Dear Lovely Assistant--
It is October! The end of the growing season is near, if not already at hand! We have had the last summer rush of gathering garden produce. You have helped me to dehydrate, can, pickle, freeze, and otherwise store for the future the food that we cannot immediately consume. You and I both agree that this time of year is a time to celebrate, so we started a "Preservationist's Party" tradition a few years ago.
We do not have many friends who preserve food for future consumption. It seems to be a dying art, despite the rush on canning equipment we experienced during the Covid 2020 season. Each year, I invite those I know who do food preservation (of any kind!) to an October afternoon “Preservationist’s Party." Each year, only one faithful friend comes! But what fun we do have!
It is exciting to see other types of pickles and jams travel through our backyard in the arms of my friend to be set out for sampling on the back deck! You, my Lovely Assistant, indeed have been an indispensable help with food preservation (I am grateful for your help!), so you are welcome to skip your normal responsibilities for the afternoon to join us if you like (no school, no school!!). I think your level of participation often depends on the quality and quantity of the snacks offered, so I do try to ensure you have enough to tempt your palate. We all discuss recipes and family histories of food preservation and swap tips. Often, we compare the weather and the rapaciousness of the squirrels/rabbits/other pests, and we always check on what crop variety was a bust each year--usually the same veggie coincidentally fails for each of us. What a great time!
Everyone skips lunch, knowing that we will be full after the party. Of course, we bring snacks to share, for who can subsist on pickles, relishes and jam samples alone? (The Lovely Assistant really gets into this part.) In addition to my standby seven-layer dip with chips, I set out my kosher dills, jellied gooseberry sauce, pickled peppers and some other items. All three of us check out new—to us--items. The year we first tried my friend's lime pickles (tasty, but not too sweet); I knew we had an instant family favorite. Thankfully, my friend has always brought us some lime pickles each year to trade, as the recipe sounds like it takes a few days to make...more time and effort than I care to invest in a cucumber.
My friend and I bring extras of items that we are willing to exchange for other goodies that we covet. Why spend your summer free time processing every kind of produce under the sun when someone else you know is going to execute a particular recipe infinitely better than you can? It is much easier to throw three or four extra pints of something you plan to trade later into the hot water processing bath than to spend another half a day in your hot kitchen processing only a few items of something.
No one knows what is going to be the popular trade item of the year. The first year, I had shyly put out some of my dehydrated oregano, thinking that nobody would want dried oregano when jams were on the table and also because oregano is so inexpensive in the store. That oregano jar was the first thing to be traded. The next year I put up extra herbs specifically for the Preservationist’s Party. Sometimes we bring items that are stored as-is--for instance, a bag of garlic is not officially a preserve, but I find when I leave a pile of my homegrown garlic on the table, the pile is always smaller after the party! I am completely happy to get a bag of frozen, sliced carrot rounds (or whatever) in return!
Each year all participants declare the party to be a success, and that we should repeat it in future. So far, we always have!
Have a beautiful day!