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Posts Tagged ‘canning’

strawberry jam

December 31, 2011:

The masses for St. Stephen and the holy infants and St. John, for the Holy Family and, on the first day of the new year, the holy Mother, shimmer with reds and golds, brocade and candle light and bells. The Christmas octave is rich with traditions that do not depend upon the cooperation of the weather.   Still, our hearts were lifted when, through the pier glass flanking the great bas-relief behind the altar at the convent of the Sorrowful Mother, flurries of snowflakes obscured the winter-grey hills.   Outside our feet printed  black on the white-powdered walk, but the thin clean snow was gone before night.

Winter seems not to have arrived yet.  The winds that shredded needles out of the Norfolk spruces this afternoon and showered them all over the valley was the warm, blustering wind of a March day, and the overwintering birds were deluded into giving us their spring songs.  Taking a long path through the woods we squelched through mud thick with boot prints – hunters have been here – overlaid by the sharp v’s of deer prints, and the tiny child-hand prints of raccoons tempted from their semi-hibernation by the smells of damp leaves and spring beauties.  We wonder, when the seasons shuffle themselves like a deck of cards, whether anything will be lost in the mix, whether the real spring when it comes will be poorer for the outlay it is making now, as the old year dies.

Canning jars are like the laundry, which is never done because there is always some on, some off, and some in the wash.  The ebb and flow of glass quart jars full and empty is unending.  Even in the winter there is food to put by, this week the culled hens, of course, but today as well eleven quarts of strawberry jam made from berries frozen last spring when there was not time to jam them.  The smell in the house was like confectionery, and the jars set upside down on the counter to seal glowed with the reds of rubies and garnets.  These are especially welcome in a year when the apples and grapes made poor picking, and one grows tired of honey.  S-6, who is four years old, clasps his Christmas polar bear to his chest and announces, overflowing with love, “Mom, I love you better than sugar!”

Beat that.

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Saturday, October 1:

The weather is unseasonably cold today; if the temperature has risen above fifty degrees, we couldn’t tell. The men who were working outside wore lined jackets all day; S-3, who was mowing at the TOR’s, came in shivering, and with his fingers still clenched as they had been on the steering wheel of the Sisters’ Kubota. S-4 finished building the cages for broody hens which are now installed in the chicken palace. There being no broody hens at present, we have put in them a dozen of the young pullets — the replacements for the Speckled Sussex pullets slaughtered over the summer by our marauding fox – to keep them out of the way of aggressive Rhode Island Reds, but let them get used to thinking of the hen house as home.

The last planting of green beans – made in July with the beautiful Sarah (one of our nieces from Illinois) – is justifying itself, and we have canned nineteen and a half quarts, with buckets more to process when the Sabbath is past. These late plants are just beautiful, vigorous, and with far higher germination than the early and mid-season plantings. They are also much less bothered by our unwelcome visitors from the south, the Mexican bean beetles, which have left only skeletons of leaves on the old bean plants. These we have pulled up, and fed with vindictive pleasure to the ever-hungry pigs; but the July beans, although they have a few beetles on them, are so thick and flourishing it is hard to find where to put your foot as you wade in to pick them.

They are also, we take this occaision to admit, a living evidence of the axiom that a single moment of carelessness may be redeemable only by hours, months, or even years of hard labor. We have the truth of this rule before us in palpable form more often than Mamma, who is its most devoted acolyte, likes to admit. This year, for example, our sauce-making and salsa-making, and we make gallons and gallons of sauce and salsa, have taken more than the normal amount of time due to the fact that, somehow, the tomato plants we started in the greenhouse this year were not, as Mamma planned and expected, Romas and beefsteaks, but romas and cherry tomatoes. Just try peeling and seeding cherry tomatoes by the five-gallon bucket-full, if you want to know what incidental labor is like.

Similarly, the green beans she planted this year, expecting to get all bush varieties, include at least one variety of pole bean. These are the beans in the July planting and despite being trellised, rather late – and that was a bit of extra work – they sprawl pretty freely over the three long beds allotted to them, making it something of a chore to pick the pods.

Last weekend Mamma and Papa went to Pennsylvania to attend the Mother Earth News fair at Seven Springs. Funny – we don’t take the Mother Earth News, associating it as we do with articles on how to save on your electric bill by installing a fifty-thousand dollar solar plant, and we never visit resorts, having no reason in the normal way of things to do so. But we heard good things of this event last year, and when we saw that several of the workshops were cheese-making related, we decided to give the thing a whirl. As an effort to learn more about home cheese-making, the trip was a failure; but as date with spouse, it was a great success.

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