Right now I’m loving tomato and peach season.
I love making salsa, more salsa, bbq sauce, jam.
I love the ping of a canning jar sealing and standing and stirring in the steamy kitchen.
I love the golden color of peaches cooking down and the tumble of red-yellow-green of tomato-peach-peppers in the salsa pot.
I love eating ice cream (or chips and salsa) at the end of the day and picturing hot toast slathered with golden jam on a cold morning.
And I love looking at all the jars—adding these orange-reds and yellow- golds to the greens and berry reds and purple-blues—filling my shelves, proof that I have done something with all these summer hours.
What are you loving right now?
It’s the time of year when fruit flies are destined to take over the universe—or at least your kitchen. It’s the time of year when you keep cooking and canning and freezing trying to stay ahead of those fruit flies. It’s the time of year when your compost bucket fills up every day, more than once.
It’s the time of year when long green veggies pile up in your kitchen. You Google “zucchini recipes” and that poem by Marge Piercy. You’re not handing them out to anybody who walks by. Not quite yet.
It’s the time of year when peach juice drips down your chin and blueberries stain your fingers purple. Your arms are crisscrossed with scratches from raspberry brambles, but you don’t care.
It’s the time of year when lawn mowers rumble through dinner time and the evening insects are quieter as darkness settles. It’s the time of year when you should be cursing the heat and humidity, but tonight it feels like fall. Not yet. Not yet.
It’s the time of year when you want to sit outside and do nothing, but the garden calls and the squash and the beans and the cucumbers on the counter call. It’s the time of year when you stir pots in steamy kitchens (and love it) and wait for that tiny ping that makes you smile each time.
It’s the time of year when years ago you were waiting for your baby’s surgery, waiting to start the life you expected (almost), and you wonder now if that old anxiety is in you still. You know it’s there still in December, but in July, when you were scared but still hopeful? You don’t know. So you do what you did that year. You chop the summer fruit and cook it down and put it in jars. You did it that year because you needed something “normal” to hold on to. You do it now because it’s that time of year.
Write with Me:
It’s the time of year when . . . How does that sentence end for you? What are the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of this time of year? What’s happening in this season, in your life right now? Let it be loose and rough, but keep writing and see what comes up.
Share your writing in the comments, add a link to your blog where you write about this time of year, or email me at email@example.com. I’d love to hear this time of year is like for you.
Ready to keep writing? Try Summer Stories in 5 Minutes.
I had an eight-hour canning extravaganza on Saturday, which felt utterly productive.
I knew I was in for dilly beans and raspberry jam and raspberry chocolate liqueur sauce, but when I showed up at my friend Kath’s house she had a colander full of cucumbers too. Always game, I asked, “Dill or bread & butter?”
Since the dill pickles we like need to sit for at least 12 hours (and I wasn’t planning on staying quite that long), we decided on bread & butter. But there were all those jalapenos. Our first batch of spicy bread & butter pickles was born.
When making these pickles, the cucumber, onion, and peppers sit in a salt brine for two hours before you cook and can them, so we started the process and then went to pick raspberries. We came in got our jars heating, had lunch, and got canning.
We had a not quite full small jar to wrap up our batch of pickles, so after it cooled a bit, we stuck it in the fridge. We usually end our canning days with ice cream, but instead we ended with pickles. They were cold and sweet and spicy all at once. We ate the whole jar standing up and agreed this was a keeper. I liked them so much, I made another batch on Sunday by myself.
In eight hours, we squeezed in
- a batch of hot bread and butter pickles
- a double batch of dilly beans
- a double batch of raspberry jam
- a double batch of raspberry chocolate liqueur sauce (so good on ice cream)*
- a single batch of raspberry-mint-lavender jam (my big girl kept suggesting raspberry mint, so we tried it).
Hot Bread & Butter Pickles
(adapted from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)
10 cups cucumbers sliced into rounds
2 cups onion sliced (I prefer thick slices)
2 cups sliced jalapenos (we kept the seeds in)
½ cup pickling salt or Kosher salt
3 cups white vinegar
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp celery seeds
2 Tbsp mustard seeds (we use mix of yellow and brown)
2 tsp pickling spice
- Mix the pickles, onions, and peppers with salt and cover with cold water. Let sit for 2 hours.
- Prepare 6 pint jars for canning: wash jars and bands in hot soapy water, rinse, and put into a filled canning pot. This recipe should make 5 pints, but I’ve learned to always put an extra jar the same size or smaller in the canner, just in case. Put the flat lids in a heat-proof bowl. Get your canning station set up: layout a towel on the table or counter. Get your ladle, funnel, tongs, slotted spoon, and a wet paper towel or clean rag ready.
- Go pick raspberries, have lunch, read to your kids, or whatever you like until the two hours is up.
- Start heating the canning pot.
- Mix the vinegar and spices together in a large pot. Bring to a boil. While that’s heating, dump the vegetables into a colander and rinse under cold running water.
- As soon as the vinegar mixture begins to boil, add the vegetables. Again bring just to a boil. Turn off the heat.
- Remove jars from the canning pot. Ladle water from the canning pot over the flat lids.
- Spoon the veggies into the hot jars, packing fairly tightly. Ladle the vinegar brine into the jars, leaving ½ inch headspace.
- Wipe the rims of the jars clean. Place a lid on each jar and screw on the band.
- Put the filled jars back in the canning pot. Cover and bring the water to a boil. Once it reaches a boil process for 10 minutes (adjust for altitude if necessary).
- Then turn off the heat and removed the cover. Let jars sit for 5 minutes. Remove onto a clean towel. Wait for the delightful ping of the jars sealing. If one doesn’t seal, stick it in the fridge to enjoy now.
* If raspberry chocolate liqueur sauce sounds good, look for Sundae in a Jar in The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. We replace the strawberries with raspberries.
“So what do you do?” was a common question last weekend at my college reunion.
I answered, like most of us do, by describing my job:
I’m a freelance writer and editor. I’ve been working on textbooks and technical materials for years, but recently I’ve been writing more about parenting and gardening and food. I’m also a writing coach.
I could have answered like this too:
I’m pulling together a lot of things that I love and starting a blog about writing and gardening and food. I’m planning online and in-person writing retreats.
I spend my spring, summer, and fall days in the garden as much as possible—planting, weeding, picking, dreaming.
I stand in steamy kitchens, filling jar after jar with jam or pickles or salsa or relish. I start with strawberries and work my way right through apples. I smile every time a hot jar seals with a ping and every time I open one to spoon some apple sauce or canned peaches out for my kids.
I scramble to figure out what’s for dinner most nights, trying to find some intersection between the food on hand, the time available, what my kids will eat, and what I want. I dream about leisurely meals with friends, catching up over a bottle of wine while we chop and stir.
I help with fairy houses and set up forts. I grumble over load after load of laundry. I read stories over and over and over again. I hold the two-wheeler so my big girl can start pedaling and find blankie for my little girl. I wake up too early to “Mama, is it snuggle time?” and go to bed too late so I can read a little, write a little, relax a little (play Scrabble on Facebook a little).
What do I do? I write and help others tell their stories. I garden and cook and can. I love and take care of my kids (and if I’m good, myself too).
So what do you do?