Monday, July 14, 2008

THE WEEKEND

It’s finally summer in the southern Willamette Valley. Boy, is it summer. The couple of years we get to oh, say the middle to end of June and the universe flips a switch. After a long, cloudy spring where we were lucky to hit seventy degrees we can’t get below eighty.

The garden is going absolutely freakin’ crazy. One day the radishes were great, two days later it was “fire in the hole.” Bye, bye radishes, hello compost. The lettuce, spinach, and chard are all growing together in one great, green square. The onions are past the little green onion stage and well onto the “take me to your leader size.” By the way, spinach, chard onions and mushrooms are really good steamed together.  

The bean vines have grown three feet in two weeks. Well, maybe not that much, but it sure looks that way when the vines reach the top of the strings and start waving at you. We should have beans before the end of the month.

At least with our own beans we won’t be faced with canning twenty five pounds at once. Having them on the shelf is great. But, trying to do them all at once is a real stretch. It’s not the canning; it’s the processing. Wash, put in jars, add a little salt, add hot water, put on the lids, repeat.  That’s fairly easy if a little messy in a small kitchen. It’s the processing after they’re in the jars that takes time. Beans take one half hour at ten pounds pressure and the canner holds nine pints at a time.

Twenty five pounds will yield about forty to forty five pints and you can figure about an hour per batch. Because when you’re done timing them you can’t just open the lid. Youcan do other things, just don’t leave home and keep an eye on the pressure gauge. Chick flicks are probably out, catching up with the laundry is in. Working on that carefully researched journal entry probably won’t be a good idea; organizing your e-mail for future reference should be safe.

Half an hour at a temp that’s just a hair too high can yield “impressive” pressure results before that thirty minutes is up. And when the thirty minutes is up you have to let them cool to below two pounds of pressure before you pull them out. It sounds worse than it is, really. I’ve been doing this What you have when you’re done is so much better than the commercially processed beans that it’s well worth the trouble.

I know it sounds messy, sweaty and a little complicated. The thing is I don’t remember learning these things. I suspect I absorbed it by osmosis before I was old enough to really realize what was going on. I don’t remember learning how to snip beans. Note: unless you’re really into arty canning and keep the bean whole; you have to snip off the stem end, the pointy end and break them into three or four pieces so it’s easy to put them in the jars.

I suspect that for mom it ran along the lines of: small child (me) is curious about what you’re doing? Let her pull a few beans out of the bowl with her slightly grubby little hands. With luck she’ll copy what you’re doing and more beans will end up in the bowl than in the kid. And don’t worry about kid germs; they get washed before they go in the jars and ten pounds of pressure will take care of just about anything.

We have a mutant strawberry tomato bush that I swear is trying to take over the south end of the garden. Frankenvine was less than a foot tall and one stem when mom planted it. It’s now two by four……feet. We trimmed back some of the vines yesterday and it was like “ok, where do I start?” We’ll probably get far more thanwe can eat fresh and I’m thinking “bring on the mason jars.” It least we won’t have to chop them before they go in the jars. The three Roma vines are doing very well, if they can just be rescued from their over enthusiastic neighbor. And most of the Romas will probably end up as diced tomatoes too. If we get that kind again it’ll probably be given it’s very own corner of the garden. And it’ll probably die of loneliness. Hmm, I may have to rethink that.

For what you can’t grow. A side trip of say twenty minutes north of town with get you this.

Six of the twelve quarts of dark cherries we put up. And we use everything but the pits. Save the juice when you serve the fruit next winter, add unflavored gelatin and you get something that doesn't taste anything like "black cherry jello."

If we’d had the time we could have knocked about thirty cents a pound by picking our own. Even with the full price I suspect the end result is about the same for cost. And I know what went into these and where they came from. The fruit was in the jars before five and the cherries were still damp and cool from early morning when I stemmed them out.

And I didn’t take pictures but there’s about fifteen pints of blueberries in the freezer from the same trip. We have blueberry bushes but they don’t yield enough to keep up with us. We’ll freeze what we don’t eat from our own bushes, but between baking and just plain eating them we’ll probably be out by the time the new season rolls around.

Ithink I went back to work this morning to get some rest. LOL

2 comments:

buckoclown said...

Have never tried canning, not sure if I will.  Sure looks and sounds like a lot of work :o)

mleighin21st said...

It all looks and sounds just great.  I've never used a pressure canner, just the good old water bath method.  And I haven't done that in years.  We used to let those green onions get a bulb and can them with the pickles,  the kids would want to open a new jar when the onions were gone, the heck with the pickles.  lol
                                                                                        Leigh