No, not that. Were it not for the wonders of modern medicinal chemistry, you could already call me a crone. It’s been 9 months since my last post, which I wrote about the time my sister died, I find myself talking in my head to the blog again. I blame this thread on Twitter where I started documenting my daily acts of food preservation. It’s something Carla Emery recommended in the Encyclopedia of Country Living, to plant something every day as soon as the soil could be worked until midsummer, then preserve something everyday until winter.
Keeping up with that thread is busting my butt. I’ve run almost out of zucchini. And I have more to say about every project than fits in 280 characters. And I should own my own content here, not just give it free to @Jack’s profiteering machine for Russian bots and their treasonous handlers. Not that any Russian bots care about homesteading, cider making, or living in a small town at 7000′ on the Utah edge of the Colorado Plateau with too many animal mouths to feed.
I gave away two zucchini today and almost regretted it when I decided that today’s food storage project would be Zucchini Pineapple. And I decided that on a whim, because it sounds just weird enough to be good. We don’t eat a lot of desserts or baked goodies, and I despise zucchini bread, so this is an odd choice, but it’s only zucchini. We’ll probably end up putting it in pancakes or maybe I’ll make a coffee cake with it when it’s cold and blustery. Worst case is that it ends up on ice cream.
Peeling the zucchini was the hardest part, and that’s because we grow a ribbed variety called Costata Romanesco, which actually has real flavor. And deep ribs that are hard to peel. I didn’t know that because I’ve never peeled zukes before. Even if the Costata Romanescos get to be larger than baseball bats, they are still tasty, and I’ll grill them. I’ll make zucchini parmesan with them, and I want them at least 3″ in diameter for that project. It’s really good and freezes well, but I can’t make it more than once or twice a year because it makes an awful mess. Mostly I’ve been dehydrating chunks for spaghetti, and in slices for zucchini chip snacks. I only made a half recipe; I may be the only gardener in the county who doesn’t have a surplus of zucchini right now.
And since when did zucchini start giving me a skin reaction? It’s apparently not uncommon for one’s hands to get dry, taut and itchy. Luckily I remembered to bust out some nitrile gloves. Naturally, living with a biologist, we are well-stocked in the sanitation department.
Here’s a photo of my set-up for filling canning jars. Using the baking sheet to catch the spills has been amazingly helpful in the ease of clean-up afterwards. I have mostly shifted over to using the Tattler reusable canning lids, which I sanitize with boiling water. Those magnetic lid lifter doohickeys don’t work with the plastic lids, so I use the tongs to fish them out of the hot water. The canning funnel was recommended by Erica, and it has the different fill markings on the rim. I wish I’d known about it when I first started canning. A ladle, a spoon for adjusting fill level, a wet paper towel to wipe the rims before putting on the lids, and I’m good to go.
One thing I try to do is prep two more jars than the recipe calls for, one in the size intended (pint, quart, etc.) and one a half size smaller. That way I’m ready if the predicted amount is way off, as it often is. This recipe should have made 4-4.5 pints and I got a full 5 pints. So what if I end up with an extra clean jar to put away that I didn’t use?
When canning at this high altitude, my success rate has improved as I have gotten better at rejecting recipes out of hand that just won’t tolerate the additional processing required. Just because they tell you how long to process it doesn’t mean it will be good when it’s done. Our boiling point of water is 199 F (92.8 C) here, so I have to add 15 minutes to whatever time the recipe calls for at sea level. That’s no big deal with tomato sauce, but a cucumber pickle slice is going to turn to mush. If there weren’t so much sugar in this recipe, I probably wouldn’t even have attempted it, but I’m hoping the grated zucchini will still have some texture afterwards. If not, it’s only zucchini.
The canner finished up in the time I was writing all this up, and I remembered a couple other little tricks I’ve adopted over the years. When I take the jars out, I put them on a towel on the baking tray. That way, if I have to move the jars around on the counter before the 24-hour cooling period is over, I can gently slide them across the counter. I’ve even stacked trays when things are really cooking in the kitchen.
I used to print up nice labels for each jar, but they don’t fit so well on the reusable lids. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do until R told me that you can remove the Sharpie ink from plastic (or glass or metal) with hand sanitizer alcohol gel. Mind blown. So now I do my labeling with a fine point Sharpie.
And that’s that: another day’s food harvest safely stored away. I think Carla would be proud.