Tag Archives: canning

The Absent Blogger – 8/10/2017

One day seems like the next.  A pleasant August of temperatures not typical of the month, most days reaching only about 80ºf, nights that warrant at least a sheet for cover.  Each day is a series of doctor’s appointments to try to diagnose hubby’s symptoms and the accompanying stress of not knowing, harvesting from the garden that daughter and grands helped me get totally weeded last weekend, canning the harvest, and refereeing the constant squabbles of the grands who have another 18 days before school begins and are tired of each other’s company and the play options available to them.  Most days ending in thunderstorms, though not filling the creeks, it is keeping the garden watered and the dust down.  The seeds planted in empty beds after our weeding session are sprouting to provide us with turnips, radishes, spinach, carrots, and peas for the fall.  The sweet potato vines are thick, kale, chard, and corn thriving, a few small pumpkins appearing amidst the corn. Several of the pullets are laying tiny eggs now, the hens have all but quit laying.  The Monarchs found the parsley and are chowing down, but the butterflies are welcome. The hay was finally moved off of our fields.  The shelves of salsas, pickles, and sauces are filling.  As the tomatoes begin ripening more quickly, pasta sauce and more salsa will be made.  The Asian pears are ripening and pear sauce or pear apple sauce will be made.

Such is a day in the life of the absent blogger.

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Putting by – July 29, 2017

This is the beginning of the putting by season for the non productive winter to come.  The garden has provided a lot of basil, peppers are maturing, tomatoes too.  Though the peas were a bust this year and potatoes not what I was hoping, the sweet potato vines look healthy, the corn is forming ears, and we are getting enough green beans to eat a few times a week and a bit in the freezer.

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Dairy free pesto for the freezer, pickled and canned jalapeños for the pantry, fire cider for cold season, oregano and basil vinegars, and shelling of field peas for ground cover and chicken treats.  That was one afternoon of work, along with bunches of basil and hyssops drying for teas and cooking.

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Today was our weekly Farmer’s Market visit and breakfast out.  We missed both last week with our music weekend, and next weekend will be the huge street festival that happens in town, so many vendors will not even try to attend the market on Saturday.  With this being the height of the season and with several of the meat vendors having recently gotten cuts back from the abattoirs, we stocked up on some meats.  Peaches are in season as well as cucumbers and we came home with several pounds of peaches and a couple of pounds of pickling cucumbers.  Once home, another putting by session was held.

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Eight half pints of the Peach Sriracha sauce that is a hit here, and 4 pints of classic dill spears were prepped and canned.  The pot used today for water bath canning only holds 7 half pints or 4 pints at a time, so one jar of Peach Sriracha sauce went into the refrigerator for use now.

Though she isn’t a sponsor and I get nothing for this recommendation, if you are a new canner, have limited space for storing, or a small family to prepare for, Marissa McClellan’s books, Food in Jars, and Canning by the Pint are priceless.  The Peach Sriracha recipe is one of her jams that I blend and prepare thinner for a sauce and came from one of her books. She has a newer book on canning with sweeteners other than white sugar that I haven’t tried as I make few sweet canned items.

Right on the 20th week since hatching, one of the pullets presented us with an egg.  It is a Welsummer egg, reddish brown but not as dark as I had hoped they would be.  All 4 of the Welsummers have bright red combs and wattles, so we should start seeing eggs from all of them soon.  The Buff Orpingtons will probably not lay for another month.

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Pullet eggs are so cute compared to the mature hen’s eggs.

Earlier this spring, I bought a pound of raw fawn colored alpaca locks from one of the local vendors.  This week, I spun a bobbin of it and a bobbin of some chocolate brown alpaca roving that had been given to me a year or so ago, and plied them into more than 200 yards of light fingering weight pure alpaca yarn, pictured in the header.  I think it will be knit into a hat and fingerless mitts for the shop, but maybe it will just be sold or traded, especially as more is currently being spun.

