Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

Despite the persistent 90 degree temperatures here in the ‘burb, the gardening season is beginning to wane in most of the country. Many of you are finding yourself being overrun with an abundance of tomatoes. Juicy, huge, and ripe to the point of nearly going off. It seems pointless to just let them rot on the vine, so you pick them out of guilt; but if you’re like me you’ve had nearly all the tomatoes your taste buds can take for one summer.  They’re sitting on your counter in huge piles, gathering fruit flies. Your creativity has run amok and you’ve given up on coming up with new ways to incorporate them into your every meal.  More than anything you’re tempted to just chuck the lot of them into the compost pile and
wash your hands of the whole mess. You’ve considered the idea of preserving them but you don’t have limitless time on your hands, nor do you have a pressure cooker and all the canning paraphernalia you’d need. So what to do?…

Don’t despair my friends, here in the ‘burb we’ve come up with a simple and easy way to can up all those tomatoes that won’t break your budget or wreak havoc with your already pressed schedule.  We call it ‘oven canning’, and its super simple and can be accomplished in just 4 easy steps.  It could just be the easiest method of  canning tomatoes ever invented.

Here’s what you’ll need:

canning funnel

* Quart or pint-sized canning jars with lids and bands (these can be purchased in a hardware store or big-box stores for about $10-$13 per dozen)
* Canning funnel (this has a large, open funnel end to allow the food to be passed into the jars without making a mess everywhere and can be purchased with the canning supplies)
* Large stockpot
* Canning salt (this can be purchased with the canning jars)
* Lemon juice (or ascorbic acid, if you have it)

canning & pickling salt

* Tomatoes

How to Can Tomatoes in the oven:

1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Sterilize your jars and bands by running them through the dishwasher. Place the lids in a small saucepan of simmering water.  **NOTE: If you do not have a dishwasher you can accomplish the same thing by washing the jars in the hottest water you can, and then submerging the jars and bands for one minute in a stockpot of boiling water.**

2. Wash and quarter the tomatoes, making sure to cut out any bruised or ruined spots.  Place quartered tomatoes in a large stock pot over medium heat.  Bring tomatoes to a full boil, stirring occasionally to keep them from scorching. **NOTE: You do not need to add any liquid as the tomatoes will release all their natural juices as they begin to heat up and break down. **

3. Set all your sterilized jars on a clean work surface, making sure not to put your fingers inside the jar. Add to each jar 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

and 1 – 2 teaspoons of canning salt (depending on how salty you like your tomatoes. A good rule of thumb is 1 teaspoon for pint-sized jars and 2 teaspoons for quart-sized jars). Using your canning funnel, ladle the boiling tomatoes carefully into your jars (keep the jars on the work

home canned tomatoes

surface – do not hold them while you do this as you could really burn yourself). Fill each jar, leaving 1” of head space. When all the jars are filled, wipe the rim of each jar with a clean dish rag or paper towel. Center a hot lid on the jar and screw a sterilized band onto the lid, making it fingertip tight – you don’t have to torque it down too tight here; it just needs to be tight enough that the lid’s rubber rim has made good contact with the
hot jar.

4. Place the jars in the preheated oven (directly on the oven racks) leaving a little bit of air space between the jars. Time the jars for 10 minutes. Remove the jars to a heat-proof surface and allow them to sit at room temperature, undisturbed, for 24 hours. As the jars cool the lids will ‘pop’ down in a seal. Store the jars in a cool location and use within 18 months.

And there you have it. Perfectly preserved summer tomatoes from you own garden, ready for your next pot of wintertime chili.  Simple, flavorful, healthy, and quick.  Enjoy!

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It’s happened again.  Just as the weather heats up and Americans decide a nice cool salad would hit the spot, we have an e.coli outbreak in the lettuce supply chain.  So far, slightly less than 2 dozen people have been reported as sickened, but 23 States are involved in the recall.  Please be careful when you head to the grocery store.

I have included an MSNBC article about the outbreak.  What troubles me more than the e.coli, is a comment about halfway down the article about calls for stricter food safety regulations.  It sounds righteous, but it is merely, as Solomon would have said in Ecclesiastes, “Chasing after the wind.”  The only people who will be affected by more regulations are small farmers and producers.  The real answer is to buy local, from a grower in your area, maybe someone you know.  An even better idea is to grow some of your own lettuce.

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Not counting limas, I’m guessing we have close to 300 bean plants this spring.  We have a couple kinds of pole beans, bush beans and even

pole beans

have yellow wax beans this year.  Then, there are the fore mentioned lima beans.  We have about 50 of those.

