Does anyone remember coloring the cornucopia pictures – the “horn of plenty” – in elementary school? They featured a basket-like horn with a bunch of Pilgrim-y harvest items spilling out – pumpkins, nuts, potatoes, squash, indian corn, onions, the occasional apple, and, if the illustrator got really board or simply didn’t know his New England agricultural timelines, a bunch of grapes for effect. The thing about those horns is that even if you were one of the best colorers, kept all your scribbles inside the lines, and tried really hard to use as many crayons as possible, the end product was a yellow cone full of poopy colors. Brown, tan, orange, and more brown (or burnt sienna and raw umber, if you had the fancy crayons). Nutritious, sure, but not real pretty.
When this time of year rolls around, I like to give thanks for the growing season’s bounty with a little more color. I introduce to you The Library – the shelves that bear the fruits of labor put forth by local farmers and me. It’s where I store the jars of preserved pickles, jams, chutneys, fruits, and veggies that I talk about so incessantly. The Library used to be a series of shelves in the basements of the various apartments I’ve lived in over the past ten years, but in this house, its a double set of floor-to-celing shelves in the hallway right outside the kitchen. Every year the collection starts in late April with pickled wild ramps (and sometimes fiddle heads), and keeps filling up slowly all the way through October’s apples and pears. As each new batch of jars is sealed and ready to be put up, I try really hard to alternate the colors on the shelf – partly because it helps me discern what’s what in the dim light, and partly (mostly) because it’s prettier that way. Green. Orange. Red. Yellow. More green. Purple. Browns are for the root cellar in this house.
With many thanks – for the time I’m fortunate enough to spend in the kitchen, for the safe home in which to prepare and store every jar, for the friends and family who lovingly support my habit and who act as honest taste-testers for new concoctions, for my grandma and the jars of goodness she generously served every Sunday, and for the ability to teach every detail to others – here’s The Library, the colorful cornucopia of 2013.
(I lied. I’m not really done yet. There’s still Christmas present jars, which in the past have included blueberry jam, cocktail pearl onions, rhubarb syrup, and strawberry-rhubarb bellini mix. Who the hell knows what this year will bring.)