I realized that in order to stop myself from missing summer entirely, the Professor and I had to go outside and enjoy ourselves a bit. Over the weekend, we dodged rain clouds and went picking vegetables at grenkow's u-pick. This is the second year in a row where I've forgotten a camera, so you'll have to believe me. Roughly 8 miles out of town, there's a lot of prairie. A field with dark charcoal colored earth that stretches on and on with a layout like a big veggie garden.
We picked tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, beans, some cucumbers, a dill stalk or two and 3 pie pumpkins. All in all, we paid around $78 and picked for less than 2 hours. The produce was something in the range of $1 or $2 a pound. I'd venture a guess that we picked over 50 lbs of produce. That's a whole lot of eggplant. That's a passel of peppers. That's (more than a) bag of beans...our refrigerator is full. You get the point!
I've de-skinned and roasted tomatoes and garlic in the oven, pureed, them, and popped all that sauce in the freezer. The Professor and I cooperated on the eggplant. I chopped them in quarters, he roasted them on the gas grill outside. I chopped them up further and got them into freezer containers. Covered them with a bit of olive oil and popped them in the freezer. I sat down, plugged myself into an audio book and dealt with an enormous amount of beans, my hands moving methodically while I listened.
I sauteed some of the red and green bell peppers with garlic, coriander, vinegar, salt and great amounts of olive oil. This makes a kind of Morrocan chermoula (chermoula is a certain combination of spices, I think, the recipes vary). I put it in bottles and then put it too in the freezer. One bottle at a time, this ends up in the refrigerator, and then on sandwiches, in pasta dishes, and other treats all winter. The flavored oil is delicious for salads. The floppy marinated peppers themselves, with some cheese, make a great melty sandwich.
The oil also goes very well on homemade bread. This is a photo of some bread that came out of the oven at the height of the guest visits this summer. (That would be the Joanne's bed and breakfast crash course experience of 2010?!) I snapped a photo before everyone ate it.
The next week or two I will be transitioning back into something that looks a bit more like my regular working life. I've got some editing and some writing deadlines to meet. I've also got a date with my canner. Putting up the harvest is next on my list. It's great to help people learn and grow in the classroom. It's rewarding and satisfying and exhausting all at once.
That said, what the students gain can be intangible at times. A full freezer and a shelf full of jars? That's definitely an accomplishment that can tangibly set us up for winter...and it's a task with a beginning, middle and end. Along with all this, my loom and knitting needles await. I hope to have time for more than an exhausted and mindless few rows of a sweater sleeve at the end of the day, too.
As soon as the rain lets up a bit, I'm off to mailbox to mail off my grades to the university. Then it's back to reducing (with great glee) the great mounds of food and fiber I've acquired.
So, are you putting anything up for winter? Do tell! Descriptions are always welcome here--if comments give readers good ideas, our pantries (and families) will enjoy it together.