Tuesday, September 13, 2011

What Do I Do With These Peppers!

Went down to the garden and I had peppers everywhere!  Green peppers, red peppers, yellow peppers, and orange peppers.  Peppers, peppers, and more peppers, lol.  Oh what to do?  I decided to get to work on the pickled vegetable mix and make salsa.   

I decided to pull out the crinkle cutter, which I use mostly to make crinkle cut potatoes for my grandson and cucumbers for my veggie trays to cut my carrots for the pickled veggie mix.  I almost forgot that I had this piece of equipment.  Shows how much I've used it lately.  It worked like a charm. 

I modified the recipe in the Ball Blue Book, and added cauliflower, red peppers, banana peppers, carrots, pearl onions and green peppers.  I love the color.  I think food should be fun as well as appetizing.  The recipe actually called for pickling cucumbers, but I didn't grow any and none of the grocery stores had any so they were left out of the batch. 

I added 8 1/2 cups of white vinegar, a few garlic cloves, a few dashes of pickling spice and boiled for 15 minutes.  The mix turned out quite favourable.  I used 1 chili pepper and 2 jalapeno slices per jar and this was the end result:  10 1/2 pints of hot, pickled veggie mix. 

I didn't put a dent in the chili, jalapeno and banana peppers, so I decided to whip up a batch of hot salsa.  Did I mention that love hot, spicy foods.  I was able to harvest a few Amish Paste tomatoes over the week-end, so I chopped those along with the yellow and orange peppers and added lots of hot peppers, seeds and all.  I had few red onions left, and tossed those in.  I love using Amish Paste and the Roma tomatoes in my salsa.  They're meatier, and make great chunky salsaThe yellow and orange peppers made the batch festive and the chili peppers quite hot.  It was perfect!  I plan to make another batch and can pint jars to use in my holiday baskets.  My family has cast iron stomachs, even the kids love hot, spicy foods.  I have a 5 year old niece that loves Texas Pete hot sauce and fried chicken, lol.  I plan to make gift baskets for Christmas, which I will add a pint of salsa, the veggie mix, gourmet chips, home made cookies and some sort of jam/jelly. 

I decided years ago, to give homemade Christmas gifts instead of spending a fortune at the stores.  I refuse to contribute to the commercialization of Christmas.  I was able to can a quart and a 1/2 pint from this batch.  I didn't bother to seal the jars.  This batch of salsa will be gone by the week-end.   

Monday, September 12, 2011

Do You Soak Your Peas?

Do you soak your peas before planting them?  Since I'm a novice gardener, I try to research or make notes from more experienced gardeners blogs.  I read that you should soak peas at least 8 hours before planting.  So I did!  Little did I know that they would increase during that time period.  OMG, it was like an explosion in those little bowls, lol. 

I decided to do a succession planting of the Wando sweet pea.  So far they're progressing nicely I'm looking forward to harvesting these sweet peas for soup and baby food.  I also planted a few Nantes baby carrots and more Blue Lake green beans.  We've had lots of rain the past week, so I'm hoping that they all germinate.  If the weather cooperates this week-end, I'll put in spinach and a few Cherokee Wax Bean plants for black bean soup and dip.  Need to get the garlic and strawberries in for next year's harvest tooWhat's in your fall garden?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Summer Garden Is Coming To A Close

I decided to pull the zucchini plant to make room for the fall veggies.  I was able to blanch and freeze 2 quarts from my final harvest for zucchini bread this winter. 

The tomatoes plants are still producing, but they're turning red slowly.  I have quite a few green tomatoes left on the vines, so I'm hoping for a good harvest within the next week or 2 so I can put away a few more quarts for soup and salsa. 

I was able to harvest a few green beans, which I was very happy to see as I replanted them 4 times because the groundhogs ate them down, lol.  I was so excited that I planted a few bush beans.  I don't know if I'll see a harvest since it's so late in the season, but it doesn't hurt to try.  Next year, I'll suit up for my battle with the groundhog early, and hopefully I'll see a bigger and better harvest.  I've fried my last eggplant of the season.  It was better than the first one that I harvested, yum. 

My peppers have done great this season.  I plan to use these in my next batch of salsa.  I love the yellow and orange colors mixed with the red peppers and tomatoes.  I still have abundance of chili, banana, and jalapenos on the vines.  I'm going to make a few pints of pickled cauliflower, carrots, and pepper mix this week.   My 4 year old grandson and daughter loves it, lol

I decided to plant peas, carrots, and collards in my fall garden.  Stay tuned. 


I have a black walnut tree in the back of my yard.  I've been finding walnut shells around my deck and was wondering how they got there.  I walked into my kitchen to fix a cup of coffee, and when I looked out the window I found this little fellow sitting on the deck rails.  I think I solved the mystery!   

