Canning Tomatoes

If you’re interested in learning to preserve your own food, can tomatoes.  If you love the flavor of real sun ripened home grown tomatoes and miss it in the winter, can tomatoes.  Worried about BPA in liners of canned tomatoes?  Can your own tomatoes! If harvested tomatoes are building up on the counter, can tomatoes.

tomatoes

Canning tomatoes is one of the simplest recipes, is a great way to gain comfort in canning, preserves that amazing taste of in season tomatoes, and is easy to use for soups, chili, and sauce throughout the winter.  Here’s how:

1) Check your supplies: you’ll need tomatoes, a pot big enough to fit all of your tomatoes, a ladle, a funnel, clean Ball jars (we use mostly quarts), lids, caps, a large canning pot, and a rack.  Canning supplies and equipment can usually be found at your local hardware store in August and September.

prepping-tomatoes-and-jars

chunked-tomatoes2) Clean your tomatoes.  Core them and cut out any bad spots.  A bit of rotten tomato could ruin the flavor of your entire batch.  Cut them into large chunks and put into your pot.

3) Bring to a boil and then simmer until air is released (it will be foamy at first.  Then juice/liquid will start to look clear).  Add salt if desired.

4) Ladle hot tomatoes into ball jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Put on lids,  gently screwing on caps (they should not be cranked tight, but shouldn’t be so loose that tomatoes could leak out).

5) “Process” in a boiling-water bath for 30 minutes.  This means: bring water to a boil in your canning pot, put your jars in your canning rack, and then submerge your jars/rack in the boiling water for 30 minutes.

6) Let cool.  After 24 hours, rims may be removed to store.

canned-tomatoes

Want to learn more about canning?  The Ball Blue Book is a great resource that covers all of the basics, and more!  Also try asking your elders – canning was a common household task for most of our grandparents.   Wondering how to use your canned tomatoes?  Heat and add pesto for a yummy tomato basil soup.  Try as a base for chili.  Or add a can of tomato paste to turn your tomatoes into sauce without needing to boil for hours.  Enjoy!

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New wall, new garden, new house!

Check out the progress that has happened at our new house!  Landscaping and framing are letting us really get a sense of how the finished house will be situated on the southern sloping land.  Meanwhile, dad is busy building our retaining wall and our new garden site has been tilled.

View from the west

View from the west

View from the north east

View from the north-east

View from the south-east

View from the south-east

View from the south-west

View from the south-west

Looking south from the second floor

Looking south from the second floor

Tilling and removing rocks.  Sometimes machines come in handy.

Tilling and removing rocks. Sometimes machines come in handy.

New house.  New Garden!

New house. New Garden!

stone-staging-area1

Meanwhile, back at Lewis Creek Road…

Stone staging area

Stone wall staging area

 

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August Harvest Recipes

Every day there’s more to harvest from the garden.  Tomatoes, herbs, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatillos, potatoes, onions, beans, squash … the list goes on.  Here are some favorite August recipes that we use to enjoy the in-season bounty.  Click on the blue text below to see the selected recipe:

tomatoes

Tomatoes ~ Our basic salsa recipe and ideas for fun additions

eggplant

Eggplants ~ Pan-fried eggplant, my favorite!

blueberries

Blueberries ~ Several ideas for combining lemon and blueberries in sweet treats

chard

Chard ~ Quiche or stir-fried

kale

Kale ~ two ways

Basil

Herbs ~ tips for harvesting and preserving

peppers

Peppers ~ preserving hot sauce

pickles

And in the peak of harvest season, never forget about pickling!

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House Photo Update

You may not have guessed, among stories of vegetables, gardening, and children in nature, that we’re building a house!  Actually, we go to work and pay other people (who are much smarter about construction) to build it for us.  We’re definitely impressed by the work of our contractor, Fiddlehead Construction.  Everything has been going very smoothly and we’re excited to announce that we have the very beginnings of first floor walls!

