Monday, July 18, 2016

Lost: 1 worry bear, 1 week, 1 batch of jelly

This weekend, the CBC-Manitoba ran my piece, Bottling Sunshine:Canning teaches mom essential coping skills.    Aspects of that essay summarized this past few days.  To start, last weekend my crew had their first lemonade stand.  This required at least one grown-up on duty the whole time, as neither of my twins can pour a full pitcher of lemonade yet, nor make change.  (they just turned five, that's understandable!)  After I worked behind scene and made the lemonade and cut up the watermelon, I discovered that my lovely professor had been filling up the spare moments (there were a lot of them) by picking more Nanking cherries from our yard.

(We also then caught one of the twins eating the watermelon and then putting it back in the container for customers...but that is another story. :)

We pick these cherries every year from our yard.  The boys love to help.  Usually, I make them into a jam, but this year, I decided to try a jelly instead.  After an ill-fated trip to Canadian Tire to find a jelly strainer, I rigged one up with cheese cloth and a colander instead. (This piece of equipment is also called a chinois, but since that seemed terribly embarrassing --who came up with that name?! It's inherently problematic in our bilingual world... when I asked a customer service person for it--hint, she was Asian--I decided we wouldn't be calling it that anymore.  She was gracious about it, btw, as she also was frustrated that the store didn't have one.  Who comes up with these terms for kitchen tools?! Ahhh!)

By the time everyone was done picking, eating, and wearing cherry juice all over their shirts, faces and hands, we had what amounted to something like 14 quarts of cherries.  Yeah.  I know this quantity because I used the largest slow cooker to soften them, in two batches (by boiling, you can get rid of the pits more easily).  The first batch of jelly did not become jelly.  It became roughly 10 cups of cherry sauce.  Turns out our particular cherries are oddly acidic or low in pectin or something, so I re-canned them with more pectin.  It was a colossal pain to redo, but then I ended up with 9 cups of jelly...and a lot of pulp.

For the first time, I figured out how to successfully do fruit roll in our dehydrator.  It was pretty easy, actually.  Roughly 6 cups of chopped fruit/pulp, then you puree it in a blender, add honey or sweetener if you want (I did banana and honey because cherry pulp is sour!) and then you sort of paint it on parchment paper and pop it in the dehydrator.  It took 10 hours at 135F, cooking on our front porch while we slept.  Since the natural fruit roll that we usually buy is $7.50CDN a package, this struck me as a good idea.

Unfortunately?  Fortunately? I had to do more jelly the next day (all that extra picking!) so we ended up with 17 cups of jelly and two batches of fruit roll.  If I never see another cherry this year?  It will be too soon.  Getty Stewart's cookbook was a huge help, as always, in dealing with this quirky prairie fruit.  I think I am grateful for her cookbook every summer!

In other news, you may remember a certain twin's Worry Bear?  Alas, Worry bear #2--the first one pictured here--is MIA or perhaps, RIP.  The good news about the travelling day camp is that you go new and interesting places every day.  The bad news is that between the swimming pool, the parks, the hikes, other adventures and a certain pair of shallow pants' pockets, we lost this guy last week.  We did have Worry Bear #1 as back up, but he just wasn't adequate.  Not squishy enough, not comforting enough...something wasn't right.  The loss of #2 was a little traumatic.

Yup.  You guessed it, I also spent several hours knitting worry bear #3.  This one is out of Rowan Pure Wool dk, a superwash yarn, and I stuffed it with Cheviot wool, so at least it won't felt if it ends up in the washing machine and dryer...again.

My mom said I might as well memorize the pattern, which was funny, because I make it up as I go along.  No two worry bears are alike.  Hmm.  I wonder if anyone else needs a worry bear pattern?

I also produced three challahs, 1 loaf of spelt bread, 1 banana chocolate chip loaf, and numerous other things for meals and snacks last week.  This travelling camp makes people ravenous, and packing twin healthy lunches and snacks takes a lot of time.

All this foodie and textile production--doing and redoing (my life story right now)-- hopefully lines us up for a smoother time this week.  No canning scheduled right now, because there are 5 medical appointments/tests scheduled for two of us (me and one twin) this week.  Six if you count next Monday.  Luckily, the Professor will manage a twin appointment or two so I don't have to do them all.

So, nothing deeply meaningful is happening over here...I squeeze in work where I can...but at the same time, every bottle canned, every fruit roll, every new worry bear produced? In some ways, I am taking ahold of traditional age-old women's tasks, (with significant help from the Professor) and making them new and full of love for folks in my household.  I'd argue that I do it differently, in a more feminist construct, but the love is love--it's not gendered.  It's the same, every time, no matter what we call it.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Poor Bear! Lost. Moms are good at coming to the rescue, and nice that dad is as well. I love the idea of canning and preserving, but in the heat it can get to be a chore. Ah well, it will be a bit of brightness in the winter. Have fun with the twins after camp!

July 21, 2016 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

Some of my great childhood memories are of my mom putting up so.much.fruit that one summer after all the pick-your-own farms, she added up that she had done half a ton of fruit.

She also had a family of eight to feed--and to help with the picking.

Are Nankings the really small ones on kind of a bush?

July 24, 2016 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger Joanne said...

Yes, the Nankings are the really small kind on the bush! They seem to be good for two things: eating right off the bush and spitting the pits out immediately on the ground, or canning. The pits take up a lot of the fruit, but they are good, and grow plentifully here in our yard. You can't beat free fruit!

I think I would put up more food if I had help in picking it and solid time to can it, the boiling kettle is just not safe around twin five year olds... So I do what seems to make sense at the time. Some years I do a lot more than others.

July 25, 2016 at 10:36 AM  

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