Friday, September 30, 2011

A Peary Good Day

I tell you, I was so happy when I could see the bottom of the pear box.   I managed to can all 35 lbs of pears during the hours the kids were in school.  It helps that I can talk on the phone and continue working.  I also fit an hour break in, so I wasn't feeling that overworked. 

Imagine how productive I could have been without the Zumba-induced soreness that I'm suffering from! 

Our favourite pear products (besides eating the fresh pears) are plain canned with a simple syrup and a teaspoon of vanilla and vanilla pear jam.  I've got an aversion to pectin lately, so my jam is always more runny than jammy, but it tastes great.  I ran out of 250 ml jars after filling 7 with jam, so I filled one quart jar of runny jam to be used as a waffle sauce.  That will be a good start to one day this winter! 

I also tried a couple of new things today.  One was to add a bit of cinnamon, ginger and a handful of dried cranberries to the jars.  I just did 7 jars of that mixture in case we hated it.  One jar wasn't quite full so we were able to test it as dessert tonight.  More ginger next time, unless the taste intensifies while sitting in the pantry.  Otherwise it was good.

The other was to can crabapples.  We only get a few apples on our columnar trees, but it was a bit of an experiment.  I'm not sure how successful they are, but they are pretty.  I imagine a few on a plate with pork tenderloin. 

So, the pantry is getting pretty full.  It's not a pretty or organized pantry like many bloggers have, but I thought I'd show you how I store my canned goods.    With the exception of a few jars of sauerkraut, salsa, chutney and many pickles, it's all fruit and jams.  No tomatoes yet.  Ideally I would like a pint or two of tomatoes a week, but I won't get that this year.  Even with Rosa's donated tomatoes again. 

It's not the best pantry storage.  The shelves should be closer together so that I don't stack the jars (apparently you shouldn't do that), but it works for us.  And it's much easier to see things here than in my chest freezer.  I know there's meat in there somewhere, but everything reddish in color seems to be berries when I'm searching.  

Anyway, I proved to myself that I can process 35 lbs of pears in one school day, so I think I'll invest in one more box if the price is still right.  I paid only $.65/lb last week and it's our favourite canned fruit.  Last year 40 lbs wasn't enough, so I'll do 70 this year and feel free not to ration when April comes around.


I don't know how much a bushel is, but I think I have enough apples in my house to start measuring in bushels. 

We go through a lot of apples in our house.  I think most homes with kids do.  And the cheap (frugal, thrifty?) person within me cringes when I see apples selling for $1.29/lb while trees all over the city are dropping them to the ground where they remain unused. 

I picked a  few times with OFRE this year, but I don't really need them for apples.  It's still a great concept.  Pick from unused, unwanted trees and divide the spoils between the pickers, a charity and the tree owner.  However, I have a few friends with trees who have more than enough to satisfy my family, the school and a few friends to whom I deliver.  And I can't find enough time to pick any extra at the moment. 

Because I'm busy processing into foods that will store through the winter. 

This is one of my favourite gadgets.  I've seen them at garage sales and if you have an apple source, you really should pick on of these babies up. 

Even if for the sole reason that your kids think it's fun and will help you peel and core. 

In no time at all you go from a bag of apples, to a bowl of twirly apples ready for whatever you throw at them. 

Once they heat up in this format, it takes very little effort to turn it into applesauce with just a few squishes with a potato masher. 

Or with one slice through the apple, you get easy rings for dehydrating.  I used to dip them in lemon juice or citric acid, but I don't bother anymore.  My dried apples don't need to be white.

I'm filling the dehydrator twice a day until I get a few big bags of these.  The apples themselves are more tart for me to enjoy right now, but they taste great dried. 

And because these particular apples are hard and tart, they are good keepers.  Last year I kept them fresh until sometime in November.  They started to look a little wrinkly, but I liked the taste of them better at that time.  That means there really is no pressure to do anything with them at this point.

My pears, on the other hand, are perfect today.  I'm going to see how many of the 35 pounds I can can today.  With a dash of vanilla in each jar.  Lovely.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hurry up and wait

It's not that I've got nothing to do, but waiting makes me restless.

Waiting for:
  • pears to ripen in their box (35 lbs of them in my living room)
  • tomatoes to ripen in their boxes or on the vines
  • beans to dry up a bit on the vines
  • carrots and beets to use as much sun and moisture as they can in the ground
  • corn to soak up more sun and moisture
  • leeks, kale and chard can just sit pretty for as long as they like
  • ditto for the few cabbages that survived
  • brussel sprouts to maybe do something

It feels like I should be canning.  I should be blanching and freezing.  It's September.  Isn't that harvest time? 

I could just pick and dig it all up now.  I could put the whole garden to rest.

But I don't want to waste the growing weather we've been getting. Still no frost on the horizon and temperatures in the mid-high teens for next week again.  Some things are just so late this year, it seems.  The sun was a little late this year.

What I do have ready to go is basil.  Rosa's basil again, because once again I shaded my basil too much.   Oh, how I'm thankful for Rosa's excess!   I didn't pair basil with tomatoes this year (I learned not to do that last year), but I planted it together with the parsley.   My herb circle.  The parley grew like mad.  The basil did not.  Could not.  Sigh...  Next year I'll plant it in a neat patch all together.   Tune in next year to see how that works. 

