We planted only a half row of zucchini fearing the plague of fruit that usually follows. I think it was a wise move as we haven’t been overrun with the stuff but we had plenty to make a couple of batches of zucchini pickles. I found the recipe at Achorn Farm’s blog. Anyhow, we made a dozen pints of the stuff. They are delicious…but a little potent! The pickling juice also stains…even clear plastic measuring cups.
Tomatoes are starting to ripen so we’re starting to can salsa. We were given a great recipe by a friend last year and are making it like crazy this year. I didn’t keep track of how much we made last year but I suspect it was 25-30 pints. We are planning to make a lot more this year. From last year’s work, we learned a few things that has made the first batches a little easier. Roma tomatoes seem to peel the easiest for us.
We freeze the tomatoes in advance and then let them slightly defrost before peeling them. In a half-frozen state, the skins just pull right off. We never make double recipes because our recipe requires that we boil the brew for 10 minutes. Boiling something thick for that long splatters all over. Our pot isn’t big enough to even really contain a single recipe. We also hand chop onions and green peppers but use a processor on the hot peppers. Most folks seem to like big chunks of sweet peppers and onions but a big chunk of habanero can bring about a religious experience…usually losing religion actually!
Anyhow, we love salsa! We eat the stuff on tacos, eggs, baked potatoes and with nacho chips. Typically, we make two varieties, one pretty hot and one mild. Emily is starting to enjoy the hotter variety so we may increase production of that. We usually use a mix of jalapenos, cayennes and habaneros though we haven’t found habaneros for sale yet. Our crop of them failed miserably. Enough about that…the point is, salsa has to be one of my favorite things to can. Bring on the ‘maters!
We seem to have come to the end of the blackberries. When we started picking at the end of June, we could easily pick until our baskets were full. I never weighed the berries we picked but we harvested a lot of berries. All together, we made 54 half pints of jam, 10 pints of syrup, three pies and we froze around 8-10 more quart-sized freezer bags. We went a few nights ago and the berries have surely dwindled (or else someone else found our spot!). We got enough to fill a quart freezer bag but no more. Although a little eariler than planned, we had figured on stopping picking sometime around the end of summer. There is an English wives’ tale that goes something like this…
When the Devil was kicked out of Heaven on October 11(the date of Michaelmas though I have seen it posted as September 29 also…one is old Michaelmas and the other modern Michaelmas I guess), he landed, cursing and screaming, on a thorny blackberry bush.
He avenges himself on the same day every year by spitting (or some say, peeing) on the berries, which makes them inedible.
Apparently, there is some truth to leaving blackberries alone in the Fall. The climatic changes of Autumn apparently are ripe for mold to breed which may make the blackberries unsafe to eat.
There is another English tale regarding blackberries…
Once upon a time, a cormorant (a seabird that dives for fish), a bat, and a blackberry bush entered the wool business together, buying, shipping, and selling wool. Unfortunately, their ship, loaded with wool, sank on its first voyage, and their business went belly-up. Ever since, the cormorant dives into the sea looking for the ship. The bat hides from his creditors in a cave, venturing forth only after dark. And the blackberry bush grabs wool from any passing sheep, trying to replace his loss.
I also found an interesting site that has some explanations of old traditions associated with the Celtic season/month
We canned a bunch of green beans last night with the new pressure cooker. I really enjoy using the All-American pressure cooker for a number of reasons. It seems to come to temperature very fast. This could really be a perception thing since it has a temperature gauge.
With a normal weighted-pressure cooker without a gauge (see pic below), I always watch the pot never knowing if it is almost at pressure, if the heat is actaully climbing, etc…and, of course, a watched pot never boils. With this canner, I can see the temp and pressure as soon as it boils. I also like this canner because it does not have a rubber gasket to break down and fail. The All-American is formed in a shape such that a metal-to-metal seal is formed. It is also American made (of course) which I appreciate.
Now, the bad stuff…you have to get the lid and base of the canner lined up just right or a seal will not form and the canner will not get to pressure. We ran into this problem last night on our second load of green beans. I didn’t realize it was not sealed until it got pretty hot. I couldn’t just open it and try again (it was still very hot, even though not to pressure). We’ll recan the beans tonight since it was almost midnight when we figured it all out. We’ll just put new lids on the jars and try again.
