Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day

I love Labor Day.  It means that fall is on the way! The air smells more crisp and the mornings creep in more gently.  Soon it will be days of soup and hearty bread, staying in and maybe evening turning on the heat someday.  I can dream.

With fall comes a motivation for me to settle in for a long winter's nap.  To do that, I have decided this is the year of canning. So far, G just loves the blueberry jams I make him.  My sister keeps him supplied with strawberry jam from her garden, so this year I went up to Leavenworth to pick organic blueberries and put in some preserves for him.  That's another post and you can check it out here.

I visited my sister Patti last week (she lives West of me) and my sister Mickie a few weeks before that (she lives on the eastern edge of the state. Truly I'm in the center of the state. From my visit east I got two boxes of apples (which I've previously written about), and my visit west yielded 4 zucchinis, or 20 lbs. And here at home I've been growing a little patch of basil.

First was the supposedly easy work of making apple jelly. I couldn't get that stuff to come out right. It made lots of jelly, but even after a second round of boiling and extra pectin, it's just on the jelly side. In hot weather it's syrup.

Mint extract from my garden. I murdered two grown mint plants for this.

Eventually it thickened up, just not a whole lot.
At least there's lots of it. Like a six pints and a dozen 4 oz jars.

Then it was on to today's adventure.  First up: Pesto.

My thought was to make and can some pesto.  We don't have a big freezer, though I'd like one (hint, hint).  So I thought I'd freeze some pesto and can the rest in a water bath.  I've been anticipating this for a long while, and today was the day of THE GREAT BASIL HARVEST OF 2014!
Yeah, that's some basil!
G graciously helped me to pick all the leaves from the stems.  There were no bugs; mostly because there aren't many bugs in our town but also because it's basil.

I have so much basil that there are still plants outside.  They will be used...
What would I even use leftover basil for? Glad you asked! 
Our dinner the other night was caprese with homegrown basil. The tomatoes and cukes are local and it was delicious! 

The result

I don't have a recipe, just ingredients.  Have I mentioned that I love my food processor?  Yes, yes I do. Just basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil and a little lemon until it tastes right.

Here's the thing though.  I looked online and you shouldn't can pesto.

All of it is in the freezer. Mr. G isn't really happy about that part, but it's not like he doesn't get to eat it! I think he will live.

Then it was on to virgin territory.
 My sister Patti grows zucchini and lots of other veggies at her house.  It's easy to deal with all the fresh food and she cans a lot of stuff.... pickles, jams, relishes and jellies. You wouldn't believe how much food grows in her garden.  Sometimes I think her motto is:

Anyway, if you look at the picture above, you'll see three of the four monsters she sent home. They total about 20 pounds of zucchini.  I'm sure she'll get another 100 lbs AT LEAST from her garden this year.  But what to do with all that zucchini (besides give it away!)? 

She got a recipe from Food 52 for zucchini butter. I didn't follow it exactly but it worked pretty well. If you try this recipe, just remember to take the seeds out. They don't say to but it's a good idea.  I used more butter and fried it a bit more. I used shallots and salt and pepper.  And did I mention how much I love my food processor? I do. Thanks again for getting us one, G. 
The hardest part truly was just in wringing out the grated stuff. I put it in cheese cloth and squeezed the bag. I ended up having to lean on it over the sink.

One of several pans full

I ended up with 5 pints of butter (which is much more like relish) for 10 lbs of my zucchini.  I like it. I can eat it on toast or by itself.  Pretty good stuff. But it took forever, so long that I only used half of my zucchinis.  Clean up was a pain!  I'll do the rest another day.

I love that these few things aren't commercially raised and that I know their sources- my garden, my sister's garden, an apple tree in Eastern Washington. It makes me feel more connected to my family.

I'm going to break down and buy some apples this week.  I know, I know, but I want apple butter and I'm running out of trees to raid! Also, G is working his way through the blueberry jam. I'm going to hit up Leavenworth one more time and make him a second batch.  Confession: I love that jam almost as much as he does.

So happy Labor Day, friends. And happy beginning of Autumn. I'm so excited for cooler weather and sleeping more soundly.

What's your favorite thing about Fall?
Maybe that's another post entirely...

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