A supplemental blog for my Snapguide friends and followers.
Oh. Ohio. The land of my childhood, prepubescence, and young adult assholiness. It’s a generous 7 hour drive to “where I’m from” Ohio – settled just on the rusty bumper of West Virginia and Kentucky. I was dreading the drive alone, in the rain, navigating hundreds of miles of uppy-downy, windy-swervy mountain highway. Any route with “runaway truck ramps” every 10 miles or so is all it takes to keep me white-knuckled pretty much the whole way. In addition to renegade semis and curves like a Sir-Mix-A-Lot video, this route has the most continuous stretch of gorgeous scenery – lasting over 300 miles.
I had bits of sunshine, thank goodness (As if I needed hydroplaning to be another thing threatening my life). The sun was keeping me company, my windows were down, and I was blasting Daft Punk. Tis’ good drivin’ music, yo. Also, I figured since the week ahead was partly dedicated to a canning marathon with my mother, sister, and aunt, I would stop for some peaches and add them to the preserving itinerary. Goodness gracious do ripe peaches smell glorious.
The first half of my week would be spent looking after my nephews while my sister readjusted to her return to work. K is almost 3 and A is 3 months. Man, are they cool. K is 3 going on 30 and is equally sweet and rotten – normal for his age says my sister. At times, I thought he could be insane or unstable. Also, I’ve never been kissed so violently in my life. What I know, is that two year olds are exactly that — crazy, little people that don’t know their own strength. A is a BIG healthy 3 month old. This is a miracle considering he had open-heart surgery when he was only 12 hours old. Tough stuff. They are both amazing and I am constantly perplexed by how deep of a bond I feel for these little fellas. I am not surprised I love them, I am only taken by surprise of how much I cherish someone else’s children. And my love grows with every inch and pound they gain.
K helped me with the peaches by spraying out my peach baskets with the hose. He also cleaned the porch, his boots, the dogs, the car, me, the picnic table, the dog food, the wall, the gravel, the trash, his tractors, the real tractors, his toys, and his bike. He also threw every peach pit into the woods and dirt yard (they just finished building their house). I let my sister know she would have her own peaches in about 6 years.
A is such a cuddle-bug and the biggest grinner I know. Such a stud. I really hope those blue peepers stay that way.
I could write about K and A all day, but I did indicate that this post had something to do with canning. My aunt and my mother spent the first half of the week investigating the best quality and best priced tomatoes in the tri-county area. They found their bounty after becoming best buds with a local Amish farmer and hauled about 250lbs of the red beauties into my Mom’s basement. In the meantime, they got a couple bushels of green peppers, and picked up some pecks of red onion, sweet onion, and hot banana peppers. I prepped the peaches at my sister’s house during a rare moment when K and A’s nap time overlapped.
First on deck for canning day, my Great Aunt Wilma’s Pickled Peppers. This recipe is really quite simple. One banana pepper, one or two cloves of peeled garlic, one tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. of veggie oil go into the jar first. Par boil quartered green peppers and then pack them in the jars after you shock them in an ice-bath. Make a simple vinegar/sugar brine and hot pack away!! Let sit for 4-6 weeks before cracking the first one open. Hold your horses, Tonto. They are worth the wait.
Peaches were up next. I had an ambitious goal of blanching and peeling the fruit and doing a bourbon-vanilla peach preserve. I like plans, but I often change them midway through the execution. For example, we had a hellalotta canning to do that day, so I opted out of removing the skin from the peaches. I split the fruit into two batches and began. The first thing the recipe called for was adding sugar and lime juice. I had to give it a taste because it smelled so irresistible and it was AMAZING. I just didn’t have it in my heart to abandon such a delightful sweet tang, so I made one preserve just that.
Now, it is confession time. I made a ton of boo boo’s in this recipe.
#1. I didn’t scrub the fuzz off the fruit. With the skin change, I was already short on time.
#3. The liquor store did not carry any decent bourbon that would appeal to the bartender snob in me. Ancient Age? Old Crow? Where’s my Bulleit, Knob Creek, Gentleman Jack? Shit, not even a Maker’s Mark! Dammit. Jim Beam it is.
#2. I forgot my immersion blender which would have been über useful in making the preserves more “preserv-y.”
#3. My Mom told me she had pectin. She did have pectin. The pectin she provided me with had an expiration date of 1998. 1998!!! Does the month even matter at that point? And no, there is no “run out to the store” where I am from. You make sure you got what you need and a full tank of gas when you get home because heading into “town” calls for a day trip — and we need pectin, not bait. So, it’s not exactly around the corner.
#4. I forgot my vanilla beans so my sweet aunt scoured the area to find some for me. She finally found ONE in West Virginia. However, much to all of our dismay the bean somehow disappeared into the abyss of her red windstar. Or it was the Mothman.
#5. My preserves did not thicken. For the life of me, I tried to be patient. I thought I may have even overcooked the peaches at one point so I killed the heat and started filling jars. I was suspicious the whole time. Master jammer I am not.
In the end, I came away with two types of peach preserves a good tick on the runny side. They still have not set and it has been two weeks. The bourbon-vanilla was a disappointment in my opinion. I thought it just lacked the warmth and complexity that I assumed would be there given the flavor profiles of the featured ingredients. Granted, vanilla extract was used instead of beans, and Jim Beam was my bourbon. My father and brother LOVED the bourbon vanilla peaches over ice cream. I am going to try to do a cobbler with them and add in some cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove. I’ll be damned if they go to waste. The lime peaches, however, are delicious… just runny. **I just mixed the bourbon-vanilla peaches with vanilla yogurt and chia seed this morning for breakfast! Hallelujah! It was fantastic!! Yay!
Here’s a picture of some Amish donuts to make me feel better. These are made down the street from my sister’s house and they are as big as your face. It is a VERY good thing I do not live there. I think I ate 4 in 3 days.
The tomato canning was done with the remainder of our day — an 11 hour day. 7 am – 6pm. We were all sore, stained, sweaty, and achy by the time the last pot was cleaned. With burning fingers and hands from the hot banana peppers and jalapeños, red-stained, stinging nail beds from the acidity of the tomatoes, smelling of garlic, onions, and vinegar — we drank — and promptly went to bed.
And yet…it was so worth it. Canning what you love, surrounded by those you love.
This is random, but I think it’s interesting, maybe you will, too. My mother planted a banana tree just for the hell of it 2 or 3 years ago. I remember it being just a regular fern looking plant. I cannot believe how MASSIVE this thing got in such a short time. She doesn’t get bananas because it’s not warm enough long enough in Ohio, but she is giving me a couple cuttings off of it to see how it does here in SC. Maybe I could get bananas! Anyone have any advice?
As my week came to an end and I was amping myself up for the trek home, I kept thinking, “if I get in an accident now, it will look like a bloodbath whether I sustain any injuries or not. Those jars of tomato will be all over the place!” Can you imagine! It did rain on me the majority of the way home but it was so exciting packing up the car with all of the fruits of our labor that I was riding on high on happy. This must be the way ancient hunter-gatherers felt when they started the journey home with a big-ass moose or a giant honey comb in tow. Rockstars.
That pretty much sums up my trip. I bid the sunsets of southern Ohio farewell and boogie-woogied my productive hiney home.
I could never be a trucker.
P.S. Monster missed me. It was dang cute walking in the door after being gone a week and being greeted with a barrage of “I can’t tell you how much I missed you cause I can’t talk so I will lick, and jump, and whine as much as I possibly can so you get the point” puppy insanity. In fact, Monster and K are very, very similar. Very.