Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Great Expectations and Little Applesauce Letdowns

Canning food is addictive.  After every batch I start imagining the next.  This morning I rose to make and can some sugar free applesauce.  The recipe called for 3 1/2 pounds of apples.
That didn't seem like much to me so I peeled eight pounds of apples instead.  I anticipated getting a large batch of spicy, saucy goodness so I sterilized 7 quart jars with rings and lids, peeled and cored the apples, and set them on the stove to cook.  When the boiling apple concoction was "just right," I sprinkled in a little nutmeg and cinnamon and ladled it into the hot, sterilized jars.

Guess how many quart jars of applesauce you can get from eight pounds of apples?  A mere 2 1/2.  What a let down.  After some internet research, I was able to determine that it takes three pounds of apples to make one quart jar of applesauce.  Now they tell me.

The day was saved, however, when we shared the half of a jar of sauce with our pork tenderloin dinner - it was without a doubt the best sauce ever.  Everyone raved about it.

"Putting food by" certainly comes with a steep learning curve.  I'm going to buy a few bushels of apples tomorrow morning and make a serious batch of yummy sauce this weekend.  I told you - I'm addicted.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Another Canning First - Chicken Soup

Home Cooked and Canned Chicken Soup
I made and canned my first chicken soup today.  Ordinarily I put frozen mixed veggies into my chicken soup (corn, carrots, green beans, lima beans and peas), but today almost everything came straight from my garden  - corn, green beans, shelled beans from my over-mature Kentucky Wonder beans, and carrots - the peas came from the Mennonite produce auction and were frozen earlier in the year.  Very satisfying work.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Frosty Maryland Morn

It was 28 degrees when we got up this morning.  There was white frost everywhere and the broccoli looked silver instead of green.  The tomato plants have been pulled and discarded and the last of the basil, parsley and lettuce was harvested late Thursday night.  The remaining carrots will be sweeter now that we have had a good frost.  
A Frosty October  Morning in the Garden
The cold frames, which should probably have been set out and planted weeks ago, will go out this weekend and we will try to get lettuce and spinach growing for as long as the weather will allow.  

Another Batch of Chili in The Works

Today, we will make and can another batch of chili.  Everyone loves it and wants more. 

However, before all the activity begins, I'll spend a few moments with my Kindle, my hot cocoa, my crackling fire, and my beautiful, diamond sparkling views.

 I love Autumn.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A New Toy - Beans, Broccoli & Chili

Our New All-American Pressure Canner
Ready for its Maiden Voyage
Oh, how I love new toys.  I'm a sucker for gadgets that are well-crafted and designed to help you  accomplish a multitude of tasks which you could never hope to tackle without them.

Well this past Thursday, the UPS truck (I love UPS almost as much and the toys they deliver) brought us a lovely new All American pressure canner.  The giant aluminum vessel looked more like it was destined for outer space than my kitchen and although I found it and the accompanying instructions more than a bit intimidating, I was determined and eager to take it for a test drive.

You see we have harvested and frozen so much food from the garden that we now have no room for the whole hog and the 25 free-ranged chickens that are due to be processed for us in November - and the harvest continues.

Our new toy will allow us to can low acid veggies, meats, soups, etc. and thereby reduce the amount of food taking up space in the freezers.

Four Quarts of Homegrown, Freshly-Canned Green Beans

So we picked what I suspect will be the last of the green beans (frost is expected next week) and was able to can four quarts of green beans.

They seemed to turn out well and are beautiful in their jars.  I wish we had done this sooner because I really prefer the taste of canned beans over frozen. 

The First of Our Fall Broccoli Crop

While the beans were cooling, we
  • harvested over seven pounds of broccoli,
  •  cleaned it,
  • soaked it for 30 minutes in salt water to eliminate any bugs,
  • fed the few worms that were revealed during this process to the baby quail (who fought over which of them would claim these delicacies),
  • blanched it,
  • and froze it into meal-sized portions. 
This harvest made about seven bags of broccoli and we bagged up the thick stems to use when making broccoli soup this winter.  Hmm?  Maybe I can find a broccoli soup recipe to can in my handy dandy new canner.  This was the first of our fall broccoli and we expect to be eating and harvesting broccoli from the garden well into November.

Our First Try at
Homemade, Canned Chili
 Next we decided to try canning up some chili.  We eat quite a bit of chili during the winter.  Some we make from scratch, but all too often we decide to have it at the last minute and run to the grocery store to buy a few cans.  We figured this would be a good way to use more of our jalapeno bounty, get some ground beef out of the freezer and forever say goodbye to store-bought chili and all its unwanted ingredients.  We initially made just three quarts to see if we liked the recipe.  We did.
14 Quarts of Spicy, Homemade Chili

So last night we set nine cups of dried beans to soak,  took 9 lbs. ground beef out to defrost, and chopped 24 cups of tomatoes.  We woke up early this morning to make and can 14 more quarts (the max our canner will process at one time) of chili.  It was a long process - but they turned out beautifully.

What's next?  Chicken soup?  Beef stew?  Green tomato relish?  You'll have to stay tuned as we work to really put our new toy through its paces!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Peter Piper was a Fraud

Perpetually Producing Peppers
When I was a child, I loved tongue twisters.  The kids on our block would challenge each other with tales of Peter Piper, She Sells Sea Shells, and the wood chucking Woodchuck.   I was pretty good at it.  Yes, I was then, and am now, a pretty fast talker.  But I digress.
The fable of Peter Piper and his famous pickled peppers begins like this: 
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Our freezer is full of jalapeno peppers.  We love them, but have harvested so many this summer that we are getting sick of them.  This past Sunday we picked another 10 pounds of peppers.  More tiny peppers are still ripening.  You might say our pulchritudinous, persistently- propitious pepper plants have practically punished us with a ponderous plethora of palatable peppers!

