Monday, July 4, 2011

Farmer Nan

Did I ever tell you that I used to be an amateur farmer? I spent every summer of my childhood with my grandparents on their farm and that was no vacation from school! We had to work, but Grandma and Grandpa managed to make the work a lot of fun and we learned a lot, too. We learned how to grow vegetables and flowers, how to control pests, we became expert weed pullers and harvesters. I remember one summer when we were planting a corn patch. Grandpa went along the row first and dug a small hole. I came behind him and put four corn seeds in the hole. My sister followed and put two pumpkin seeds in and Grandma covered the hole and watered it. We were complaining how long it was taking and Grandpa said "See that last hole over in the corner? Your lunch is in that hole." That meant that we couldn't break for lunch until we were finished and that made us go much, much faster. I think Grandpa helped put seeds in so we could catch up. Then we spent the end of the summers canning and freezing what was left after they sold some to make a living. Grandma also grew about a half acre of flowers that she sold to local florists.

When my ex-husband and I moved here to the mountains in 1991 we had a large garden every summer. I froze or canned all we grew, and in a house with no air conditioning it was a hot, sweaty job. I did most of it by myself, with some help from Fred when he wasn't traveling. After we divorced and I moved to this house I decided that a large vegetable patch was too much for one person so I just have a small raised bed that I put a few things in so I can have fresh veggies when I want them. Otherwise, there's a produce stand near the Post Office I can go to, or our county Farmer's Market on Saturdays is incredible. I believed that my food preservation days were over.

OK, so I have this friend, Nan. We've known each other for around forty years, so we have a lot of history and have shared some incredible adventures. You know? I'm sure you have a friend or two like that. We can almost finish each other's sentences. She lives in the eastern part of the state in a little community called White Level. Before she met and married Chris she was sort of a "city girl". Then they gutted and remodeled the house that was his mother's and they moved in and now she lives in the middle of nowhere.

They planted a large garden this year. In a recent phone conversation Nan was a little overwhelmed with all that was coming out of the garden and she didn't know how to freeze or can anything. She had a pressure cooker but was afraid to use it because she heard all the old horror stories about them blowing up and, at least, destroying a kitchen or, at worst, killing someone. She didn't realize that a lot of safety precautions have been built in to the newer models. Plus her little Virgo self was petrified of botulism. I explained on the phone how easy it was to freeze food, but she was still apprehensive. So, being the WONDERFUL friend that I am, I volunteered to go down there and show her how.

The big, scary pressure cooker

Before I got there she consulted with some neighbors and ventured out on her own and froze some yellow squash that couldn't wait for my visit. I think what she really wanted was a hands-on demonstration on how to use that scary pressure cooker.

I arrived on Friday afternoon and gifted her with my well-worn copy of "Stocking Up", the bible on how to preserve food in all kinds of ways. On Saturday morning we started canning tomatoes. First you sterlize the jars with boiling water, then blanch the tomatoes (again in boiling water), skin and core them, then pack them in the jars. Add sterlized lids and put the jars in the pressure cooker and cook according to directions. Easy peasy. We did twelve pints of tomatoes.



She also has these beautiful purple hull peas and figs coming in, but we didn't get around to doing anything with them.

Except eating the figs.. Nan made an appeizer with them on Friday night - she cut them in half, put a small dab of goat cheese in the center and added a little piece of proscutto ham on top and put them under the broiler until hot. Yum! Their fig bush wraps around two sides of their house so it wasn't like I was depriving them of any and I was able to leave with a large bag full. I stopped at my sister's house on the way home and traded several of them for some chicken parmesan that my BIL made. Good trade!

It was a lovely little trip and by leaving on Friday and returning on Sunday I missed most of the holiday traffic on the roads. I'm glad to be home. I'll be spending the next couple of days listing more of the things I found for the GREAT STUDIO CLEAN OUT AND STASH PURGE.  I still have lots of goodies that you might be interested in.

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