One of our play group’s annual traditions is to go apple picking in September. We go to my favorite orchards and spend the morning picking apples, playing with the farm stuff, tasting cider, feeding the goats, and welcoming Autumn.
This year was also warmer than it should have been if you ask me. Last year was sort of drizzly and that was much more Autumnal. I love this event because it assures us that Autumn is, in fact, coming. Even when it’s 80 degrees and the day before was over 90, the apples on the trees are a promise of cooler weather, and darker skies. And nothing beats biting into a crisp, juicy apple picked directly off a tree in a century old orchard. I can pretend that there’s a crisp breeze blowing down the rows of trees, if only for a moment.
My camera was doing strange things, and it turns out that the only photos that were in focus (or mostly in focus, anyway) were of Alma, Harriet, Rory, and Poppy. I swear that there were lots of other people there! In fact, I think it was one of the best turn outs we’ve had at a playgroup lately – nine out of the ten families! As I’ve said many times before, I love our little tribe of families in this group, and all our traditions. Next month is our 4th Annual Pumpkin Patch trip, a perennial favorite!
This last photo cracks me up. “Ummm… mom, why are you putting us in boxes?”
Forgive me, children, Autumn is coming. I can make no excuses for my silly ideas. You will just have to get used to it.
We’ve had a garden pretty much since we moved into our house. Some years have been better than others. The last few have been pretty lean. Mostly because I have either been pregnant or with a little baby for the past four summers. To me, that made it very difficult to nurture something else – like a garden. We’ve tried lots of different things. This year, it was pretty small, but we focused on spring greens, a substantial herb garden, a sad little flower bed, and a couple tomato plants. In the past we’ve tried to grow enough to can, but it never seems to all be ready at once. This year, I just went out to a farm and bought enough produce to spend a week canning all the things.
I bought a case of peaches, a case and a half of tomatoes, a huge bag of cucumbers, a bouquet of dill, and some amazing sweet onions. With this bounty, I was able to make (and can) a ton of stuff that will hopefully get us through some of the darker months.
After a week of cooking, canning, burning myself, washing, sanitizing, cleaning, sweating, I have 35 jars of summer food to eat in the winter months.
I know that it’s easy (and cheap) enough to just buy good tasting and good for us food at the grocery store. Especially the way we are able to shop at our local market. It might even be cheaper (and it’s certainly easier) than doing all the cooking and canning myself, but that’s not the point. The point, to me, is that I know exactly what’s in our food. I know exactly who made it, and when, and where. It’s something I can do to provide healthy and tasty food for my family.
In the past I’ve canned tomatoes a few times, but that’s it. Just plain old tomatoes. Last year, I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and really wanted to try the recipes in the book. I was especially intrigued by the three in a day recipe. You basically begin with a tomato base that starts as barbecue sauce, can it, add some stuff that makes it into a sweet and sour sauce, can it, add some stuff that makes it into a chutney, and can it.
That was the first thing I did. Unfortunately, I started too late in the day and lost steam when I got to the chutney stage. It was late at night and I wasn’t thinking. I ended up skipping the chutney and throwing the remaining sauce away. The chutney was probably a good idea – I’m not sure we’d have eaten much chutney. But the throwing out the remaining sauce? As I was pouring it out it occurred to me that I should not be doing it. Even if I was too tired to can anymore, I could have at least frozen it. Or saved some to eat right away. Ugh. Live and learn.
7 pints barbecue sauce
7 pints sweet and sour sauce
Next up was the tomato sauce also from AVM. I’m not sure I let this cook down enough before I canned it (hey, canning expert readers, is that okay?), there seems to be some water in the jars (you can see this in the above photo). I suppose I can just cook down the sauce more when I’m using it if it’s too runny. I also had three jars that didn’t seal, so I just stuck those in our freezer. Oh, I also gave a quart to my friend Jane who came over to help entertain the kids during the canning process – thanks Jane!
9 quarts tomato sauce
I found my great uncle Chet’s amazing pickle recipe at my mom’s house earlier this summer, so I had to make those. As with many old family recipes, some of the directions were unclear, so I did my best to figure it out. The biggest thing that didn’t make sense was his recipe called for canning in quart jars, but the canning book I have said that canning pickles in quart jars leads to soggy pickles, so I did it in pints. Does anyone out there have an opinion on this? Should I try quart jars next year?