What to do?  What to do?  Enter pickled peppers.  It was quite a job to pickle these 10 pounds of peppers.  As a pickling neophyte it was harder than it needed to be.  To get this done I had to:
  1. Buy more canning jars.
  2. Scan the internet for the perfect, pickled pepper recipe.
  3. Slice the peppers.
  4. Soak the sliced peppers for 24 hours in a mixture of pickling lime and water.
  5. Rinse the sliced peppers and soak in clean water for another hour.
  6. Rinse again and soak for another hour.
  7. Rinse and soak, yet again.
  8. Sterilize the canning jars, lids and rings.
  9. Add mustard and celery seed to the jars.
  10. Fill the jars with sliced peppers.
  11. Realize I was four jars short of being able to use all the sliced peppers.
  12. Accept the fact that I was past the point of no return, groan and continue working.
  13. Fill the pepper-filled jars with a boiling solution of vinegar, water and pickling salt.
  14. Screw the two-piece lids onto the jars.
  15. Place filled jars into a boiling water bath and boil for 10 minutes.
  16. Sterilize four more jars and lids.
  17. Make more vinegar solution and bring it to a boil.
  18. Add the mustard and celery seed to the four remaining jars.
  19. Fill these four jars with the remaining peppers.
  20. Add the 1/2 cup of peppers that wouldn't fit into the jars to the compost pile because I did not have the energy to even think about how to use them.
  21. Add the boiling vinegar solution to the last four jars.
  22. Make more vinegar solution when I realized I did not have enough to fill the last jar.
  23. Add more water to the canning pot and wait for it to boil.
  24. Process the last four jars in the boiling water bath.
    Perfectly Pickled Peppers
    Allow the processed jars to cool for 24 hours.
  26. Check to see the jars were properly sealed.
  27. Admire my handiwork. 

Get the picture?  Contrary to the fraud that was perpetrated on us as children - you cannot waltz out to your garden and casually “pick” a peck of pickled peppers.  Long, long ago someone else recognized the fallacy in the tale and stepped forward to ask: 

If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, 
where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?  

Good question.  To find the answer, might I suggest you start by touching base with Peter's mother.  You can probably find her in the kitchen standing over a boiling pot of vinegar, water and salt.

P.S.  Does this mean that no one is selling seashells down by the seashore?  Do woodchucks really chuck wood?  Gasp.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ever Eat a Pawpaw?

Ripe PawPaws Just Picked From the Forest Floor
Do you remember these lyrics?

Look for the bare necessities
The simple bare necessities
Forget about your worries and your strife
I mean the bare necessities
Old Mother Nature's recipes
That brings the bare necessities of life

It is a song about living and eating wild.  Our living wild days are long gone but we can still enjoy wild food.  A fellow Bridge player has loads of wild pawpaw trees growing on her property and she kindly offered to let us gather some.  Gather we did.

I found the following information regarding pawpaws on
"...The pawpaw is native to the Midwest, Southern and Eastern United States and adjacent southernmost Ontario, Canada, from New York west to eastern Nebraska, and south to northern Florida and eastern Texas.”
The Pawpaw tree bears fruit that is large, yellowish-green with a hint of brown. It contains many large brown seeds within the edible fruit pulp. When the Pawpaw trees flower, the fruit is first green and then begins to mature in September and lasts through October. During this maturity stage, the fruit becomes yellow or brown.
Our freshly gathered pawpaws sat on the kitchen island all night and when we woke, the most heavenly sweet fragrance was wafting through the house. 
The fruit was peeled, seeded, and pureed.  One cup of the puree went into a PawPaw bread recipe which I found (along with a plethora of other pawpaw recipes) on the  Kentucky State University website.

Pawpaw Bread Piping Hot in the Oven
Pawpaw Bread on the Cooling Rack
Pawpaw Bread - Or What's Left of It

The shiny black seeds were scattered throughout the wooded portion of our acreage.  Hopefully, in four or five years we'll have the Bare Necessities growing wild - right in our own backyard.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Quail Update

Two-Week Old Baby Quail
I promised to keep you updated on the progress of our newly-hatched quail.  The seven hatchlings are two weeks old today and have grown like weeds.

We went ahead and ordered more quail eggs off of Craig's List (60 to be exact) and they were tucked into the incubator last Tuesday.

More quail babies to come!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

From Petulant Teenagers to Productive Garden Citizens

Green Beans
Productive Garden Citizens
Remember the petulant green beans that whined and complained about the privileged, special space afforded the newly-planted artichoke plants

Well, like all teenagers, they grew up. 

A 16-Pound Harvest!

We started harvesting green beans last week - a pound here and a pound there.  Yesterday we set a record by harvesting a whopping 16 pounds of tender, nutty flavored, stringless green beans!

I'm so relieved.  I did not like the stringy beans we were getting from the Kentucky Wonder pole beans.  The strings on these beans were so tough that, despite trying to string them before cooking, the odd string I missed would choke me while eating them.

Garden Beans
Picked, Blanched and Frozen
So, I scoured the seed box, found a left over packet of Royal Burgandy bush beans, and quickly planted the whole packet hoping we would get a large crop of beans before October's first frost.  We were lucky.  The beans came up and bore well.  Funny thing though - they were not purple.  Hmm.  The packet must have been mismarked. 

I wish I could identify their variety so I could plant them again next season.  Oh well, they are delicious and, once frozen, should supply us with enough beans to last until next summer.