While I often write about how fortunate we are to be living in an area where we have such a diverse variety of plants, that diversity includes not only flowers, but vegetables, fruits, nuts and berries. On recent visits to gardens this summer, I am seeing more vegetable gardens than I can ever remember. Gardeners are very innovative and are planting vegetables, not only in separate spaces, but in and among ornamental plants. For many summer vegetables and berries, the harvest season is upon us. Whether in our own gardens, our community garden or a local grower, we have an abundance of local produce for fresh eating as well as for preserving it to eat later in the year.
Even if we do not grow our own produce, we have our local grocery stores, farm fresh produce stands, u-pick farms and an abundance of farmers markets. I think there is something about preserving your own produce that makes it special. For many years, in my family, we have made all our own jam from local fresh berries. Getting kids involved is a bonus as it helps them understand the connection between what they are eating and where it came from, (I don’t mean the grocery store). Home-made jams make great gifts, and the jars and labels can easily be personalized.
On a recent visit to the Wilco store in Canby, I checked out their canning supply section and discovered that they have an excellent selection of canning supplies. They have all the necessary canning jars plus lids and rings, paraffin, pectin, measuring cups, pickling and canning vinegar, crock containers for pickling and sauerkraut, pressure canners and juicers. I do not recall being in a store where there was a more complete selection of the supplies needed for canning. Wilco even has cook books with tips and recipes to get you started.
I did not come from a family that did much canning and so the idea and process for canning was new to me. I learned that a Foley Food Mill was indispensable for making applesauce and actually made the process quite easy. When we moved into our house, there were many old plum trees throughout the neighborhood. The plums were quite small and most fell to the ground and rotted. A neighbor introduced us to a Juicer/Steamer and we soon had an annual summer project of making plum juice. We even bought our own pickling crock to make sauerkraut, which was far superior to any sauerkraut I had ever tasted before.
Living here in the Pacific Northwest, we have so much fresh produce to chose from that I think sometimes we forget how fortunate we are. A friend recently sent me a photo of dilled beans, (sometimes called ‘dilly beans’), that he recently made with fresh beans from a farmers market. Seeing the photo reminded me of just how good ‘dilly beans’ are.