Canned Tomatoes!

Lest you think I’ve done no preserving this year, I have proof of life photos to show otherwise. I broke from my usual practice of canning plain whole tomatoes in their own juice, to do some prepared tomato products – grab and go convenience won the day. I did one canner load of marinara sauce –

marinara (1)

And one canner load of salsa –

salsa

And when I finished doing these, I promptly took a jar inventory, as those were practically the only pint jars I had in the house! I have over 50 quart jars, but only a measly 10 pint jars (I still have a couple of the squat Elite ones left). So I’ll have to remedy that before next season, as pint jars are really the perfect size for so many things.

So I have put up just a little bit – not as much as I intended, but who knows? Maybe I’ll get in another batch of two yet, if the harvest holds another week or so. Oh – and I love our stove. It’s been the first five burner stove with a continuous grid on it that we’ve ever had, and it’s just a dream to can on. No more worrying about the wide base of the canning pot getting all wobbly trying to balance on a single burner setup. Love it!

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Tomatoes & Zucchini Invade!

Yes, is it that time of year again. Someone “gifted” me two huge zucchini – they’re the size of baseball bats and have to weigh five pounds apiece. I’m going to freeze it – half in cubes for minestrone soup, and half grated for bread. And that should take care of our zucchini needs for the next year!

The tomatoes are starting to come on strong as well. So far, I’ve put up two quarts and three pints, and will be doing another batch tomorrow. I’d love it if they would ripen all at once so I could do big canner loads, but I’ve been using my mini canning rack and stock pot for the small batches. We’ve got more cherry tomatoes than we can eat fresh as well, so I’m thinking about freezing them whole – they’ll be nice to toss into wine-poached fish and other dishes.

It seems every day I’ve got something to freeze or can, but all the hard work will pay off this winter when we’ve got a fully stocked larder to feast on.

Planning for Canning

Well, it’s that time of year again. Summer is in full swing, and there’s loads of fresh produce to be had. We’re fortunate in that what we preserved last year saw us through fairly well, so we still have a bit to use up. This weekend I inventoried what we had left –

– 12 quarts of tomatoes

– 4 quarts of apples

– 4 pints of apricot jam

– 3 pints of blueberry jam

– few bags of frozen blueberries

Not too shabby. I think 28 quarts of tomatoes was just the right amount for us, so I’m going to plan to do the same amount this year. And instead of apple slices canned in water, I think I’m just going to do apple pie filling and apple sauce – that’s really how we consume apples at our house. I’ll probably do a single canner batch of 7 quarts of the pie fillings, and maybe 14 pints of the applesauce. I’ll repeat the apricot jam, but only half as much – 3 or 4 jars will be sufficient. So this year’s Can Plan looks a bit like this –

– 28 quarts of whole tomatoes in their own juices (still debating about doing some of it as pasta sauce)

– 7 quarts of apple pie filling

– 14 pints of applesauce

– 4 pints of apricot jam

Plus, for the freezer we’ll have brussels sprouts and hopefully some sweet and hot peppers if they produce well from the garden. And I’d still like to do a you-pick farm this summer and get a few quarts of berries. The sweet corn didn’t freeze as well as I would’ve like last year, so I think we’ll skip that and just enjoy it fresh while it lasts.

And of course if anything else catches my fancy I’ll just add it to the list…

I Think, Therefore I Am

Still here! Packing like a madwoman most days, but we’re just about in the home stretch of the Big Move. At the same time, the garden is keeping us busy. We’ve probably picked somewhere in the neighborhood of four to five quarts of cherry tomatoes off of the Gold Nugget plants so far, so we’re eating our fill there. We’ve also continued to have regular harvests of the sweet Jimmy Nardello peppers, a little kale and a little chard. The hot peppers are looking good too, and will be ready to eat anytime now. The cucumbers have suffered a bit – they haven’t gotten enough water so we’ve only got one cucumber that’ll be ready to harvest soon, and a couple flowers that hopefully shape up to more cucumbers.

The big onslaught of tomatoes for canning didn’t start this week like I hoped, but I’m told I should expect at least 20 pounds next weekend, so canning tomatoes is on the agenda. And I did put up 5 jars of apricot jam recently (and I have a little post about it as soon as I can upload the photos). Apricot jam makes the best glaze on roasted pork and gives apple tarts a lovely sheen. So you can bet we’ll put those to good use over the fall and winter.

