On the canning season

This is the time of year the above two devices get found in the junk drawer, washed off, and used.

Marital aides? Child behavior modification tools? Nope. These are a cherry pitter and a strawberry huller.

It’s funny: we went to three stores before we found the cherry pitter. It was in a local hardware store, and had a pricetag on it from the 1980s. The thing was rusty so they just gave it to me. Of course and as a joke Tom now buys me every cherry pitter he can find: notice the next picture. Lovely German engineering.

It is not fully cherry season, so I haven’t busted out the cool pitter. We’re in the earlies now, with the more tart and bigger ones coming around the beginning of July. But wow, is it strawberry season! We’re filling ourselves, and now I am filling jam jars too. Last night I made a lovely clafoutis of cherries and strawberries, befitting my adoration of the egg and All Things Custard.

Note: slapdash clafouti recipe is now in the comments!

Tell me this, though: why is it that every time I begin to can stuff I feel the urgent need to also dirty every dish, pan, bowl and pot and practically every dishtowel we own? I really need an adjustment period. Hopefully it takes me only one day’s worth of canning madness (but that is unlikely). It’s just wild to think I do some form of food preservation every night until mid-September. Tonight, it took too long. Tomorrow? I guess we shall see. It’s like anything, I guess. It takes the time it takes, and with a bit of practice, less time will be needed.

But inevitably I always forget how darned fussy jam-making can be. Luckily, the payoff is tay-steee.

18 responses to “On the canning season

  1. I know what you mean. I made jam the other night and at the end of it there were 3 dirty bowls, 2 dirty pans, several knives and spoons, a funnel and the canning pot to clean. Not to mention stickiness on the counter and stove. I need to work on that…

  2. My jelly is often soup. We’ve just learned to drink it. And someday I will make a marmalade that isn’t rancid. I have never had a day in the kitchen where every bowl and implement of destruction wasn’t dirtied and washed at least once. Most of my bowls seem to get used two or three times in a day and I couldn’t tell you why or what for. It just is.

    The strawberry huller looks interesting. I’ve always just used a paring knife but perhaps this is easier on the hands.

  3. Laura, I wonder what tricks your relations could share with us to keep it simple. As it is, I *try* to contain the pain to one section next to the sink but still the place is a sticky mess. Next time, I probably shouldn’t drink wine while I’m jam-making.

    Alecto! OMG yes the darned huller (which you pinch and twist the top off and any nasty hard core) is about 1000 times easier than a paring knife. You can use it to pinch off bruised bits too. I think it will set you back all of $2. But what is it about using every bowl? Same with water glasses. Three people and every evening there’s a sinkful. How does that happen?

  4. My grandmother, the world’s wisest person ever, used to tell me not to bemoan having dirty dishes because it meant I had food. Wise, though she was, she could never explain why my kitchen was always the messiest; none of the other cousins’ kitchens ever looked like vandals had struck.

  5. Very cool cherry pitters. How I envy you cherries. I’m trying to grow cherries, but without much success at this point. Maine winters are just too severe for cherries.

    Strawberries are ready here too. I MUST defrost my freezer before I pick too many. I’m planning to go this afternoon just for some fresh eating and jam berries. Then jam tomorrow morning when it is cool.

  6. This year we will be canning. Probably not jamming. It’s our first year canning. We have no close-by family to help, nor do we know any old folks to give advice close by. We may get help over the phone, if that is possible. I do have the equipment and a book, or twelve. And lots and lots and lots of tomatoes! Pray for us! lol

  7. I thought it was only me with all the dirty dishes! And I’ve only been freezing peaches and nectarines. Haven’t attempted canning yet. Using a drinking straw works really well with strawberries. Just push it over the stem and on through, and it’s really fun too!

  8. That first cherry pitter looks disturbingly OB/GYN.

  9. Oh YUM! I left for Mi just as our cherries and strawberries were coming on, and now I’m back I think I’m more drawn to the apricots! How to choose when there isn’t time for all of them? I simply can’t do more than 2 kinds of jam this year – I have no desire to add to the ton of stuff the movers will be shipping back to Michigan next spring. Then my neurosis kicks in and I start fretting – what if SOMETHING happens and I must delay a year? One can’t be without home-canned goods! Nothing else is as tasty!

    I LOVE clafoutis!

  10. I make the quicky freezer jam. it was too wet here this summer, and the strawberries didn’t do so great, but I managed about 16 jars of jam, well enough for a year!

  11. I grew up using a strawberry huller. When I found my first strawberries at the farmer’s market this year, I immediately started hunting for the huller in all of our implement hiding places and realized…it wasn’t there! The berries were so ripe that I had to go ahead and use a paring knife, and boy, did I miss the huller!

    I received a batch of early cherries in our CSA share this week – what do you do with these small, really sour ones? I’m thinking they need to be cooked in something with lots of sugar – maybe a coffee cake or something similar. I’d love any suggestions you may have. I have a feeling I’m going to wish I had a fancy dandy cherry pitter like some people… 😀

  12. Pamela: I love anecdotes like that. Although sometimes my kitchen does very much look like I am wallowing in my good fortune (like right now, come to think of it). You’re fortunate in your grandma!

