Like any good diary of a journey, this one eventually descends into a self-made hell, just more quickly than most.
Day One, Canner’s Log:
Started the day off with a feeling of excitement as today was the weekly Farmer’s Market. Had been eyeing for 2-3 weeks now a couple of recipes for Apricot Jam and Jelly and today would be THE DAY. Made it to the Market with purpose and purchased a 20 pound box of apricots, among other goodies. Running on a high, bought 6 pints of day-old blackberries. Why? I have no idea. At home I have one whole side of my property lined by wild blackberries. Not sure what possessed me other than I was so giddy that I wasn’t thinking straight. Keep in mind I had already put up some cherries and 15 pints of pickles. I think there were likely a couple of small batches of this or that, which for some odd reason I never seem to count as canning. I still consider today as Day One of canning season.
Day Two, Canner’s Log:
Sprung out of bed early and tackled the first batch of Apricot Jam. This used approximately 4 pounds. Now I was left staring at a box that was still mostly full. Hmmm…I would plan to tackle the rest tomorrow. Besides, one batch of jam seemed like enough, considering I was still supposed to get some work done AND simultaneously watch all the kids. Then my kids brought in a bucket of plums from the tree. It seemed easy enough to make a small batch of jelly from them. What’s one more batch? I did get up early after all. I decided that since I bought cultivated blackberries, I would turn them into a crumble, because they have much smaller seeds than the wild ones. Besides, a girl needs a dessert now and again. I used the liquid that I had drained off the berries and added it to the plums for a more complex jelly. Now that the jelly bag (or in my case an old pillowcase) was occupied, I couldn’t do any apricot jelly even if I wanted to. Still, I feel like I kicked some ass today.
Day Three, Canner’s Log:
Got up early again today, but I seem to have lost the spring in my step. That huge box of apricots was staring at me still. Best plan was to just jump in and do it. I divided it in half and made a batch of jelly following the recipe in Saving the Season (http://www.savingtheseason.com/). I felt like I had won the lottery when I discovered that the fruit had to be mixed with the sugar and then left overnight. SCORE! So now, I would do a batch of my own making. I decided to roast off the remaining apricots with sprigs of thyme. Again, I was able to stall a bit because then the fruit gets left to hang in a jelly bag overnight. While I should have felt some relief, it was clear that the plum tree is dropping fruit, as well as at least 3 of the apple trees. All previously usable work spaces in my kitchen are now covered with canning supplies and books and buckets of fruit. I took a break and took the kids to the water park for part of the day. I must admit that I am glad I got out of the house. Sadly, the fruit will be there when I get back.
Day Four, Canner’s Log:
My double batch of roasted apricot jelly was ready for canning today. This huge amount of fruit was still sort of dripping even after being left for nearly 24 hours, but I went with it anyway. It had to be done, as I had many more projects that needed to be tackled. I got the jelly put up and in the canner and then tackled the other batch from Saving the Season. This was again, a gift, as today I was only able to cook the fruit. It was again required to cool and sit overnight before being put up. I was so relieved. Sadly though, I was faced with putting up a 4’X4′ raised garden box worth of collard greens. This was a huge task. Not only did they need to be pulled from the ground (this was done through the help of child labor), they had to be clipped, cleaned, cut and cooked before they could even go into jars. After the 3rd hour, I was beginning to believe they were getting the better of me, but I persevered. After 5 hours of what I am now calling “collarding” I ended up with a whopping 13 jars of collards. This was kind of disappointing. It was a lot like the year I did tomatoes. You start with 100 pounds of fruit and end up with 2 jars of sauce. It was so exhausting and disappointing. At least with pickles there are dozens of jars. Not sure that I am any less tired though.
Day Five, Canner’s Log:
I pretended to sleep in as I knew what was waiting for me when I woke up. As a favor, the boys gleaned the Honeycrisp apple tree. This produced 2 five-gallon buckets and an apple box worth of fruit. They asked about tackling the other 2 that clearly are ready, but I just couldn’t face it. Besides, I don’t have any more buckets. Where on earth am I to put it all?! My spouse is planning to make hard cider with most of the apples. I just wish we had an apple press. Imagine if you will the number of hours it takes to press that many pounds of fruit with a counter-top juicer. It isn’t pretty. This was the last day of apricot jelly making. Got the last of it put up though. The jars look so lovely and I just love apricots. Right now it feels like a win. I need to go back through the books and see what new recipes I can come up with for all the apples and plums. As they say, Game On!