And Baby Apartment Farmer is officially becoming Toddler Apartment Farmer – he’s taking his first tentative, holding onto Mama steps. Time flies!

Can’t wait to post here that I’m all settled – I’ve got the new Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders book so I’m itching to get the sewing machine unpacked and ready to go – lots of projects in store for this fall!

Preservation Fever… AKA Nesting…

I’m in the process of getting fifty pounds of tomatoes as well as hopefully a flat of hot peppers and cucumbers lined up from the market on Sunday. I really hope Midnight Sun has a good haul to set aside for me, because I need desperately to have a pantry full of dry goods all of a sudden. Every late summer/early fall I get this way. The days are noticeably shorter – dusk arrives at around 8:15 now instead of 9:00, and the unbearable heat of early August seems to have moderated. The early morning even has just the slightest hint of cool on the breeze. It’s getting to be that time of the year.

This year, however, I’m at a fever pitch. Nine months pregnant and completely nesting. I swore up and down all summer I was only going to do tomatoes, especially with the broken ankle. But my husband seems to have been bitten by the canning bug (at least a little bit) because he asked me the other day what else we could put up with the water bath canner to fill in our pantry. So we pulled out the books and thought about what we’d get the most mileage out of over the winter. Pickled hot peppers immediately came to mind for use in chili, soups and sauces along with the tomatoes. And a couple of pints of kosher dill pickles. So it looks like we’re going to add those into the rotation as well. I’m hoping we can get 14 quarts of tomatoes done this Sunday with both of us working on it. And another 14 the weekend after. That would put our total at 33 jars. Do I dare try to fit in another 14 over Labor Day weekend, a week before the baby is due? That would put us 47 jars… pretty close to my original goal. But I think I might have to play that one by ear. Tomatoes will likely be winding down at that point anyway.

We’re also going to buy several quarts of berries at the market for freezing this weekend. Hopefully we can get a half flat of blueberries, since those are husband’s favorites. And maybe some sweet peppers for the freezer too, if we can get a good price.

In October, we’ll have two bushels of apples to stock pile – I plan to can one bushel so can we have apple pie filling, and then maybe do a little juice and applesauce with the other bushel. And of course we’ll have plenty for fresh eating for a little while out of that too. And in late September I’ve got to head up to the Evanston market to get a couple big containers of cranberries to can into whole berry sauce. One holiday dinner element in the bag! And we’ll buy up a pint or two of chestnuts for the freezer for holiday meals too. And that reminds me – we’ll need to buy a garlic braid, a half gallon of maple syrup and another two gallons of honey to see us through the winter too. Good god, that seems like a lot of money when I start to add it up – $100.00 for the garlic and honey alone! But food in the pantry is almost better than money in the bank to me. You can’t eat a credit card when times are lean.

And then there’s there freezer! After nearly five years of talking about it, we finally bit the bullet and spent the money on a small chest freezer. We opted for a 7.0 cubic square foot model, and it’s being delivered on Saturday. It can hold around 210 pounds of food! Just the right size for our needs. The primary catalyst for the purchase after all this time is, of course, the baby. Frankly, we need somewhere to store breast milk so we don’t have to buy formula for him in those times down the line when we’re not attached at the hip. The cost of the freezer will repay itself relatively quickly in what we’ll save on the cost of formula. And the added benefit is that we can now buy bulk meats and stock up on freezer things.

I’m already talking to a few farmers to get pricing on half hogs and quarter steers. The half hog will net us about 75 pounds of pork, and around $282.00 seems to be the going rate. The quarter steer gives around 126 pounds of beef, which is about twice as much as we have room for. So we’re hoping my husband’s parents will be interested in splitting a quarter with us (I think they will – they love bulk shopping). If so, we’ll get about 63 pounds of beef, and the going rate for that seems to be around $272.00. As we generally only eat a few pounds of meat per week, this will easily last us through a year. Just think – one outlay of cash, with a big part of your food supply stashed away. No worries about the price of beef or pork going up so much you can’t afford it, because it’s already paid for and sitting right in your freezer. I like that kind of security.

