Summer Loving


We are in deep summer over here, and I find it’s somewhat like deep winter. There is a lull, a quietness, as if all the wheels that were grinding have come to a halt. It’s like being underwater. The days are hot and long, the constant rattle of the cicadas is only interrupted by the shrill meow of the catbird. We take car rides to find fruit to make into jam, out winding roads called Butterville, alongside mountain ridges, passing wide fields of green lined with tall, old trees.

The summer is dotted with bursts of fun in the quiet, like butter on a fruit crisp these bits of fat are savored greedily. Like the fair, driving out on Libertyville Road, past the corn fields, high and waving. I am forever enamored of the iconic beauty of a country fair–the lights, the dusky sunset, the wildness seeping through as night falls. And then there’s the days at the river beach, the sand, the slow river with barges chugging by, the white clouds rising above. It’s summer, and I’m letting myself sink into it.

Despite all this slow motion, there’s a frenetic note too: the preserver’s frenzy. I’m a little more paced about it this year as I’ve gotten out of control in years past with my need to stick everything in a jar. There’s been a lot of jam-making, as usual, and lots of fermenting. The cucumbers are prodigiously producing fruit, and each ten pounds gets pickled: sandwich stuffers, Dutch spears, half-sours. The tomatoes aren’t so good this year, looks like there’s some fusarium wilt unfortunately. But no matter, there’s lots of good tomatoes to buy for canning. The kitchen, dining, and porch tables are constantly groaning with revolving loads of produce.

There is a side table in my dining room that I have found is perfect for fermentation, and it’s been bubbling with activity all summer. There’s a red wine vinegar that forms a strong mother when I feed it some red wine, a fruit vinegar that is young and vibrant, and a newly started apple vinegar.  The fermenting padron peppers smell smoky and spicy. Their promise is palpable in the room’s air.

I think I’m going to sink a little deeper into this summer soup. I’ll be back in another week or two, ready and revived to share more recipes. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you are preserving this summer. Won’t you tell me what you’re up to?


  1. Julia……….this post is beautifully written. I found the images you lead us through wonderfully evocative. You’ve really captured a mood and a time.

    For myself, I’m just about to begin my baking for the market. This is the first week I’ll offer my slow-roasted cherry tomato tart. I’m feeling quite bad about my tomatoes post roasting however: they seem watery and lacking in substance. I hate offering something less than excellent to my customers. Maybe next week will be better.

    The other tarts will be fine: local apricots poached in saffron syrup; local peaches poached in Riesling and mint; local blueberries with fresh lemon zest; cherries poached in red wine and star anise; little tartlets of fresh local blackberries tossed in black currant syrup.

    One of these days Julia……… and I…………

    1. Kate, it is so edifying to me to hear that. Thank you! I needed so to write…

      Your tarts are a work of art. I wish I were closer to enjoy them! I’m sure the roasted tomato tarts will be a wonder. They all sound so amazing—I must make a trek to the market you are at to enjoy them all. I vow to make it before the season is out.

      And when we have the time, yes, we will meet again!

  2. Wow, your fermenting projects sound divine—as do Kate’s tarts! I need you to tell me more about making vinegar. I tossed a batch made with white wine (it got weird not good) and am hoping this next one made with red wine will pan out. Not sure what I could be doing wrong; Sandor Katz’s book isn’t actually that helpful. As far as preserving, I ended up turning those yellow plums & pink peppercorns into jam; made rhubarb chutney; and also made River Cottage’s raspberry fridge jam; plus loads of bread & butter pickles, the hands-down favorite around here. I pickled hot peppers from the garden for the first time – we’ll see how those turn out – and am considering pickling garlic. Ever done that? It hasn’t been a great year for fruit – that late freeze did lots of damage around here and there were no sour cherries at all. How can it really be summer without them??

    1. The fruit this year has been a disappointment, to say the least! But we do what we can with what we have! The mushrooms have been great this year, though, don’t you agree? You’ve been a foraging queen!

      Thank you for playing along–what you have going on sounds amazing! Isn’t it funny how so much can come from so little? Pickled garlic is one of my favorite things, though I don’t do it too much. Fermented peppers are new for me, but I think they might be a new door opened.

      Red wine vinegar was a long road for me, so I understand. Vinegar is really such a finicky thing! I’ve had many bad batches. I’ll write you more about it, for sure!

  3. Pickled peppers are wonderful to have in the winter–if you have the space (which I barely do) in the fridge, they pickle nicely without processing, and generally stay crisper that way.
    I too, love the images of summer you’ve conjured here.
    I’m about to tackle six rows of beets my husband planted this spring with the comment–“maybe you’ll make pickled beets again this year…” Garlic is one pickle I haven’t yet tackled. It’s a good idea, but pickled onions were as tedious as I could stand some years ago. Probably a good idea to invite over some arthritis-free friends.

    1. Alice–I’ve been so remiss in writing back to you! I’m afraid I sunk deeper into summer than expected. Pickled peppers are lovely–but I’m afraid the peppers didn’t go so well this year. You are lucky you have someone to plant beets for you! My husband stands clear of the garden. But has no problem eating the results! Here’s to the rest of the summer!

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