On Friday and Saturday, Betsy and I processed lots of produce from our backyard garden. There were four quarts of tomatoes, seven pints of bread-and-butter pickles, 3.5 quarts of chili dilly beans (see recipe below) and four pints and 10 half-pints of green tomato chutney. We also froze about six bags of cut-up green peppers. On Friday, Betsy dried some cherry tomatoes and today has elderberries (shown at right) drying in the dehydrator to turn into syrup.
And to cope with a deluge of cucumbers from our garden, she’s experimenting with ways to preserve this eat-it-now vegetable. Today, she peeled, grated and salted three cukes to eliminate some of the water before putting them in the dehydrator.
This preservation marathon may not be “worth it” in dollars and cents, but it is worthwhile in a larger sense. It feels satisfying and empowering to look in our basement cupboard and see all those rows of jars, almost like a squirrel storing nuts. We feel secure knowing that no matter what happens, there’s food to eat.
Even if we could buy the same products at a gourmet store and save ourselves the hours of effort, we like the feeling of self-reliance and being in tune with the rhythm of the seasons in our bioregion. Working together made the tasks seem less tedious and even enjoyable.
And those jars of chutney and pickles make great presents that bring a personal touch. Some of the chutney will be for sale at the Cranberry Fair at First Congregational Church at 165 Main St. in Amherst on Nov. 22.
Here’s the recipe for Chili Dilly Beans, which comes from Annie Cheatham, formerly of Annie’s Garden Store and Citizens Involved in Sustaining Agriculture. She recommends using straight green beans. I was surprised that Betsy got so many beans into each jar.
8 to 9 pounds of 6-inch green beans
1 tsp mustard seed per jar
1 hot pepper or 1/2 to one tsp hot pepper flakes per jar
1/2 tsp dill seed or fresh dill per jar
1 Tbsp minced garlic per jar
1 tsp pickling salt per jar
7 to 8 cups water
7 to 8 cups vinegar
Wash beans and drain. Fill each jar with mustard seed, garlic, hot pepper, dill and salt, then pack with beans. Add hot pepper or pepper flakes.
Combine vinegar and water and heat to boiling. Pour hot liquid over beans, leaving 1/2 inch between them and the lid. Wipe rims to remove any liquid, then cap with lids and screw on rings tightly. Process the jars for five minutes in boiling-water bath (after the water returns to a boil). Remove jars and put them on a towel or rack to cool.