Draft written by Shannon, posted by her mom, Gretchen.
Food has been the primary stressor in my life these days. Our garden has been gloriously productive this year, which I know has not been the case for everyone, so I am very grateful. I honestly have no idea how many pounds of tomatoes we have harvested so far, but I would guess at least 100, if not much more. I easily filled a basket as large as my arms every 2-3 days for the past month or two.
While this bounty is delicious and amazing, I have to find the time not only to go out to our garden and pick it all (usually in the fading evening light, these days), but then I have to DO something with it all before the fruit flies completely take over our kitchen.
Thank GOODNESS for my parents! They are here for a couple weeks and the timing couldn’t have been better. I’ve decided it literally is not possible to process all the food from our garden by myself. At all. There is a reason why people in the “good old days” helped each other out on canning days. Also, as my mom, an Ohio farm girl, reminded me: farmers SOLD their food to others, and regular people did not GROW all of their food themselves, but usually bought it from farmers. Even as poor as they were, my mom’s family bought all the peaches, apples and other fruit they canned (though I think they did grow tomatoes and things).
Anyway, last Thursday on my day off, my dad was a saint and entertained Emmie all day, while my mom and I also worked our tails off. We ended up putting up about 7 quarts of crushed tomatoes, 5 pints of summer salsa, a big batch of apple butter, cinnamon apple chips, and 6 quarts-ish of apple cider, all in one day. We essentially were peeling, chopping, cooking, juicing, and canning for about 12 hours. It felt SO good to be able to use up so many tomatoes and apples, since those are the things that are coming into our garden in such huge quantities that I can’t even remotely keep up with them by myself.
My dad just keeps laughing and shaking his head because I think every time he comes downstairs, I am in the kitchen, cooking something new. Not because I *want* to be adventurous or am an inspired chef (QUITE the opposite), but because having a garden means YOU HAVE TO USE THIS SHIT NOW. Grocery store produce is such a luxury, that I rather think you need to have a veggie garden to appreciate it. Yes, people know they can get practically any kind of produce any time they want it, but they also DON’T have to eat/use specific produce at certain times. Sick of zucchini? Tough noogies. You still have 20 lbs of it in your garden. Pick it now, or it will be 40 lbs tomorrow. And once you pick it, you have to do SOMETHING with it. Give it away to friends who protest, “Oh, I’ll just take one! I can’t eat much more than that.” Shred it and freeze it. Get creative with your recipes. Do SOMETHING.
Unfortunately, I have found extremely few fruits or veggies that I can freeze or otherwise preserve without doing something to it. It might just mean a quick blanch and freeze, but that’s still washing, chopping, boiling and scraping out enough ice from my ice cube trays for a lukewarm ice water bath, then portioning out into freezer ziplocks and labeling. And that’s an EASY prep! So yeah, I usually am in the kitchen constantly these days.
Anyway, having mom and dad here has hugely relieved a lot of that pressure and stress, which is awesome.
The other thing I’m excited about is finding