Monday, September 28, 2009

Salsa and a Recipe

The past month I've been in Salsa mode. I've never canned salsa before so I really wasn't sure where to start. I didn't have many tomatoes that I grew to use so I had to pick up tomatoes from the farmers market. I ended up with 1/2 a bushel for I think it was $9.00. Then I also picked up green peppers, jalepeno peppers and onions. I do hope to plant enough to not have to go to the farmers market next year.

For my first batch of salsa I just cut up some tomatoes (after blanching them) and did a boiled water bath canning method with a packet of Ball salsa that I picked up at the store. This was just ok. After sitting for awhile it might be better but I definately didn't love it.

After doing lots of looking online I found a recipe that has gotten lots of feedback so I wanted to give it a try. I found the recipe at garden web, it's Annie's Salsa.

Here's the recipe with my own notes in parenthesis

Annie's Salsa
8 cups tomatoes, peeled, chopped and drained
2-1/2 cups onion, chopped
1-1/2 cups green pepper, chopped
3 - 5 jalapenos, chopped - 3-5 jalapenos equates to roughly 1/4 cup, so total peppers cannot exceed 1-3/4 cups. (I used 4 jalepenos)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons pepper
1/8 cup canning salt (I used what I had on hand, sea salt)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped (I didn't add this, they say you can add it fresh when you open a jar which I tried once and did not like it)
1/3 cup sugar (I think next time around I will decrease this, I didn't really like the sweet taste)
1 cup vinegar - Pressure canning is no longer recommended, which specified 1/3 cup vinegar. Must include full 1 cup of vinegar for BWB processing. However, may substitute bottled lemon or lime juice in any proportions according to taste (for example, 1/3 cup vinegar, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1/3 cup lime juice). Can use any flavor vinegar (white, cider, etc.) as long as acidity is at least 5%. (I used 1/2 cup vinegar & 1/2 cup lemon juice)
2 cups (16 oz.) tomato sauce (I just used a can which I think was 14 or 15 oz)
2 cups (16 oz.)tomato paste (I only added 8 oz because I didn't want it too thick)

Mix all ingredients, bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Pour into hot pint jars, seal and process in a hot water canning bath for 15 minutes. Makes about 6 pints. >Cannot BWB quarts. If doing half-pints or smaller, process for the pint time of 15 minutes.

I ended up making 3 batches of this and it's mmmm good! My second batch scortched a little but I canned it anyway and marked the jars in case it tastes bad, all that work I really couldn't toss it out. I just won't use it for gifts :)

I only made two batches with the 1/2 bushel of tomatoes and I had lots of tomatoes left, probably could've made another batch but I didn't have enough of the other ingredients so I just blanched the rest of the tomatoes and put them in quart freezer bags to use in recipes this winter. Oh and after draining all the tomatoes as I made the salsa I ended up with 2 quarts of tomatoe juice too that I canned! I just cooked the juice for a bit in hopes to thicken it, put it in the jars added about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and put them in BWB.

Harvest & Canning

I've been busy busy with some canning and freezing. It's just me and my hubby but I enjoy canning and it'll be such a treat opening a fresh jar of salsa or jam in the middle of winter.

I made up about 4 batches of salsa so far and have been debating on making up some more, it's a lot of work but it's so good and with Christmas gifts I'm afraid we'll run out even before 2010. We'll see though I have a ton of apples to take care of right now.

Just this last weekend I picked up 3 pie pumpkins and I had what I thought was 2 other pumpkins the weekend before. I found out those 2 are ambercup squash, well I'm going to treat them as pumpkins and see how that works :) I spent all afternoon yesterday pureeing the 3 pumpkins and one of the squash. This was super easy to do and for $4.00 I got a ton of pureed pumpkin to use. I think I ended up with 18 1/2 cups total! I think I could supply my whole family with pumpkin for our famous choc. chip pumpkin muffins.

I am horrible at printing off recipes that I have found online so maybe I'll just note a couple recipes on my blog so I know where I can find them come next year :)

First the instructions for pureeing the pumpkins (I should've taken pics but I followed the same instructions over at Pioneer Woman)

First I snapped the stem off then cut the pumpkin in half. This was not an easy task and I was sure I was going to be heading to the ER with a my finger cut off or something. I ended up using my Ulu knife that we got in AK and it worked much better. Next scrape out the seeds, no need to get real picky with all the string stuff.

Heat oven to 350, place the pumpkins on a baking sheet (I put mine in cut side up) and bake for about 45 mins. or until tender when poked with a fork.

Let the pumpkins cool a bit and scrape the peeling off, cut into chunks and throw into the food processor and puree. Water might need to be added if they're too dry.

After pureeing I used my Pampered Chef measuring cup (the one that works awesome for p.b.) and measured out 1 cup at a time then put it into quart size freezer bags, squeezed the air out and stacked them into freezer.

All of this really took me longer than I thought, I'd say about 4 hrs. But I really think I'll be happy I've got all that pumpkin ready to use. I was anxious to see how good this pumpkin would be so I made up a batch of my choc chip pumpkin muffins right away. I thought they turned out pretty good, they seemed to be a bit sweeter so I think I could cut the sugar down on my recipe a bit next time.

Maybe if I remember I'll snap a pic of all the pumpkin stacked up in the freezer to share.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Harvest Time

Wow Ive really been neglecting this blog. Today I want to share some harvest pics and post my notes for next years planning. Im posting the good & bad, how else will I know what works & didn't work :) Everything is planted in containers and on the deck this year, which makes it very convenient and much better attended.

