Wednesday, December 31, 2008

what we preserve

Because it's New Year's eve, and why should that bloody preschool take over one more neuron than is strictly necessary? Already, this business takes up too much space in my noggin.

So, I'm shoving it aside. Because the year is turning, this is one of those artificial transition/transfomation moments, and while I've never been a Dick Clark kind of gal, I can appreciate a moment when I see one. So. And I've never been too finicky about the pseudo-significant echo thing. So.

Right now, there's a nice quart jar on my counter, glowing with lemons and saffron and mustard seeds. The lid is sealed shut, thanks to my giant soup pot and lots of hot water. In a month or so, that jar will have something vaguely resembling Moroccan preserved lemons, but right now it's just sitting there, glowing.

I can't tell you how absurdly happy this jar makes me.

For some years now, magid has been presenting us with little jars of jams and chutneys. We've loved the first, but I've been the sole admirer of the second. (Not that being solo is bad here, mind you) What an idea: to make the kind of jam you want, because you can. Oh, but it's really easy, magid assured me. I nodded, trying to look non-skeptical. I'm sure. Someday, you should show me.

Summer after community garden summer, I haul in ridiculous amounts of tomatoes and green beans. I make big vats of tomato sauce, tossing in handfuls of herbs from the garden. You'd think that a winter of garden love in a jar would tip me over the edge into canning, but nooo.

What did it was the pickles. Pickles around here are too sweet, not garlicky and salty enough. Not enough Guss' Pickles on Delancey Street, with the guy who reaches into the barrel of garlic sours, pulls out a pickle, squeezes it to see if it's crisp, and then gives it to the kid who will try and make it last all the way back to Queens. Except it won't. And except that the kid can't find that pickle's cousin in New England. And, pickle companies are persnicketty about labelling exactly what spices they use - or telling you on the phone - so, now what?

First, refrigerator pickles. No canning, no worries about freakin' scary bacteria. But also no room in the fridge. So, winter break upon us and snow, snow, snow, cold rain, snow and it's time to get over myself and can.

We started with pickles, of course. Garlicky cukes and carrots. Then kinda kimchee. Then sweet pickled apples. And tonight, preserved lemons. Damn, this is fun. And I do hope I've got the hordes of scary bacteria thing worked out, because we cracked the garlic pickles tonight, and damn. They are garlicky.
So I leave you with this: I'm choosing what to keep, this year. 2008 had it's share of bumps - and one parting shot of a bleed - but in the end, like the Eldest's current bleed, phooey. I'm hanging on to the good stuff, like this trip, a challenge passed, a sun-warm berry, a certain irrepressible tushie and his wonderful, humbling brother. Who did this last night,

working with calm and competence and an ice pack on a painful swollen lump - and then spent a chunk of the morning running around with his friend, bashing each other with foam light sabers,. Idiotic, happy boy energy. Good, good stuff.

I'm going to bottle all of these, sealing them up in their marvellous imperfections. It's been a busy 2008, a wonderful, hair-raising, humbling education of a year. Dammit. And I might be feeling a bit dented by the end of it, but I can arrange my treasures on the shelf and see. We did okay, this year.

Hell, we did better than okay. In our knee scraping, muttering and delighted way, we flew.

So, 2009 is welcome to saunter on in. The house is grubby, the kids are sleeping and there's a distinct shortage of chocolate, but there's a jar on my kitchen counter that glows like a slice of leftover sunshine. It'll do me just fine. Oh - and in case you thought I was just that lovely and grounded to be able to set aside my semi-permanent growl over the preschool, um, no.

to clarify:

dammit, when I tell the preschool to go and suck lemons, they are not getting any of the sunny deliciousness on my countertop. Oh, no. And how could the grubby idiocy of the preschool brangle compare to the teeth-gritted love that came with this? Can't, that's what. So, neener, neener, neener.

(hauling myself up now, reinserting self-satisfied or at least balanced tone into bloggish mouth - right. Yes. Okay.)

Right, then. Bring it on, 2009. I've got sunshine in a bottle and a fist full of memory, and I'm completely able to fool myself into thinking that I'm prepared.


Julia said...

I love the pictures. And covet the jars. Or, rather, what's in the jars.

I am not exactly prepared, because I am not sure I can be. But I am with you-- bring it on, 2009. Just in the way that challenges without flattening, if at all possible. I am not sure I am up for being flattened again, and I certainly don't think others need to find out if they are either. Yup, a mouthful of tempered trash talking. I live rather dangerously, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

There's a cute smile among your jars of pickles...Man, he's growing like a weed!

Anonymous said...

Preserved lemons aren't like the other pickles you list: I've never canned them (though I do use canning jars to age them in :-). They're just lemons and salt, layered, sitting in a closed-but-not-boiled jar for a month until they're ready. I don't know how the canning process will affect the end result.

That said, yay for pickles (I really need to get over my issues and make cucumber ones), and here's to taking the good of 2008 and moving on to more good stuff in 2009!

Anonymous said...

I really hope this doesn't mean we don't get Part IV of the story! I can't take the suspense . . .

katrina said...

I loved this post. There. That's it.

Miryam (mama o' the matrices) said...

Lois, oh yes he is! And here comes his birthday, just in case we'd forgotten.

Anon, I promise. Part 4 is coming...

magid, I'm sure I warped those lemons. But it's shelf-stable or nuthin' around here.

Oh, and Julia - sorry. We cracked both jars of gahhhhlick pickles. But we'll make another batch, I promise!

Anonymous said...

The lemons *are* shelf stable without canning, I promise. The salt transforms the lemons amazingly, and I'm not sure whether it will happen in the same way if heat is applied; it's supposed to be a slow process.
I hope it works fine.

Auntie A said...

mmm...pickles...they sound (and look) yummy.. and great pictures to boot!

Belated happy Chanukah and happy 2009!