Friday, August 31, 2007

Thursdays are becoming Tomato Thursday

I seem to be processing tomatoes every Thursday - not sure how I picked that day of the week - funny how that happens!

This week I made tomato sauce

I had so many tomatoes this week they filled up both my 12 quart and 8 quart stock pots! I cooked them a little to make them softer so they go through the food strainer easier.

After they went through the food strainer I had about 10 quarts of juice to cook down.

I like to make my sauce a little thicker than what you buy in the store - I reduced it by more than half.

The finished product. You do want to add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to each pint before processing in a boiling water bath for 40 minutes. I like to make a variety of sizes based on the recipes that I know I will use it in. I will use most of it over the winter for Chicken Chili - so I used the 24 oz. jars for the majority of the sauce.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

My Poor Poor Peach Tree!

Yesterday evening I noticed that my peach tree was starting to split and I took these pictures with the intent of posting them online and seeing if anyone could tell me what I could do to save my beloved peach tree. It was splitting in two different places.

Split #1

Split #2

Split #1 from the opposite side of the tree

A pic attempting to show both splits - #2 is on the left and #1 is in the back but you can't really see it as good as I hoped.

Then we had another storm last night and this is what I woke up to this morning - split #1 is all the way down now.

A closer picture.

That limb definitely will have to come off - I don't know what to do about the other limb. I am just so sad - I love this tree - as you can tell from my many posts about it. I love peaches and they are so expensive and such a novelty to grow here in MN. I will definitely plant another one if I lose this one - but I don't want to wait for it to start producing again.

I am just so sad today. I can't believe I feel this way over a tree - but I do.

Andy is sad too - but excited at the prospect of being able to help Daddy cut it up tonight. What a contrast, one minute he is out there hugging the tree and asking it if it hurts and the next minute asking if Daddy can come home from work early today so they can start sawing!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sunday's harvest

Beets fresh from the garden

Ready to go in the oven. You can boil or steam beets, but I like cooking them slowly in the oven - I think you lose less nutrients that way. Bake for about 3 hours (or until tender) at 300 degrees. Then peel and cut into bite size pieces. And don't forget to cook up the tops and eat them as well. I steamed them.

Peaches cut up and ready to be made into jam.

2 batches of jam later....

And my first Wisconsin tomato from the garden.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Time to check on the sauerkraut!

It has been 4 weeks now since I started the sauerkraut fermenting. I figured it was time to dump it in a bigger container and do a taste test. I tasted it and it was wonderful! No amount of persuading would convince Andy to taste it. Dan reluctantly tasted it and pronounced it also wonderful - but warned me if he gets sick, I'll never hear the end of it. He also asked me what was the difference between fermenting and rotting. Caught off guard all I could come up with was that fermenting was to produce something edible and rotting was for compost......

I think I may have to start another batch fermenting today - but Dan said I should wait for 24 hours to make sure there are no health implications from this batch. Chicken!

Really, such a wonderful taste - so much better than what you buy in the store - and the health benefits from it are a wonderful bonus. The stuff you buy in the store is pretty dead - this is alive!

Follow up on the Yellow Jacket Trap

I posted earlier in the season about the new Yellow Jacket Trap from Raid - I thought a follow up might be nice since the apples falling off trees everywhere right now are attracting them by the dozens.

Yesterday morning I was picking up apples off the ground and noticed Yellow Jackets for the first time this season - so I wondered if my trap had stopped working. I checked it and it was full!

This picture is not very good - but those dark things floating in there are dead yellow jackets!

So I hung a new trap (I kept the old one up for now) in a new area of the tree.

And now, just 24 hours later it is over half full and I am not noticing any more yellow jackets on the apples and in the yard.

This product is awesome if you hate bees and are scared of stings like I am. It only works on yellow jackets - it attracts them and they crawl inside and can't get out and drown. It is all natural and so much less scary for me to use than sprays.

More information on this product on their website:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Making Catsup

This was my first attempt at making catsup. I think Dan wished he had worked overtime tonight - after about the 12th time asking him to taste it after I had adjusted something he asked if he was going to be tasting catsup all night! Poor baby! I tried using less sugar, but he and Andy (who eat most of the catsup in this house) just weren't happy with it until I had doubled the amount of sugar I had originally started with.

I started cutting up tomatoes, tomallitos, onions & bell peppers at 8:30 this morning. I used a variety of colors of tomatoes - from green to yellow to red to orange - so the catsup did not turn out a deep red.

By 9:30 I had them all cut up (I did not seed or skin them since I was going to be using the food strainer attachment on my kitchen aid again) and started them cooking.

At 10:00, everything was looking nice and soft so it was time to put them through the strainer.

Here's Andy (yes, he's still in his pajamas) helping with the food strainer. This part only took 15 minutes - with my old manual one it probably would have been an hour!

Here's the liquid after it went through the food strainer. You want to cook it down - but you don't want to boil it down too fast or it will burn on the bottom.

At 1:00, I put vinegar in another pan and added some spices in a bag - I simmered this about 30 minutes - then I added it to the tomatoes (without the spice bag).

By 5:00 it is reduced by a little more than half and I start my tasting and adjusting of ingredients as I continue to cook it down.

By 7:30 it is reduced down and is thick enough that it stays on top of this slotted spoon. Time to start sterilizing jars.

The finished product - 5 pints of catsup.

