Tag Archives: canning

Rainy Sunday Musings

Again it rains! Everyday for the past 7 days. The grass is literally knee deep and too wet to mow. The decks haven’t dried to be able to paint. When I brought these in last weekend I had no idea they would still be on the kitchen counter.
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These are my kitchen herbs for a quick snip when cooking and I don’t want a trek to the garden. They live on the south deck, just outside the Dining area French doors. Some winter over in the house, but not this early.
And then there were 4. . .
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Last night when I went to lock up the girls for the night, there were 4 eggs. There are two 17 month old hens (1 not currently laying); three 26 week old pullets; eight 24 week old pullets, one whose comb and waddles are still small and pale. It has been 6 weeks since we were getting more than an occasional egg. I have missed them but have enjoyed a few this week with our fresh tomatoes and a few shreds of raw cow milk cheese.
Since it is rainy and wet, instead of mowing, I will process more tomatoes and tomatillos.
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The garden is giving. The rain causing the tops of the tomatoes to split. There are more Habañeros than we will ever need for hot sauce and salsa, I am going to experiment with drying some. A pinch of them dried and crushed will surely add a kick to curry or chili and Son#1 will use them.
But the flowers love the rain and it does make the weeds easier to pull between storms.
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If it doesn’t stop soon, I will need a machete to get to the garden and the coop.
The chicklets are getting huge. They are 2 1/2 weeks now and going through 2 jars of feed and a gallon of water a day. I moved them temporarily this morning to a smaller brooder box long enough to clean the huge water trough that serves as their brooder. It is 15 square feet of floor space and looks too small for the 15 chicklets that seem to double in size weekly.
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The most severe storm we had on Thursday evening damaged some component of our internet service. Our provider iuis a local coop with no weekend hours, so being on the internet or posting right now is an effort in frustration.
We love life on our mountain farm!

Salsa Season

With tomatoes and peppers taking over the empty spaces in my kitchen, sauces and salsas are the order of the day most days.  The lion’s share of the tomatoes become pasta sauce for the quick winter meal.  With or without meat added on serving day, spaghetti or penne cooked al dente and a salad or green beans sauteed in olive oil with a splash of lemon juice and sometimes a chunk of bread if I have been baking.

Another couple dozen jars will be canned tomato chunks with green chilies for using when I make my prize winning pot of chili on a cold eve.

Hubby and Son#1 love salsa, fresh or canned, green or red.  I have made one batch of tomatillo/jalapeno salsa and will make more with the next harvest of tomatillos.  Pico de Gallo is always welcome, but only happens when everything is fresh from the garden.  This year, I am going to try canning my own salsa as the brand of choice here has risen in price to nearly $5 per pint. To make this, I am going to use the one referenced in yesterday’s XXX hot sauce post.  We were visiting our cousin at their casa in Mexico and they have a husband and wife staff.  He cares for the grounds and does maintenance, she cleans, deals with linens and if you purchase food, will prepare breakfast and dinner for you for a very small fee.  If you want a great place to visit, check out www.Casadelplatero.net .  Our cousin likes his salsa too and this was served with breakfast and dinner’s in.

Casa del Platero Salsa

2 medium tomatoes, cut in half

1 medium onion cut in halves or quarters

2 jalapeno peppers cut in half lengthwise

2 cloves garlic

salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet in a small amount of cooking oil (I use Olive or grapeseed) cook the tomatoes, onion and peppers cut side down until lightly browned and softened.  Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, don’t let it brown, it gets bitter.  Place all in a blender or food processor and blend until a chunky salsa consistency.  Salt and pepper to taste.  May be served warm or chilled.  It will keep for a week or two in a jar in the refrigerator.  If you want it less spicy, just use less jalapeno, if you want more fire, add more or add a half of a habanero pepper.

As I plan to can it this year, I will add 1 Tbs lemon juice and 1/2 tsp pickling salt to each hot pint jar before spooning in the salsa and will water bath can it for 25 minutes (I live above 2000 feet so adjust to your altitude) or pressure can it for 15 minutes.

The remaining tomatoes will be eaten fresh or canned plain for those days when I just need canned tomatoes for a recipe.  It looks like a bumper crop this year.

