Thursday, August 19, 2010

Putting food by

In a previous lifetime, I grew all our vegetables, some of our fruit, and even a chicken or two, filling freezer and pantry with homegrown organic goodness.  I was a full time mom at the time.  Once I started working outside the home, the gardening and home canning/freezing began to dwindle, though.  Now that I am once again in the throes of stocking up, I understand why.  Preserving for one takes a bit of time and effort, let alone for a family of four.

Last Monday, we took another trip to Grabill, where I purchases a replacement gasket for my pressure canner (plan to can some dry beans), a kitchen scale (my little digital one is not up to the job of weighing out the influx of produce), a salsa screen for my Roma Tomato Strainer, and freezer bags (on sale).  As we left the store, we were greeted by the incongruous sight of an Amish girl driving her horse and buggy down the street while talking on a cell phone.

Then we stopped at a new grocery in town, plus a farm stand outside Leo, and then we headed to the opposite side of town, to Huntertown Gardens, where I purchased a lug or a half-bushel or whatever it was of Red Haven peaches.  I have been in peach heaven ever since.  It has been years since I have had a good peach.  Even the ones at the Co-op are not only flavorless but aroma-less.  But these!  I picked one up and took a good sniff and swooned at its peachiness.

I tried putting some of the peaches through the Roma, hoping to get peach puree, but it was more juice than solids.  I froze that in pint jars.  I thought about trying the salsa screen, but decided I lacked the time required for experimentation.  Instead, I peeled (by scalding first) and quartered the peaches, and after a brief soak in a Fresh Fruit solution, froze some on cookie sheets and some in freezer bags.  I'm thinking mid-winter peach cobbler for the former, yogurt parfait for the latter.  And, of course, I have been eating some of them fresh.

Oh, yeah, experimentation.  I think that is something that will have to wait until my retirement.  Every year I have some garden experiments in mind, like taste testing tomatoes, but rarely do they come to fruition.  Instead, all the paste tomatoes get thrown in the hopper together for sauce, and all the non-paste tomatoes for juice, and the green beans?  Well, who the hell can tell the difference between Provider, Empress and Blue Lake Bush?  Not me.

And yields?  Sometimes I remember to weigh the produce before eating/freezing/canning it, and sometimes not.  I need a better system of picking and recording before using.  The new kitchen scale will help, as prior to its purchase, I had to weigh large tomatoes individually on the digital scale and add up all those pounds and ounces.  Not very efficient.

And efficient, workable systems are what gardeners who work outside the home need if they want to keep track of the fruits of their labor.  I'll get right on that, in my spare time.

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