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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

When it gets to the end of summer and I see how much good food I’ve let go to waste, and how pitiful my herbs look… I feel like such a failure. Yes, I’ve canned a lot and preserved a lot and dehydrated a lot – but look at how much I lost – because I just couldn’t (or didn’t) get to it…

Yes, there were other “fish to fry” and other responsibilities to attend to – but let’s face it – sometimes I was just plain lazy…and it weighs on me and I promise to do better next year. Yep! If the trumpet don’t sound, and Lord willing – I’ll do better next year!

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It has been said that experience comes from learning from your mistakes and wisdom comes from learning from the mistakes of others. Today I learned two great lessons of what not to do. So let me share a word of wisdom with you.

I had about a peck (1/4 bushel) of ripe roma tomatoes that needed canning. I had found a recipe in the 2015 Ball Canning book for “Roasted Roma” so I thought, “That sounds good!”

The problem was, we don’t have a gas grill. Not to worry, the recipe said they could be roasted in the oven on broil…

What a mess! They didn’t roast – they cooked and turned into a mushy mess! Oh well, I finally got them peeled, but won’t try that again!

(By the way – there are no pictures because I was up to my elbows in tomato goo!)

Next the recipe called for 3 bulbs of roasted garlic. I LOVE roasted garlic, but I always roast it by peeling the cloves, drizzling with olive oil and wrapping in aluminum foil and roasting for about 30 minutes @ 350°. However this recipe said to drizzle the olive oil over the whole bulbs, then wrapping in foil and roasting…

Well, ok… let’s follow the recipe. Again – what a mess! Doing it this way necessitated squeezing each clove to extract the garlic “goodie” out. I had olive oil all over me, and it took “two-forevers” to get all the cloves squeezed out. And pictures? Forget it!

Anyway, I (sorta) proceeded with the recipe (I used roasted peppers from the freezer instead of fresh peppers) and added the onions. By the time everything had been added and cooked I really just had some chunky pasta sauce (which is what I renamed the recipe).

The “Roasted Romas” recipe called for processing the pint or quart jars for 85 minutes! I know that length of time was considering that the tomatoes would be mostly firm… they were anything BUT firm! It was sauce! But… I processed them for that amount of time. I knew it wouldn’t hurt anything – and might even thicken up the sauce.

After that I still had some regular tomatoes that needed canning so I thought, “Shoot! I May as well try another new recipe!” (Some days I’m just crazy like that…)

So I prepared the rest of the tomatoes using a “Chili Sauce” recipe. Simple and only needed to process 15 minutes. I used up the rest of my roasted peppers.

All in all not a bad day and I learned two very valuable lessons – and maybe you can learn something from my mess to save you time and effort in the future.

By the way – about roasting garlic – I love to roast it, mash it up and dehydrate it. Then I grind it up into a coarse powder. It is absolutely delicious!

And here’s a picture of the finished product. The quart jars are spaghetti sauce I canned yesterday. The pints are the (ahem) “Chunky Pasta Sauce” and the half pints are the chili sauce.

#farmstewardship at its best!

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In the past week I’ve put up okra, tomatoes and cabbage (all separate endeavors, by the way) but since I’ve written about different ways of canning tomatoes, I thought I’d share how we put up okra and cabbage.

I dearly love fried okra, but couldn’t find a method that suited me in terms of not only taste, but ease. One of my cousins was known for her “fresh tasting” fried okra – even in the dead of winter! So I learned to fix it her way – and you know what? It is both extremely easy AND delicious!

So – now this is how I fix okra for the freezer. Wash and slice okra as if you were preparing a meal.

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Next bread the okra with meal (one thing I do differently is I add purple onions – delicious!)

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Next, fry up in a big ole cast iron skillet using your oil of choice. (Bacon grease adds that extra special Southern flavor – but you can use other oil if you must… and I guess you could use another frying pan – but be careful about too many changes there, lol!)

Don’t salt or add other seasonings to the okra as it’s frying. Fry it until it is *almost* as crisp as you’d like for serving then drain on paper towels.

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After it has drained and cooled, spread it on a parchment lined baking sheet (in a single layer if possible) and freeze for 2-3 hours.

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After it has quick frozen, fill freezer bags and return to the freezer. By preparing the okra this way you can fill gallon bags and only take out as much as needed for a meal (even a single serving!)

