In addition to tutoring for the LSAT this summer, I worked part-time at a farmer's market. The particular farming family I worked for is known throughout Illinois and the St. Louis area for their delicious peaches and apples. Toward the end of the season, I bought a peck of beautiful Crest Haven peaches (and got a great deal on them thanks to my employee discount). I should preface this by explaining that every year my family members try to come up with a Christmas gift for my endearingly crotchety 96 year-old great grandfather, something that will not be terribly offensive to him. We all thought my mom had finally done it two years ago when she gave him a very plush, soft faux fur blanket until he opened it and asked, "What the hell is this for?" After my grandmother explained that it was a blanket for him to use while watching TV, he promptly handed it back to my mom claiming, "I don't need that." My grandmother visits Great Grandpa once a week, though, and tells me that he has a small bowl of peaches with his lunch everyday. The peaches we sold this summer are better than anything they sell in the supermarkets at home and vastly better than the peaches that come in cans. Maybe my great grandfather won't reject home-canned peaches outright, and I'm sure I'll have some takers on the jam.
My loaded peck of peaches made six quarts of slices in light syrup and a little more than six half-pint jars of peach jam. This was only my second solo canning mission, so I used my trusted guide, The Complete Book of Home Preserving by Ann Serrane, a gift from my mother's mother. My copy is from 1955, and I figure if the instructions were good enough for preventing botulism then, they are good enough for me now. I'm also told that the Ball Blue Book of Preserving (from the Ball Company) is a great guide. Old favorites and more trendy recipes for the chic, modern home-preserver (tapenade, anyone?).
My husband and I live in a rather tight apartment, though, so I don't have the closet space to store a lot of canning paraphenalia year-round. I made a makeshift canning rack by piercing a disposable pie tin with holes and placing it in the bottom of my stockpot. I was able to steam process three quarts or four half-pints at a time this way.
In addition to peach products, I made about 4 and 1/2 quarts of tomato sauce. I was able to score some free (but admittedly yucky) tomatoes on their way out to the dumpster one day. I'm sure most markets pick through their produce on a daily basis and might be willing to donate overripe fruit (including tomatoes) to an impoverished but ambitious home-canner. I removed bad spots and cores from about 50 pounds of tomatoes. I cooked the good bits with a little salt until the skins were loosened, then I strained the seeds and skins out of the pulpy juice. I did reserve some quartered tomatoes, which I left in large pieces and peeled the skin from. As I cooked down the strained juice, I added these larger pieces of tomatoes in to keep some texture to my sauce. Sauteed onions, garlic, fresh herbs, salt, pepper, and sugar (yeah, I know, but I like it sweet) rounded out my sauce. Beautiful on pizza!
I wanted to end today by writing a little bit about the purpose of my blog. I love creating and crafting and I want to keep a record of the things that inspire me. Hopefully, this will in turn inspire you. It is not really my intention to provide step-by-step instructions for you to create an exact replica of whatever I have done (although I am happy to provide more detailed instructions for any project). Rather, I would like the projects to be a jumping off point for fellow crafters, something that can be molded to other purposes. Always feel free to contact me, however, with any questions on project specifics; I'll do the best I can, although most of the time I'm just winging it! Be creative and enjoy!