And now that the freezer will be here soon, I can start making double batches of whatever we’re having for dinner and freezer up the extra. Bolognese sauce, bacon and whiskey chili, and minestrone soup are all on my list. They’ll be great to have on hand for the first few weeks after the baby is born and we’re all still getting used to our new routine.

So am I sounding a little crazy? A little obsessed? Yeah, probably. Nesting on top of that fall instinct to squirrel away a little extra for winter is likely a bit much. But it will be great come January when we have a pantry and freezer full of good things to eat, without worrying about the budget and trudging out in the cold and snow to pick up something for dinner!

Oh Lovely Weekend, We Meet Again

Ah yes – Weekend Time. Is it just me, or has this seemed like a really long week? Weekends are great. Two whole days to relax and recharge. I hope everyone is getting out and enjoying the weather this weekend – still a touch humid around these parts, but the weather seems to have equalized a bit. We’ve been able to have the air conditioning off since yesterday, and I hope we can leave it off for a little while now. It’s certainly hot, but seasonably, so it’s not unbearable. It’s nice to get fresh air circulating through the house and hear the summer sounds.

As for housebound me, I’ve still got some of those infamous sitting projects planned for the weekend. With husband’s help (i.e. strong, steadying arms) I’ve been able to negotiate the single step down from our back door onto the deck, so I’ve been able to sit out on the patio a couple of evenings recently. Slow progress, but progress. So I definitely plan to spend some time lounging back there with a good book.

Otherwise, my fabric order from JoAnn Fabrics arrived in the mail today with the remaining items I need for the baby’s quilt. I mentioned the fabrics I chose the other day in my quilt update post over on Somebody’s Mother if you’re interested in seeing what I picked out. And they were all on sale! So I plan to finish up cutting out the quilt blocks this weekend, which shouldn’t take long. And if I can decide it’s not to hot to work with a hot appliance this weekend, I may even drag out the iron and press and pin them all.

And though I’ve desperately missed being able to walk down the street to the farmer’s market each Sunday, I’ve still been communicating via email with the good folks at Midnight Sun Organics about the canning tomato harvest. They report that the tomatoes are just starting to come on pretty good, so they’ll likely have a small batch (around fifteen pounds) of the #2’s (the less than pristine, canning-quality ones) available this weekend. That’s enough to put up 4-5 quart jars of tomatoes, which is a good intro round for a pseudo-invalid. Husband has awesomely stepped up to help me with the canning this year (is this guy a keeper or what?) since I’m off my game. A lot of the the work I can do sitting down – washing, scoring and and peeling the tomatoes as well as putting them into the jars. I’ll need his assistance with the heavy lifting – getting the stockpot of water set up on the stove, sterilizing the jars, and getting the filled jars from the kitchen table to the counter next to the stove. I may or may not be able to be on my feet with crutches to get the jars in and out of the canner – we’ll see how that goes. It’s working with boiling hot water and heavy glass so he may not even want me to mess with that part (he’s also a good protector-type). But I’m excited that with our teamwork, canning season may officially begin this weekend! 

I also think I mentioned awhile back that I got a new hand-sewn mini blind for the bedroom (from my mother in law) and my sewing table/vanity got a little makeover. I promised pictures, but where are they, you ask? I plan to get those taken and posted for you all this weekend as well. Pretty cool what you can do with a little fabric or paint to make something that’ s just perfect for your space.

And let us not forget pie. I’ve been absolutely nuts about it recently and if I could’ve been, I would’ve been baking two pies a week at least over the last three weeks. Well, this weekend I’m shooting for one. I can’t take a pie-less existence anymore! So I’m going to ask husband to haul all my ingredients to the kitchen table so I can work sitting down. I really want to try to make a batch of mini Shoofly pies. I loved the first full-sized one I made, and I’ve been thinking about doing them up in a miniature for a little while now. I have four five-inch metal pie pans, so I’ll have to have husband dig those out of the bottom of the pantry. And you better believe I’m going to double the crumb topping on these babies. So stay tuned on my (hopefully) successful endeavor in whipping them up on the small scale.

So that’s it – that’s the master plan. Oh, that and not setting the alarm clock for the next two days. I really love that part.