Last Saturday, we dragged our summer goals in to the fall, gratefully leaving the weather behind. Twelve hours and 35 jars later, we were pretty happy-ecstatic is the word.
We drove to the produce auction to buy pears for pear butter and to buy a box of sweet potatoes for the winter. When we arrived, there were no pears and no sweet potatoes. Mindful of lessons learned during this very hot summer, we resisted the temptation to bid on the little pear tomatoes that were sitting on a flat and instead opted for the box of small pickling cucumbers. There were a lot of people eyeing those eight boxes of cucumbers so we were a little apprehensive that the bidding would rise to a price higher than what we’d agreed to as our stopping point. We bid and we won: 25 pounds of cucumbers for $10. We were getting good at this.
We found two recipes-one for dill chips and one for whole dills. Since we still had 28 cups of the blueberries we had picked over the summer, we decided to make blueberry jam as well.
We soaked some of the cucumbers overnight in an ice bath and the next morning gathered our tools, started heating up the hot water canner (it takes FOREVER for that water to boil), and began cutting herbs, slicing cucumbers and measuring out the spices. We started with the whole cucumbers that had been sitting in the ice bath. We had a hard time packing them efficiently. The women you see in the grocery store staring into pickle jars this winter will be us trying to figure out how Clausen’s gets all those cucumbers so nicely in to those jars. While they were processing, we started prepping for the pickle chips. We sliced a lot of those little cucumbers but not as many as we were going to once we realized just how many cucumbers are in a 25 lb. box. Bread and butter pickles anyone? These too required an ice bath for several hours so we decided to take a break and do the jam-which we thought would be the easiest project of the three. Two hours later-almost one hour of stirring the pot-we had 8 4oz jars and we were tired. So much for the “easier” project. We’ll admit we looked askance at those 8 little jars standing meekly next to the 17 towering jars of dill pickles.
We took a break while the pickle slices that filled our two biggest stockpots chilled in their ice bath. Ninety minutes later we had 10 jars of bread and butter pickles. Three kinds of pickles in one day and eight jars of jam. For two women who’d never even thought of canning before last spring, frankly, it was a surprise and a delight to see that little army of deliciousness crowding every possible space on the counter. Add that to the 20 jars of spaghetti sauce that turned out to be so much better than we’d ever hoped, we felt pretty good. We felt very good.
Your pride in your children, who they are and what they accomplish, is unconditional and pure. Often the pride you feel for yourself as a mother, is tinged with bits of guilt about things said or left unsaid, things done or not done, that in retrospect you wish you could change. We seldom allow ourselves more than a few moments of pure and unconditional pride in what we did to make these remarkable children the people they are growing in to. Maybe part of emty nest is finding those things that you can be unconditionally proud of. Some of the projects we’ve attempted have been abysmal failures but, unlike motherhood, these were met with peals of laughter – “it’s a learning curve” Denise would say as we tossed the disaster in to the trash. But this day in September was a rousing success and we are very very proud of that.