And So It Begins Again – July 12, 2017

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The big pots and canner brought down from the high shelves where they rest between seasons.  At the end of the growing season last year, I ran out of jars and energy to can any more tomatoes, so 6 or so gallon bags were frozen.  Instead of using them first, which would have been the wisest thing to do, the canned jars of sauce and tomatoes were used and all winter and spring, the bulky bags of little frozen orbs were shifted around the freezer.  When the last jar of pasta sauce was opened, I decided to make a big pot of sauce from the remaining tomatoes, but chose to only use the spaghetti cooker and ended up using only a few bags of the tomatoes.  That sauce was frozen in wide mouth pint jars and most of it has been used as it takes about 3 pints to feed the 6 of us and 3 pints to make a large lasagna.  This morning, while looking for some chops to thaw for Jim’s dinner, one of the bags of tomatoes fell out of the freezer.  It was time to make them go away, but in a useful way.  After swim lessons, a roving dyeing session, some computer help for Jim, the tomatoes were tackled.  As they had been frozen whole in their skins, I knew that the skins would be tough, but I didn’t want to water thaw and peel 3 1/2 gallons of tomatoes, so they were just dumped into a huge pot to thaw.  The food mill was hauled down and the thawed tomatoes run through a fairly coarse blade to rid the pot of skins.  The remaining sauce was thickened slightly and 9 1/2 pints of sauce processed.  Most of it was canned so it is shelf stable, but the canner only holds 8 wide mouth pints, so the remaining pint plus will go in the freezer, a much smaller space consumer than the bags of frozen tomatoes.

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The new fresh tomatoes are just beginning to come in for this year, so far only a handful of small slicers, but the plants are heavy with fruit, so canning of tomatoes, sauce, and salsa will soon commence.

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The roving dyeing session was done as the camp that I will teach begins soon and the kids find the colors more fun than plain white roving.  Three pans were dyed, blue and purple, blue and yellow, yellow and tomato red.

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A dozen drop spindles have been made for them to each have one to keep.  Last year’s version was a bit too light for the beginners, so this year, I sought larger wooden truck wheels and slightly larger shafts so they spin longer.  My friend that works with me, bought small weaving looms for them as well.  We will take our spinning wheels and each child will be given the opportunity to make a strand of singles which we will double back on itself to make them a strand of yarn.

I still need to go through some of my commercial  yarn to help warp the looms and for them to use as weft to weave a small project.

The other prep is for the other day that I will work with them on herbal medicine.  The plantain leaves and the calendula flowers have been brewing in oil for many weeks now, the handout for the plant walk and instructions on how to use various wild and cultivated plants for food or medicine has been prepared, but still needs to be printed out for them.

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Week on the Farm – September 11, 2016

Today has been busy, ending a busy week.  The huge line trimmer was hauled out yesterday and Jim went after areas in need, around the well head, around the yard hydrants, patches that have too many rocks to mow with the tractor.  Today, I used it to go around the garden, woodpile, and coops.  That upset the young cull chickens who all managed to escape, one into the garden, one vanished for a couple of hours, the other four herded back into their pen.  The one in the garden was caught and returned, the errant wanderer came home and was herded back into his pen.  Last weekend, son, eldest grandson, and I killed and butchered B’rooster and Mean Girl.  I thought I would miss the morning crowing and did for only a couple of days.  One of the youngsters is trying out his voice, an immature croaking rooster crow.  As most, if not all of the culls are cockerels, we will surely hear a lot more of that before November, when they too are sent to freezer camp.

This week has yielded a batch of Habeñero sauce, another batch of sweet chili sauce, applesauce, and Ginger Pear Conserve, all prepped, cooked, and canned.  Lots of goodies to add to the pantry shelves in the root cellar.

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Tonight after dinner, daughter, the grands and I went to the garden, harvested a half pillowcase full of popcorn, 5 gallons of tomatoes and hot peppers.  Once inside, the popcorn was set aside to dry out for winter enjoyment, the tomatoes were stuffed in freezer bags and popped in the freezer so they can be peeled and canned later this week, the Tabasco peppers were de-stemmed, pureed in salt water and set to ferment to make Tabasco sauce in a couple of weeks.  The jalapeños were packed in another pint jar and hot salted vinegar poured over them to begin pickling.  The habeñeros packed in freezer bags, I just can’t face more hot sauce right now.  A few anchos begin the drying process to be used in enchilada sauce once they are leathery dry.

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Today, the gift was finished.  Pictures of it will have to wait until the recipient receives it.

Sometime this week, I will pull the 5 bags of Roma tomatoes out of the freezer and they will be peeled, chopped and made into canned tomatoes, chili tomatoes, and pasta sauce.  There will probably be a few more harvests of them before they quit.  The pepper plants are beginning to bloom thickly, so many more peppers are expected.  I think the Tabasco and Habeñero plants will be pulled, as we just don’t need any more of those peppers.  The Thai peppers are beginning to turn red, I need to find a good use for them. The Jalapeño and Ancho plants need more space and removing the other plants will help provide that.  The dye seed sunflowers need to be cut back before the birds eat them all and the raspberry canes need to be trimmed and weeded.  I still have tomatillos to harvest, but they being transplants are just getting going.

