Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Note: I have cross referenced the ingredients in this recipe in the Ball Complete Canning Book with tested and approved recipes for safety.


We use a lot of spaghetti/pasta sauce in our house for all kinds of pasta as well as pizza and even for sloppy joes. Since I keep ground beef pre-fried in the freezer, this makes for very quick meals.

Begin by washing ripe tomatoes (any type will work, although “paste-type” tomatoes take less time to cook down thick).

All ingredient amounts are dependant on the amount of tomatoes you have.

Chunk up tomatoes in a large pot or dishpan. No need to peel.

In a separate bowl peel and cut up 1-2 large sweet onions, 2-3 sweet bell peppers, 1 large jalapeno (unless you’d like more and be sure to wear gloves while cutting up hot peppers) and 1 bulb of garlic per stockpot amount of tomatoes.

Pour about 2-3 tbsp olive oil in a large stockpot. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add tomatoes a few at a time and mash or crush up to create liquid to prevent sticking. Add peppers and more onions if desired. Add 2-3 tbsp or up to 1/4 cup dried basil, oregano, and parsley.

Cook on med-low until everything is very well cooked.

(Note – I really like roasted peppers in this, but don’t always have fresh peppers and have to use frozen peppers from the previous year, or, if I have fresh ones, I don’t have time to roast them

20150718_134748After tomatoes are cooked, run through foodmill to remove seeds and skins.

20150721_170142Return mixture to stove to cook step two. Take 1-2 cans (12 oz) tomato paste, 1/2 cup olive oil and about 1 cup of tomato mixture and blend together in a stainless steel or glass bowl. When well blended, add to the pot of tomatoes.

20150721_170557Add 4-5  bay leaves.

20150721_170948Next add sugar and salt and black pepper. For a large pot, start with 1/8 cup salt and 1/4 cup sugar and then add to your taste.

20150721_171055             This step takes lots of spoons!

Cook until sauce is as thick as you want, or depending on how long you have – 2-5 hours.

20150721_175707For thus particular batch, I had 3 huge pots of sauce.

To process this sauce you can actually choose between waterbath or pressure canning. If you waterbath you MUST add 2 tbsp of lemon juice per quart or 1 tbsp per pint. (It does not affect the taste). Fill hot jars, wipe rims, add lids and w/b 50 minutes for quarts and 40 minutes for pints.

To pressure can you can omit the lemon juice. Pressure quarts 25 minutes and pints 20 munutes  @11lb pressure (depending on your altitude).

For these three pots of sauce I had 12 quarts and 1 pint of sauce.


To use add cooked beef, sausage, meatballs, cheeses, vegetables or whatever you like. This is the best sauce recipe I’ve found to date.

Feel free to comment, ask questions or share.

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Usually beet pickles are the first thing of the canning season, however this year my beets have not done so well. I’ll be surprised if I get 2-3 pints. Oh well.

However, I have decided to share my beet pickle recipe contained in the story of how we made them. I hope you enjoy it. (Like this story? It could end up in a book. Let me know what you think.)

Making Beet Pickles

My mother was born in 1919 and Daddy in 1922. They grew up in very poor homes in a very poor era in our nation’s history. But, living in a rural area, they were never hungry. Big gardens and a household of kids to help work it helped many families to survive a time when many others were going to bed hungry. My grandparents believed that God gave them three seasons of the year to prepare for the fourth and most difficult – winter. Each season brought its peak fresh fruits and vegetables which were enjoyed as well as preserved for later. Before electricity was available in their areas, my grandparents canned, pickled, and brined meats and vegetables – mostly vegetables – as meat was a rare treat, except for breakfast sausage and bacon. Occasionally there was a Sunday chicken dinner, however chickens were far too valuable as egg producers to kill and eat.

The main staple in our family was pinto beans and cornbread. The thing that brought the meal variety was the always present pods of hot peppers and the endless jars of pickles. There were beet pickles, bread and butter pickles, sweet pickles, dill pickles and of course the pickle relishes made up of the dips and dabs of leftover vegetables. I can’t remember a time when summer and fall did not mean canning, pickling, preserving and drying our garden produce as well as fruits, nuts and other wild treats such as muscadines or huckleberries. However, trying to do all this without running water was a challenge (to say the least).

