Tag Archives: tomatoes

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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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.

saucy  Filling shelves applesauce Drygoods

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.

jungle

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.

sauce

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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.

The Velociraptors are Loose

The fall crud nearly KO’d me this week.  Very little was accomplished other than the basic maintenance of life, a few dinners prepared, and the grands shuttled to their respective bus stops and preschools.  By yesterday, I felt a bit better and it was time to get things done.  Laundry was stacked high and we were both out of essentials, so that was a priority.  Saturday is Farmers’ Market day to get pasture raised meat and organic vegetables that are local and not suspect, nor traveled from far away states or countries.  Grandson had his first soccer game of the season and of course, we had to be there to watch that.  He is one of the youngest and smallest on the 8 to 10 year old league, but clearly wanted to be part of the action.  But the biggest task of the day was to obtain the fencing needed to give the Meaties a run so they didn’t spend their entire life in a brooder or coop.

As the chicken pen was originally divided into two long narrow runs and had two side by side gates, it seemed that returning it to its original or similar configuration was the most expedient.  When the fencing was removed to fence in the garden in hopes of keeping the chickens out and allowing them more free pasture time, the posts were left in place.  Unfortunately, the dogs had other ideas about this plan and the Buffys were again penned up with only some pasture time each day, when the dogs are secured indoors.  Mountaingdad and I went out and measured to see how much additional fencing was required and it appeared that we needed something less than 100 feet.  After market and soccer, we ventured down to the local Tractor Supply to get what was needed.  I really prefer the welded wire fencing, but can’t handle the 100 foot long rolls by myself while trying to fasten it to the posts.  As it didn’t come in 50 foot rolls, I elected to take a much less substantial vinyl coated wire garden fence to divide the run.  This meant moving some of the welded wire that was already in place, unbending the wire T post fasteners, hauling the fencing to different positions and reattaching it with new fasteners, taking back the 6 to 8 foot wide swath of garden that was only partially used for summer squash and pole beans.   The 100 feet of garden fence then set down the middle of the now enlarged area.  The day was hotter than it was predicted, I didn’t drink enough water and by late afternoon, I was whipped, the pen was not secure enough for the layers who had been on a grasshopper chase all afternoon in the yard and pastures.

It was time to fix dinner and daughter was going to do that but we realized that the propane tank on the grill had never been refilled, so Mountaingdad was sent off to take care of that and daughter came out to help me at least get the Buffys run secure so they could be lured back inside and the dogs let out.

There would be no more fence work last night, I was totally done in.  Dinner was delicious, Mountaingdad took grandson out for ice cream and I went into veg mode, knitting, reading and watching the Steven Hawking movie on television.

This morning refreshed from many quarts of water, and a good night’s sleep, I finished securing the last few pieces of fencing so that baby velociraptors (as daughter calls them) can finally see what the great outdoors is like.  Last week, they were moved from the brooder to the Cull Palace and penned in.  It is a huge space, but dark.  Tomorrow they will be 5 weeks old, so almost half of their life span has been spent in the garage and in the dark coop.  They could see the outdoors through the chicken wire and hardware cloth door and vent panels, but couldn’t be outdoors.

When I opened their coop door this morning, the curious moved to the opening.  Only a couple ventured over the sill.

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I’m sure as the day goes on, they will begin to explore the 80 X 8 foot run that they now have access to explore and I am hoping that they have gotten large enough to not squeeze through the 2 X 4″ holes in the fencing.

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The Buffys are having a great time reexploring the extended portion of their run that is full of pigweed and leftover squash that got hidden in the leaves and grew too large to harvest.  They will attract bugs, split and the seeds will be a treat.

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My remaining task is to cut back the peach tree that died in the middle of their run, leaving them stumps to perch on and to close up a few spaces that persistent birds may be able to squeeze through to facilitate escape.

An afternoon harvest brought in the winters popcorn, more dried beans, a large basket of tomatoes to be processed and a couple pints of jalapenos for pickling.  The Ancho peppers are beginning to turn red and will soon be dried for sauces and soups.  The first Burgess Buttercup was brought in, but walking through the Three Sister’s Garden revealed a hefty crop of them that will be brought in before the first frost is expected. It wasn’t the best garden this year, but I am thankful for the wonder it has given up and will be enjoyed this fall and winter.  Soon it will be time to plant the garlic for next year.

