A Better Start

My day started earlier than I wanted due to an ailing pup, and not being able to go back to sleep after dealing with him, but it got me up to see the sun rising, the fog lifting, chores and breakfast done in time to peel, chop, cook, and can the basket of tomatoes before hubby was up. The basket minus a couple of slicers that were slightly green on the crown were all used and it made 7 pints of plain diced tomatoes to be used however needed in the coming months. Only 6 pints fit in the canner, so the 7th was put in a wide mouth jar with a storage lid and will go in the refrigerator to be used in some recipe in the next week. If I only need half, the other half will be frozen until it is needed. As I began this post, the lids are popping indicating the seal. Since my lovely SIL sent me the lids, I have canned 4 dozen jars of goodness and I still await the delivery of the reuseable ones I ordered. Tracking shows they should be here on Wednesday, so I have a break of at least a couple mornings before there are enough tomatoes or tomatillos to process. I am almost through my jars as well, though there are wide mouth pints that can be used if needed. There are some half pints being used for storage that can be switched to other containers if needed.

The shelves await the cooling tomatoes. They are deep enough to hold 3 or 4 jars front to back depending on the size of the jars. I will save enough jars for a batch of pear marmalade if I can get the pears, and a small batch of ground cherry jam if they produce before frost. Tomatoes and tomatillos after available jars are exhausted, will be blanched and frozen. Peppers are dried, frozen, and brined in quart or half gallon jars and there are plenty to get through this season. Other than peppers, the remaining tomatoes ripening and the tomatillos, the only other items growing are beans and peas which are used fresh and blanched and frozen. The paltry few carrots that germinated can stay in the garden until needed. Any spinach or lettuce used fresh until frost kills them off. It has been a good garden season. As the weather cools, I will finally make the final box or boxes and will spend the milder winter days doing more maintenance in the garden. It was fairly easy to manage this year but would be easier if I was more consistent with the use of cardboard under the edges and between the boxes and if something other than old hay was in the paths. Maybe now that I have an easy to use line trimmer, I should just let grass grow and keep it mowed short, though wood chip mulch would be better. I may rent a small wood chipper to grind the corn and sunflower stalks to help them break down. If I do, there are plenty of fallen branches that could be chipped for mulch.

Hours later:

The belt has been returned, the new one picked up. The cucumber vines are pulled, planting #2 of beans were picked clean and pulled and #3 provided a generous harvest to blanch and freeze this evening along with enough for tonight’s dinner with our corn and our last cucumber.

Tomatillos will be blanched and frozen, Jalapenos brined, there are a couple more Thai peppers somewhere in the midst of the beans, I guess they will show up when the beans are washed for the pot. A few more tomatoes to finish ripening on the sill, if I leave them on the vines, the birds peck holes in them. Some of the slicers will be eaten, some frozen with the paste tomatoes for winter use.

I didn’t quite finish the mittens last night, I quit before I was done. The top is being closed in, the thumb will be finished, it is less than an hour’s work to be done.

Stay safe, if you are in the middle of the country, find your parkas and hope the snow is light and quickly gone for another month or so. It is getting delightfully cool at night, but still hot during the daytime. We should have 5 or 6 more weeks before first frost.

Who was I kidding?

Yesterday, after 14 quarter pints of jams and jellies, I said there was nothing to do for today, then I went into the garden last evening before the rain began, to pick tomatoes and do a bit of weeding. Well, I came back in with this:

While weeding, I turned up two small potatoes, too. That was the half pound of tomatillos I needed to make another batch of green salsa/simmer sauce, and with the fully ripe tomatoes here plus the ones in the kitchen window, enough tomatoes to make a couple jars of salsa. After morning chores, picking a handful of jalapenos, I cored and scored the tomatoes and poured boiling water over them. Chopped the onion, peppers, garlic, located necessary citric acid and salt and made two pints of salsa to add to the shelf. Then the frozen and fresh tomatillos, peppers, onion, garlic, and spices were blended into a semi smooth sauce and cooked down to 3 half pints of the green salsa/simmer sauce. Instead of using crushed red pepper this time, I minced 3 Thai hot pepper to go with the 2 jalapenos. Bet this batch is spicy.

When cool, they will be labelled and added to the shelf. I have had to clear another shelf to accommodate the past two days. The tomatoes still in the window sill to finish ripening will become canned tomatoes that can be used in chili, soup, or seasoned to make more pasta sauce if needed later. A couple of the tomato plants are beginning to brown, I think we are reaching the end of the season for them. There are probably 200 Thai peppers on the two plants, as they ripen red they are brought in and put in a drying basket. I should start stringing them to dry before I have too many for a single layer in the basket.

