Friday, September 21, 2007

A garden experiment for Andy

Andy didn't have any homework yesterday and he needs to be kept in a routine so when he doesn't have any homework I make some up. So yesterday I decided he could help me plant the garlic - after all learning about gardening and how things grow falls in the area of science in my book.

While we were looking for garlic to plant we came across 3 old shriveled up bulbs from last year that didn't get planted. Andy wanted to know if they would grow. Rather than google the answer, I thought why not plant them and let him find out for himself. If they don't grow, they won't take up any space and I'll plant something else there in the spring - if they do grow, we'll have garlic.

We discussed it and decided that we should also plant some fresh garlic so if there is another factor like weather or when we planted it affecting it, we'll know that. Besides I want to make sure we do end up with some garlic!

Here is the old garlic we planted. I think maybe one or two of them look viable and will grow. Andy thinks it all will. We are going to call this Garlic A.

Here is the fresh garlic we are planting. We are calling it garlic B.

Here is Andy planting Garlic A.

Here he is planting Garlic B.

And here are our row markers showing what we have planted.

We got a really good rain last night - so now we wait and see what sprouts. Watch for updates and let's see what Andy learns.

Time to check on the second batch of kraut....

It looks ugly as I take the plate off the top - but actually the mold is a bigger contrast and easier to see with the red cabbage vs. the green. The cabbage was more of a purple color when I cut it up, it has fermented into a real pretty red.

And now with the mold removed it looks good. And tastes wonderful. It is ready.

Here it is transferred to jars and ready for the fridge - looks pretty doesn't it? These jars are not sealed and must be stored in the fridge. I don't want to heat them to process them and destroy the wonderful enzymes in them.

Red Kraut may be my new favorite and the only kind I make in the future.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Today's harvest Wednesday 9/19/07

Things might be slowing down now that it is mid September - but the garden is still producing a little every day. I know I should probably pull up the cucumbers, tomatoes and green beans, but I hate to do that when they are still producing. Winter will catch me with things not taken care of - but I will continue to enjoy garden goodness until the last minute. Actually we have had some frost warnings already this year - but my plants survived just fine - and I did not cover them. The CSA I get veggies from did lose most of their warm weather crops to frost last week.

Making Applesauce to Can

Making applesauce is so easy and so yummy. The apple tree is loaded and canning some enables us to enjoy that apple goodness all year long.

Wash apples and cut into pieces - no need to core or peel. I do cut any obvious bad spots off of the apples. Since I do not spray my apples at all - they aren't always the prettiest, but they are fine for applesauce.

Cook apples until they are soft. I only add a tiny bit of water in the bottom to keep them from sticking before the juice starts coming out.

Put apples through a food mill. Here is Andy helping - this food mill attaches to my kitchen aid mixer. Andy loves to do this part and is quite upset if I do it when he isn't home.

Return sauce to stove and season to taste. I added a little cinnamon, maple syrup and raw sugar.

This is the raw sugar that I used - you just grate a little off.

Here's Andy helping me adjust the seasonings. He told me it needed more cinnamon! LOL. He is so serious about helping.

Once you get it the seasoned, pack in jars and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Don't pack in too big of jars - it has no preservatives so it will go moldy if you leave it in the fridge too long. I find pint jars are a good size for applesauce.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Update on the peach tree

Dan cut off the limb that was broken and we sprayed it with a sealant. We are going to do some more pruning in an attempt to save the tree but are going to wait until the tree is dormant. So the jury is still out on it - but I doubt we will see any peaches next year.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

How to make relish - step by step

I made relish and it turned out really good - here's how I did it.

First, I chopped up 8 cups of cucumbers, 2 cups green bell peppers, 2 cups ripe bell peppers (I used red, yellow and orange) and 1 cup onions.

Sprinkle 1 tablespoon tumeric over the cut up veggies.

Disolve 1/2 cup salt (make sure you use canning salt and not table salt) in 2 quarts cold water.

Pour salt water over veggies and let stand 3 to 4 hours.

Then drain; cover veggies with fresh cold water and let stand one hour.

Dissolve 1 1/2 cups brown sugar in 1 quart vinegar. In a cheesecloth bag combine 2 sticks cinnamon, 1 tablespoon mustard seed, 2 teaspoons whole allspice and 2 teaspoons whole cloves. Add spices to sugar vinegar mixture and bring to a boil.

Thoroughly drain veggies.

