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Canning 2.0

By now most folks know I can. As in I choose to create and preserve via mason jars food my family and I want to eat. I get to choose the specific ingredients, ratio, and flavor of what I make. This for me is an extension of my ‘freezer cooking’ it is investing time so I don’t have to later.

Having spent a good portion of last summer pickling, and canning high acidity food I exhausted the challenge. I extended my skill set and comfort level to where for some of my family their Christmas presents were things I chose to make back last August. I didn’t buy store salsa until March of this year, and this made me think what else can I control food wise in my home. I was asked today what made me want to do canning.

The short answer is this a) I’m a total food nerd, b) I love cooking large batches, and c) none of the other kids do it (at least in my circle). For me the next step was this…

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That is a pressure canner. This allows me to move certain foods that I used to freeze to something shelf stable. So while others might do something simple, like chicken broth I drive right in to something intermediate level.

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Baked beans!

I started to measure out the Ball Blue book sauce recipe then realized the best difference from pickling foods to pressure canning. I can change the recipe and ratios! I don’t have to worry about my acidity level. *squee* Changes are marked with a ^
Sauce:
3 large onions diced small in a food processor
^ 1 head garlic also through a food processor (we LOVE garlic you can add less)
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup molasses
2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground mustard
^ 1/3 cup cider vinegar
^ store bought ketchup to make 2 liquid cups sauce

This is for 2 lbs dried navy or in my case great northern beans. Following the Ball method of bean prep. (This is widely available on the web, and that research might do you good)

Ok so confessing my oddities here, I FINISH reading the Blue Book recipe and no way in hell am I baking this for 3 hours. So I sort of amalgamate recipes with Sbcanning.

I prepare the jars as usual, this means prepping more than the recipe calls for (be prepared it takes time to dishwasher jars).

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While the jars are getting ready, and the beans pre-cook, and I furiously scour the Internet for recipes to NOT have to actually bake the beans I start the sauce to simmer.

I feel confident enough to put 1 cup semi- pre- cooked beans and 1/2 cup sauce per pint. Then fill the rest with reserved liquid from the 2nd bean pre-cook (I’m serious do your homework this is not rocket science but it is important, and I don’t mean to be a complete how to) to get to 1 inch head space.

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Use tools to get air bubbles out.

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Add bacon, or if using salt pork omit or reduce salt.

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Wipe jar rims with vinegar because it cuts grease

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Admire jars

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Place in canner FOLLOWING DIRECTIONS OF THE CANNER. Mine says to add 3 quarts of water and start heating to boil. If you have hard water add a splash of vinegar.

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If you have a canner like mine, when you have a steady stream of steam drop the weight on it, and then have a heart attack when your loving husband knocks the weight and a huge scalding steam cloud escapes. Process 1 hour 20 min at 10 pounds. Oh yeah by the way the timer starts when the weight STARTS to rock.

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Finally let the canner sit and cool down. Go look at Lolcats, harass your cats, clean up your mess, then and only then do you even think of opening that canner. Then happy dance and celebrate. Then wash those gorgeous greasy jars, and take the bands off to store.

My final thoughts are this, there are no chemical preservatives (other than the ketchup ingredients) or artificial dyes. Oh yeah cost per pint without non-consumables? $0.95 with an 8 pint output. For a product I made, that can sit in my spare room without freezer burn, and hopefully tastes good.

Landscaping

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Theoretically, I should have taken a before photo. Then again you can tell from the photos that it needed to be updated.

We found the barrel at Home Depot while picking up yet more tomato and pepper plants (more on this insanity later). I of course had to have it. Immediately thinking of that ugly gas meter, I used a hummingbird bush and a lovely trailing purple ground cover.

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My husband I and I dug out the grass to make a planter bed for cannas I had purchased a few weeks ago, the elephant ear a co-worker gave me, and 2 asiatic lilies that were on clearance at Lowe’s (mine had tons of annuals, and even perennials that were marked way down because they were not blooming at the time). The lilies are guinea pigs! If they make it super awesome, if not oh well I paid $5 for the pair.

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Finally a chile petin that will hopefully used when canning season comes to make some hot salsa that my husband will have to taste test (hopefully using all the tomatoes and peppers I planted). Finally, a Meyer lemon found at HEB that I just HAD to have. Hopefully it give me fruit. I chose to put in a container so I can hopefully save it in the winter from freezing.

Aquarium Seed Starter

This has been a super busy weekend for me in the garden and yard. So much it’s going to be more than one post.

First up is using an aquarium as a seed starter.

This idea goes back a while and involves a few weird twists.
1. I am horrible at starting seeds. They always end up all leggy, and then die.

