Canning the Harvest
photo credit: Tricia McCauley
“When one door closes, another door opens.”
Are you familiar with this saying? It sums up the energy of the new moon perfectly: as we end one cycle, a new one begins, after a brief breath of stillness and letting go.
Here we are at the end of summer, harvesting the bounty of the season, and at the same moment it’s that “back-to-school” energy as the lazy heat of summer fades into the forward-momentum of autumn. As we harvest, it’s also time to for fall planting — literally. (Wow, garden work is never done!)
I took a sabbatical from my computer (mostly) and from writing this summer. The goal was to rest and regroup after a whirlwind year of leaping into teaching yoga, studying for (and passing) my Certified Nutritionist exam, selling a record number of Leafyhead Lotions & Potions at holiday markets, making Leafyhead an official LLC and opening my Etsty shop, becoming a licenced Dietician-Nutritionist, planting 4 spring gardens and holding a seedling sale, and moving house (for the 4th time in 3.5 years).
There was some rest involved, though I discovered that, aftet a long time of living in fast-forward, it is a challenge to slow down. Also, I started an exciting new job as a Teaching Supervisor in the student clinic for the Holistic Nutrition masters’ program at the Maryland University of Integrative Health (formerly the Tai Sophia Institute, where I earned my MS in herbal medicine). And, I joined the faculty of the herbal apprentice program at Sky House Yoga; and created a course in herbalism that I’ll teach at Anne Arundel Community College in the spring. But amidst all that, yes, some rest.
So now it’s autumn: I’m harvesting my gardens: beans, tomatoes, sunflowers, peppers, rosemary, California poppy, comfrey, calendula, and basil. I’m assessing what didn’t work: why didn’t the squash produce fruit?? And I’m harvesting the benefits of sitting still, of finding time to read books again, of picking up my mandolin for the first time since 2007.
And at the same time, the universe moves forward. I’m planning workshops (scads of workshops!), honing my yoga class offerings, and sitting down to writing once again.
How was your summer? What are you harvesting? And where is this new moon, new autumn energy taking you?
Wishing you health and joy,
Canning The Harvest
Canning is actually really easy. I was scared of it for a long time, and after buying and reading a lot of books on the subject, the mystery dissipated. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment. It doesn’t take tons of time, depending on the recipe you use. And canning preserves your harvest — or the veggies you buy at the farmers market — so you can enjoy them throughout the winter.
Mason jars: glass jars with 2-piece screw-on lids. The inside piece of the lid should be new for each new canning project. You can buy these by the case (about 12) at a hardware store, in many different sizes, for less than $1 each. I like wide-mouth jars because they make it easier to get your food out and clean them for the future. I also like to make herbal tinctures and infused oils in mason jars, and I drink my water and herbal tea out them… I’m a fan.
A big pot for boiling water: deep enough to cover the tops of your mason jars with water.
Tongs of some sort: for lowering and removing jars in boiling water.
Hot pads: for handiing hot glass jars.
You’ll want to sterilze your jars and lids before you put food in them. Since the food will be there for a good long while, it’s a good idea to get rid of germs, etc. You can boil the jars and lids, or you can heat them in the oven. Whichever method makes you happiest, go for it.
Test for Seal
Once you’ve boiled our jars (according to recipe directions) and they’ve cooled a bit, test the seal: press down on the center of the lid. If it moves, the jar did NOT seal correctly. Store that jar in the fridge and eat the contents within a week. If the jar did seal (no movement), congratulations! You can store that jar in the cupboard and eat it whenever you want.
I highly recommend storing your canned goods in a cupboard, where it’s dark. Storing in a highly lighted area, especially one with heat (windowsill, top of stove) degrades any sort of food very quickly. (That includes oils and spices.)
Recipe: Crisp Pickled Green Beans
2 ½ pounds fresh green beans
2 ½ cups distilled white vinegar
2 cups water
¼ cup salt
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 punch fresh dill weed
¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Trim green beans to ¼ inch shorter than your jars.
In a large saucepan, stir together the vinegar, water, and salt. Add garlic and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. In each jar, place 1 sprig of dill and 1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Pack green beans into the jars so they are standing on their ends.
Ladle the boiling brine into the jars, filling to within ¼ inch of the tops. Discard garlic. Seal jars with lids and rings. Place ina hot water bath so they are covered by 1 inch of water. Simmer but do not boil for 10 minutes to process. Cool to room temperature. Test jars for a good seal by pressing the center of the lid. It should not move. Refrigerate any jars that do not seal properly. Let pickles ferment for 2-3 weeks before eating.
Recipe: Basil-Garlic Tomato Sauce
From the Ball Blue Book of Preserving
Yield: about 7 pints
20 pounds tomatoes
1 cup chopped onion
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup finely minced fresh basil
bottled lemon juice
Wash tomatoes; drain. Remove core and blossom ends. Cut into quarters, set aside.
Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until transparent. Add tomatoes; simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Puree tomato mixture using a food processor or food mill. Strain puree to remove seeds and peel. Combine tomato puree and basil in a large saucepot.
Cook over medium-high heat until volume is reduced by half, stirring to prevent sticking.
Add 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each pint jar. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Adjust 2-piece caps. Process 35 minutes in a boiling-water canner.