To prepare for serving, pour desired amount into a baking dish, add salt and pepper to taste, and cover with foil (no need to thaw first).  Bake for about 30 minutes (depending on amount preparing) @350° or until it is hot throughout and as crisp as desired. You can remove the foil if needed for the last few minutes.

I love preparing okra this way. I can spend one or two days frying okra and have enough for all winter! Serving it is quick, easy AND delicious!

 

Now for putting up cabbage. A few weeks ago I harvested 12 heads of cabbage, soaked them in salt water to remove any unwelcomed visitors, put them in plastic bags and stuck them in an extra fridge. I’ve given several away, but prepared a couple for us yesterday. I cut them up and blanched in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then immediately plunged into ice water.

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And because I like onions in nearly everything, I also blanched some purple onions, too.

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After draining the cabbage I put some of the leafier pieces in the dehydrator and spread the other with onions on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

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I quick froze this just like the okra, but I vacuum sealed it in smaller bags. Some I’ll fry as a side dish, and some I’ll add to soups. I stored the dehydrated cabbage in a half-gallon jar. Amazing, about six trays if cabbage yielded this little dab if cabbage. But it will be great when I want just a little extra cabbage in my soup.

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Add to the okra and cabbage these tomatoes and there you have it – just another week on the farm! #farmstewardship

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Today I made, what I call, “Dip Salsa”. This is to distinguish it from a “chili salsa” that I use in meatloaf, chili, and other dishes.

Dip salsa is just for eating with chips. It is easy to make (although it takes a while to cut everything up) and it is very good!

Cut up:

7 cups +/- peeled, chopped and seeded tomatoes. You can peel these by hand or use the dip in boiling water method. It’s not imperative that you get every seed out, you just want the tomatoes to have as little juice as possible. (Paste type tomatoes would be excellent here).

2 cups peeled, chopped and seeded cucumbers. This is a good way to use up those big cucumbers that hid out from you while you were picking smaller ones. Again, if a few seeds sneak by, it’s ok.

2 cups chopped and seeded sweet banana peppers or other sweet peppers. This year I used yellow lunchbox peppers and a couple of black bell peppers (yes – black!)

1/2 cup chopped and seeded jalapeno peppers (more or less to taste – or you could throw in a cayenne or two if you like them… Oh – and don’t forget to wear gloves while cutting the hot peppers – you’ll thank me later.)

The original recipe didn’t call for onions, but I added a chopped purple onion to the mix.

Add 3-4 cloves of garlic (depending on size)

1 tbsp fresh marjoram or 2 tsp dried

1 tbsp fresh cilantro or 2 tsp dried

1/2 cup cider vinegar

2 tbsp lemon juice (or lime juice for a variation)

Combine all in a large pot

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And then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars with 1/2″ headspace.

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Waterbath 15 minutes. This amount of veggies makes about 9-11 half pints.

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I went by a local market this morning to pick up some peaches for canning (we have a rather nice orchard coming along – but no fruit just yet). When I got there I saw that they also had some “June Apples” AKA “Early Transparent” apples! SCORE!

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The peaches will hold a couple of days so I set in on the apples. First I washed them with water and a little vinegar in the water (since I didn’t raise these, I don’t know if they’ve been sprayed or not) and then I got ready to peel them.

When I do apples I prepare 3 pans – 1 for the peeled and sliced apples, 1 for the peelings and cores, and 1 for the “blossom ends” and any imperfections. The pans for the apples and peelings each contain water and about 1/4 cup fruit fresh to keep them from turning dark.

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You may wonder why I save the peelings. I have mentioned before in this blog that my parents and grandparents lived through the Great Depression, and in addition to that we were very poor as I was growing up. My mother learned to “make do” and stretch foods to use every scrap. So, following in her footsteps, I save the peelings to make apple juice. 

Most recipes for making juice call for cooking the whole apple, but my mother learned that by peeling the apples and using both the apples and the peelings they went twice as far!

I debated whether to dehydrate the apples for making stack cakes this Fall or to make applesauce. Applesauce won out. So after peeling about 8-9 pounds of the apples, I put them on to cook.

To make applesauce, put the peeled and sliced apples in a pot with a little water to keep them from sticking and turn on med-high.

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Most applesauce recipes call for cooking the apples until soft and then running them through a strainer or food mill, however Early Transparent apples are very tart (which keeps me from snatching slices as I peel) and they cook up to “sauce” consistancy without the milling step.

