Adventures in Canning, Part 1

Good morning! It is very quiet over here at Chez Goodwin, which is a rarity! I have some very early risers, and I am almost never the first one to wake up, but this morning I have already made my coffee, weeded and watered the garden, checked all the Etsy shops, and have my first project ready to go on the machine.  (Why don’t I get up this early more often?? It’s awesome!)  Yesterday we canned peaches, which was a big deal to me because going through about 20 pounds of peaches with Josh busy working on different project was a little overwhelming.  He is usually my canning sidekick who helps peel and sterilize jars, and so forth.  So I did what any good grassroots Momma would have done, and I recruited the kids to help.  We all sat around the table and peeled and peeled and peeled until every last peach was done!  IMG_9741 The process from beginning to end took about three hours to go from a counter full of ripe peaches to canned, sealed, and kitchen cleaned, with the help of the littles ones (to peel) and my oldest son who is 15 who stuck with me through the whole process just to see how it all worked.  (Hello Teachable Moments!!)  I tried blanching the peaches like tomatoes because I heard that really helped peel them.  I can verify that while it does make them easier to peel, the skin by NO MEANS just slipped right off!  Those little suckers are no fun to peel…Not like tomatoes at all that just shed their skin after blanching, but it did help and I think it was worth the extra time and effort to do it.  (Blanching, just in case you don’t know:  We dropped them in boiling water for a minute, then straight into a bowl of icy water for a couple of minutes to cool.  We set up a little assembly line of boil > ice water bath > ready to peel.)  Then each kid got their own bowl to fill up with peeled peaches, and a bowl for skins and pits.  Just the act of having to fill up their bowls was enough to keep mine on task, wanting to beat each other to a full bowl!  IMG_9742Preserving fruit as jam is a lot of trouble…it would have been easier just to freeze them all for smoothies because they don’t have to be peeled.  It would have even been easier to peel them and then freeze them for cobblers on down the road, but we (especially Josh!) loves IMG_9782peach jam on fresh biscuits, or on top of waffles.  So it’s worth the trouble.  As I explained to my oldest while we were canning, things like this that seem like a lot of trouble, but have a tangible, long-term benefit are always worth it in the end.  Every time we pull a jar full of fresh peach jam out of the cabinet over the next year, we will fondly remember bonding over steaming pots in a hot, deliciously sweet-smelling kitchen.  I learned to can from my Mom and Grandparents, so maybe my kids will keep up the tradition.  I only do it once a year with peaches, and it lasts us until almost the next season…Depending on how many nights we have waffles for dinner!  After we were all finished and cleaned up, we went out to Midtown Coffee House and exploring at the park as a special treat to thank them for all their hard work this morning!  Any excuse to get an afternoon iced coffee, catch frogs, and play tag, I will take it!! IMG_9805

Summer in the Kitchen

I feel like I am living in the kitchen these days!!  The veggies are coming in, and between preserving the excess and cooking meals, it is a big investment of time.  IMG_7851_2I have been hitting the local farmer’s markets of Jenny Jack Sun Farms pretty heavily and my parents have lots to share with us as well.  Our own garden is lagging behind a little (ok, a lot!) but it has been producing a ton of bell and cayenne peppers, a few squash, and the corn has started to tassel!  We made pickles the other day with all of the cucumbers, bruschetta IMG_7814_2salad with fresh tomatoes, basil, and garlic, fried the heck out of some okra (I had it leftover cold for breakfast this morning and it was like a guilty pleasure!), and finally got the tomatoes canned today.  This is just the first wave of tomatoes that have come in, but I wanted to go ahead and get a head start on the canning since I use tomatoes for practically everything from soup to chili to pizza sauce.  I have also made two batches of fresh pesto and frozen the excess to use later.  I can’t get enough basil this time of year.  So yeah, it’s like a different kind of crafting, this summer time harvest thing.  Fresh meals, planned around what was recently collected, in such a way that the kids eat it all up too can be a challenge, but an awesome and rewarding one.  I am lucky to have friends and family who kindly share recipes and tips on what to do with it all!  Here is my Bruschetta Salad recipe for those of you that are interested!

 

BRUSCHETTA SALAD

1 pound of cherry tomatoes, halved

1 big bunch of fresh basil (I like a lot of basil in mine, so you might want to cut back if you don’t)

1 large clove garlic, chopped fine

2 T extra virgin olive oil (or less if you want…I like mine a little heavy on the oil)

salt and pepper to taste

Stir all ingredients gently, then before serving, add 2 T of crumbled goat cheese and stir gently to mix.  Fresh and delicious, and a great use for all those cherry tomatoes!  Enjoy!

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