Harvest Moon

It’s all about food and drink, one way or another.  Well, perhaps not all, but much of what we do involves sustaining ourselves with caloric and fluid intake.  Working is obvious, driving to and from work, shopping, all work toward filling us up.

We could say that things like blogging are just to satisfy our creative and social needs, but even there, KayJai posts about what she does at work, Hotspur blogs about what he sees and does on the way to work, and produces three books about his experiences, which he hopes to sell, to make money to buy food and drink.  I don’t feel guilty that so much of my stuff revolves around food and drink.

It’s that time of year again, harvest time.  Many of the things we like to have to eat are ripe, and plentiful.  The wife and I have been at it again, actually three times in the last two weeks.  We’ve been canning again, and again, and again.

I looked up the concept of canning in the dictionary.  Many people only understand the term *can* to refer to a metal container, but the word goes back to Old Norse, and means any type of vessel, so we “can”, in glass jars.

I remember helping my mother can, lo these many years ago.  Back then, she melted paraffin wax and poured it on the top of foodstuffs she was preserving.  Some people cut lengths of string and hung them on the sides of the jars, so that they could use them to pull the wax off the top.  We just used a knife to pry the wax off, and then a standard lid for refrigerator storage.

First the wife and I went up to the farmers market and bought a half a bushel of Roma tomatoes, to make homemade salsa with.   As we were buying the half bushel bag, there was another woman who was getting a bushel and a half to also make salsa with.  The wife asked her if she ran a restaurant, but the answer was no, it was just for the family and gifts for friends.  I’m glad our family is small and we don’t have many friends.

I do a lot of fetching and toting, but the wife is stuck with the old-school chopping and preparation.  De-seeding a half bushel so that we had just the flesh, took her most of an afternoon.  Then there were the onions and peppers to chop up.  I peeled the onions, but she did the rest.  By the time we were finished, we had 21 pints of glorious homemade salsa to garnish my beloved Tex-Mex dishes for a year.  We will be making quesadillas for supper this Saturday, but I’ve already had some on another platter of nachos on Monday.  Delicious!!  We saved the skins and ran them through a manual apple-saucer, and used the residue to make an exquisite home-style tomato soup.

We also bought a half a bushel of cucumbers carefully chosen for size, to make some dill pickles with.  We preserve dill pickles in a variety of shapes/styles, for different uses, and still have certain ones left from last year.  We bottle a few whole dills, some dill halves, a lot of quartered dills, some dill slices, for hamburgers and sandwiches, and dill chunks.  These are cut off the ends of cucumbers a little too long to fit in pint jars, or ones with bad spots.

A quart of chunks, run through a Magic Bullet food-processor and drained, yields a pint of dill relish, which the wife and son prefer to sweet relish for hot dogs.  You can also mix it 50/50 with mayonnaise, some lemon juice and a few drops of Tabasco sauce to produce a great tartar sauce for fish, or home-made falafel patties.  We put down 18 pints of dill quarters, and four more quarts of chunks.

As a special treat, we have come to love crab-apple jelly, especially on croissants for Sunday brunch.  The taste is exquisite, but it’s fairly expensive, because tiny crab-apples require more labor to harvest.  The daughter lived on a street where there were four apple trees on the boulevard, alongside a church parking lot.  We picked our own for several years.  We went back last year, and the city had widened the road, taking down the trees.

The daughter found a house backing the community trail near her place, which had two trees beside the trail.  The owner told her she could have all the apples she wanted.  We made a big batch of crab-apple jelly last year.  We went back this year and found that the home-owner had removed the trees.  She must eat it a lot faster than the wife and I.  We still have enough left, but the daughter is out.  She paid the bucks and bought a six-quart basket at the farmers’ market and gave them, along with a bag of beet sugar to us, for us to make her a batch.

It took three days of on-and-off labor, but we finally bottled 17 half-pint jars of this ambrosia.  So crystal clear you can read a paper through the bottles, but with a deep golden/claret color.  If you are lucky enough to find it in a store, each of those little jars would cost about $3, but if you ever spot any, it could be worth the money.  Of course, the store-bought stuff isn’t nearly as good as our home-made product.

I think that’s it for produce this year.  Next stop is to start accumulating ingredients for home-made Christmas cake.  Gotta stop typing now.  It’s snack time!  You coming?