Today was cooler and the week ahead is supposed to be seasonable, so more outdoor work will be done.

Now I can pull my spinning wheel out and begin to spin some of the lovely fibers that have been accumulating.

I Didn’t Think I Would Get Here

With all of the awayness last month, I felt overwhelmed and frustrated that I was so far behind that I couldn’t catch up. The grass was tall, the stick weed invading the hay fields, the apples, Asian Pears, and tomatoes ripe. Applications were due. My chickens were disappearing daily to a red tail hawk.  Usually, I can take one step at a time, but this time, I just couldn’t see an end in sight.

Jim stepped in and hopped on the tractor, mowing more than half of the fields in need of attention.  I like riding the tractor, like mowing, so I did get on it a few times, mowing the areas around the house and around the trees.  I mowed the smallest west field, the one with the rock bar.

After a couple of days at home where I awoke disoriented, wondering which bed I was in that night, I finally got a good sound night sleep and the rest allowed me to start tackling the problems at hand.  I came up with a solution to keep the hawk out of my chicken runs, harvested a 5 gallon bucket of tomatoes and got them canned along with the ones in the freezer as diced tomatoes and pasta sauce; harvested apples and made applesauce.  The weekly supply of peaches was made into sweet chili sauce.  The quart of ground hot chilies, mostly habeñeros, was made into hot pepper sauce and all of the applesauce, sweet chili sauce, and hot pepper sauce canned, labelled and making their way to the root cellar shelves.  Another harvest of tomatoes await preparation into sauce.  The Asian Pears still need to be harvested and made into Ginger Pear Conserve and pear sauce, but I now look forward to working on them in days to come.

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Now that the applications for fall shows are in, I need to make a few batches of soap, but that too is something I look forward to doing.

Another task that was on my plate, was making a gift that I had started twice, undid twice, and finally decided that I would not even unpack my spinning wheel until it was done.  Daily work on it has rewarded me with a gift that will be finished within a few more days.

The shelves are filling for a winter of good food.  The fields are mowed, and it has been dry for about a week, so the grass is not growing fast enough for me to watch.  I am feeling good about our efforts.

 

Progress

Jim has gotten the huge far hay field mowed.  We still have the east field and the near south field to do as well as mowing around the trees that we planted as a wind break, around the barn and up the small hill at the top of the driveway.  Between us, about half of the 30 acres has been mowed.

We will take turns riding the tractor to get it finished.  I do most of the close to the house and around the tree work, he likes to ride the long open areas.  One area, neither of us like to do as it has lots of rocks that are just high enough to cause the brush hog to clip them, just low enough to be hard to see when the grass is high.

Yesterday after the rain, I went out and weeded some in the garden, tossed pounds of spoiled and split tomatoes, overgrown cucumbers, and weeds to the chooks, hoping to lure them out into their new covered run.  I harvested somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 pounds of tomatoes, nearly 4 pounds of tomatillos, 2 1/2 pounds of mostly hot peppers.  The tomatillos have been husked, washed and bagged, and put in the freezer. The habañeros and Tabascos, along with a few tiny red jalapenos were added to the other hot peppers that I have been accumulating in the salted vinegar.  Since the jar was full and there were more peppers than space, I ground the mixture up together in the blender.  I will have to make a batch of hot sauce with it soon.  The jalapenos were pickled, adding two more pints for son and Jim to enjoy this winter.

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This photo was taken standing in the jungle of tomatoes and peppers.  I can’t even find the path between them.  Last year the peppers stayed small, the tomatoes controllable.  The rain has changed that this year.  I need to go out, stake and tie up some of the peppers, trim some tomato branches, and cut down the dye seed sunflowers.  The Tabasco peppers are all red, so I am thinking about just pulling the plants to make some room.  They will dry nicely hanging upside down in the garage.

While out there to harvest, I got about half way down the row nearest the asparagus and met up with this critter.

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This was the biggest garden spider I have ever seen.  The spider’s body without the legs was about 2 inches long.  I am not a fan of spiders, but I also will not kill one outdoors unless it is a Black Widow (I have found and killed two of them this summer).  Though I won’t kill them, I also wasn’t going to try to reach around that critter and it’s web to pick tomatoes, so I took a stick and relocated the spider to the asparagus patch and continued to pick these.

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I started the morning with more than 35 pounds of tomatoes.  I peeled and chopped the ones I froze a couple of weeks ago and dumped them in a huge pot.  Weighed out 18 pounds and set them aside and chopped the rest and cooked them just until they began to break down.  From that pot, I canned 9 pints and 4 quarts of diced plain tomatoes.  While the quarts were canning and the canner cooling down, I peeled and diced the 18 pounds, added them to a large chopped onion, some garlic, basil, oregano, and parsley and it is simmering in a huge pot on the stove waiting for the canner to fully de-pressurize so that it can be jarred and canned.

