Thursday, October 22, 2009

Canning Round Up 2009

In the photos below, if you hold the mouse over the photo it will tell you what it is. The photos are also linked to the posts from which they came.

This year I canned 66 half-pint jars of jellys, jams & preserves.

I canned 28 pint jars of pickles and beans.

I canned 4 quarts of blueberries and cherries.

That's a total of 34 1/2 quarts of preserved products.

My number of quarts and pints canned is down because I didn't process any tomatoes this year. It was a bad year for them and I didn't have the time to hunt down a bunch to make into sauce. My total pints are also down because I skipped canning corn. Frozen or store canned is easier and there isn't much difference in cost or flavor. Experiments and new recipes this year included mango preserves, cherry-currant jam, quince-apple butter, current jelly, peach salsa, currant jelly.

I wish we had a picturesque spot where all the jars were lined up to be stored, but they are currently in flats on top of a book case in our study because it stays cool and dark in the winter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wedding Quilt #1

This August I started working on two wedding quilts for two weddings we are attending this fall. The first wedding happened last weekend so now I can share the finished quilt. The second quilt is still in the quilting stage, but I have until Thanksgiving to finish that one.

This first quilt started with a browse through a couple quilt books I have. I noticed a pine tree block, but was unsure how I could combine all the rectangles into an interesting pattern. Then I thought about how I could make them in various sizes and create a scene.

So I opened up Excel, which has become my favorite planning tool for both quilts and sweater and began playing around with increasing the size of the tree block to create interest and a landscape. I ended up changing the proportions of some of the trees which became a bit of a challenge later in the piecing process. By changing the proportions of the tree, I no longer had triangles that would piece together in the same way and so had to be creative to get the right size parts to fit together.
I decided I would use a light green for the background behind the trees and piece it together in a way to create the sense of mountains behind. Then I would use strips of different shades of blue to create the sky. When I bought the fabric, I found some great textures for the pine trees and a light green fabric with small green leaves on it for the background color.

It took quite a while to piece it together because of the way I'd designed the mountains and the sky. I had to draw it into blocks for myself and figure out which way the blocks would fit together.

My original plan had been to tie the quilt but when I finished piecing it, I couldn't figure out how I would tie it that wouldn't detract from the overall scene. So I ended up quilting clouds in the sky, out lining the trees, and putting in some additional lines of hills across the light green. The quilting shows up well on the light blue backing.
The plan was for the quilt to be 68 x 50 lap size, but I forgot to measure it before I gave it away. I think it ended up pretty close to that. I took these photos in the evening light last week so the colors are a bit yellow and the light is low in the sky. Here is the whole thing (except the top right corner seems to be bent under).

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monday Harvest Totals 10/19

This week we had two harvests of greens. The first was 4 oz of lacinato kale. We finally tried the oven roasted kale recipe from Four Green Acres and it was delicious. We ate it along side pasta with tomato sauce, and ended up tossing it on top of the pasta for the next day's left overs.

The second harvest was 5 oz of swiss chard, and 1 oz of winterbor kale which took the place of beet greens in a beet risotto recipe. I picked some sorrel too but didn't end up using it so I'm not including it.
I've noticed this week with the freezing temps that the greens that touch the glass are getting cold burned. I'm not sure what to do except cut back those leaves. Unfortunately the winterbor kale is tall for the cold frame, though thankfully shorter than my lacinato. Maybe it will start bushing out to the side if it can't put on new foliage on top.

You can see what other gardeners are harvesting at Daphne's Dandelions.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday Harvest Totals 10/12

Here is my one harvest for the week. I picked 4 oz of Swiss Chard, 2 oz of Mizuna, and 2 oz of tatsoi last Wednesday. They all went into a pasta carbonara dish and were a delicious mix of flavors.