As you know, I've been fighting groundhogs in the garden.  We trapped 6; however, 2 more have found themselves a home under my storage building.  I placed chicken wire loosely around the rabbit fencing leaving about 8 inches at an angle in hopes that they wouldn't dig under it.  These 2 are smart, they never appear when I'm home and they only dig on one side of the garden.  I've placed a few large stones along that fence line, so far I've blocked that side pretty good.  Hope I don't jinx myself, lol. I placed bricks along the backside of the fencing, so I would know if they were out.  This is what I found last week.  They've moved the bricks and bent the fencing pretty much to the ground.  Because it's loose, it's bending under their weight.  They did make it to a few tomatoes that were growing over the fence, but no major damage.   

Since I'm unable to relocate these little pests, I'm debating an electric fence for next year's garden.  I'm a little nervous about the idea, since I have a soon to be 4 year old grandson who loves to run around the yard.  Do any of you have an electric fence?  If not, how do you manage to keep the pests out your garden?  .  


Saturday, August 20, 2011

This Week's Harvest

I managed to can 7 pints of peaches this week.  My daughter and her family surprised me with a visit over the week-end, so I decided to show her what was in store for the baby.  I didn't put syrup on this batch as I had planned.  We're going to use it for baby food for the new baby due in November, so sugar will not be added to any of the baby's fruit.   

The Roma tomatoes are producing nicely.  I'm going to freeze this batch, there's just not enough to fill up the canner and create a mess in the kitchen.  I have a ton of tomatoes ripening, which I'm so thankful for.  My sister was visiting this past week-end as well, so the salsa disappeared quickly.  As a matter of fact, it never made it off the towels on the counter, lol. 

My peppers are starting to turn.  I planted green, orange, and red bell along with the banana, chili, and jalapenos.  I have a tone of chili and banana peppers that need to be harvested.  I going to make a pickled pepper mix this week-end with cauliflower and carrots.  I used the peppers shown over sausages this evening.  The red peppers are so sweet.  I will planting these again next year. 

My squash are producing for the second time this year.  I'm going to fry a few more, and than freeze the remainder for casseroles this winter. 

This pepper was huge.  I somehow missed it while I was in the garden.  I was surprised how sweet it was inspite of how big it got I've found that veggies get bitter or tough if they're allowed to get too big

I'm planning to plant peas and carrots this week-end.  A little late getting them in, but time has not been on my side this week.  I'm planning a baby shower for my daughter Labor Day week-end, so I've had to turn my focus to that.  My SIL asked me to plant collard greens, but I don't see that happening this year.  I need to extend the garden to have space, and I just don't have the time right nowWhat's happening in your garden?  Will you be putting in cool weather crops?  Leave me a comment, I'll stop by.   

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Slicing, Dicing, Canning, Freezing!

This has been a busy week-end for me. I taught a Motivational class yesterday morning and came home to 50 ears of corn that needed to be shucked, bagged and placed in the freezer. I was able to purchase this bag of corn for a steal from one of the local farmers. It's Silver Queen and one of my favorites. I love adding it to Lima or Green beans, I serve it abundantly.  There won't be a kernel left. I will be shucking and freezing an additional 50 ears this week-end coming up.  I can usually put away 20 quarts from 100 ears. That's if I'm home alone. If not, the count is reduced I serve a few ears for dinner.

I purchased this stockpot several years  ago for soup, but found that it's great for blanching too.  I purchased a blanching basket from Kitchen Crafts that fits it perfectly.

Giving the corn an ice bath after blanching stops the cooking process in its tracks.  Doesn't it look delicious, and the ears were huge!  

I could probably get an additional half quart out of a batch, but I can't stop eating it while I'm working.

Ten quarts later, it's ready for the freezer. It's a secret, please don't let my family know that it's there.  No evidence must remain else these bags will be gone by sundown, lol.  The husk and silk has been placed in the compost and the cobs bagged and placed in the outdoor trash cans.   Research has shown that it takes a long time for corn cobs to break down, so I don't compost them. 

In addition to the Presto Pressure Canner, I picked up the Ball Elite Water Bath Canner on the far right.   Let me tell you it is beautiful.   A little pricey, but it's worth it.  It's 21 quarts, has a flat bottom, and compatible with my glass top stove.   It truly put my mind at ease, and it worked like a charm. It's stainless steel with a glass lid.   I love the glass lid feature, you can see what's happening with your jars without removing it and losing heat.  This stove cooks differently than the other cook top that I had, so I have to adjust the heat from time to time.  The burner with the stockpot is strictly for boiling.   I can bring items to a boil in no time with this baby.  I burnt several meals on this stove before I learned how to adjust the heat correctly, lol.   My family thought I was slipping! 

