Sunday, August 9, 2015

88, jelly making marathon, sisterly love, RIP Grandfather Squirrel, 88

This week at Mystic Cedars  was  all about canning.   Wednesday I put up 14 jars of plum jam.  We have  an enormous and ancient yellow plum tree in the far back.  Its  about 30 feet tall  and  all the plums are on the top.  This year Jimmy rigged  a tall pole with a bucket attached to it and we managed to get enough plums to make jelly from it.  This is both a happy and a sad thing. For the last three years we have been sharing the property with the worlds oldest, smartest and most industrious  Squirrel.  He was here when we moved in and I have spent the last three years yelling  at him, cursing him and throwing pine cones at him. Every year  he has decimated the hazelnut crop, eaten all the cherries,  gobbled the few pears that we can get to grow and  stolen all the apples. His treatment of the plum tree was special though.  As soon as the plums would start to get ripe he would   run through the tree  pulling off the plums, biting off the newly ripening tips and then throw them on the ground.  By the time  the plums  should have been ripening for harvest ....they were all gone.  This year  the  highest plums on the tree are still there because Grandfather Squirrel was  the victim of a  four wheeled demon.  We found him, a few weeks ago, in the road by the mailbox.  A moment of silence please.
I find myself  missing him.  It was highly entertaining watching him torture the cats by  catapulting  fruit at them  from whatever tree they were sleeping under. He mocked the dog for being smaller than himself and stole the chicken feed  right in front of the roosters that chased him around the yard.  He was annoying, intrepid and took extreme delight in being a squirrel.
All that said.... because of his demise... I   actually have a fruit harvest this year.    Such as it is  thanks to weeks of no rain and uber dry conditions. Now I have to  can it all.
It was way to hot in July to spend hours in an already sweltering kitchen, made it even hotter by  boiling fruit, so all of this years raspberries went into the freezer. 
Friday  I pulled them out and strained out all the seeds and yesterday Baby Sis  showed up with five gallons of  strained  blackberries.    I felt somewhat under achieved because I only had two and half gallons of raspberry and salmon berry juice.    Baby Sis arrived at 7:30 in the morning (before I had even finished my first of coffee) full of energy and enthusiasm for the project. I should have been suspicious then but I wasn't awake enough  yet to see where it was going. By  nine am the jars were  sterilized and ready for the first batch.  The first  three or four hours  were full of fun and tasty  delights as we sampled spoonful after spoonful of our  amazing  jellied creations.   After 50 or so jars of jelly, I was ready to call it quits .  I wanted to water bath what we had and  stare admiringly  at the pristine  jars of jelly as we listened for the telltale  pop of the sealing jar lids but  Baby Sis set her jaw in that way she does when she is determined and said " NO... we are not stopping. We still have fruit and  we still have sugar!"  (at this point she hugged  and caressed what was left of the 25 pound bag of sugar  sitting on the counter).  Fortunately, I recognize a genetic predisposition  when I see one.  Especially when evidenced by a close family member.   I saw it in her eyes.  There was no stopping this warrior matron. She was on a mission.  And she wasn't letting me stop either (no matter how I begged).  Not until the last grain of sugar was gone.  At 4:30 I  sighed with relief  as we put the first  jars in the water bather.  (Just a quick FYI for other jelly and pickle makers. If you write on top of the jar lids in a sharpie permanent marker before you water bath.... the writing does not come off in the boiling hot water.  Which is a good thing.)  While the first batch was water bathing we did the count.  88 jars of  jelly.  Yes!  We learned that 6 gallons of fruit juice and 25 pounds of sugar makes  88 jars of jelly!    Now... maybe its because I was so DONE with jelly making by the end of the  day or maybe something magical really did happen but,  88 seems like such a mystical number.  Maybe there is magic in those jars!   Or maybe we should have stopped at 50.     I don't know...but it was a fun day with Baby Sis.
What happened to the last two  and a  half gallons of fruit juice ? It was all  blackberry. It was all strained and it was  the  rightful property of Baby Sis.     But, every time I looked at it, I could almost taste the blackberry wine that I could make out of it!   It took half the afternoon to talk  her into  giving me 2 of the 2 and a half gallons (I could not reasonably ask for all of it...that would have been selfish).   For those of you who have never done it. Straining out 2 full gallons of  blackberries is a lot of work. A LOT!   So, the only reason anyone would give up that much  prepared blackberry juice would be sisterly love!  ....or maybe it was my promise to give her half  of the finished product ;).

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