7 pints dill pickles
I decided to just straight up can the rest of the peaches. I already used one jar (because it didn’t seal) to make a cobbler. I know that in the dead of winter, that will taste amazing. I can already imagine it on one of those dark, dreary, foggy nights when it feels like the whole world is void of color – popping one of those jars of summer open and making a sweet, bright dessert.
5 quarts peaches
TOTAL: 35 jars of food!
So, I learned a lot about canning all the things, and I have some ideas of what I’ll do differently next year, but I’m going to hold off on final judgements until we’ve eaten all the fruits of my labor (hahaha… food pun!).
In closing, on the night of the wasted sauce, I didn’t get to bed until after midnight. The next morning Harriet woke up bright and early, and I turned to her and said, “Harriet, you need to be quiet. Mommy was up late preserving the bounty of the season for us to enjoy in the winter.” Jesse cracked up. It’s become one of those jokes.
What have you canned this summer? What are some of your favorite canning recipes? Do you like canning all the things? Do you have any other ways you like to preserve the bounty of the season?
I love a good cookbook. There are things that initially make me want to cook a new recipe- good ingredients, something that is new to me, a new take on a classic, and good photos. A Good Food Day by Marco Canora has all these things. Another thing that A Good Food Day has is fun, witty writing. Marco Canora presents his ideas for eating well in a creative, clever way. The English teacher in me loves the fact that the sentence “proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance” is in the book. The breakfast lover in me loves the fact that the sentence “a slew of studies also show that eating breakfast increases mental clarity and the overall ability to get shit done” is also in the book.
Not only is this a book of recipes, but it also has sections describing various things. For example, there’s a section on pantry staples that everyone should have on hand. I love his list of 10 principles of a good food day.
Before every section of the book, Canora describes why certain foods are beneficial to our health. It’s wordy and wise.
The photographs by Michael Harlan Turkell are beautiful and inspiring. Photographs are very important to me when it comes to cooking a recipe. Food is inherently beautiful. It should be seen, smelled, felt, and finally tasted.
I’ve made three recipes out of this book, and all three have been excellent. The first were Oatmeal and Dark Chocolate Cookies. The recipe called for palm sugar (I’m actually a little wary about coconut palm sugar, because I’ve read that it isn’t sustainable, or good for the global environment…), and I just used granulated. I also used whole wheat pastry flour instead of spelt flower.
I had a helper. Alma is always motivated to help me in the kitchen – especially when cookies are the finished product.
The recipe is really unique and tasty – the molasses really adds something special, along with the coconut oil.
Here’s a tip: When you make cookies, save some of the dough. I know that we couldn’t (or shouldn’t) eat a whole batch of cookies at one time. We shape the remaining dough into a log on parchment paper, close it up, cover it with foil, and freeze it. Then, when you want cookies again, you can just slice off a few and bake them!
The next recipe I made was the meatloaf. We all love meatloaf, but we usually just throw things together, and it’s probably not very healthy. Just look at the ingredients that go into Canora’s recipe:
It’s colorful and fresh and tasty! The veggies kept the meatloaf moist and added some interesting flavors along with nutrition. The only complaint we had was it was a bit bitter, so I’d cut back on the lemon peel in the future.
I really loved this next recipe. It is pasta, cheese, and peas. Three of my favorites. Plus, it was quick and easy!
I need to say that I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review, but that the opinions, reviews, photos, messy kitchen, cute daughter are all mine.
I’m trying something new this month. We usually meal plan every week, and do a big shopping trip during the weekend. I sort of hate planning meals and making a shopping list. I figured if I only did it once a month it wouldn’t be so bad!
Here’s my process:
Assign each day of the week a certain theme: Meatless Mondays, Williams Tuesdays, Augustine Wednesdays, Crock Pot Thursdays, Pizza Fridays
Pick something for each day of the month.
Write down all the ingredients for each meal for a general shopping list
The first week, buy all the things for the month that won’t go bad. Buy all our meat and freeze what won’t be used that week. Buy the perishables for the first week.
Write down a shopping list for the other three weeks.
Add to the lists as we need things along the way (such as milk, yogurt, Os, applesauce, coffee…).We’ll see how it goes! I am excited to see a whole month of yummy meals all planned out! And I like to keep the weekends open for dinners out, or with friends and family.