My first memory of “helping” during canning season was washing mason jars in a washtub in the backyard. As jars were emptied throughout the year, they were placed in the root cellar where, by the next summer they would be dirty and filled with an assortment of dead bugs. First they were rinsed out and then put into washtubs filled with rain water where they would sit until the sun warmed the water. The jars would be washed and then taken into the house where they would be washed again and sterilized with boiling water for the canning process. I don’t know how much actual help a 5 year-old could be, but we were taught early that everyone helped. As a child however, the most exciting time of canning came when it was time to make beet pickles! Beets were usually the first crop available from the garden, and like Memorial Day heralds the unofficial beginning of summer to many people, pickling beets was our signal that the canning season was upon us

Making the Beet Pickles

            Pull the beets from the garden when they are about the size of a golf ball or a tennis ball, of course there will also be some that are the size of walnuts and marbles (the little ones are my favorite). Next, cut the green tops off, leaving about 2” of the stem and the entire tap root. (Cutting these off will cause the beet to “bleed out” leaving a pale, anemic looking beet). The beets are then washed thoroughly and cooked in a huge pot until they are barely “fork done”. And then comes the fun part – the peeling!

To peel the beets, Mother would drain the boiling water off and then pour the beets out of that pot into a pot of cold water out in the backyard. After they cooled enough to handle, we would peel them by slipping the skins off. It still brings a smile to my face today as I “squirt” the beets through my hands, sliding the peelings off into the water. Naturally, as kids, it became a thing of hilarity as we shot beets at one another in the backyard! I’m amazed that mother ended up with enough beets to last us through the winter – or maybe the “beet wars” are just another thing that has grown in our minds over the years. At any rate, pinto beans, pickled beets and cornbread remains one of my favorite meals to this day!

The Recipe

Pull, wash, cook and peel beets, cutting the tops and roots off. Cut the beets into chunks and leave the small ones whole.

Using a large stainless steel pot, make a mixture starting with 3 cups of cider vinegar, 2 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar, then adjust for taste and amount of beets. Add about 2 tbsp pickling spices, either in a cheese cloth or loose, depending on whether you want your spices left in the pickles. (We prefer them left in). Add the beets to the liquid mixture.

When the mixture comes to a full boil, ladle the beets into hot sterilized jars. Fill the jars with the liquid, leaving about ½” headspace. Remove the air bubbles, wipe the rims and seal. Waterbath both pints and quarts 30 minutes.

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I bet I have a jillion pickle recipes – well, maybe not a jillion, but a hundred, anyway. My mother was an expert pickler (is that a word?) and I have all her recipes plus all the recipes in all the canning books I have (did I mention that I collect canning books?)

I have made 14 day pickles, 7 day pickles, crunchy green tomato pickles, bread and butter pickles, icicle pickles, no-name pickles and relishes of all kinds.

This year, however, I have been under a great time constraint due to a deadline for a writing assignment looming. So – I have had plenty of cucumbers to eat on, but no time to make pickles!

Today I decided to take a few hours to make pickles. A “few hours”? Yes, I cheated. And this is why (besides “time”).

Even though I have made all kinds of pickles, I’d never been able to get a dill pickle that was as good as good ole store-bought hamburger dills (which is what my husband loves on his burgers).

Last year I noticed these Ball Kosher Dill and Bread and Butter mixes at the grocery store.


So I decided to try the Dill mix and WOW! It was delicious! This year I also bought the Bread and Butter mix, and loved it as well. It is so quick and easy that it absolutely feels like cheating!

So – here’s today’s adventure.

First we picked cucumbers.


Then I scrubbed them and sliced a bowl full.



I missed getting a picture of the mixture, but just follow the directions on the label.

Next fill the jars, and waterbath for 15 minutes.




Next I decided to make some sweet pickle relish using the Bread and Butter mix (a recipe is merely a suggestion – right?)


I used cucumbers, an orange and a yellow bell pepper, and a purple onion. I chopped them, filled jars and waterbathed.


It’s pretty, whether it’s any good or not!

Next I did a turn of dill chunks and then threw all the extras in a bowl with all the leftover mix (dill and bread and butter together). That should be an interesting taste! HA!



All in all, not a bad job for 4 hours!


They’ll really be good this winter, too!

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I haven’t made any of these yet this year, but thought I’d post the recipe so you can be ready. Many folks have green tomatoes setting on now.

