The life of a farmer is hard work. The life of the farmer’s wife is harder. The farmer raises and grows the food but the wife (typically) has to cook and preserve it.
I am far more interested in becoming a farmer than a farmer’s wife, but I still believe it is important to know how to preserve my own food. I spent the last 12 hours or so canning, a hobby my grandmother (a farmer’s wife) inspired me to pursue. I really do enjoy it, but it is a lot of work!
I started as soon as I got home from church. First on the list was pressure canning some chicken stock. Normally I just freeze stock, but now that I’m sharing a freezer with two others, I need to use my space more efficiently. I must confess I’m a little intimidated by my pressure canner. I’ve used it before successfully, but I still worry it will explode on me.
While the stock cooled I moved on to apples. Manda got a half bushel through DE Local Food Exchange and I was charged with turning them into apple butter and applesauce. The hard part was coring 13 pounds of apples. Thankfully I brought Mabel the wonder blender home with me so I didn’t have to peel them as well. She puréed them beautifully! Yes, I named my blender and travel with her. She rides shotgun and always wears her seatbelt. It’s weird.
I made the purée for the apple butter first, but according to my cookbook, the best apple butter is made by cooking it very slowly. It will spend most of tomorrow in the crockpot doing just that while I run errands and I will can it tomorrow night.
At this point I realized the my jars of stock hadn’t sealed so back in the canner they went. I knew I had some time to kill so I started working on some roasted fig preserves. My dad has some fig trees in the back yard and freezes most of what he harvests to use for fig jam. I stole a bag to test this recipe. It doesn’t get any more local than that!
While the figs roasted and the pressure canner cooled, I started coring my second batch of apples for the applesauce. That meant more coring, dicing, boiling, and puréeing. Just as the apples finished cooking, the figs finished roasting which was perfect since the apples needed to cool a bit before I could purée them. I turned my attention back to the figs.
They were…well done. I should have stirred them more often or taken them out sooner or something. It wasn’t pretty. But I wasn’t willing to throw out three pounds of delicious figs so I added some water, lemon juice, and a bit more sugar and cooked them down on the stove into more of a jam. The finished product is certainly not my favorite, but it’s not inedible. It will go nicely with some goat cheese or cream cheese or mixed with olive oil as a salad dressing (dad’s suggestion!), but don’t expect it as a gift any time soon.
After the figs were salvaged the apples were cool enough to be puréed and canned. It was my only true success of the day. All six jars sealed on the first try! Only three of the four jars of stock sealed (after the second processing) and five of the six jars of figs sealed. Which is pretty good given I’m still very much a novice when it comes to canning. Tomorrow I’ll tackle the apple butter and maybe some lemon curd.
Also, Manda stopped by today and brought me some cheese crackers for the batch of dough I’d made for her. Delicious!