Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Canning pears as a senior citizen
Today I intend to can as many of the pears from our pear tree as is humanly possible. I have been waiting for this day for weeks, as I watch the greenish fruits become more succulent and yellow with every passing August day. I pruned the tree in January when you are supposed to, enduring bitter cold. I tried to keep raccoons from climbing the tree and eating the fruit. I picked up ripe fruits that dropped on the ground before Zeus could eat them. I have done everything right, and now the moment of truth is here---today---right now. I can't help it that my wife's sister is visiting; she will just have to peel pears until this important work is done.
I have been checking on our supplies for this job for about a month. Wide mouth jars-check. Wide mouth lids-check. Wide mouth rings-check. Sugar-----shit. Holy crap, we need sugar, and lots of it. And ascorbic acid to prevent spoilage and browning of the fruit. On my way home from the airport the other day, I stopped at the Candor market and beat out a more elderly lady to load the two remaining bags of sugar from the lowest shelf to my shopping cart. One disadvantage of aging is that you can not bend over as far or as fast as a younger, 62-year old retiree. I don't think a woman of her age should be eating sugary foods anyway, so I probably did her a favor. She might even be a diabetic.
So with Management's guidance, I carefully went through the steps for proper and safe canning. Washed the jars and rings in the dishwasher, sterilized the lids in boiling water, mixed up a light sugar water solution, peeled pears, cut them in half, hollowed out the core, placed the pear halves in a clean jar, poured the solution into the jar to within a half inch of the top, put the lid on, tightened down the ring, placed the full jars in the pressure canner on the stove, and waited for it to boil for 10 minutes. When the boiling was over and the pressure was relieved (these pressure cookers scare the hell out of me), I removed the jar of pears to cool, and waited for the lid to snap down due to the vacuum formed inside the cooling jar. And voila! Four beautiful jars of pears. Four? What the heck??!!
It turns out that only the pears on top of the basket were ripe, so I could only can a few jars today. Now I need to wait until the rest of the fruit turns. I've picked up and squeezed each piece of fruit to check for softness so many times that my hand is cramping. How long can I sit in this chair watching that basket of fruit? Does it take longer for paint to dry or for fruit to ripen? How many more hours will this take? Will it happen at midnight or early in the morning? Maybe tomorrow, but I'll be ready.