Here's a picture of my blanching basket inside of my stockpot.   Perfect.

Here's the end result of my first canning experience.   My breakfast room is right off my kitchen, so I was able to set my laptop on the breakfast table and view Ball's canning video from the stove and counter that I was using to load jars.  Thank goodness for modern technology.   I was able to can 4 quarts of tomatoes and 5 pints of salsa from my harvest.  I still have a bumper crop left, but I will probably double the number of plants that I put in next year.   I'm hoping to do a few more quarts of tomatoes and pints of salsa with upcoming harvests.  I'm loving the Amish Paste and Roma tomatoes, I love how meaty they are.  

 I was happy to learn that I could can my chunky salsa recipe.   I modified it by adding a cup of white distilled vinegar. The modification also called for 3 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  I was worried that that the vinegar would change the taste, but it turned out pretty good.   I did by-pass the salt.   I'm not much of a salt eater.    

I have a box of peaches coming in addition to the 50 ears of corn this week. The box is from my favorite farmer's market.   They're seconds, but hey who will know that I removed a bruise but me.   Besides they're free. You can't be picky when a farm lets you pick/have them for free.

Overall my first canning experience wasn't as bad as I thought.   I know that I need to pack my tomatoes and salsa in a little tighter to help reduce the water at the bottom per my mother, but I'm a rookie and will know better the second time around.   I'm gardening by trial and error and loving it!   Stay tuned for my post on canning peaches in lite syrup.   As my grandson says, "You have any yummies for my ice cream Mama."  He loves fresh peaches and strawberries on vanilla ice cream.  Making ice cream may be my next endeavor after I get this gardening thing down a little more.  I see a new freezer in my future.  What did you accomplish this week-end.  Leave me a comment, I'll visit. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Finally Harvesting Tomatoes

Today's harvest.  This is all I could manage to carry from the garden this evening.  I was soaked from being there for about an hour.  I'm sure that I lost a pound or two there.  My hair was dripping by the time I reached the back door.  I literally fall in.  I tried to pull a few weeds, add water to the compost bins and harvest these veggies.  I felt like I had gone a few rounds at the gym.  The humidity is incredible in these parts in August. 

There's more jalapenos, banana peppers, green peppers, and onions to be picked.  I'll head out early in the morning to collect those.  I'm quite pleased with my tomato harvest.  I have a combination of Celebrity, Better Boy, Big Beef, Roma and Amish Paste.  I'll be more adventurous with my tomatoes next year.  The little green fellow was accidentally plucked, lol.  I didn't weigh my harvest, but I can hardly lift the bowl.  I'll be canning these along with peaches and Salsa this week-end.  I plan to blanch and freeze fresh corn and green beans as well.  My daughter loves pickled cauliflower, banana peppers and carrots.  I'll make up a few jars for her to take home during her Labor Day visit.     

My Sweet 100 is loaded.  Oh what to do with those? Do you see my Chili Pepper?  It's my first of the season.  I am pleased with my red onions.  I didn't plant many, but those that I did plant look great. I'll be adding most to the Salsa and saving a few for burgers this week-end. 

It's going to be a busy week-end for me.  I need to plant my peas and carrots.  I'll be making baby food with those.  I'm a little behind on that endeavor.  What have you harvested this week?  Leave me a comment and I'll visit. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Today's Harvest

Had a good day in the garden.  The tomatoes are finally starting to ripen.  Looks like more Zucchini Bread on the horizon.  I don't like my zucchini to get as large as the one in the picture.  I obviously missed it in the garden and it grow larger than I like.  I have tons of peppers that I need to get to this evening.  My pole beans are progressing, but they're a little behind.  I had to plant them 4 times because the groundhogs ate them down to the ground.  Hopefully they will take off and produce a few beans for canning. 

I'll make a squash and zucchini casserole for dinner this evening and Blanche and freeze the remainder for baby food for new grand baby who's on the way.  We'll slice the tomatoes for lunch or dinner this week.  Need to get my canner ready,  lol.  They're coming faster than we can eat them. 

What did you harvest this week?  Leave me a comment and I'll come over and check it out. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Homemade Salsa - YUM!

The tomatoes are producing and ripening nicely.  I must say for my first year, this rookie has been quite successful.  Everything I've planted has cooperated and produced lots of babies for mama.  I finally managed to get out of the garden with a handful of Sweet 100s.  They are so addictive.  Would I be greedy if I said I don't want to share them, lol? Thank goodness there are hundred's of them that I can share.   