2. I had a groupon for a garden center that was about to expire a while ago, after being ignored by the staff I grabbed a seed starting mat and thermometer.

3. My pet mouse died. Leaving me an empty aquarium. (Yes. I had a pet mouse, the aquarium has a lid)

So after a trip to target I snagged a lamp, and assembled the tank.

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The foil is to reflect the light around the tank.

So far it’s working wonderfully. I wish I had this back in July. Because I’m late starting these seeds.

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I used small jiffy pots, seed starting mix, and snack size baggies to create mini green houses. This allows them to stay moist, breathe a little. They are easy to watch and portable.

Next step? A timer for the light so all I have to do is water.

Tomorrow I’ll show you how to make your own seed tape!

First harvest …. Kind of

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When learning how to attend a garden one of the basic questions other than how and when to water, is when is it ready?! Some plants are very obvious like the tomato turning brilliant red when it’s ready. Some other plants aren’t so obvious. Anything that classifies as a “root vegetable” falls into this category. Beets, turnips, or radishes. What you see above is one of my radishes telling me that it is in fact ready to be plucked. The little white crown started to poke out of the garden bed on Friday evening before I was getting ready go out of town. I figured it would be okay two days from now.

When I got home on Sunday I decided to go ahead and pick that lone radish and the lone banana pepper and taste test them to know what I was getting myself into. The radish was very intense in its spiciness which I guess is what most people expect from a radish. I honestly was very surprised at this flavor from this radish because it’s a variety that they don’t sell in the grocery store. It was a spicy, almost peppery bite to it. I have another radish that I will be able to pick next weekend that I plan on grating with carrots for coleslaw. Don’t worry I’ll take pictures and post a guide; there’s not really going to be a recipe for something like that.

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Above is the radish but I just got done talking about, and my first banana pepper. Honestly, I was more worried about the banana pepper because we usually eat a pickled Greek pepper on sandwiches. While adding flavor those pickled peppers are almost too much for me to eat, and it’s not really that heat is almost like a flavor punch. I was so shocked that this banana pepper had such a mild flavor, it almost didn’t even resemble a pepper it was more like a bell pepper. So, I’m hoping that this banana pepper plant keeps putting out those nice mild sweet peppers. I plan on canning a couple of jars of the sandwich rings, and also doing a banana peppers sort of relish.

Also something that I want to point out to people as their plants are growing. Take the time to look at the plant and if it is something like an herb, or a mint plant or something that is going to thrive as a bushy plant. Locate what is called the terminal bud, it’s the last two set of leaves that are growing out of a branch. If you want your plants to become bushier, or if they getting very leggy and out of control. Take the time especially on certain cooking herbs(thyme, oregano) to go through each stem of the plant and pluck that terminal bud. For me, it is the secret to having very bushy mint plant as well as a catnip plant that is very dense. For a total nerd explanation of why this works, when you pinch off that terminal but it causes the plant to release a hormone that starts to thicken the rest of the plant. It’s natures way of telling the plant stop growing up and start growing out.

Also I promise to take full garden pics. It’s been a while since I did.

Garden update 4-24

The garden is still fairly calm. but I’m about to be able to take my first pepper of the year!

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That is a sweet banana pepper, I’m probably not going to be able to pickle it like I well whenever I have a larger batch of them.

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So far my plum tomato bush is the most shocking of all of them in the sheer number of tomatoes I’m about to have.

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It’s okay I can make salsa I got jalape├▒os. Yes, for some unknown reason my jalapeno plant likes to have black stripes. I’m not sure what’s causing this but I’m not worried about it the jalapenos are still firm and the discoloration doesn’t seem to be impacting them at all.

And finally I have to show you the wonder that is my cabbage

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Keep in mind that the
Markers that you see around it are 1 ft.┬▓, it was not smart to plant it in the center of the garden.

Also as you notice my rosemary has died. I have a few ideas of why this happened but I don’t know for certain. I haven’t been able to get a picture of them because I have not had my phone out in the garden with me whenever I see them, but for some strange reason we have a proliferation of odd looking mushrooms I like to come up in my garden. They were coming up at the base of the rosemary quite a bit and I think that that contributed to the plants demise.

Garden update 4-17

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Ladybugs! The local nursery sells them, while I doubt I have a major need for them, but they are fun to watch infest the garden. I put them out back on the raised beds and also out front on the roses.

Garden wise my plum tomato is going crazy. Almost a dozen green tomatoes. The other tomatoes have a few tomatoes each.

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Where’s Waldo for tomatoes.

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The sweet peppers just sort of popped in over night it seems.

