I didn’t intend to put up tomato sauce this year, but I had so many tomatoes, I had to find something to do with them!
to this!Pin It
I didn’t intend to put up tomato sauce this year, but I had so many tomatoes, I had to find something to do with them!
to this!Pin It
Tis the season!Pin It
Although we have a grape arbor in the yard, its production has been really poor in recent years. I’m not sure what the problem is – although I suspect it has something to do with how we’re having it pruned. Something to look into for next year . . .
In the meantime, a family member kindly provided me with some wonderful purple Concord grapes from her yard, and even though they filled only a small bucket, they produced approximately eight cups of juice – more than enough for a batch of grape jelly.
Step one: I washed the grapes and pulled out as many stems, green berries, etc as possible. I then put the grapes in a large pot and crushed them with a potato masher. Next, I added just enough water to cover the grapes and put them on the stove to boil. Once they came to a boil (stirring to avoid scorching), I reduced the heat to simmer for ten minutes.
Step two: I poured the contents of the pot into a sieve and let the juice run thorough, then helped to complete the process by smooching the grapes against the sides of the sieve to get out as much juice as possible.
Step three: I measured out 4 cups of juice into a large pot on the stove, and added 2/3 cup water and 4 tlb low sugar / no sugar pectin. I brought the pot to a rolling boil, then added approx 3/4 cup sugar, brought the pot back to a rolling boil, and stirred constantly for one minute. Then I turned off the heat and hot bath canned the jelly for 10-15 minutes.
I’m always nervous that the jelly won’t set up, and I’ll end up with a runny mess, and it’s true that you have to wait a while to be sure (I think because the jelly is so hot at first, it still looks very liquid), but by evening, the jars seemed to be setting up nicely. I’m thinking I have one more batch of jelly in me, before I move on to applesauce . . .
Other late-summer harvests including freezing raspberries to make fruit smoothies throughout the winter, and canning tomato sauce from a delicious roasted tomatoes/veggies recipe – I’ll try to get it posted, it’s worth trying!Pin It
I’ve been busy harvesting and then trying to find enough uses for our garden bounty around here! This week:
* I bought blackberries at the farmer’s market (we picked some, but it takes forever, and the ones at the market are so much bigger and juicier!) and put up blackberry jam using almost no sugar with Ball Low or No-Sugar Pectin.
* I dug carrots, onions, and potatoes and used this recipe to make an oven-roasted vegetable medley.
* In a desperate attempt to use up our prolific zucchini, I’ve made this chocolate zucchini bread with applesauce (which makes it at least a little healthy, right?) and these zucchini parmesan sticks. I can’t take credit for the photos – they’re from the recipe pages – mine weren’t near as pretty, but definitely delicious!
First step: cut down the bunches of grapes and toss them into the galvanized metal bin.
Second step: Fill the bin with water to wash the grapes, then find a willing child to stomp them (dog is optional
Third step: Put the mashed grapes (skins, seeds, stems, and all) in a large pot on the stove, fill with water to just cover the grapes, then bring to a full boil. Turn down the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Note that this step is really important – for some reason, if you squeeze the juice out first and just boil the juice (without the skins), you get grape juice but it will never set up as jelly, no matter how much pectin you throw in. I know this from hard-earned experience in prior years!
Fourth step: Strain the juice out – I tried buying a strainer specifically for this purpose, but it was so incredibly slow that I gave up and just used cheesecloth. In batches, put the grape matter into the cheesecloth, then squeeze until you extract all the juice, and dispose of the rest in the compost. Directions I’ve read say that squeezing will make your juice (and, as a result, your jelly) cloudy, but I couldn’t tell any difference between the juice I collected by letting it naturally drain, and the juice I collected from squeezing through the cheesecloth.
Fifth step: Measure 8 cups of juice into a large pot; heat on stove, then add 8 tlb of low sugar / no sugar pectin. I also added a tablespoon of butter, and had no problem with foaming. Bring pot to boil, stirring constantly. Add 1 1/2 – 2 cups sugar. Bring back to a rolling boil, then boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Turn off the heat and dip in a metal spoon; let a little liquid sit on the spoon for 5-10 minutes to see if it’s setting up at all. If not, try adding more pectin and bringing it back to boil again.
