Sep 022015

Preserving Summer - fruits of the harvest

Preserving the tastes of a Manitoba summer

As we move into the month of September, we begin to leave summer behind and may be looking for ways to extend the season. Summer in Manitoba has many joys – warmth, sunshine, long hours of daylight, lake life, festivals, to name a few. And then there is the taste of fresh, local produce. In these days of refrigeration and long-distance shipping, you can buy a variety of fruits and vegetables year-round in the grocery stores. But the produce picked too early and shipped from miles away just doesn’t taste the same as that picked from your own garden, or bought at the local market garden or farmers’ market. Preserving some of the harvest is a great way to get a bit of summer in the middle of winter.

Preserving summer - picking strawberries

Picking strawberries at a U-pick farm

Many people look forward to strawberry season, when they head to one of the many U-pick strawberry farms. Strawberries are usually ready late June or early July. This year, I started early (or so I thought) on a Wednesday morning. I arrived at the farm about twenty minutes after opening and there were already about fifty people in the fields. By the time, I left there must have been over a hundred people. One of the farm workers said it was unusually busy for mid-week. Later in the season, raspberries and saskatoon berries are available.

Preserving summer - strawberry jam

I made a few jars of strawberry jam and froze bags of strawberries. When I pull out those frozen strawberries later in the year, not only will I have a reminder of summer, I will experience other memories. When I was growing up, a great aunt and uncle had a huge strawberry patch on their farm. When we visited in the winter, my parents and aunt and uncle played cards while I and my siblings played or watched television in the next room. Sitting on the metal stove in the kitchen, the stove that provided heat to their upstairs bedroom, were frozen strawberries, thawing. Before we left, we’d have a snack of ice cream and strawberries.

Preserving summer - jalapeño jelly

I no longer have a garden, but the couple of jalapeño plants mixed in with flowers in the flower bed next to the house produced enough for a batch of jalapeño jelly

Preserving summer - apple pie filling and applesauce

Canning apple pie filling and apple sauce with apples from friends’ gardens

My mother came from a tradition of farm women who planted large gardens and canned, froze, and pickled the produce to feed the family through the winter. In addition to the produce from her own garden, she bought boxes of in-season British Columbia fruit when they showed up in stores, also canning that for use in the winter months. In comparison to my mother, I dabble in preserves, doing a few here and there, in quantities that are treats not a full winter’s supply. And except for a few short years when I had a large country garden, I never grew enough of my produce to preserve. The one thing I make fairly consistently in larger quantities is dill pickles, using cucumbers bought from market gardeners. My mother’s simple brine recipe is a perennial favourite.

Preserving summer - dill pickles

Making pickles

There is something extremely satisfying in surveying the rows of completed preserves and thinking about tasting summer in the winter. And, when the jars are lifted from the water bath and set on the counter, the popping sound of metal lids as they seal is like music.

Do you do anything to preserve the taste of summer?

  6 Responses to “Preserving Summer”

  1. You are right Donna…this is the BEST way to preserve summer. I don’t do any canning at all, but my dad grew up in a farm and when we would visit, this was a family event. We didn’t have berries, however. But I love the idea of freezing fresh strawberries for the winter. Great pictures, too!

  2. Ah – the tastes of summer! I used to love gardening and remember how satisfying it was to prepare a meal with things I’d grown. There’s so much flavor in something picked off the vine or plant compared to the beautifully presented but tasteless produce that you find in the supermarket. And, up north, it makes sense to “preserve” the warmth and bounty of summer! Anita

    • Anita, I find it satisfying to prepare a meal with things I’ve grown or preserved. It does make sense to preserve the bounty of summer up north. These days we get a lot of fresh produce shipped in during winter from other parts of the continent, but I think the taste of preserved locally grown food still tastes “fresher”.

  3. This makes me want green tomatoes. I was unable to grow tomatoes this year to have some 🙁

    • I was fortunate to have a lot of tomatoes this year. But I don’t do much with them green. I want until they’ve turned red.

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