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This will be the routine several times a week for the next couple of months until we are threatened with a frost.  The Asian pears are ripe and Ginger Pear Conserve production is also in order.  The apples look like they are about ready too, though I haven’t tried eating one yet.  Applesauce production is also on the schedule.  Soon the basement shelves will begin to fill.

The basement refrigerator is filling with pickles, pickled jalapenos, and kraut.  The canning shelves being emptied of jars to be filled and replaced with filled jars of chutney, tomatoes, conserves, and spaghetti sauce.  Soon the applesauce will also begin to fill shelves.  Though the bunnies got all of my beans this year, there are peas in the freezer and still some squash from last summer.

Jim is out mowing the upper south field while I can.  Tomorrow, I will take over for a bit.

The chickens still won’t come out of their coop but for brief moments.  I have enticed them with split tomatoes, overripe cucumbers, and a whole bucket of compost veggies. Tonight after dark, B’rooster will be removed from the hens to the cull coop. He is tearing up the hens backs and I don’t want any more chicks this year.  There is one Buffy pullet and one Buffy cockerel in the cull coop that will be moved in with the hens. The cockerel will be next spring’s rooster. If I can figure out which of the half breeds are pullets, I may move one of them too.  With the loss of two of my layers this summer, egg production is down some, but we are still getting more than the family needs.   Soon it will be molting time and egg production will stop as I have no year old hens this year, but they will grow back their feathers and be clean and warm for the winter.

More putting by

I finally shredded the three remaining cabbages from the earlier harvest.  They were salted, rubbed and tightly packed in two clean quart wide mouth jars.  Two quarts of kraut are fermenting on the kitchen counter.

The tomatoes from the other day and an apron full of paste tomatoes harvested today were chopped, seasoned, and made into 4 pints of tomato sauce and a quart and a half of marinara sauce.  The tomato sauce was canned and is cooling on the counter.  The marinara sauce is earmarked for a huge lasagna that I will make on Wednesday when we have a house full of 9 people.  The lasagna will be served up with a salad of Farmers’ Market lettuce, our cucumbers, beets, and onions.  If there is a slicer tomato ripe, it will also be added to the salad.  Lasagna is generally well received and will feed many at one time.

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The hens are beginning to lay more eggs each day.  We are back to getting 4 or 5 each day. With 7 laying hens, I am hoping that we will start again getting half a dozen each day.  It will be Thanksgiving before this  spring’s chicks begin to lay.

I love this time of year, with the fresh produce, fresh eggs, and flowers.  It is a lovely few months to savor each year.

In a few more weeks we will be harvesting Asian pears and cooking apples.  With jars of chutney left from last year’s harvest, most of the apples will be made into sauce.  Some of the pears will become Ginger Pear Conserve and the ones not eaten fresh will be made into sauce as well.

Autumn Delights

Yesterday Mountaingdad decided to see how he could do on his bike.  He hasn’t been able to ride since April, when an extremely virulent case of bronchitis caused a very long lasting case of vertigo.  We have seen doctors, first for the bronchitis, then for the fullness in the ears and vertigo.  Visits for physical therapy that helped some, but didn’t cure the problem.  He still has some fullness in his ears and will get dizzy lying down in the dark, but is doing better during the day.  He needed to put fuel in the bike before it got too cold to ride, so that he can start it periodically in the garage during the winter.  He did fine riding and since today was the last day of warm and no rain for this week, he took off to Black Bear, about 75 minutes away, for their final get together for the season.  Since it is Saturday, our usual Farmers’ Market day, he rode  to town on his bike, I drove and we had breakfast together before he took off for his ride.  The market is winding down, fewer vendors were there, but my favorites are still hanging in and I supplemented our supplies with beef, pork, onions, greens, turnips and radishes.  The flowers are done for the season, our nights of frost did them in.  I got the last bag of salad from Stonecrop Farm until next spring.

The kids, were off at soccer games, then to the pumpkin patch with the grands.  I am filling the house with the delightful scents of autumn.

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Cinnamon Honey Pecan granola in the oven.

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The apples from our day trip on Thursday were peeled and the Granny Smiths sliced and frozen for pies over the holidays and the others cooked down and canned into 5 1/2 more pints of applesauce for the shelves in the root cellar to be enjoyed later.  The half pint put into the refrigerator to have tonight.

