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VALLEY MUSINGS: Preserving the harvest

Donna Thompson
Sentinel columnist
Posted 9/16/22

It seems as if late summer has been all about food. We’ve harvested it, eaten it, given it away, and even frozen and canned some of it.

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VALLEY MUSINGS: Preserving the harvest


It seems as if late summer has been all about food.

We’ve harvested it, eaten it, given it away, and even frozen and canned some of it.

As far as the eating part goes, it’s just as well I have my next-younger sister, who joins me for meals most evenings, and I do not quickly tire of whatever veggies are currently in season. When the asparagus was ripening in the spring, we ate asparagus. When the peas came along, we ate peas. Then came the little tomatoes, summer squash, and green and wax beans, which we’ve been eating off and on for weeks, and the regular tomatoes.

Still, we couldn’t eat the produce as fast as it was coming in, so we were giving it away whenever possible, and I was piling zucchini, summer squash, beans, and tomatoes into small pails to take to church each Sunday. Generally, by the time everyone had left, I could pick up a couple of empty containers to take home.

Our berry bushes didn’t do much this year, but we went to local u-pick farms for blueberries and raspberries and froze most of what we picked. (Perhaps we should have defrosted the freezer before we started adding this year’s produce, but we did the deed on Labor Day.)

And for the first time in at least a couple of years, we canned tomatoes. We also canned a couple of pints of garden beans – a first for us. My sister had suggested it in the past, recalling when her older daughter had canned some beans and how well the family had liked them. This turned out to be the year we actually did it, albeit on a limited scale.

Bean canning day arrived, and I was more than a little nervous. It was the first time in a while I’d be using our old Mirro-Matic pressure cooker, and every time I approach the task I recall the old family story about my paternal grandmother using one to cook meat - chicken, I guess - and having the thing explode. The chicken flew up, stuck to the ceiling, and then dropped to the floor.

“You remember the rest of that story don’t you?” a visiting cousin said once when I recalled the story. “One of those boys scooped it onto the platter and said, ‘And look where it landed.’”

Canning sessions at our house have been far less dramatic, probably because we have stayed away from anything that could get us into too much trouble.

My sister and I pulled out our guides to canning, chose the simplest sounding plan which called for pouring boiling water over the beans in the jars - a two-person task, for us anyway - and told us to set the control on 10 pounds of pressure and how long to time it once the control started spinning and sizzling and making me think I’d better not get too close to the stove.

I was relieved when the process was completed.

We had only enough beans on hand to can two pints, but that didn’t seem like a bad thing; if we hated the results, we’d try something different the next time.

I used to help my mother can tomatoes using the pressure cooker, so this was more familiar territory. After several messy, but uneventful sessions, we once again had jars of stewed tomatoes on the pantry shelf.

All but one sealed, and we used it to make a crockpot Spanish rice dish.

The pressure cooker could go back into the cupboard for another year.


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