The late summer garden is in full swing–tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, zucchini are pouring in each day. I am also pulling up earlier crops (beets, carrots) to make space and get ready for the fall clean-up. All of which means, it’s time to figure out what to do with all of this produce!
Most of the year, “eating out of the garden” for me means just that: the garden is my grocery store, and I just harvest as I need supplies for a meal. I actually find myself forgetting that I even have produce in the fridge, which is dangerous! But this time of year, the produce doesn’t work that way. Lettuce can just sit in the ground for a couple of weeks, but tomatoes can’t sit on the vine. It’s a new phase in the cycle, and I’m often sluggish with the transitions.
So I was unexpectedly grateful when my Mom came to visit this weekend, and ended up kick-starting me into preservation mode. Mom’s a hugely experienced cook, gardener, and spent much of her early career in commercial food service, which turned her into a self-proclaimed “food factory.”
Together we harvested, blanched and froze green beans and tomatoes, and she turned the extras into sauce for eating that day. She boiled up pickling brine for the beets that had turned into giants in the garden, and explained in detail how easy refrigerator bread and butter pickles are to make. She also made mayonnaise with me, so that I could get the technique down and get used to using our fresh eggs for this task! After she left, I was motivated enough to keep going; I canned the sauerkraut that had been fermenting for the last few weeks and started digging up pickle recipes.
I’m a confident and experienced cook, and none of these tasks is difficult. I like to remember that our ancestors did all this with few recipes and technologies, so it can’t be that hard! But getting started isn’t always easy, and feeling overwhelmed as the dining table starts to get swallowed by the vegetables covering it is often my first reaction. So it was great to have Mom come and just get stuck in without hesitation. And there’s nothing like having someone offer all kinds of smart tips to make the job seem easier and less time consuming. One great one I noticed? When blanching tomatoes to freeze, stick the freezer bag upright in a yogurt or other tall container! Then you have an easy routine of “plop tomatoes into boiling water, scoop into cold water, squeeze off skins and drop into bag”. No step of “open bag with wet, sticky fingers and try to carefully slide slightly mushy and slippery ball into narrow opening”!
Thanks to that support, I’m ready to get fully into the canning season. Diced tomatoes, garlic dills, canned bread and butter pickles, and probably some more green tomato preserves of some sort, as well as ultimately (fingers crossed) some tomato sauce. I’ve been out picking wild blackberries, and the raspberries are piling up in the freezer to be ready for the Skipper’s fall jam-making sessions. Bring it on!