Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Canning Before The Storm

Perhaps you've heard, there's a hurricane on its way to the northeastern U.S.  And I have to work!  I plan to work this evening and then stay up there through the storm and work my shift and then go home when it's all over.  While I am not psyched about leaving the car outside in the hospital parking lot, I am more not psyched about driving in 60+ mph winds.  

Anyhow, I wanted to finish up the farm share canning projects I had going on so I could feel like I wasn't just cooling my heels tomorrow while I'm stuck at work.  So this morning I made pickled beets.  There were more than a few rogue golden beets in my stockpile of beets - they look ghostly in the jars of dark purple.  There are 4 quarts of pickled beets in this batch and I plan to give at least 2 of those jars to my mother-in-law.  One in the care package I'm preparing, and the rest later when they come to visit again.  She loves them and I'm happy to oblige.

Then I used up all the tomatoes from my garden which were ripe (have to get them all off the vines before the wind does), plus the farm share tomatoes, peppers, jalapenos, and scallions to make this salsa.  It is really, really good.  I had exactly 3 quarts of tomatoes once I chopped them all up.  I used up all the farm share peppers and jalapenos and added 1 store-bought green pepper.  I used my scallions and a single store-bought onion and then rounded out the 3 cups of onion by using 4 cloves of farm share garlic and 2 shallots.  It made 6.5 pints of salsa.

This is what's left of the farm share from Thursday:
1 heads of lettuce
10 leaves of kale
1.5 pounds of potatoes
1 cucumbers
1 heads of garlic
1 large shallots
2 eggplant
3 small pattypan squashes
2 spaghetti squashes

I think I've done pretty well, then, don't you?

And my thoughts are with all of you in the Carolinas & vicinity.  Stay safe!

Friday, August 26, 2011

One Farm Share Project Completed

Yesterday I got the full share because my sister-in-law is out of town.  It's an insane amount of food:
2 heads of lettuce
10 leaves of kale
1.5 pounds of potatoes
10 tomatoes
3 peppers
2 cucumbers
2 heads of garlic
3 large shallots
lots of beets
lots of carrots
10 jalapenos
1 bunch dill
2 eggplant
3 small pattypan squashes
1 pint sungold cherry tomatoes
2 pints jolly tomatoes (supposed to be 4, but I gave up in the rain)
1 pint green and yellow beans (supposed to be 2, also too rainy)
2 melons
2 spaghetti squashes
I didn't even bother with the flowers and the rest of the herbs.

So I have three big projects to do: dilled carrots, pickled beets, and I think I'm going to make salsa out of all those peppers, tomatoes, jalapenos, and garlic.  But not today.  Today I tackled the carrots!

In addition to dilled carrots (and, for the first time, I can actually use the dill heads the recipe calls for since I got fresh dill at the farm) I tucked the green and yellow beans into 4 of the pints.  I think it will be a nice combination.  They look really festive with the orange, green and yellow stripes.  Today's totals are 4 pints of the dilled beans and carrots and 3 pints of dilled carrots.  I ran out of hot pepper for the last pint so used cayenne.  I'm sure it will be great!

What's left?  LOTS.  I think I'll make the beets, salsa and maybe potato chips tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Whole Lot of Cooking Going On

Sometimes I take on too many things.  ("No!" you say, incredulously.  Or is that sarcastically?)

We had lunch at my friend's house and I brought a stepstool so we could get more of those crabapples.  We specifically picked those which had no holes, rotten spots, or anything that looked remotely like a bug had been at it.  I was canning these ones whole.  We picked a little over 4 pounds.  I used the Spiced Crabapple recipe in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and made 2 quarts and 2 pints.  I will give a quart to my friend and I expect to give away 2 more of the jars.  It has cinnamon, allspice, and clove in it.  They smell lovely!

If that had been the only canning/cooking project for the day it would have been plenty.  But I had a few other things in the works.  I had set up a double batch of stroganoff in the slow cooker this morning.  But, since the slow cooker isn't big enough for 2 batches, I put the meat, onions and half the liquid in and cooked it all day and when we got back at 5 pm I put it in a pot with the mushrooms and the rest of the liquid and let it simmer.

