My hoards of readers might remember my last year's attempt at making grape jelly. I was, justifiably, proud of myself. It took a few days, my kitchen looked like a murder scene, but I was rewarded with twenty one pints of grape jelly.
It was gone in four months.
No, I didn't give it all away. Are you kidding? I worked so stinkin' hard, I was stingy with it! We ate it. If we had to depend on my jelly to ward off scurvy during a foodless winter, we'd all be toothless.
The grape jelly was borne of a couple of ideas. The desire to incorporate more local, in-season food into our diets. The idea of "slow food" and getting away from the convenience stuff. Wanting to expand my domestic arts and begin to learn how to preserve freshly grown food.
Since I haven't worked in years and years and years, and the economy being what it is, well, let's just say that our retirement is looking less and less like a waterside golf course community and more and more like a double-wide on some remote acreage and a subsistence farm since we can't afford to buy food. And whether or not that actually is the case, I hate to see these arts die and I want to learn how to grow food and how to preserve it so that I don't have to eat 27 zuchinnis a day during squash season, or throw out the tomatoes because there are too many.
My garden, alas, hasn't proven to be the cornucopia of produce that I had hoped. But the growing season isn't over and there is still reason to hope.
Until I really learn how to grow food, and in some useful quantity, I decided to pay a weekly visit to our farmer's market (really just a couple of good ol' boys from Ponder selling out of their trailer) and buy one or two things in quantity and preserve them.
Last week it was spicy green beens and freezer pickles. These are pretty much just condiments and garnishes and nothing you could expect to survive a winter on. But they ARE quite yummy and good in a Bloody Mary!
This week, it was tomatoes. I bought a large box of their "less than perfect" tomatoes, and some freshly dug onions. I de-seeded for hours. The kitchen once again looked like a murder scene. My back and feet ached from hours at the sink.
I filled two large roasting pans with tomatoes with a bit of onions, garlic, wine & salt. I also added the few tomatoes I've gotten off my plants so far. They've been sittin' in the freezer for just this reason. I roasted them all until they were soft enough to puree.
I pureed them and added a bunch of herbs and now they all fit in ONE roasting pan. Back into the oven at 200 for fourteen hours. Yum.
Start the big canning pot a-boilin'. Sterilize my jars, add a bit of citric acid to discourage botulism. Ladle the yummy sauce into the jars.
Six and a half quarts.That's all.
Do you know how quickly my family will go through six and a half quarts of tomato sauce?
Add in the four quarts of green beans and about two quarts of pickles and I figure we'd starve to death in about a month.
But there is a bright spot. I am becomming comfortable with canning. I had several leftover tomatoes from the tomato sauce, and had also recently made a watermelon gazpacho that left me with an orange pepper and a few jalepenos unused. They all went under the broiler while onions and garlic roasted further down in the oven. Into the food processor with cilantro, cider vinegar and lime juice and I had a yummy roasted salsa. A LOT of it. More than we'd eat before it went bad.
It was almost second nature to boil a big pot of water, pull out a few mason jars, fill 'em up and drop 'em in the pot for processing. Yummy roasted salsa, on my pantry shelf.
Come over with a pitcher of margaritas and I'll let ya try some!