Monday, July 21, 2014

blessed with tomatoes.

...and more tomatoes and more tomatoes.   I don't know why the good Lord has seen fit to bless me with so many tomatoes, but I will take them.  So far I am up to 130ish pounds of just Roma tomatoes, and we are just now on a roll.  I also have better boy and cherry.  This past weekend has been a circular process of picking, cooking, milling, cooking down, canning, picking......  9 pints salsa and 9 pints of pizza sauce this weekend and another 2 pints of salsa and 11 pints pizza sauce waiting in the wings for tonight's canning adventure.  That's a total of 17 pints of salsa and 20 pints of pizza sauce.  I'll also start the next batch of tomatoes cooking.  Uh...and pick some more.  SEE WHAT I MEAN! 

True confession time here.  I am not the Donna Reed of canning.  Don't envision me happily ensconced in my kitchen singing like Snow White as the birds help me can.  Yea.  I wish.  There are times, and they are coming, where I begin to tell my plants "You know you can die now".  Gone will be the days of joyfully seeing another baby whatever.  There will also be times where I will can the easiest recipe just to get  the produce processed.  And there are days when I think maybe I shouldn't garden next  year.  I know  SHOCK!  But I can tell you now come January I will be back on the gardening band wagon.

Is it worth it?  Yes.  A resounding YES!  All the dirty sweaty work in the garden, the never ending canning, the weeds, the bugs, etc.  It is still worth it in the long run.  Why?  Well money for one.  I can make/grow these items for pennies compared to the price of them in the store.  Try looking for a jar of tomato sauce with no preservatives, pesticides, or other funny business for less than the full of funny business brand.  You can find a jar of good sauce, but you will pay for the privilege.  1 small can of green beans at the store now costs you $1.  I can grow and can my own for 1/4 of that maybe less and that includes the canning lid!  And taste!  Nothing in the world tastes better than veggies and fruits you grow yourself.  They are picked when ripe instead of picked unripe and gassed up to ripen on the trip to whatever store where which you buy.  I know what goes on my fruits and veggies.  No guessing there.  I know when they were picked; how fresh they are.  My home grown spinach will last for weeks in the fridge as opposed to the store bought which is brown in a week.  Lastly, there is a sense of satisfaction with being self sufficient in any amount.  I may not be totally self sufficient (yet), but I am in this category.  When the winters chill is in the air, I will be able to open up jars of fresh homey goodness to feed my family. 

So I can, can, can, can, can.  Yep!  It is worth all the work.  Now if you had asked my teenage self about gardening and canning, I would have looked at you like you had two heads and rapidly volunteered to clean house instead of going to the garden.  Yea.  Those days are gone.

 Okay so off to can more sauce.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hmmm what to do if you don't have pectin, don't want to make it, and can't afford to buy it...

I have the answer!  Whoot!  Whoot!  Drum roll please......  Fruit Butter!  HAPPY DANCE! 

So....apparently you can take certain fruits and make fruit butters.  Everyone knows about Apple butter.  But what about Strawberry, Blackberry, Blueberry, Peach.  Me thinks aside from my yearly batch of beet jelly, I think I am going to simply do different varieties of fruit butters. 

Berry (any type) Fruit Butter

1 quart of berries
1 cup sugar
1 TBS Lemon Juice

Simmer your berries just until soft.  Strawberries take very little time.  Once soft, mash with a potato masher or pulse in a food processor.  Put in a food mill if you want to get rid of seeds.  Then take your fruit pulp, the sugar, and lemon juice and mix them together in a sauce pan.  Just let it all simmer until it thickens enough to mound on a spoon.  Voila!

For Apple, Pear, or Peach butter

2 cups pulp (unsweetened apple, peach, or pear sauce)
4 cups sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves

*** for the peach butter try 1/2 tsp nutmeg.***

Put it all in a pot and let it simmer until really thick. 

Now if you want to can this up; it is possible.  You have to sterilize you jars, heat your lids rings, put the hot butter into the jar.  Wipe the rims, put on the lids and rings and process 10 min ina water bath canner.  However, I just stuck mine in a Tupperware dish in the fridge cause I am sure it will go fast.  And it has.

Now to tread into dangerous territory......

Fruit Bars (I wouldn't recommend this for dieters FYI)

1 1/2 cups Quick oats
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
dash salt
3/4 cup butter (or margarine, but butter is better)
1 cup fruit butter (you can use preserves, but I like the fruit butter better)

Mix up all of your dry ingredients.  Cut in butter/margarine well.  Press 2/3 of the crumb mixture in a 9x13 pan.  Spread the fruit butters over it all then sprinkle the rest of the crumb topping over the top.  Bake 350 for 25 min.

Fair warning...these are really addictive and don't think you can freeze them to stay out of them. 

