Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Canning Round Up

After the last batch of tomatillo salsa, my husband suggested to me that maybe it was time to stop canning for the year. I wondered whether I'd be able to let apple season pass by without jars of apple sauce, but decided we don't really eat apple sauce so it would be silly to go ahead and can it.

I wondered how much I had actually canned this summer. I couldn't go count the jars because we've already started to give some away. So I took a look back at the notebook I keep with my canning notes. Each time I can, I write down recipes, notes, and yields for each batch.

My totals are:

1/2 pint jars : 63
pint jars: 46
quart jars: 7

This is a total of 35.75 quarts or almost 9 gallons of fruits and vegetables.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Planting Garlic

With the garden cleared of summer crops and treated with a layer of compost it is now ready for planting garlic.

I gathered 4 cloves from one of the varieties we grew this year. Unfortunately we ate all the variety we liked the best, the one that had small to medium cloves and purple skin. The variety on the right with purple skin is one we had this year, but the cloves are too big to fit in the garlic press without cutting in half. I bought another variety at the coop from a local farmer. The cloves are still a little big for my liking, but it will do.
I laid out the garlic roughly 6 inches apart. I had 13 cloves so one got stuck in the middle.
I dug down a few inches under each clove and set it in, tapping the soil tight. And that's it. We had an inch and a half of rain over the weekend so I didn't feel the need to water.
While I was out in the garden, I was thinking about how the Swiss Chard has been my best crop. It has constantly produced all summer. I was lamenting how I'll miss it, when an idea struck me. Why not transplant some inside? I had two plants that were later transplants and never quite got enough sun to take off like the rest. Whereas the other plants are so large you can see a beet-like root emerging from the soil, these are still small and tender. I got two pots that held jalapeno plants this summer (the potted jalapenos never amounted to anything) and transplanted them. Here's the yellow one. The other plant is red, but a bit more spindly. I'll put them on the windowsill by the radiator and when we get around to turning on the heat, they will have both warmth and sun. We'll see how it works out.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Using Green Tomatoes

Some of the tomatoes on the windowsill have ripened and been used in our cooking. But we had some that persisted in remaining green. I did some internet searching for how to cook green tomatoes. I didn't really want to make the traditional fried green tomatoes. I saw a few recipes interesting recipes for green tomato jam and green tomato pies, but I didn't have enough to make either of those recipes. Instead I found one for a green tomato and apple pie.
We made it Saturday night and enjoyed it warm. The recipe includes raisins, tapioca, ginger and cinnamon. We were surprised by how well the green tomatoes kept their firm texture. Eating it cold for breakfast the next day it was just ok. I think we'll warm up the rest of the slices before we eat them.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wild Cucumber Vine

The mystery plant that I nurtured in my garden for a while before I finally identified it as a wild cucumber vine has finished the fruiting process in the hedges. Above are two of the cucumbers.

As they mature, they burst open at the base. At first they are green and moist.
Eventually the fruit dries out and the more net like structure is all that is left. The seeds fall to the ground.
Next year I'll know better than to transplant the volunteer plants that look so much like a squash or cucumber seedling :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tomatillo Salsa

While we had the canner out last Friday night, we went ahead and made Tomatillo Salsa again. My first attempt was just so-so. I had used red onions which turned the salsa a funny brown color. I also hadn't carefully read the directions on the recipe. I'd been working with tomatoes that you quarter and break down, so I quartered the tomatillos. Unfortunately they didn't break down very much and stayed in these pieces that are a little big for salsa.

So on the second attempt, my husband chopped the tomatillos in the food processor and we did the same for the onions. We used 3 pounds of tomatillos and ended up with 4 pints of salsa. The salsa is a little lemony because I ran out of lime juice and had to make up the difference with lemon juice to keep the acidity right. I'm sure we'll enjoy it just the same.

You'll find the recipe here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fall Garden Clean Up

Saturday was a beautiful day with 60 degree temperatures perfect weather for cleaning up the garden and preparing it for fall.

We pulled all the tomatoes out, since we had harvested all the tomatoes before the frost on Thursday night. Here are the green and semi-green tomatoes along with the last yellow tomato that are ripening on the window sill.
We pulled the zucchini plant because its leaves were damaged by the frost and we would have only had one or two more little tiny zucchini if we were lucky. We also pulled all the marigolds and nasturtiums since there is no longer need to attract pollinators. I collected and saved seeds from the nasturtiums but the seeds need to dry out before I store them. They have such an interesting wrinkled surface.

We pulled up the basil and one jalapeno. The other jalapeno had a few tiny ones growing and it had been protected from the frost. It's is almost the only thing left in the garden that will need cover when we have frost now. We left in the green beans because they didn't get too damaged by the frost and they are still producing.

We emptied the composter on to the beds, digging it into the soil in the places where we don't have crops still growing. Then we chopped up the pulled plants and put them in the composter to start another batch.

