Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thoughts on Fall Food Preservation

So far, fall around here has been pretty much perfect - warm, sunny days and evenings with just enough nip in the air to let you know that although summer may be lingering, cold weather isn't far off. Summer always starts off slow here in the Pacific Northwest ... we often have cool weather all through June and sometimes the first part of July, so the sudden and bountiful September harvest always seems to surprise me from year to year.  

{My canning pantry}

The farmers' markets and farm stands seem to suddenly explode with variety - tomatoes, corn, apples, plums, pears, potatoes, squash - and suddenly I'm scrambling to keep up!

I was once again the lucky recipient of a TON of Barlett pears from my in-laws; three large grocery sacks full! No idea how many pounds exactly, but I'd estimate 30-40. My typical long, slow cook-down into pear butter wasn't going get them into jars fast enough this year, so I canned slices in a honey-vanilla syrup, following a recipe from Tart and Sweet. After a while, I was going through honey so fast, that I decided to switch to a simple sugar syrup instead. Some were already overripe and I couldn't save them, but I rescued enough to come out with a respectable number of pint jars.

{Pear slices suspended in honey syrup, with vanilla and cinnamon}

After the pears came the apples, which I actually canned into applesauce with my mother-in-law, in her kitchen. Again, SO MANY APPLES. I can't even guess at how many. Craziness. It took a while to find a good rythym, but after we did, it seemed to go fairly quickly and two people working in the kitchen made the process much faster. So the outcome of that was a wealth of both applesauce and apple butter, plus two quarts of apple pie filling, all of which will be much appreciated during the gloomy months of winter!

Inbetween, I squeezed in a batch of tomatillo salsa, which I froze instead of canning it. I prefer the freezer for certain things, so that I don't have to abide by a tested recipe for the sake of acidity levels and such. And I enlisted my three year old to help me peel the tomatillos, which she found utterly fascinating.

{My little kitchen helper}
So combined with the food projects from early summer, we have a cupboard full of blueberry jam, peach slices (shared with us from the in-laws), pear slices, canned whole plums, plum butter, applesauce, apple butter and apple pie filling, plus the strawberry jam, blueberries, blackberries and tomatillo salsa that I have in the freezer!


 It's the most canning and putting up that I've ever done in a year, so I'm feeling pretty accomplished!

Okay, your turn to brag: what have you been up to in the kitchen this past summer and fall?

P.S. After getting a tip from my neighbor yesterday, my little girl and I went out searching for an old pear tree, that was supposedly growing just across the road from us in an abandoned lot. We found one, perfect pear that was growing low enough for us to reach. The rest were overripe and too high up, but I'm looking forward to getting out there a bit earlier next year! Such a fun little adventure and such a pretty gift from that long-forgotten old tree.

Rebekah Pike 
Rebekah is happiest with her nose in a book and enjoys making the most of her pint-sized, apartment kitchen. After leaving work in media production to become a full-time mommy, she began exploring the sustainable living movement, reconnecting with the back-to-the-earth ideals of her hippie parents. She met her husband, Darian, in 2005, working as a camp counselor in Oregon's rugged outdoors. Most of their time is spent chasing after their three year old daughter, Ashlynn, and doing serious “research” at Portland's restaurants, coffee shops and markets.


Daughter of the Glade said...

This is my first year in the new duplex, and I lost most of my canning jars in the move. However, I have still canned a few jars of grape jam that I am very, very proud of. =)
Congratulations on finding the abandoned pear tree! There are so many fruit and nut sources in the urban area that go unutilized every year. It's such a terrible waste, when people are going hungry, that just a block or two away there may be a food source rotting on the bough.
May you never hunger.

Rebekah said...

Thanks for sharing your story, DOTG! So sad about your canning jars, but nice work making do with what you had! This has been a year of making do for me too, as I haven't had much budget available for fruit purchasing. I've been blessed many times with free fruit or preserves from generous friends. You are so right about urban fruit and nut trees going to waste. ... I feel like my eyes have been opened to that this year more than ever. It seems like every where I go I'm saying, "Look at that tree! Why isn't someone picking from it???" I never would have noticed before I developed my canning habit! :)


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