Canning, Field Peas, Minestrone

Seat Pants Minestrone Soup and Field peas

Today I’m canning… and doing laundry… and cleaning… and pulling sod off the back walkway… and trimming branches in the backyard… and folding clothes… and hanging up clothes… and doing dishes… and cooking, oh and let’s not forget weeding/trimming the rockery out front. And I have a blister. Now tell me again how this staying home thing is supposed to be relaxing? There isn’t a bon-bon or a soap opera in sight.

Minestrone (left) Chopped Tomatoes (right)

On the upside, I have 12 gorgeous quarts of chopped tomatoes canned in their own juice (you would think 28 lbs would go farther but no) and another 14 quarts of chunky homemade minestrone, which Sara calls my “seat pants” Minestrone since I’m known to make it by the seat of my pants with whatever I happen to have on hand. This batch has purple kale, navy beans, tomatoes, barley, carrots, onions, peppers, potatoes, zucchini, and mushrooms seasoned with garlic, onion, peppers, black pepper, and Italian herbs, all in a vegetarian chicken/vegetable stock base. In this case the ingredients were a product of the greens I had from our garden, what was in the “quick sale/clearance” produce section of our nearest neighborhood market and the seasonings I happened to have on hand. Not a traditional minestrone I know, but it is awfully good if I do say so myownself. Only one of jars of minestrone didn’t vacuum seal correctly (I’m betting it’s the one where I forgot to wipe the rim with vinegar before setting the lid on) and the other CV took it for lunch today. And it has been pronounced a superb success which tickles me no end. One of my shameful secrets has been a lifelong love of canned soup eaten right out of the can. I should hasten to add… not the condensed kind because really, that’s just a stroke in a can right there what with all the salt. Tomorrow, or this afternoon if I feel really motivated, I will start a batch of split pea soup for canning. I’m going to try using the recipe in the BBB (that’s the Ball Blue Book for those of you who like me spent several confused hours on the internet trying to figure out why everyone on the canning forums thought the Better Business Bureau was THE EXPERT in canning and preserving) but I will have to substitute field peas for split peas as I have over a gallon of them at last count. They are brown instead of green so I’m a little worried about how it will look when it’s finished but I imagine the taste will be wonderful regardless. The recipe calls for ham so I’m going to put in diced potatoes and liquid smoke to replicate the taste and correct volume of ingredients and still keep it vegan.

This will mark off the chopped tomatoes, minestrone and split pea soup from my canning list for now. One item I didn’t have on the list but have decided to make, and can if it’s as good as I hope, is a vegan Hungarian Goulash. The BBB has a recipe that used A LOT of beef but I think I will try substituting large velvety red runner beans and cubed potatoes into the recipe in place of the beef. Adding a bit of Better Than Bouillon’s No Beef Base to give the flavor of beef to the sauce should make this top-notch. The BBB also states to discard the carrots, celery and onions before canning the beef and I can tell you that that will just not do. Beside the fact that I LOVE slow cooked vegetables simmered with spices it’s simply so wasteful. I read online that the average American family throws out about 12%-14% of it’s food, 27% if you include restaurants, cafeterias and grocery stores and an astounding 40-50% when you include farms, wholesalers and processors. Here is a graphic that illustrates just how much edible food is thrown away by a family of four in this country in one month (one study estimated that it amounts to about $600 a year but that was some time ago and I’m sure it’s significantly higher now). I have to admit that since we have been eating vegan, the amount of food waste in this house has dropped dramatically. We don’t throw away any food anymore. Even vegetable scraps and peelings gets saved for making broth and what cannot be used at all is composted much to the delight of the crow family (Steve, Edie and recently fledged Stuart) that live in the tree behind our house. They seem particularly fond of watermelon rinds. Who knew? And yes, it suddenly occurs to me I should be pickling those, no? Except I’ve never had pickled watermelon rind and I’m not entirely sure what one does with it exactly. It’s a mystery. Not unlike what the Queen carries in her purse. And what exactly does she carry in there? Spare keys to the castle? A hanky? Important phone numbers? Anyway, although my love of all things pickle related is well documented, I think I want to taste a pickled watermelon rind before I spend and afternoon canning it. But we’ll see…