Here's what the garden looks like now.
Still growing: green beans,chard, leeks (they'll be glad for more light now), , jalapeno behind and lettuce and carrots not shown)
Still growing: carrots (which were between three squash plants all summer long)brussels sprout seedlings, kale, broccoli going to seed, brussels sprouts)
A view of the whole garden. It looks barren without all the color added by the marigolds and nasturtiums. It's sad that summer is over, but I am looking forward to harvesting some of the brussels sprouts soon.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Quince Jelly Again

Since the first batch of quince jelly tasted so good, and because the fruit is free outside our kitchen window, I decided to make a second batch of quince jelly. This time I learned from my previous mistakes. I made the juice on Wednesday night, and then the jelly on Friday night. I cooked the jelly over medium heat, not rushing it like I did last time. We ended up with 4 jars of jelly (and one jar of the foam) because it cooked down significantly more. It took an hour to cook down which is how long most jams and jellies without commercial pectin seem to take to set. The big difference is in the color and clarity of the jelly. It is a deeper red and is not riddled with bubbles and impurities.

Here is a comparison with the new jelly on the left and the last batch on the right.
The sunlight this morning made beautiful oranges and reds coming through the jars as they posed for pictures on the windowsill.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dill Seeds

The dill seeds I picked three weeks ago have been dry on the stalk for a week now. Today I pinched them off, and shook them in a strainer to get rid of some of the stalks. At first I thought that this was a lot of dill seeds, but then I realized that I put a tablespoon of them into a jar of dilly beans and these wouldn't go far.
I also picked the rest of the dill from a garden before we pulled up the plants in our fall clean up.

Emalyn's Booties

My cousin Elena and her husband Rob had a baby girl two weeks ago named Emalyn. I had lots of blue yarn on hand for baby booties, but not much pink to speak of. Luckily I found this small ball of a pink, purple, green, brown colorway. It's silky and smooth and came from a mitten set I bought long ago. And it was the perfect amount to make two of these Magic Slippers.
I hope they keep her tootsies warm as the cool weather sets in.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fall Garden

Here are the last set of photos of the garden before frost.
We were able to harvest green beans again this week to put in a curry dish.
Some of the dill seeds are drying on the plant.

The tomatoes are loosing foliage quite rapidly and will soon succumb to frost.
Below is the third of the very large yellow heirloom tomatoes. It will have to finish its ripening inside.
The zucchini plant has a white powdery fungus of some sort.
Even so, we had 4 small zucchini to go into our curry.

The brussels sprouts are coming along, there are larger than marbles now.
The broccoli seeds are developing though I'm not sure when to harvest them. I imagine they need to begin to brown.
The bed where the onions and wild cucumber were growing has been taken over by the nasturtiums (and some grass that I need to cut).
Most of my fall seedlings probably won't amount to anything. The beets seem to be stuck just beyond seed leaves and the same goes for the spinach and radishes. I noticed when I was out in the garden this weekend that the sun does not reach the garden in the morning until after 10 o'clock. This probably is contributing to the slow growth at this point. The lettuce is the exception and seems to be progressing well.
We'll see which plants survive the frost predicted for Thursday night.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Peony Sock Progress

I've successfully completed the first of the pair of socks. I modified the toe, to decrease on the sides and to continue the pattern all the way to the toe. I thought a switch to the stockinette stitch at the toe would look incongruous. Now the trick is to complete the second in a timely manner so I can wear them.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Quince Jelly: Part 2

Well I couldn't wait until a night later this week and instead of starting my lesson plans for teaching this week, I decided to make the jelly this afternoon. Having looked at pictures on the Internet, I was worried mine wouldn't turn out right because the juice was just a pale yellowish color. However in the process of boiling the jelly, it turned a lovely amber shade. I may have had it on too high of a heat because there was a fair amount of foam to skim off and some of it is incorporated into the jelly. The recipe said it would make about (3) 1/2 pint jars. I had a feeling I would end up with more since we had 6 cups of juice. We got a total of (5) 1/2 pint jars, and then another jar filled with foam skimmed off the top that went in the fridge. The foam tastes similar, but it just doesn't have the same nice texture as the jelly. As I imagined from my tasting of the pulp yesterday, the jelly tastes amazing. It is wonderfully complex, almost citrus but with a depth of other aromas and flavors as well.
Below find the five jars before we sealed them up.
We'll be passing one jar along to our landlady in thanks for letting us harvest the fruit. And I may be making more before the fruit falls off the bush.

The basic recipe from Joy of Cooking: All About Canning and Preserving.
(I'm posting the recipe because I see that this book is out of print and currently selling on Amazon for over $100. That's crazy! It's a great book and I don't know why they don't print more copies.)

Chop into 1/4 inch pieces:
3 1/2 pounds of quinces.
Place in large heavy sauce pan with 7 cups of water.
Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer, mashing and stirring frequently, about 30 minutes until the fruit is thoroughly soft.
Strain through cheesecloth or jelly bag. Let sit for 3-4 hours to get all the juice out. Do not squeeze or you will get a cloudy jelly. Let juice sit in the fridge for 12-24 hours and settle.

Pour juice into large saucepan, leaving out the sediment at the bottom,
For each cup of clear juice, add 1 cup sugar.
Stir in 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice.
Boil rapidly stirring frequently to the jelling point. Remove from heat and skim off any foam.
Pour the hot jelly into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space and process 5 minutes in a boiling water bath.

Yield is about (5) 1/2 pint jars.
Read Part 1