washington Boulevard across from Lost Dog and Stray Cat. I prepared all the mason jars and their lids. Then I pureed the tomatoes and combined the 15 or so ingredients for the tomato sauce. I eventually got around to reading the next part of the recipe: let sauce simmer and boil down 2 to 3 hours. Okay, on to the peaches then!

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The peaches had softened a bit in the two days they waited for me to can them, and they were looking a little worse for wear. I blanched them and tossed them in cold water to peel off the skin. Then I cut away any bruises because my book said to use unblemished fruit (and that was the best I was going to do). I ate the parts that Trouble had munched on. (Don’t judge!) I packed the good slices into the jars and covered them with a medium simple syrup.

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Eventually the peaches came out and the spaghetti sauce boiled down. I hot packed the spaghetti sauce, and it made five jars! But since the pot I was using as my canner would only take four at a time, I decided that the fifth jar would go into the fridge for use in the next couple weeks. I’ll let you know how it is. (The burns on my tongue suggest that it’s good, but I’ll need to test it some more.) Behold my bounty!

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Not being one to stop while I am ahead, I started the beet soup while the spaghetti sauce jars were processing in the boiling water. The pictures I took of it don’t do the rich magenta color justice.

So now the all-important question: would I do it again? I think so. Maybe next weekend. With more peaches.

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But you can’t have any. Not until later when you can’t have peaches.

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2 Comments »

  1. grandma said,

    greatgrama and greatgreatgrama used to this when i was litte–

  2. Scott said,

    I remember them doing this also, There is a room in Phillip and Donna’s basement where all the cans were stored, I think that Phillip actually saved some of them! kind of scary after all these years, you should email him to see if the’re still there. I’ll show you the next time you’re up in CT. See ya


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