One of the things I love about early fall is that it is an excellent time to take on big kitchen projects. The months of September and October are the perfect time to do this, when the weather has cooled some but the produce, at least where I live, is still rolling in strong. The kids are in school and the holidays haven't hit yet, so there's a little extra time to devote an afternoon (or an entire day) to the kitchen.
Yesterday I took a few hours to can up a small batch of applesauce just to get the ball rolling. I had a bowl of apples from the tree in my yard which yielded three pints of sauce in the end. It was fun but not quite enough to satisfy my itch. Local farms in my area are still offering U-Pick days for their San Marzano-style tomatoes, so now I'm starting to dream about canning up my own passata (inspired by Rohan of Whole Larder Love). And more applesauce, too, or perhaps even apple cider or perry (pear cider). I finally have a kitchen big enough for such tasks and with every spare minute, I'm antsy to get it messy.
And that's the other thing about big projects. They take over the whole kitchen and we have permission to make a big, crazy mess, all in the service of that final moment when the kitchen is clean again and a neat line of jars fills a shelf, or every cranny of the freezer is packed with freezer bags. Big mess, big payoff.
But my most favorite thing about big kitchen projects is that they usually cannot be done alone. Well, they can but they shouldn't be, if at all possible. Many hands make light work and the camaraderie of making that big mess together is only matched by sharing in the satisfaction of the final product. Not to mention the cleanup goes so much faster.
I hope you'll consider taking on a big project this fall. I mentioned passata and cider but there are other things as well, such as sausage making or one of those big vats of kraut (or both, since they go together so well). Just go ahead and roll up your sleeves and give up any notions of neatness. Let the tomato sauce splatter your walls and the compost bin teeter under the weight of scraps. Dirty every bowl and knife and stain all ten of your fingers the color of late season plums. Break a sweat if you have to. You (and your kitchen) will clean up just fine.
(Image: Dana Velden)