Yea... I thought that and found out they are really good straight from the freezer.  YUM!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

always look for the silver lining

Those of you who are facebook friends know that when I came home this evening I found,  to my dismay, the freezer door cracked.  AGH!  Real quick I went thru the freezers contents pulling out what was thawed.  Fortunately no meat had thawed.  What had thawed were 4 loaves of bread, 6 quart size bags of squash, 5 quart size bags of blueberries, 3 quart bags of black berries, 4 quarts of beets, a container of mashed bananas for bread, 1 pkg of grated zucchini, 1 quart broccoli,1 quart green beans, and 1quart of strawberries.  Once all was removed I quickly shut the freezer and have left it alone all night giving it ample time to get back to where it needs to be. 

So I'm moving up my preparations for the food I put up.  I can live with it.  Pulling out my trusty and falling apart Ball canning book (seriously the free advertising I give on this blog for items should warrant a coupon or something!)and begin perusing recipes for the items now needing attention.  All the containers of squash were dumped into a deep pot.  I added a large chopped onion and some salt and cooked it up.  Once cool I loaded it back into freezer bags to freeze for later use in casseroles.  Half of the blueberries were added with sugar, cornstarch and lemon to make blueberry pie filling.  Umm yea, its good.  I can attest.  I licked the spoon when it was done.  Hey Quality Control!  The other half of blueberries were cooked, strained, added with sugar and lemon and blueberry syrup was made.  The strawberries were simmered with lemon juice and sugar to make strawberry butter.  Yea I hear some biscuits calling my name.  The blackberries have been cooked and I will make jam with them or juice for fruit tea.  I haven't decided yet.  If you want the fruit tea recipe check it out here.  The beets are going to a friend.  Hope she likes them a lot cause she is gonna be sick of em.  Lol.  The bread is in the fridge and we will be having lots of toast (and jam), French toast, sandwiches, etc.  The broccoli is a side tomorrow night and the green beans the next night. Bananas and zucchini are for bread.  I will make that tomorrow.  Too tired tonight.

So why the title to my post?  Well. Todays adventure showed me a couple of things.  First of all it doesn't matter that my food mill is missing that little screw on thingy at the bottom.  While messier than it probably would have been with the part, I was able to use the mill for the strawberries without it.  In other words in times when you may not have everything you need, you make do with what you have.  Secondly, it opened up freezer space making room for other gardeny things, and third, it was a challenge.  Loves a little challenge. 

Next day....

So got everything taken care of.  Still need to bake some banana bread, but all in all everything was used.  In addition I was able to put up an additional 8 pints of salsa.  Yay!  Caught up!  Then this evening I went out to the garden and TADAA!  More Tomatoes, Peppers, Squash, and Blackberries.  Thank you Lord!  So all's well that ends well!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Here we go!

So the garden is coming in full force now.  I have canned green beans, pickles, relish, and banana peppers(the kind you put on pizza).  I have the juice to make my beet jelly, but haven't made it yet.  I have frozen quarts of beets, broccoli, squash, blueberries and blackberries.  I have cooked tomatoes and put them in the freezer to wait until I accumulate enough to make sauce.  That is becoming easier and easier as the tomatoes start to really roll in.  Unfortunately this year, my sauerkraut died (Grrr) so I will replant cabbage later for fall and try again.  That was painful let me tell ya.  But all in all it has been wonderful to watch my shelves fill up will all the wonderful goodies.  My Dh and I worked together to add some shelves to our walk in bedroom closet in order to store the things I can.  We had some heavy duty shelves in there, but they were bulky and had a lot of wasted space because although you had the room between shelves to stack the jars, the shelves couldn't hold the weight.  Last year one of the shelving units collapsed under the weight.  I lost a lot of jars and food.  I was just sick.  What we have installed instead are shelves that are a little more than 1 quart jar in height.  I have four on either side of my closet and then below that are my bulk food items such as flour, wheat berries, sugar, etc.  It is wonderful to be able to walk into my walk in closet.  That wasn't the case before.  It is amazing how what fit on 2 sets of the plastic shelves(6 shelves total), only partially filled one side of my closet shelves(4 shelves that weren't even as deep).  There is something to be said for good use of space.

Chicken wise we ended up with 14 babies which gives us a flock of 18.  We plan on keeping 6 layers which is twice what we have currently, and using the rest for meat.  That should fill the freezer pretty good.  Out of 15 eggs we had 14 hatch.  Not too shabby.  Mama hen sat on 9 and the others we incubated 5 thanks to a loaned incubator from a friend of ours.  I have to say watching a chick hatch is not something I have ever seen up close and personal.  It was cool to be able to experience that 5 times.  We integrated the last two into the flock of baby chicks last night; again thanks to our chicken guru and incubator loaner, Jimmy (Thanks Jimmy).  He helped us get them in without the mama hen losing her mind on one of them.  So every one is where they need to be.  That is for now until we divide the flock into layers and meat birds. 

I love this time of year.  Watching my shelves fill up.  Watching the garden produce all its goodness; the sun, the sounds.  Now in August I may be telling the plants they have done enough they can die now, or I might be saying I am never gardening again,  but for now I am lovin it and I guarantee you when January rolls around I will be itching to get back out there and do it all again.  Once that bug bites you, it is hard to go back.