Summer Delights

Yesterday was miserable!  My day started with dog and chicken chores in the rain, not a gentle summer shower, a torrential downpour.  I had moved Broody Girl to the auxiliary chicken run and chicken tractor the day before and had put her in the chicken tractor with some amusing effort the night before.  Her food was in there, but not her water.  She squawked unmercifully until well after dark.  Figuring she was better off in the tractor since it was raining, I attempted to put her water in with her, but she dove past me into the run in the rain so I just left the door to the tractor open.  Now I have heard that turkey’s are stupid enough to drown in the rain.  That may be an old mountain tale, but Broody Girl was stupid enough to stand out in the pouring rain nearly all day instead of going back inside the tractor.  Last night I felt sorry for her and returned her to the coop, very wet and very agitated.

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The first thing she did was go to the nesting box and I ran her off.  She is showing me her wet displeasure.  This morning she exited the coop with the others and has stayed outside.  Yay!

Once those chores were done, I spent 90 minutes in the dentist chair getting a temporary crown on the tooth I broke 7 weeks ago when I went to Northern Virginia to pick up Grandson #1 for the summer.  As soon as I got home from that, the dentist did a build up so the tooth wouldn’t break anymore until he could see me for the crown prep.  This is not a fun time.  It is my 6th crown. 

As we were headed home, still in the pouring rain, we picked up the power washer as scheduled and in spite of the rain, our neighbor with my help cleared the covered front porch and open back deck of plants and furniture and he power washed both.  He was soaked from the effort and the rain and I was also from helping to move furniture and the hose from front to back.

Today is still overcast and has rained off and on, but not like yesterday.  The weather broke enough after we returned the power washer for me to do some harvest.  It is definitely that time of year. 

The two trips out to the garden resulted in a huge bowl of mostly hot peppers and another of tomatillos.  A few tomatoes are getting picked each day and a few lemon cukes.  The counter full of goodies encouraged me to haul out the water bath canner, a box of jars, and the other necessaries to put some of it away for the winter.

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The cayennes were strung to dry, the habaneros and a couple pounds of tomatillos were made into another batch of the I No Longer Have Taste Buds XXX hot sauce (son said it was wonderful), the jalapenos pickled for hubby, the rest of the tomatillos canned in quarters and the lemon cukes pickled in a dill brine.  

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One afternoon’s canning session cooling on the counter.  A good addition to the goodies accumulating on the shelves for winter consumption.  As I’m a rather adventurous cook at this age, the XXX hot sauce must be documented so I can duplicate it next year.  My basic idea came from a visit to Mexico where the woman house staff made a salsa for us from Jalapenos, tomato, onion and garlic.  That one is good too.

I No Longer Have Taste Buds XXX Hot Sauce

a dozen or so medium Habanero peppers

2 lbs (16-20) tomatillos

1 medium onion

3-4 cloves garlic

2 Tbs. lemon juice

1 tsp pickling salt

1/2 c fresh of 2 Tbs dried cilantro

In a heavy non reactive pot, heat a couple of Tbs of Olive oil and saute the onion, chopped coarsely.  Quarter the habaneros with seeds (gloves are advised), peel and chop the garlic, remove the papery husk, wash and quarter the tomatillos.  In a blender, place the peppers, garlic, tomatillos, sauteed onion, lemon juice and salt and blend until fairly smooth.  Pour back into the heavy pot, add the cilantro and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking.  If you are going to can this for shelf stability, it should be water bath canned for 20 minutes in pint or cup jars.  It will keep for months in the refrigerator if just packed in hot jars and lids with bands applied.

I do love this time of year.  Enjoying the spoils of our garden and the labor of putting is away for winter enjoyment.  Soon I will be canning tomatoes and tomato sauce nearly every day, but it will be so good later.

Life is an adventure!

Salvage

Each evening as I harvested the day’s produce and eggs, bringing in a half to a full cup of raspberries, I got more frustrated with the results of my batch of jam.  The new berries were put in a wide mouthed pint jar and frozen, new ones added each night.  The original batch so sweet and so gummy that it didn’t even work well in a smoothie without melting it first.  Today’s harvest of berries filled the jar plus a half a cup or so.  After some research from various cookbooks, homesteading books, and the internet, I decided to see if I could salvage the batch.  Again, down came the pots, the jars and lids.   The original 6 jars were warmed slightly to thin the sickly sweet goo.  The new fresh and frozen berries crushed in the bottom of the jam making pot with the potato masher.   Once they were beginning to cook, the first batch was added back to the pot with a quarter cup of water and a good splash of lemon juice and cooked til a gel test on a spoon showed a product that jelled but didn’t clump.  The re-canning in clean jars with new lids has been done.  The now 7 jars have all given the satisfying pop as they cool, so they are all sealed.  The new process was less frothy looking and the foam easier to skim, so the jars are a pretty ruby color throughout.  After they cool and I can do a tip test, I will see if I have 7 jars of jam or 7 cups of raspberry syrup.  Hopefully, when I open one, I will have a jam that is spreadable.  It tasted better when I checked it.  When my peach jam didn’t jell (my fault for using old pectin), I bought liquid pectin and it seems to give a thicker consistency jam which I don’t like.

