Beans, Beans and More Peach Preserves

I just wanted to begin today’s post by saying how heartbroken I am about Robin Williams’ tragic death.  I come from an exceedingly dysfunctional family – just about every neurosis known to mankind is represented in some form – but we’re not suicidal, so I can’t begin to even understand what he must have been going through.  The (very intelligent) husband of Beloved’s cousin said that Robin’s death is “a truly sad reminder that brilliance and happiness rarely reside peacefully in the same brain.

That may be true, but it is so incredibly pitiful.  Is Don McLean still around?  This calls for a song – The Day The Laughter Died.

Yes, I’m old.  And very, very sad.

At any rate, I guess I’ll move on to my originally intended post, which should really have been titled “How I Spent Last Weekend” or “Wanna See What A Bushel of Green Beans Looks Like?”

I hope so, because it looks like this:

Bushel O' Beans

Well, that’s slightly over a bushel; the green and purple beans in the blue colander are from our garden, while the rest are the bushel we purchased from our CSA farmer.  See how neatly the CSA beans are all trimmed and cut?  It was done entirely by hand and took over 3 hours.

Remember – neurosis runs in the family.

Once that was done, I began the process of actually pressure canning the whole mess.  Well, except for the beans from our garden, which are currently fermenting merrily away in a Pickl-It jar on my counter as Dilly Beans.  The canning took 2 days, because while you only need to process the jars for 20 minutes, you still have to fill those jars, seal them, arrange them in the pressure canner, close the thing up (I don’t think NASA secures astronauts as well as this thing locks down), bring it up to pressure, process for the 20 minutes, then let it naturally vent the pressure.

All in all, processing one batch of green beans took nearly two hours.  I processed 2 that first day, so 7 hours all told on Saturday, and this was after we’d run our errands (which included purchasing an insane amount of green beans).

Sunday saw me canning not only the third batch of beans, but a dozen half pints of peach preserves.  Thank goodness you can process those in a water bath, so all I had to do was peel, pit, and dice the peaches before mixing them with lemon juice, sugar and pectin and cooking them down before putting it all in jars.  That only took about 3 hours, all told.

And here’s what 3 bushels of green beans, canned, looks like – minus one pound that I used for tomorrow’s recipe and the two jars we ate last night for dinner:

Bushel O' Beans - Canned

The two boxes in the background are the peach preserves, along with the strawberry-rhubarb I canned earlier in the season.

Next up?  At least 4 bushels – maybe six – of tomatoes for sauce and paste.

Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!

The Harvest

It’s mid-October, and I am (more or less) done canning, freezing and otherwise preserving for the year.

Hallelujah.

I meant to take photos, I really did, but between the hectic work week and the demands of not only a high school senior but a 3-year-old grandson, I just didn’t have the time/inclination/wherewithal to drag my photography equipment into our rather poorly lit basement and set it all up into something resembling orderly.  Well, that’s not true; thanks to Beloved it’s all pretty well organized, but it’s spread out over several shelves and I just didn’t want to have to rearrange it all to make it easier to photograph.

The reason it’s all spread over several shelves (not to mention two boxes full of winter squashes) is because there’s tons of it down there:

  • 24 pints of barbecue sauce
  • 85 pints of tomato sauce
  • 20 half-pints of sweet corn
  • 65 pints of green beans
  • 6 half-pints rhubarb chutney
  • 28 pints of applesauce
  • 8 half-pints of apple butter
  • 10 half-pints of watermelon pickles
  • 20 pints garlic dill pickles
  • 10 pints of bread and butter pickles
  • 9 pints tomato salsa
  • 12 pints peach salsa
  • 7 pints pickled beets
  • 38 pints of chicken stock
  • 18 pints of beef stock
  • 12 pints turkey (yes, turkey)
  • 11 pints of lard

Again, that doesn’t even include the two large boxes of winter squash or the huge bag of frozen cubes of homemade tomato paste, the frozen sweet corn, the tallow we still have to render or the beef stock we will add to what’s already down there.  Nor does it take into account the two hogs, side of grass-fed beef and 36 chickens we’ve socked away in our freezer over the course of the year.