I whipped up a bowl of salsa with the tomatoes.  I used fresh cilantro, jalapenos, and a banana pepper that I allowed to turn red from the garden and added a small red onion.  The recipe actually calls for lime juice, but I prefer mine without the lime juice.  As you can see, I also like my salsa chunky as well as hot.  It was so good.  I'll be canning lots of it for the winterI love munching on chips and salsa while curling up reading a good book or watching westerns when we're snowed under.  It's nothing for us to get a foot or two of snow during our blizzards in these parts.  

I made a dish of jalapeno cornbread this morning.  I have to do something with all the jalapenos that I'm picking, lol.  Spicy is the word in my house.  I've even converted my SIL, and my 3 year old grandson loves anything hot too.  His little eyes just water, but he devours whatever he's eating.  He loves fresh jalapenos and cheese on his tortilla chips.  I've digressed, anyway doesn't the cornbread look delicious.  It's my grandmother's recipe.  Crackling cornbread was a staple in her home.  I substitute the jalapenos in place of the cracklings.  I'll  be serving it for lunch along with a chicken and noodle dish that I made last night.   What are you whipping up from the goodies in your garden?   

Monday, July 25, 2011

What's Cooking?

Whipped up a few loaves of Zucchini Bread last night.  My first batch for the season, but surely won't be my last.  I'll be lucky if it lasts through the remainder of the day, lol.

Today's harvest.  The cukes and zucchini are producing like crazy.  I plucked my first Roma tomatoes of the season.  I have lots of fruit on the vine, looking forward to making spaghetti sauce for the winter.  I'm sorry I didn't put in 2 plants additional plants.  I won't be giving away Roma tomatoes this season that's for sure.   The Sweet 100 is loaded with tomatoes and has reached at least 8 feet.  I can't manage to make it out of the garden to take pictures of what I harvest.  They're so good, I just toss them in my mouth as soon as I pick them off the vine. 

I actually harvested 3 zucchini, 2 were used for the Zucchini Bread.  I'll be frying the eggplant, squash and the other zucchini for tomorrow's lunch.  Yum!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My First Ripe Tomato!

Can you see it?  My first ripe Celebrity!  I was like a kid in a candy store.  I never dreamed that gardening could so exciting.  I don't know what took me so long to put one in.  I've been thinking about planting a garden for years, but never took the first step to growing my own fruit and veggies.  I'm already thinking about next year's garden and what I'll be planting.  I'm also thinking about asking Santa for a greenhouse this year.  Oh, what I could do with a greenhouse.  I found 2 ripe tomatoes, and quickly whipped up a batch of salsa with the banana and jalepeno peppers sitting on the counter.  It was so nice to reach over the fence and nip at the fresh cilantro to add to it, and it was oh so good.  I'll post my recipe shortly.  It's quick and can modified if needed. 

The Sweet 100 is producing and producing.  I was able to harvest a handful and devoured them before I got out the gate of the garden, lol.  They were tasty.    My daughter said mom, "You ate those and you didn't wash them off".  My response, "There's nothing on these babies but love" .

I harvested a Better Boy this evening too.  I'll be slicing it tomorrow with a little Mayo for lunch or dinner.  Nothing better than a fresh Mater from the garden. 

Lilies From The Garden

I love having fresh flowers in my house.  I cut these lilies yesterday, and I was amazed how much they opened this morning.  The house smells wonderful.  The white is so crisp and refreshing on a hot summer day.  I'll be adding to the garden next year, I can't get enough of them. 

Will I Be Able To Can?

Will I be able to can my fruit and vegetables?  I've been looking for a canner and my research has shown that most canners will not work on smooth cook tops.   When I remodeled my kitchen several years ago, canning was not at the top of list.  I did consider what most women would want in an updated kitchen, and a counter cook top was ranked high on the list.  I choose a ceramic 6 burner model with top of the line features.  I love it, I had no idea that I wouldn't be able to can on it.  Who knew, lol? 

I decided that I wouldn't give up, there had to be something on the market for the modern woman who likes to do things the old fashioned way on occasion.  I have a garden full of veggies that need to be canned and I'm heading to the local farmer's market to buy loads of peaches to can for my future grand baby.  Diligence pays off, this Presto 23-quart canner will work on smooth top stoves.  I found it at Amazon.  I love Amazon, they rarely disappoint me when I'm in search of anything.  I also love the fact that I can order from the comfort of my home and have it delivered to my front door within a day or two.  Further research showed that Wal-mart also carries this canner. 

What I love most is people leaving reviews, good and bad, about various products they have used.  Presto doesn't advertise which of their products work on glass top stoves.  If a blogger hadn't noted that she too was in search of a canner that worked on her glass top stove, I wouldn't have known.  

Since I've never canned before, I'll keep you posted on my journey.  If you're an experienced canner and have a few tips for me, please leave them.  I need all the help that I can get, lol.  I'm starting with the Ball Blue Book