Green Tomato Pickles

(Sweet and Crunchy)

5-7 lbs green tomatoes

2 gal water

2-3 cups pickling lime

8 cups sugar (4 lb)

3 pt vinegar

1 tsp cloves (I like whole)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground all spice

1 tsp celery seed (ground or whole – depending on preference)

1 tsp ground mace

Choose green tomatoes that are about the size of a baseball. Wash, core and cut them in half top to bottom, then slice. This way they fit in the jar better. It’s easier to get them in large mouth jars, but regular jars work fine, too.

Soak the tomatoes in the lime and water in a crock or glass jar for 24 hours. The next day, drain them and soak in fresh water for 4 hours, changing the water every ½ hour.

Next, put them over into a Stainless Steel pot. Make a syrup of sugar, vinegar and spices. Bring the syrup to a boil, and then pour over the tomatoes in the SS pot. Let this stand over night (12-18 hours). The next morning, boil for 1 hour – until syrup is clear.

Seal in hot jars and waterbath for 15 minutes.

*NOTE* When processing pickles, to retain “crunchiness” let water come to a boil before putting jars into the canner. Start processing time from putting the jars into the canner. Make sure the water covers the jars by about 2 inches.

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Earlier this week I noticed that some of my herbs needing picking.

20150518_100908 So I picked a little basil, lemon thyme, oregano and parsley (both curly and and flat leaf).

20150518_093946I washed it, then put it in the dehydrator to dry.


20150518_104933After drying off and on for a couple of days (I don’t like to leave the dehydrator on when I’m gone) they were finally dry.

20150520_113413 A lot less, huh?

But I’m pleased with the outcome.20150520_120521



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Thirty-three years ago today I was having a precious baby boy. Today I have been planting garden. Isn’t “new life” a wonderful thing? (I made his favorite dish – salmon patties! Scroll down for the recipe.)

Everything came together on Saturday to begin – the ground was dry enough to plow, we had the time (a biggie) and the “signs” were right! (No I do NOT believe in astrology, but I do believe in Genesis 1:14. God said that the stars were for “days and years and signs and seasons”. The word “signs” means directions and even warnings. The word seasons means appointed times. So yes, I believe in planting by the “signs”. Ha! You didn’t know you were going to get Bible Studies, too, did you? But what did you expect – it’s what I do! 🙂 )

We got 3-4 kinds of tomato plants set out, along with cayenne peppers, jalapenos, red sweet bell peppers and those tasty little “lunchbox” sweet peppers.  We also got spaghetti squash, watermelon, and cantelope plants out (no where near one another, of course for they would “cross” and make neither of them fit to eat – which, by the way, is also the reason for the law in Leviticus 19:19 about not planting 2 kinds of seed in the same field.)

I also sowed 2 kinds of carrots, and 2 kinds of okra, (they’re ok to plant together) and a really loooong row of onion sets. I really wish we could have gotten these out early – but hey – you do what you can do.

This morning I set out cucumbers and planted Silver Queen corn. I’m trying something new here – we’ve always had trouble with raccoons getting in our corn, but I’ve read several places that raccoons don’t like “ground cover” like cucumbers, etc. So this year I set out the cucumbers, interspersed between the corn – so – we’ll see how it works.

I’ll try to plant beans and peas on Thursday. I have 2 kinds of peas to plant – those yummy little sugar snap peas as well as shelling peas. And I have 4 kinds of beans plus blackeye peas to plant. And, I’ll add white half runners in the corn once it gets up about 4-6 inches.

Back to today – after I came in I set about to cook salmon patties. We all love salmon patties, so I have to cook  lot!

Today I used 5 cans of salmon.

20150504_125001 Drain the liquid off and remove the skin and bones from the salmon (you can eat it, but I don’t like the texture of the bones). You can also buy boneless and skinless salmon but it’s really expensive!

Add to the mixture 1 egg per 2 cans of salmon, about 1/2 cup of bread crumbs or cracker meal, 2-3 tablespoons flour, a little of the salmon liquid enough to make the mixture stick together.

20150504_132435 Make little “walnut” size balls and roll in cornflake crumbs.

20150504_133538Fry (preferably in an iron skillet) on med heat until well browned.

20150504_134244(If one breaks, you get to eat it! 🙂 )

20150504_135542Enjoy! (I know we will!)






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The guy I get my plants from came by this afternoon. He brought cucumbers, peppers (hot and bell), 3 kinds of tomatoes, onions, and more herbs! I m so excited. The “signs” are right to plant on Friday and guess what? My husband just happens to be off Friday! (Now if the rain will just hold off…)


Stay tuned – this could get good! (Follow our blog for “tips, tricks, and techniques” this summer.)

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