Summer is short in Maine. And it's glorious.
I feel an urgency all season to keep it somehow, which is why preserving the harvest appeals to me so much. It's not just food. It's memories.
Don't get me wrong: I adore snowy nights by the fire. But I love them all the more if we have a nice tomato jam to spread on toast with a melting goat cheese. We taste the jam and remember when the tomatoes were ripe—back when we were swimming and sleeping under the shooting stars and reading in the grass.
It's a tug between the two impulses all summer, of course. To play and sing like Aesop's grasshopper? Or, like the ants, to put away some of the summer bounty for when the snow flies? I wish that I were able to transform the whole season into one long stretch of gardening and swimming and harvesting and hiking and preserving and walking on the beach. But I can't. That's not the life I have. And when I have time to spare, I'm going to choose to play with my daughters. Their childhoods are more fleeting than summer. (Did I mention they turned eleven this summer? Eleven!)
But what I can manage—with Blossom's and Fern's help—is to play a little and preserve a little bit each day. We've learned to measure out our energy, to keep it simple. We don't have the garden or the humanpower to put away a harvest that will see us through the seasons ahead. No pressure cookers and huge vats of boiling water for us. Our scale is small. But we are able to freeze and pickle and dry and jar enough treats to bring the sparkle of summer to almost every winter meal: blackberries for cobbler and strawberry jam for toast and half-sour pickles for bagel brunch and cherries for pie and chutneys to spike up the heat on an Indian feast.
We're not letting go of summer yet. But we are pickling it while we can.