Sorry for the delay to all those who have been pleading for photos.  Here’s the long-awaited update:

Western View:

Western-View

Western-View-8-20

 

Northern View:Northern-View

Northern-View-8-20

 

South-Eastern View:View-from-South-East

View-from-South-East-8-20

South-Western View:View-from-South-West

View-from-South-West-8-20

 

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Zucchinis Galore

zucchini-harvestIt’s August, and that means we’ve got plenty of zucchinis… in fact, we may have a few zucchinis too many.  One of our favorite ways to use a bunch of these prolific vegetables each year is in a big batch of zucchini relish.  We love using the relish all year long on sausages, hot dogs, and mixed with mayonnaise to make tartar sauce.  This year, I adapted our family’s recipe, souring it via natural fermentation.  Enjoy!

Canned Zucchini Relish

  • zucchini-relish-shredded-mixtureGrind the following ingredients using the grater attachment of your food processor (the one you might use making latkes):
    -10 cups summer squash or zucchini
    -4 cups onion
    -1 green bell pepper, 1 red bell pepper
  • Add 5 tablespoons salt.  Mix and let stand, covered, overnight.  Drain and rinse in cold water (don’t worry about getting rid of every drop… some moisture will help in the canning process).  Place in a large pot with:
    -2 1/4 cups distilled vinegar
    -4 cups sugar
    -1 tablespoon ground nutmeg, mustard, turmeric, cornstarch
    -1/2 teaspoon pepper, celery seed
  • Bring to boil, and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.  Stir occasionally to help all of the air out.  By the end of the 30 minutes, most of the air or bubbles should have escaped from your mixture.
  • With ladle and funnel, fill hot sterilized canning jars and cap  -or-  fill jars and can in hot water bath for 10 minutes. 

annual-supply-of-relish

Naturally Fermented Zucchini Relish

  • soured-mixtureGrind the following ingredients using the grater attachment of your food processor (the one you might use making latkes):
    -5 cups summer squash or zucchini
    -2 cups onion
    -1 red bell pepper
  • Pack into a 1/2 gallon ball jar with 1 tablespoon sea salt and 1/2 cup fermented pickle/sauerkraut brine or whey.  Cover and let sit, stirring to release bubbles daily, until sour.  This took about 5 days for me.  It can vary, depending on the temperature of your house and your preferred level of sourness.
  • After souring, in a large bowl, mix:
    -Shredded mixture
    -1 cup sugar
    -1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, mustard, turmeric
    -a dash of pepper and celery seed
  • Repack mixture into 1/2 gallon glass jar and refrigerate until ready to serve.

fermented-relish

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Garden Camp, in Photos

I know, I know… I already posted photos about how awesome our Green Thumbs Gardening Camp was.  We just finished our second week – this time in August – and had just as much (maybe even a little more) fun!  Stacy and I are already getting excited for next year.

In August, we get to reap what has been sown.  Instead of getting creative with salad, herbs and rhubarb for camp-harvested snacks, we feasted on rainbow home fries, kale chips, zucchini bread, flowers, greens, and plenty of pickles.  Beds cleared of spring crops were planted for students who will return in September.  We had another great field trip to Fifth Fence Farm.  And, of course, we played every day in the water and on the playground.  Check out our adventures, in photos, below:

The last of our pea harvest

The last of our pea harvest

Pulling pea pleants

Pulling pea plants

Flower pot art

Flower pot art

Watering ourselves, after watering the garden of course!

Watering ourselves, after watering the garden of course!

Sunflower fun, and felted beads and balls

Sunflower fun, and felted beads and balls

Fifth Fence Farm's newest flock

Fifth Fence Farm’s newest flock

Rainbow potato harvest

Rainbow potato harvest

Kale chips and home fries... mmmmm

Kale chips and home fries… mmmmm

Garden journaling

Garden journaling

Camp photo.  See you next year!

Camp photo. See you next year!

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Pickle Mania

In the midst of my August pickling fervor, I took a moment to fondly look back at my first post about naturally fermenting veggies.  It’s hard to believe it was only a year and a half ago.  Now, pickle jars line our counters and the doors and shelves of the fridge (yes – the photos below accurately illustrate our current fridge situation.  It’s gotten a little bit out of hand.  Luckily for those who want to chill food that is not pickled, we have two fridges).  Though each member of our household has varying degrees of enthusiasm for fermentation, each person can tell you their favorite kind of pickle and how to make it.  The best thing about making pickles?  It’s easy!

