I almost entitled this post "In A Pickle" which gives you an idea of what it will be about.
It is the beginning of August. Our blackberries, raspberries and blueberries are on slipping away with the last carefree days of summer. The cherries have staged a ruby colored finale and will lead the stone fruit into hibernation before the month is out. Corn will make its own last stand soon, followed by melons and tomatoes. And here I am frantically trying to hang on to them all.
Yes. I have embraced seasonal eating with its shifting colors and bursting diversity. We have lived without apples all spring and summer and celebrated loudly when the earliest of the bunch - Gravensteins - tiptoed back into our farmers' market last week. My youngest partied the hardest - downing six apples in a two hour period. Asparagus announced our spring and pomegranates the fall. Welcoming seasonal produce is the easy part of eating locally.
It's the letting go that is hard.
That is why every locavore I know works to put a little summer away for winter, a touch of April to enjoy in the austere days of January. Extending the season is not all the difficult, doesn't consume much carbon and is downright irresistible. You can freeze, dehydrate or can. The latter is my personal favorite. There is something so wonderfully old fashioned about stirring fruit into a magical mass of sugar, of dipping jars into a bubbling cauldron.
I'm no jam addict like Jennconspiracy or marathoner like Chile. But I can hold my own with water bath canner.
Last year, I learned to make jam - piling my cupboards with jewel toned jars. They glittered with strawberry, golden raspberry and blueberry jams, quince and apple jelly, and cinnamon brown apple butter. In the fall, I stretched beyond jam, trying my hand at chutney and even pickles. Six months later, the chutney was a beautiful memory and the Hamburger Dills livened up our Easter potato salad.
This week, my favorite farmer, Sapphira, had the first tight little pickling cucumbers of the season. On a whim, I decided to pickle them and stuffed a reusable produce bag full. I ended up a pound shy for the pickle recipe. With my waterbath canner brimming with blackberry jam's hot water leftovers and the kids at summer camp for another two hours, I couldn't let a few missing cucumbers slow me down. I decided to relish the summer instead of pickle it.
Following the Cucumber Relish recipe from the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, I chopped up my farmers' market cukes. I substituted the green and white peppers donated by a generous friend with an overflowing CSA box and diced my petite, homegrown onions planted last fall and dug out of the ground the day of.
Did I relish the relish?
Unlike pickles and chutney, which take months to marinate, the cucumber relish was delightfully delectable the day of. And, like everything I've canned, it puts its storebought cousin to shame.
2 quarts chopped cucumbers (about 8 medium)
2 cups chopped sweet green peppers (about 4 peppers)
2 cups sweet red peppers (about 4 peppers)
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon tumeric
1/2 cup salt
4 quarts cold water, divided
1 1 /2 cups brown sugar
1 quart vinegar
2 sticks cinnamon
1 tablespoon mustard seed
2 teaspoons whole allspice
2 teaspoons whole clovers
Combine vegetables in a large bowl, sprinkle with tumeric. Dissolve salt in 2 quarts cold water and pour over vegetables; let stand 3 to 4 hours. Drain; cover vegetables with 2 quarts cold water and let stand 1 hour. Drain thoroughly. Combine sugar and vinegar in a large saucepot. Tie spices in a spice bag (I used quadrupled over cheesecloth tied with undyed thread and regular spices as I didn't have any cinnamon sticks or whole allspice on hand). Add to sugar mixture. Bring to a boil; pour over vegetables. Cover; let stand 12 to 18 hours. Bring vegetables to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until hot throughout. Pack hot relish into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.