My harvest efforts earned me a sting, I think by a caterpillar.  The sting was unlike wasp and bee stings that quickly swell to enormous size on me.  This has produced a large area of tingling skin and lightheadedness that brought me in before all the beans were collected.  They will keep for another day.

End of Summer Week on the Farm

Summer is winding down.  Grandson that lives with us has returned to school.  Grandson #1 who gets to spend part of each summer on the farm and has been here since the end of July, has only a few more days before I drive him back home for him to also begin school for the year.

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A selfie after he whupped me biking on a local path, made on an old rail grade that traverses two towns.

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Pool time a few times.

 

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Hikes. The first a backpacking hike with his parents and me below this overview for part of the hike and today, a day hike to the overlook, just the two of us. I love the cloud shadows on the ridge across the valley.

Between these outings, an attempt to thwart the invasive plants that threaten to take over our hayfields each fall.  The spring hay is always nice, but the fall mowing is just to take control again.  The Queen Anne’s Lace and daisies are fewer and fewer each year in the hayfields, but the stick weed, an Asian invasive import tries to take over.  As we don’t spray weed killer on our fields, keeping it mowed down is our only defense.

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Though this is only a foot or so tall, some of it in areas that don’t get mowed for hay in the spring, the stickweed is 5 to 6 feet tall and quite intimidating to mow through on our tractor.  From the house, the back of our property doesn’t look very far away, but when we are mowing and look back to the house from the southern most point of the lower hayfield, you realize how large the field really is.

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This has not been a good year for our tomatoes.  Usually, by now, the shelves are filling with jars of pasta sauce and salsa, but not this year.  Most of one variety of tomatoes seem to spoil as soon as they turn red.  The heirloom paste tomatoes are just beginning to turn.  One of the packages of pepper seed must have been mispacked as the seedling developed into a different pepper than was planned.  The cukes and squash are spent.  The pole beans are producing, but Mountaingdad and I seem to be the only ones who like them.  Winter squash are spreading and producing lots of small pumpkins and Burgess Buttercups, twined about the stems of the popcorn plants and the pole beans that will be used as dry beans climbing well above the tops of the corn.  I never did get the lowest beds of the garden re-weeded and mulched and the blueberry bushes are engulfed.  With the cooler days and the end of the summer visitors, perhaps I can get it cleaned up before the garden is totally put to bed for the winter.  I still need to purchase another pound or so of seed garlic to plant in another month or so.  It isn’t too late to buy starts of broccoli and kale and get them in the garden under row cover to keep out the persistent cabbage worms.

The meat chicks are now a week and a half old and they can almost escape from the cattle trough that serves as the brooder.  I have had to put a screen over them already. They foul the straw so quickly that it is having to be changed out every couple of days.  The fencing around the cull coop still needs to be erected within the next 4 weeks, but the arthritis and trigger finger in both ring fingers is making me reluctant to do the weeding and the fencing as both fingers lock up on me and are getting harder and harder to release.  I guess this winter, I will have one hand then the other dealt with. The mature hens are beginning their fall molt and this year’s Americaunas and the Buff Orpington youngs are not laying yet, so egg production is nearly non existent.

This time of the year is bittersweet.  The days and nights are cooler, the trees are fading and will soon color.  The garden winds down.  The orchard is full of apples and Asian Pears that must be processed into sauce and chutney to enjoy later.  It is time for a trip to buy half a dozen or so Bent Mountain cabbages to make into kraut and to store for winter slaws and sautes.

Transformation

Yesterday it was a bucket of tomatoes.

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This morning they were skinned and chopped along with two gallon size bags of ones that had been frozen when the harvest was too small to bother to can.  Along with onion, garlic scapes, a squash, some salt and herbs all tossed into a giant pot.

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Some simmer time and jar prep.  The pressure canner hauled down and cleaned up from winter’s storage.

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Ten quarts of pasta sauce base prepped and canned.  Unfortunately, two did not seal so I can either reprocess them or better yet, make dinner from one and refrigerate the other for another night.

