The time has come for me to begin planning out my preserving schedule for the next few months. This fall and winter did not allow for much preserving to happen, what with all the moving about and settling in that we did. But my small pickled beets adventure marked the beginning of the next chapter in my canning life.
I have a pickled veggie canning session planned for mid April. My best canning friend and I will likely can up 12-20 jars a piece of pickled veggies. We do this every year, as they have become a hit with our households.
Our pickled veggies usually include carrots, dicon radish, cauliflower, pearl onions, and garlic. We try to keep our preserving fairly balanced with what is in season. The cauliflower, well… Ok, maybe not so much. But the rest are all root storage crops that have been kept overwinter.
Here is a good time for me to clarify something:
I do not grow most of what I preserve. Since I am an urban gardener, my garden space is relatively small. I do not grow the quantities of food that I would need to make all these pickles, jam and cans of tomato sauce. During the winter months I tend to buy the produce at a grocery store and then bring it home to can. During the summer months I will sometimes go to U-pick farms in the area (as was the case with the raspberries for raspberry jam, and the blueberries for freezing), or buy my produce at a local produce stand.
It is essential to be realistic. I am not a country farmer with lots of land. When we can afford it, and when the season permits, I buy a whole bunch of produce and can it up or freeze it. This investment pays off throughout the coming year(s), as we eat our fresh tasting jam and pasta sauce throughout the grey winter months. We have not bought store bought pickles or jam in years.
My best canning friend and I may also try to fit in an asparagus canning session. She has an amazing recipe for brine, which she used with her pickled asparagus last year, and we both used in our dilly beans. My family loved it. Tangy and a bit spicy. Pickled asparagus is one of my favorite pickles, as it is light and sweet. It feels like a special treat. A little tip for anyone who tries to can it: you will find that most spears are too long for even quart jars. Snap the asparagus where it breaks, and compost the lower portion (I know, everyone knows this, this is not the tip). Your asparagus spears will still be too long. Next, cut your spears down to a size where the tops have enough headroom to not be squished in the jars. Can that up. Now cut the leftover portions of the stems into Asparagus Bites. The perfect pickle, and with no waste generated.
Anyway, I also have a vague plan to can up some sweet marmalade before winter is officially past. I better get hustling. Marmalade is seasonal, if not local. Winter (preferably earlier than this) is citrus season in Southern California. That is at least 1000 miles away, but the citrus is sweet and fresh, and the semis just make a straight shot up from Southern California to Portland, Oregon.
I try to think about the petroleum that goes into the production, distribution, and packaging of the food I eat. It is a reality, and one that I best take ownership for. This petroleum is the root of the war that we engage in as a country, and results in loss of lives, as well as major environmental contamination. I am not a purest; obviously, I’m using oranges grown 1000 miles away and shipped up on semis. But I try to be conscious of my consumer actions and their worldwide repercussions.
I have made a lovely marmalade in the past that consisted of oranges, meyer lemons, and pink grapefruits. And about a gallon of sugar. Marmalade is by far the sweetest spread I make.
So I question whether or not I should go for it again. But I do love to eat it on toast while drinking black tea and reading novels set in England…
Plus, my other friend says it’s her favorite spread, and we have been hoping to do some canning together.
This same friend would really like for us to go out to Sauvie’s Island every other week this summer to pick fruit and some veggies to freeze or can. I want to also and feel very motivated after seeing that our frozen fruit ran out by mid December this year. I would really love to freeze strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries, as well as a lot of corn and peas. I buy frozen corn and peas on a regular basis, and they seem like logical and fairly easy veggies to prep and freeze. The corn needs to be cut off the stalk, and the peas need to be shelled. But I have faith that I can fit it in. I could let River ‘help’ and munch the veggies as I prep them.
I also plan to create more jam this summer, even though we are pretty set right now. I think that the strawberry and raspberry jam I canned last summer will last us until the fall. The batch I make this year will hopefully carry us for another year and half beyond that.
This summer will also hold the canning of dill pickles (August or September), and hopefully the canning and freezing of green beans (July and August). There is a corn relish I have been wanting to can for years, so we will see. Also, there is the potential for random canning projects, depending on what our U-pick adventures bring forth.
This fall I intend to work with apples until I can work no more. We love apple sauce, apple rings, and apple pie. Plus apples are a storage crop and I intend to prepare a space to store a goodly quantity, perhaps in our large shed. Apples are the epitome of seasonal, as they grow locally in the fall and can be kept throughout most of winter. It saddened me that we could not pick or store any this fall due to our moving extravaganza. The coring and peeling is hard on the hands, but well worth it in the end.
I would also love to pick some winter squash at a local farm and attempt to keep them in storage and use them throughout the winter. I have never done this before, but I am a firm believer that the one thing that can never be taken from us is skills. The more skills one has in life, the better equipped one is to face any situation.
So here you have my preserving game plan for the coming growing season. It will be altered, I’m sure, by circumstance, but if I have a plan, I can relax, and follow along. I do not need to make hasty decisions on the spur of the moment, I know what to plan in to each month, how to use my time, and what to expect.