Here are the ingredients and amounts that I ended up with:
Chop and combine in stock pot:
13 lbs tomatoes
1 lb onions
4.5 oz bell peppers
Cook until tender, about 30 minutes. Put through food strainer. Return liquid to stock pot and cook down until about half of the original volume.
Combine in sauce pan:
4 ½ cups vinegar (I used a combination of white and apple cider vinegar)
2 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground allspice
2 cups sugar
Combine in cloth bag or tea strainer and then throw in with vinegar mixture:
2 tsp whole cloves
3 tsp celery seed
2 tsp mustard seed
3 cloves garlic, minced
Simmer for 30 minutes. Discard spices in bag and then add vinegar mixture to tomato mixture. Continue to cook down until desired consistency. When consistency is getting close, taste and adjust seasonings.
Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes
Yield: 5 pints

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pictures from my wet garden 8/22/07

Every time I think the rain is done, it starts up again. We sure have had a lot of rain lately - would have been nice to have some throughout the year and not all at the end...... Anyway it has only sprinkled mostly today so I got out to do some picking and to take a few pictures.

Here is Andy in front of the famous Minnesota peach tree. He is 4 ft tall so you can see how tall this tree has grown. The ugly brown spot to the left is where we had the pool. Andy was 4 when we planted this tree and he is 7 now so it is 3 years old. The first year it just looked like a twig with leaves on it. Last year it produced I think 7 peaches. This year it has about 3 dozen on it. There are two varieties of peaches that will do will in this zone - reliance and contender. Reliance is an older variety and not as sweet - it is considered more of a canning fruit. This is the contender and boy, are those fruits wonderfully sweet. I had one earlier today and the juice was running down my chin! I don't know of any nurseries here that carry either peach variety. I ordered this as a bare root from Gurney's - click here to see it on their website.

Here is a close up of Andy in front of the tree and you can see the peaches hanging on the tree.

Cucumbers from the garden today. The neighbors are starting to run away when they see me coming with cukes in my hand. I told them it is dangerous to congregate during cucumber or zucchini season.

Here is a shot of some of my tomato plants. I am getting quite a few. I think I am going to try and make catsup for the first time tomorrow.

Something is infesting the concord grapes. There aren't hardly any grapes on them anyway because I have to keep cutting them back to keep them out of the neighbor's garden. The red swanson grapes on the other side of the yard are doing much better.

The poor flowers are laying down and need to be dead headed. The cucumbers are moving into the flower's area.

I hope we see some sun tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Who says you can't grow peaches in Minnesota?

Check out this baby I just picked - and he is pretty average size of the ones I have.

In case you can't read the scale, it says that it weighs 9.5 oz - that's over a half a pound! It's about 3.25 inches round.

Here it is next to a tennis ball - much bigger (and tastier!)

Monday, August 20, 2007

I couldn't wait any longer

I just had to pick a peach. I went out and found one that looked ripe and felt softer than the others.

This is what it looked like - not bad - most of the peaches are blemish free - considering that I did not spray with anything, they look great. The apples do not look anywhere near as nice!

And this is what it looked like cut open. It was still a little green - it could use another week or two of ripening, but oh, did it taste good. Not quite as juicy or as sweet as it could be, but better than anything you buy in the store here.

I am so glad I decided to not listen to others when they told me that I couldn't grow peaches in Minnesota!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Picking cabbage

My husband snapped this picture of me this evening right after I picked this red cabbage. It is a nice looking cabbage. I think I'll make some cole slaw tomorrow.

Making salsa to can

I spent my day today in the kitchen making salsa to can.

I got tired of the manual food strainer I used last year so I used my holiday bonus last year to buy this attachment for my Kitchen Aid Mixer. This will be my first time using it.

I also bought the food tray so it will hold more on top. I read several reviews before making the purchase and everyone advised buying it and it looks like I will be glad that I did.

And here it is attached to the mixer and ready to go.

First wash the tomatoes - I have approximately 16 lbs of tomatoes here. I also had 2 lbs of tomallitos.

Then cut into chunks and heat on the stove so they will go through the food strainer easier - if your pot is as full as mine, carefully stir so you get the bottom ones up and off the bottom - don't want anything burning!

Then run through the food strainer. This worked so well - I can't believe I have had this mixer for years and never knew they had an attachment to do this! The juice comes out the bottom and the seeds and skins out the other end all ready for the compost pile.

Then I put it on a burner and start it heating right away while I am cutting up the rest of the ingredients - it will be way too thin and you need to reduce it by at least half. I just add the other ingredients as I cut them up. I started out with 8 quarts of tomato juice.

I cut up 1 pound of hot chili peppers. I use the long anaheim type peppers.

I cut up 3 pounds of onions (not all are shown here ) and 2 oz. of garlic.

Then I added 1.5 pounds of bell peppers - I used a variety of colors because that is what I grow - lots of colors - they will all look green in the end - the pigment cooks out.

Then I added 3 cups of vinegar and 1 Tablespoon of salt.

And I continued to let it all cook down - stirring it occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom and burns.

And here it is 7 hours later - reduced by about half. I went out to the garden and cut some fresh oregano, basil and parsley which I chopped up and added. You don't want to add fresh herbs until the end.

I filled 7 sterilized jars, put on 2 piece seals and processed in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes.

And here is the finished product.

There is no right or wrong way to make salsa. This made a mild to medium salsa - mild enough for my son to eat, but spicy enough to taste. If you like it hotter add more chili peppers or use a hotter variety. Want more onions - add more. Don't like garlic - add less (I love garlic and always go heavy on it in all of my recipes). Just experiment and taste as you go.

I'm tired now - but it is so worth taking the time to homemade salsa.