Peaches are ripe, strawberries have been picked, watermelon is coming into season. With all this abundance, how do we use this bounty? We Put-By. An old fashioned term meaning we can, freeze, dehydrate and otherwise prepare for the coming winter, it is time to use our skills to make things that will sustain us for the months ahead. Born and raised on a farm, it was many years before I learned that what was sold in the markets could not live up to what was prepared at home. |
Take for example strawberry jam. That season ended last month. Those of us that are lucky enough were able to get into the fields and pick berries still damp with dew. By afternoon, those were hulled, crushed and processed into jam. The deep red jars are now labeled and line the shelves in the pantry or cellar. And now it is peach season. Soon, that basket of plump round fruit that is ripening on the back porch will join its' sister jars of strawberries. Mine are not for eating, but for gift giving. Many new neighbors get welcomed with a jar of jam and a warm loaf of bread. I've made a lot of new friends that way and gotten some surprising gifts in return. But that's another story.
In another day and age, we would be coming into the season of putting beef in the freezer. Dehydrating was one way of preserving some of it. My dad would enjoy that beef jerky while out hunting for deer or for a snack in mid day. It has remained a favorite with my son, so I make sure to put some by for him. It makes a great snack for someone on a low carb diet, also.
There is so much out there that needs picking and taking care of right now. Corn gets blanched, cut off the cob and put into the freezer. Modern techniques have us vacuum packing the kernels now rather than putting them in plastic boxes. Root vegetables are stored in bushel baskets. Tomatoes are cooked down and jarred as spaghetti sauce, salsa, or tomato juice. Dad used to pull up the whole tomato plant of the cherry tomatoes just before the first frost. He hung them by the roots in the cellar, and as they ripened, we would pick and eat them, tasting just as fresh as if we had just picked them still hot from the sun.
Right now, it is the cucumbers that are almost overwhelming, and there is nothing better than home made pickles. I would like to share with you a recipe from my Polish mother-in-law. It is simple, requires no water bath, and the results are scrumptious.
Bread and Butter Pickles
1 quart thin sliced cukes – do not peel 3 onions – thin sliced Salt the above with about 3 Tb of regular salt (canning salt will also do if you have it on hand) Let it stand in a colander. A liquid will seep out of the vegetables, so best to just let it sit in the sink. Drain and wash them, getting the salt out of the slices.
In a large kettle, combine: 1 ½ cups sugar 1 cup white vinegar ½ cup water 1 Tsp celery seed 1 Tsp mustard seed ½ Tsp turmeric 2 diced red sweet peppers (optional)
Combine the cukes and onions with the vinegar solution. Heat all together, bringing it to a boiling point, but DO NOT BOIL. Stir frequently until you see that it is starting to come up to heat. Pack into hot sterilized jars while hot and seal tightly at once. They are ready to eat when cool.
Note: If planning on eating these in the near future, they will keep well in the refrigerator and it is not necessary to put them into sterilized jars. Canning jars are easily sterilized by boiling while covered with water, but try them out first. This is a small batch. I routinely double/triple the amount of veggies. This recipe should make a healthy quart of pickles.
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