Putting up the Harvest
The sounds of late summer fill the air outside: chirping crickets, strumming katydids, humming cicadas, twittering sparrows and squawking blue jays. All these noises coincide with the ripening of fruit and the opportunity for homesteaders to busy themselves with canning and “putting up” preserves to enjoy during the cold, dark winter months.
Around here, the preserving season begins in early summer with strawberries. Other than the ones we all enjoy eating fresh or baked into pies, I freeze bags of berries or process them into jams. We like to use these frozen berries to make a sauce for pancakes and waffles. This past year was the first year we really got a worthwhile harvest from our own strawberry patch but the majority of strawberries we preserved came from a local farmers’ market.
We’re blessed to have two farmers’ markets near our home. The first is The Stand in Burford and the second is Your Farm Market in Woodstock. Both are great sources for locally produced food. When it is open during the summer season, a trip into Burford (our nearest town) typically includes a stop at The Stand. The little Harrolds are keen to visit The Stand because they are given a free lollipop and will request a visit when we are in town even if we were not planning one. Your Farm Market is in the City of Woodstock and we include it as a stop during our weekly shopping trip.
After the strawberries, we shift to making pickles as the farm markets have baskets of pickling cucumbers to offer. And then the blueberries come into season and we can harvest them ourselves from neighbourhood U-pick operations or purchase flats full of blueberries. Again, what we don’t enjoy fresh we either freeze to use later or transform into pie-fillings and jams. This year I made a Blueberry Lime Jam that the little ones like to eat on their toast.
Come August, the stone fruits ripen and the smaller tomatoes are ready for picking. In our house, the little ones like to use plum sauce, and rather than buying bottles of plum sauce, with much more sugar and pumpkin than plums listed among the ingredients, I made a batch of plum sauce. I used red plums rather than yellow plums, so the colour of the
sauce is a deep red instead of the typical pale orange, but the little ones don’t mind and give it a thumbs-up.
The next bountiful harvest we enjoy is peaches. The cling-stone peaches ripen first and we feast on those so that shortly after, by the time the free-stone peaches ripen, we can use most of them for canning. I came across a recipe for Honey-Spiced Peaches that is delicious and was able to can seven jars of it, in addition to some peach pie-filling.
Around the same time as peaches arrive at the markets, larger tomatoes come into season. We grew a few tomato plants in our garden and about once a week we’ll have amassed enough of them to make a batch of 3 or 4 jars of crushed tomatoes. Diced and crushed tomatoes are so versatile that we never seem to have enough put up for the winter. To improve our chances of making it farther into the New Year before exhausting our tomato reserve, Dad Harrold brought home a bushel basket of Roma tomatoes. While being shocked at the massive amount of tomatoes that we needed to process, I couldn’t help but be happy that Dad found a real bushel basket - I thought those were a thing of the past.
As I post this, apples are coming into their peak. As much as I would like to can and put up some apple sauce or pie-filling, I don’t know if I’ll have the energy left to do it!