Then I made chocolate zucchini bread - finally tamed the last of the monster zucchinis.  It makes 2 loaves.  I probably could have left them in the oven a little longer - they are soft on the bottom.  That's OK.  It's amazing.  The 6 year old gobbled up a slice.  Shhh!  Don't say anything!
THEN I made the spiced crabapples.  I got distracted doing laundry and they overcooked a little so some of the apples burst.  But overall most of them are still apple-shaped.  While they were processing I got the pressure canner ready and heated up 2 more quart jars.  After the pot was cleaned I cooked the noodles for the stroganoff.  Then when I had room on the stove for the pressure canner I started warming that up and filled the 2 quart jars with stroganoff (take it out before you put the sour cream in) and got them going in the pressure canner.  They're now going strong.

We had dinner, we had the zucchini bread, and now I'm going to go play Blokus with the family.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Relishing the Day

All in all, this wasn't really a great day.  Just a day.  But I did get some canning in and, well, I like puns, so here we are.  With so many things to relish.  Ha ha.

I stopped by the store this afternoon to get extra peppers in case my home grown ones weren't enough for the zucchini relish and I saw they had corn on sale.  $2 for a dozen!  I bought two dozen and some celery and got to work on both relishes when I got home.

First I cut up the zucchini, peppers and onion for the zucchini relish.  It has to be soaked in canning salt and water for 3 hours so I got that going.  All the peppers were from my garden and all the onion came from the farm share.  Then I worked on the corn relish.  I blanched 20 ears of corn and used my corn zipper to cut off the kernels.  I chopped up all my farm share peppers:  sweet, banana, and poblano and added them to the last 3 of my peppers and 2 store bought red peppers.  To this I added 1 bunch of celery and one onion, diced.  After dinner I made the corn relish (used the recipe on the website) but I added Clearjel instead of flour paste.  I now have 9 pints of corn relish.

Currently the zucchini relish is simmering and is about to be canned.  I ended up with 1.5 times the recipe because I had so much zucchini - and I still have one more monster-mutant to go.  Not sure what I want to do with that one.  But I had given away all 3 jars of the first batch of this relish and wanted to make more because it is really good!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Caught a Fish For Dinner!

Doesn't this look peaceful?
Remember how, two years ago, I learned how to fillet and scale a fish because I was optimistic that I would catch one on our camping trip?  That year I didn't catch anything at all.  Then, last summer, we went again and I caught a fish, a perch, we think, and it was too small and we were just about to leave so I let it go.  Well...

This past weekend was the annual trip to the same place.  This year was more pleasant - quieter, we all had adjoining sites again, and even though it threatened to rain it didn't.  And, I caught a fish that was large enough to eat (barely) and early enough in the trip that I could actually do something with it!

We're pretty sure I caught a Northern Pike.  I learned how to gut it from the 12 year old son of our friend.  It was not as messy as I had anticipated.  I made it into one big fillet but I suspect had I left the spine in and kept it fish-shaped I'd have had an easier time cooking it.  I ended up wrapping it in foil with a little salt and baking it on the coals.  Almost everyone in our group of 10 tried it (see if you can guess who didn't?) but I ate most of it because it was MINE.  I felt empowered.  Even if my husband had to be the one to smack it dead first.  Next time (and there will be a next time) I will do that myself.

We finished up the 2 quarts of lobster bisque I made back in April and froze - it helped keep the cooler cold until we were ready to eat it.  And I opened a jar of pickles.  I did bring jam and relish but we never got to them  - we had SO MUCH food for all of us, it was ridiculous!

Now I can't wait to go back!
This cheeky little guy kept coming to visit!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yep. That's a Lot of Peaches.

After dinner I finished canning that half-bushel of peaches.  2 more quarts of peaches in light syrup and one more pint of brandied peaches.  I decided I would just peel them with a paring knife rather than do the whole boil-peel-slice thing and it was less messy and faster. 

Overall, they weren't terrible for what I paid for them, but the other place from which I've purchased these in the past had slightly better quality.  Considering they're "seconds," and you get what you pay for, it was not too surprising that I had to throw a few out.

I also had to reprocess one of the pints of brandied peaches from earlier because it didn't seal and it had siphoned a bit.  I topped off the syrup, gave it a new lid, and tried again.  Hopefully it worked this time.

Soon it will be time to get to the remaining two zucchini monsters!

Gonna Can Me a Lot of Peaches

One of the more inane and yet strangely catchy songs by the band "The Presidents of the United States of America" is a song called Peaches.  I don't know why it still sticks in my head, but it does, and whenever I have peaches I can't help but hear that song.  Over and over again.  Peaches come from a can, they were put there by a man, in a factory downtown...

