With the trip behind us, it was time to return to the putting by for winter, a routine that generally is done a bit at a time all summer. The berries were early and dozens of jars of jam were made and stored. The tomatoes are not as prolific as in years past and with the blister beetle damage and something that takes a bite out of every one that turns red on the vine, I started picking them pink, ripening them in a window sill, and popping them in a huge bag in the freezer when they were ripe. Once home, the apples and Asian Pears were ripe and beginning to drop, so they were harvested. Also before leaving, a bag of Muscadine grapes were harvested and popped into the freezer for later.
The young apple trees that we bought about 5 or 6 years ago do not produce good fruit. The fruits are small and gnarly, but have good flavor. Some years I make applesauce from them, but it looked to be too much effort this year with the misshapen damaged little fruits and I wasn’t sure what would become of them, when Wilderness Road Regional Museum posted that their press was up and running and cider was being made for their Harvest Festival. There weren’t enough apples to get much cider, but the Asian Pears were better formed in spite of some stink bug damage and they also were picked. There were about 8 gallons of fruit in two buckets and Tuesday afternoon, off we went to press most of it.
The two buckets produced a bucket full of dry pulp for the chickens and a gallon of rich cider for us. A quart was stored in the refrigerator to enjoy now and the remaining 3 quarts were put into wide mouth pint jars and frozen for later.
Yesterday, the remaining Asian Pears were sitting on the counter and half were peeled and cooked down with a chopped orange and some sugar to make a few half pints of Pear Marmalade.
Last night, the grapes were removed from the freezer and pulled from their stems to sit over night in a covered pot. First thing this morning, a cup or so of water was added and they were simmered soft and run through the food mill to remove skins and seeds, then through a tight mesh bag to remove the pulp that remained. There wasn’t enough juice to make a batch of jelly, so a couple of cups of unsweetened Concord grape/cranberry juice was added and a few half pints of very grapey jelly were made and canned.
Following that, the last few Asian Pears were peeled, cored, and chopped along with the pulp of a fresh lemon, some sugar, and pectin and a few pints of Asian Pear jam added as well.
That left the tomatoes. The bags of frozen tomatoes were dumped in the sink to begin to thaw so that the core could be removed and the skins slipped off.
A pot full of basic tomato sauce was simmering on the stove to be turned into a sauce that can be seasoned with Mediterranean herbs and spices for pasta or spiked with hot peppers for chili when the weather chills. Once it thickened enough, it was ladled into jars and canned for the panty shelves.
The first six pints of 11 jarred.
Though only 10 will make it to the pantry. A blow out. That hasn’t happened in a long while, but is a hazard of canning.
The tomato plants are recovering from the blister beetle damage and hopefully, we will get enough additional tomatoes for at least one more batch of the sauce. We go through many jars of pasta sauce and chili tomatoes each winter and purchasing them at the grocer does not appeal to me. I prefer knowing what goes into my food without the unidentified “spices” and preservatives that the labels always describe.
Now we await the onslaught of hot peppers for pickling and fermented sauces, the cabbages to mature for cold storage and another batch of sauerkraut, and hopefully more tomatoes as 11 pints will not get us through the winter. There is still one pumpkins maturing in the garden and a few tiny ones that may never reach a usable size, but if not, they will be split and tossed to the chickens.
I am beginning to see more feathers in the coop and run, molting season is arriving and that means fewer or no eggs for a month or so. Perhaps I should freeze more so there are some for baking during the non productive period.