Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jam making

Well, for not having gotten up until noon today, I still managed to accomplish two things on my list. So in addition to having caught up on my sleep, which was sorely needed, I made Honey-Wheat bread, with sunflower and pumpkin seeds in it (which, as good as it smelled, will have to wait until breakfast tomorrow to be sampled - I was just too full from dinner tonight to try it), and I made the house smell yummy from making Carrot Cake jam. I think that might be a good combination to try for breakfast tomorrow - a large Mobil coffee, and homemade honey wheat bread with carrot cake jam! Unfortunately, the jam does NOT look like it thickened as well as it should have, which seems to be a common jam-making fault of mine. I don't know why. And I don't know if there is any correction to it once it's been jarred, and canned, or not. I read somewhere about recooking it, but I don't know if that would really help, or not. We just get used to eating soupy jam here, and no one here really seems to mind. I only feel badly because I intend to use a lot of it as gifts this year, and soupy jam seems less than a perfect gift.
So today I made a list of the things I still need to make/can for Christmas, and it seems that if I do a couple every week, I'll finish it all.
- What I have already made: spaghetti sauce (still need to make home made noodles, right before Christmas to go with it, and bread then, too), blackberry cinnamon jam, blueberry peach jam, concord grape jam, apple pie jam, and the carrot cake jam.

- Still on my list to try: autumn cranberry pear jam, cinnamon pear jam, strawberry kiwi jam, strawberry margarita jam, cranberry orange jam, kiwi jam, kiwi daiquiri jam, pumpkin butter, apple cider butter, zesty peach barbecue sauce, sundae in a jar, black forest preserves, praline syrup, and spiced honey.
Tomorrow, I need to make the cinnamon apple slices to can, not just to eat!, and put a lot more sauce in the freezer.
I love this time of year, and love making jams and sauces, and love thinking about giving them away for Christmas. I hope people enjoy eating them as much as I have had fun making them. Oh, and then there's the wine, too - newly bottled: Merlot that is too sweet for me, but others will like it, and my favorites, the Red Raspberry, and Cranberry. It is time to go get more juice from Walkers, too, for next years wine! Fall really IS a good time of year!

Does fall make you sad?

"You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen."
Ernest Hemingway (A Moveable Feast)

I was looking for a specific Ernest Hemingway quote this morning that dealt with the fact that much of writing is actually thinking, since I THINK a lot of blog posts in my head, but just don't seem to get to the writing of them, but found this one instead. And since today the fall sun is shining, and it's crisp and chilly out like a fall day should be, and I have two bushels of apples to turn into applesauce to freeze or can today, and jars of "apple pie in a jar" to can, and fresh concord grapes off the vine in my neighbor's back yard to turn into jam, juice and grape pie, it just seemed like an interesting quote to me.
I USED to be sad in the fall. I "raged against the dying of the light" (thank you, Dylan Thomas, for that quote, although I have used it out of context here) when summer faded. Not that I didn't like fall. I always have. But fall really just meant it was almost winter, and I used to hate, hate, hate winter. I seemed to just let the seasons rule me, and was at their mercy. It made for long, ugly winters. And too many autumns went wasted. Now, I am busy. I have opened my eyes to what is around me, and I use it, enjoy it, save it. Being busy makes me feel more a steward of the earth, more like I am using what the earth gives me, out of each season, rather than waiting for three of them to just pass me by to get back to summer. True enough, I will probably always like summer best, in many ways, because summer offers my favorite gifts: the gift of unstructured time, the gift of solitude, time to travel, to read, to enjoy my animals many hours a day, and warmth. Though I don't mind being cold anymore, and I do detest hot, many days in summer, here, are just warm. And that's nice. But, fall has fruits to offer, too - farmer's markets wrapping up their growing seasons with fresh NY apples of a jillion varieties, gorgeous yellow, orange-red, purple mums, craft fairs to get you thinking about Christmas, pumpkins to sit on my front porch, Halloween decorations that make me smile, early season fires in the fireplace so you smell woodsmoke in the air, apple cider, and most of all, canning and freezing the rest of the summer and fall harvest to carry you through winter with that fresh taste of summer. I love watching the dogs tear around the yard kicking up the dried leaves in the cooler air, and coming home to find some of the cats sitting on the porch next to the pumpkins. Even the animals seem to find visible joy in fall. Why shouldn't I?
Part of me USED to die each year when the leaves fell from the trees, and they were bare against the wintery light. But it's all a state of mind, and one that we choose. I no longer choose to let the seasons rule me. Instead, I choose to be an active participant in my life, in each season, and find that I am much happier because of that.
Now, off to deal with the two bushels of apples I brought home yesterday, and to bake some pumpkin and sunflower seed bread in the bread maker. That feels like cheating, to not be making it entirely by hand, but today it allows me time to accomplish two important things at once. I think I'll let myself off the hook for it, today, because it will give me time to take Bramble out for a long walk in the chilly air this afternoon. And we'll BOTH enjoy that!