Preserving Joy

Over the past year, I have been discovering how much I love preserving food.

“Putting Up” satisfies so many things for me: cooking, creative activity, pantry-building, and the thought of creating things to share with friends and family. The more intense and concentrated flavors that come from many preserved items seems to parallel my intense and concentrated joy and thoughts of love, care, and relationship that invariable come while I am working on any project.

I started preserving food with some amount of intention only last year. That’s when I bought a dehydrator and comandeered Kelly Baker’s pressure canner. Since then, it’s been a fabulous ride trying out fruits and vegetables, pickles and jams, pie fillings and frozen sauces. Each item makes me so happy, even the ones that have taken more prep power than I imagined (I’m looking at you, Canned Peaches. And you too, Dehydrated Apples.)

Today I’m sharing pictures of “sun” dried Sugar Plum tomatoes and basil pesto.

Wish I had remembered to weigh these babies beofre I got underway…

Filling the screens.

Most were done after about 10 hours, at 145 degrees.


Basil pesto up next. The pesto recipe is modified from the entertaining The Sicilian Gentleman’s Cookbook.

Below, I’m adding the second incorporation of Parmesano Reggiano (what else) and olive oil. It tastes even better than it looks, if you can believe *that*.

First batch is done, capped with an extra shot of EVOO, and ready for the freezer. 

Both will be such a bright reminder of summer in the middle of winter’s grey and wet.  I’m already dreaming of the pasta they will accompany….

Some of my favorite books on preserving:


6 thoughts on “Preserving Joy

  1. These look fabulous, Shawn! I admire your postmodern pioneer-woman approach (Postmodern Pioneer would also be an awesome blog name). Makes me think of the chapter in LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS where Laura and Mary play among the foods the Ingalls have put by.

    • Shawn says:

      Christina! Oh my – do you know that three of my fave ever scenes in fictional foodie-ness are from the Little House series – the first in Silver Lake when they see the storeroom that was stocked by the surveyors before they skee-daddled, and the other when Laura sees her marriage home for the first time, and all of the little spice and baking drawers, etc., that Almanzo custom built for her in their first home. Third to those is, of course, pig-slaughtering day where they roast the tail, play balloon with a pig bladder, and make head cheese. All before playing on the pumpkins in the attic later that afternoon. Build me a smokehouse in a stump!!

      And p.s. – An Austen-y post is on its way for tomorrow.

  2. Katie Ann says:

    I SO want some of your yummy-looking sun-dried tomatoes and pesto, Ms. Shawn! Though it is only morning, you have me dreaming about making pasta. (Or wood-fired pizza. Or soft and crunchy bruschetta.) Thank you for sharing your lovely blog, friend! Keep it up!

    • Shawn says:

      Hey lady! I can not wait for those sun-drieds to soak up a bit of olive oil and be a shiny spot on a cold, wet winter evening. Don’t they simply taste of the heat of summer and all that is warm and golden? I also used up the last few leaves of basil last night when I made a few final tablespoons of pesto to have over pasta and some INCREDIBLE meatballs I made with “butcher’s grind” ground grass-finished beef last night from Bill the Butcher. I can’t remember if you’re eating meat yet, but this was beautiful: they knew the herd, could tell me all about the way the beef had been feed on pasture their whole lives, exactly how long the meat had been hung, what cuts they had used to make the “grind”, *and* the fact that they had just made it about 3 hours earlier… Incredible. I tried to make something with it that would honor the flavor and intention, and I think we did well. Minced sweet red bell pepper, sweet onion, a hefty pinch of Italian herb blend from Murchies, and a few other magic ingredients. They were faboo.

      Check out the pumpkin bread post – you will laugh. Thanks for leaving a comment, Ms. K. 🙂

  3. Isabel Schurman says:

    Absolutely delicious – loved every word and learned things too! You are magically enjoying yourself and it is wonderful to follow.

    Think of you often, even look back at old photos – miss those days!

    Celebrate the woman you have become. So proud of you. Love Isabel

  4. Shawn says:

    Dearest Isabel! How exciting for me to see you here! I am so very glad you are enjoying this; I remember so often our family times together, and what a wonderful cook you are, and such a gracious and beautiful hostess. You are one of my most special models of what it means to have a lovely home and to welcome people into it. I love you and Ted so much. ❤

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