Sunday, August 24, 2008

Just Keep Breathing . . .

One of the things I love about our little house is the garden out back. Every spring, Handyman peruses seed catalogues and plans his garden in much the same way as a general planning an attack on a neighboring country. I am daily treated to his agonized decisions of whether to plant "Blue Country Bush Beans" or "Masai Bush Beans", and so forth for every vegetable. Of course, being a good little wife I nod my head in agreement and pretend that I know what in the world he's talking about.

However, in the fall, the garden is my purview. I am the general now, and this time it's the kitchen that's my base of operations. Handyman is still in charge of picking the veggies/fruit, but the majority of the work falls to me in the form of canning, pureeing, sauteing, slicing, dicing, and whatever other cooking word you can think of. I will pretty much live next to the stove for the next two weeks, as I have been the last two weeks. It's not uncommon for me to still be canning or whatnot up to 11:00 at night.

This year I'm doing much the same as I did last year, with an assortment of things like canned beets (a family favorite. We go through a LOT of beets), canned beans, frozen beans, canned peaches, frozen peach/rhubarb pies, frozen stew, vegetable stew, pureed baby food, vegetable lasagna, zucchini bread, tomato sauce, tomato soup, salsa, grape juice, grape jelly, and in a month or so, wine. Right now I really wonder if the work is all worth it, but later on all my effort comes in handy when I need a vegetable or want some comforting stew in a jiffy. Since we can't really afford to buy organic, we do it on our own!

The kids unfortunately tend to behave as they see their mother behaving, which perhaps explains their often psychotic tendencies. However, I did think it adorably cute to see them working hard in their "kitchen" canning squash and other vegetables like plastic pizza with their own jelly jars.

It's interesting to note how long a bucket of green beans keeps them occupied. It took them at least an hour to stuff the green beans in every available pot they could find.

Perhaps I'll just start leaving green beans around the house.

This year, however, has one interesting feature in it as far as the canning department goes. This year, why, this year is . . . .

. . . the year that I have finally mastered the art of salsa. Nope, not the dance, although I admit I was doing my own version of the Latin dance when I finished the canning.

Every year I attempt to make a truly fabulous salsa, and every year something is off. Oh, I know I could just buy a mix and do it that way, but to me that'd be admitting defeat. One year it tasted too much like vinegar. Another year it wasn't at all hot and the texture was rather soupy.

Not anymore. I have finally, after years of effort, hit the jackpot.

One of my favorite parts of canning is adding the labels. I could simply just write on the lids what's in the jars, but for me adding my own designs to the labels makes canning more fun and artistic. It's my way of deluding myself that canning is anything other than hot, sticky, tiring work.

Here's my label for Handyman's salsa:
Here's the label for a slightly hotter version. Handyman will eat this stuff, but usually runs for a glass of cold milk after a few bites. Then he sits down with his chips and salsa and gasps, "really good salsa, Love" through his tears. It's so nice to know I can still make my man cry.

Finally, I have three jars of salsa that I have on reserve specifically for my brother Josh. Josh prides himself on enjoying truly spicy stuff, and in truth, he can really handle the heat. Just for him, just for my little bro, I have concocted:
The contents of which contain the following: Onions, Serrano peppers, chili peppers, green peppers, cilantro, habanero peppers, red peppers, and banana peppers.

And, oh yes, tomatoes. I did remember to add just a few of those.

Get ready for your Christmas present, little bro! You and Santa will both be flying up the chimney!