Lammastide is clearly here when, every day, I haul more food into the house from various gardens than we can eat. Even though I have designed our garden to feed us a huge variety of fresh food, not fifty pounds of tomatoes or green beans in one day, it still gets away from me in early August. So I dry and can and pickle for an hour or so a day.
Today I harvested a five gallon bucket of apples, a big bowl of blackberries, and a basketful of green beans, as well as a bowl of tomatoes, mostly cherry sized. As I sliced the apples thinly and arranged them on the trays to dry, I imagined where they were going to be eaten next year. Many will go to work or school, so that we have something to chew on in the late afternoons. Some will fuel us on trail hikes. We’ll re-hydrate handfuls for oatmeal and yogurt in the mornings. I’ll carry a bag of dried fruit with me everywhere next winter. You never know when you’ll need a snack. Yesterday’s apples became seven jars of apple butter, slowly cooked down in the crockpot overnight. Tomorrow’s will be applesauce—and when that’s all done, I will roam the neighborhood scavenging wild fruit to press into cider.
The green beans became four jars of Dilly Beans, ready to join the batch of Bread and Butters I made yesterday. Here, the steam canner comes in very handy. It is easy to haul out and can four or five jars of something, like pickles or jam, without the hour long process of heating water in the big pot. When I used the boiling water pot, I waited and collected produce, then had a mad rush of processing and canning. It was exhausting. Now, I can run a batch of something through before dinner and the shelves fill up slowly but steadily, day to day. It also saves energy!
Blackberries are good fresh off of the vine, warm from the sun, while the chickens hope for dropped fruit. I throw some into quart jars and freeze them for muffins in the winter. I’ve made jam from the wild ones, straining out the seeds. But today, the bowl of berries is just the right size for a pie. And I am thinking of cutting little circles out of the crust so that the juice bubbles up and through. That would finish off our dinner of zucchini and tomatoes and salad nicely, especially with a little ice cream.
I’ll be doing this work every day for the next few weeks. Roasted tomatoes and jars of salsa, more jars of dried and canned fruits and veggies, and then potatoes and longkeeper tomatoes, squashes and apples, tucked away to be eaten all winter long. A little effort now—huge benefits all winter long. It’s a fair trade.
Quarter a big pot full of apples. Don't worry about skins or seeds, but whack off the nasty bits and bugs. Toss into a large pot, add about half a cup of water, and cook quickly into mush.
Push the mush through a food mill to remove skins and seeds. I balance mine over the crockpot rather than dirtying a bowl. Add half a cup of sugar, a tablespoon of cinnamon, and a bit of allspice.
Set the crockpot on low heat and place in a corner with the lid off. Leave all day or over night. Stir occasionally. The apple butter is ready when it has reduced by half.
Can in half-pint jars. It is not as shelf stable once opened as jam, so this reduces waste. Process for ten minutes in the steam canner.