Monday, September 22, 2014

Try this Book I Know You'll Love It

I was recently given a book and told, “I would enjoy this.” Now first I have my own reading list. Yes they are mostly graphic novels and are not life changing or life informing. (For readers who don’t know this was a joke. Graphic novels are really hard back comic books that are apparently very popular now.) Any way I usually read a chapter or two of the suggested reading material trying to understand what the donor got out of the book and whether they are suggesting it to me for my enjoyment, or to change some misguided idea I have expressed, or because they think my education is deficient. (If you are one such book suggester please do not be offended this is about me not about you and please don’t hesitate to suggest books because I do occasionally express misguided ideas and areas of my education are deficient.)

Any way I picked up Lawrence Wright’s  In the New World: Growing up in America from the Sixties to the Eighties with these thoughts in mind. The book is an autobiographical journey exploring the forces that united and divided the people of America from the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas up until the election Of Ronald Reagan as President. The author was born about five years before me, in Dallas. He goes onto a career as a journalist and writes wonderfully.

Once I started I couldn’t put it down. Taking this journey with him was much like remembering my journey through that same time period. I often found myself thinking, ‘Oh yeah I had forgotten that.’ Examples of those moments are that Martin Luther King’s nonviolent approach to civil rights was beginning to be challenged by other approaches within the black community and his assassination let free his spirit to empower the moment in new ways. I had forgotten that American products in the late sixties and early 70’s were lousy compared to cars from Europe and electronics from Japan. And finally that John Hinkley was from Dallas and grew up Episcopal. And I wonder if I ever knew Ronald Reagan and JFK campaigned on many of the same positions.

If you lived through those years and its dichotomies and arguments; If you remember being for the war because you believed in the domino theory, but opposed it as it dragged on with no victory insight; If you loved or hated Nixon; If you just like a good read maybe you would enjoy this.
Someone just recommended Eragon to me. It’s another great read. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Canning or Jarring Tomatoes

Saturday Pam brought home 30 pounds of canning tomatoes from the farmers market.  Canning tomatoes are the blemished and bruised tomatoes of the tomato market. First thing in the morning we had put 18 quart jars in the dishwasher to clean and sterilize. I don’t know why it’s not called jarring?

The first step of the preparation process is to cut out the stems and any rough or bruised spots on the tomatoes.  Second we drop the tomatoes, a few at a time, into boiling water to parboil them and loosen their skins. From the boiling water we drop them into an ice bath to make them cool enough to handle. We pick them out of the ice bath and pull off their skin. For 30 lbs. Of tomatoes this takes a good amount of time.

We then squish or crush all the tomatoes. Crush tomatoes are then packed into the jars. A teaspoon of salt is added to the top of each jar.  Tomato juice from the squishing bowl is added up to about one half inch from the mouth of the jar. Then with a wooden skewer I poke around inside the jar to release any air bubbles. More juice is added if necessary. Lids are applied and the enclosed jars are placed in boiling water at least an inch over the top of the lid. This goes on for twenty minutes. Saturday the only pot we had that was deep enough for this step only holds four jars at a time. (Since then we bought a canning bath. (A large pot big enough to hold 8 jars at a time with an internal rack to use to lift them in and out.)

There is great fun in this process but the real joy comes throughout the year when we have wonderful fresh cooking tomatoes that we canned ourselves.

And if this wasn't great enough on Sunday afternoon we made two quarts of pesto with fresh basil from our garden.