Oh, sorry, I got distracted there for a minute.  Near the stables where I ride there is a farm.  I've driven by it a few times but never stopped, and then today on a whim I stopped to see if they had "seconds" for canning.  They did!  A large box (21 pounds) for $10.  Mostly white peaches but there were a few rogue yellow ones in there.  I also bought a little bag of peaches for eating.  And was excited and happy to learn that the 6 year old discovered peaches recently and gobbled one up on the drive home!!!

Every time I want to can peaches I conveniently forget how messy they are.  It's soooooo worth it, canned peaches are awesome, so I put up with it, but it's a long process.  I can only boil 4 at a time to peel them.  I have learned that more is not better when it comes to boiling them - 1 minute is just enough, 2 minutes is BAD.  I'm not sure why it's bad, but it does strange things to the peaches and they fragment and shred when you try to peel them.  Don't do it.

I'm already a little more than halfway through the box and I have 3 quarts of peaches in light syrup and 2 pints of brandied peaches in the canner.  I might have another 3 quarts' worth left.  I wasn't keeping track.  But I will clearly have to do them tonight because I have no time tomorrow and these peaches will not last much longer!  They are seconds, after all.  I tried to use up the really squishy ones with the first batch to buy myself a little more time.

To make the brandied peaches, you hot pack the peach slices like the plain ones and then mix equal parts of brandy or cognac (I used Hennessey) with syrup and fill the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.  These will likely be very carefully marked to make sure they don't accidentally get mixed up with the plain ones.

More Mutants

See?  It even looks as if it had a fight with Wolverine!
The zucchini monsters are back!

My friend brought me 4 more weighing in at a hefty 12.5 pounds total.  Yikes!  Today I took the 2 smaller ones and made 6 pints of "Zany Zucchini Pickles" from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  I cut them in spears instead of circles, which might have been the wrong thing as they are fairly floppy.  But the circles would have been HUGE.

I am almost completely out of mustard seeds - so I'd better get more before I start in on more zucchini relish!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Social Media Delivers

Abigail pinged me on Google+ a few hours ago and said she had some pears for me.  I happened to be on line so I immediately wrote back, hopped in the car and drove to her house.  (I didn't go empty handed.  I brought over some crabapple jelly.  Hope you like it!)  There were just over 4 pounds of pears waiting for me.  The perfect amount for 2 quarts of pears in syrup!

As an added bonus, the 9 year old helped!

(Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, page 145.)

Minty Fresh

Before the mint in my garden goes to seed (but after it has gotten completely out of control) I figured I should make a batch of mint jelly.  We tend to eat more lamb chops in the winter, and it's one of the few meats we can get the 6 year old to eat so we have it often enough to use a lot mint jelly.  I was down to 1 almost full jar in the fridge and 1 and a half cups of jam in the pantry.  Each recipe (Certo insert) makes 4 cups of jelly.  This one made just a little bit more so I topped off the jelly in the fridge.

For the record, the best color comes from 3 drops of green and one drop of blue food coloring.

A Great Big Thank You!

One of the nice things about blogging is that I've met people from around the blogosphere and we've gotten to know each other over email.  Sort of like grown-up pen pals, but it's a lot easier to be in touch, send pictures, and so on.  Today I'd like to say thank you to Jeanine, who sent me this gift in the mail (and who will be getting a care package as soon as I can get to the post office):
It's the perfect size for a double batch of pancakes because you can use the electric mixer and it doesn't splatter everywhere.  The package arrived yesterday so of course I had to try it out this morning!
Thanks, Jeanine!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Herbal Experiment

After a long night at work and a 4-hour nap I felt refreshed enough to tackle that second batch of crabapple jelly.  Same recipe from the Certo package as yesterday, but today I put large sprigs of purple basil into 2 of the half-pint jars.  I have no idea if that will work, but I remember something about lavender and strawberries in the past and thought it might be interesting.  The purple basil came from the farm share.  Usually when there's basil I give it to Stephanie as I'm not too into pesto and I don't really have a whole lot of uses for fresh basil.  But the purple basil was pretty and I thought I might find a use for a little bit.  I split that bunch with her.  And voila, I have a use for it!  Purple basil looks really nice in the bubble-gum-pink jelly.  Will let you know how it tastes when we open it.

The crabapple jelly itself is really wonderful.  Just ask my 9 year old who scraped the pot clean!

Friday, August 12, 2011


Hey, Mom, does this look familiar?
When I was a kid we had what I always thought were apple trees in our backyard.  My grandmother visited in the late summer/fall and insisted that they were really large crabapples.  To this day I don't know which they were, but once she proclaimed them crabapples, that was it.  Then she made crabapple jelly.  She harvested countless crabapples, made juice and then jelly.  We had jars of jelly all over the house.  We used washed out condiment jars sealed with paraffin when we ran out of canning jars.  We were finding them years later, hidden in the storage room.  I think my parents may have found some when they moved out.

