Friday, September 23, 2011


Preserving, canning, making your own sausage, keeping chickens - all these atavistic lifestyle choices are back en force.  There is even a guy in this town who will come to your house, install a beehive, and then tend it for you. You get honey out of the deal. 

I like the idea of urban quasi-homesteading, truly creating all these things for yourself and your family. Why not? 

I'll tell you why not! Because I suck at it. Well, I have only tried the canning part and I am sufficiently bad as to stop trying. Last year I made blueberry and peach preserves - separately, not together in a jar - and they were both good, and the preserving process went fine. This year I canned four different things: raspberries, strawberries, pickled green tomatoes, and spiced peaches. Each one leaked juices into the canning water; each has too much liquid in the jars because I didn't smash the contents down enough. Bother. 
Canning, heck, even making your own sausage, is about preserving the harvest, right? I realized, after spending a bunch on flats of berries and pounds of peaches, that I do not have a harvest to preserve. Meaning, since I pay for someone else's harvest, all I am doing is exercising some notion of what I am supposed to do in this post-Martha Stewart, post-women's lib world of homemaking I currently inhabit. 

I did harvest our very own green tomatoes for the pickles. That feels satisfying. I would have harvested blueberries from our bushes, but since I did pretty much zilch in the yard this year, I couldn't be bothered to put nets over the bushes, so the cursed robins ate all the berries. 

I did learn what "freestone" means in stone fruit. It should be obvious, I suppose. Now I know what a total jerk the peach guy at Ballard Farmers Market was when he sold me nine peaches that were not freestone when I specifically told him that I was using them for a cobbler. I smashed up several peaches trying to get the flesh off the pit before I relented and took my knife to them. I learned from that mistake and got a freestone variety for my canning. I have high hopes for my spiced peaches this winter on my oatmeal. 

I was also going to ruin some marionberry preserves this year but didn't get the chance because the ladies in this neighborhood lined up 30 minutes before the berry stand opened. Apparently, the first few people in line bought up all the flats so no one else could have any. The lady running the stand said that they got 10 flats in a day and limited people to two. Can you imagine being sixth in line and watching everyone before you buy two so that you get nothing? And what happened to just buying a couple of pints to eat? Sheesh. I would have settled for a couple pints for a pie or in my yogurt!

I always seemed to pick the hottest day of the week to can too. Bah. Next year I'm sticking to cleaning. Oh, I bet I would be good at sauerkraut because you stick it in a jar and leave it to rot. That I can do.   

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