On Friday I wrote about being sick of canning. On Saturday I woke up and realized that I was done with the plums, tomatoes, grapes, and red raspberries. Into the basement went the canners and onto the sofa went I for a late morning nap. That evening, my husband lit the first fire of the season in the wood stove, and we cozied up in the living room with a stack of new library books.
My family knows what we love, produce-wise, and as the children get older, I find I am focusing more on quantity than experimentation. Thus the 39 quarts of one kind of salsa, sweet pickles only, and three-fourths of one entire freezer in green beans. It’s boring, yes, but practical. We’ll eat it.
Recently, a hardcore gardening girlfriend—seriously, the woman is a preserving diva—told me that when her kids leave home, she’s going cold turkey on the canning front. She wants to spend her time doing other things. And Costco has good salsa.
I don’t know what I’ll feel like doing when my kids leave home. I’m certainly no canning purist (Costco does have good salsa), and my husband is most definitely not a gardener. But I have a hard time imagining throwing in the canner completely. Putting food in jars is for me what digging holes is for 8-year-old boys: it’s time consuming and kinda pointless (by economic standards), but it’s also deeply satisfying. There’s something primal about harvesting food and squirreling it away for later.
But really, I’m not sure why I spend all these hours and days doing a task that complicates my life. Perhaps the drive is nothing deeper than an urge to “play house.” Perhaps I do it for the narrowed focus that comes with a sharp knife, slippery plums, and boiling water. Maybe it’s because hard work feels good and the being done feels even better. Whatever the reason, it’s strong enough to keep me going year after year.
And now, for this year, I’m done.
Boy, does it feel good.
2014 Garden Stats and Notes
strawberries, frozen, sliced: 7 quarts
strawberries, sugared sauce: 2 pints
strawberries, freezer jam: 6 pints
strawberries, daiquiri mix: 4 pints
mint tea concentrate: a lot
pesto: 9 batches, frozen
zucchini relish: 5 pints and 5 half-pints
applesauce, lodi: 82 quarts
green beans (mostly Roma): 107 quart-and-a-half bags
peaches, Red Haven, canned: 17 quarts
corn, frozen: 15 quarts and 29 pints
nectarines, chopped, canned: 42 quarts
nectarines, dried: 21 pints
red raspberries, frozen: 26 quarts
sweet pickles, canned: 16 quarts
tomatoes, roasted sauce: 36 pints
tomatoes, roasted garlic pizza sauce: 26 pints
tomatoes, red wine sauce: 16 quarts
tomatoes, salsa: 39 quarts and 8 pints
tomatoes, canned: 13 quarts
grape jelly: 9 quarts, 21 pints, and 2 half-pints
grape juice: 10 quarts
plums, canned: 9 quarts
plums, dried: 4 pints
plum jam, canned: 7½ pints
sweet potatoes: 1 heaping bushel
regular potatoes, assorted kinds: 1½ bushels
*Don’t plant the cucumbers next to the zucchini because they—the cucumbers—will die.
*Nectarines are awesome. Order four bushels next year.
*Twenty-four sweet potato starts is the right amount.
*Also, five to six basil plants is perfect.
*Dried plums are easy and tasty, but we have yet to see how popular they are with the fam. Same with the plum jam.
*Maybe we’ll finally have enough salsa?
*Next year, order ahead and get five bushels of Lodi apples in one go.
This same time, years previous: chili cobanero, retreating, the good things that happen, ketchup, two ways, making my children jump, cinnamon sugar breadsticks, September studies. whole wheat jammies, whoooosh!, lemon butter pasta with zucchini, on being green and other ho-hum matters, hot chocolate, coffee fix ice cream, me and mine, and ricotta.
This list makes my heart happy! I love canning too and as my nest gets emptier, I want to can more to send off with the kids! No better comfort food in the dead of winter, than something grown and canned by our own hands!
Hey Margo! Spiced grape butter? You didn't tell me about that! I have, probably, a peck of grapes left on the vine and was wondering what to do with them.
After all these weary years I am finally figuring out what we'll actually eat and what seems like a good idea in the heat of the moment. Oddly enough, I think tomato sauce and juice are edging out whole tomatoes which were Sacred Staples in my home of origin.
my mom handed over all her canning stuff to me as soon as I got married. I think my little sister was still at home, but Mom had been done canning for a few years already.
Love your thoughts on why you can. I'm going to have to think on this. I don't plan to give it up when my kids leave, but who knows. . .
I think I've got my canning needs down pat, but every year it seems I try something new. This year, pickled rhubarb, rosemary rhubarb jam, and spiced grape butter.
IMPRESSIVE..what do you use that much salsa for???
Salsa and chips, salsa with beans, etc. My younger son will dump a half cup on his beans and then beg for more. My husband and I can eat a pint in one sitting.
missing from your list: Hot Pepper Marmalade. The recipe is in Simply in Season. Have you tried that deliciousness yet?
I haven't tried it, but I bet I would love it. Alas, I didn't plant hot peppers.
I have a salsa recipe that was given to me by my mother-in-law's neighbor, and since I started using it, we are eating more salsa than I can make! That's all I've made this year with my small crop and it won't last long enough at all. I didn't know I loved salsa that much.
Anyway, I don't have the space to put in a substantial garden, so I live vicariously through your canning. Don't stop anytime soon, 'k?
I'm totally with you on the primal urge to put up food for the winter, even though I love Costco as much as the next gal. Plus, homemade preserves make great inexpensive Christmas presents.
Prune plums! I can't get enough of those – my family demolished 7 quarts of them last week.
Love your notes. Sadly, if I made notes they would be things like: don't forget to water the gardens more than once a week when it is hot. 10 days is way too late. Feed the tomatoes unless you are going for the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree look on each plant. Remember to harvest before everything goes to seed or the racoons eat them. Don't book holidays during blueberry season, the best berry on your city property will be eaten by others if you are away. Etc.
I too love the canning, love the "work" of it, and also opening it during the winter and using the last jar. My sister, who had her kids at 20 (I started at 35) still cans tomatoes, peaches and salsa, specifically so that her kids can raid the shelves and feed their kids (or just themselves if they haven't gotten in the family way). There's something magical about getting back the empty jars, according to her.
But it was that part, the ritual of marking, blanching, coring, peeling and canning the tomato that made me very sanguine about losing those 4 cases to rot (after most were canned). Now, having canned another 6 cases and 4 cases of peaches, if I see another case of either I would lose my marbles, but I also know I'll be right back there, canning those tomatoes again next year quite happily.
I love this post. I will also have to do a better job with my basil, feeding and watering it, so that four plants is enough! Maybe I should take some notes?