Last year being our first “serious” year of gardening and growing our own food and produce, I spent much of the spring and summer collecting jars. In previous year, I had gathered up all the loose and boxed jars in various outbuildings throughout the farm, and was thus facing the prospect of buying enough jars to store much the harvest of what we had already planted. I was hoping for at least 24 dozen jars — a good $200 worth, with lids and rings. And so, the quest began.
First, I recruited coupons from all the non-canning coupon collectors I know. Then, in early spring, when the jar prices were still fairly low, I began to grab up a dozen here and there. Most were Golden Harvest jars from Family Dollar – which worked just as well as the traditional Ball and Mason. When prices began to increase in late summer, by then I had coupons in hand to help sway the cost. In addition, my CEOS Club (formerly WVU Homemakers) ladies searched through their pantries and outbuildings for jars remaining from garden lives past, and brought me another three dozen jars.
I am convinced — you just can’t get enough jars. As long as the rim of the jar isn’t chipped or nicked, and the flats fit smooth and snug – it’s a good jar as far as I’m concerned. (I prefer Ball flats and rings.)
I’m willing to give away green beans, tomatoes, leaf lettuce — but I’m also known for saying, “I want my jar back.”
I collected my new and used canning jars on wide shelves out on the side porch. The purchased new ones waited in their sectioned-off boxes with plastic wrap, and the gathered used ones waited upside down in their own boxes too.
When I began canning tomatoes in full force, my first temptation was to throw away the jar boxes as the filled jars moved in to the pantry. But then I realized — as the seasons passed, I would be transferring the emptied jars back to the porch shelves. Instead of tossing the boxes, I put them empty on the shelves of the side porch. Now, I keep an empty under the kitchen sink and fill it as we empty and wash the jars. When the box is full, I take it out to the side porch, and bring another empty box in to go under the sink.
This systems seems to be working fairly well. I’m now rotating about 200 jars through this process. The problem is — I still need more jars and my porch shelves are full of jar boxes, and my pantry won’t hold any more filled jars. I could move the empty jar boxes into the outbuilding, but it is full of tomato cages and stakes, bushel baskets, planting trays and gardening tools. I could put them on the other side porch, but it has the camping gear that once was stored in the outbuilding until we started a garden…
This spring, we may have to build a building just for camping gear — and another one just for jars.
As summer draws near its end, I think we are all prone to reflect on “what I did this summer.” Perhaps because that is the inevitable first essay assignment of the school year historically across the nation, or because of the simple reflective nature of fall.
My essay would be quite dull. I grew a garden, and I dealt with the harvest of said garden. That was my summer.
I have a whole list of summer projects and trips that just didn’t happen and still, I am dealing with the garden.
Granted, Frank and I were over-zealous planting this past spring. We increased the size of our garden, and started everything from heritage and heirloom seed. We thought some of the seedlings would die. They didn’t. We thought we’d sell some of the seedlings. We didn’t. We planted them all. Then we planted seed directly in the ground, and after three years feeding our soil – they all did well.
Then there was a long period of late spring rain when we couldn’t get in the garden, and from there on out — the race was on.
I was handing plastic bags of leaf lettuce and spinach to every one I met. I ate fresh peas as I picked them. Three days digging onions. At least a month was spent just dealing with green beans that I canned, traded, sold, gave away. Days dealing with tomatoes blurred into several weeks of processing and carting tomatoes every where I went to get rid of them. I spent a day on break from the tomatoes — processing early pumpkins. And now, as the tomatoes finally back off, the peppers are popping up everywhere.
Another part of this summer was the collection and organization of recipes. You have the canning recipes, but then you have the recipes that you can make out of the canned stuff. For example: I had to find how to can and freeze pumpkin. But I had more pumpkin than we could ever eat in pies. So, I found pumpkin soup recipes, pumpkin casserole, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffin recipes.
At one point, I had a stack of recipes from the printer floating loose-leaf around the kitchen. They had to be dealt with, copied or glued to index cards to fit in my recipe box. Last week, I had more recipes than would fit in a single recipe box. I bought a second box, and moved all canning, preserving, bread, herb and home remedy recipes to it.
But even still, waiting, out there under the ground, are sweet potatoes, carrots and late radishes and beets. Cucumbers are getting fat, gourds and late pumpkins lay among dead vines waiting to be gathered, and the herb garden waits for a third harvest there.
I have no vacation pictures. No remodeling projects complete. But I have proof that I was busy:
25 quarts of green beans
10 pints pizza sauce
10 pints spaghetti sauce
6 pints ketchup, 4 half-pints ketchup
30 pints salsa
13 quarts tomato soup (of varying blends)
12 quarts vegetable soup
10 quarts hot pepper rings
8 pints sweet pepper relish
9 pints tomato soup (sweet and spicy)
8 pints chocolate mint syrup (um, jelly that didn’t gel)
16 quarts pureed pumpkin
4 quarts peas
12 quarts corn
4 quarts squash
1 quart toasted pumpkin seed
3 gallons pickled eggs
5 pints dried seed for next year
2 recipe boxes
In addition to what waits in the garden to be dealt with, I still haven’t gone and picked apples, I’ve been eying the bounty on the old pear tree down the road, I have to try the chocolate mint jelly again, then lemon balm jelly, then freeze parsley, dry sage, oregano, and make thyme and rosemary vinegar.
I had also hoped to make some tinctures this year, but I drank the vodka I got for that with fresh tomato juice during the summer’s tomato phase.
I suppose I’ll have to get some more.
Learn how to grow, harvest, and preserve this wonderful herb. Recipes for vinegrette, vinegar, soap, oil, and ways to use these products in your kitchen, bath and medicine cabinet.
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