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If any of my readers out there have jam recipes for low sugar (not artificial sweetener, I can’t use that stuff), or have found a good source of recipes for low sugar jams, I would love to have it.  It is counter intuitive to  me that most jam recipes call for sugar equal to or more than the amount of fruit.  That takes a healthy product and makes it unhealthy.

 

A Week on and off the Farm – June 14, 2014

This week, two of our grandchildren celebrated birthdays.  Our eldest, son of our eldest turned 9, our first granddaughter, daughter of our youngest, turned 3.  Though we didn’t actually get to spend their birthday with either of them, they are special.

The garden is growing.  The garlic looks like it is ready to harvest and cure.  Agree?

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I never did make garlic scape pesto.   Oh well, there is always next year as it is a crop we plant annually in quantity to share with our kids.  The peas are or so close to being ready for the first batch of lightly steamed or sauteed fresh peas.  My mouth is watering at the thought.  The raspberry patch is starting to ripen.  It is really going to be a challenge to bring enough in to make jam or smoothies with as I graze as I am in the garden, they are so delicious fresh.

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A few weeks ago, while in Lowes, I purchased two new garden implements, a hoe with a two tine rake on the other end and a loop hoe.  The loop hoe is an okay tool in bare soil.  The other implement bent the very first time I used it and it will be returned to Lowes along with a wire brush they sold us for our new grill that has coated cast iron grates and specifically says DO NOT USE A WIRE BRUSH ON THE GRILL PLATES.  A few days after I purchased them, I received a copy of one of the only two magazines to which I subscribe and they had an article on must have garden tools, one of which is a new Rogue Tool Hoe that has a tapered, sharpened end, flat at the end and a 3 tine rake on the other end.  It is American made, forged and solid.  I ordered one and was notified that they were backordered and it would be several weeks.  I okayed that and two days later, was notified that it shipped.  It is a great tool, well worth the money and the wait.  Used on its side, it cuts right through the weeds.  The end cuts deeper for heavier rooted weeds and the rake grabs even young tap rooted plants and pulls them right up.  The wooden handle is thick and well balanced.  They aren’t paying me or giving me anything, but I highly endorse their products.

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This is the first week of the summer that we have had house guests.  Jim’s cousin and his wife spend Thursday night with us on the way to Pennsylvania to pick up his youngest son from college and will spend tonight with us on their way home to Georgia.  They brought us two bags of Georgia peaches to enjoy along with pecans and a lovely loaf of bread.  Some of the peaches were very ripe and after they left yesterday morning to finish their trip north, I prepared about half of them for peach jam.

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In 25 or more years of making jam and jelly, this was my first experience with peaches and it didn’t set up properly.  Last evening, we went to town to purchase more fresh pectic, new lids and while there, I bought another case of 1 cup jelly jars and reprocessed it last night with a bit more lemon juice and a new package of pectin.  It turned out perfectly and they will get to take a jar home with them tomorrow along with a couple of jars of berry jams from last season, some of the cured garlic still left from last year and a dozen of my fresh eggs to enjoy once they are home.

I subscribe to a delightful magazine called taproot.  It comes out 4 times a year, contains no advertisements, often contains a gift, such as a small notebook or some notecards with artwork from one of their many artist contributors.  It always has wonderful recipes, craft ideas and generally a knit, crochet or sewing pattern in it.  This issue has infused vinegars and three fermented mustard recipes that I want to try.  Today while making a vinaigrette from it for our salad tonight, since I already had the small blender out, I made the Horseradish mustard to sit and ferment for three days before adding in the last two ingredients.  Once it is completed, I will divide it into 4 oz jars and share the finished product with our kids that want to try it. (It tasted delicious even without the fermentation and last two ingredients, so I bet it is going to be great.)

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There are two more recipes for other mustards in the magazine, but I bet it will be hard to beat this one.

I must have been born in the wrong century.  I love preserving, growing a garden, spinning yarn, knitting, and cooking from fresh ingredients.  As we await their return for the night, I am preparing a meal of roasted radishes, turnips, yellow squash, garlic, spring onions, rosemary from our garden and the Farmers’ Market.  Local grass finished beef kabobs with Monterey seasoning that I make.  Shrimp with mustard basil marinade.  Salad with local vegetables added and the vinaigrette from taproot magazine with fresh from my garden thyme.

