Friday, August 23, 2013


Sorry for the radio silence this week. I spent all of Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday patching through a last-minute flurry of interviews and edits on an article that has lingered, somewhat ominously, over my desk for a month. So nice, yesterday, to hear pleased words from my editor, walk outside and let out a giant Paaaaahhhhhhhh...

I felt like one of those self-inflating life rafts.

I've been barely keeping up with the garden, these past few weeks. Really, just keeping up with the harvesting, and trying very hard to keep up with preserving. I'm doing pretty well, but I just got the September issue of Bon Appetit, in which there are all sorts of interesting transitional recipes, AND I'm realizing I've eaten zucchini three times a week for a long time, AND right now I have gorgeous heads of bok choy, mustard greens, and napa cabbage in the garden. Poof. How did that happen? While I was hacking away at deadlines, the crops I planted the first week of July just grew... and grew.

Meanwhile, the flowers...

And canning-breaks. I'm sure some freelance writers go see a movie when they're feeling burned out, but not I. Tuesday night I turned a $5 case of day-old 'maters (yeah, I still have to buy some 'maters, to can...) into seven quarts of stewed tomatoes, and 6 half-pints of tomato paste. 

Last year, I figured out a big canned-tomato short cut. Instead of doing peeled whole tomatoes in water (the PEELING, the ploppy JAR-FILLING...) I started just throwing washed, cored tomatoes into my giant three-gallon pot, mashing them layer-by-layer as they cooked. My pot will fit a whole case of tomatoes this way. Then, I let it heat up to a boil, and stir until all the tomatoes are soggy and broken-down. Then, I throw in a heaping tablespoon of garlic powder, salt, and lots of dried basil, oregano, and thyme. I can seven quarts' worth of this tasty slurry-- a nice, full water-bath canner makes me happy-- and process for 40 minutes.

But meanwhile, I let the slurry continue cooking down, at medium heat, another hour or so. I let it cook and cook and cook, until it thickens down into tomato paste. And then, at a quarter to ten, I can the paste in half-pint jars. 

A lot of times, the economy of canning seems a little uncertain to me, especially when I'm canning purchased produce. But even taking into account the $3 boxes of canning jar lids, this little project was definitely a frugal enterprise. A 28-oz can of grocery store tomatoes is, what? $1.19 on sale? Yuppers.

Swiss chard, arugula, scallions.

So, as the summer assignment crush finally fades away, I am deeply looking forward to getting back to outdoor pursuits. Walking around the yard yesterday, after I unplugged, I was amazed at how late-summer tawny everything is looking. The birches always lose their leaves early; the New England asters are inching up above the top rail of the back fence; the goldenrods are swingin'. My neighbor Jody has beach ball-sized pumpkins looming orange under the slumped mildewy leaves in his garden. Wednesday, I dug up one of my Kennebec white potato plants, and was AMAZED. Last year, my potatoes yielded so poorly, and the taters were rubbery and oddly sweet. This year, just that one plant yielded 12 pounds of potatoes-- three of 'em were damn near guinea pig-sized. WOOT.

It's a good season to be heading into, indeed. 

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