July on the farm is a month of constant motion with a nonstop parade of outdoor projects. August is a month of preserving the bounty of that lively parade. Preserving by canning, freezing, drying and fermenting. We started the season with freezing jams and bags of berries, fermenting dill pickles and sauerkraut and drying herbs. Then came processing a Dexter steer for beef and Freedom Ranger chickens for fryers, all now tucked safely into the freezer. Then came curing the harvest of garlic, storage onions and potatoes. Now it is canning season- fruits, vegetables, salsas and berry juices to be followed by fruit butters, ketchup, more salsa & grape juice, then drying of any extra fruits into sweet snacks. End of the season will be freezing of sweet corn and apple cider pressed from our own apples. Lastly is the curing of dried beans, pumpkins and squash. By the time the serious rains of Fall begin the house will have become a larder filled with gastronomic goodness.
You can feel the season changing, whispering it’s urgency. The days are shorter, the nights cooler, the shadows longer. Months of planning and planting and caring for plants is leading to the crescendo of harvest. The kitchen, pantry & porch are littered with boxes, baskets, bowls & bushels overflowing with produce. Yesterday I canned tomato salsa. Today I have canned peaches & raspberry juice. Bartlett pears, Gravenstein applesauce and tomatoes are next on the list. Much of every meal comes from the farm. It is such a tremendous feeling of accomplishment & nothing compares to the flavor of fresh organic food grown right outside your kitchen door. Food that is a product of your hand from seed to meal.
I helped my Mom when I was younger to preserve their harvest. Many hours of each summer were spent in the garden harvesting, at the kitchen table prepping and at the stove preserving, learning by doing. By seasons end lines of beautiful jars of colorful produce lined the shelves in their dark and cool basement. You could measure the passage of the seasons by the number of empty jars on those shelves.
Many years later, in my own home, by August the lines of jars on my pantry shelves are mostly empty. Slowly over the next several months empty jars turn into jars filled with flavorful goodness & become a beautiful crazy quilt of color on the pantry wall. The freezers are also filling with bags of berries and other fruits, containers of jams and also chicken fryers and beef.
This morning standing at the kitchen counter, between stove and sink, filling jars with peaches harvested just down the road from the orchard of elderly neighbors, I found my mind drifting back in time. A connection to previous generations in a jar of peaches. A mason jar with a 1976 bicentennial logo on it, a gift from my Mom so many years ago to mark the occasion. Wearing grandma Rose’s apron, using our long passed friend Addie’s old wire jar lifter. Peaches lifted from a wooden box that my Dad had picked fruit into years ago. Jars cooling on a kitchen table that was in my husbands childhood home when he was just a boy. Connections to people no longer with us.
Today was about preserving food, preserving a season but also very much about preserving memories, preserving a way of life.