Saving the season, part two

Peach - Ginger Jam

It's Labor Day weekend and summer has begun winding down. I can only hope that it won't be winding down too quickly because it was just in the past few days that I noticed little proto-green beans on the vine. However, people are back in school, it is cool in the morning, and the scent of roasting green chile has permeated the northern New Mexico air. As the days get shorter, I feel this mad desperation coming over me to preserve what I can of summer.

For example, we laid in a good supply of the New Mexico staple, roasted green chile. The roasters bring up chiles from Hatch, NM (home of the green chile) and using their mighty propane fueled roasters, they roast pounds of the stuff. I will still be getting a flu shot or as many flu shots as I can get without causing problems, but the powerhouse Vitamin C reputed to be in green chile better do some good too. I will say that even if there are no palliative effects on colds or flu, the intoxicating scent of the parking lot roasting puts me in a fugue state that could calm the most nervous mind. So we had a sack roasted and invited people over and using many hands, light work was made of the giant mass of chile. It was divied up into freezer bags, distributed, and placed in our own freezer. I did use some to make an impromptu calabacitas for use in party food quesadillas. We had lovely red onions and summer squash from the Beneficial Farms box sauteed with supposedly Colorado sweet corn, local chiles, and oregano from the garden. That plus cheese and tortillas was a rousing success.

I have continued on the canning/preserving experiment from the last post. I have been experimenting with jams and am refining my technique. Let me just say that perhaps apricot butter was not the best first project due to the extended cooking time. I have had fine luck with a mixed berry jam (blackberry and strawberry), raspberry jam, and last night's project: peach ginger jam. I have noticed a correlation in food writings, especially in newspaper food sections. Early spring meant lots of stories about everyone planting vegetable gardens and sales of seeds had gone through the roof. I am pleased to hear that Burpee's, and Shepard's Seeds and their colleagues had a bang up spring. However, the United States did not seem to have a good growing year. It apparently rained for most of the summer on the east coast; our July trip to the Midwest was unexpectedly cool and rainy, and here in the Southwest, we had long stretches of heat without our usual tempering monsoons. I love, love, love the idea of "victory gardens" and the process of gardening, but I fear that people will be strongly discouraged from planting by this challenging year. Anyway, several months after these "everyone is planting a garden!" articles, now all I find are "everyone should can their bounty of produce!" articles. This makes me sag my shoulders in distress. Our tomatoes never got bigger than a walnut and there weren't many of them. Oh come on tomatillos! You can do it!

Anyway, the jam is from store bought fruit and that's the way it is. I am hoping we might have some homegrown raspberries next year. Here is what I have learned about the preserving project so far: invest in a little of the proper equipment. As the nice clerk at Rio Grande Ace Hardware noted when I broke down and bought a jar lifter tongs and a wide mouth funnel, "Somethings you just have to step up for." The wide mouth funnel has reduced the amount of counter splatter and the proper tongs have made the transfer to and from the processing bath way less perilous. Also, no matter how small you think your batch of jam is, use a big pot. There are always several stages of foam-up during the fruit cooking and if you have my tendency to putter around the house while this happens, you will have sticky splatter in places you didn't think possible for it to reach in your kitchen. So far I have blown about $15 on equipment. I have spent more than that on ingredients. However, I find it an amazing process and filling the pantry with pretty jewels of jars has given me immense satisfaction.

So the battening down for winter continues. I am hoping to collect honey from the beehive quite soon even if it stresses out both me and the bees. More beautiful jars for the pantry and an assured delight on a future winter's night.