Day Six, Canner’s Log:
Today is Monday. This means I am supposed to be working, among other things. Fortunately, I work from home, so I take advantage of my ability to multitask in ways that you just can’t from the office. So between computer work, I was also making jelly. I put up 2 batches: a sage-apple jelly and a blackberry-apple conserve. Again, it is so disappointing to take pounds and pounds of fruit and have them boil down to 3 tiny jars of jam. I still have 2 5-gallon buckets of apples sitting on my dining room table. The house remains a mess and I am trying to ignore that the plum tree needs to be gleaned, as well as 2 other apple trees. Let’s not forget the pears that have begun to drop. Ignorance is bliss.
Day Seven, Canner’s Log:
Had to call for backup. My sister drove up for 2 days to help me with all of this. She jumped right in and started paring apples. Halfway through the first bucket she turned to me and said “What kind of idiot am I to drive up and be a slave to you?!” LOL! We managed to work our way through the 2 buckets of apples that we had picked. We made some jelly, some apple pie filling and some applesauce. She was smart enough to make plans to meet with her husband who works locally here once a month, for dinner and a night at a hotel. She gets to leave behind the humid, hot house, go to dinner and sleep in air conditioning. I kind of hate her right now. Seriously though, I love her infinity! I feel so grateful for all her help. And I get her help again tomorrow. Do we continue to pretend that I don’t have so much fruit to deal with and put some pickles up or do we tackle the plums? I am torn. My middle child eats pickles a jar at a time – daily! I put up 65 pints ( I thought 1 a week, plus a pad??) last year and they were gone by Christmas. I couldn’t possibly put up enough to get me from one season to the next. Oh well. Either way, I still have a lot of work ahead of me. At one point in the day I had to run my daughter to her friend’s house for a play date. On the way I spotted several apple trees bursting with fruit and, as I do every year, I think that they should be picked and canned. At this point, I literally said to myself out loud “You are fucking insane!”
Day Eight, Canner’s Log:
I got up earlier than usual so that I could start watering the lawn and picking fruit before my sister returned. Sadly, I was unable to finish before everyone was up and ready to go. There was too much. After I dropped my spouse at the train (his parting comment was to “save him some apples for cider” – consider it DONE!), we ended up taking the kids to breakfast and then came back to start picking again. We managed to get 1/3 of the fruit from the plum (the rest really needed more time – like 2 days or something stupid). We also gleaned, as best we could, the 2 main pear trees. Then I had to take the kids to the dentist and run some errands, which I was glad to use as a stalling tactic. I was still so tired from the day before. We came back and worked our way through the pears. There were fewer of them, so that made more sense. Decided to pickle them, as that would allow us to get them all done in one batch and we didn’t have to do as much cutting. Hate to admit that I was grateful when I ran into several that were wormy and I could throw them out. Lastly, we did the plums in 2 ways: chutney and jam. I managed to cut through 12 pounds of fruit for this. I was thrilled when one of them had to sit overnight. I saw it as a reprieve. It took us until nearly 8pm to get it all done. It was one long-ass day. At one point, I realized that today was again the Farmer’s Market. I literally gave pause to whether or not I should go. Again, I am truly crazy. My sister ran to the store for more supplies while I was cutting fruit, and I found myself muttering to out loud about how crazy this all was. That is really loony, if I say so myself. I was starting to get klutzy and I nearly spilled hot chutney down my sister’s back. I told her she could then say to anyone with a tatoo that they were pussies, as she had been “chutnied”. My sister and I were so tired that the thought of even showering was simply more than we could bear. I limped to bed and made the kids take turns rubbing my feet while I read our evening story. It was pathetic.
Day Nine, Canner’s Log:
Got up early as usual, but today was mostly about clearing out all the boxes and jars and trying to locate the surfaces in my kitchen again. I still have that one pot of plum jam I have to deal with, but that feels manageable. I don’t feel like I am going to have an aneurism or anything. I can manage boiling a pot of jam! My sister and I divided up the jars and loaded her car and sent her on her way. She is really an angel to help me with all this. I have to get back to work and dealing with daily life again. I have a birthday party to throw in 2 days, so I will be distracted again soon enough. I realized that with the cost of the jars and other supplies, not to mention the fact that I was too tired to cook and ate out every meal for 2 straight days, this was a costly venture. The constant questioning of my sanity is becoming the norm. I am considering giving away the rest of the plums and just letting my spouse press the apples into cider. I am throwing in the towel! In the words of Captain Kirk, “Beam me up Scotty!” Only in my case, the crazy green bitch was an apple 🙂