Sunday, July 5, 2009

The first preserving marathon of July

Saturday I went to a local U-pick farm for strawberries with my neighbor. Before I went, I loaded up my solar dehydrator with yarrow, yellow oregano, and peppermint. I also bought a stack of interlocking brick, promising to bring the cash for them by 2 pm, from a neighbor across the street.

The picking went well. I got 8 liters of strawberries for $13. After I got them home, I walked to the nearest ATM for cash and found it was still out of order from earlier in the morning. I walked on into downtown and got the cash. The neighbor's yard sale was still set up, so I told her I'd bring my Honda CRV over to load the bricks up once they cleared the driveway. She said to wait until her husband got home and they'd help load.

I went back home to address strawberries. First I had to hull and halve them. I was making Strawberry Margarita Preserves and Spreadable Strawberries. Both required peeled, cored and chopped apples. I did the preserves first: a batch of six half-pints. It was a good half-hour of prep, a half-hour of cooking down, and then another twenty minutes to process them. During the cooking, I got the strawberries and apples ready for the spread. During the processing, I began cooking the spread. That took nearly an hour to get down to the thickness I wanted. I had plenty of time to prepare a dozen half-pint jars (in two pots). It turned out I had only enough to fill 8 half-pint jars and I could fit them all into my larger water processor. While those were processing, I checked on my solar dryer. Most of the yarrow was dry (this in a day with some cloud, but under 60% humidity and steady breeze, which helps with the dryer's air circulation) so I brought it in to strip from the stalks and put into a quart jar.

The processing finished (I use a wind-up timer for all my canning -- so handy!) shortly after I started stripping yarrow. I got the jars out and did some general clean-up, then it was back to the yarrow. During it the bricks came...

The neighbors loaded half the bricks in their pickup truck and brought them over to our house. There were 5 of us unloading so it went fast. My husband went with them to load the rest of them while I went back to the yarrow. I helped them unload the second half of the stack. We got 160 regular sized brick and 60 plus half bricks. I might convert the heavy traffic area of my main garden from gravel to brick just to make it easier to move various carts around.

I decided not do my asparagus pickles after supper that night. I was fast asleep by 10 pm.

The next morning,I added more yarrow to what still had to dry and picked some calendula flowers as well. I cut up my asparagus and set up its brine soak. I also mixed up a batch of no-knead artisan oatmeal bread. I opened a couple of pints of poultry stock, added short asparagus ends, carrots, a garlic scape and mushrooms and got soup stock going in my thermal cooker, I set aside longer asparagus ends (which weren't woody) for vegetable kabobs. Somewhere in this I cooked my husband and I egg sandwiches on the last of our homemade English muffins and had some coffee. I also labelled and put away the strawberry preserves and spread.

I got the 6 half-pint jars heating for the dilled asparagus and readied the pickle liquor. I rinsed the asparagus and decided I had to use the larger pot for the initial heating of it after all. While it was doing that, I picked my dill weed and garlic chives. A sixth of dried cayenne pepper went into the bottom each jar, then I packed in the asparagus spears along with dill fronds and chive lengths. It turned out that you can fit more heated asparagus than raw asparagus in a jar. I had two jars left over. I also had a surplus of snow peas, so I took enough of those that had little peas inside them and packed them into one jar. I had just enough pickle liquor to fill that jar. I processed them all together since they both had the same processing time.

While that was going on, I formed up two loaves and a half dozen buns from the oatmeal dough. They would need about an hour to rise.

I drained the stock. I cut up the carrots and threw them back in to the soup pot. Then I added more tender asparagus ends done in 1/8" slices, a can of creamed corn, a can of corn, a can of white meat chicken and a half cup of wild rice. After bringing it to a boil, I set it in the thermal cooker. By then my son had come over to help my husband install a new door on the room he's converting to a music studio. I told him there'd be a lunch of soup and homemade bread shortly after one.

I'd promised my neighbor I'd help her install two brackets to hold her upside-down tomatoes. I went over to her place to find out when we could do. She told me she had to go out on an errand but would come over in a half hour to get me for the job.

I did some kitchen cleanup. The sink was now overflowing with drying bowls and pots. I made an oatmeal cake to bake while the bread was baking. I made depressions in the buns and filled them with Black Forest Preserves. Once everything was in the oven, I set the timer for 35 minutes for the cake and sat down on my deck outside the kitchen with some rhubarb ade and crossword book,

My neighbor's errand took her an hour and when she came over, I still had ten minutes on the cake. She said to come over when my baking was done. After the cake and buns came out, there was still another ten minutes on the bread. It was shortly after one when the bread was done, but the beauty of soup in the thermal cooker is that it can be left on its own. Besides the guys were in the middle of hinging the door. I got my 18v cordless screw gun and some screws and went over to my neighbor's.

When I got back, I cut up the last of the artisan boule and dished out soup. I did clean up then cut up the oatmeal cake into serving size pieces. Some went into the freezer and some I put in a container for dinner's dessert (strawberry shortcake!). I bagged up the oatmeal loaves and put them in the freezer too. The buns went into the refrigerator's freezer.

I decided to relax until it was time to bring in stuff from the solar dryer and make dinner. After my son left, I went to a nearby store for chicken and cherries that were on special. I'll be making meloml with those -- but that will wait until Monday.

I stripped down the rest of the yarrow and now have a quart jar of yarrow leaves and flower for tea and poultices. In a couple of weeks I'll dry another quart. That should suffice for the winter. You shouldn't drink yarrow tea every day, but it works much like echinacea if you drink tea of it during the first stages of a cold or flu. I started a jar of calendula flowers. I was really pleased my solar dryer preserved the colour of the petals-- they'll look fantastic on salads in the winter and they also make a good tea. I'll pick those as they come and dry them (when I'm not putting them fresh into salads).

The day is over and it had started to rain (again!). But it was a beautiful low-humidity weekend with moderate temperatures -- perfect for a preserving marathon.


  1. Sounds very, very productive! I recently got a hanging solar dryer but haven't tried it yet due to our high humiditywith the monsoons. I guess it would still work if I was drying herbs but I worry that veggies would mold before drying.

  2. I found this info on tips for drying herbs . It seems alike a good primer on how to get started. The author uses a clothes drying rack for herbs.