Preservation Fever… AKA Nesting…

I’m in the process of getting fifty pounds of tomatoes as well as hopefully a flat of hot peppers and cucumbers lined up from the market on Sunday. I really hope Midnight Sun has a good haul to set aside for me, because I need desperately to have a pantry full of dry goods all of a sudden. Every late summer/early fall I get this way. The days are noticeably shorter – dusk arrives at around 8:15 now instead of 9:00, and the unbearable heat of early August seems to have moderated. The early morning even has just the slightest hint of cool on the breeze. It’s getting to be that time of the year.

This year, however, I’m at a fever pitch. Nine months pregnant and completely nesting. I swore up and down all summer I was only going to do tomatoes, especially with the broken ankle. But my husband seems to have been bitten by the canning bug (at least a little bit) because he asked me the other day what else we could put up with the water bath canner to fill in our pantry. So we pulled out the books and thought about what we’d get the most mileage out of over the winter. Pickled hot peppers immediately came to mind for use in chili, soups and sauces along with the tomatoes. And a couple of pints of kosher dill pickles. So it looks like we’re going to add those into the rotation as well. I’m hoping we can get 14 quarts of tomatoes done this Sunday with both of us working on it. And another 14 the weekend after. That would put our total at 33 jars. Do I dare try to fit in another 14 over Labor Day weekend, a week before the baby is due? That would put us 47 jars… pretty close to my original goal. But I think I might have to play that one by ear. Tomatoes will likely be winding down at that point anyway.

We’re also going to buy several quarts of berries at the market for freezing this weekend. Hopefully we can get a half flat of blueberries, since those are husband’s favorites. And maybe some sweet peppers for the freezer too, if we can get a good price.

In October, we’ll have two bushels of apples to stock pile – I plan to can one bushel so can we have apple pie filling, and then maybe do a little juice and applesauce with the other bushel. And of course we’ll have plenty for fresh eating for a little while out of that too. And in late September I’ve got to head up to the Evanston market to get a couple big containers of cranberries to can into whole berry sauce. One holiday dinner element in the bag! And we’ll buy up a pint or two of chestnuts for the freezer for holiday meals too. And that reminds me – we’ll need to buy a garlic braid, a half gallon of maple syrup and another two gallons of honey to see us through the winter too. Good god, that seems like a lot of money when I start to add it up – $100.00 for the garlic and honey alone! But food in the pantry is almost better than money in the bank to me. You can’t eat a credit card when times are lean.

And then there’s there freezer! After nearly five years of talking about it, we finally bit the bullet and spent the money on a small chest freezer. We opted for a 7.0 cubic square foot model, and it’s being delivered on Saturday. It can hold around 210 pounds of food! Just the right size for our needs. The primary catalyst for the purchase after all this time is, of course, the baby. Frankly, we need somewhere to store breast milk so we don’t have to buy formula for him in those times down the line when we’re not attached at the hip. The cost of the freezer will repay itself relatively quickly in what we’ll save on the cost of formula. And the added benefit is that we can now buy bulk meats and stock up on freezer things.

I’m already talking to a few farmers to get pricing on half hogs and quarter steers. The half hog will net us about 75 pounds of pork, and around $282.00 seems to be the going rate. The quarter steer gives around 126 pounds of beef, which is about twice as much as we have room for. So we’re hoping my husband’s parents will be interested in splitting a quarter with us (I think they will – they love bulk shopping). If so, we’ll get about 63 pounds of beef, and the going rate for that seems to be around $272.00. As we generally only eat a few pounds of meat per week, this will easily last us through a year. Just think – one outlay of cash, with a big part of your food supply stashed away. No worries about the price of beef or pork going up so much you can’t afford it, because it’s already paid for and sitting right in your freezer. I like that kind of security.

And now that the freezer will be here soon, I can start making double batches of whatever we’re having for dinner and freezer up the extra. Bolognese sauce, bacon and whiskey chili, and minestrone soup are all on my list. They’ll be great to have on hand for the first few weeks after the baby is born and we’re all still getting used to our new routine.

So am I sounding a little crazy? A little obsessed? Yeah, probably. Nesting on top of that fall instinct to squirrel away a little extra for winter is likely a bit much. But it will be great come January when we have a pantry and freezer full of good things to eat, without worrying about the budget and trudging out in the cold and snow to pick up something for dinner!