Every year Cheri and I do our canning together. She and the kids come down for 3-4 days at a time and we can anything we can get our hands on. The kids run wild outside and play and have fun, and we slice and dice and bottle and laugh. The later at night it is, the more slap happy we get. We are usually up at 2 in the morning waiting for the last batch to finish so we can go to bed. One night we were waiting on som peaches to finish, and I decided I needed to take out the trash. So I get a new bag and start pulling trash from the old bag and putting it into the new bag. I was probably 2/3 of the way done when I realized why this was wrong. Right after one of our smoke alarms started beeping that it needed new batteries. It was upstairs in the toy room, so get a battery and a ladder and set off all the smoke alarms in the whole house! So I start beating on it and basically pull it out of the ceiling. Miraculously, not one child woke up. Not one! I should not be allowed to make decisions at 2 am.
In the several times we’ve done this we have gotten into a very comfortable and efficient rhythm. On one trip Cheri and I did 63 quarts of pears, 28 pints pear chutney, 12 pints salsa verde, 53 quarts grape juice, 3 quarts pear cider and 30 half pints of jalapeno jelly. She had to leave and be home by 1:00, so we had two hours and I pulled out a jar of this really delicious jalapeno jelly a friend had made and given me. It was so delicious that we ate the whole thing (over a block of cream cheese with crackers). Then we ran out to my garden to pick all my jalapenos and made all that jelly. I had gotten a new stove that week, and in the one second we turned our backs the jalapeno jelly bubbled up and over the whole stove top. We swore we were so done with canning that year! (Until thanksgiving and Christmas when we did broth galore).
Remember how we were SO DONE? Well a friend offered me 122 pounds of organic plums, so Cheri came back. That trip we did 32 quarts plum puree, 11 pints Chinese plum sauce, 11 pints plums in local honey and (fake) wine (meaning we used juice and balsamic vinegar, but that is too long to say, and after all that they tasted like…prunes. Gross.)That was after my kids and I ate a bunch of the plums too! Then we did 21 pints and 3 quarts of cherry tomatoes with garlic and basil.
Then we canned 140 quarts of pear apple sauce, 14 quarts of peaches, 16 half pints of apple pie jam, 7 quarts of apple cider and took care of 8 kids 6 and under in 2 1/2 days. We had fun!
I’ve never been a big fan of apple sauce, but pear apple sauce is so good. I had never made it before, but my mom had given me her food mill, the one she used when I was a baby. I loved the idea of using it too…until I did. It seemed so nostalgic and romantic. Cheri and I took turns cranking the handle until we both had blisters on our hands, and we were making no progress. It was 9 pm and my neighbor told me about the Victorio Food Mill and that another neighbor owned one. I had never met her, but I didn’t care. At 9:30 pm I knocked on her door, introduced myself and politely asked to borrow her mill. She was kind enough to let me use it, and it save us! We never would have gotten through all those apples and pears! So now that antique food mill is decoration in my kitchen.
And here are the conversations that happen August-October in my kitchen:
Kids: “Mom can we have some of these peaches for snack?”
Me: “No way! I just canned those THIS MORNING. We eat fresh peaches while they are in season right now. We save the canned ones for later when we don’t have fresh peaches.”
Kids: “Oh. So can we have some of these fresh peaches?”
Me: “No!! I’m canning those!”
My poor kids…
And after each marathon canning session we get to clean it all up and get caught up on laundry and housework. That is by far the worst part. Every time I wonder, “Will my floors ever be not sticky again?” Especially after peaches. I hate canning peaches the most, but they are so good. I add a chunk of vanilla bean, which is a trick Tristi, another sister-in-law, taught me. They are organic peaches, I use organic cane sugar, and I get to control how sweet the syrup is, but it is so much work, so physically taxing and makes such a sticky horrible mess that I always swear I will never do it again. But then I do. Sometimes just a week later.