I dropped the amount of water I was using in the garden and this seemed to help out quite a bit on greening up some of the yellow plants. I’m so used to clay, it’s hard to tell when real dirt is moist.

Roses

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One thing that we learned very early after purchasing our house is that when someone else has made it home you find interesting situations in the yard to deal with. Honestly, when we were looking at the house I wasn’t that concerned with the yard and the plants that were already here. I was more concerned about how we were going to make this house our home.

As time went on and we were more settled inside our home, I began to look at what we had outside. While there hadn’t been a lot that was done to the yard one thing that really struck me is why is there a cactus next to a rosebush? I mean, honestly, really who does that?!

Now I wish I had taken pictures of what the roses looked like last year and all through the winter. Sad would be a massive understatement. The rose bush was very lanky, long stemmed and quite bad looking. Once things started to warm up again in the spring I came to a definite decision regarding the rose bushes fate. Either it was going to behave in a manner appropriate and proper for a rosebush or it was going to be replaced.

I can not stress this enough , what I did to the rose bush is not advisable without knowing what kind of rose you have, unless you were at the point that I was which is as follows; I will have a decent looking rosebush or I will replace it. What did I do you ask? I randomly took my hedge trimmers and obliterated half of the rosebush. Yes, I viciously trimmed a rose that I had no idea of what it was, when it would bloom, or it’s pruning requirements.

Buy some freshman gardening miracle my rosebush which now I see is two separate rose varieties wanted and needed a drastic trimming.

At this point you are probably looking at the picture saying, hey that looks awesome. Yes it does look awesome, but understand I was to the point that it was either going to behave and be a gorgeous rosebush, or I was going to mercilessly dig it up and replace it with another succulent. Also, don’t ask why a rose and a cactus are coexisting so happily together. I have no freaking clue.

Ohhh baby tomatoes!

I finally reached the point in the season where there isn’t a lot to do in the garden except water and inspect. Call inspecting over the weekend I noticed that I have my first baby tomatoes!

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Yes one of them is already split and I’m blaming this on the fact that my garden soil is not holding a constant supply of moisture.

Since I have birdfeeders in my backyard I decided to go ahead and follow advice that I had found a while looking up tomato plants on the Internet, to add red Christmas ornament before my tomatoes turn red.

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I had little disco ball Christmas tree ornaments and I thought that they looked cute so I added those as well. I also added eggshells around the bottom of the tomato plants maybe discourage some climbing pests from being as attracted to them as they seem to be.

My peppers both the jalapeno and sweet peppers are showing signs of having small buds that will develop into peppers on them as well.

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Everything else is doing wonderfully I switched to turning the sprinkler on for about 20 minutes in the evening to try and see if that will help desk for some of the heat damage, and to try and stop tomato splitting.

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That’s my cabbage plant it has taken off, I’m not sure however if I am going to get a head of cabbage before it gets too hot and it bolts.

I’ll leave you with a shot of the backyard. This is what I get to come home to and sit out and enjoy in the evenings

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Gardening update 4/1

It’s been a pretty busy week I was out of town for about 2 1/2 days, came home and tried to cram a bunch into what felt like an incredibly short weekend.

The garden boxes are doing okay and as the temperatures have raised, we had mid 80s here most of the week, I began to notice that they weren’t holding moisture as well as I needed them to.

I ended up buying a garden soil amendment that is basically peat moss, fertilizer, manure combo and sort of went through and top dressed the beds the best I could

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This resulted in some of the squares being a lower elevation because of the seedlings in them. I then mulched over the dressing. I’m not sure if this is going to hurt or help. I guess we will see.

I also removed some concrete pavers that were buried in the yard. I used soil I removed from the garden boxes and some of the moisture control amendment to fill in the area. The plan is to attempt to plant grass seed there.

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The last major project this weekend for me was getting the morning glories, and moon flowers planted.

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I’m hoping in a few days that my tomato plants start to look better than this

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Morning glories and moonflowers

This doesn’t look like much, but it is a tray of morning glory and moonflowers. I’m starting these in peat pots because I put a weed product on the lawn that stops germination. So I can’t direct so them.

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The moonflowers say they don’t transplant well so I chose peat pots so I can transplant them.

Garden wise….

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The sugar snaps and bush beans are going strong.

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If you look closely the sugar snaps are sending tendrils up and circling the garden twine. They are so cute.

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Yesterday I went through and added more seeds to some squares to give a staggered crop and also to make up for seedlings that aren’t doing well. I’m blaming fire ants. More on that later.

The other garden plot is also doing well.

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The oregano is coming up fast, and the cabbage is starting to shape into a head.