Life is lovely lately. Things are cooling down around here, both literally and figuratively, and we’re feeling a little more relaxed overall. Jeff and I have actually been sitting down together at the end of the night- and it only took us two evenings to finish a movie! Amazing! It’s perfect timing for this lull considering that my dear sister is due with baby number two in about 2 weeks. She’s also just closed on her new house (only about 2 miles from me, woohooo!) and I anticipate being with her a lot in the next few weeks. Little Tuula will be a big sister, not to mention how enormous my little Vera will be next to the newest grandbaby. Ah, new life. Her pregnancy has been so seasonal, too, with everything growing and turning color and getting ready to store up for the winter. Anyway, I can’t help but think of her as "ripe" in these last few days.
Another harvest. Peppers, tomatoes, basil, who knows what else. I’m slowly chipping away at it all, but I’m serious about this local food thing, so I’ve been storing things most nights. I’m just such a newbie, so finding out how to organize all my thoughts on this stuff, how to inventory and track our needs through the year, etc. Well, lets just say I’m counting on time and experience to help me out in the coming years. My ambition hasn’t hurt me yet, it’s only helped me to grow.
Salsa. Can’t have too much salsa for the year.
And tomatoes. Oh those tomatoes. This is an average canned amount from a harvest from my garden. I love canning different colored tomatoes together. Maybe that’s part of why I love swiss chard so much… Oh the colors! Anyway, my friends who have much more space than I do (and were all done canning their tomatoes for the year… ya hear that? ALL DONE?! Who knew it was possible!), let me take home a bunch of their tomatoes, so I spent the other evening canning those and the two batches that were cluttering up my counter from my own garden, and ended up with 21 quarts (formerly 22. One broke.).
Anyway, I’m getting the hang of this canning thing. I don’t really mind it either. It’s not nearly the job that people make it out to be. It’s actually kind of zen, I think. I will say it’s a heck of a lot easier to do with someone to watch the toddler that’s usually hanging on your leg asking to nurse right that second, but I digress. I like canning. I’ve decided to like it. I mean, anything can be an unwanted job, but I’m not going to make this one of them. Cuz I have control like that. Yep, I can just make it a good time. And aren’t they pretty?
At our canning party the other day, my friend (who is a master canner) said that there’s nothing like the popping of the lids at the end of the evening that tell you everything is sealing up just right. I thought that was a nice thought, and so I was sure to appreciate the subtle pop pop pop at the end of my big canning night. We will eat this winter!
I’ve been experimenting with pesto, too. It’s so easy to freeze flat in freezer bags, and is SO appreciated in the winter. Pesto just seems to brighten everything up, especially in January. Anyway, basil pesto is great, but this year I made nasturtium pesto and arugula pesto, both really delicious. I also think it’s a good way to use those greens because they do have a stronger taste to them, and are really nicely mellowed with the nuts and garlic and oil (I add parmesan later before serving).
Oooh! And I had an idea about what to do with all the leftover tomato skins and seeds that turned out to be really delicious. I’ll post a recipe when I get the amounts down, but it’s basically like a tapenade sort of thing- really flavorful and tomatoey, great to spread on crackers or crostini and serve to guests or whatever. I’m really excited about just thinking of ways to reduce waste, and I think this recipe is definitely a keeper. I almost want to ask for people’s leftover tomato skins to make as much of this as I can. It could make a great (and practically free) gift.
I really have to do a lot of this stuff with baby right by my side, and I’ve found that an almost sure way to reduce- if not entirely eliminate- whining is to involve her in some way. I usually set her up with something, often she’s at the sink with a bowl and a spoon and a trickle of water. She’s learned all about "hot", and I’m not too worried about her even when I’m really cooking and she’s right next to me. My little helper!
Kombucha. I will never get tired of this stuff.
Lunch. Turnip and kale soup, grilled cheese, homemade pickle, kombucha.
My dad reading to Vera and Tuula. Can you believe how big they are now? Weren’t they just born? And then next fall there will be three of them! Amazing.
It’s not a great picture, but I just loved her face here. She’s got such a personality lately, and her words are just exploding. She’s really coming into herself. I love listening to her explain things. She’ll look at me with a serious face and say "Papa. Pillow." and point to his pillow. I’ll say "Yeah, that’s papa’s pillow!" and she’ll just say "Yeah." and have this look of accomplishment. This is how it goes for most things- people and spaces and whatever. She seems so pleased with herself, to know the names of things, to understand belonging and purpose and… it’s just cool.
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Have you ever done any preserving of pears? We have our harvest from the tree in the yard and I can’t think of what to do with them! I figure I’ll puree up a few and freeze in an ice cube tray for Ben when he gets to solid food stage. But the rest (probably another 25 small pears at most, it wasn’t a huge year): what should I do? I don’t have canning supplies so I should just focus on freezing… so sliced pears? make freezer jam? I just don’t know.
Do you have any sites that you can direct me to that might have yummy, simple-to-follow instructions?
My mom does a lot of homemade jams and has gotten into making her own salsas in the past few years (extra spicy for my Dad). I hope to get my own set of canning supplies in the next 5 years or so and start preserving the garden deliciousness!