The season is coming to a close. The markets are over, except one special indoor market, and then six months before the first fresh greens of spring arrive on the scene once again. I like the cyclical nature of this; it helps to keep me grounded on this great blue planet we call home. But I also can’t help but feeling a bubbling panic just beneath the surface – the winter is long and cold – and barren. Running to the grocery store for every little thing is something I no longer find acceptable. And especially not for “vine-ripened” tomatoes in January, flown in from the Yucatan peninsula, or Chile, or where ever it is they grow these things. The other hemisphere, undoubtedly. For the most part, the only things we buy fresh at the store (and we always shoot for our local natural grocer before running off to Whole Foods) are the winter and storage vegetable that we’d have if we didn’t live in the truck-it-everywhere world that we do – potatoes, onions, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, leeks, squash, apples, etc. For tomatoes (a staple item in our diet) we only buy canned after the market closes. I feel the panic of needing a full pantry coming on.
And this year, while still quite modest, I’ve done the most canning and putting up that I’ve ever done. I have 15 pints of blueberry and strawberry jam, four pints of sweet peppers in olive oil, and I finally tackled tomatoes. I bought 7 pounds of beefsteak tomatoes at the last market, and I put up diced tomatoes so I have them for stews and sauces. It’s not much, but it will provide a few good meals (and a few cans of tomatoes I won’t have to buy). It was pretty straight-forward and simple – the very first time I’ve canned tomatoes by myself! Organization is really the key. I ended up with 1 quart and 5 pints. I would’ve done all pints (because that’s about the amount I use in my recipes at a given time) but I only had 5 left, so I just had to make do. The quart jar will be good for when I want to make a double batch of something. Honestly, I was surprised that just 7 pounds went so far. A pound a pint? I guess that’s a good number to estimate for next season.
I also put up 2 pints of mushrooms in oil, 2 pints of garlic-flavored olive oil and five pints of grape jam. The grape jam was a learning experience – I strained out all of the seeds and skins, and it came out quite thin – somewhere in between jam and syrup. I figure we can use it on pancakes and ice cream and such, even if it’s not as thick as it should be. Next season I’ll try to get seedless grapes so I can leave the skins in.
From what I didn’t produce myself, I’ve got 4 five pound jugs of honey in the pantry and a garlic braid (in our garlic crazy household, we’re hoping it will last until February!). We also stocked up a little bit on beef – several roasts, steaks and ground meat. So, the tally is:
– 15 pints of blueberry and strawberry jam
– 4 pints of sweet peppers in olive oil
– 1 quart and 5 pints diced tomatoes in water
– 2 five pound jugs of honey
– 1 garlic braid
– 2 pints of mushrooms in oil
– 5 pints of grape jam
– 2 pints of garlic-flavored olive oil
I’d like to try my hand at making a pancetta and a small crock of sauerkraut. And I’m going to marinate my own olive mix to serve at Thanksgiving.
So, my list is quite different than the one I started the summer with, but I still feel like I accomplished a lot and we’ve got some good stuff to eat over the coming months. I feel warm and fuzzy inside when I look inside my pantry – there’s something great about rows of jewel-toned jars.