So, my next "putting up" project is pesto.  A quick job that hopefully I can do with the kid's help after school.   That will make me feel productive and less restless. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A miriad of distractions

The weather is gorgeous.  The annual Indian Summer that still comes as a surprise every year.  While I watch daily for the frost warnings and pray for additional heat to finish up my corn and dry my beans out a bit, we finally get some heat. 

I had a few things to celebrate.

  1. The fact that all three girls were in school.  For a full day.  No early outs.  No sickness.  No field trips that I had to chaperone.  (Does that count as only one thing?) 
  2. The heat.
  3. The fact that I'm finally feeling well enough to cut the grass and do more the bare minimum to survive.  This morning I had a bath just because I wanted one, rather than thinking the steam might clear my sinus, relieve my headache or needing to rest my eyes. 
  4. The heat. 

So, I thought I'd sit in the garden. The garden always looks better just after the lawn is cut.

I sat reading my book in the sun, sipping my coffee.  It was a lovely moment. 

The sun was shining through the flowers.  But I couldn't just read my book.  I had to look up.  It started with the wasp that wanted to test my coffee. 

 Then I watched the cabbage moths playing tag.  And a big fat bumblebee slowly buzzed past and explored the last of the blooms.   The longer I looked, the more flying things I noticed in the air.  It was fun to watch them, but I wasn't getting much reading done. 

And then I started to see the things that needed to be done in the garden and the defects in a fall garden.

The squash plants are all mildewy and the actual squash need a lot more time to grow to a reasonable size.  I did get lots of patapans and one....just one...acorn squash.

And when should I pick the artichokes?  Am I already too late? 

Obviously I was wandering around the garden by this point.  My coffee was on the ground by the chair and my book forgotten.   

My first plant of brussel sprouts opened wide instead of forming tight sprouts, but maybe this later plant will form properly.  If it has time. 

And my pole beans need to dry a bit on the vine, but they are looking lush and the beans themselves are not ready. 

I've always been terrible at relaxing in my own garden.  I do hope that I have more time to try again this week. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Lately I've been immersed in a lot of things. 

Apples from my in-laws farm and from OFRE,

which became juice and cider so far.  More apples should be ready this week, but I'm too sick to pick them (just a bad cold or flu, I never properly differentiate them).  They are large and perfect for easy peeling, drying and making applesauce.  I've still got lots of pie filling from last year. 

And now plums, from my in-laws again, and from friends.  So far I have the dehydrator full in a first attempt at drying them, and Laura and a friend made this awesome plum cake.  And I have nine pints of plum sauce that turned out quite well (after adjustments were made to sweeten it A LOT).   

I still have two bags of plums left.  I might try canning some in a light syrup like peaches and we'll see how that works.  I hate to see them go to waste, but the fruit flies are going a little nuts at the moment. 

What can I do with them? 

I'm also immersed in French at the moment.  Beth's homework has become work for Yvon and I.  I realize that many parents have to help their children with homework or with motivation their kids to do their work, but we've been lucky so far.  Suddenly we are drawn in to help. 

On the plus side, Beth is loving her school.  There was really only one day of frustrating confusion, and since then she's found that she understands most of the French if she doesn't let her mind drift.  I knew she was a smarty-pants and would be fine. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Produce of a different variety

A friend came over today to show me her produce.

Oh, how different than my slug-eaten vegetables.

Much larger than my tiny garlic, and mini onions that are mostly lost in the forest of greenery.

And my tomatoes that look more like cherry tomatoes than beef steaks.

I do like my carrots a lot, but these large ones would taste fabulous too. 

And her peas were so cute!  I took quite a few pictures of her cute little peas among the healthy greenery of my climbing beans.

And this lovely eggplant.  I totally love the leaves at the top. 

I wish my own produce were as healthy and large.

(BTW, her produce is going to be up for silent auction this weekend at the Westmount Community Garden.  It would look totally cute in a basket or bowl on a kitchen table)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Nouveau ecole

This morning was harder for me than kindergarten ever was, although the big girl was still just as calm and confident now as she was seven years ago. 

Maybe that makes it worse.  Or maybe it allows me to be the weak one. 

This morning, bikes and backs laden with all of the new school supplies, Beth and I rode to her new junior high.  There was too much stuff for her to take alone, plus I wanted to be there to make sure she knew where to go.  I didn't know where to go either, but I was still worried that all staff would speak to us only in French. 

I went to bed last night with French conversations going on in my head.  I was a bit nervous. 

"Bonjour.  Nous appellons Evelyn and Beth.  Je ne comprends pas Francais, mais Beth parle un ... picito, non,...un peau.  Ou est le ...Grade"

Obviously I don't speak French.  Beth doesn't either, but now she's immersed in a classroom of fluent 12 year olds.  I'm worried but she doesn't appear to be.  She flipped through her French conjugation book last night and said "I think I've got this figured out".  She takes the academic approach to getting by, and armed with her books and some quickly-made new friends, she'll be fine.  I hope and pray. 

We found her room with the help of a very English-speaking custodian (in fact, I heard no French at all in the hallways) and she piled her bags with all of the other bags at the back of the classroom.  It looked like they were about to head off on a two week camping trip.  So much stuff!  She found a seat and I had to leave her, without even a hug.  I was tempted to stand by the door to see if she was okay, if she would speak or be spoken to.  I did that when I first left her at daycare years ago, listening to see if she'd cry for me or be fine. 

She was always fine, and she'll be fine now too.  I'll just sit here today and worry.  I think that as her mom, that's my right.