This wasn’t the way this year was supposed to be.
2011 was going to be great. I was going to preserve a whole bunch of things I had yet to try. Pickled peaches? So there. Homemade maraschino cherries? You bet. I was even going to explore new worlds of foraging, fermentation, dehydration and pressure canning… except it didn’t really happen. More jam and cucumber pickles in the larder. Sigh.
I was going to go pick cherries and peaches and blueberries and apples and pears for days on end. I got in some picking, but Irene and Alfred (I guess that’s what we’re calling this recent mess) took much of the produce this year. Connecticut farmers are hurting – the final day of the biggest farmers market in the state was cancelled this weekend due to the unexpected snow. Buying local is more important than ever and financially its harder than ever.
I was supposed to get a decent paying job after graduation. Not a “good” paying job – just enough to pay my bills and start paying back my mountain of student loans. I paid my dues, I passed all the tests and I got three degrees. The job didn’t happen.
It’s not all as bleak as I am making it out to be. Good things have happened. For a start, we can call ourselves CSA-ers. Without a doubt, we are now committed to Community Supported Agriculture for life. Once finances change, we will move into meat, fruit and other CSAs. Pre-paid veggies really saved our asses this summer.
I tried this whole preserves business thing. The jury is still out over whether it will continue into next year, but for now I have no regrets. I suppose you cant ask for more in a startup business.
Oh – and lest I forget – I do have a roof over my head, a pantry full of mostly local food, and I am able to scrape by financially. And – somewhat of a rarity these days – I also have electricity, hot water and heat.
So, that’s life isn’t it? Playing the hand you’re dealt. Sticking with the things that work, and learning from your mistakes. This recipe I made for the first time last year, and its definitely a keeper for the long haul. So grab your ice cream out of the snowbank – these pears are great heated through on your Coleman stove and poured over some vanilla.
Bartlett Pears in Lady Grey Syrup
4ish pounds of Bartlett pears
3 cups of sugar
4 cups of water
3 Lady Grey tea bags
1 vanilla bean
1 whole cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
Set the syrup to boil over medium high heat – keep an eye on it, burnt sugar is a giant pain to clean off of your stove. Once the syrup has come to a boil, add the tea bags, split and scraped vanilla bean, cinnamon and cloves. Let steep at least 3 hours – or even overnight.
Once you’ve tasted the syrup and you feel it’s up to your satisfaction, start on the pears. Peel, core and halve the pears. You can take the stems off, but I like to leave them on to grab the pears out of the jar. Cold pack the pears in jars – feel free to add new cloves and cinnamon to each jar if you like. Re-boil the syrup, and pour over your jars. This is a recipe that does require bubbling, though not as much as a fruit butter. Top with hot, wet lids and rings and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Yield approximately 3 quarts.