Squirrelling Away

It’s been a while since the last post here at CI – August was filled with sunshine, doggies, sailing, dune-ridin’, and lots of yardwork involving chainsaws and branch-shears.

This has been the scene at my desk for the last few months:

Note – that was a ‘clean’ day. The mess and the sunshine outside have made it pretty hard to want to sit at a computer for longer than 2 minutes, and even when I did there were distractions making it hard to focus:

But as Labor Day (at the Dunes!) arrived and passed, the seasons changed in my mind. Sitting in the cab of the truck with the Captain – a bullie on the bench seat between us and a lab dozing on the crew bench behind us – I voiced the urge that had been welling up in my heart for the past two weeks:

“I’m going to spend a bit of time canning this coming week.” …A simple statement for a lot of action.

It all started a few weeks ago when I procured this little beauty from a local restaurant supply grocery:

You know you’re not messing around when you have a 25-lb bag of sugar hogging all the counterspace in your kitchen.

Next up, a trip to the Yakima Fruit Market in Bothell to see what looked good. Perfect timing for one of my very favorite fruits to eat canned, Italian Prunes. A huge box of Granny Smith apples also found its way into my cart, as well as a pound or so of string beans.

“Candy” indeed. When I was growing up, our home had two Italian Prune trees. That’s when I first fell in love with this fruit. To me, few things smell as much like summer as the scent of sun-warmed and sun-ripened prunes. And when accompanied by the buzz of hornets munching up bruised fruit on the ground and the golden sun-dappled shade of this tree? Perfect.

So it’s not hard to understand why a 30-lb box made perfect sense. At the time.

Like I realized with asparagus, a whole box is just a whole lot.

That’s 7 quarts and 8 pints of whole fruit in light syrup, and who knows how many ½ pints of the most delicious plum syrup I’ve ever had. (That, of course, was supposed to be jam, but I don’t like adding as much sugar as Ball wants because when I do it, all I can taste is the sugar not the fruit. However, I haven’t gotten my pectin balancing figured out yet to compensate for the missing gel. I’m sure time and experience will fix this, but until then this stuff is still AWESOME!)

I also quartered a dehydrator-full of fruit and partially dried them on very low heat. I found when I did the apricots and nectarines earlier this summer, that drying at the recommended temperature for fruit as listed on the dehydrator itself actually cooked the fruit as well as dried it. The resulting flavor was a too carmelly for my preference – I want as much fresh, sweet-tart flavor of the raw fruit to remain as possible. This plan worked well, and now I have a pint bag full of raisiny-soft prunes in the freezer, ready for cakes, muffins, and cookies during this winter.

Prunes were first because they can spoil so quickly. With that monkey off my back, the beans were next on the list. I’d been waiting for a while to find beans on sale so I could get a nice amount without feeling guilty, since I was planning to use them to liven up my bean storage. Over the past few years I’ve been working on building up a bit of food storage for us, and that includes a small number of canned beans – but still more than the average pantry. Beans have never been a staple or go-to food for me, and so as the year wore on I found myself looking at 20 or so cans of kidney beans and a similar number of garbanzo beans every time I wandered down to the garage. What to do with all that?

Then I had an idea: Three Bean Salad! Yes!

I love Three Bean Salad, but we rarely have it because I don’t usually like store-bought flavors and I don’t typically plan ahead enough to let the beans marinate before eating. But I could make my own! And it could percolate down in storage and soak up all those wonderful flavors – just ready to eat whenever I wanted!

First step: Get beans

Second step: Can (cold pack, 15 min bwb)

Third step: EAT!

No picture for this yet, those babies have to soak!

Those apples are up next, on the docket for later this week. Plans are for applesauce, pie filling, and who knows what other yummy good things!

Have a wonderful week!

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2 thoughts on “Squirrelling Away

  1. Katie Ann says:

    How beautiful those colors look together! Can’t wait to hear how yummy that salad is–how long to soak, do you think? Is it like waiting for pickles?

    What do you do with all those gorgeous canned plums? Are they mostly for straight out-of-the-jar eating or do you cook with them (and how)?

    Looks like FUN, friend. I’m canning with you in spirit! 😀

  2. MOM says:

    I was beginning to think the RZR had taken over your life…glad to see with the weather change, you are back to being a homebody. Your bean salad ingredients are very colorful and look delicious, maybe I’ll be get one in my Christmas stocking???

    Wasn’t aware that your were that gung ho on Italian prunes. Figured after all the years we had them around, you’d be tired of them. They are delicious, even canned.

    Apples, well, to me they are just a lot of work. I’ll continue to buy them one by one as needed. I do miss homemade applesauce though.

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