NOW THAT THE freezer is full, I’m faced with a dilemma: To can or not to can?
Farmers markets are still brimming with uber-ripe tomatoes, satiny eggplants, jewel-toned peppers and squash of every description. It just feels wrong not to load up on cheap local produce while it’s fresh and put it up to enjoy when the growing season is over. The alternative is paying more in fall and winter for fruits and vegetables that have been trucked or flown great distances before landing limply in my grocery cart.
Every weekend since mid-August, I’ve been knocking myself out stocking the freezer with fresh blueberries, okra and sliced peaches; blanched corn (off the cob) and green beans, and prepared ratatouille, caponata (a Sicilian eggplant relish) and Swiss chard gratin. I’ve even frozen pre-portioned bags of leftover chopped onions, tomatoes and herbs to use as omelet fillings.
But my freezer is full—and that’s saying something. We have a gargantuan side-by-side Amana that’s at least 25 years old and shows absolutely no sign of slowing down. They don’t make them like that anymore. If the ancient Amana ever fails, we’ll replace it with an Energy Star model, but I have a feeling it will outlive us all.
So if I want to continue putting up the local harvest, it will have to be through canning. I don’t mind the tedious sterilizing, processing and sealing. In fact, since I have Attention Surfeit Gift (often mislabeled as Attention Deficit Disorder), the fact that so much is going on at once is a plus. I have all the paraphernalia, as well: the big pots, the pint and half-pint jars, the lids and screw bands, the special tongs for lifting hot jars out of the water. So there’s no start-up expense involved.
The only thing holding me back is friends and co-workers who say things like, “That makes me tired just hearing about it” when I excitedly recount all the foods I washed, peeled, pitted, sliced, chopped, pureed, sauteed and froze the night before. Those kinds of comments don’t offend me. But I’ve learned that when everyone you know thinks you’re off your rocker, it’s worth investigating whether they’re right.
On the one hand, using up hours and hours of precious free time canning seems tedious to most people because they don’t like cooking. But I do. For me, chopping fresh basil or mint is more soothing than lighting an aromatherapy candle.
Also, most people would think hours spent canning could be put to better use doing laundry or washing windows. Thankfully it doesn’t bother me at all to realize at midnight on Sunday that I didn’t get any housework done at all over the weekend. I am so fine with that. Life’s short, and you have to give priority to doing things you love.
But the “tired” idea sticks with me. My job is very high-energy, so maybe it is goofy to spend my weekends running around until I collapse in bed seven hours before the work week ramps up again. Maybe I need more down time.
I’m going to think about that while I make damson plum butter this weekend. Just a couple of jars. For my friends, whom I cherish for keeping me grounded.