(My sister-in-law, Tough Yankee Broad – who is also slightly off her rocker and cans like a fool all late summer and early autumn – says she keeps her winter squashes in the basement until January, then cooks and cans whatever is left before they have a chance to go bad.  That sounds like a plan to me, and I’ll probably do the same this year – I may have the fortitude to drag out the pressure canner once again by then.)

If all this sounds like a lot of work, well, it is – we have done nothing but can every weekend for at least six weeks, and there were plenty of weeknight canning sessions, too.  All in all, we canned 4 bushels of tomatoes, 1 1/2 bushels of green beans, 1/2 bushel of apples and canned/froze 5 dozen ears of sweet corn.

There is an upside to this madness, of course; trust me – if there weren’t, we wouldn’t be doing it.

With the exception of the stocks and fats, which we process and can all year, all of this food will last us until next summer when we start the process all over again.  Since we’re fortunate enough to live where there are year-round farmer’s markets (our favorite will move indoors at the end of the month) and near at least two excellent natural food markets, we’ll continue to buy some seasonal produce, but our weekly food bill is going to drop dramatically until next spring.  We also have the advantage of knowing exactly where this food came from, what’s in it, and how it was processed and handled.

When we watch the news and see yet another report about food that’s been recalled – this time it’s shredded wheat cereal contaminated with metal shavings – all I can think of is how glad I am we don’t have to worry about that shit any more.

For more Autumnal Spins, visit Gretchen at Second Blooming.  She has a killer recipe for pumpkin bread, for the gluten-inclined.

Rhubarb Chutney Sauce

Happy Tuesday, everyone!  I hope all of my friends in the U.S. had a lovely Memorial Day weekend.  Our time off was nice – we ran errands on Thursday and kept The G Man overnight on Friday.  Saturday we did all of our grocery shopping (i.e. we visited our farmers and went to the farmer’s market); Sunday we went swimming with The G Man and Jolly.  Yesterday we did a whole lot of nothing, and I was ready for it.

I did a little cooking, but not as much as I expected – I did begin curing the pork jowls for the guanciale and the smoked jowl bacon Beloved is going to finish next weekend (the guanciale will take as long as 12 weeks, depending on how it does while dries).  I also cut down 2 small rabbits, and have them marinating in yogurt in the fridge, which we’re going to grill tonight; if they come out well, I’ll post the recipe – probably tomorrow.

This will probably be an integral part of the rabbit recipe.  We have a quite large and prolific rhubarb plant in our back yard, mostly because Beloved loves it.  I do too, but have been hesitant to cook any because it just takes so much sugar to make it palatable.  Unfortunately, this recipe isn’t much of an exception, although I did my best to keep it to a minimum.  Based on the Victoria Sauce in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, the original recipe called for nearly four cups of sugar.  I replaced the sugar with evaporated cane juice and reduced the amount to 2 cups, as well as increased the amount of onion and raisins called for.  I also added water to the recipe, to keep it from burning before the mixture began to soften and break down.

The results were surprising, really – a sauce – or chutney, depending on your preference – that is tart, but sweet, yet not overwhelmingly either.  It is marvelous on meats of all sorts:  chicken, pork, even beef – the first thing we used it for was as a baste on grilled rib eye steaks, and it was just delicious.  I guess tonight we’ll see how it does on rabbit.

We canned ours, and I’ve included those instructions in the recipe.  If you don’t want to can it, I’ll be interested to hear how well it freezes.  While the original recipe didn’t call for it, I pureed ours with an immersion blender, and the result was the consistency, and color, of a good apple butter.  And it would probably be quite good on toast, if you’re so inclined.

