There is no denying that I feel unproductive in my homelife lately. It just can't be helped. But I suppose, there is still quite a lot coming out of the kitchen despite my deficit in time. It helped that it barely rained this summer, rendering yard work nearly extinct. It helped that I realized I should listen to all the radio I miss out on while cleaning up the kitchen post-kiddo-bedtime, rendering my precious evening hour or so to myself more productive and blessedly multi-tasked. And then there is vinegar, which transforms fruit that just can't make it into jars, extending the seasons in my glass with the addition of seltzer water - a truly healthful alternative to the hard drinking that I could probably justify if I were that type of girl.
The Wisconsin tart cherry season ended at least 3 weeks ago, when I dumped the 2 lbs. I intended for jam into this half gallon jar succumbing to the realization that I was not going to pit them and jar them and enjoy them on toast. Ever since, they've been steadily turning the vinegar deeper and deeper red - vibrant fuchsia really - a truly almost intoxicating smell rising to meet me as I take off the lid every few days and procrastinate a bit longer for straining out the pits and fruit and maybe adding some sugar and decanting it into some jars.
I've done drinking vinegars for the past handful of years, doing them all pretty much the same. A cup of Bragg's vinegar (or enough to cover) to 1 lb. of fruit or berry, soaking for a week (or 3 as I procrastinate). As my rule of thumb, I add up to a cup of sugar for every cup of strained fruit vinegar. Usually, I am happy with a half cup sugar per cup vinegar which was the case with the peach puree vinegar I made more than a month ago with perfectly ripe Georgia peaches. That season has passed, but now the Washington peaches are upon us, and I may have to make more to hold me through the winter.
Last weekend, I canned 2 pints of dilly beans (Food in Jars' recipe) and 4 pints of giardiniera. My canning episodes took place 24 hours apart and I tried not to be hard on myself that I was wasting energy (both environmental and my own physical energy) heating water on separate occasions to bathe jars. I'm taking my triumphs where I can get them, and am happy that when I get a taste for my favorite sandwich, the few pickles I was able to make will have my back. I got a surprising amount of jam on the shelves too.
I was particularly thrilled with the Foolproof Preserving book that America's Test Kitchen put out; the most perfect peach jam I ever made was their recipe. It used a shredded Granny Smith apple in lieu of pectin, and there was no peeling of fruit. I have 4 half pints in my basement, where I'm trying not to open them until at least October. The run over made the best peanut butter and jelly ever.
I feel devoid of words lately, instead posting Instagrams with brief glimpses into my changing world, which still manages to include quite a bit of homemade stuff. So many people have reminded me this is a season, and not necessarily will it last forever. Logic confirms this, but I also know that I tend to stick things out for the long haul... and that in the back of my mind, I can see me pulling 20 years at my new job in the blink of an eye while all the seasons of impossibly small batches get easier and more approachable as I adapt to work outside my kingdom. But maybe the best is yet to come. One reminder of midwestern living is that there is always another season as much as you love or hate the one that is currently upon you, that as surely as it is 85 and humid, it will be 10 degrees and snowing. At least during those 10 degree work mornings, I will have some peach jam.