blogging in the basement

Someday I’ll have one of those underground homes if I’m lucky and we’re smart energy-wise. I’m not lusting after a hobbit style cavern, rather, a clean, spacious and long home, facing the south and bermed on the north, east and west. I’d like one of these modern “earth ship” style homes especially to deal with the heat of summer. Our current basement works pretty well to cool off, but we have an old, old home….it’s not really a nice place to hang out, but I have my laptop down here so I can at least do a little writing.

Ambient ground temperatures do not fluctuate wildly, so it stays between 45-60 degrees down here year round. So perfectly cool that I can store feta in brine jars down here all year! In our cool basement, we actually have several 3/4 gallon jars of kraut and kimchi, fermented pickles and green beans too. The pickles are still crisp, as crisp as dills can be when naturally fermented with salt, water, wild grape and cherry leaves. Delicious.

On the shelves Andrew constructed for my canning, there is evidence of last year’s season as well….canned quarts of honey applesauce, canned apple juice and cider, tomatoes, salsa, jellies, pickled peppers, dilly beans, pickled beets. We used alot of it, and now the preservation cycle begins again. All the 2011 jars are moved to one side, to give space for the hundreds of jars that will be brought down here over the next couple months. I love canning and putting things up, enabling us to eat from our farm year round. Soon I’ll get into pressure canning so we can pare down the freezer useage by putting up meat in jars. Sounds gross, but think of tuna in cans. Tender and ready to use.

Things have been crazy in the garden. Almost overwhelming. I went from the delight of harvesting loads and loads and loads of green beans & zucchini, garlic to cure, the peppers are beginning now, and tomatoes about to go nutty. Today I upped the ante and actually filled 2 wheelbarrows with onions. They still have their tops on, and were curing in the field, but rain was threatening, so into the hoophouse they went, parked in wheelbarrows.

All this bounty, besides what goes out in our CSA boxes, has to be put up somehow. I’ve been canning, but this heat streak has put a clincher on my plans. Today I’m trying out dehydrator zucchini chips, but that’s only dealt with 2 big ones. It’s so hot in the house I put the dehydrator on the sunporch. Don’t get after me about using this electric device please- I do sun dry stuff alot, but it’s hot, humid AND overcast today. It’s my first time trying out the dehydrator, since Andrew’s Aunt handed it down to us. We’ll see if these zucchini chips are any good.

Yesterday I made a pickled green bean salad to can up. It was supposed to be a 3 Bean Salad, but we don’t have shelling beans just yet. It took me like 4 hours with all those beans! Despite being hot and bothered in the kitchen, dealing with cauldrons of boiling water, the mixture looked and smelled amazing, and was entirely from the garden. As I jarred up, the brine amount from the recipe looked rather small, and indeed it was. My temper flared, as everything was hot and ready and I ran out of brine! Stupid recipe! Hot and humid and pissed. After I made more brine (apple cider and white vinegar, honey, salt, celery and mustard seeds) I fillled up the remaining jars, capped them, and into the canner they went. I heard a loud THUNK. NOOOOOOOO! One of the jars burst along the bottom seam. I cannot tell you how extremely infuriating this is. Perhaps I had the water in the canner too hot. I watched all those carefully prepared pieces of greenbeans, red onion, celery begin to float to the surface. Now, a normal person would have air conditioning. And a normal person would PROBABLY empty the pot and begin to can again with fresh clean water. Not me. I was so pissed.

After their water bath time, all 6 quart jars and 2 pints sealed, but they were a bit sticky. I left them sitting there, the jars and me cooling off. I wrote down my notes on my “canning legend” for 2012, I’ll just write a number on the lids, and write down their particulars on my legend list. Then I don’t have to write out the description on each lid, which when you are caning gobs and gobs of salsa or applesauce, gets to be a bit tedious.

This morning I took off the rings and carefully washed the outsides of the jars. The “salad” looks marvelous. This winter we’ll drain off a bit of the brine, and toss the salad with olive oil and freshly cracked pepper. Cradling the jars full of summer in my arms, I brought them down into the cool basement, on the new 2012 side of the shelving.