You know, I've had months to empty that freezer. Months, I tell you. At the height of our freezer storage, we keep a whopping three freezers full of our food. One full of pork (two pigs at the peak), one full of chickens and turkeys (up to 70 birds at the most), and one full of vegetables (lots and lots of vegetables, with a little bit of fruit). It's a lot, and honestly, it's not something we're extremely comfortable with - all that electricity. But that's another story for another day. And an ice house is another project for another decade. The reality is that we are, in general, incredibly happy to have three freezers of our own grown and raised food going out there in Papa's workshop, right next to the chop saw and the piles of Harper's abandoned and sometimes in-progress woodworking projects (it's hard to tell which is which, and so it's best to ask him first before moving anything. You never know when a pile of wood and nails might be about to turn into his next woodworking masterpiece).
The peak of that freezer use is of course late fall, when all the harvesting has been done. And slowly, as one empties, we adjust and move things around to make it just two. And then one. And then, for a very short time at the beginning of the summer, the kitchen freezer holds everything we need (and I panic frequently that there's nothing to eat in the house). The reprieve gives us just enough time to stop running that electricity in the height of summer, clean the freezers all out, and prepare to fill them all up once again, one at a time. I've been delaying the final end of that timeline for a few weeks now - the cleaning out part. There really isn't a lot left. Some pesto that somehow got tucked away and buried for two years (um, gross?).....and a whole lot of fat back and leaf lard. Ah. With two pigs, and even with using lard as often as we do (everyday, a little bit for something or other), there still seems to always be a tiny bit of a backlog. And there it sits in the freezer waiting for me to spend the time dealing with it. It isn't that it's such a challenging job, just that it's a big one (I like to do it all at once - two pigs worth - that's a lot of lard). So it was only natural that yesterday, on what might have been arguably the warmest day of this summer yet, I decided to render all that lard.
As the piles were amassed on the kitchen table, and I was sharpening the knives, Steve walked in, dripping with sweat from his own project out of doors. "What are you doing?" he asked incredulously. "Rendering lard! I need to empty the freezer!" I may have replied, just a wee bit snippily. And thus, he walked right back out the door to resume his own project, leaving me to my own warm kitchen and humidity-induced attitude. Turns out that yes, I needed to empty the freezer, but more accurately than that, I needed to spend the day in the kitchen.
Granted, it was warm. I definitely could have chosen a cooler day to do this on. But there's something about that first summer day in the heat of the kitchen, preserving the current harvest for the seasons to come, that I really do love. And while I was at it, in between rendering all that lard, I blanched and froze some spinach, hung some oregano, and made a bit more garlic scape pesto for the freezer (hopefully to be discovered before it reaches the fate of that last batch). And while I was in there, not really wanting to leave that kitchen yet, I took the elderflowers I had gathered earlier in the morning and set to making cordial and liqueur. It was hot, yes. And it was hard work, to be honest - schlepping and hauling baskets in, scrubbing those freezer shelves, and standing over the hot kitchen stove, then hands in the hot dishwater to clean up. But oh, it was the best kind of work. And at the end of the day, I soaked in a (hot!) bath, and crawled into bed, feeling so satisfied at a summer day spent in my kitchen. And this morning I woke to a few more things on the pantry shelves, which is the blissful reward for such kitchen work on a hot, hot day in July.