|I've tried to get pictures like this with|
autumn color, but they've never satisfied me.
Maybe fall is a
state of mind, as much as a season.
I love this time of year. The leaves turn gorgeous colors, it’s a great time to travel, there’s a crisp feel to the air that says mother nature is getting ready for a winter’s sleep, storm clouds move in and out… I could go on and on, but needless to say, it’s a season I cherish. Ironically, I’ve never taken any pictures of fall color that speak to my soul.
Fall is a busy time for me, even when I’m not traveling or working on a manuscript deadline. Autumn is when the majority of bulk fruits and veggies for canning/freezing become available in our area, so I’m generally busy filling the freezer, canning tomatoes, making jam, western chili sauce, bread and butter pickles, etc.
Perhaps the urge to can/freeze/preserve stems from my pioneer roots, because my mother, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers were all dedicated canners/preservers. My great-grandmothers learned it from their mothers, and so on. Besides, doing it myself means I know how the food has been handled. Home preservation reduces chemicals and the produce has come from organic growers I trust, or wild fruit we've picked ourselves. Preserving your own food used to be a way to save money, but no longer, so that’s one reason I’m really busy during the peak of the season when produce prices drop.
|Special variety of tomatoes. |
Not so great for eating fresh, great for sauces and canning.
I have to admit that I often jump into my first canning of the growing season totally unprepared--usually when I stumble on an early box of tomatoes or something else the grower is selling for a low price because they’re overstocked. Usually the produce is quite ripe and needs to be rushed home for processing as quickly as possible. No prepping the kitchen, just a push to get good food in a jar or the freezer before it has a chance to go bad. This year it was a box of pears--to change things up, I sometimes use pear or apple butter when making cinnamon rolls.
|New Mexico peppers. They have more kick than |
Anaheims, which we like, too.
The unexpected bargain is fun, but right now I’m in the middle of my full-blown, planned, get-it-done stage. I’ve prepared for this by pulling out and checking all the empty canning jars. The lids and rings have been sorted. The canning kettles have been retrieved from where they’ve been gathering dust since last November. I’m well stocked on freezer bags, sugar (for jams, pickles, zucchini relish, pepper sauce, etc.), canning salt, vinegar and the other necessary ingredients. My favorite grower is regularly filling my orders (they claim I’m their best private customer).
Oh, yeah, and my feet hurt.
|This is a new peeler. I just bought it off the internet.|
The old one still works, but it no longer looks so great.
However, they both work the same way.
The biggest difference between the two
is that the new one has metal prongs
to hold the apples.
Every year I reach a point where I say, “That's it, I’m done.” This is a family joke, because we all know an unexpected late bargain will get me going again. The latest is a great buy on organic apples and peppers. By the way, my inexpensive little apple peeler is probably the best kitchen tool I’ve EVER used. It isn’t one of those metal ones, it’s mostly plastic and works like a charm. I've peeled hundreds of apples with the thing.
I can't speak for everyone who does canning, but a particularly satisfying sound is the “ping” of a jar lid as the contents cool. I love lying in bed and hearing the ping, pop, ping of my last batch of the evening.
There’s a great sense of
accomplishment when I see shelves filled with my canning efforts, or open the
freezer and see the neatly stacked freezer bags filled with corn and other
fruits and veggies.
|Our second freezer. |
It's small, but holds a surprising amount.
The packages on the bottom are
|Apple Pie. During the holidays|
I add cranberries to apple pie for color and zip.
Of all the traditional “home arts,” canning and freezing are what I enjoy most. Of course, I also make more pies and cobblers when fresh fruit is available, along with pasta salad (loaded with peppers and zucchini) and raw corn salad (it‘s delicious, especially when the corn is super sweet). So I’m also having to exercise more because of all those calories.
One of the great things about canning is that is provides time for quiet thought and reflection. I remember my first canning session after my mother passed away--the memories were so strong, I sobbed through most of it. Yet it was good as well, because those memories were wonderful. But for the most part I think about my stories or just clear my head. We live in a complicated world and it’s helpful to have a repetitive task that lets me unwind. Gardening is the same way. It’s hard work and I can focus on the effort, instead of all the other “noise” in my life.
|Hachiya persimmons from my mother's tree.|
This is the variety used in our family pudding.
I also reflect on the rich traditions passed down through the family. Traditions can be lost and rediscovered, such as when nobody asked my great-grandmother how she made her persimmon pudding. For some reason nobody ever learned how from her, so when we lost her, we thought the recipe was lost forever. Then a member of the family visited Indiana during the fall season and discovered it was a regional specialty. It’s delicious, so I freeze enough persimmons for more than one batch of pudding over the holidays.
By the way, I love exploring new recipes. Two years ago I gave homemade sriracha sauce a shot. We hadn’t been able to find an organic sriracha sauce and love how it turns out. Fair warning, though, the garlic odor becomes more and more intense as it ferments. If you've never made it and decide to give homemade sriracha a shot, be forewarned--the house will reek for several days. One thing I do different from my recipe is leave the pulp in the mix. I figure the pulp has just as much flavor, so why waste it? We just spoon the sauce out of the jar instead of pouring it. My latest experiment is going to be chili paste (the one from the store has fish, which I‘m allergic to).
Any ideas of something new to try?
Oh, yeah...about my next book. It's coming out in December and is called FAMILY BY DESIGN. This will be the third book in my Emerald City Stories series, the second to be published by Harlequin Heartwarming. The first published by Heartwarming was A FATHER FOR THE TWINS (June 2018).
|A different view of the Seattle Space Needle|