The season of bounty is upon us. Partial jars of fresh-pressed apple cider litter the farm common area. Our cooler wall continues to fill with bins of fresh apples. Carrots, onions and zucchini lie around in crates wherever we look. Our hoop house tomatoes continue to ripen systematically up the vines, and herbs, roots and leaves alike ripen harmoniously with perennial fruits and most everything else. Our fridge has eggplants hiding in corners, behind piles of potatoes and bags of multicolored beans, and our sweet Carmen peppers have finally joined the mix in quantity. Put simply, the season of bounty is upon us.
Which brings with it an element of burden. I enter the farm cooler, where stacks of zucchini, carrots and beet bins stare me down, and just keep growing. I open my freezer at home and stuff in whatever’s next, crunched in upon the bags and bags of wonderful tomatoes, frozen until we finally find the time to make sauce and can. I watch the limbs on Farmshed’s plum trees sagging with the weight of thousands of ripe fruits. I know that they will ripen and they will overripen, with no concern whatsoever for our sense of timing, schedule or convenience. Therein lies the burden of the bounty.
I got home on Saturday afternoon after market, exhausted from the day, and my 3:30 start time. There I met a couple of good friends who’d graciously agreed to assist us with our afternoon canning session. We exchanged greetings and chatted in the living room for a few minutes before getting to it: chopping onions, carrots and garlic; stemming and chopping herbs; peeling celeriac and gathering tomatoes. After an hour, we had two large stockpots full of tomatoes, heating to a boil over a bed of sautéed aromatics before simmering slowly into sauce. I strove off of the energy and enthusiasm of my friends as the evening wore on. Eventually they left, and Fanni and I got to work on our massive bag of Farmshed-fresh plums. Plums into the clean bucket; pits into the compost bucket. My fingernails sored as I worked through the first half of the massive bag.
It darkened outside. We combined the now significantly reduced sauces into the largest stockpot, prepared a water bath in the other, and continued on the plums. Fanni ran to the store to pick up lids and lemon juice, and I put the Scoober to bed. I mashed and boiled down the plums, along with some fresh anise we’d picked, into jelly. I sanitized the jars. Fanni got back, and we agreed we’d see it through until everything was canned. What choice was there? We added honey to the jelly, and prepared our lids, tongs, funnels and jars. Having been through the process before, we gathered the supplies, cleared the space and got to business.
Water bath boiling in large canner. Lids heated gently in saucepan. Jars out of oven; lemon juice added. Jelly transferred to counter. Funnel, fill, wipe, lid. Funnel, fill, wipe, lid. Funnel, fill, wipe, lid. 8 jars; one batch. 10-minute processing. Transfer to table. Tong to table; tong to table… Next batch. Jars out of oven…
The jelly was the quick part. We finished up our two batches and turned our attention to the tomato sauce. It was after 11 now, and we decided it had reduced and thickened to our satisfaction. Water bath boiling in large canner. Lids heating gently in saucepan… After getting the first batch in to boil for 45 minutes, we cleaned up the space for the thousandth time and ate some supper – tomato sauce on pasta. We tidied ourselves, and did some stretching and self-care as the night wore on and our brains dimmed. The timer rang; we removed the quarts, and got our next batches going. Tong to table… Funnel, fill, wipe, lid… As soon as batch two got into the canners, we cleaned the rest of the mess, and got back to work on the second half of the plum bag. Plums to clean buckets; pits to compost. Those we decided to freeze for another day; another batch.
Our 45 minutes passed and we removed the last batches of tomato sauce from the canners, eying our bounty proudly. It was nearly 2 am. Exhaustedly, we brushed our teeth, and slowly dragged ourselves up the steps to the bedroom. 20 quarts of tomato sauce; 8 pints of jelly, and a belly of satisfaction for the winter season to come. On my way to the bathroom I passed the collection of buckets and jars fermenting in the corner of the kitchen. Out on the front porch lie our dehydrator full of plums, and piles of herbs drying for wintertime teas. It not always easy, and it’s certainly not convenient. The gratification and goodness is absolutely worth it, however, and when you choose to eat what you grow, that’s all just a part of the process.