Puttin’ up

October 2, 2014

You 'n y'mama 'n 'em will want to come eat with me this winter.

You ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em will want to come eat with me this winter.

I have become my mother.

Well, let me clarify. I still have a long way to go before I am half as a good a person as she was, but, at least in the kitchen, I have become my mother.

The above is what I’ve been doing this summer.

When I was a kid, we lived out in the country, on a “place,” which is smaller than a farm but bigger than a lot. Ours was about five acres, one of which was house and yard and accoutrements, and one of which was garden, and three of which were pasture. And on those acres, we raised better than three-quarters of what we ate all year.

And from about the middle of June on, I was drafted into kitchen duty to assist in “putting up” the produce for the winter months.

Calves went to the slaughterhouse in the fall and came back in the form of wrapped packages of beef. Potatoes and watermelons went in boxes lined with straw to live in the cool of the basement. We generally bought half a hog from a neighbor, cured the ham and bacon, froze the sausage and some chops and roasts. We canned pickles and tomatoes and green beans. Froze corn and purple hulled peas and squash. Made jams and jellies and relishes.  For years we did this, in the South, without an air conditioner. Mama and I would go to the ice house, get a 50-pound block of ice, put it in a No. 2 washtub, and turn the fan across it. Then Mama would threaten to whack me for sitting on the edge of the tub and blocking the cool air.

We — my mama, my grandmother and I — would sit on the porch in the heat of the day, listening to the radio and snapping beans or shelling peas, shucking corn and cutting it off the cob. And the next day, we’d put it all up.

After I grew up and left home, I quit canning or freezing summer produce, and I bought my beef and pork at the grocery. I bought prepared foods at the grocery. I ate fast food. I’d eat out more in a month than Mama, Daddy and I would in a year.

And somewhere along in my 50s, that just wasn’t what I wanted to do any more. I started buying produce at the farmers’ markets, and at the supermarket during the winter. I found sources for organic, farm-raised beef, pork and chicken. I quit eating fast food, and cut way back on prepared and snack foods from the grocery store. And about three years ago, faced with the easy availability of figs, I decided to make fig jam. From there, I branched out into other jams, jellies and condiments. (Long-time readers may recall my bacon jam, which remains about my favorite thing to put on a burger or a grilled cheese sammich.)

So this year, with an absolutely marvelous farmers’ market and a plentitude of side-of-the-road vendors, I really took off. Reposing in my freezer, along with what’s left of the quarter-cow I bought last year, three chickens, and several assorted packages of pork, are 12 packages of purple hulled peas, two packages of crowder peas, and 16 pints of corn. On the shelves, as pictured above are:

  • Green beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Tomato soup
  • Tomato relish
  • Marinara sauce
  • Chili base
  • Peach butter
  • Fig jam

Still to come are pear preserves (I brought home about 50 pounds of pears from a quick trip up home this week, and if you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em want some pears, let me know, because I think I was a bit overenthusiastic) and apple butter (when I can get Arkansas Black apples).

Next year, there will be more. I’m contemplating selling my little freezer and getting a bigger one. I’m going to start earlier on the canning and freezing; will absolutely be freezing squash and okra. Maybe one of my girls will get interested in canning and preserving. I know, at least, that Mama is smiling at me with approval.




8 Responses to “Puttin’ up”

  1. Melissa Says:

    YUM, tomato soup! I’d love to know your recipe. I still have some tomatoes and I might can me up a few jars.

  2. kayatthekeyboard Says:

    Easy enough. I take as many tomatoes as will fit in my 10-quart stockpot; blanch and shock them in ice water. While they’re chilling in the ice water, I dice a couple of nice-sized onions and saute them in my other big stockpot until they’re translucent, then add a couple of tablespoons of the garlic confit I always have in the fridge. (about 4-6 cloves of garlic, I guess). I peel the tomatoes, chop them roughly,reserving all the juice I can, and dump them in the stockpot with the onions and garlic. I add about 3 cups of tomato juice and most of a bottle of white wine and set that to simmering. Then I add about a half-cup of chopped fresh basil. Cook it all for about 30 minutes, then puree it with my immersion blender (you can use the blender or FoPro if you want smoother texture) and can it. I process mine in a water bath for about 20 minutes. For a pint of it, I’ll add about a half-cup of cream or half-and-half when I’m heating it up. That’s dinner tonight, btw.

  3. Kath the Cook Says:

    Would you share your fig preserves recipe? Does it have a few pieces of whole lemon in it? that’s how my Mamaw and aunts used to make it in Louisiana.

    I have an awesome recipe for Pear Honey (pear preserves) – would you like? I’ve never made it, but I’m contemplating the adventure. It was my true fav growing up – again aunts and such.

  4. kayatthekeyboard Says:

    Fig jam/preserves are pretty easy. I put one pound of sugar and a teaspoon of salt to every four pounds of cut-up figs, and add a healthy glug of lemon juice (don’t you love accurate measurements?) and cook until they get thick. If I were going to preserve them whole, I’d consider adding lemon slices.

    Would LOVE the pear honey recipe. If you want ’em, you’re welcome to some of my pears. I think perhaps I overrreached.

  5. Melissa Says:

    Thanks, Kay! I will be making some this weekend. Your ‘Mater soup sounds delicious.

  6. Kath the Cook Says:

    Here goes…

    Pear Honey
    For each 3 cups of grated or ground up pears, use 2 cups sugar (boy that sounds like a lot – me) & 1/2 cup water.

    Cook until clear, not pink. Add one can crushed pineapple (large can to approx. 3 quarts pears). Bring to a boil. Put in sterilized jars. Top with paraffin wax before sealing jars.

    This was a true favorite and so delicious.

    me – this is exact from my dear Mamaw and it doesn’t sound hard at all. I’d cut back on the sugar, but your call – this is an OLD recipe. Hope it comes out good. Send me jar – if you will, give me your personal email and I’ll give my postal address.

    maybe Christmas treats your way in return! happy canning – Kath

  7. kayatthekeyboard Says:

    Aren’t you in Florida? It would cost you more for the shipping to get them there than it would cost you to go buy some!

  8. carolee Says:

    It’s been a long time since I’ve heard “putting up” but I sat on the porch with my mother and grandmother shelling peas and snapping beans as well. My grandmother could cut corn off a cob faster than lightning. Thanks for bringing back those memories. I renewed my love of preserving last summer, too, and have big plans for this coming season. Blessings.

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