It has been an odd summer. Lots of rain. Temperatures rising, falling and rising again. And there has been the humidity. 89%, day after day, for weeks, yet, it doesn’t rain. We’ve had cleaner breaths standing over the canners.
Saturday started out as such a day, humid and hot. We were on our way to pick blueberries or so we thought. The past two summers the blackberries and blueberries were ripe at at the same time. This year the blackberries were ripe a month before the blueberries even thought about turning from pink to blue. This year the blueberries occupied the small window of availability usually occupied by the blackberries. When we got to the farm, that window was shut. Tight. There were more on the ground than there were on the bushes. We walked every row-assessed the situation and returned to the car, our little white buckets empty. We take these things hard, comically so. Silence and big sighs in the car. We could never be farmers. Farmers are stoics. In their lives, nothing is certain. No matter how hard they work, their livelihood depends on the will and the whims of the weather. We practically take to our beds when our canning plans are thwarted.
There is only one organic farm in our area. This is not California or New York or Chicago. If you want a daikon radish, you have to drive three hours to find one. Around here, ramps are how we get on the interstate. But now, we do have this one organic farm and it is very successful. Maybe that one farm will be the farm that changes everything here. We stopped at their stand and bought four cantaloupes to make another batch of vanilla melon jam. Our jams need work.
While we were cutting the melons, Denise got a call from a friend who was cleaning out her mother-in-law’s house. She’d found some boxes of canning jars, if we were interested. The word “some” is subjective. Denise drove over to pick them up while I started on the jam. I heard her car and I heard her laughing. In the back of the car were 11 boxes of jars. Some never used-the motherlode. We piled them on the porch.
So far the count is 60 wide mouth quarts, 14 8 oz jam jars, 16 pint jars and we have 5 boxes to go. There are some treasures in these boxes. Somewhere along the line, someone thought “fancy” and “beautiful” were synonymous. They are not. In one of the boxes, we found clear jars – no pattern, no “quilting”, plain jars with only the word “mason” on them and they are beautiful. We might not have blueberries but the jars were more than good enough.
We are driving to New Jersey this weekend to pick peaches and plums with Denise’s dad. The goal is 50 pounds of peaches and 20 pounds of plums. We’re going to can most of what we pick in a light simple syrup. You can can plums, whole, skin on. It will be a treat to open jars of peaches and plums in the middle of the winter. There may be some low sugar peach butter and a plum riesling jam for our pantries as well. Looks like those large mouth quarts showed up just in time.
THE MENU: STEAKS ON THE GRILL, MUSHROOMS BERKELY, BAKED POTATOES, SALAD & CHOCOLATE MARQUISE WITH HOMEMADE STRAWBERRY PRESERVES
- l lb fresh mushrooms, washed and cut in half
- 2 medium green peppers, diced in to small pieces
- 1 onion, diced
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2 tblsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tblsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup red wine
- fresh ground pepper
In a separate bowl, mix the mustard, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, wine and salt & pepper to taste.
Melt butter in saute pan over medium heat. Add onions, stirring until soft and transparent. Add the mushrooms and peppers stirring until the mushrooms begin to brown. Add the sauce. Simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until the sauce has been absorbed.
We also canned some peppers and tomatoes from our little garden. We had enough for three jars-not much but still ours.