Tuesday, August 3, 2010

in a pickle

Wanda Wood's Secret Elixir

Good morning, it is August already...but for this Illinois girl in Maine- it feels as though it is September... and September is the finest month ever made.
My garden is plum full of beautiful and wonderful and nourishing things...let me take you on a bit of a pictorial journey with me through a bounty day, and what to do, what to do- with it.

One should get a basket, preferably a homemade, recycled or dump picking treasure.  Place it in between the rows, get a feel for what should be included in it's innards.  Hmmmm....the beans are surely do for some dill and new potatoes but I can't pick too many of them just yet, Calais Farmer's Market Food Club members come first in the harvest there.

Then on to the heirlooms, the Italian Romanos or maybe perhaps the lovely Ruby Red Chard, alas- there are lovers out there of the single most reddest leafed vitamin K packed vegetable, no- I won't pick too much this day as there is one lady in line who is quite fond of all that I can grow for her.  With joy, I do.  Maybe I'll just pick a few leaves, for the vibrant colored veins running through it, to dress up some old drab Fordhook Giant type chard, although in it's crinkly, wrinkly way- it shares it's own fortifying beauty.

Oh the cukes...slicers and canners and European long, elegant eaters to boot.  Why yes, I believe it may be the pickers day for cucumbers.  The coolness of them, the shyness too...cucumbers are such bashful veggies in single digits, but let them spread out their vines and their community becomes a chorus of pickles ready for the canner! And it seems the good time has come finally for the dill, the loveliest of herbs to my eyes- to get what's coming to it- big fat pickles adorned with the crowns of mammoth dill heads.

From my far off land of veggie ville, I heard a tinkling...again, and again- what could it be?!  A bee buzzed, Etta was barking at a snake and I came back to reality- the phone was ringing.

"Terry, this is Foster- your blueberries are ready."               
"Oh my..."
"You said you'd take two boxes...are you ready for them?"

Blueberries, thought I, new berries to me.  I have never had the honor of dealing with fresh blue orbs of pure Maine...so of course I went to pick them up.  And it was only then, after using a wading pool to sort and wash and pick them all (approx. 40 lbs after all was said and done), that I realized that for three, no...make that four days, on the best of measures- I would not sleep.
I found myself in a pickle.
When it rains it pours, and cucumbers and berries don't mix usually- but for the next several days...well, they just better learn to get along.  I commenced to some serious canning people...two hands, four vegetables, one fruit and farmer's market to boot- I had better just get the old canner out and get to it.
And one must also prep well in advance with the utmost respect for sanitation and stuck caps on the bottom of the seriously hot pot that you cannot pry off, even with the best of hovering preservation angels around...no one can get the cap off the bottom, well- never in good time enough.
(Although canning frustrates me at times, I do not cuss...it is a sacred endeavor and I simply love doing it...labors of love must be handled kindly).  With somewhat neutrally gentle words such as:
"Are you freaking kidding me- shewah!"
"I-I-I-I-eeeeeeee......" that is me howling after waiting over thirty minutes for the jam to jell as it splattered on my, um....bosom.  It hurt like a fruitcake bomb.  (For lack of cussing...)

My highlight of the day, as it is always a highlight when I make

  Wanda Woods top secret cross your heart, stick a needle in your eye, holy-holy zucchini relish recipe

 The picture well above is her hand writing, I treasure this recipe as I used to grow, only for Wanda- soft yellow crookneck early summer squash (which truly aren't zukes) and help her can them.  For many years, she shared the relish with me...but never the recipe.  One year, she had to humble herself- which incidentally, she did with more grace and faith than anyone I have ever known or met since- and asked me to help her little independent soul, because she feared she no longer could get the rings on tight enough for proper sanitary canning.  I actually didn't receive the recipe until after she passed...and even then, I had to be a sleuth- first class mind you...and buy her cookbooks from her estate auction.  And inside, in her own hand- were these immortal and everlasting words-
"Real good & good keeper when opened...."
(in her little swirly way she initialed it-W.W)

So, in honor of the redeeming words of Wanda Wood, my blue eyed, blue souled neighbor- I vow to stay open.
(Even to future mass quantities of blackberries and sweet corn, which will probably happen in unison right about the time I should be saying, "AHHHHHHHHH....")

Take care-

(And as a PS~Grandma Hope's Stuffed Mango Peppers were also created, but that goes with me to my deathbed....if you're a Champaign quality kind of person, you might get some as the dearest gift I can give....)


Jane said...

They look delicious!


Jayne said...

Man, but your busyness has exhausted me just reading about it! But, what abundance of delicious bounty from the earth. Yep, I do believe Maine suits you just fine my friend... Hugs ya!

Rhiannon said...

You're making me hungry!! And tired thinking about all that canning!

truewonder said...

I would go as far to believe that folks who can and preserve their food feel an inkling of what I do...labor of love. Thankless job. Like cleaning out the chicken coop- but, all in all- always the harvest is enjoyed by so many down the line. Sharing the harvest, oh man- what a blessing bestowed and reciprocated by the obvious smiles in the faces and eyes of those who consume it. I always think of Jim Croce's song "Time In A Bottle" when I preserve...weird, huh?!

troutbirder said...

I do love the essence and spirit of this post. I can still see my mom doing many of the same things. That heritage allows me to still can a few things myself - apple butter, chile sauce, plum jam mostly though the beans and corn etc. goes in the freezer. Terminal laziness on my part I guess.

truewonder said...

Ahhh, sweet memories to you! I have never had plum jam...sounds amazing, and no- it is not lazy to freeze that corn- I far prefer the frozen variety to canning...to much salt and not enough sweet. Just my opinion...yes, the sweet memories that mingle, I swear- Grandma Hope whispered, as I was frantically searching for the ginger-"If it was a snake it woulda bit ya!" as I found it right in front of the bowl. Ha...love that ornery old woman.