in search of my canning kettle

i find it so amazing. each year, despite it’s regularity, it catches me by surprise. somehow, in the blink of an eye, we jump from scarcity to abundance. spring is such a wild time, i take multi tasking to a level that even amazes me. now, as we inch closer to summer, my muscles have grown used to the hard work. still moving more and more each day,  my skin no longer burns from the countless hours spent in the sun. alas, change is still in the air. our bellies have grown fuller on our farm’s food and the big shift  from those first delectable salads, to the heartier greens and lovely spring roots has finally occurred.

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now, with what seems like no notice at all,  food preservation season is upon me. all of a sudden, while perhaps i wasn’t paying attention, there is more food than we know what to do with. the piles are high of carrots and beets, greens and herbs. the pigs are already knee deep in garden waste and clearly, the time is now, to preserve the bounty.

like all other transitions, this one is a challenge. i am rusty from months off.  i scramble to find my supplies: the jars, the bands, the lids and the water bath canner. you see, i had a date with our apprentices, it was time to start the food preservation chapter of their education. we had picked the scapes off our garlic plants (the flowering heads, an annual culinary treat, plucked to stimulate the final phase of bulb growth). i love to make pickled garlic scapes.

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this morning at milking time, my irritation was palpable as i tried to find that silly water bath canner. i had been searching for days to no avail and the clock was ticking. our farm apprentice queried, “should we cancel our pickle date?” “no” i grumbled, “the time is now”. in a final moment of glory i remembered the dark days of the long winter passed. yes, i recalled we used my canner as a double boiler for that beeswax candle project.

from there the day unfolded flawlessly, we gathered over a table of garlic scapes with a cheese making demo happening on the back burner. the pickled scape recipe is so fun and forgiving, a simple brine of half vinegar half water and salt is brought to a boil and poured over the prepared scapes. add some spices to your liking and process in water bath for 10 minutes.

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when the clock chimed noon we had 15 pints of pickled garlic scapes complete, a 2 gallon batch of farm feta underway and a cranky naked 3 year old. we called it a day, a half day in fact, and looked ahead to the afternoon having already accomplished so much.  ahhh, welcome summer sundays, you are so very busy and equally good.

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so friends, here goes the busiest season of all and if i can offer some advice, find your canner now….

sunday off?

ha, not around here you don’t. when i first started fiddling with food preservation, i kept everything, i canned and dehydrated every excess vegetable, herb or fruit that came within reach.  all season, as we apprenticed on a tennessee farm before getting land of our own,  the sound of the pressure building in my pressure canner or the water boiling away in the water bath, was heard. back then these fruits of my education had to be shelf stable, who knew when we would have a freezer to call our own. now, years later with 3 kids are in the picture, i have narrowed my focus: i stick to what my family consumes! i can, freeze, dehydrate, and lacto ferment our favorites and store them away for the winter ahead.

really, when the season gets rolling and you need more than ever to take a day off (also known as the one day to clean the house, do laundry,catch up on countless items that got left undone during the busy week), the food starts to present itself in abundance as well. sunday is the obvious day to preserve the bounty. we have just returned from our CSA delivery and market day with a fair amount of excess, even after we distribute the goods to both kitchens, the pile still looms. spring is not my major food preservation time, save that for tomato season, but i do like to get the water bath rolling and put a few spring goodies up for the winter i know will come.

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often these sundays are some of the nicest times in the summer kitchen and today was no exception. i had only charlotte as my companion  the others were off the farm, so we made quick work of the jobs ahead. we focused on two main crops: strawberries and scapes. the first of the season’s fruits speak for themselves, strawberry jam is an absolute favorite around here, really the more the merrier. with sticky hands and excitement for the winter’s warm biscuits, we stowed away 16 pints in the pantry.

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i have to admit it took me a few years of garlic growing to realize what a delicacy the flowering shoot of the hardneck garlic really is. the scape as it is called is plucked off the plant to stimulate the growth of the bulb. these once a year mild garlic delights are turned into the most amazing pesto and pickles: both were made today. the scape pickles are canned and the pesto froze.

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food preservation is an important part of my work, somehow storing the farm’s abundance during the season takes some time, but it does make for some wonderful eating as the growing year comes to an end. pull out your canners friends, the time is now!