Harvest Season

Now that Fall is here, and it’s time to bring in the last of the garden, things are getting busy!

We had the 2 cases of peaches that were canned, and the one that was frozen.
huge red globe peace

 

 

Beets from the garden

beets, greens, and carrots from the garden

Oven-dried figs, from Mom’s tree.  I didn’t get a picture, but I’ve dried a few sheets of roma tomato halves as well- they’re stashed away in the freezer for this winter.  Drying is easy- cut the fruit in  half the long ways, lay them skin-side-down on a cookie sheet (I use a silicone mat, too) and leave them in a warm oven with the door cracked.  My tomatoes took about a day, but the figs were faster.  I literally have a “keep warm” setting on my oven- about 170 degrees.

oven dried figs

Orange tomato , basil, pesto sandwich- tomato from Mom’s greenhouse, basil from mine, and pesto…from Costco.  Heh.  These things just find their way home with me when I visit my parents!  Oh, and pickled beets.  Every sandwich needs a pickle.

basil and tomato sandwich on wheat oat bread, pickled beets

Here are the 25 quarts of canned peaches, plus a few pints of fig preserves.  Again, the figs are from Mom’s tree.25 quarts of peaches

Pickled beets.  So. Very Good.

pickled beets

 

6 quarts of apple sauce and 6 quarts of apple juice, courtesy of two crates of apples I took off my friend’s hands.  She was short on time and long on apples!  I have another case of apples in the garage, plus a few more trees that need harvesting in Mom’s garden when they ripen.

making applesauce and apple juice

Before the next week is over, I’m going to pull all the basil out of my garden and make a mondo batch of pesto for the freezer.  Now that fall rains have started, and the weather is cooling down, I’m going to harvest all my tomatoes and do what I can with them.  (Tomatoes and basil in the greenhouse, I’ll leave them there, and move in any pots I have- hopefully I can get a few more weeks of on-the-vine time, and I’m hoping the basil will last.)

We ate our first red tomato tonight with dinner, it was AMAZING, but I just know we won’t get many more.  There are a few that are pinking up, and I’ll let them ripen in newspaper.  I’ve been collecting green tomato recipes- I’ll load some gallon bags up for the freezer, to use them in curries this winter.  I’ll pickle a few quarts too, but that seems like such a leap of faith- the best recipe I could find on allrecipes.com says it takes 3 months for them to pickle in the refrigerator.  What if I don’t like the brine?  I had an AMAZING pickled green tomato from a friend a few months ago- she bought it at a store, so I can’t get the recipe.  But it had the funk of a good green olive, plus a little heat.  Oh my wow, it was good.  If anyone has a favorite pickle brine, please share!

 

 

How to Can Peaches

To get set:

  1. Load your dishwasher full of quart jars, and rings, and start it running.
  2. Fill your canner half full of water, and put it on the stove to boil.
  3. Take a case of (FREE STONE!) peaches, and put as many as you can in your sink, and fill it up with cool water.  (Elbertas, Hales, and Red Globes are all favorites.)
  4. Put all the sealing lids you’ll need in a saucepan, cover with water, and just barely simmer (to soften the sealing compound.)

Next to the sink, you will need:

  • a cutting board, chef knife, and paring knife
  • scrap bucket
  • big bowl of water, treated with a few Tablespoons of lemon juice

huge red globe peace

Start peeling and pitting your peaches, then chop them into slices, or pieces, or halves.  I like pieces, because I can fit more in a jar, and there’s less chance of getting air trapped in there.  As you finish, throw the skins and pits in the scrap bucket, and put the peach pieces in the treated water.  This will stop them from browning.
When your jars and canner are ready, start loading your jars with peaches!  Bang them on the counter, on a towel, every so often to make sure they settle down into the jar.  When the jar is about 3/4 full of peaches, pour in 1/3 cup sugar and fill the jar with peaches up to about half an inch from the top of the jar.  Fill with water (leaving half an inch of head space on top) and run a knife around the inside of the jar, pressing against the fruit a bit, to find any errant air pockets.
Wipe the rim of the jar with a wet cloth to get any sugar or fruit off, put a lid on, and screw a band on just finger tight.  Keep going until you have enough jars to fill your canner.
Load up the canner, and make sure they have at least an inch of water covering them!  Bring the canner to a hard boil, and boil for 25 minutes (or 20 minutes if you used pint jars.)
Let cool, undisturbed, on a towel for a day.  Take all the rings off, rinse the jars, label them, and squirrel them away!  (Any jars that didn’t seal, store them in the fridge and eat them.)

