Why I do it.

There are so many reasons why I can & preserve food.  The list is actually quite long.  But there is one reason that outdoes the rest.  And tonight, I felt it strongly and it gave me just the shot in the arm I needed to keep me going.

This weekend, Lanny and I bought 26 ears of corn at the farmers’ market that I shucked, blanched, cut, and froze while he was at work on Saturday.

We also bought 6 pounds of beans ($1.50/lb. at the end of season-wahoo!!) which we canned on Sunday–dilly beans for days & days!  I had some brine left over and room in the canner, so I threw in a couple of pints of super spicy aji peppers as well.

Like I’ve said, I have a long list of reasons why I’ve committed to doing this, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it’s tiring work.  After spending so many hours of my weekend in the kitchen, I came home after a long day of work tonight to a pile of pears that needed tending to ASAP and a bucket of tomatoes that need to be canned by tomorrow at the latest.

After devouring a delicious meal of garden kale, pinto beans, red potatoes, and fresh tomatoes (courtesy of my wonderful partner), Lanny and I dug deep for energy, and cooked down about 5 pounds of pears from our tree into pearsauce (like applesauce, but with pears).  As the smell filled the house, and we cranked away using my mom’s old food mill, I started to feel the feeling I chase in all my hours of canning: I felt my Grandma Swartzentruber nearby.

One of my grandma’s specialties was her most delicious applesauce which she made from good ol’ Ohio Yellow Transparent apples.  She canned and froze it– but everyone’s favorite was always the frozen version.  It’s impossible for me to eat applesauce without thinking of her, and comparing it to hers.  For as long as I live, one of my all time favorite meals will always be warm Grandma Noodles with a plop of frozen Grandma Applesauce on top.  Makes my stomach growl just thinking of it even after that hearty meal.

Tonight, after a long session of standing over the stove sampling and mmming and sampling and mmming, I grabbed a few of my Grandma’s old freezer containers that I selected out of her basement storage after she passed away, and spooned the pearsauce into them. As I went to secure the lid, I looked down to see “baked corn” in her handwriting  inscribed in sharpie on the upper right hand of the yellow plastic. My eyes swelled up, and I just lost it.  I stood there with my hands where hers had once been, and just howled.

Labelled: 83, Baked Corn, 95.

I miss her so, so much.  I hate that I didn’t learn the art of food preservation from her.  I will never get over my regret of that.  And it breaks my heart that she can’t see my house, our garden, my stores of food in the basement and the freezer.  Just rips me right up. But I also know that she’d be so proud of me for carrying on this labor-intensive practice.  And one thing is for sure– I will continue to spend hours upon hours every summer prepping food, washing jars & lids, burning my hands on my canner lid (will I never learn?), waiting, labeling, etc. for as long as I am physically able, and if I only feel her presence once every dozen times, it will always be worth it.  I love her.  I miss her.  I hope to be like her.

And that’s really why I do it.

Post by Amanda

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Pear Hopes, Dreams, Failures

Other than the sliding of the keys across the table from previous owners to us, the happiest moment of closing on our house to me was when the previous owners told us that the beautiful flowering tree in the backyard was a pear tree.

Such a stunning tree.

I love pears.  LOVE them.

Oh, the plans I had for my juicy pears the moment I found out they were mine!  Thoughts of fresh pear juice dripping down my hands while chomping down on pear after pear, thoughts of freezing pear sauce and canning pear butter, thoughts of pear brandy, pears in my salads, pear tarts, pear cobbler, poached pears, pears with ice cream, pears in my oatmeal, pears and gorgonzola, ginger-pear this, pear-walnut that….my heart leaps & flips & breakdances at the thoughts.

The most adorable little pear babies started popping up all over that gorgeous tree of hope &  dreams.

But seriously, how cute are those?

And then this awful summer weather came.  And everything struggled to survive.  Nonetheless, the stalwart pear tree laughed in the face of the drought and produced an overwhelming abundance of pears.  Though Willa did her darndest to chase them out, the squirrels flocked to the tree, and who could blame them?  It was HOT and DRY and they need food too.  And anyway, we’re down with sharing the wealth and could never–even with all of my drool-inducing pear plans–use up all that fruit (especially the ones at the top of the tree, out of reach even to Lanny on the ladder with our telescoping fruit picker pole!). So we waited with bated breath for them to ripen.

Before we knew it, at least 100 pears had fallen to the ground and a city of bees came to feast.  I was so discouraged.  Got stung on the bottom of my foot.  Became even more discouraged.

Then I read that pears often ripen better off the tree than on.  So I bucked up and started picking.  And picking.  And picking.

First harvest.

I stuck them in the fridge in paper bags.  And waited.  And waited.  And they didn’t ripen.

We lost another 100 (at the VERY least) to the ground and the bees.  And then went for a second round of picking.  At this point, we decided that the weather had thrown off the pears a bit this year–possibly stunted their growth– and also accepted the fact that we’re learning.  And we’ll do better next year.

The second harvest piled up on the table.

The pears are now hanging out outside of the fridge in paper bags accompanied by some apples and bananas to help speed up their ripening.  I’m worried we won’t get many to ripen properly, but there’s nothing I can do right now but incessantly read advice online and wait.

I really want that pear butter to happen.

As we wait and hope, does anyone have any helpful pear tips for us–for this year or the years to come?

Post by Amanda