Life is good here on our mountain farm.

 

 

Let Us Preserve

Tis the season to start putting by for the long cold, unproductive months of winter.  We have cousins in Georgia and he has a son in college in Pennsylvania.  We are slightly more than half way in between for them and love to have them for the overnight visit as they drive up and back.  Yesterday afternoon they arrived bearing gifts of fresh Georgia peaches, pecans, and a loaf of a wonderful Artisan bread.  Some of the peaches are at a stage of ripeness where we can enjoy them fresh out of hand or as breakfast fruit, some needed quick attention.  Since our peach trees still are young and not really producing fruit, they are a treasure to enjoy.

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This morning they left to complete their trip north with a southbound return tomorrow and another night with us, so I pulled out the jam making supplies and set to work peeling, deseeding, chopping, measuring and making a batch of peach jam.  That is one jam I have never made before and not wanting to make too much, I first bought the ebook, The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving.  As I started collecting jars, I realized that most of my jelly jars have been given away full of jams and jellies and my stock was low.  The recipe said it made 6 cups, I had 5 1/2 cups worth of smaller jars, but figured that any surplus would go in a jar in the refrigerator to be used first.

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Enough made to get us through the winter and still send a couple of jars home with them Sunday morning.  My taste test is that it is sweeter than the berry, plum and pomegranate jams I have made in the past, but a bit on toast or stirred into yogurt or oatmeal will be nice.   The black cherry tree at the top of our road is ripe and my raspberries are ripening enough to sample a couple when in the garden, but if I’m going to do anything with them, I need more jam jars.

Jim’s comment when he came through the kitchen was that I sure was industrious.  I smiled and said it kept me out of trouble.

I love this time of year with new good things to eat appearing nearly daily from the garden or in this case, as a gift.

Next up is to try one or all three of the fermented mustard recipes from the current issue of taproot Issue 10::Seed magazine.  But wait, I don’t have jars!

 

Canning Time

Recently there have been a few evenings when I wanted a quick dinner only to realize that there was no more pasta sauce and the only broth was frozen.  Last summer was cool and rainy, good for the greens and beans, but not so good for the tomatoes, plus I had planted fewer of them as I was overwhelmed the prior summer.  Because the harvest was lighter and more sporadic, I blanched, peeled and froze the tomatoes in vacuum seal bags, instead of canning them into the usual pasta sauce, tomatoes with green chilies and plain tomatoes.  Periodically this winter, I have hauled out a few bags and made enough pasta sauce for a couple of dinners, freezing the extra.  I don’t like using the microwave, though we have one, so thawing sauce or broth requires foresight.

Today and tomorrow are beautiful early springlike days, highs in the 60s, sunny with the buds beginning to show on the lilacs and forsythia.  These are the days when Jim wants to get on his motorcycle and go for a ride.  His rides give me time to do crafts or household jobs.  I decided early today that I was going to take most of the remaining frozen tomatoes and make a big pot of sauce and can it so that dinner is just a few steps to the pantry, a box of pasta and in the time it takes to boil the water and heat the noodles, the sauce can be heated.

When we killed chickens last fall, we cut some into pieces and as we don’t have a cleaver, we deboned the breasts.  That left us with several carcasses with back meat and random other meat scraps on them.  They were bagged together and thrown in the freezer with the bagged and sealed birds and parts.  This seemed like a good day to take care of them too and to thaw the 2 quarts of turkey broth in the freezer and make pints of broth, also canned to have quickly available to cook rice or as the base for soup or potpie.

Late winter is not the usual time for canning around here, but the empty jars, lids and three large pots were hauled out.  Sauce cooked in one, broth simmering in the second and finally, several inches of water started to boiling in the pressure canner.

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The 10 pints of tomato sauce have finished canning, 9 pints of broth are building pressure and as soon as the pressure is down enough to open the canner, the last 3 pints of broth will go into the canner for processing.

As a bonus, the carcasses yielded 11 ounces of cooked chicken to add to soup or a casserole.  This will make meal prep easier for the remainder of winter and spring until the garden starts giving us fresh goodness to enjoy.  It will also let me consolidate the remaining frozen produce and chickens into the refrigerator freezer to let the chest freezer defrost and get a good cleaning before we have more table birds and produce to add to it.

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Not a bad day’s work.

Life is always an adventure on our mountain farm.