In the same turn, summer is slipping through my hands as I try to hold onto its final moments of jacket-less, barefoot bliss. Lately I look around the farm and all I can think about is how much I have to do before summer says goodbye to us, but what I should really be doing is at least acknowledging how much we've already accomplished. In the past few weeks alone, it feels like we've scaled mountains. The boys have been harvesting sweet corn almost every day of the week. And within the next few days, we will have dug, bagged and delivered over 10 tons of potatoes to the Grange Fair. Right now is the big push. And I hate to break it to you, but autumn is already on our doorsteps. Just look at the trees on the mountains.
Never in my life have I been humbled so often. Every time I feel low about one thing or another, something happens to push me just enough to fall on my face and realize I was complaining about standing up. The high-striver, the perfectionist in me, comes out more and more as I get older. But farm life has its own measure of perfection; the animals, the plants, the earth - they will tell you whether you did right by them or not. Prime example: my wrist is swollen at the moment because I tried to "help" the honeybees way too early in the morning. I should have known better, and I did in the back of my mind, but I pushed it aside. While trying to check off items on my checklist I was checkmated.
There are countless things I've wanted to capture this season. So many moments I wish I had on film or in a photo. But in the same turn, I find myself less and less able to have that camera at the ready. There is a feeling of intrusion, of disturbance, when I snap a photo. When we are all sweating in the heat of the day, our sore backs bent over tomato cages, the last thing I want to do is take a picture. When my nearly seventy-year-old father-in-law has been slaving always since 3:30 in the morning and his foot is sore, I don't want to be the one to point a lens at his face. When I scroll through Instagram, I study the accounts of other farms and I see the benefits to posting more behind-the-scenes glimpses of a work day, but there is part of me that still feels a resistance. I feel torn between sharing those moments of toil and ones that are softer, more palatable. There are times when I don't want to share anything at all, but rather retreat inside of this farm and never come out again.
But I can't do that because as much as I like to think of myself as an island, I am not. Being inside coring, cutting and cooking tomatoes for days straight had me fooled into thinking I was for a moment. The thought of winter puts wind in my sails right now. I don't like to put too much stock in things for fear of disappointment, but I tell you what, I am going to winter soooo hard it's not even funny. I already have a Word document of house projects and daydreams of afternoon naps and couch cuddles with my farmer. When I close my eyes, I can see snow. But until then, I can. And can some more.
Makes about 2 pints
Adapted from Better Homes + Gardens
8 pounds tomatoes, cored and quartered
1/2 cup grated onion
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 cup sugar
1 cup white vinegar
1 1/2" cinnamon stick, broken in pieces
1 1/2 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp dill seeds
1 tbsp salt
Add the tomatoes to a large, heavy-bottomed pot, along with the onion and coriander. Gently press the mixture down with a potato masher over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer for 15 minutes until the tomatoes are fairly broken down and the juices fully release.
Process the tomatoes in batches through a food mill into a clean pot. Discard the skins and seeds. Return the tomato juice to the stove and add the sugar. Bring the mixture back to a boil, then reduce to a vigorous simmer. Let the mixture cook, stirring occasionally, until it is reduce by 1/2 (approximately 1 - 1 1/2 hours).
In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, cinnamon sticks, cloves and dill seed. Bring the mixture nearly to a boil, then remove from the heat. Let the spice mixture steep for 5 minutes, then strain the vinegar into a cup or bowl and reserve it. Discard the spices.
When the tomato sauce is reduced, add the vinegar and 1 tablespoon of salt. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes more, or until mixture is thickened. Remember, the ketchup will thicken more when it is cooled.
If you want to preserve the ketchup, ladle the hot liquid into sterilized jars. Wipe the rims and seal the lids tightly. Process pints in a boiling-water canner for 35 minutes or 20 minutes for half pints (after water has come to a full boil). Carefully remove the jars from the hot water and let them cool to room temperature. Store in a cool, dry place.