Thursday, April 25, 2013

Year-Round Maine Produce

In the summer, our kitchen is filled with fresh fruit and veggies. From cukes, onions, corn, and herbs, to an abundance of all kinds of locally picked berries and tree fruits, we have plenty of what we need for eating and canning. This time of year, however, individual "commercial" preservers like me have to search a bit harder for local produce, as our freezers are suddenly emptying of the masses we felt were enough for the year in the heat of last summer.
The truth of it is, to make a living (ha!), this time of year we jam-makers and picklers often succumb to buying bulk products from distributors, including fruit and veggies from far-away places, to supplement what we don't have or can't get locally in the winter and spring. I too supplement with far-away fruit but try to use as much as I can of these Maine-grown items year-round in our jam and pickles: Tomatoes, blueberries, cranberries, apples, blackberries, rhubarb, some raspberries (never enough), herbs, corn (thanks bro!), and eggs. I have three freezers quickly dwindling of my summer and fall berry, veggie, and rhubarb supply. We also always use local Maine honey and a bit of local cider vinegar. Seasonal favorites pop up soon, including dandelions (who doesn't have enough of those?) and fiddleheads, along with never-enough Maine-grown asparagus.  It's tough growing cukes in the winter and spring, and I even begged Kate of Tibbetts Family Farm to help me out with that, to which she laughed and offered to grow some in big planters for me. She must have felt my desperation. I'll wait on those until true summer comes along. Sometimes it's better to wait for something good in order to get it from Maine.
Here are some examples of Maine-grown items I used this week with which to make jam and relish.

Keeping tomatoes local in April means opting for these
hot-house yummies from Backyard Farms.  These were for the Spiced Tomato Jam.
Utilities from Giles Family Farm.  Apple Sauce and Apple Pie Jam.
Anderson Farms, of course. Quickly running out!  Corn Relish.
With about 50 pounds left, I hoarded these cranberries from
Old Grey Beaver Bog in Kennebunk.  Cranberry Hinkle Hatz Jam and Cranberry Sauce.
Bradybury Farm, Hollis.  Blueberry Jam, Pickled Blueberries,
and Black & Blue Honey Pie Jam (low sugar/high honey favorite).

We picked up this local vinegar right at Hannaford.
Supplies are limited.
Typically I use a combination of wild and cultivated blueberries from Maine, which are easy to come by year-round. Still, Bradbury Farm in Hollis called me yesterday to see if I needed some, as they were going to unplug their freezer. I drove up the road to the farm (just a few miles), where Mrs. Bradbury GAVE me a 30 pound bag. She carried it out of the house, brought it to the car and put it in my trunk. Think I'll be making her some Black & Blue Honey Pie Jam.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Having children changes everything.

In the United States, in Maine, where our children can go outside and play freely, where we have the space and patience to stand in a spot long enough for a chickadee to land on our hands for a snack, there is very little fear for tragedy.  The difficulty in parenting is balancing that ideal with the reality of a bigger picture, including bad people who do bad things.

When a horrible thing happens in the world, several questions pop into my head, invading the fluidity of a regular worry-free day, and causing truly sleepless nights.

What kind of person am I to have brought children into this awful world?  How am I going to help these girls grow up and steer clear of this madness?  What are the things I can do to continue to make them feel safe and yet make sure they understand how to protect themselves in every situation-- I mean, Every situation.  My mind goes nuts thinking about all of the ungodly things that could happen.  And then I think about what they are learning in their first years of school.  The basics.  Be kind to each other.  Don't dwell on the little things.  Help someone when you can.  Watch where you're going.  Take risks, but don't hurt anyone, including yourself.  Remember that everyone has a story.  Trust the adults in your life.  Stranger danger.  Ask questions.  Keep going.  These are the things I ought to be focusing on too.  And hugs.  More hugs.  Appreciate the simple things.