Preserving and Sharing the Harvest
As I packed for my annual trip to celebrate Thanksgiving with far-flung urban friends (this year’s week in sleepy Chicago was a welcome change from last year’s hectic visit to Brooklyn), I found myself with extra carry-on space, and wondered what produce to bring. The availability of slightly irregular food in staggering quantities is one of my favorite perks of farming, and it makes it easier to plan both dinner and thoughtful holiday gifts for food-lovers. At the last minute before leaving for the airport, I stuffed a pair of five-pound winter storage squashes in my bag to serve as host gifts and potential menu items. While these additions to my luggage did hold up the security line for a couple of minutes (“this kind of thing,” the TSA officer told me in reference to the gourds, “will pretty much always get a manual check”), my friends’ appreciation for them was worth the hassle.
As Christmas, Hanukkah, and other gift-giving holidays approach, I find myself better prepared than usual to parlay the farm’s bounty into thoughtful presents for loved ones. In years past I’ve hoarded garlic, onions, squashes and dried herbs to send out in holiday gift boxes, but this year a new hobby has enabled me to do less planning ahead. During tomato season, my friend and coworker Lizz took the time to write out idiot-proof instructions for me for canning tomatoes. Once I followed her recipe to the letter a few times, and dispelled the fear of botulism and total ignorance of food preserving that I’d had since my suburban upbringing, I was ready to venture forth and try my hand at canning other things.
I tend to go through periods of obsession over new interests, and luckily for everyone on my gift list, I got obsessed with making pickles and jams. I couldn’t be more excited to share my canned goods with friends and family alike this month, and for once I feel confident that my gifts will be well received: they’re homemade, useful, good for about a year, won’t take up too much space in anyone’s home, and come in reusable glass jars. Moreover, giving away my canned goods is a way for me to share my work and my love of farming in a lasting way with old friends whose lives have become so different from my own that I sometimes struggle to communicate my experiences to them. Best of all, the more jars of pickles, jams, and fruit butters I give away, the more room I have in my pantry for preserving next year’s harvest.