Today my friend, the same one who brought me the zucchini, brought me crabapples.  I've seen the trees.  They are the healthiest looking crabapple trees I've seen in a long time!  And not on the side of a road, either.  They are next to a little pond behind her apartment building.  It's very nice there.  I took those crabapples and trimmed them and boiled them to make juice.  I ended up with a very syrupy 6 cups of juice which I diluted with water almost in half to make less syrupy.  It was the perfect consistency at that point.  I then made one batch using the Certo recipe (5 cups juice, 7.5 cups sugar, 1 package Certo), which was just shy of 9 cups.  I offered my friend some.  She said, "You know, I don't really eat jams or jellies."  I convinced her to take a jar anyway.

The 9 year old had a glass of juice sweetened with just a little sugar and I have enough left for another batch of jelly.  Which I might make tomorrow.  I have to go to work tonight.  But I spent the day with fond memories of my grandmother.  And that's a pretty cool gift from a simple little fruit.

I Had Plans... make a batch of Dilled Carrots.  I came home the other night and asked, "What did you have for dinner?"
     "We had hamburgers, and tomatoes and carrots."
     "The farm share carrots?"
     "Yeah, some."

So I have fewer jars of Dilled Carrots than I had planned.

This morning I made 1 pint of spears and 1 half-pint of pennies.  Same recipe, the one in the Ball Complete  Book of Home Preserving.  I can't be too upset.  They are, after all, eating vegetables.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Blackberry Brambles

This afternoon I went to my brother's house and picked blackberries.  I might be the only one crazy enough to climb into the blackberry bushes to get to the berries in the back.  There is probably a good reason for this.  My arms look like I tried to pick up a stray cat.  A really angry, antisocial stray cat.

Regardless of how much blood was shed, Stephanie and I netted almost a quart of blackberries.  I brought them home to make jam for us and was saddened to learn I needed 2 quarts for a batch of jam.  I did have a pint of mulberries in the freezer so I added those.  I then tried to stem the mulberries, and one thing led to another and I found myself pushing a blackberry/mulberry puree I'd made in the Cuisinart through my fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds.  To this I added 6.5 cups of sugar and a pouch of Certo and now have 5.5 cups of seedless jam.  Which is very gelled.  Yes, the proportions were off.  But that's OK - it doesn't appear to be fruit leather so it's better than some of the other concoctions...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Zucchini Relish

I came home yesterday and discovered a friend had brought me a zucchini.  It wasn't your standard zucchini.  It was one of those late-summer-mutant-because-we-have-zucchini-coming-out-our-ears zucchinis.  HUGE.  Funny thing was, she hadn't even grown it.  She knows someone who gave her several and, being overloaded with zucchini, she brought one to me.

Having never made zucchini pickles before, I thought this presented an excellent opportunity.  There was a collection of zucchini recipes in that new Better Homes & Gardens canning book and, of all of them, the zucchini relish seemed the most different from the other pickles in my pantry.  It calls for 5 cups of finely chopped zucchini.  I got all that and a little more from this one mutant squash.  I also threw in a farm share onion and some peppers from my garden (and half a store bought red one, for color).  The recipe claims to make 5 half-pints but I ended up with 3 pints because all the veggies were in slightly larger amounts than called for.  I did keep the liquid and spice measurements the same and there was still more than enough liquid.

The cookbook claims this tastes good on fried green tomatoes.  That would imply that one is capable of making fried green tomatoes that don't look like little charred hockey pucks. Maybe I ought to try them again sometime...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Happy Housewarming!

One of our friends has a new place to live so my husband wanted to bring him some goodies.  Sure thing!  I'm always glad to share my creations.  To warm his new home he now has:

Dill Pickles, Dilled Carrots, Strawberry Margarita Jam, Muscat Grape Jelly, Blackberry Jam, and Mango Quince Jam.

Be well in your new home!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Blue Sunday...

Yesterday I was blue because I had to go to work.  But the kids were blue because they got blueberry waffles!  We went back to the blueberry spot on Saturday and picked about a quart of berries.  It's almost the end of the season now, so we won't be going back this year.  The blackberries, however, are just peaking.  They were so sweet and yummy!

So yesterday my husband made a big batch of blueberry waffles and they had a feast.  I'm envious.  But there are a few in the freezer, waiting for me...