Harvest Season

It’s still harvest season around here. Which means I’m BUSY.

I love it. I’ve always wanted to live in harmony with the seasons. I’ve always loved the thought of planting in the spring, tending in the summer, harvesting and preserving in the fall, and turning inward in the winter. It’s how our ancestors have lived since the beginning of time.

I recently read (and LOVED) Sharon Astyk’s Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation, which got me really revved up for preserving this autumn. (Seriously: read this book. She’s a wonderful writer and so full of wisdom. I loved her Jewish faith-infused perspective on the Welcome Table as well). But my enthusiasm for food storage and preservation has meant putting my art on the back burner for a bit (And never before has the back burner been a more apt metaphor).

In the last week or so, I’ve canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and pasta sauce. I’ve chopped and frozen sweet peppers and grated more zucchini for the freezer, too.

I helped butcher three pigs with my parents, my sister, my aunt and my uncle. We made smoked sausage, bacon, ham, liverwurst, and an assortment of Mennonite breakfast delicacies I don’t know the English words for. (Do you remember the “cracklings” described in one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books? We call it griven, and eat it for breakfast with homemade bread and strawberry jam. It’s kind of like ground-up bacon, except instead of being cured with smoke, is made through a process of slow simmering and stirring in a big cauldron of bubbling lard. It’s to die for.) We also cut pork chops and loin roasts and stew pieces.

After all the cutting, grinding, stuffing, smoking, frying and packaging, which took an entire day, I then had to spend an evening organizing and inventorying my freezers. Which was sorely needed after all the fruits and veggies I recently started storing in there.

In the upcoming weeks, I plan to do more tomato-canning with my mom, before taking care of the squash and the rest of the peppers in the garden. I’m probably forgetting something. Oh, I also want to dry and store all my fresh herbs.

I want so badly to be a farmer as well as a writer and a present parent. But it’s HARD to do it all.

I mentioned on Facebook that all the tomato-canning was making me an impatient mother, and I hate that. And my writing life is almost nonexistent right now.

I’m trying to make peace with the fact that different seasons will require different emphases on these different aspects of my life.

Right now, my time must be devoted primarily to the garden and the kitchen. It will change yet.

I’ll get back to writing more frequently soon.

Are you doing any harvesting or preserving this fall?

Image courtesy of photon_de.
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  1. I love this post! I moved in to an apartment with two others, which means putting up food isn’t an option for me this year (no space to store anything.) I’m really sad about it, though looking forward to the autumn produce and all of the meals I can make with it. And pork chops, especially after reading your entry.

  2. PepperReed says:

    Griven? and strawberry jam? I’ll be right over! We get a half hog from a local producer that is wonderful; there’s no way I could do it myself (no idea where to start), so I’m thankful it’s almost time to order again. I’m still looking for lard, tho’. This producer doesn’t have it rendered along with the hog.

    I LOVE this time of year. It’s been such a brutal garden/farming year, that I’m looking forward to a break. I’m up to my ears in tomatoes; every horizontal space was covered and I’ve got at least a bushel on the way (from another farmer) plus what’s still in my garden. I usually just make a simple sauce (tomatoes, salt, pepper) and dress it up while cooking into soup, or chili or pizza sauce. I freeze whole tomatoes; mostly because I can never get them packed tight enough to not float, and having a half ’empty’ jar irks me, for some reason. I also make salsa (usually tomatillo) and tomato ‘jam’ that is more like a ketchup.

    I’ve had a great sweet pepper year and have been roasting and pureeing them and will dice the last batch to freeze. We cut back all our basil plants and have a freezer full of pesto; I’m hoping the recent warm weather and rain makes the plants bush out again for another crop.

    Plus, all kinds of jams/jellies; even with the slim pickings this year, I put up strawberry, apricot and red currant. I made brined pickles for the very first time; HEAVEN… so, so good. I usually just process cukes in a jar with dill and garlic, but these were on another level of delish.

