Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cracking open the jars

After I finish canning, I have absolutely no desire to actually eat what I canned. First, I am simply dazzled by the neat rows of pickles and preserves. I can't bear to break up the display. Second, after spending a weekend elbow deep in fragrant concord grape juice, my senses are so over saturated that I want nothing more than milk and bread for a few days. I need to recalibrate. Finally, if you are canning properly, this means that you are at the peak of the season for whatever produce you hope to preserve. Why eat the processed version, when you have an abundance of the fresh one right outside your door?

The memories of the canning weekends have faded, and holiday celebrations have started, so my jars are beginning to disappear from the pantry shelves. I tried a lot of new recipes this season, mostly from Eugenia Bone's new book Well Preserved. On the negative side, I have finally decided to stop canning apples. I just like them raw. No one in my family likes applesauce, no matter how much I gussy it up. I tried Bone's spiced apple recipe, and am underwhelmed by the results. It turned out dry and horribly sturdy: it maintained its shape when shook from the jar. On the brighter side, her recipe for pear, port and thyme conserve is a definite keeper. Not only does it boast a rich flavor, but the texture is varied: the raisins are soft, the pears are ripe but firm , and the almonds are crunchy. It would taste good turned into a sauce for pork or duck, but my son and I like it best rolled up in crepes.

My work requires me to be out the door early most mornings, and to compensate, my son and I get up early, usually around five or six. We then have at least two hours together before I need to leave. I do my best to give the mornings an unhurried feel. I have found that one of the easiest ways to slow down is to make breakfast together. Of course, with a two year old, "together" is a challenge. Crepes work well: I do the stove work, and his chubby little hands now roll the crepe around the filling with expert finesse. We have recently started filling them with the pear conserve. The thyme in the recipe gives the crepes a savory edge that avoids turning breakfast into an overly-sweet dessert. If I have one quibble, it is that I cut the pears too thick. Next year, I'll go for a smaller dice. I also will make more jars, as I am already starting to eye my waning stores with concern. In the spirit of careful rationing, this morning I suggested we use our Concord grape jam to fill our crepes. My son would have none of it, and seemed to scoop more of the pears on than usual in protest. Oh well....we'll eat lavishly, then wait for next fall to roll around.

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