When the apples begin to get mushy, add sugar for sweetening. For this many apples add 2 cups of sugar and taste for desired sweetness. I ended up using 3 cups of sugar to get them just right. If you want, you can add cinnamon and other spices, but since this is mainly for our 9 month old grandson, I left this batch plain.

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Once the apples are the consistancy you want, fill clean, hot jars (pint or quart) leaving 1/2″ headspace. Wipe the rims, seal “finger tight” and place in a waterbath canner (or large pot with a rack to keep the jars off the bottom) with water covering the jars by 2 inches.

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Once the water comes to a rolling boil, process the apples 20 minutes (both pints and quarts). When the time is up, turn the heat off and let the jars sit in the water 5-10 minutes before removing from the water.

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The reason this fruit separated was because I put just a little too much water in the apples when I started to cook them. This was my first turn of apples for this year and was out of practice. I’ll make a note of that for next time. This won’t hurt the apple sauce, I’ll just need to stir it up when I open a jar.

While the applesauce was processing I put the apple peelings in the same pot that I had cooked the apples in (no need to wash it first – it’s all apples!) Add water just to nearly covering and turn on med-high.

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After the peelings have cooked down let them cool and then strain.20160614_19515520160614_195200

Cheesecloth works pretty well for straining the juice, but I prefer an old cotton diaper. Squeeze the peelings until all the juice is out – or – until you’re tired of squeezing.

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I had a half gallon of apple juice from these peelings. I put the juice in the refrigerator and will can it in pints tomorrow. I use this apple juice for the syrup mixture in canning other fruits.

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8-9 pounds of apples = 9 pints of apple sauce and 1/2 gallon of juice – pretty good for an afternoon of work, wouldn’t you say?

Edit: A couple of days later I made chunky apple sauce out of the rest of the apples. I had 19 pints from this half-bushel of apples.

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Today I had bean with bacon soup for lunch  that I’d canned a few months ago and I thought I’d share the recipe. I only have one picture which I’ll share at the end.

2lbs dried navy beans – soaked overnight, or “quick soaked” by bringing to a boil, boiling for 2 minutes then allowing to sit for 30 minutes and rhen draining.

2 qts tomato juice (or a thin sauce)

3 cups chopped onions

2 lb bacon or ham

2 cups sliced carrots

3 cups diced celery

Black pepper

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp cumin

1 cup brown sugar (to taste)

(No need for salt due to bacon or ham)

Combine beans, carrots, celery, tomato juice, pepper and cumin. Cook on medium.

Meanwhile, fry bacon to cripsy, remove and drain well on paper towels. Fry onions until soft and also drain well, then add to bean mixture.

Add brown sugar to taste.

Simmer a while (30-45 minutes – you may need to add water to make as “soupy” as you like).

Remove bay leaves

Fill hot sterilized jars leaving 1″ headspace. Remove air bubbles and wipe rims with a paper towel dampened with vinegar.

Pressure quarts for 90 minutes at 11lb pressure (adjusted for your altitude)

Pints pressure 75 minutes.

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A few weeks ago our local grocery store had chicken breasts on sale for 99 cents a pound. I bought several packages and stuck them in the freezer. I also had a couple of whole chickens taking up space, so I decided this week to can chicken.

I let the chicken thaw in the refrigerator and then cooked it, picked it off the bone, and reserved the stock in gallon jars.

20150813_100316The next day I removed the fat from the chilled stock and canned half of it. I heated about 2/3 of the chicken in part of the reserved stock and added carrots, onions and celery to the other 1/3 chicken and stock for soup. I also added salt and pepper to taste and a couple of bay leaves for the soup.

20150813_101450While this was cooking, I took the chicken bones, scraps of carrots, onions, celery, along with some garlic and bay leaves and placed them in my crockpot for making chicken broth.

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(I let this cook for about 24 hours, then strained and refrigerated to let the fat come to the top.)

Once the plain chicken was hot, I filled hot jars, wiped the rims with a vinegar-dampened paper towel, then sealed.

20150813_114318By that time the veggies were soft in the soup, and I filled jars with soup.

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Together I had 7 quarts – a full “turn”. I pressured these at 11 lbs (for our altitude) and cooked 90 minutes (the correct time for meats).

These will go a long way this winter!

20150813_151027If you have any questions on canning chicken feel free to comment or e-mail me.

 

 

 

 

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