It is that time of year when the coop and hen run look like the comic exploding chicken when you see feathers going everywhere. It is molt time, starting with the Oliver eggers, including the crazy broody one. The Welsummers are showing it on their heads, so they will be losing more feathers quickly, then the Reds. That means few eggs, soon, no eggs until they grow their new winter feathers. At least they aren’t waiting until is it frigid outdoors like they did last year.

I would like to start a new flock for next year, but with Covid, Son 1 can’t come to thin the flock, plus the freezer still has at least 4 or 5 from last time. No matter what I do with them, I can’t make them palatable. He does somehow, but he lacks a big freezer and I can’t get them to him. He joked about coming, staying in the basement, eating on the back porch and avoiding the main part of the house so he could pick up his canned and frozen goodies. I joked about driving the 3 hours to his house, leaving it on his porch, and driving back home. I WANT TO BE WITH MY KIDS!!!! ALL OF THEM!!!

Tools and Tasks

Late last summer, we purchased me a large stainless steel water bath canner with basket rack. The rack is supposed to hang on the rim of the pot to load and unload, but the handles are a joke, they take up jar space, don’t hold the rack steady to load without tipping, and won’t stay upright so you can grab them when the canning batch is done. I have considered just removing them. When we got it, I decided I didn’t need all of the other stock pots that vary in size enough to nest with the largest one large enough for canning quarter pints and half pints. It will do a few pints if I don’t use the steamer basket to hold them off the bottom of the pot. I need to find a 10 inch round cake cooking rack to put in the bottom of it. I listed a couple of the stock pots with the deep and shallow steamer baskets and lids and someone said they wanted to buy them, but then didn’t show up twice at our meeting place, so I gave up. Now I’m glad they didn’t sell. I use the largest and smallest stock pots frequently when canning. If I have a big stock pot of sauce to can or want to use quarts, the huge canner is used.

Last year when I was helping out at Son 1’s to help them move, I mentioned the difficulty of picking the apples and pears. They asked me if I had a picking basket and I had no idea what they meant. Later that trip, they showed up with an extension handle picking basket as a gift for me.

That basket and the canning tools are the tools of summer, used only then and stored away for another year.

I did pick the apples yesterday afternoon, using my picking basket, there weren’t many and they were a sorry looking lot, but I brought them in, washed, cut, cooked, and canned before preparing dinner.

They added 5 pints of thick unsweetened applesauce to the larder. There are two left from last year and an open jar was in the refrigerator that had an additional half cup or so added to it as it didn’t all fit in the pint jars. We finished the open jar with dinner last night.

This morning, when I got up, I pulled out a pound of the frozen tomatillos to begin to thaw, went out and picked the rest of the ripe grapes, and while it was still cool this morning, made two batches of jam and canned them using the quarter pint jars I bought for lids before my SIL so generously mailed me 4 dozen. First up was Tomatillo/Lime/Jalapeno jam. It is good on a Charcuterie tray, as a glaze on pork, meatloaf, or spread on a burger (meat or veggie). There are 7 quarter pints to add to the shelf. While it was canning, the grapes that were frozen were thawed and added to the fresh ones and cooked for juice to make Concord Grape Jelly. The Folly Mill that gets used only a couple of times a year, to remove the skins from the cooked apples for applesauce and the skins and seeds from the grapes was pulled off the drying rack and the grape juice extracted. The jars for canning it were put in the canner to sterilize and heat up and the sugar and pectin added to the juice to cook into jelly. That also ended up being 7 quarter pints.

Quarter pints of jams and jellies are a good size as we don’t use a lot, it is good gift giving size, and they get used up before I tire of the flavor and switch to another one from the supply.

Late yesterday, I emailed the reuseable jar lid company and asked when I could expect my order to ship. They originally said up to 2 weeks. I had received 3 identical emails telling me they had plenty and they would ship in approximately two weeks from order date. Yesterday was 2 1/2 weeks. I got an email back saying they would ship today and this morning, received an email that they have shipped. I still have 2 unopened boxes of lids from my SIL, one open one, plus a couple of boxes of wide mouth unopened. I should be in good shape to await the shipment. Right now, there is nothing awaiting canning. When another half pound of tomatillos ripen, I will make salsa. More tomatoes are turning pink then red and more tomatoes will be processed. Peppers are loving the cooler nights and the Thai peppers are beginning to turn red, the Jalapenos producing for brining, dicing and freezing, and when some ripen red with the Seranos that need to ripen red, Sriracha style sauce will be fermented. Tomorrow and Saturday will be cooler, so I will work at closing down parts of the garden, preparing a bed for garlic, while continuing to harvest what the garden will give.