I love this season of starting to reap the benefits of summer labor. I love the harvest season as much as I love the spring seed starting. If my childhood home in Wisconsin didn't smell of pickling spices in August and September, something was definitely wrong. The end of the world must be near.
For years, job transfers and unique locations prevented carrying on the fall tradition. Then we moved to Bend in 1978 and I unpacked all the canning equipment. Those were the days when the common talk at the water cooler was, "You can't grow anything in Bend". So we didn't try.
Instead we made regular August-September trips to farms in the Eugene-Springfield area, plus the gigantic fruit and vegetable market in Sandy that no longer exists. For years we preserved either by canning or by drying just about everything that was in season. A big crock of shredded cabbage for kraut, at least three kinds of pickles, jams, relishes, Cranberry Mustard for Christmas gifts, and lots of fruit leathers for school lunches from the dehydrator. Even tried horseradish one year, decided to leave that one to the Tulelake Horseradish professionals. You can understand why at this time of year, I get the overwhelming urge to "can". I fully understand the survival frenzy of the squirrels at this time of year!
I have been asked why I preserve when the freezing process is so much simpler. My answer comes from a thought provoking statement made by Glenda Hyde, Extension Associate Professor and in my eyes, Queen of the Canner. Glenda presented the thought--what would happen if we lost power for an extended period of time? The discussion centered around learning to preserve meat. In all truthfulness, I probably will never learn that process but it was a good reminder to keep a full pantry of hearty, meaty soups and tins of seafood to add to the shelves of canned fruits and vegetables.
I grow sweet banana peppers in large black plastic tubs which provide extra heat as opposed to in-ground planting. The harvest has started. I didn't pick Peter's peck of peppers but I did pick enough to pickle the first batch which was one pound. I always wondered how big a peck was, looked it up and it is a "dry goods measurement that equals a quarter of a bushel".
The recipe is a combination of white and apple cider vinegar, plus some sugar, mustard seed and celery seed. The peppers can be refrigerated up to 3 months but I opted to use the water bath canner and processed for 15 minutes.
Next on the list will be Tuscan Tomato Jam. It is more of a savory jam, sweet and tart making it a great addition to a cheeseboard or to replace ketchup. It can be addictive with a cracker and cream cheese. The recipe calls for 6 pounds, which from my garden will be a mix of slicers and cherry varieties. The jam is a combination of tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, dry white wine (not much), dried herbs, and sugar https://www.freshpreserving.com/blog/tuscan-tomato-jam
I always preserve peaches in a light sugar syrup for serving as well as using for cobblers and crisps. This year I am excited to try Peach Cardamom Jam using Pomona's Universal Pectin which I have never used before. Pomona's recipes call for calcium water, the calcium powder comes in the Pomona's box. The recipes call for calcium water because the pectin is activated by the calcium, not by sugar. The recipe calls for 3 1/4 pounds of ripe peaches, 1 cup of sugar, lemon juice and the ground cardamom. I will process in the water bath for 15 minutes. https://taprootmag.com/blogs/journal/taproot-at-home-peach-cardamom-jam
I thought I would have an over abundance of the Minnesota Midget cantaloupe but they are picked and consumed as soon as they ripen. I have also shared with neighbors. So far, no extras to preserve.
Thinking back to 1978 and the negative attitude regarding the growing season, I feel we are indebted to the OSU Extension Service for their public education programs. We should also be grateful for the research done by OSU in developing vegetable varieties for our unique climate. Our success as gardeners is choosing the right plants keeping in mind our short growing season and the quality of our native soil.
Don't forget to check out Gardening: Get Good At It Harvesting Your Herbs segment Tuesday September 15 on KPOV 88.9 FM "The Point" between 9-9:30 am.