What do you get with two days and...

8 ½ pounds homegrown pluots

5 enormous lemons

6 ½ pounds sugar

2 humongous pots

15 canning jars, lids, and rings

and countless gallons of water?

15 8-ounce jars of yummy pluot jam.

What an exhausting weekend canning pluot jam. Those two days of canning gave me even more respect for farm families who spend spring planting their vegetable gardens, summer tending the gardens, then late summer preserving their produce for winter. Just a handful of jam jars seemed like a huge amount of work; putting up enough food to last a household through winter is an unfathomable task and fortunately one I don’t have to do.

Still, my vegetable garden produces much more than my family can keep up with, so preserving the harvest is important in my house. We can’t get enough of the garlicky kosher dills I make using homegrown cucumbers and my Russian grandmother’s recipe. I freeze tomatoes whole in zip-top freezer bags, then use the tomatoes through the year in soups, sauces, stews, and my favorite dish—shakshuka. Stone fruits get pitted and frozen, too, plus dill and parsley to use in soups and in stuffing. I freeze hot peppers, then shave off bits as needed to give dishes an extra punch.

The basics of preserving food involves fermenting, pickling, dehydrating, salting, and canning, and  you can see these methods in one of my favorite episodes of A Growing Passion, “Preserve the Harvest.” In that episode, I got to work alongside local chefs and experts who taught me to make dishes like fruit kimchi, Moroccan preserved lemons, tomato jam, and a diversity of pickled vegetables. 

I’m heading back into the garden now for late summer tomato harvest. I’m thinking I’ll make an amazing tomato jam. Or maybe I’ll pick and dry Anasazi beans to make chili this winter. Or maybe more pickling cucumbers are ready. Or...? 

Watch episodes of A Growing Passion at 8:30pm on KPBS TV in San Diego, or watch episodes online anytime at agrowingpassion.com. Follow A Growing Passion on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for a behind-the-scenes look at new episodes. 

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