It's time to run around like crazed squirrels. Summer's bounty is upon us. Trim those herb bushes and dry them ASAP, as they may winter kill if cut back any later. Dry, pickle, and freeze the excess from your garden. All sorts of random fruits and veg can be dehydrated with an electric dehydrator: blueberries, prune plums, green zucchini slices (the yellow dries to vile due to its gourd ancestry), small young winter squash slices, green beans, broccoli leaves, mushrooms, green onions, sliced celery and beet stems, turnip tops and more.
It's jam time. My favorite type of jam is the one where I get a really good deal on the fruit. Blackberries grow wild all over the county, just stay away from picking on heavily traveled roads. Many folks in town have more plums than they care to eat. Check the u-pick berry farms for fall raspberries.
Apple or plum butter is easy to make with a crock pot. Just start with clean fruit chunks and a little water, on low, and keep adding fruit chunks as it cooks down until you have the desired quantity of fruit butter. Sweeten to taste towards the end. It can then be steam or water bath canned for long keeping.
Pickles are in and the tomato rush is beginning. Pickles and relishes are limited only by your time, motivation and the amount that you think you can get your family to eat. Some people make their holiday gifts now, making extra preserves for friends and family and putting up herbs in vinegar. Take advantage of the tomato rush to put up tomato sauce, salsa, and hot sauce. There will be plenty of days this winter when my idea of cooking dinner will be to cook some noodles, open a jar of tomato sauce and flavor it up with herbs, dried mushrooms, and a splash of that mind puckering red wine that was on sale, grate a little cheese over it and call it good enough. If I get really motivated, I can steam some broccoli out of the winter garden.
Tomatoes can be cooked down in the crock pot to make a concentrated paste. I can it in 8 oz. jars for instant pizza: open jar, spread on crust, apply herbs and toppings, bake. Making your own tomato paste is cost effective if you have a supply of ripe tomatoes, such as your garden at the end of the season or a case of B grade table tomatoes from your favorite farmer.
The weather is great now but when it turns the beans in the garden will get funky and be a moldy mess in a few days. My soup beans have not dried down, due to insufficient heat hours earlier this summer. I am picking the fat pods and shelling them fresh. Yup, I have a big pile of bean pods sitting on newspaper on the kitchen floor. Yup, it looks weird. I shell some every day, pack them in quart freezer bags and throw them in the freezer. The motivated could pressure can them. This produces canned beans which are superior to anything that you can buy. Green beans can also be pressure canned. A few years ago, farmer Walter Haugen pointed out to me that Romano beans make a superior canned bean. It's worthwhile to grow some Romano beans just to can your own.
The fall potatoes and winter squash are coming in. Talk to your farmer about getting some. Stash a large sack of carrots in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator. Good quality carrots will last months packed in green vegetable bags. Onions and shallots can be had by the box and stored in a dark place at cool room temperature. Just check them often and use any that are starting to go.
Windfall apples make cider. Windfall plums make a strange peasant beverage which is quite good.
Fermented Plum Juice
Works with red or yellow plums. Italian prune plums are best dried for prunes, eh?
Equipment: a gallon glass jug with an airlock, a large mesh bag or clean pillowcase for straining, empty wine bottles with screw on tops from that red wine you got on sale, large bowls. Funnel. A large food grade plastic bucket of the sort bakeries buy cupcake frosting in is very helpful. Ask nicely.
Rinse and squish plums in a large bowl, removing the pits with your hands as you squish. Drape the mesh bag over the bucket and strain the fruit. If you can figure out how to hang it up, like a giant jelly bag, you get a better yield. The pulp makes great plum butter but takes a lot of sugar, since the sweetness is mostly in the juice. Pour the juice in your clean gallon glass jug. The truly motivated will use champagne yeast to ferment the juice. I just use the wild yeast on the plums themselves. Fit the airlock and leave in a cool shaded place for a week. Pour off the juice into clean wine bottles, leaving extra room. Add 1/4 cup distilled spirits of your choice. I used no-name whiskey, but vodka also works. The distilled spirits act to stop the fermentation and as a preservative. I got that out of a 19th century manual on housekeeping. Works. They advised using French brandy. Cap your bottles and store. Best drunk young. If the juice wasn't quite fermented flat out you will get some carbonation. Too much and the tops blow, so keep an eye on your brew, cracking the screw lids if you need to let off the extra carbonation. It takes a lot of plums to make a few bottles, so I just store it in the fridge. Excellent with tortilla chips and home made salsa after a day's work.
Extra plum juice can be canned. Easiest recipe ever: put plum juice in clean quart jars with new lids. Process 20 minutes, water bath, or 10 minutes in a steam canner. Let cool and pack away in boxes.
Hopewell Farms and Cloud Mountain have bulk quantities of fall veggies.
Green veggie storage bags are for sale at Terra Organica and the Co-op or on line at canningpantry.com, which also has bulk canning jar lids. Yeager's and Fred Meyer have all the canning supplies.
Cash and Carry has supplies for preservation: wine vinegar and cooking sherry in gallon jugs, Diamond kosher salt (Look for Diamond, Morton's canning and kosher salt blow), bulk freezer bags.
North Corner Brewing has all the bite and pieces for home brew, including giant mesh bags and several sizes of airlock.
Check earlier Celt's Garden blog posts for hot sauce and salsa recipes.
The library has a myriad of books on canning, preserving, urban homesteading and suchlike.
I will be teaching Traditional Food Preservation for the Whatcom Folk School this fall, along with some other cool classes, including a new one on Subsistence Gardening. Register through Whatcom Farm School. Meanwhile, take advantage of the seasonal bounty and make your own goodies.