Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Putting Up Provisions

When I was growing up, canning or "putting up" the harvest was a common topic of conversation in late summer. It seemed a woman's worth was partly calculated by how many jars of provisions stood on her pantry shelves. After spending a day with the grape harvest, I understand.

This is the net result of my day:

Total hours: 10, inclusive of the harvest itself plus 2 trips to Safeway (once for quart jars, once for more pectin) and 1 trip to Baskin Robbins with The Child.

Total injuries incurred: 1 sliced finger (left hand), 6 scratches on right arm, 1 burned thumb (right hand)

The haul: 3 gallons grape juice via the Mennonite method (scant 2 c. grapes & 1/2 c. sugar in quart jar, filled with boiling water, processed and set aside in the dark for 2 weeks, then strained); 1 gallon grape juice via the Lucy Ricardo method (which is in a freezer bag because I was out of quart jars and didn't want to go back to Safeway. Again). 8 beautiful amythest colored pints of country fair perfect grape jelly. 1 bowl of washed and stemmed grapes ready for a Winemaker's Cake, which I'm going to have to do tomorrow because my back is killing me and I'm just plain done standing for the day.

General state of The Busy Little Canner Woman: Tired and content. The jars are happily giving off the little 'pings' that signal that the seal has set. The house smells like jelly. Even though I am a full-fledged City Mouse, there is just nothing like the satisfaction of putting up and preserving my own crops against the coming hard winter, just like the days of my Country Mouse childhood.

I thought a lot about Dame Judi today, and hot summer afternoons when she was busy putting up preserves and pickles of mind-boggling varieties. Because 1 day is enough to do me in and she would spend days and days putting up applesauce, dill pickles, bread & butter pickles, pickle relish, tomatoes, beans, peaches, pears and so many kinds of jam that I can't even start listing them. Then all those gleaming jars bursting with home-or-nearby-farm grown goodness would line the many, many shelves of the pantry that stood behind the house. (I would sneak in there sometimes, escaping the heat of the day in the dim coolness and I would organize the shelves, lining up the jars just so. A little anal, I guess, but it's a fond memory).

Dame Judi would also, after a day of canning, make dinner for her family. I'm ordering take-away Thai.

Grape Juice, the Mennonite Method

For each quart of juice:

2 c. grapes, washed and stemmed
1/2 c. sugar
boiling water

Place clean grapes into a sterile quart jar.
Add the sugar and fill with boiling water.
Seal the jar with canning lid and ring.
Process in a hot-water bath for 20 minutes.

Allow to cool and then set in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks before using.

Shake jar before straining off the grapes.

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