Saturday, September 14, 2013

End of the season is drawing near

As the end of the season draws close - our first frost date runs around October15th - I find there is an urgency in the air to preserve all that summer flavor and freshness. I have been snapping up the stone fruits - peaches, plums and nectarines before their time of ripeness is over. Making and selling the homemade jams, each one being a new experiment it seems. Sometimes they are tough to get set, sometimes I use too much pectin and they set too stiff, but each one is a delicious moment of flavor captured in season. I confess I have been using other than Michigan strawberries to make that flavor jam but it is so popular I have sold out all the earlier batches.

Next comes the tomato canning fest. I need to put up 20 pints or more, judging by what I went through this last year. I like to have the home-canned tomatoes, preserving their in-season flavor, until tomato season comes around again. That way I figure I need jars of tomatoes to last from November until June - that's 7 months worth. In season, I use the fresh tomatoes in my cooking and have made the best crock-pot stew and a hamburger goulash lately that just fairly pop with flavor.

If you decide to go the home-canned route, I suggest, if you really plan to do some putting up, to invest in a few pieces of good equipment. One thing you've got to have for water-bath canning is a giant pot. You'll need a place to store this monster, but it needs to be deep enough to cover quart jars, if you use them, with an inch of water. I put mine in the off times on top of the fridge. This canning pot will come, usually with a rack to keep the jars from touching the bottom of the pot as the water boils.
My new green cast-iron pot
The other investment I just made is a seven-quart, enameled cast iron pot. Truly a heavy thing but worth the investment if you do a fair number of jams. The enamel makes it acid-safe and is a breeze to clean up. Much relief after scrubbing out scorched thinner pots for days! The heaviness and iron in the pot ensure even heating and the thickness prevents scorching. The enamel coating just cleans up with a dishrag and hot water and soap, the lining of the pot ensures that no iron or aluminum will leach into the product. I invested in my new green pot - I thought kind of expensive at $49.99 at Meijer's but after searching on-line for the same thing I found much pricier items.

You'll also need a "canning kit" - well worth the price. The best thing is the jar lifter - specifically designed to securely grab the tops of jars when they are in that searing hot water so you can transfer jars around safely. The other things that I find very useful are the funnel and the magnetic lid lifter, great for getting the lids out of their hot-water bath before putting them on the jars. I also use a plastic ladle for moving the hot slurry to the jars - don't use a metal one or you'll be running your burnt fingers under cold water in a hurry. I also took a tip from a cookbook and found all those wooden skewers I had collected, using the skewers to run around the jar to get rid of air bubbles. The wood won't scratch the jar or get hot.

Stawberry and Vanilla- Pear Jams
Of course you'll need jars and their two-piece lids and a few bowls, large and small, for holding hot lids and various ice baths or lemon-water solutions. It sounds like a lots of stuff, trouble and work - but let me tell you home-canned food has it all over the grocery store thing. The products make great gifts and if you are industrious it can be a sideline of things for you to sell. Am also doing extracts of the various herbs and spices I have grown and bought - Vanilla, Mint, am going to try lemon verbena and citronella as well. Can't sell the extracts unless I get licensed by the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms- good grief! - but I can give them away as gifts and use them at home. I go through lots of vanilla in my baking and cooking and will use the citronella to spray on the horse to keep flies at bay.

So that's the canning thing. I also am still working in the nursery, seeding a few later fall crops, but the marketing has fallen off drastically. Not selling much, even though prices are discounted and I am in a quandary as to how I can overwinter all these small pots. Don't think I am going to do the one-gallon potting blitz that I did last year, so I've got to figure out where to put all the stuff that is on benches. The smaller pots will overwinter if sitting on the ground, but they'll fry if I leave them on the benches. So am looking for more real estate somewhere close by!

Am going to try one more new market - Wednesdays from 7-1 at the Walled Lake Farmers Market - it's only about 10 miles away and I am told it is a nice market. So this next week I'll check it out and I hope to be setting up through October. Armada, on Sundays, continues through October as well. May try the Royal Oak Market again. Went there to check out the Friday business yesterday and the vendors tell me Friday is slow. So we'll decide this next week if I'll try it.

Fenton is all done with and it went out with a whimper. Drove the 35 miles to the market, set-up and the skies darkened and it let loose with a  driving rainstorm.
Double rainbow driving home from Fenton
Sold a couple things before the heavens dumped upon us so it covered my gas - but what a disappointment. Did get some nice tomatoes and some lovely fingerling potatoes, though - so there's always a bright side.

On the winter front - I was able to get a bed at the community garden greenhouses! I think there are quite a few beds available for anyone who wants to get one - contact the Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department for more info. The first day is today and so I'll get some soil and start amending the bed. It will be fun to see if any of the folks from last year return. Have already ordered seeds and will share some of those with Paul and his produce for his fall gardens.

That's the roundup for this week. Again, will join Tootsie Time for the fertilizer Friday party she holds - so check out her blog for updates from around the world. May you be enjoying this transitions of the seasons and I hope you are saving some of the flavor and fragrance that this time of year can offer.

1 comment:

  1. New pots and kettles always speak to me. We cook fruit with the least amount of sugar and freeze it for breakfast treats, no more jams here. Sigh.

    Your extract story reminded me of my DIL. Her brother made some mead, legal for home use. She tasted it and blurted, "D, you can SELL this stuff, it's great." He said, "Honey, I am a Highway Patrolman, they will fire me and put me in jail."


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