25 quarts of peaches

These are absolutely delicious- my husband will eat a jar in one sitting, if he can!  In my experience, a case of peaches (about 22 pounds) makes 10-12 quarts of canned peaches.  Obviously, this depends on if you had to throw away any bad fruit, etc.
A note about peeling the fruit- you can dip the peaches into boiling water for about 30 seconds, then plunge them into ice water- this blanching will let the skins slip right off.  In my experience, ripe peaches aren’t hard to skin at all, and blanching isn’t much faster than just peeling them outright.  Plus, blanching can make a big watery mess.

Pickled Beets

pickled beets

When was the last time you came across a food that was so good, on a primal level, that you stood in someone else’s kitchen, scooping it into your mouth and hoping no one would notice you?

For me?  About two months ago, in my parent’s beach house.  My mom had a pot of pickled beets sitting on the stove, and I ate every last one, I just couldn’t help it!  Pickled beets are something that’s been around in my family for as long as I can remember- there’s no particular occasion we make them for, but DANG my mom is good at it.

You can tell someone is good at making something when you can’t stop yourself from eating the entire batch, and she says “Oh, it’s just ___.”  Any recipe that starts with “it’s just” is going to be :

a) Simple

b) Insanely good.

Start with a pile of beets.

beets, greens, and carrots from the garden

 

These are from my garden, aren’t they gorgeous?  I’m definitely growing more next year!  I’m awfully proud of that carrot, too, haha.

Scrub and rinse them clean, then chop into cubes about an inch square.  The big beets got chopped lots, the tiny ones didn’t get chopped at all.

Put in a sauce pan and cover with water- bring to a boil and simmer till they’re tender.  You don’t want them falling apart, but a fork should slide in just as easily as you’d want your teeth to.  It will take 15 or 20 minutes, beets are tough buggers.

Strain out the water into a measuring cup- add an equal amount of white vinegar and an equal amount of sugar.  Mix this up good.

Put everything into a non-reactive something (I love glass jars because they don’t stain or hold smells!), put a lid on, and stick it in the fridge for a day or two.  My mom loves to add cloves as well, I prefer to leave them out.

I’m really not sure how long these last, as we normally eat them so fast.  I don’t think they CAN go bad, with all that vinegar and sugar, but they might get mushy?

These are a very sweet pickle, but OH so good with a turkey sandwich.  Or eaten straight out of the jar, in your mother’s kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s going to be a busy day

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Add school, meals, 4 piano lessons, and potty training, and there you have it. I think I’m nuts.

Canning Season Starts

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I never had a summer harvest this year- my tomatoes are all hanging, green, on the vine. Tomatillos are still small and supple-skinned. Ground cherries have given us just a few ripe fruits. But across the mountain range, Eastern Washington has sun! I spent yesterday canning two cases of Red Globe peaches (a steal at $12 a case, from Mott’s in Sultan). The husband is mighty pleased at the prospect of 24 quarts of home-canned peaches!

I also had 2 pounds of fresh figs from Mom’s trees- I combined them with a quart of figs I’d put up before to make a fast jam. Family tradition, from our Alabama family, has always dictated whole figs in a thick syrup. The recipe, as I heard it from my Great Aunt was to take a bucket of figs, dump in a bag of sugar and let them sit overnight…and then can them. I’ve always loved them, but an entire fig smashed onto a biscuit is not a sugar load to be taken lightly!! This year I used the Ball recipe, and chopped them first to help corral the portion size.

While on a recent family trip I helped my sister get stuff ready for the freezer, too. I came home with 6 pounds of blueberries, and twenty pounds of peaches, all frozen. I’m looking forward to smoothies, pies, and cobblers this winter! (These peaches were Elbertas, from Bill Pace fruit stand.)

Strawberry Creme Smoothie

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Because 9 pm is no time for health food.

10 frozen strawberries
1/2 cup frozen cherries
1/2 cup yogurt with enough liquid added to make 2 cups
3 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding powder

Blend away! I used water for this batch, and liked how the pudding powder thickened it. But then, I’m partial to instant vanilla pudding. I meant to add powdered milk, and saw the pudding right there next to it… It was serendipity, and too tempting to ignore. This made a super, late-night, sweet treat for the husband and I.