Enjoying the Harvest

I don’t know why I sometimes think I am Martha Stewart. But every fall, during canning season, I am reminded that I am not.

This year’s project was peaches, pears, tomatoes and salsa. I was in way over my head.

While waiting for my 40 lb. box of green pears to turn yellow, I had the brilliant idea to buy peaches. By the time I tracked down and bought a bushel of Early Albertas, all of my pears had miraculously ripened.

So there I stood staring at giant piles of peaches and pears that were more than ready to can. I started late on a Thursday night after putting my boys in bed. I got all my bowls, pans and jars ready. I boiled my water and blanched half a dozen peaches. As I was cutting them up, it dawned on me that I had forgotten my most important pan.

I ran downstairs but couldn’t find it. My steamer canner was missing.

It was nearly 9:30 p.m. before I rounded up a canner from my next-door neighbor. Luckily I have an awesome neighbor who is always borrowing and lending me stuff when my projects go awry.

After peeling all my peaches I went to start my sugar water. Only I was fresh out of sugar. I wanted to scream. My husband was at a meeting so I couldn’t hop in my car and run to the store. I raided my food storage and opened a #10 can of sugar from 2006. Hopefully it’s still sweet.

I got my peaches in jars and was ready to rock and roll by 10 p.m. But the water bath canner was not ready. They say a watched pot never boils. After canning peaches that night, I know that statement is fact. I waited for what seemed like forever to start timing my processing.

I went to bed at almost midnight having done seven bottles of peaches and barely making a dent in the massive mountain of fruit in my basement.

Friday and Saturday were a blur. I spent every waking moment in my kitchen peeling, cutting, canning. Peeling, cutting, canning. Over and over in a never-ending cycle.

With each batch came a new layer of brown goo cooked onto my stovetop and a new kink in my wrist.

I finally finished my last batch Saturday afternoon. It all ended with a broken bottle and pears floating in my water bath. I was frustrated and annoyed but walked away with only an achy, slightly stained right hand.

My poor kitchen counter.

Which is more than I can say for years past.

One year my sister and I blew the top off a steam canner and sprayed spaghetti sauce all over my parent’s wood deck. Apparently my dad’s camp stove cooks 100 times hotter than a regular stove.

Another year my sister and I picked tiny purple grapes from my neighbor’s vine. We pulled them from their stems, popped them into a juicer and doused them with sugar. About halfway through, we lit the juicer’s hose on fire and melted its plastic. I think that’s the same year I leaned over my salsa pan to check my pot and burned a hole into my BYU hoodie.

I should be grateful that this year yielded 26 quarts of peaches and 17 quarts of pears with little devastation. The only devastation was the state of my kitchen. It looked like a hurricane blew through. Not to mention the fact that you had to peel your feet from the sticky floor. That and I went to bed at midnight three nights in a row.

By the time I was done with my final batch of fruit I couldn’t help ask why. Why do I do this every year? It would be so much cheaper and easier to buy cans of fruit from the store. But my kids love home-bottled fruit. It’s a lot of work, but it really is delicious.

And I am sure I’ll do it again next year.

I still have tomato sauce and salsa to put up. But I can’t bring myself to step foot into my kitchen to can. Not for another month or so. Meanwhile, I’ll keep blanching and freezing my tomatoes and peppers one bag at a time. Until I’ve mustered up enough courage to pretend to be Martha again.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Elise
    Oct 06, 2011 @ 22:01:40

    They’re beautiful! I’m really glad you mentioned your mishap with the camp stove, because I was thinking of doing my grape juice that way this year so that I didn’t stain my new countertop/cabinets/tile flooring/walls like I have done every year I’ve canned that stuff so far. It’s good to know to be very careful with the temperature, thanks. 🙂 I’m jealous of your peaches. I bought what I thought was a big box from Bountiful Baskets and only got 7 quarts out of it.


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