I envision some wearying hours of harvesting, washing and snapping in our future.  And don’t forget the fact that beans need canning right when summer heats up to unholy levels.

We will can a bunch.  Brittan is hoping to can 50 quarts.  We will freeze some more.  And I still think we will have beans to offer at our farm stand.

This is our first year to grow pole beans.  I remember my grandma Burton always had them in her garden.  As a boy, I loved to wander through the tall beans and corn.  I felt like I was in a jungle.  I’m thinking the burb is going to have some spots to get lost in this summer.

I hear that pole beans are even more prolific than bush beans.  If that is true, we have a boat load of work ahead of us.  But it’s worth it…….. I mean, who doesn’t love a mess of fresh or home canned green beans with Sunday dinner?

There are two reasons why we’ve decided to max out bean production.  The first is, we like beans.  They are tasty, filling and nutritious.  The second reason, is we’re trying to improve the fertility in our garden beds.  Beans fix nitrogen in the soil, which most other plants consume.  So, by growing beans, we are making the humans AND the earth happy.  Let us not forget that the bunnies and chickens will enjoy a share as well.

Other planting notes:  we are late getting our sweet potatoes out.  The sets I ordered never came in, so we had to go to the store and buy some.  If the rain holds off, I’ll set out the final 36 plants this afternoon.  I also think we’ve under planted cucumber.  Since it’s early May still, there is time to correct that error.  We’re just out of space.  Time to enlarge the garden.

Because of the early season plant scorching and the wind damage disaster, we were short on Jalapenos, so I had to pick up a few plants at the nursery.  Man I hate spending that money.  Growing from seeds is so much less expensive.  But in crises like this, I’m glad the nursery still has some.  Besides, once harvest comes and we’re enjoying plates full of bacon wrapped, cheese stuffed poppers, the early spring problems will be long forgotten.

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It seems like only yesterday that B and I created our three year plan to become self sufficient in Veg and Fruit.  Yet this is the third year.  Not only are we ahead of schedule, but we anticipate growing a surplus this year and setting up a stall at the Marietta Square Farmers’ Market in Marietta, GA.

I just completed the application.  I have no idea how this will all turn out, but we are very excited.  It is quite satisfying to know that we can provide tasty, healthy fare for our own table and even enough to offer to the general public.  And, we do it all  on our little half acre of land, deep in the heart of an HOA.  I love Georgia.

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On the surface, it looks kind of like an electric door mat.  But it’s so much more.  It’s like steroids for seeds, but in a good way.  I’m talking about a simple seedling heat mat.

There is no rocket science involved.  The contraption is basically a flat waterproof heating pad.  You simply set the seed trays on it and let the heat from the pad warm the seed bed.  This is our first year using one and the results are amazing.  Last year my Jolokia peppers took 6 weeks to sprout, this year, 10 days, tops.  We had melons, cukes and squash sprout in two days.  TWO DAYS!   I’m loving it.

There are a variety of manufacturers.  The one we bought is made by ‘Hydrofarm’.  We bought it off Amazon.  The picture here is the small one, but we bought one that holds 4 large (72 section) trays.  You can even spend a couple extra bucks and get a timer to use with them.  I’m cheap.  I just unplug it the old fashioned way.

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Our seeds have arrived.  In some ways it’s hard to believe that it’s already time to start seedlings again, but in other ways, I’ve been ready since the end of harvest. 

Brittan and I will begin planting pepper seeds over Christmas weekend.  We’ll start with the Jolokia (Ghost) peppers, because they require the longest germination period and have a very long season to harvest.  On the positive side, they produce till very late in the fall.  The only real negative was that we noticed  the late season peppers did not have the same heat levels as those from earlier in the year.

Beginning the first week in January, we will sow in sequence, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, zucchini, marrow, eggplant, melons and cucumbers.  The things we will sow directly into the beds will wait until April.

We made a business and directional decision this year to use only open pollinated and heirloom varieties of vegetables.  We will also collect more seeds this year, so that we can gradually reduce the need for outside purchasing.  It is important to us that we grow only varieties that can reproduce year after year, rather than hybrids which cannot.

We’ve also decided to go completely organic.  Our long term goals are to be totally sustainable.  That is not possible being dependent on industrially produced fertilizers.  We do not believe that the oil and chemical companies are the enemy, but we don’t want to be dependent on them, either.   But more on that another day.  For now, we just enjoy the Christmas season and the joy

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