Believe it or not, I wrote this before Hurricane Dean was a tropical depression!
This will probably be my last post for the week. I’m leaving for NC in the morning, my laptop is staying here, and Mom might have dialup but I probably won’t get on unless she’s watching some TV show I’m not interested in. See you Sunday, God willing.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Down on the Farm
This is the time of year that gardens are in full swing, and it’s no exception on Planet Georgia. The rain has been mostly good, at least up to now, and Hurricane DeeDee will probably bring us a few inches on Monday. But that means we need to be grabbing anything ripe while the grabbing’s good, and canning what isn’t getting eaten or sold. My mother-in-law is the gardening wizard around here, although her idea of a “small garden” is 2 acres. Sheesh. But we brought in a bunch of corn, several varieties of beans, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and zucchini yesterday evening (we wait until dusk to pick because it’s too hot during the day, and those wind-up flashlights give us a little more time to pick).
I hear she had a good day at the farmer’s market; I guess a lot of people were getting what fresh stuff they could with DeeDee on the way. The power situation’s bad enough; I can’t imagine that 4 inches of rain and stiff winds are going to improve matters any. But there’s still a lot to put up, and the county cannery is staying open late through the week (and will be open this weekend) because they expect to be closed Monday and Tuesday. When we start getting Mondays off in a couple of weeks, I’ll be there more often, but this evening was a rarity — the cannery was open and I finished my work stuff early, so I went to help.
Sometimes, my mother-in-law would have the place mostly to herself… not anymore. She had been there all morning, so I jumped on the motorbike — I brought a little cooler with some water and snacks in it for us, so we won’t have to go into town. The place was crowded when I got there, but it doesn’t take much room to park a motorbike and I found a shady spot under the eaves of a shed across the parking lot.
I was there a couple of hours, but never quite figured out the system. It seems easy enough — a long row of tables and steamers down the center, vats and several big boilers along the far wall — but either I still had my head in the battery backup stuff I was writing today, or what I was doing (mostly steppin’ and fetchin’) didn’t let me follow the plot. The wimmin outnumbered us guys by 5 to 1 easily — there were four guys there, and two of them “run” the cannery. The other guy was also steppin’ and fetchin’ (although we took a quick commiseration break once or twice); the women were helping each other with just about every phase of their canning. I think the system runs like this: veggies that need to be peeled go in the steamer; it helps loosen the peels. Then anyone who’s not doing something else helps pull off the peels. If the peeled food is being canned by itself, they dump it into jars (with a teaspoon of salt) and move on… otherwise, it goes to the cooking vats.
The vats are basically big cookpots — and when I say big, I mean like 20 gallons. Someone like Mrs. Fetched’s mom really uses them — that comes to 80 quarts, and that’s a fraction of what she does when she gets going (one year, she brought home 120 boxes, and each box has 12 quart jars in it). So you make your beef stew, or chili, or whatever, in the vats, ladle it into jars, and wheel the jars over to the boilers. The guys running the cannery pretty much run the boilers; I think there’s some liability issues going on there… although Mrs. Fetched’s mom has run the place a couple of times when they couldn’t keep up. If you get this far in the morning, you can take your jars home in the evening — otherwise, you come back for them the next day.
They use an incredible amount of water: rinsing, steaming, cooking, boiling the jars — and the floor has a drainage slot that runs the length of the cannery. They also use a fair amount of gas for heating the water… so naturally, the cost to use the cannery has gone up quite a bit. It’s still cheaper (and better) than the supermarket. I’ve been looking for indications of whether we’ll get winter produce from South America this year, and haven’t found anything. I’m going to assume that no news is bad news.
So I just got home. After spending 4–5 hours in the cannery, the ride home seemed almost cold. I guess I’ll take a French bath, get a drink of something, and go to bed.