    Ali, yeah, but it is fun to find the microclimate. Is there a place you can espalier some fruit trees on your house, maybe on a south-facing little bit? I did some of that when I lived in Minnesota (albeit it was with tender roses not fruit trees). Oh don’t even talk to me about defrosting our chest freezer. Dang it’s 3 years now, and we’ve got 20 birds in there now. Yipes. Need another one considering we’re getting 1/2 pig and 1/4 cow this fall. eeps! Maybe that’s when I will defrost. Great idea about canning in the a.m. though; I am never so forethoughtful.

    Jules, be brave!! Come to think of it the first thing I ever canned I had no help either except a recalcitrant boyfriend who did a lackluster job of washing the jars. Sent him to walk the dog whilst I finished with the peaches, if I am remembering correctly. Call your mom by all means. But tomatoes can be pretty easy, if you run them through a food mill to get rid of their skins and seeds first. That’s me though as I am pretty lazy.

    Jeri, that straw trick sounds great. I do hate junking up my junkdrawer with these rarely-used things but then again I do love the fact that the strawberry huller works so well. Ah a quandry.

    CC: exactly. Spooky looking things all around. Just think of the blokes who thought these doodads up and put them into production. Now that’s clever stuff borne of the “there has GOT to be a better way to do this.”

    Hayden! Dang, I was going to email you to check when your plans were. I absolutely forgot, and I apologize…I can be quite the flake sometimes. I would go ahead and can as usual. Give the leftovers away, we did when we moved here! Apricot jam though yum. Too bad your week was kind of cold for camping.

    Oh Stacie there’s nothing quick about freezer jam considering you still get the sticky cooked jam all over everything. I would say the only thing with canning is there’s that one extra step. That step gives me time to clean up all the stickiness as everything else cans up. I was wondering if you would get much of a harvest this year, though. We’re high and too dry, can you believe that? Goofy Midwestern weather.

    Hi Lori. I love those tart cherries, but I am alone (as usual) in that love in this house. They’re wonderful in pies. They can be a bit tougher to pit though. The clafoutis though are also a yum way to prepare them. Here’s my oh-so-scientific recipe: Butter a glass pie dish or small-ish casserole. Line bottom with washed, unpitted (!!) cherries. Make a dough of equal parts sugar, flour, milk (I use 1 cup each) and 1/2t vanilla and four eggs or so. Whip this together, pour over the fruit, bake in a 375* oven for almost an hour. You can do this with strawberries or any other fruit too but just watch the juiciness factor of the fruit if you do so. I usually add an extra egg, but you can use more flour to thicken things up. But a coffee cake sounds good too!

  13. Wow, you just took me back to my grannie’s kitchen. I haven’t seen a strawberry huller since I was a little girl. I may have to get me one of those.

    My strawberries are long gone. It’s raspberry season now, and I need to get out there tomorrow morning and harvest for jam.

  14. Ha! Canning is one thing that I love doing and well, it would seem I’m always canning/preserving something. I scored a mother lode of preserving jars at a garage sale well over a hundred jars to add to my growing collection. My sister saw them all lined up on shelves in our storage area/basement and was in shock. They make me feel strangely safe even empty.

    I’ve just started my annual marmalade making. It promises to go on for several months as my mother’s tree keeps bearing fruit. I might try candying some peel this year……I’ve got to start on apples too, the local season will end soon.

  15. I don’t know what went wrong with my strawberries this year. Hardly any fruit and there was plenty of rain to be had. I had covered them last winter with a thick layer of fallen leaves — could that have harmed them in some way? They perked right up & continued to grow this spring. I also covered them with netting so the birds wouldn’t get to them. Any ideas?

  16. mmm, clafoutis.

    it seems to me that making a mess is worth the results that are achieved. 🙂

  17. Danielle, ah, raspberries! I am so awful with fruiting bushes, though; you should see the sad state of the ones around here. But I adore raspberries, especially fall ones. I always tell myself “next year, I’ll…” with getting some canes. Yes, though, that dumb little piece of bent metal is just great, easy on the hands too 😉

    Nada, I know EXACTLY how you feel. Lately people have been asking me if I would like their cans (two different neighbors just brought over some this week, they must somehow know it’s Jam Season) and I have to be sheepish and say, well, okay, are you sure you won’t be needing them? I do envy you your marmalade. From your mom’s trees? Wow. (That would be so cool, having a source of citrus…hmm.) I have made candied peel before, a really long time ago; I don’t seem to remember it was really hard at all, though it should’ve been harder because the stuff disappeared so quickly!

    Artemisia, I have no clue, sorry! I have avoided planting them because I tell myself I don’t want to weed them. Tom keeps badgering me. And now that I have putatively “enough” beds I suppose I need to give in and plant them this fall.

    Gigi, come on by and I will hand one off to you! Less mess that way. But do let us know your schedule; we’d love to get up to SH now that everyone is healthy.

  18. Pingback: Canning Tomatoes, Feeling Domestic « The Kitchen Illiterate

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