Monday, August 30, 2010

production..and acquisition

As of today, my summer teaching marathon is over. Hurray! I love teaching, but I also really missed my summer this year. Everyone here in Manitoba had their vacation time but me! The kicker is that I seem to acquire raw goods (wool, vegetables, fruit) in direct correlation to the lack of time I have to process it. That is, the more stress I'm under, the more raw wool and food seems to appear in my house. Some people might call this retail therapy. I'm more inclined to think that without a steady production stemming from my hands, I feel like I'm not accomplishing much..even while teaching grad students four days a week. So, I somehow acquire more...and more...and then there's more stress to find time that I don't really cope with it all.

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.

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Blogger Alison said...

Plum jam, but we ate or gave it all.

August 31, 2010 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger Joanne said...

Already, Alison?! I can at least enjoy the idea vicariously....sounds delicious.

August 31, 2010 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger AdrieneJ said...

I'm fascinated by your eggplant preservation process. What sort of container do you use to freeze them in? And what did you do with your beans?

September 1, 2010 at 9:53 AM  
Blogger Joanne said...

Hi Adriene,
I usually put the roasted, chopped up eggplants in oil in reusable plastic containers before freezing them. I reuse the containers until they completely die and make sure to buy the recyclable ones so once they crack, they go into the recycling container.

With the beans, I break off the ends and break them in half. I wash them all, and put them on wax paper on a cookie sheet in the freezer so they freeze individually. Then I double bag them in gallon size freezer bags in the freezer. The green/yellow/purple beans are for both human and dog consumption. My dogs love them and get a couple of beans each with their kibble. Whatever they don't eat, we will use for dinner this winter!

September 1, 2010 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Cathy said...

I've frozen blue berries & cherries for pies in the dead of winter. That's the extent of my 'putting up.'

September 1, 2010 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I've been processing tomatoes into meatless spaghetti sauce, freezing it for all kinds of pasta this winter. Then there were the apples from our tree...steamed and frozen and the juice put into water bottles in the fridge. My husband truly loves the juice the best! A friend gave us pears and beans which have been made into pear pie and beans frozen.

September 1, 2010 at 9:58 PM  
Blogger AdrieneJ said...

Thanks for replying and visiting my blog! Just wanted to say: Rascal also loves frozen beans. I thought he was the only one. Who knew it was such a good dog treat?

September 2, 2010 at 11:43 AM  

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