Rhubarb Chutney Sauce
Rhubarb Chutney Sauce
Rhubarb Chutney Sauce
Serves: 64
Ingredients
  • 2 quarts rhubarb, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups seedless raisins
  • 2 cups evaporated cane juice
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
Instructions
  1. Combine rhubarb, onion, raisins, evaporated cane juice, vinegar and water in a large, heavy pot such as an enameled cast iron Dutch oven. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thick, about 25 minutes.
  2. At this point the sauce can be used as chutney, or it can be pureed in a blender, food processor or with an immersion blender until smooth, and used as a sauce.
  3. To can the sauce, pour while hot into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/8-inch head space. Adjust caps. Process in a boiling water bath according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 39 calories, <1g total fat, 0mg cholesterol, 1.6mg sodium, 83.9mg potassium, 9.8g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 8.2g sugar, <1g protein
Serving size: 2 tablespoons

 

Preserving The Harvest

Do you like this month’s theme?  I’m not entirely sure I like the execution of the banner – I wasn’t thinking “long and skinny” when I took the photo and as a result could not get it to fit into the entire banner space (at least so you could tell what it is).  Other than that, though, I’m quite please with it…especially since I threw it together in about 20 minutes last night. 🙂    It also fits right in with this week’s Spin Cycle, which is “What I Did On My Summer Vacation.”  ‘Cause see those jars, fruits and vegetables?  That’s basically what I’ve spent the summer doing:  obtaining, cooking, preserving and eating locally and sustainably grown food.

Let’s take an inventory of the jars, shall we?  We have chicken stock, beef stock, homemade mayonnaise, lard, carrots, green beans, bread and butter pickles, garlic dill pickles, and tomato sauce.  I forgot the jars of pickled eggs and beets in the fridge in the garage.  I am going to add to all of this before it’s all said and done – more carrots, if I can get enough of them, more green beans, more tomato sauce, apple butter and/or apple sauce, pumpkin pureé, butternut squash pureé, more cucumber pickles, pickled beets and anything else I can get my hands on that’s suitable to can.  And, of course, more beef and chicken stock, as well as lard and tallow.

I’d never thought about canning until last summer.  Beloved was out of town on one of his extended business trips, The Young One was in Texas and I was alone for the weekend.  Saturday morning I visited the Podunk farmer’s market and the folks who became my CSA co-op providers had a ton of extra roma tomatoes, which are really the best kind for sauces.  I bought a huge box of them, then made a trip to WalMart and purchased a water-bath canner and two cases of pint jars.  I spent the rest of the day peeling, seeding, chopping and cooking the tomatoes down to a sauce, then carefully sanitizing the jars and lids.  When it was all said and done, I had four whole pints of tomato sauce.

Yes.  Four.  Undeterred, I purchased more tomatoes the next week and canned four more jars of tomato sauce.

What I was unprepared for was how much I enjoyed the whole canning process.  Yes, it can be a lot of hard work and you need a pressure canner once you begin preserving stocks, meats and non-acidic fruits and vegetables (while a water bath canner is relatively inexpensive, a good quality pressure canner will set you back a few bucks), but it also quite rewarding.  And once I got over my fear of killing my entire family with botulism, I found that taking those jars off the shelf and using the contents gave me a satisfaction that was equally surprising.  I knew what was in them, and the sauce tasted far better than anything I’d ever purchased at the store, organic or not.

This year, I already have a lot more tomato sauce put away – 16 pints so far – and I plan to have a lot more before it’s all said and done.  Of course, I’m still learning – do NOT cook the carrots before you pressure can them, or they will be way too soft (but still tasty) – but in many ways I already feel like a “pro.”  And it’s helped that I am no longer worried that my pressure canner is going to “go ‘splode,” as Darling Daughter puts it (you can cook in it too, which is beginning to intrigue me).  But mostly, it makes our determination to eat locally and sustainably as much as possible so much easier, even in the winter.

If anyone is interested in the process – and recipes – for all of this, let me know.  I’ll be thrilled to post all about it in the coming weeks.

Next up:  learning how to get the most out of our dehydrator.  Beef jerky, anyone?