    Sadly, I’ll likely miss out on the applesauce; the crop here in MI was so poor. I’m keeping my eyes open, but most folks around here got hit hard with this springs frost. That’s the one thing I will really miss, it’s so easy to crack open a jar to eat with anything, breakfast, side dishes (with that wonderful pork), to fill out a pie. I’m bummed and sad for those folks who will be hurting that they have no crop to sell.

    No worries on not writing (altho’ you must miss it, I’m sure), we’re also all busy prepping the larders! :^)

    • I was kind of thinking the same thing: if I’m too busy to write, probably many folks are too busy to read. I know I am! I’m clicking “mark as read” in my Google reader left and right!

      Your preserving sounds amazing! How do you eat your tomato “jam”? And I forgot about salsa. We made that too! Yum!

      If it weren’t for my parents, aunts and uncles, I wouldn’t know where to start with butchering a hog, either. They just tell me what to do. But I’ve been watching and participating all my life.

      Here in Ontario, the frost destroyed 80% of the apples, too. It’s pretty sad. My mom works with apples so we normally get free fresh apples all fall and winter. It’ll be sad on that front.

      • PepperReed says:

        I hear ya’ on ‘Mark as Read’. I’ve a few fave blogs (yours, of course) and some foodie/perserving (www(dot)punkdomestics(dot)com, etc.) that I read, but sadly, no time for any others.

        I use the ‘jam’ like a ketchup, but its really good as a general condiment and fabu with cheese (especially a dollop on a grilled cheese sammich!) It’s sweet, savory and zesty. I made WAY too little last year. I riffed on Tomato Jam recipes from One Perfect Bite and Homesick Texan, which I found while doing a search.

        PepperReed’s Tomato Jam

        6 c tomato puree
        ~3/4 c sugar
        4 T lime juice
        1 T apple cider vinegar
        ~1 T minced ginger
        2 cloves garlic, smashed
        1/2 medium onion, finely diced
        3 – 4 T roasted red peppers, pureed
        1 T cumin
        1/2 t chinese 5 spice powder
        1/2 t chipotle chili powder
        ~ 1 T dried thyme
        ~10 ‘grinds’ of the pepper mill
        ~1 t salt

        Mix all together, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer approx 1 hour, until thick. I think it reduced about half; I ended up with a little over 2 1/2 cups.


  3. It’s my favourite time of year! And part of living in harmony with the seasons is parenting through the seasons, also. I try in the spring to come up with little activities for little hands to do with me in the kitchen. Actually, organizing today I found “The Toddler Busy Book” and thought of you. GREAT ideas in there with household supplies. Most of them I can just do from memory, now! But as Lydia grows she’ll be able to help you ( and by help, I mean “help”) and it will take even loooonger, but she will learn the things that are important for her family. Stephen helped with strawberry jam this year. I put them through the food processor (I know you aren’t supposed to) and I was so aware of the difference between boys and girls. He would flip that switch on, and in a deep voice, say, “Goodbye, strawberries.” And then high-pitched, “No! No! We deserve to live. . . . ” It was hilarious. By the way, I completely censor everything they watch and read, so I have NO idea where that comes from. But anyways, this was our funnest year of preserving yet! (Although, all I did was saskatoon pie filling, raspberry pie filling, jams, freezer stuff, beets, green and yellow beans, etc. Not my best year, but we were away a lot)

    • Thanks for the book recommendation — I’m putting it on hold at the library! :) I agree that it’s SO great to get kids involved in the kitchen and around the house. They enjoy it and they learn valuable skills. I’m so glad my mom involved me when I was little. It sounds like you still got a decent amount of preserving done! I’m impressed when anybody does any amount of preserving.

  4. Wow, you all impress me! I did make some jam this year from figs in our yard and store bought starwberries, and some apricot leathers. But considering there are literally tons of oranges nd lemons right in my back yard I really should do more. And hog butchering?!? Amazing. I wouldn’t even know where to start. I’m thinking I need to come visit for more than just to hang out, I was raised on condensed soup casseroles…imagine what I could learn a week up there! I teach myself most everything about preserving in the kitchen which unfortunately leads to me getting sick and my husband being afraid of the meals I make. He did attempt the jam though and said it was good :)

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