This is a blog about home canning—or "putting up" as one might say where I'm from—and it will cover jams and other fruit preserves, pickles and briny things, canned vegetables (above all tomatoes) and the complement of condiments that includes relishes, sauces, salsas and those related preparations that result when you chunk bits of seasonal produce and preserve them in a syrup either piquant or sweet.

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Thursday
Jul302009

Bonny Doon to Berkeley

I made it to Berkeley last night in time for supper at Chez Panisse. David was working, so he arranged for me to meet him in the kitchen and eat there at a tiny table squeezed between the counter where Amy was making the first course (cannellini bean salad with roasted peppers, heirloom tomatoes and olive toasts) and the pastry station where Mary Jo was making dessert (angel food cake with summer berries.) David was sort of everywhere at once but mainly down by where the line cooks were making the middle two courses of sea scallop and lobster fritter with zucchini, cilantro and lime ("chicken-fried scallop" is how David described it) and pork loin with wild fennel, mustard greens and corn pudding.

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Wednesday
Jul292009

Big Sur to Bonny Doon

I'm on my way north to the Bay Area and Oregon. Monday night I left Greenvalley at about 9 o'clock after I'd put up PEACH JAM, ANOTHER WAY and got as far as San Luis Obispo. Yesterday I did one of the most beautiful driving trips in the world, up Hwy 1 through Big Sur, and then I stopped over in Bonny Doon to see Kristen and Greg and their daughters, Auden and Abigail. Here are a few pictures from the day that relate to SAVING THE SEASON.

I'm crazy about any kind of wild edible or wild aromatic, so I was excited to see that Big Sur is just lousy with California bay laurel trees, Umbellularia californica. They grow everywhere and look like this.

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Monday
Jul272009

Peach Jam, Another Way

Note to all fruit lovers: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has announced that it will host an exhibition of still life paintings by 18th-century Spaniard Luis Melendez, one of great masters of the genre, ABOVE. The show, which originated at the National Gallery in Washington, opens here on September 27.

***

Before blasting out of town today for a road trip to northern California and Oregon, I needed to put up the Elberta peaches that have been patiently waiting for me since Saturday, when I got them from Bettina at Bee Green Farm.

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Sunday
Jul262009

Cocktail Onions for Greenvalley Gibsons

Folks who have followed my canning exploits—by which I mean, patient friends who have stoically endured my endless chatter about canning—often ask the same two questions. Or three, if you count their first asking "Have you lost your mind?" I'm not sure I'm most qualified to answer that one, but I can speak to the other two questions that often arise next: What am I going to do with everything I've put up? And how long does it take?

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Sunday
Jul262009

Best Meal of the Year

Here is a picture of the best meal I've eaten all year: a tomato sandwich followed by half a cantaloupe (var. Ambrosia). Pappaw used to say that there's only two thing that money can't buy, "and that's true, true love and home-grown tomatoes." Well, these here 'maters wasn't grown at my home, but they were grown at James Birch's (Bella Flora Farm) and that's close enough for me.

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Saturday
Jul252009

Wild Strawberry Jam

I had lunch yesterday with some delightful new friends, Rachel and Beth, who contacted me about the blog. They were curious to know how my whole jamming thing got started.

Well, do you know that mania that descends at the farmer's market when you're standing in front of a massive amount of edible beauty—let's say a table of heirloom tomatoes? It happens to me all the time. I look at the tomatoes and get this particular kind of happiness, the components of which include: joy at seeing something so pretty, gratitude for the extraordinary abundance of nature and panting greed, which is all the more fun because unlike the avarice I suffer when looking at, say, a Maserati Quattroporte or Old Master drawings, I can afford to indulge it. Indeed, the only time I feel really rich—ie, in easy possession of formidable economic power—is at the farmer's market. When I feel happiest is when friends and family are eating the food I've cooked for them. Buying produce puts me right in the middle of those two powerful emotions. Is it any wonder that the farmers' market sometimes makes me loose my mind?

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Saturday
Jul182009

Oda Al Tomate

La calle
se llenó de tomates,
mediodia,
verano,
la luz
se parte
en dos
mitades
de tomate,
corre
por las calles
el jugo.
En diciembre
se desata
el tomate,
invade
las cocinas,
entra por los almuerzos,
se sienta
reposado
en los aparadores,
entre los vasos,
las matequilleras,
los saleros azules.
Tiene
luz propia,
majestad benigna.
Devemos, por desgracia,
asesinarlo:
se hunde
el cuchillo
en su pulpa viviente,
es una roja
viscera,
un sol
fresco,
profundo,
inagotable,
llena las ensaladas
de Chile,
se casa alegremente
con la clara cebolla,
y para celebrarlo
se deja
caer
aceite,
hijo
esencial del olivo,
sobre sus hemisferios entreabiertos,
agrega
la pimienta
su fragancia,
la sal su magnetismo:
son las bodas
del día
el perejil
levanta
banderines,
las papas
hierven vigorosamente,
el asado
golpea
con su aroma
en la puerta,
es hora!
vamos!
y sobre
la mesa, en la cintura
del verano,
el tomate,
astro de tierra,
estrella
repetida
y fecunda,
nos muestra
sus circunvoluciones,
sus canales,
la insigne plenitud
y la abundancia
sin hueso,
sin coraza,
sin escamas ni espinas,
nos entrega
el regalo
de su color fogoso
y la totalidad de su frescura.

—PABLO NERUDA

Neruda wrote this and the rest of the Odas elementales in his native Chile, which is of course why he refers to December early in the poem—that's the peak of the Southern Hemisphere's summer tomato season. A full translation of the poem is here.