I have a tendency to get in over my head. Hard to believe, I know, but it's true.
Case in point: Last Thursday morning, I was having a major attack of “but I neeeed an iPhone” and was trying hard to keep myself out of the AT&T store. Sad, I know.
In an effort to stay busy and distract myself, I went looking for Strite's Orchard. The man who installed my new furnace had given me a general idea of its whereabouts, and he said that they had “all kinds of nice stuff.”
When I got there, I found scads of fresh produce, and it all looked terrific. I love to eat apple butter, and I've been wanting to try my hand at making peach butter. I immediately found the peaches and picked out a bushel.
But then, they also had nice looking apples and visions of apple butter danced in my head. I couldn't pass by without buying a bushel of them, too.
And, next to the cash registers, there were scrumptious-looking cherries. Given my wild success in making cherry-black raspberry jam, I was confident. I knew I could make quick work of those cherries. I grabbed a 5-gallon bucket of those, just because I could.
I put my peaches, apples, and cherries into the car and went home. On the way there, I lined up a babysitter to watch my teething baby at 1 pm so that I could can all afternoon.
One o'clock came and went, and the sitter never showed up. The teething baby demanded to be held, and I couldn't work on the fruit.
Friday morning, I gave the baby some Tylenol, set her stool up at the sink, and started working on the apples. In order to make apple butter, you have to first make applesauce, so I got that going in the Crockpot. A full batch took about ¼ of my apples.
On my way back to the living room, I noticed a vinegar smell emanating from the cherries. They were sitting near a sunny window, so I filled the sink with cold water and dumped them in. Half of the cherries were bruised, swollen, and smelly. What happened? I still don't know, to tell you the truth, but the cherries had to be pitted and cooked.
Let me pause to tell you that pitting a quart of cherries is nothing like pitting 5 gallons of cherries. While being patted, kissed, and raspberried by a 14-month old squealing toddler who wanted nothing more than to help and kept taking the cherry pitter.
I sorted out the unusable cherries, and I pitted the good ones. Then I tended my applesauce. And then I sorted and pitted more cherries. Then I drained the sink and sorted and pitted more cherries. I sorted and pitted cherries all. day. long. I swear, they were multiplying in the sink. It was like a bad movie, attack of the smelly cherries!
Finally, I walked away from the sink and left the remaining cherries to sit. I just couldn't take the vinegar/cherry smell and the sticky icky juice running everywhere. I was overwhelmed.
I worked on apples for the rest of the day, in between changing diapers and pacifying the babe. I got through ¾ of the bushel.
When Joe finally got home from work, I made him pit cherries. The poor man did as I instructed, and he finally finished around 10 pm.
Then he saw the peaches, sitting untouched on the dining room table, and asked me what I was thinking when I bought all of this fruit.
I told him that I was thinking about how efficient I am and how easy it was to can the raspberry jam and how I could save gas money by buying everything at the same time.
He wasn't on board my vessel.
The next morning, after breakfast, I started pureeing cherries and making jam. Remember my homemade jam recipe? Did I mention that you have to work in small batches? It won't set up properly if you double the recipe, so you're really limited to five or six cup batches.
All Saturday morning, I pureed and cooked and canned and pureed and cooked and canned. My jam-making process is like a well-oiled machine, with big pots on every burner of the stove. At last, something was going smoothly!
After the second batch, the voice of reason (also known as my husband) appeared, surveyed the small dent I'd made in the cherries, and said “What are you going to do with all this cherry jam?” I wanted to have enough for myself and some to give for Christmas, I told him, but I hadn't really thought that far ahead.
I had enough cherries to make about 60 jars of jam. I only need 5 jars for gifts.
I decided to puree the remaining cherries, throw them in the crockpot, and cook them until I had something the consistency of apple butter. I'd never heard of cherry butter, but it sounded good.
The cherries were taken care of, the apples were cooking, and the peaches sat, untouched, on the dining room table.
“What are you going to do with that box of peaches?” he asked.
I grinned my best I know you love me grin and said, “I was hoping that you'd peel and pit them for me.”
Seriously, all of the credit that I give him isn't nearly enough. He is a patient, patient man. He agreed and got started while I took care of the babe.
Some hours later, the apple butter was cooking happily in our crockpot, and the peaches and cherries were reducing in an assortment of borrowed ones. I was thankful to be able to sit down on the couch and check my email and Twitter.
“Dear?” he said. “When are we going to make the pickles?”
I had forgotten all about the fifteen pounds of cucumber and zucchini in the fridge, waiting to be pickled.
I won't tell you what I thought at that moment because it's not fit to write.
I chopped and boiled and pickled and, by that time, the butters were ready for canning, so I did some of that, too.
Sunday morning, I missed church because I had to get up and finish the canning. And then, of course, the relatives started showing up because they have a standing invitation to come over for Sunday dinner.
So the canning was all finished, except for the 32 peaches and 17 apples that remained unused.
They're still sitting.