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After the apples were cooked and the canner bubbling, dinner was started.  A package of pork chunks, sauteed with onion and garlic; a small Burgess Buttercup squash, pared and cubed in small pieces;  a couple of handfuls of tomatillos, a bit of cilantro and cumin; a few tablespoons of Roasted Salsa Verde and a couple cups of broth and stew is simmering.  This was a create as I go stew that will be served with rice, corn bread and the applesauce.  If it tastes as good as it smells, we are in for a treat tonight.

Outside, the smell of wood smoke is beginning to fill the air as our neighbors that heat with wood are building their fires for the chilly nights.  It hasn’t gotten cold enough for us to build a fire or light the wood stove yet, but we don’t rely on that as our heat source.  I still need to begin splitting the logs hauled up from the tree cutting a couple of weeks ago.  Maybe I will spend part of my afternoon with the maul and wedge while the stew simmers.

Tonight it turns colder and rainy again for a while and there is no warm up on the forecast this week.

Still loving life on our mountain farm.

Labor Day of Love

I may be retired, but not idle. If anything, I am busier than when I worked outside our home, coming home to prepare dinner and keep household chores under control

.This weekend, I chose to dedicate to putting by, as the old timers say. No sitting around for me. The harvested basket of mostly pears and some apples from our young orchard, along with about ten pounds of purchased apples were preserved so as not to lose them to spoilage.

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This basket plus the purchased apples, produced with lots of labor and love, and the help of several  recipes:

8 pints of Pear sauce with vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger; 4 pints of applesauce ( must get more apples); 5 1/2 pints of Ginger Pear Conserve with walnuts; 5 pints of Apple Pear and Cranberry Chutney; 4 1/2  pints of a nice spicy Pear Apple Chutney.

While the Chutney was cooking today, I harvested a bucket of tomatoes, tomatillos, and various hot and mild peppers. One pint of jalapeños was pickled, tomatillos were frozen until I’m ready to use them in a sauce or salsa, tomatoes were frozen to make them easier to peel later this week when another batch of pasta sauce or chili tomatoes is canned. There is still a pile of mammoth jalapeños that need to be sliced and frozen and the Bell peppers that aren’t going into tonight’s Greek stew need to be sliced into strips or diced and frozen for winter use.

The peppers are thriving with the seasonable days and cooler nights. The pumpkins are threatening to engulf the entire garden. Something has been munching on the sweet potato vines, perhaps it is time to dig them and let them begin to cure. The heirloom paste tomatoes are beginning to redden and there are many left to pick, though I am sure there will be far fewer canned tomatoes and salsas than last year. The tiny Tabsco peppers are ripening and there are many of them, so some hot sauce will be made later in the season.

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It feels good seeing the shelves begin to fill, the freezer with beans, squash, and beets. The basement refrigerator with pickled cucumbers and peppers and soon to have kraut and kimchi. Knowing that there are 26 chickens being raised humanely to help put pasture raised meat on the table. And greens growing in the garden.

Daughter and her family are due back soon from their weekend away, so the rest of dinner prep and some kitchen clean up is in order. Hope you enjoyed your Labor Day as much as I did mine.

Progress but a long way to go!

Today I tackled the basket of apples and Asian pears picked from our fledgling orchard yesterday. Last year I discovered this book.

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And another by her, preserving by the pint. Sometimes I follow the recipe, sometimes it is a springboard to create my own. Last fall I used one of her recipes to create my own Apple Cranberry Chutney. As the orchard harvest was mostly pears, it was modified to be 1/3 apples and 2/3 pears. Five pints of Chutney prepped and canned and it didn’t put a dent in the basket of pears. One of her recipes is for Ginger Pear Conserve, so I chopped double the called for quantity of pears, two oranges instead of one and doubled the rest of the ingredients to make 5 1/2 pints of the Conserve. It smelled so heavenly cooking with all of the ginger.

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I’ve used only about half of the basket of pears

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After dinner, a few more were processed using the peeler corer and chopping them small.  With a splash of lemon juice, some vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger, it cooked down.

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Five pints of pear sauce canned.  One quart of chunks partially cooked and refrigerated as the base ring on my blender cracked and came off in my hand with half a blender full of hot cooked pear.  Tomorrow, I will try to buy a cheap hand mill and make a second batch of the pear sauce using the remaining partially cooked pears and peel and core the rest that won’t be stored for eating with sharp cheese.  While they canned, I ordered the replacement ring for my blender.  I love it as it has a glass jar and a strong motor.

All in all, it was a productive afternoon.