Let’s go back 5 years. I retired from Parish Visiting. Our lake home was on the market longer than we dreamt possible-without a nibble. We had followed suggestions and pared down our overstuffed abode in anxious anticipation of our next move in more than 20 years. We were so excited at the prospect of not driving 150-180 miles to see the rest of the family. So many changes coming, just not as fast as we had expected or hoped.
|A celebration! Opal turned 100…|
You know I have this weird compulsion/obsession/habit with anything to do with making lists. I love note pads, from tiny free ones to odd sized and costly. My stash. Where my ideas are stored, often forgotten, only to be discovered again-usually with a smile. Anything from my mundane grocery list to blog post stories. Just teensie idea seeds-fermenting, ready to sprout. I have notepads all over the house, my Jeep, my purse, even on my nightstand. A suggestion from my friend Cindy in case a bright idea comes to me during a sleepless night. As if. That little journal remains as barren as this great grandma, but the ones in my purse and car have been bearing fruit for several years. Mighty strange how inopportune the timing can be when a thought crosses my mind and I jot down a story line for my blog. Or when I notice something’s missing in my overflow cupboards downstairs which I’d forgotten to write down.
|Blog post ideas. Umm, it could be fuller…|
One of my more obscure journals for the last decade is about my canning exploits. Sometimes in great detail. It didn’t start that way. Merely a way of tracking what I canned, plus where I bought the produce and how much I paid. Some vendors at the Farmer’s Market just carry better produce for a gooder price (didn’t want to use the word better again). I end up going to the same dealers every time. They get to know you and aren’t offended if you try and dicker the price down a bit. I had no idea on how much I really canned every year until I started jotting down the total number of jars that sealed their way through my kitchen. Boy was I surprised at the number of jars. This was during my busiest years of visiting. These visits always included some of my homemade pickles or jams unless the folks were in a nursing home. (Then they received a small loaf of banana or pumpkin bread or a half dozen cookies).
|What I brought along when I visited folks…|
At the peak of my canning frenzy (which only lasted 5 years) my total number of jars canned was between 1,100 & 1,400 jars. For one year. Oh my. If you consider the number of jars we consumed, maybe 100-150 tops, that’s still an awful lot of jars setting around. (I think per chance I was possessed). There’s never been any left over from the previous year. I made and gave away hundreds of jars in gift baskets plus brought a couple hundred jars along to Iowa every year. But I digress. This is not about the actual jars I canned, but about my journaling on canning and my all around decline since 2015. No more wacky sidetrack paragraphs.
|Just missing my pickled beets cause Hubs hasn’t brought them downstairs yet…|
Knowing how wordy I tend to get, it comes as no surprise that the first couple of years, my 10 word descriptions of a day in the life of canning would expand into mini-blogs equally several paragraphs. Sigh. Maybe since I’m not very talkative anymore, my continued writing or tapping out of words was to be expected.
|End of the year canning total when I was possessed…|
I realize I’m no longer at the top of my game physically. But until a couple of weeks ago, I was working 25 hours a week, carrying around 20 plus pound babies 6 hours a day. Still, how much the last 3 years have affected me is evident by my simple canning journal. I canned a bushel of apples into sauce last week. (Sorry Hildonna, I’m still using a paring knife to peel the apples). First time in my life, I had to sit down to peel the apples, because I’m having issues with my right leg. Ugh. I was optimistic-yet realistic when I drove to the orchard, so instead of buying 1 or 2 bushels of Northern Spy’s for pies, I pared (lame apple peeling joke) down that little number to a half bushel this year for a couple of reasons.
- Our apple pie consumption is down for the first time in decades.
- Neither Hubs nor I need ready to eat pies in our freezer. Ever. Really.
- Even sitting to peel pie apples, I gotta stand to roll out pie crusts, mix the apples with my secret ingredients, crimp the edge, top w/ milk & sugar, seal the outer edge with aluminum foil, which is all very time consuming.
|First pot of apples ready to go…|
So after the applesauce was canned, I decided not to make any pies this year. I should also tell you this bothers me. A lot. It’s selfish and stupid. It really bugs me not to make my pies because of physical issues. I don’t want things to be wrong with me. You know how I detest change of any kind. And I had just resigned myself to let the dumb pie making go this year. Until I got out my old canning journal. What a difference a few years make. In July of 2012 I bought 3 bushels (yes that’s really three) of cucumbers ONE DAY. Do you know how perishable they are? You can’t sit round the house for a week deciding when you’re going to can your famous (yes, I’m gloating) Bread & Butter Pickles. Chop-chop Neese, time’s a wasting. I canned 63 pints on Tuesday and 97 pints on Wednesday. Dang. I mean it. Dang. It was quite common for me to make 100 jars of jam-a day. Who does that besides Smuckers? After one such we-be-jamming-day, my last journal sentence read, “it’s 2 am, think I’m gonna have to crawl up the stairs, my feet hurt so bad.”
