The kitchen is hot, it’s not just the gas hob burning away, it’s burning hot outside and this old shack is in a poorly state. A cool change is on the way, but it couldn’t come fast enough, sweat beads on my forehead as I work the peeler and core the pears. It’s the height of summer, when nature turns into hyper productivity, it’s the time of plenty, especially for those people that rely heavily on tended gardens for future food provisions. Each year there is a month or two when so much produce abounds it’s time to enter preservation month. The kitchen is often occupied as the main room, as vegetables are cleaned and sliced, fruit is peeled and stewed and meals are cooked consisting of the years freshest bounty, a variety of food unseen elsewhere on the calendar.
This is the life I’ve embraced over the years. It’s the seasonal life, and right now everything beautiful about backyard produce surrounds me in excess. Our recent fruit acquisition was quite the haul, we can’t eat it all now so it’s important to capture that glut for winter. First up was the plums, of which I made into two large bottles of Worcestershire sauce for fresh eggs cooked most mornings, I guess it would also partner well with the odd kangaroo steak. Next up were the Chojuro early pears, a small Japanese variety that were peeled and stuffed into precious Fowler preserving jars. A very light syrup now covers the fruit as they store for us to enjoy on pancakes, in baking and as snacks over the lean, challenging months of winter. In a nutshell thats what this time of year is all about really… harnessing summer, that miracle of photosynthesis gone mad which produces food, plenty of food.
As we bottled and boiled our fruit, the vegetables in the backyard where getting a nice drink from my sprinkler system, and growing like mad while I wasn’t watching. The beans have long since flowered and now bear small pods that will plump up and subsequently dry out on the vine, to be stored and rehydrated for winter stews. The pumpkin has legs like Elle McPherson and busting fruit to match. This beautiful fruit will stay outside until the first frosts of Autumn, when the leaves wither and die, but the fruit remains, bright orange and yellow beacons in the grass, a food source that keeps us well until spring.
With each warm day the tomatoes continue to ripen, and when the summer is done we will preserve a few hundred kilograms on passata day, as passata is the basis of much of my winter cooking. The zucchini grows when your sleeping and the large fruit that’s not eaten during the week ends up in various forms of relish and chutney, which complement man size hot toasted sandwiches for those cold days working outside.
Nature does her own job of preserving, with root vegetables lapping up the warmth of summer to be stored under ground for us to pluck out in winter. Carrots, parsnips and potatoes thrive now, only to be eaten later. All in all it’s a beautiful system. A time honoured approach to surviving with very little. It’s a busy lifestyle, one in which I’m often plum tuckered by early evening, but I sleep well these days. Well rested, I wake each morning with chores on my mind, a well fed body and a recharged spirit.
As I fill the last jar with sweet summer pears I ponder for a second. Why do all this work when I could buy it? Well the truth is I don’t like money. I’m not good with it. Thats why I’d rather work for my food. I know I’ll never be a rich man, I’ll never own anything of great expense, but I have everything I need, I don’t want for much more than this. I have pears in a jar.
PS. Hipsters take note. Please stop using preserving jars for tea-light candle holders and vases. It’s pushing up the price of jars for us people that use them for their intended purpose.