Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Why I love late August

It’s that time of year.

Okay. We forgot to take photos on Saturday, and
while it's set up for a party here, this is where
we do all our processing. It's a lovely place
to work on a beautiful day.
Don’t know what I’m talking about? What is good about the fact that summer is rapidly coming to an end, the nights are getting colder and the sun sets earlier? Even though it’s a few months away, we all know – at least in this part of the continent we do – what’s coming. Winter. Time to circle the wagons indoors and watch it get darker and darker. For someone who’s really centered on the warmer months, it’s hard to take.

So why am I so eager to move on from summer? It’s because our garden, like so many others, is bursting with vegetables and fruit that’s ready to harvest. In our case: tomatoes, beans, muskmelons, basil, and swiss chard. This year we’re swimming in tomatoes, and that’s not a bad place to be, especially with our San Marzanos which are pulling their stakes over because they’re so heavy with fruit.

Okay, what am I going on (and on) about? Why, preserving fruits and vegetables for winter use, of course.

We started last week with a run at chopped tomatoes, managing to make about half of what we need. That took about a bushel and a third of our tomatoes topped up by some we bought from our favorite supplier: Zito’s Marketplace. Our son Karel helped with washing and topping each fruit, then boiling the them to loosen the skins. I did most of the chopping, while Vicki skinned them, heated the chopped tomatoes and poured them in Mason jars for processing in a boiling water bath.

We can do this all pretty efficiently, but with a small crew, it does take a long time, this year, five hours. Sadly, we’re only halfway through. Next weekend, we’ll be at it again.

Maybe tomorrow, we’ll do our peach and mango chutney, a specialty of Vicki’ and something that doesn’t take quite as long, thankfully. Still on tap are pickles, roasted red peppers and a flood of tomato sauce we’ll be making with several friends in two week’s time.

Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? I won’t lie. It is. But the pay-off will come during the dark months when we can drop down to the basement where our shelves are lined with multiple jars of things we put up ourselves, no preservatives, no chemicals, just good honest food.

Life will be good.

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