Kimchi, Kombucha, Sauerkraut, Dill Pickles, and Pickled Hot Peppers.

Half gallons of Kimchi, Kombucha, Red Cabbage Sauerkraut, Dill Pickles, and Pickled Hot Peppers.

Fermented Salsa, Kimchi, Pickled Carrots, Pickled Kohlrabi, and Cucumber Pickles.

Fermented Salsa, Kimchi, Pickled Carrots, Pickled Kohlrabi, and Cucumber Pickles.

Naturally Soured Zucchini Relish, Pickled Garlic Scapes, Old Brine, Pickled Fiddleheads, and Spicy Turnip Pickles.

Naturally Soured Zucchini Relish, Pickled Garlic Scapes, Old Brine, Pickled Fiddleheads, and Spicy Turnip Pickles.

If you’re new to fermentation, make sure to take a moment to read my original “Fermenting Foods” post – I wrote it as a newbie to the process and include some more detail and background information.   Below, find quick steps for getting started – you’ll notice everything is quite flexible and open to experimentation!

Natural Fermentation Pickles:  Good for your digestion, delicious, and fun to make!

  1. Pack a wide mouth canning jar with sliced veggies.  I love using carrots, cucumbers, kohlrabi, radishes, or green beans.
  2. For each quart of packed veggies, add either 1 tablespoon salt or 1 teaspoon salt + 1/4 cup brine or whey.  Brine is the liquid you get from a previous batch of naturally fermented pickles.  Whey is the liquid you get from straining plain yogurt.  Adding these liquids guarantees the introduction of lactobacillus – the kind of bacteria you want growing in your jar.  It also means you need less salt to ensure correct preservation.
  3. Pack everything down even more.  After a few hours, the salt will bring water out of your veggies.  Some have enough water to cover themselves in liquid.  If not, fill your jar the rest of the way up with water.
  4. Leave jar in a bowl in case liquid over flows.  Make sure it’s in a place where you can keep an eye on it!
  5. Push everything down each day, allowing air to be released and ensuring that all ingredients are in an anaerobic (covered in liquid) environment.
  6. Taste daily.  When your pickles have soured to the flavor you’d like, put them in the fridge.  Depending on the temperature in your house, this can take 3-10 days.  Putting your pickles in the fridge or cold storage slows the souring process waaaaay down – they can last for a long time.  We’ve eaten some that are over a year old!
  7. If you get some white filmy mold on top, don’t worry.  You can scrape it off – it won’t hurt you.  This only happens to me when I make pickles during the really hot and humid months of the summer.
Steps along the way: fermenting kohlrabi and cucumber pickles.

Steps along the way: fermenting kohlrabi and cucumber pickles.  They’re now in our fridge, ready to enjoy.

Quick Vinegar Refrigerator Pickles:  If you’re hesitant to eat “alive” foods, but want to enjoy pickles from your garden harvest, try this quick easy method.

  1. Heat 1 cup water in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt, and whichever of the following ingredients you’d like:  sugar (try 2 teaspoons), mustard seed (1 teaspoon), pickling spices (1 teaspoon) and/or garlic (1 clove cracked).  Simmer until salt and/or sugar dissolves.
  2. Pack a canning jar (or any glass jar with a tightly fitting lid) with sliced cucumbers, green beans, or other veggies.  Include some fronds of dill or a bay leaf if you’d like.
  3. Pour your hot brine over your packed veggies.  Make sure it covers them up completely.
  4. Cool and allow to sit for at least a day in the fridge.  They’ll get more flavor the longer they sit.  Because they’re in the fridge, you don’t need to worry about all of the steps and precautions of traditional canning.

Fermenting hot sauces and salsas: Read more here – we’re still enjoying some of last year’s spicy concoctions!

Happy Pickling!

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