Sunday, September 25, 2011

Canning Green Tomato Pickles

When we started growing our 19 tomato plants, it never occurred to me that we were going to have hundreds of green tomatoes that were never going to ripen.  I started looking in our canning and freezing book, Farm Journals Guide to Freezing and Canning.  Our edition has a red binding and green cover, but overall, this book has great recipes and tells you from step 1 how to can and freeze, the proper way to sterilize everything and how to use your pressure cooker.

As I mentioned, we had an abundance of green tomatoes on the Jasper Violet plants.  Two of the plants has started to die, so I decided to harvest all the fruit off the plant and compost the rest.  I was able to harvest four pounds of green tomatoes, which was perfect for a recipe from the Farm Journal's book to make green tomato pickles.  I harvest the tomatoes, sliced most of them in thirds, some in half, placed them in our trusty Dutch oven, and sprinkled three tablespoons of canning salt over the layers.
After letting the tomatoes sit in the salt for over 12 hours, I drained the water that was drawn out of the fruit, almost two cups.  I then mixed the spices (turmeric, celery seed, and mustard seed) and sugar together with the cider vinegar, and brought it all to a boil.  I added three cups of thinly sliced onions (thank you Mr. Mandolin!) and slowly cooked them down.
Then I added two chopped red bell pepper and the drained tomatoes.  I mixed together, as gently as possible as to not mush the tomatoes, brought to a boil, and then let simmer.

As the tomatoes simmered in the juice, I sterilized the canning jars and lids, and got everything ready for the hot water bath.  Due to tomatoes high acidity levels, there is no need to use a  pressure cooker, only put the filled jars into a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.
Taylor and I then filled the half pint jars, wiped the lids, and placed them in the boiling water.  All together, we got 11 half pint jars full of pickled green tomatoes.  Not a bad Sunday.

Taylor watching and listening to the seals making their signature 'pop'!


Friday, September 16, 2011

Our Tomato Harvest

We have been watching our 19 tomato plants go crazy with fruit this last month and we finally decided to harvest the first batch of tomatoes and make and can some tomato sauce.  We got the recipe out of The Joy of Cooking, which is like our culinary I Ching.  Taylor was really into this recipe because it only contained six ingredients: tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, marjoram, and parsley.  And because tomatoes are high in acidity, we didn't have to can the sauce in a pressure cooker, just a boiling water bath to get them to seal properly.  I am in love with this sauce because you really get the flavor of the Jasper Violets, which are my favorite variety this year.

Heirloom Italian Beefsteak


Jasper Violets

Mix of Arkansas Travelers and Money Makers

Our tasty haul!

Master Tomato Sauce Maker

September Just Rolling By

So as the autumnal equinox approaches, I have decided to not carry my gopher-resentment into the new season.  I turned over the garden yesterday, tilling all the clumps of dirt/compost that had become engrossed in the network of roots that had grown through the ground.  Taylor and I decided that we should concentrate on planting less crops, zeroing in on how to grow those items really well, and then move on to new items.  I got so excited when I found the Petaluma Seed Bank, and I went a little overboard.  So now, I have reeled myself back and am now focusing on just five items, well, four really.  My tilled ground is divided into sections, which I diligently measured out yesterday, and will be planting the following crops:  Squash (Pomme d'Or), Collard Greens (Georgia Southern), Beets (Early Wonders and Chioggia), Lettuce (Merveille des Quatre Saisons), and Rainbow Chard (Five Color Silverbeet Swiss Chard).  I planted the seeds in the starters yesterday and am hoping to plant on the equinox.  So there it is, my plan for our fall crop. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It's so sad when I look down at my garden right now;  I'm sure that in a day or two I will see this time as the end of one crop season and the beginning of another, but right now, my once lush and bountiful garden looks like a dusty, dry area with a couple of bell peppers holding on in the middle.  My trials and tribulations with the gopher situation has come to a head with an early harvest of little pumpkins and only a couple of cucumbers that grew to size.  The gopher(s) have also eaten their way through the roots of a rose bush Taylor gave me for my birthday this last March/  We planted it in the corner of the garden and watched it grow up the fence and trellis in such a way that it was going to provide a little privacy from neighbors.  Now the green leaves are slowly turning yellow and every day there are more and more yellow leaves.  We have set out a couple of gopher traps and plan on putting more out, but for right now, I am saddened by the early demise of my crops.  Here's to the next planting, may it be fruitful, may it be healthy, and most of all, may the gopher(s) choke on their root system if they continue to be the bane of my gardening existence.

Happy Full Moon!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Licensed to kill gophers, by the government of the United Nations. A man free to kill gophers at will. To kill, you must know your enemy and in this case, my enemy, is a varmint and a varmint will never quit. Ever. They're like the Vietcong. The varmint kong. So what you gotta do, you gotta fall back on superior firepower and superior intelligence. And that's all she wrote.