It feels good to be putting by for the cold months to come.

Let the canning begin

What we are lacking in eggs, we are making up for in tomatoes.  There are several bags in the freezer awaiting sauce and I just brought in this bucket full.

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There are many more buckets full that will ripen over the next few weeks.  Tomorrow will be dedicated to a large pot of pasta sauce making and canning.  Salsa will utilize the next bucketful.  The tomatillos are beginning to fill out as well and I will begin making tomatillo sauce and green salsa soon too.

My peppers are not all the varieties that I intended to grow.  There may not be jalapenos to can, but mammoth jalapenos will go into the salsas.

Last weekend was the 75th annual Newport Agricultural Fair and one of the vendors was selling heirloom seed, so I picked up a handful of varieties that I haven’t grown of peppers and tomatoes, plus a few other seed.  And I entered a raffle to win 20 packets of seed.

The last big harvest of cucumbers were made into 5 more pints of dill pickles.

Most of the squash are dying back and a few got so large while we had a houseful of guests last weekend that the chickens got a bonus.  We are still getting a few for sauteed squash and squash casseroles.

The nesting boxes are closed off for the second night, after chasing broody hen off of one of them and taking the eggs inside.  She is again sitting in front of the barrier on the floor of the coop.  I may have to take more diligent methods to break her so she will begin laying again.

It is about time to get some fall seed in the ground if we are to hope for any harvest.  I hope to build a deeper box to put some of the fall greens in with hopes of extending the harvest season by covering it with clear plastic once the first frost is threatened.

Tis The End

Saturday mornings are usually spent going to the local diner for breakfast then on to the Farmers’ Market. Not today.  Today the morning was spent processing the last two baskets of tomatoes, both green and red, many with spots that had to be cut away. I started with the green, as my end product was to be Green Tomato Chutney from http://foodinjars.com/2010/11/green-tomato-chutney/. The cooking part of this one takes an hour and a half or more. It was prepped and set to simmer on a back burner. Next up were the remaining red tomatoes that were pared of cores and bad spots, diced and tossed into another large pot with some salt. On the last functional and largest burner was the pressure canner with the requisite 3 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar as we have hard water and I didn’t want white rings on the jars. Loaded inside were my last 7 pint jars full of hot water to heat until filling time. The red tomatoes filled those jars with some to spare, so a quick jaunt out to the garden to harvest a pound or so of Tomatillos and some hot peppers and with an onion, some garlic, a toss of herbs, a bit of chopping, the tomatoes became salsa. It was left to cook down some while the diced tomatoes canned and cooled enough to remove from the canner.
While I was standing at the kitchen window, enjoying the outside while doing dishes, I spotted a coyote in the hayfield.

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They have been very vocal the past few nights and while I got the binoculars to check him out and my phone to take the distant photo, I spotted two more.  All three were taking their time sauntering across the newly mowed hayfield, into the woods and up toward the house.  They passed close enough to the house that the dogs indoors became very agitated.

The only jars left on hand were a new flat of half pints that I bought with the idea of making the chutney, so nine of them were washed, filled with hot water and scalded in the canner.  The end result was 5 half pints of salsa, 5 half pints of chutney.  One of the chutney’s didn’t even go in the canner, it will travel with me this week to the spinning retreat with a block of Neufchatel cheese and a box of crackers to share at the happy hour.  A half pint of salsa and a bag of chips will also go.

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It has been a good season for tomatoes, unlike last year when we didn’t get enough to get up through the winter.  It was not a good year for beans thanks to the bunnies.  The shelves are stocked with tomato products.  The freezer with chicken and peas.  This week I will purchase one more flat of jars and a basket of local apples and can one batch of applesauce, then the canner will be packed away for another year.

My session ended with a sandwich and a fried green tomato that I set aside just for my lunch.

