Earlier this week, after dropping Calvin off at school in the morning, I walked back into the house and waded through the boxes and trays of garden goodness to make my way through the kitchen - tomatoes, red and green, mostly. And I realized, as though this were a surprise to me, that they weren't going to wait for me to have a 'free day,' nor was it small enough of a task for a late night canning session. It was serious attention and time that was needed and the only time to do such a thing is the in the present. Use it or lose it. (Or something like that.) And so, abandoning the original plan for the day, I dove in.
Of course, it's never as simple as just getting started. A quick search for a few key spices reminded me that it's been more than a few grocery trip 'in a hurry' where no one has slowed down in the putting away of groceries enough to really actually put them away. There were bags stacked on top of the jars that had now shifted in their labels slightly, and no one can operate effectively and efficiently in a pantry like that! And thus, I had the perfect job for the little boy who loves to help and was disappointed to hear we weren't getting to his writing lesson right away. With the handy Taproot jar labels (on the website as a free download), Harper spent at least the first hour at my side, cutting, labeling and writing (writing lesson!).
When the lure of sunshine and his bike called him outside (understandably, it was a gorgeous day), I finished the job, sighed in the satisfaction of a tidy shelf, and promptly got to work in making a proper and full-on mess of my kitchen.
And oh, did I make a mess! Many, many jars of green tomato salsa - I used a basic Tomatillo Salsa Recipe from the Ball Canning Book, and just subbed green tomatoes for tomatillos, roasting them first just a bit to hopefully add some flavor (it worked!). And then the Green Tomato Chutney, from Food in Jars. And with the last of the red tomatoes, jars upon jars more of simple Passata was made (like this, but I broiled quickly first) to add to the shelves.
I stopped a few times at the request of this one, who wished that I watch her carefully remove her shoes (tap shoes, two different sizes, no ties) and place them by the door "just so" as she went outside "I'm leaving them here just like this because that's how someone that is royalty does it." So there you have it. I was a witness. At least ten times.
There was also a mass exodus led by Adelaide to the barn to find the "back up dress up clothes." Does everyone have a Back Up Dress Up Bin in the barn? It seems excessive, I know. But then there's the hunt and subsequent discovery of some fabulously 80's unitards (thanks for all those dance lessons, Mom and Dad!) and suddenly "the perfect' Halloween costume is created!
That inspired the whole crew, of course, to find their own. And so right now, we have a joker, a police officer, and a night queen (she was a night princess last year. She's grown, you know). No doubt it will be an entirely different assortment of personalities today. Thank goodness for that back up dress up bin.
I was read to, as well. By all three of these littles, as I stood in that one same exact spot in the kitchen all day long - moving tomatoes from here to there, jars from there to here, and washing more rounds of dishes than I can count. (And missing my favorite dishwasher sidekick Ezra, who is the best dishwashing DJ ever, but was feeling under the weather and napping most of the day.) There were at least two bandaids applied, if I remember correctly. And one round of "sheep's out!" that had us all pouring out of doors and enticing a sheep back to the proper side of the fence. Surely there were a few arguments that I broke up, though I blessedly don't really remember those.
At a certain point, just when I started to feel that slight "oh, I've been standing in the same position all day!" alert in my lower back, I remembered that we needed dinner. With tomatoes in front of me as the obvious choice and imagination running low, I went for some Green Tomato Curry that had been recommended (thank you, Jennifer!). It was absolutely delicious and immediately added to my 'to can' list.
And on and on like that it went, as Papa and Calvin came home from work and school, as I sort of sat for dinner, as all those jars waited their turn for the canner and the timer was set over and over again for another round. More dishes were washed, more company was had in the kitchen, and finally, with the very last round removed from the canner quite close to midnight, I left the kitchen.
A short sleep later and we were up, getting Calvin out the door for school and ready for another to day to begin. "Look," I said, pointing to all the jars lined up in the pretty early morning sunlight. "Endless salsa!"
"Cool," he replied, not actually interested or even awake but humoring his mother nonetheless "Is that what you did yesterday?"
Yes. That's what I did yesterday.