Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pears, pears, pears!

I opened my eyes this morning to see Henry jumping up and down on my bed, exclaiming, "'Ake up! 'Ake up! 'Ake up!"  I couldn't help but smile.  He was so very excited and glad to see me!  He then started counting, "Wee, two, dee, wwww, bye, socks, seggy, eet, why, tie, GO!" and began running back and forth in the hallway.  [As I type this, I am seated at the dining table supervising Henry's snack and Rowan's breakfast, and all of us are taking turns saying, "Chugga chugga CHOO CHOO!"]

Yesterday we canned pears.  I mean, we canned pears.  We had a System this time, and it definitely helped ease the burden of canning.  I came up with the Plan (mental back pat here) which consisted of this:  Peel and slice pears into 5-gallon food-grade buckets (filled with iced salt water for preservation) at my house, then transport to Annetta's for putting in jars and processing.

This plan initially had some setbacks, since I forgot to stop at the store and buy food-grade buckets.  I called the local grocery store and they said they didn't have any.  So then my genius mother-in-law, Carol, suggested that I call Dairy Queen.  Stars above!  They had five, and said they sell such buckets for $1 each!  Haha!  I zoomed over and bought three.  I figured that was all I needed, which turned out to be correct.  In hindsight, I wish I had gotten all five, since I'm sure I could find uses for them.   Oh well.

So I took them home and scrubbed them out.  Before I went to Dairy Queen I had parked Rowan on the toilet (yes, with adult supervision staying at home), and while Savanna and I scrubbed in the basement, we heard Rowan start yelling loudly for Mommy.  Savanna went up to see if she could help, but returned saying that ONLY MOMMY was acceptable.  So up I went with the clean buckets, which Savanna took over, and I went into the bathroom.  Rowan was still on the toilet.  I went closer and he said, "Mommy, I peed in my hair."

Me:  "You did what?"
Rowan:  "I peed in my hair."
Me:  "However did you do that?"
Rowan:  "Well, it just went--"  His finger described an arc from his lap to his hair.

Sigh.  At least he'd pooped in the toilet, which is good.  I wiped his bottom and asked Carol if she would be willing to shower him.  (Mother-in-law of the Year!)  Henry tried to run in and supervise, so Savanna took over managing him while I plunged the toilet and mopped the bathroom floor.  Then finally, finally, we were able to get to the pears and implement The Plan.

It worked remarkably well.  Savanna and I set ourselves up with a cutting board each, knives, peelers, and waste containers, and the bucket of ice water between us.  We each had a box of pears on our other sides.  Peel, slice, dump, repeat, without having to pause for packing or processing.  When our waste containers got full we dumped them into another 5-gallon bucket, which at the end was poured into our garden composter.  Nothing wasted!

It took us longer than anticipated; that is, about three hours.  Dinner was ready by the time we finished with those pears, but we didn't want to take the time when it was already so late.  We loaded up the pears and Rowan and set out for Annetta's.  Rowan did eat dinner at home, since he wasn't helping with the pears.  Matthew kept Henry, thankfully!  The two buckets of pears fit perfectly inside a clean laundry basket and we buckled it into the seat beside Rowan so it wouldn't slide around.  We're geniuses, I tell you!

We got to Annetta's after 7:00 p.m.  She had the jars already washed and ready and the syrup prepared (1 part sugar to 4 parts water), so it was a simple matter to pack the jars and put them on the canner.  Then the calling began.

"Mom, how hot should we have the canner?"
"Mom, it's not steaming yet.  Should it be steaming?  Do you think it's boiled dry?"
"Mom, it's steaming now, but not from the hole, just from around the edges of the lid.  Is it going to explode?  --Okay, we pushed the lid down and now the steaming is coming out the hole."
"Mom, how long are we supposed to let it steam?"
"Mom, do we just take the lid off when we think they're done?  --How long do we let them cool down?"

We eventually declared her to be The Canning Doctor, and Annetta said she should have her own radio show.  My mom got a good giggle out of that.  Eventually we did get those pears canned, 18 jars.  Combined with the 11 from Saturday, that means we have canned 29 jars of pears!  We have another large box to go through tomorrow, and I'm contemplating picking more.  We'll see what my fellow cohorts think.

Next month I think I'll can apple pie filling again.  Mmm, I can hardly wait!