ENJOY OUR "SNAX"--SHORT BYTES--IN BETWEEN ISSUES OF FEAST!

For FALL 2010's delicious offerings of books, art, food, film, and unique travel--check out the NEW ISSUE of our online magazine FEAST--you will not go away hungry-- http://www.feastofbooks.com/

Between issues, read our blog posts as we and our special guests share thoughts, ideas, and recommendations about books, art, food, film, and travel. We love to hear from our readers, so please post a comment! Thanks-- Rosemary Carstens, editor

SNAX ONLINE is moving during the first quarter of 2011 -- stay tuned!

Snax Online is undergoing a redesign and will be moving to a new location. Check back from time to time for a link. In its new format, this blog will cover a wider range of topics but also its usual five. In the meantime, keep up with what's happening in the world of books, art, food, film, and travel at http://www.FEASTofBooks.com --

See you in 2011!!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Preserving the taste, color, and memory of summer . . .

Lipstick-red tomatoes plump with juice; green slices ready to crisp up in oil for a tart, crunchy hors d’oeuvre; pear-shaped yellow ones to delight the eye; and cool salads dotted with cherry tomatoes as sweet as honey on the tongue. Chilled green, gold, and red melons, refreshing as shade on a blistering day. Raspberries, strawberries, light-as-air whipped cream on a slice of angel food cake. Fresh greens, a half-dozen varieties of garlic, spicy red and white radishes, more tomatoes, a toss of fresh basil, a dash of balsamic, a quick grate of hard cheese. These are only a few of the luscious, sensuous pleasures of summer here in Colorado. The season came in with a roar this year, going from spring to ninety-degree weather in a matter of days. I try not to think about how quickly it’ll all pass and sprigs of yellow will begin to show themselves on our trees. How to preserve at least a smidge of all that glory from the garden or your local farmer’s market? Canning is one answer.

Each June of my childhood, daddy carried my sister and brother and me outside in our jammies in the middle of the night, to return to sleep in the back of our fifties Plymouth station wagon. He and Mom would sip coffee from a thermos as we headed east from Southern California to try to cross the Arizona desert before worst of the blistering heat, then north to Moab, Utah, where daddy’s mother lived. My paternal grandmother and my aunt and uncle, plus a passel of cousins, were all Mormons. They were also farmers and both life-shaping pursuits meant that summers were spent churning butter, whipping cream, picking fruits and vegetables, canning and preserving all that could be processed as each season peaked. While it was never much of a vacation for my mother, who was expected to pitch in with the work while the men sat at ease at the end of their days, for me it was glorious. I loved the wonderful, heavily laden table we sat down to for every meal, the seemingly unlimited quantities of whipped cream, the homemade ice cream, the fruit right at hand in the fields if I wanted a snack when I hid in a haystack reading hot afternoons away. We always took home boxes of canned tomatoes, carrots, venison, okra (which I still hate to this day), pearly baby onions, and an assortment of pickles and relishes. Those gleaming, filled Mason jars seemed like art to me and their memory still shines so many decades later. They were a symbol of rootedness, of the land, of bounty, and even of love as those were happy times for me.

Today people don’t can so much, but it’s all there to be done and not as hard as one might fear. Sterling Publishing has a new book out in their Homemade Living Series that is filled with simple step-by-step directions, tips, and cautions—from tools of the trade to ingredients and resources, plus how to create a range of pickles and preserves, jams and jellies—and recipes, of course. CANNING & PRESERVING: All you need to know to make jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys & more by Ashley English is the ideal roadmap to keeping summer’s vibrancy alive long into the cold, stark months.

Take the challenge—you’ll love the results!

17 comments:

Verna Wilder said...

What a wonderful glimpse of summer past and present, Rosemary! I think of corn on the cob, watermelon, and gallons of iced tea. The kids pitched in to shuck the corn and stir the iced tea after dune-sized heaps of sugar were added. When my brother moved back to Indiana, his wife started a garden, and they can and freeze whatever they don't eat immediately. She works a full-time job (with a 50-minute commute each way) and still tends her garden, pickles cucumbers, prepares meals, and has time to sit with my brother in the barn where he drinks a beer, she sips cherry wine (a mix of merlot with cherries from her tree) while they talk about their day.

