Since moving to the country, each year we try to expand our knowledge of food storage. Early this morning as the first rays of sun began to lick our vegetable garden, Rich (my husband) and I discovered a bumper bean crop hiding beneath the leaves of the bush bean bed. As I carried in the first cucumber of the year, the last of the sugar snap peas, a few Walla Walla onions, several artichokes and some dahlias, I eyed those beans and felt overwhelmed.
We expect company for dinner tonight. What could I do with those beautiful, abundant beans?
" I have not had much success with freezing beans," I told Rich. "I was thinking of canning them," he said. "Really?"
At breakfast we poured over canning books. Summer mornings we breakfast on a swing at one end of our covered front porch where we can look across the front lawn into the forest that surrounds our house.
When we moved to the country in the fall of 2001, we followed a desire to live where we would know the source of our water and all of our food. Many family members and friends were aghast when we sold our 4,000 square foot home that overlooked Puget Sound north of Seattle. What were we thinking? Sometimes, I have wondered that myself since moving here.
The first two years I just canned jams and jellies. This was something I had done before. As our raised bed garden developed, I added salsa and pickles. These were done with the water bath method. Meanwhile, I perfected what I call soup-stews and my homemade chicken noodle soup. Last fall, Rich, a retired mechanical engineer, volunteered to try pressure-cooking to preserve my soups and stews.
Pressure-cooking requires an exact perspective, and I had not trusted myself to try it. One of the differences between a mechanical engineer and a writer is that when hanging a picture on the wall, the mechanical engineer measures while the writer (me) looks at the wall, holds up the picture and says, "I think this looks good here." The writer person will then pound in the nail, hang the picture and be done with it. The engineer, on the other hand, measures carefully, asks the writer-person (me) to hold the picture in position several times and works on the project many long minutes until the result satisfies.
Thus, I believed that Rich would be more likely to have success with pressure-cooking. To my surprise, the first time he attempted this process, I found him working in his office.
"What about the canning?" I asked cautiously. "I am doing it," he told me.
I rushed to the kitchen where the canner was humming along, sizzling away. I flew back to his office and yelled, "No! No! You cannot leave this! You have to be there with the canner!"
Eventually, he understood that with pressure-cooking, the cook must stay with the cooker. Last fall we put away a good number of jars of soups and stews and even managed to spend one day concocting a red-wine marinara sauce (which I will save for a later article).
I hear the canner sizzling so I am pretty sure we will have beans in the larder this fall. Despite all the work that goes into planting, weeding, watering and planning a vegetable garden, there is nothing in the world like the feeling of seeing those beautiful glass jars fill your pantry, knowing that no matter what happens, you will have plenty of food!
Susan Glenn Lampe is a published author, poet, and writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband in the country. For more information about living sovereign and self sufficient view here website. [http://www.susan-glenn-lampe.com]