Sixth step: Ladle grape liquid into hot jars, put on lids and rims, and put into a hot bath canner for 5-10 minutes.
It may seem like it’s not going to set up at first – my experience is that even after hot bath canning, I have to wait until the jelly cools to see if it’s going to change from liquid to a gelled consistency.
I have one apple tree in my orchard that is grafted with four different varieties of apples, and its production rate is amazing – which is a good thing, because I’ve learned that it takes an incredible amount of apples to make any appreciable amount of applesauce. Yesterday my mom and I spent almost three hours peeling, chopping, preparing, and hot bath canning, for a grand total of only eight quart jars of applesauce. I’d probably have to do this a dozen times more just to put away enough applesauce to last us until this time next year!
Because I grow the apples organically and don’t use any sprays, they aren’t picture-perfect, but most of the flaws are just on the surface, and they’re crispy and delicious. I had the girls pick whatever they could reach off of the tree, and pick up everything that had dropped on the ground that wasn’t rotten already. Here’s one of the several buckets we processed yesterday:
We peeled the apples, then quartered and cored them, and cut the quarters into smaller pieces so that they would cook quicker.
We used the largest pots we could find, put approx 1 inch of water on the bottom, and then cooked the apples until they were soft. Our big problem was that, no matter how much we stirred, we kept burning the apples on the bottom – I think that our pot bottoms are just too thin, and we got too impatient and turned the heat up (because it took forever for the apples to cook soft enough!) My advice would be to cook more slowly, on lower heat, but this takes a long time and you have to stir continuously.
When they seemed at least a little soft, I removed the pot from the heat and used my immersion blender until the sauce was the consistency I wanted – I like chunky applesauce, so I didn’t feel a need to blend out every last apple chunk.
Then we added cinnamon and sugar to taste – there’s no way to specify a particular amount because it just depends on how much sauce is in the pot, what varieties of apples you’re using, and what taste you like. I didn’t add more than a cup of sugar, even to a pot completely full with applesauce, and I was pretty liberal with the cinnamon, because my apples tasted relatively bland.
Once the cinnamon and sugar were mixed in, we transferred the applesauce to quart jars and put them in the hot bath canner for 20 minutes.
My peach trees are still babies, and not really producing anything right now – certainly not peaches as beautiful as these! So, I bought two boxes of local peaches at the farmers market – making sure that they were free stone, which I failed to do the first time, to my great regret. Here’s the steps for canning them:
Boil peaches in hot water for 30-45 seconds (this is to make their skins easy to remove), then put them in a colander and run cold water over them.
Peel off the skins (place in a plastic bucket for composting – NOT a paper bag because it will soak through even if double-bagged, I learned the hard way!) Cut each peach in half, and pull apart at the cut, being careful not to squish the peach flesh in the process. Then cut each half again, so the peach is cut in quarters. Remove the pit. Place the peach quarters in a large bowl (you don’t want to leave them here too long, because they’ll start to brown almost immediately).
Mix up the sugar solution in advance – boil 6 cups water, then add 2 cups of sugar (this makes enough for 7 quart jars). Add in 6 tsp of Fruit Fresh.
Sterilize jars and rims in advance, as well, either by running them through the sterilize cycle on the dishwasher, or boiling them in the canning pot. Put the peach quarters in the jars (I use wide-mouth quarter jars, and then a few wide-mouth pint jars for individual servings). Pour in the sugar solution, making sure that it covers the peaches and comes up to 1/4″ from the rim (any exposed peach flesh will brown). Jiggle a butter knife around in the jar to get out any air bubbles.
