Columnist Joyce Bupp discusses canning season at her house as summer vegetable gardens offer the last of their produce before fall.
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The first half of September is what I like to think of as the “sweet spot,” when late summer sun meets the faintly crisp air of early fall and the produce is both majestic and abundant. From fruits and vegetables to herbs and edible fungi, the variety in this magic moment is second to none, with something truly for everyone. In my opinion, there is no better time to eat locally. I may have done a little happy dance last week when I discovered concord grapes at A.B. Orchards (5766-5768 White Oak Rd, Paradise), plump and floral -- and by the time you read this -- transformed into jelly.My only words of advice: Run; don’t walk to your favorite farm stand or market; ingredients that straddle seasons tend to quickly disappear. If you see your favorite summer ingredient, seize the moment and stock up and freeze for later.Here’s what we’ve spotted in the past week at local farm stands, with ideas from our archives for putting them to good use.ApplesLocal apple season is officially underway, with varieties making their seasonal debut every week until November.— How to make apple coffee cakeBasil— How to make basil pesto (with video)Beets— How to make beet ketchupEggplant— How to make Indian-spiced ratatouilleFigsIf you are lucky enough to have a fig tree in your yard, you know you are in a race with the squirrels and the birds. With a small handful, I like to slice in half, drizzle with honey, garnish with basil and serve with blue cheese as part of a salad or maybe throw it all onto pizza. When I can score a few pounds, I like to roast them until totally surrendered or make jam, which is the absolute best as part of a cheese plate.LettucesCooler evenings and mornings mean that salad greens are back in rotation until the first frost.— How to wash, dry and salt salad greens (with video)Pears—How to poach pearsPeppers, sweet and hot—How to make stuffed peppers and your own hot sauce Italian “prune” plumsThese deep purple oblong beauties show much later than their softer plum kin, which makes them perfect for baking and jam making. Fruit buckle or galette, anyone?TomatillosHow to make roasted tomatillo salsaTomatoesThree ways to savor in-season tomatoesWinter squash—How to make roasted winter squash toastStill hanging on, but not for much longer—Blackberries— Corn— Cucumbers— Lima beans— Peaches— Snap beans— Summer squash— Watermelon and cantaloupe A guide to putting up summer vegetables in the freezer
Grape jelly has long been on my canning wish list, but frankly, I was afraid to ask. I worried it might be complicated and involved added pectin. And of course, there’s the matter of tracking down the grapes. Here in Lancaster, that is not a problem, as I’ve discovered; I have found Concord grapes (and other wine grapes such as Catawba) at a few farm stands, including Lapp’s (1406 Lampeter Road) and A.B. Orchards (5766-5768 White Oak Rd, Paradise), which makes me think there are more farms out there with the grape goods. (Let me know if you have a favorite grape spot.)
Concord grapes from A.B. Orchards in Paradise.
Is hot water enough to sterilize jars before canning? Should you turn jars upside down after removing them from your canner? Preserving experts from Penn State Extension clear up common misconceptions about canning.
After last year’s shrunken drive-thru version, the popular Lancaster VegFest will return as an outdoor event next month at Buchanan Park in Lancaster city.
While constructing this season’s first batch of BLTs (featured in last week’s Food section), I got hungry for all manner of tomato-y treats, including the raw salsa known as pico de gallo. Off I went to a nearby farm stand in pursuit of plum tomatoes; for salsa, I prefer their structure and higher flesh-to-seed ratio, which means less watery results. As I made my way to the tiered display, I stopped in my tracks for a bunch of dark green-black bowling balls doubling as watermelon (or was it the other way around?). With both hands, I picked one up, giving it a big hug. I gently knocked to see if anyone was there, and sure enough, with its unmistakably hollow dum-dum, it said, “Take me home, please.”
This is the fourth installment of an ongoing series with a focus on small independent farms and creative use of farmland. We hope it serves as a reminder that the food grown and raised in Lancaster County is both diverse and extraordinary and that the people tending the land have stories worth telling. Join us in saluting our neighbors.