Tag Archive | canning

Stellar’s Last Days: Stretching

I’m grateful for another mild day to permit Boyz Lunch, grateful Stellar is still here to delight John, grateful to see how happy these two are to see each other.

I feel like a new mother. I spend an hour lying on the floor with him, soothing him to sleep, and then I roll over, get up, and go in the kitchen to do dishes, or wrap another set of pills for him, or take my own night pills, and I turn around and he’s there behind me, panting, hungry, wanting, needing. His appetite is insatiable these days. His energy is greater than mine. His confusion is increasing. His mobility looks good when people come around, and they say He’s doing great! But they see him at his best, alert with steroids, and the excitement of their attention. When it’s just the two of us, he stumbles a lot more; when we walk through the woods, his back legs frequently tangle and stretch out behind him, and he hops on his front legs for a few steps, dragging his back legs on the tops of his feet.

He remains the most beautiful creature I have ever known, and I’m grateful for all that he has taught me and continues to teach me about unconditional love. At the same time that I’m exhausted, that it’s a kind of torture to watch his up and down decline, I’m grateful for each day that he wakes alert and eager for a walk, that his eyes follow me around the house, that I get to spend time in the evening lying beside him massaging his muscles, holding his pressure points, feeling his pulses, hearing his breath, looking into those trusting brown eyes, loving this soul that has never let me down.

Though I have whinged a bit recently about the extra work entailed in caring for his infirmities, I’m grateful each day for the accommodations and adaptations I’m able to make, in order to make his last days more comfortable, and to be more at ease with him, and a little less precious about meself. I’m grateful for stretching my capacities for acceptance and compassion. I’m grateful for this ongoing surrender in service to another sentient being, a being as worthy of my regard as any other.

I’m also grateful today for wrapping up the canning season with the last batch of salsa, at last! Grateful, too, that a few tomatoes remain ripe and ready for sandwiches and cooking, and a few more green tomatoes ripen in a basket and on hanging vines, to carry me another month or so with fresh fruits. I’m grateful for a bountiful harvest this year that will provide nutritious homegrown food through winter, as well as a few gifts for friends and family. I’m grateful to live in this little mud hut in the woods, with a good dog, a sweet cat, a quiet tortoise, a garden, friends, and solitude. Above all I give thanks.

Sourdough

An unprepossessing substance, but so rich in meaning and purpose. Like a lot of things.

Not only sourdough, but so many other things I’m grateful for today. However, sourdough was a good way to wrap up yesterday and begin today.

I started these sourdough cinnamon buns yesterday afternoon, making the dough from starter that Ruth gave me many years ago. I’m grateful for the gift of this ‘mother’ that has kept on giving for these many years, just as the friendship has. I’m grateful for friends who can go a year without speaking and pick up right where we left off. I’m grateful for this fermenting dough starter that Ruth shared with me, and I’ve kept alive in my refrigerator for… how many years? And grateful that I’ve been able to share it with other kitchens in the valley.

The dough was super sticky, and I added a lot of flour on the board as I pressed it out to the right size rectangle…

I let them rise overnight in the mudroom, which cooled down to around 60 degrees F. Then I brought them into the house and put them in the sun to warm up for a couple of hours before baking. They came out so light and fluffy, and doubled in size before I put them in the oven.

While they were rising, Stellar and I walked to the canyon rim. He was having a good morning. The cottonwoods nourished by the seep are starting to turn yellow, though it’s hard to see in this picture. Soon enough! I’m grateful that the Best Boy Ever has made it to another autumn!

The sourdough cinnamon buns came out perfectly! And then frosted, with coffee… a morning to be grateful for being alive.

I’m grateful for the work, the reading, and the correspondence that filled my day between breakfast and homesteading in the afternoon. I’m grateful even in receipt of unfortunate news from a dear friend, because he chose to deliver it to me himself, in a heart-touching phone call, rather than let it catch me by surprise on social media. I’m grateful for our adventures together through the years, our lasting connection, our special photographic bond; grateful that our friendship transcends the mundane challenges of space and time.

I’m grateful to have harvested the last large cucumbers, and put them in pickling brine this afternoon. The secret ingredient is a horseradish leaf in each jar. There were a couple of leaves leftover, and a couple of cucumbers just a day too old to pickle. Something different for them, tomorrow…

And then it was time to can a round of tomato sauce. Using a mix of Amish Paste and Pizzutello fruits, I roasted them just enough to loosen the skins so I could pinch them off, then mashed the tomatoes into sauce in the Dutch oven, with dried herbs and garlic granules.

Finally, at ten p.m., I hung up my apron and sat down to rest, listening to those gratifying pops, one lid… two… three, four… five… … … and finally six. Six sealed jars of garden fresh tomato sauce put up. The tip of the iceberg, with so much more to ripen in the next several weeks. I’m grateful, as always, for the rare and precious opportunity to experience joyful adventures in food: garden to table, fridge to oven, stovetop to pantry.

A New Way

I’m always alert for a new way to do something, and read this morning about a better way to peel tomatoes for canning. Still contending with the kitchen sink drain, I was looking for a shortcut, and searched “do I have to peel tomatoes before canning.” Answers were heavily weighted toward “you’ll be happier if you do,” and one of them included this new way: broil them first, then set a towel over them as they cool to steam the skins loose. My broiler doesn’t allow the six inch distance called for, so I simply roasted them for fifteen minutes on a tray lightly greased with olive oil, then covered, and then plucked those skins right off.

A new and easier way to prepare tomatoes for canning! With far less mess to clean up, ergo far less water ‘down the drain,’ or in this case, into the red bucket. I didn’t count, but know that I carried that two-gallon bucket outside more than two dozen times today, dumping water on various shrubs and beds just beyond the front door. Anything to save on that labor! Waiting on a professional solution to the drain clog, and patiently abiding until that manifests, continuing to pour enzymes down the drain each night in hopes of a natural dissolution. We’ll know more later. Meanwhile, I’m grateful for patience, for perseverance, for running water, and for the red bucket. And very grateful for a new way to peel tomatoes.

I’m also grateful for the bountiful tomatillo crop. I soft-boiled, pureed, and then canned six pints, while the tomatoes were roasting and cooling. Ten pints of produce put up this afternoon!

And in between morning work and afternoon canning, another lovely BLT with lettuce-leaf basil. What a great idea! Thanks again, Amy. Served with one of the first lacto-fermented dill pickles this season. So simple, so delicious. I’m grateful not only for the first BLT of the season, but for every BLT of the season. Why limit grateful? Savor every mouthful.