Thursday, October 09, 2014
I am a huge fan of serendipity. There's just something about it that I don't even know quite how to put into words. Somehow it makes me feel comforted, driven; like maybe there really is real purpose to the things we do. Even the little things.
Last year I was gifted a jar of green tomato relish that was purchased from a lady Up North at a garage sale. It was one of the best things I've ever tasted. Seriously. I've wanted more ever since. I even thought it would be fun to make. Fast forward to this fall. I attended a Fall Harvest Swap through our local homeschool group. One of my friends made salsa and green tomato relish as her swap gift. She even included the recipe. I was so excited when I saw that it was green tomato relish! This was my opportunity to get the recipe. Never did I imagine that I would end up with her trade item as mine. I found myself with a sample jar AND the recipe. BONUS!
This past weekend, the hubby and I took the kids to a local, family owned orchard. The best kind, right? We enjoyed fresh donuts and cider, picked apples, and even took a hay ride. The kids loved it, and it was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. We even ran into the fellow homeschooling friends that recommended the orchard. Plus, all of their apples were considered seconds this year, so I was able to get a bushel for $8. Bonus, again!
It had been about five years or more since I last did any canning. My last experience was when I learned that you must not ignore the advice of wearing gloves when processing jalapenos for salsa. Yes, I still insist upon learning some things the hard way. Anyway, I dug out all of my canning gear on Monday. I never did find my canning rack, so I just made do without one. The kids and I had a wonderful time making applesauce with the $8 bushel of apples, and green tomato relish with our abundant harvest of green tomatoes that we planted this year. I planted late, so we just picked them the end of last week.
It made for a long day Tuesday, but the kids loved the process. They learned a lot about history, where our food comes from, and being self-sufficient. We sampled the relish that night, and it is amazing. This experience canning was important for me. I planned our next school year around the growing season. We are gong to put up as much food as possible as it comes into season. By doing this small project, 49 jars total, I was able to see that I can do it. Canning is hard work, and it is time consuming, but there is no greater reward than feeding your family good food that you worked to provide them. I got 49 jars of food for $8 and about six hours of my time. Not bad! Granted, I did already have the canning supplies, so there was no investment financially there. (Double bonus - They were all gifted to me!)
If you never have canned before, it really is worth the effort. The key is to be prepared, have all your supplies set up, and the time set aside. Make sure you have all of your ingredients before hand, and that you have read the entire recipe. The relish I made requires part of the ingredients to sit 12 hours before you actually make the recipe. So, I did it the night before, and just let it sit overnight until I was ready to actually do the canning. I made the mistake of thinking I had all of the ingredients, and then finding out that I didn't. Fortunately, it was easy enough to pause the recipe and have the hubby grab the ingredients on his way home. It all worked out, but it did remind me the importance of checking ahead of time just to be certain.
I am so glad I grew up helping my grandma, aunt, and mom can food. It still is nothing to talk to my 80 year old grandma and have her say, "I put up 60 quarts of pears yesterday." Of course, she says it off hand like it was nothing. Let me tell you it's something. Real work goes into putting up our own food, but doing so is its own reward. There is everything to be gained, and nothing to be lost. Now is the perfect time to look online to see what is in season when in your area. Sustainable Table has a nice Seasonal Food Guide. You just select your state, and they provide you with a list of in season items as well as information about the food and even some recipes.
The next thing we plan to put up is pumpkin puree. We will be freezing that. The big item on my wishlist is a pressure canner. I hope to have one before spring so that I can preserve low acid foods like carrots and green beans and such. It is my goal to can as much as possible so that our food stores are not reliant on electricity to last. However, in the meantime I will be freezing some things as we go along. Fresh pumpkin is wonderful, and it is so versatile. It's also affordable and easy to process. Another bonus!