Pour vinegar mixture over veggies and let stand in a cool place (covered) for 12 to 18 hours.

Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until jars are ready.

Sterilize pint jars in boiling water.

Sterilize lids in hot water.

Fill jars using a ladle and canning funnel. Leave 1/2 headspace.

Run a knife around the inside of the jars to get rid of air bubbles that may be trapped. If you don't release the air bubbles, they could keep your jars from sealing.

Wipe off the rims with a clean cloth (I use a disposable paper towel).

Place jar lids and rims on jars.

Put jars in boiling water bath using canning tongs. Make sure the water covers the jars.

Process for 10 minutes

Remove jars from boiling water bath and cool. When cool, check that the jars are all sealed. Store any unsealed ones in the fridge.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Drying Apples

I dried apples from my tree yesterday. Since I don't spray my tree at all - many of the apples have blemishes on them - may not be an apple you want to pick and eat - but you can certainly cut the blemishes off and still have lots to dry. The rest of the apple is fine.

Did you know that if you buy dried apples in the store, most of them are treated with sulphur to keep them a nice white color? Ick - I don't want to eat sulphur and I don't want my kid eating it either. Dried apples make such a tasty treat and they are so easy to do.

First I quarter, core and peel the apples and then I slice them. You can also do rings - but I can get more in my dehydrator sliced. I treat them with Fruit Fresh so they don't turn brown. If you don't want to do that - you can also use lemon juice, but that will make them tarter.

Then arrange them in the dehydrator and let them dry.

Here are the ones I did yesterday:

Here's the apples fresh and ready to go. They can touch - just don't overlap them.

And here are the dried ones - you can see how much they shrunk in size as they dried. They turned a tan color.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Drying Herbs from the Garden

I dried the herbs I picked yesterday. Here's how it's done.

I use a dehydrator. This is the one I own - I have owned several over the years and this is a pretty good one for the money. I had a Ronco that I saw advertised on TV once and that thing didn't last at all - but that was years ago and they may be making them better now. They also have more industrial ones - but this one is fine for home use. It is made by American Harvest and is expandable to 20 trays. I use 6 trays with it.

First - wash the herbs. They may appear clean, but they have a lot of dust and dirt on them and you don't want that to end up in your food.

Next, dry them using a salad spinner - it will reduce the drying time.

One tray of oregano.

I did two trays of Basil.

One tray of Dill.

And two trays of Parsley.

Turn the dial to the herbs setting and plug in.

Here it is set up and running.

And if you think you can skip the washing step - look at how much dirt was left in the sink after I took the herbs out!!!!

And here are the dried herbs.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Hard mornings work in the garden....

but it still beats a good day at work - wait a minute, I'm unemployed - oops, guess it beats job hunting!!!!

I just don't know how to grow brussels sprouts in a small garden. They always grow so tall and lean over on top of other things that are still maturing. I have tried tomato cages and staking them in the past and all that happened was that they pulled the cage or stake over with them! This year I planted a variety that was supposed to not grow as tall - NOT! They were all over the cabbage and starting to lean into the bell peppers. So I took some old square tomato cages and opened them up and put them around them and kind of hooked them to the rabbit fence and then to each other. They seem study - we'll see. I also took the lower leaves off so I could work with them better. Hopefully they will be happier and I'll get some sprouts soon. A couple of the plants have some large enough to eat at the bottom, but most are just little bumps.

Here are 4 pics of the garden from different angles after I was done cleaning it up today -

It looks so much better now - and I'll have room to plant the fall garlic. I think I am also going to plant some radishes and some late season lettuce - but I'm too tired right now. We'll see if I get back to it....

And while I was out there, I cut some herbs - got a huge bowl of parsley, basil, oregano and dill. It is mostly parsley.

And I dug up a few rogue potatoes and onions (thought I had them all) and picked 5 bell peppers and 1 small head of red cabbage.

And what was Andy doing during all of this? At first he was digging in the area of the garden where there wasn't anything currently growing, but after awhile he got tired of that, so he went and grabbed his rope. Long time readers and friends will know that Andy has autism and his thing is strings, ropes, hoses, tape - anything long and slender - other kids on the spectrum spin wheels - Andy plays with strings - it's not as noticable as when he was younger - but it still takes up a lot of his time. Here is a pic of him with his rope creation this morning - he was so proud of himself and wanted me to take a picture of him.

So, that's life in my garden today. I hope everyone is enjoying a good gardening day.