Thank you for sharing your memories. I'm happy to see more from your Feast.

Jerrie Hurd said...

I have similar family memories: big gardens, canning--I don't think it pays to can anymore, sadly. My grandmother made the best watermelon pickles. I'm thinking I should post the recipe.

Gail Storey said...

I love this window into your childhood, Rosemary. Mine was very urban--no garden or canning, but I read, rode my bike, and walked on stilts on the asphalt of our housing project. The taste of my summer was orange popsicles from the ice cream truck. It was wonderful though. Thanks for sharing the bright colors and tastes of yours.

canneturn said...

Rosemary, I'm one of those folks who wishes I could bring the cool weather with me into the sweltering summer but you've got me convinced! I can see those friendly jars full of "love." I have a serious taste for currant jelly but it's kind of rare in the grocery store. I've thought about learning how to can it -- if I could figure out how to find some currants first.

canneturn said...

Sorry--my name isn't showing up on my previous comment. Carol Turner

Rosemary Carstens said...

Verna, thanks to adding to the visuals that the simple word "summer" evokes! You, too, Jerrie--and, Jerrie, I think the process of canning, the textures and color of the end product, and the pleasure of having all that renewed throughout colder months might be the zen-type "payoff" of trying this--plus the flavors you can't get elsewhere. Gail, oh YES! I'd forgotten about orangecicles--how I loved them and waited for the ice cream man's bell to run out and buy one. Carol, I hope you do try canning and report back to us on your success! Thanks everyone for comments!

sibylle said...

When I was in college in Oregon, I used to make blackberry jam from berries picked wild; plum pies from a local tree, and cobblers with peaches, elderberries, and more. then, I had more time and Oregon grew more fruit, wild, everywhere.

Priscilla said...

Ah, yes, the colors of summer! A friend and I were just speaking the litany to each other--almost the same one you open this post with. I adore summer. And I love that image of you hiding out in a haystack reading. My kind of girl! :-)

Melanie Mulhall said...

Rosemary,

Ah, you took me back to my own childhood in Illinois. Splashing in the water at the sportsmans' club--which was little more than a lake created from strip mining; Yatuni's icecream (a local favorite--the recipe eventually being purchased by one of the dairy giants); my parents stargazing using binoculars; us kids making stars by catching fireflies and putting them in a jar . . .

Thanks for the reminder of a simpler life.

Melanie Mulhall

Kathy Kaiser said...

Wonderful remembrance of the tastes of summer. One of my earliest food memories is of my grandparents' place in the country north of Chicago, where they grew corn. We would boil some water and throw it in and eat it immediately. Best corn I ever had.

Chandi said...

What a great thing to do.... it's almost like a lost art. Maybe I'll do it more when I move to Italy. ;-)

Rosemary, your book/film reviews are amazing. How on earth you manage to read all those books and review them! I'm so impressed!

Lisa said...

A truly delicious post, Rosemary! Just had luscious ripe tomatoes last night, fresh from the farmer's market, and tonight we're having corn on the cob, Mexican-style. These are truly the signature flavors of summer.

ClaireWalter said...

The Proust of summer produce among us!

Tamara G. Suttle said...

Rosemary! What a fabulous post! I've just harvested tons of beautiful Dolgo crabapples from my trees. Getting ready to make Crabapple Jelly and try my hand at some Crabapple Butter, too!

Thanks for the inspiration!

Tamara G. Suttle
http://www.AllThingsPrivatePractice.com
http://www.TamaraSuttle.com

amish baby crib said...

I think lots of people experience that kind of situation. I am one of those people. That is why I really love this post. It is just like my own story.

Beth Partin said...

I didn't grow up in a family that gardened much or preserved food, but my husband did. He went hunting as a boy, and his mother still makes sausage and occasionally does her own canning. I would love to learn canning someday.

Laurel Kallenbach said...

What glorious memories! And, canning is a wonderful way to eat locally all winter long when all this produce is no longer fresh. Imagine the flavors of summer in the middle of January. Mmmm!