Most times this canner seals fine but I always have to gently pry the lid from the base after it cools.
It forms a very tight seal. The manual says that a screwdriver placed just right will break the seal (and it does) but I wish I could just pop the lid off every time. It is possible that I am not aligning the lid right when I screw down the bolts that hold the lid and base together. I think that task is nearly impossible though. This is a small issue but an issue nonetheless.
Finally, the All-American is very heavy compared to other canners. This is good and bad. It has a substantial feel to it for sure. The problem is that it is not recommended for glass top stoves and it is heavy to move when full. the price is fairly high but it should last a lifetime. It just has a quiality look-and-feel which I really appreciate.
I sort of like the sounds of canning so I recorded some of what we were doing last night with the canner. I hope you enjoy this “sound-seeing tour”. Click the arrow below to hear it :
Cabbage was done so we started a batch of sauerkraut yesterday morning. Emily’s granddad picked the cabbage
and her grandmother and I shredded 6 heads. Our recipe said to work with 5 lbs of cabbage at a time so we shredded and weighed it head at a time. Kraut is really simple to make…or at least set up. We had a few stone crocks into which we packed 1/3 of the 5 lbs of cabbage, followed by 1 tbsp of salt. I rolled the salt and cabbage together in the crock until it was mixed and the water was drawn out of the cabbage. We repeated until we had 10 pounds of cabbage in the crock. It as amazing how much water was stored in the cabbage. By the time we got 10 lbs in, water covered the cabbage and had allowed the cabbage itself to pack down significantly. We put a plate on top of the
cabbage and weighed it down with mason jars full of water. I will check it every day for 3-4 weeks to remove scum that may buildup. Our basement is 75 degrees which should allow the cabbage to ferment pretty quickly. We’ll (hopefully) have good kraut to can at the end.
We decided to venture into the woods a little last night to hunt for some mushrooms. There are tons of mushrooms growing on the leaf-bed in the forest we wisited. Some I know are edible like the chanterelles we harvested. There are some that I know are not safe to eat and there are a lot I don’t know about. A friend is teaching me about mushrooms because I want to be an old mushroom eater! I took a bunch more pictures when I went mushroom hunting with her on July 4th. Anyhow, last night Isaac, Emily and I hiked only a short distance before Isaac found a patch of wild blueberries so he remained occupied with that. After gathering mushrooms, we found a patch of blackberries so we picked a bunch of them and made 9 more half-pints of jam. I am amazed, now that I am looking, how much food is growing around us here in the Charleston city-limits…I am also amazed at how poison ivy grows around here!
The blackberries are aplenty right now. We picked 2 1/2 qrts on Sunday, 4 qrts on Tuesday, and 4 more qrts tonight. The kids’ excitement has completely worn off by now though. Isaac brought a book while Abigail brought her positive outlook ;). My Dad (and sometimes I) used to pick blackberries along the logging roads near the house when I was younger. I am sure I always had a positive attitude. Anyhow, we have canned 27 half-pints of jam and 5 pints of syrup so far! I think we will make a bunch more into syrup for pancakes since we probably have enough jam to last until next year. I see some blackberry homemade ice cream in our future too! Speaking of that, Isaac and I discovered that a little jam (before pectin) tastes awesome on ice cream. I don’t care much for ice cream so I just get a little dab of ice cream and a heap of syrup. I don’t know what we are going to do if the picking continues to be as strong. I just can’t bear to see the food go to waste. For the first time, we noticed how much poison ivy is in the berry patch. I am not sure how we missed it before but we are hoping that we didn’t bring any of it home with us as well.
was there to eat. I think he ate his fill because he pitched in and picked a bunch of berries as well. Both kids were a tremendous help in the berry patch. We intend to return to it on Tuesday evening and every couple of days as long as the berries hold out.
After about an hour of picking, we got 4 and a half quarts of berries. As soon as we got home, Abigail, Emily and I started making jam. We got a total of 9 half-pint jars of jam. We’re really enjoying canning our harvest. Emily and I both have a lot of fun doing it and have decided it is our favorite hobby to do together.
We saw a couple of cool things while at the berry patch too. When we first walked up, we happened upon a deer eating OUR BERRIES!. Isaac scared her off of course. The other cool thing we saw was a 6-foot black snake. Isaac wanted to pet it but the snake had other plans. We’ll keep an eye out for him next time!