 

Tom Tom

The garden provided 5 pounds of tomatoes, 2 pounds of tomatillos, a dozen or so various hot peppers this morning. I quick decision that salsa at $5 a pint and large cans of pickled jalapeños at under $2 a can, that the peppers are better used in salsa than just being pickled. Another round of canning commenced.
The tomatoes peeled and diced, the tomatillos diced, onions, hot peppers and garlic chopped. Eight pints of salsa in the making.
Today’s creation is Tom TomSalsa.
Tom Tom Hot Salsa
5 lbs tomatoes peeled and diced
2 lbs tomatillos husks removed, washed and diced
1 large onion chopped (2 cups)
10 cloves garlic minced
12 jalapeño pepper minced
1 habanero pepper minced
1 Tbs oregano
2 Tbs cilantro
1 Tbs pickling salt
1 cup lemon juice
Place all in a heavy nonreactive pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Ladle hot salsa into clean, hot pint jars, seal with new lids, tighten bands and water bath process for 20 minutes.
Yield 8 pints

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The shelves are being filled with garden goodness.
The pullets are laying more each day. We are getting 7 eggs most days from the 10 pullets and 1 hen. Broody Girl went into molt as soon as she quit being broody and hasn’t laid an egg in more than 2 months. I’m not too happy with her right now.
The Rainbow Ranger chicks at not quite 4 weeks old already weigh about 2 pounds each and have seriously outgrown the brooder. They are in a large dog cage with an attached run in the garage and get as much daytime outdoors as weather permits. They foul their cage daily. Can’t wait until they can go out to the chicken ark and run to live out their lives until mid October.

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Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.

The summer kitchen

Much more time is spent in the kitchen than in the garden this time of the season. Each morning after animal chores and breakfast, I wander in the garden with baskets in hand, pull a few weeds, but mostly harvest. All tomatoes except for the occasional slicer are destined for canning in some form or another. Most of the Tomatillos now are being frozen in 1 pound bags as most recipes call for a pound.

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There are 5 pounds in the freezer since I am saving my jars for tomatoes and salsas. On mornings when the Tomatillos are generous and there are too many Jalapeños for a pint to can but not enough for 2, a batch of green salsa is made. Most of the Habanero’s are being strung to dry, there is so much XXX sauce it probably won’t get finished off this year.
If an Ancho pepper turns red, it is also strung to dry to make enchilada sauce later. There are two types of Cayenne’s in the garden. I didn’t realize that until the second type started bursting forth with peppers. Really I think they are not Cayenne’s though they were sold as such. The pepper is much smaller, grows upward and is hot, maybe Thai peppers, which is okay too. The Cayenne’s are strung to dry for crushed red pepper for pasta, pizza and cooking.

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Today there were lots of tomatoes ripe in the garden and more on the window sills and baskets in the house, so today was Chili Tomato canning day. Nine pints are out of the canner, sealed and cooling on a tray on the counter.

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These are my answer to the name brand tomatoes with green chilies that you purchase in the grocer. Mine are a bit spicier and lack the BPA lined can. We eat lots of Chili con Carne in the winter so they are a welcome addition to the larder.
Chili Tomatoes
4-5 quarts of peeled diced tomatoes
3  diced green Ancho peppers
4  diced Jalapeños
1 Tbs pickling salt
Place a heavy non-reactive pot on the stove top. Add the peppers and a couple of cups of diced tomatoes and simmer to allow the pepper to start cooking (I continue to add the tomatoes as I peel and dice them). Once all the tomatoes are added, add the salt and bring to a boil.
Ladle the mixture into clean hot pint jars. Wipe the rims and seal with new lids. Screw a band on and pressure can according to directions for your canner. Here in the mountains, it is 15 minutes at 12 PSI. They can be water bath canned but I would add some lemon juice to each pint to ensure acidity. My batch made 9 pints with about half a cup left over that I just added to the salsa in the refrigerator.

Lesson learned, last week I made 10 pints of pasta sauce and didn’t label them. The rest of the canned goods were labelled. Hubby opened one thinking it was salsa and noted that it wasn’t spicy like the first jar. I couldn’t figure out why one jar from a batch would be very spicy and another not at all until I went to get jars this morning and noted that all the salsa was still there but one jar of spaghetti sauce was missing. Mystery solved and lesson learned, label all of the jars. I would date them too, but nothing I can this year will be left at the end of winter except jelly and I do date them.
We are having internet issues right now, so posts may be sporadic for a while as well as replies to comments, my apologies in advance.
Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.