|Deaf person-running dish water-epic fail on watching apples boil over…|
On one of my more lengthy written observations was a day when I did 14 batches of Bread & Butters which took 10 hours (and the prep work was done the day before. Hubs sliced all the onions while I rinsed the cukes and snipped the ends). I discovered after I started a batch on the stove, just as it began to boil, I started a second batch. Cut at least 2-3 hours off my long day. I felt so smart. At least for that day.
|Finished product (apple sauce) looks awesome, 2018…|
I knew when we moved to Jackson, my big days/months/years of canning were coming to an end. No longer visiting 30-40 people a month, so my canning gift baskets were down to a minimum. Gave Goodwill hundreds of my empty jars before we moved (don’t go there, I’ve bought 12 dozen jars since last summer-referring you back to the possessed canning poltergeist living within). But it was my choice/lack of need/ to take my canning bingeing down a notch when we got here. Not because I’m not physically able.
|I know not why I’m compelled to write at length about everything…|
Yet I’ve been pitched curve ball after curve ball since we whittled down our living space here in Jackson. About 6 months after we moved (February, 2016), my left leg decided it needed to be lugged along side of me like the loose limb of a zombie. I doctored, did therapy and limped for a year, yet it’s still only about 75%. Three months ago, pain and swelling in my right leg, which hasn’t gotten any better. Waiting for a second opinion on what’s exactly wrong with one or both of my limbs.
|Beets are-messy. Neese as backup to “Maroon 5”|
The last produce I can for the year are always pickled beets and cranberry sauce. I love both and freely share my beets with the world. Cranberry sauce-not so much. I make 15 pints a year, and I eat a dozen. Truth. I eat a pint a month. (If you should ever get a pint of my canned cranberry sauce-consider yourself very special. Same goes for canned meat or spaghetti sauce. You’re highly revered in my book, just saying. I rarely part with those 3). One of my fondest memories of eating supper as a family when the kids were young is about pickled beets. While no one else ate them, a jar of beets was usually on the table. When I asked for them, Josh & Adam would do these rap like noises with their mouths and start snapping their fingers ‘to the beet.’ Neat to remember those silly supper moments.
|Here’s the reason for the pretty maroon fingers…|
I recently went to Muskegon to visit my friend Joann, and stopped at the Farmer’s Market. People of Muskegon, you are so lucky to have this great produce market. A month earlier I had made 10 phone calls trying to find Concord grapes around Jackson. Finally stumbled across some, paid a fortune, made a few jars of grape jelly. Then, while in Muskegon I spotted a gorgeous half bushel of Concords for 15 bucks. About cried. Let me reiterate. Since moving away, I miss 3 things about Muskegon. My friend Joann, The Farmer’s Market and Lake Michigan. Period. And not necessarily in that order.
|Aren’t those jars gorgeous? Yum…|
Beets are not as temperamental or delicate as most produce. I waited a couple days before I pickled them. You boil them until they’re fork tender like a potato, dump them in the sink to cool, slip off the skins and trim both ends. Then I hauled them to the dining room table so I could sit and dice them. Sigh, yes another first-sitting to dice beets. Then comes the stand up part. The beets go into a delicious syrup which kinda makes your eyes water. Strong smell from tons of sugar and vinegar with a dash of water. (Still the best part of pickling beets. Those little shits actually stink while you’re cooking them. Hubs always finds something to do outside. He hates both smells though, the cooking and pickling part). So ‘ya dump 10 pounds of diced beets into this ginormous vat of syrup so they can simmer for 5 minutes, (which takes a long time to get back to a simmer). But then you’re practically done as you fill scalding hot jars, turn the lids & rings pretty tight and wait for them puppies to seal with that distinctive pop.
|One of our favorites, canned meat, redskins and fresh green beans. With cranberry sauce…|
My pickled beets netted me thirty-six pints. And I felt like I had been rode hard and put away wet. So stinking tired. After 36 pints. Makes me want to weep. What happened to my stamina a mere 5 years hence? I don’t know. But I do care. Hoping once my legs heal (Orel Roberts-where are you) or are fixed surgically, I am back. Not stronger than ever-necessarily. Just stronger. Cause I’m beet….
|Muskegon Lighthouse on Lake Michigan with high winds. By Mike Dixon…|