Heat the lids slightly in a pan of boiling water – this will make them adhere better to the jar. Put on a lid, then screw on the rim. Put the peaches in a hot bath canner for 20 minutes (timed from the time when the water in the canner begins to boil).Pin It
The marionberries are in season, and I can’t get enough of them! We’ve put up several batches of jam already, using the following recipe for each batch:
Crush 5 cups of berries (I don’t strain them at all because I like having the whole fruit and seeds included in the jam)
Heat to a rolling boil, then add 2 1/2 cups sugar (I experimented with the amount of sugar for each batch, and tried cutting it in half the next time – it was just as delicious, but not overly sweet, so I’d say that anywhere between 1 to 2 1/2 cups of sugar works great)
Add 3 tlb low/no sugar pectin (I’ve been used Mrs. Wage Lite Pectin, which allows you to put in as much – or little – sugar as you want)
Get back up to a rolling boil, then boil for 1 minutes
Ladle into jars and hot bath can for 5-10 minutes (I settled on an average of 7 minutes per batch)
This recipe makes 7 1/2-pint jars – which isn’t so much, when you think about how much marionberry jam you’ll want to eat and give as gifts this winter!
Next, we tried marionberry compote – pretty much the same recipe, but I didn’t add any pectin (and only about a cup of sugar). I wanted something that could be used like marionberry syrup, but I didn’t want to waste all of the excellent fruit by just squeezing out the juice and throwing the rest away. The compote can be used on pancakes, ice cream, etc.
Finally, we’ve put quarts and quarts away in freezer bags for marionberry smoothies, muffins, and pies this winter. I want to try mini-pies – making covered pies with crust on top and bottom and marionberry filling in the large, six-tin muffin pan. I think these might be more practical for dessert and gift-giving than a large, regular-sized pie.
I used sweet Brooks Cherries for this, my first attempt at making and canning cherry preserves. Here’s the recipe:
9 cups washed, pitted cherries
4 tlb lemon juice
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 tsp pectin (Mrs. Wages Lite Fruit Pectin)
Pit cherries (I highly recommend a pitter, and I HIGHLY recommend using latex gloves, otherwise your hands end up stained a semi-permanent red!)
Roughly chop pitted cherries in half and/or in thirds.
Add cherries to a pot, along with the lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until they start bubbling, then continue to cook while stirring occasionally for about 20-25 minutes. Make sure you stir, especially towards the end of that time, so that the juice on the bottom doesn’t burn. As they are cooking, use a spoon or potato masher to flatten the cherries.
After the cherries are fully cooked, add the sugar and pectin, then continue to cook over medium-high heat for another 5-7 minutes (again, be sure to continually stir). The cherries should start to gel (check by dipping in a spoon and letting the cherry mixture drip off the back, and see if the liquid starts to stick to the back of the spoon). If it isn’t gelling, you can add a bit more pectin and/or cook a bit longer.
Transfer mixture into jars (make sure you sterilize the jars and rims first, and heat the lids slightly so that they’ll seal better). I used a funnel to eliminate dripping, and then carefully wiped off the threads of the jar before putting on the lid and rim.
Put the jars into the hot bath canner for approx. 10 minutes.
I used half-pint jars (good size for small samples and gift-giving) and got 6 jars out of each batch.
We think of September as the start of fall, but it’s also one of the most active times all year in the garden – it seems like more crops are coming on (which means picking, canning, freezing, cooking and baking, and lots of eating!) this month than any time all summer. Of course, our wet spring this year may have contributed to a later harvest, too.
My favorite crop to harvest and eat is tomatoes – first come the cherry tomatoes (this huge bowl was the result of just one afternoon of picking!), including our favorite variety, Sun Gold. If I was to plant only one tomato plant, this would be it. When the larger tomatoes start coming on in force, I will make tomato sauce, using a fabulous recipe from a friend of mine. The great thing about this recipe is that you can use up all sorts of crops from your garden, and it really involves a minimum of work.
In a large roasting pan, drizzle olive oil all over the bottom to prevent sticking – then throw in anything from your garden that you’d like in your sauce. I use carrots, onions, zucchini, green peppers, garlic, oregano, thyme, basil, and a little bit of rosemary (I particularly like how the carrots give the sauce an orange-y “glow”).
You don’t need to cut, peel, or slice any of this, but do cut off stems or any parts you don’t want to end up in the sauce. Then on the top of all this, put your whole tomatoes – skins still on, but take out the cores (stems) first. Pack the tomatoes in there tightly – they should be in a single layer, close together with sides touching.