We had our first serious heavy frost this morning. The hardy greens remain outside and inside the cold frame. You can find out about other gardeners' harvests at Daphne's Dandelions.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Indoor Garden

Last year I brought in two Swiss chard plants for the winter to experiment with continuing the growing season indoors. Since I have the cold frame I decided I'd leave the chard outside this winter. However, when the first threat of frost came a few weeks ago, I decided to move my peppers, basil, and herbs indoors. Here they are in their pots on Sept 19th.
Three basil plants,
One red cayenne pepper plant that had already fruited but looked like it would being to bloom again.
One poblano pepper plant that had just set its first few peppers.
I know that the light I get at my windows isn't nearly strong enough so I decided to put the pots under the seed starting light set up.
These peppers have come full circle, starting under the lights and finishing under the lights. They have been doing well under the lights, though the poblano pepper only gets light on the lower leaves because it is too tall. The red cayenne has some buds developing. The pepper below on the poblano continues to grow. Both the poblano and the red cayenne also recently bloomed. I'll have to make sure it they get pollinated.
I also moved in the herbs from the front porch. In the picture below you can see the ginger (left back) sage (left front), rosemary (back) & thyme, (front). The rosemary and thyme in the center were purchased and the ones on the right were started from seed. I hope they overwinter so I don't have to purchase new plants next year, and since the rosemary is especially slow growing from seed.
As I look back at the other parts of my indoor garden last year, I realized that I brought lettuce in as well. Currently my outdoor lettuce is mostly going to seed. I think I can probably fit a window box sized pot or two along the back here and start lettuce indoors. Wouldn't it be great if I didn't have to buy lettuce this winter!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Quince & Apple Canning

I've been a bit behind on reporting on activities here on the blog. At the end of last month we harvested quince from the bush and made quince jelly. Someone commented elsewhere asking how big the bush it. I would say it's about 5 feet in diameter. There is a picture of the whole bush at the end of this post from last year.

We picked 8 lbs of quince on the 21st and made it into juice in two ways. For every 3 1/2 lbs we added 7 cups of water. We had to fill two large stock pots with the quartered fruits and water. One pot full was strained through jelly bags overnight in the traditional way, yielding 8 cups.We put the other batch through the food mill to remove the seeds and skins but preserve more of the pulp. We got 9 cups from this batch.

For every cup of juice, we added one cup of sugar and then cooked each batch for about an hour with 2-4 tbsp of lemon juice added. The strained juice batch yielded 9 half-pint jars.
The milled juice yielded 10 half pint jars. Both batches had a little more left on the side which we put in the fridge for a taste test. The milled jelly is not quite as refined of a flavor as the strained juice. As far as color goes, it is similar but is not quite as clear, and has a hint more of orange. It has been so rainy lately we haven't gotten a good side-by-side of the two jars. Below is a jar of the strained jelly that wouldn't fit in the canner so went straight to the fridge.
We're very pleased with how much quince jelly we made this year since we thought it was the best we made last year, but had to use and share it sparingly. This year there is plenty to go around.

Our other canning endeavor was apple-quince butter. We went apple picking the last weekend in September and had a coupon for some money off a half-bushel of pick your own. So we picked a half-bushel. We were careful to first pick two varieties of cooking apples and then two varieties of eating apples so we would be able to separate them when we got home. My husband wanted to make apple butter, and we decided to throw some quinces in too.
We used 2 lbs 10 oz of quince and 3 lbs of apples (a mix of Cortland & Mac). We quartered them and added 7 cups water. We brought it to a boil and cooked until soft. Then we put the pulp through a food mill. Here's my husband using it.
We decided to cook it in the crock pot. We had 14 cups of pulp and added 4 cups of white sugar and 1 1/2 cusp of brown sugar. We started it on high with the lid ajar for a few hours and then turned it on low when we went to bed. The next morning it still needed more time so we left it on while we went to church. We forgot and came back later in the afternoon to it being done, but some of it starting to crisp around the edges of the crock pot. It had reduced by half and darkened significantly in color. We processed it in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes and yielded 8 half-pint jars. I still need to photograph it to show how dark it got.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Monday Harvest 10/5/09

I missed posting last week, though there wasn't much to mention beyond some swiss chard and some kale. We also used a good amount of our basil to make a batch of fresh pesto. We'd uprooted it and had it in a vase inside after the frost warnings. I didn't weigh it because my husband was making dinner. This week it was more kale, twice in fact.

We harvested 4 oz of winterbor kale and 1 oz of chicory/italian dandelion (from the cold frame) to mix in with mashed potatoes.
Later in the week I picked 5 oz of lacinato kale for mixing in a mexican vegetable soup. (no photo). Yesterday I picked one of the white vienna kohlrabi because it had two holes bored into it. Don't let the picture deceive you. It was only 4 oz and a bit smaller than a tennis ball. We've yet to slice into it.
You can see other gardeners' harvests at Daphne's Dandelions.