Natural Disaster: Day 2

Kitchen scene

Tom and String Cheese (aka, The Cheese) get here early tomorrow and we’re off for a week of fishing. I’d taken out what I thought were all the blueberries and made them into jam and pies a day ago, but turns out that wasn’t even close to all the blueberries when I started looking for the Haines cherries from Roy and Brenda’s.

So, back at it canning and pie making today. Just put the last batch in the canner.

I pitted cherries for 5? hours yesterday next to the woodstove burning, and got good phone calls in with friend Emmanuel and cousin Amy.  Laura came by for halibut to take with her to Cali for a family function, and I was able to press a big bag of cherries on her as well- she’s a master baker. Then Absatu came by to take some halibut for their family, and I pressed 2 smaller bags of cherries on her, too. That lightened the pitting chore considerably.

Went to bed early with shoulders aching – had to be from all the pitting I did with the old thumb and forefinger pitter. I’ve just never found a mechanical pitter that doesn’t end up leaving a lot of pits in with the cherries. My biggest challenge doing it by hand is to stay focused enough to keep putting the pits with the pits and cherries with the cherries, and not do a vice versa once in awhile.

Got up in the middle of the night to strain off more juice from the cherries, and so slept in late this morning. When I got to it, I had decisions to make. What to do with all these cherries and blueberries and their juice.

Pies are the simplest to make. Get more crusts from the store, simmer the cherries and blueberries. Add some cornstarch and sugar and almond extract to the cherries, and some flour and sugar to the blueberries, pour it into a pie crust. Done. Each pie crust takes 4 cups or so of fruit, so that takes up a good bit of my fruit volume.

I was going to make jelly from the cherry juice, so didn’t want to make jam on top of that with the fruit I still had left over after taking off 8 cups for 2 pies. Then I thought: I’ll pickle some. The pickled rhubarb Malisa from Craig introduced us to was so dang good, I thought I’ll try pickling some cherries.

You can pack a lot of cherry meats in a half pint jar I found. I crammed a lot of cherries in 8 jars. Then made a pickling solution from vinegar, pickling spices, red pepper flakes and half a stick of cinammon, simmered it for 5 minutes, strained off the solids, then filled the jars of cherries. I had enough pickling solution left for one more half pint, so I went out to the rhubarb patch and cut the fattest stalks and made up one more jar. I added 2 tbs of sugar to the rhubarb, which got me to thinking maybe I should have added sugar to the cherries, too, but I guess I’ll see when we try it. I can always add it after we open one up.

I left the keyboard right after I wrote the last sentence above: of course I need to add sugar to counter the vinegar!  The water bath canner was not boiling yet, so I took out a jar of pickled cherries, opened it up and tried a cherry- too tart. So I opened all the jars and drained off the pickling solution into the measuring cup. I added 1/3 cup of sugar and tasted. Still too tart. Another 1/3 cup of sugar. Just right.

I poured the solution back into the jars, and now had enough for yet another jar of rhubarb, so back out to the garden and one more jar into the canner.

I had 12 cups of cherry juice and 11 cups of blueberry juice. I made jelly from those. The Pomonas Pectin is really simple to use. No boiling until you reach a critical gel point or anything like with other pectins. Just get the juice boiling with calcium water you make from the packet in the pectin box, and lemon juice if called for. While this is coming to a boil, add the pectin to sugar in a bowl, and when the juice is boiling, add it to the pot, get it back to boiling, boil a minute or two, then into the jars. Simple.

There’s still some bags of red huckleberries in the freezer. And some cherries and  blueberries Naomi gave me when she came over in the spring for moose meat that I’m going to dehydrate, as I’ve not done that before but don’t have time right now with us taking off fishing tomorrow.

We got a pile of rain over the past two days, and there was a slide on the hill behind town that damaged one house but not sure the extent of it yet. We got several inches of rain, and Sara said Sitka got 4+ inches, a record for them for this date.

Sara left mid-morning, seeing the natural disaster in her kitchen was already in full storm mode, and hoping I’d get it cleaned up before she got home.

Canning was invented for these kinds of weekends, I think.

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