Over the top, rub olive oil over the tomatoes (this keeps them from burning) and drizzle balsamic vinegar and kosher salt. Then put the roasting pan in the oven at 400 degrees (convection if you have it) for 45-60 minutes. You’ll know when it’s done because the tomatoes will turn a lovely roasted brown on top, and your whole kitchen will smell like an Italian restaurant!
Dump the entire contents of the pan into a large pot on the stove, then use an immersion blender to get rid of all large pieces and chunks (you could also run it through a food processor in batches, but an immersion blender is simpler). Next, simmer the contents of the pot on low heat until you get it to the consistency you want. This will take several hours, at least; the longer you simmer it, the thicker the consistency will be, but of course as it cooks down, you are reducing the quantity. You can also add small cans of tomato paste to thicken.
When you get the consistency you like, you can freeze it in quart bags (this is the method I use) or can it in a hot water bath. The sauce is delicious almost anytime you need tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, or a topping for any kind of pasta.
Every year my green bean crop is prolific – my biggest problem is getting them harvested on time, you really need to pick almost every other day, otherwise they grow so big, so fast that they become tough and inedible. Once they’re harvested, preserving them is easy:
*chop off ends and chop (or just snap by hand) into bite-sized pieces
*boil in a huge pot of hot water for only 1-2 minutes
*strain out of the pot and into a bowl (or sink) full of cold water and ice cubes
*pack into quart-sized or gallon-sized freezer bags and freeze
This is called blanching green beans, and it fills my freezer with dinner-sized portions ready to be steamed and eaten for dinner all winter. I use the same method for freezing broccoli.
What to do with all the zucchini? I pop them in the food processor as quickly as I pick them, shred them up and put the shredded zucchini in quart-sized freezer bags. I keep them in the freezer until I’m ready to make zucchini bread (or use in frittatas), then just pull a bag out of the freezer. My zucchini bread recipe is simple:
4 eggs, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, 3/4 cup canola oil
3 cups flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking soda, 3/4 tsp baking powder, 3/4 tsp salt, 2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini, 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional), 1 tsp vanilla
Mix all ingredients together – turn into two greased 9-inch bread pans (fill only 2/3 full) – bake at 350 degrees for approx. 50 minutes. Yum – nothing like warm zucchini bread on a cool fall morning!
Because my peach trees steadfastly refuse to produce any useable peaches, I bought two boxes (15-20 pounds) of peaches at the local farmers market and, with my stepmom’s help, got them all canned yesterday. I find that canning peaches takes a lot of set-up, but is pretty simple once you get moving. I typically do batches several weekends in a row, so that it’s not overwhelming.
First – Put peaches in boiling water for one minute to loosen skins
Second – Rub off skins, cut in half and remove pits (using freestone peaches makes this step easier), place in a bowl of water with ascorbic acid to set color
Third – Place peach halves in jars (wide-mouthed makes this job a lot easier!) that have been washed and sterilized – use large pieces if possible, but cut into quarters if necessary to fill up all of the available space and leave no gaps or holes
Fourth – Pour syrup into jars (I make a light syrup of 8 cups water to 2 cups sugar, heated on the stove)
Fifth – Run a knife along the inside of the jar to settle the peaches and push out air bubbles, then pour in a little more syrup until the level of the liquid is just 1/4 inch below the jar top
Sixth – Wipe off the top edge of the jar so that it is clean and dry (this will ensure a good seal) – take jar lids (heated to make the sealant sticky) and washed/sterilized screw tops – place the lid firmly on the jar and hold it down while screwing on the top, so that moisture isn’t allowed to push up under the lid and prevent a good seal.
Seventh – Place the jars in a hot water bath for 25 minutes (if they are quart-sized) after the water comes to a rolling boil.
The hot water bath is the time-consuming part, since mine can hold only seven jars – twice I had a jar break during the hot water bath, I suspect that I had the heat turned up too high. My peaches likely wouldn’t win any prizes at the fair – you can see how much gap there is between the bottom and the peaches (which means I didn’t pack them in tightly enough) – I’ll try harder to get them better packed with less room for the peaches to float to the top next weekend.Pin It