I learned all sorts of wonderful skills from my various roommates throughout my college and graduate school careers. One of those things was how to bake bread, something I still do by hand 25+ years after I first witnessed the alchemy of the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water) that is bread baking.
I also learned how to can. For most suburban/urban folks, canning as a food preservation method is right up there with plowing the north forty with a horse, but I can assure you, it's not a dying art. I live in suburban Boston. Our local Stop and Shop supermarket has a huge canning section. Most certainly, they would not give up the valuable shelf real-estate to something that didn't sell.
So canning. Early in our marriage, I introduced my husband to the wonderful, aromatic, messy enterprise that is canning. We would usually make fresh tomato sauce and apple sauce and put it up in quart sized glass jars. We haven't canned in years, primarily because of time, partially because of the press of kids and other commitments. But this year, after a long hiatus, we purchased 40 pounds of tomatoes from our local green grocer and set out to make tomato sauce.
It's a time consuming process, but we enjoyed the assembly line of washing, cutting, steaming, and pressing the red gems through the food mill. We began on Sunday afternoon and it often takes a day for the sauce to cook down to the right thickness.
By monday, we had 12 quarts of lovely tomato sauce.
I couldn't do the actual canning on monday. I should have canned it on tuesday, but for reasons I won't go into, I couldn't get to it until last night. By which time the sauce had been simmering for 48 hours.
The heat must have been too high and it oxidized. The sauce tasted burned and we ended up throwing all of it down the drain.
Money, time, and effort wasted than can never be reclaimed. Yes, I was frustrated. Yes, I was angry and disappointed. I really wanted that sauce in our pantry, the bright red of summer in a jar waiting for winter's pasta or chili.
But life is like that. You can't ever know at the outset of something whether your efforts will lead to shelves lined with colorful jars or an empty pantry. But you make your best faith effort anyway, because the only way you do know the outcome is if you don't try.
So, no fresh tomato sauce this year and with the cool nights we've been having, the growing season for tomatoes is over.
But there are apples. Plenty of fresh, crisp, sweet apples. And after next weekend, perhaps apple sauce will fill our pantry with the bounty of fall.