First, the herbs. This year I planted chives, oregano & basil. I really haven't used many of any of these yet so I really need to think about what I need to plant next year. I do like the fresh chives cut up & put in the mashed potatoes we make from Schwans. The basil got attacked again this year by the japenese beatles and I really haven't used much of that either. The oregano is doing great but really haven't used that. But I haven't really started my "harvest" yet of my herbs so maybe I will end up using them. I hope to use the basil & oregano to can with some tomatoes. So I think I will probably plant herbs again next year. I do like the containers better this year than the little herb pots I used last year. Also I think if I cover my basil next year with some netting the end of July that'll keep the beatles off of it. I think I'd like to try cilantro next year to use for salsa.

Next is my patio tomato. This did not do so well. I think from the get go the plant got too much water and the roots didn't get strong enough, Im surprised I got anything out of this plant. Overall I was not happy with the size of the fruit or the quantity. I won't use the patio variety again instead I'll plant either Early Girl (I think thats what its called) or Better Boy next year. Last year I planted Better Boy and got a good harvest but didn't do much with what I got. Im thinking about maybe planting more next year and have a plan to can the tomatoes with some of the oregano and basil and also make some salsa. Since I didn't really get any big tomatoes this year I ended up buying 10 lbs at the grocery store at $.99/lb. for canning.

I love surgar snap peas and they're so expensive to buy at the store so I thought I'd try growing them this year. Well I didn't get much out of it and I think I shoulda had them growing on a trellis. If I try them next year that is what I will do. I think they got dry a few times too cuz the bottom of the plant dried up on me.

Next the zucchini. I like zucchini, it brings back memories of baked goods my granmother would make. I love it fried up with some herbs too. Last year when I grew it in a container I think it got too wet because all the veggies just shriveled up. The plant is looking a little better this year.

And this year it looks like I might get something! So far just one but it's looking like I might get two off of it, a little less than I expected. Im thinking the container might restrict it more than if I planted it in the ground. We'll see how it goes the rest of the year.

Next are the beans. I planted yellow and green ones this year. I started getting beans probably 2 weeks or so ago and pretty much eat them raw as fast as they're to pick. So far I only have a sandwich bag in the freezer of them. I loooove green beans and would really like to have them over the winter to eat so I would definately have to plant lots more. I think I'd like to try the purples ones too. I actually planted these in two different containers so if I want lots more Im going to have to come up with a better plan for them.

Now for the tomatoes! I dont eat raw tomatoes, yet I planted lots (for me at least). Paul eats them though so thats good. I planted a cherry and a grape tomato plant in each of the wash bins, I probably could have gotten 4 plants in each one if I wanted. I can't believe how huge these plants have gotten and how much fruit they are producing! One thing though, I really expected the grape tomatoes to be quite a bit smaller than the cherry ones but they're really close to the same size. Paul hasn't been able to keep up with eating all of these and I really didn't have a clue what to do with them so I did some looking and found out how to dry them. I'll post details on that later. Now, even though I won't eat these raw I will eat them dried in pastas and sauces and possibly even just poppin them into my mouth (yes Im weird, how is that any different than raw). So, if the dried tomatoes work out as good as I hope I think I will try planting 3 or 4 of each of these plants.

And lastly my roma tomatoes. I had picked up a 4 pk of these this spring so I planted all 4 in this pot, I think they're doing alright in here, not too crammed. Im pleased with the outcome of this, the fruit is huge too, the romas I buy from the store are about 1/2 the size of these. I haven't quite figured out what Im going to do with all the romas yet and I should because they will soon be ready to pick. I might do some sauces or salsa with these.

That's all my veggies! I am really enjoying the harvest and would really like to try some other veggies I just need to figure out where Im going to put it all, I don't think my husband would be happy if I used the whole deck :) I really do like the containers though a lot less maintenance, so Im going to have to figure out what to do for more containers too. I wouldn't mind a waist high raised container which would mean Paul would have to make me some & investing in the lumber so we'll see.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Some Spring Cleanup

I have been really behind this year in the yard and I have come to the conclusion (actually I come to this conclusion this time every year) that I have a love/hate for our oak trees. We have a couple of them that I would really hate for us to lose but in the fall and spring I really don't like the mess they make. Every spring I have to clean out our landscape & it seems like there's about 10 trees worth of leaves in there it's crazy. Here's what I got raked out today. And I have decided I really need to get this done sooner because it was a pain to rake up with the shrubs all filled in.

It's such a pain to dispose of all the leaves we collect around here, plus it's hard to coordinate the leaf pick up with my dh. So I've decided to scout out a spot somewhere in the yard to start a decent size compost. Our mower is a mulcher so I'll just mow the leaves & bag them then dump them in the spot and wait for it to be compost then use that next year in the beds. We'll see how this goes.

While I was out raking today I saw this butterfly fluttering around and enjoying my phlox & he was nice enough to let me get his picture :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pics and planning for the shed area

It's so delightful to browse through these pics, everything is so brown and bare right now, these pics just make it so cheerful. While going through my pics around my shed I realized I didn't take as many as I had thought so hopefully this year I will be a little better about that.

This is an early summer photo (I know it's posted further down in the blog). This year I hope to get the little deck replaced before the flowers start poking through the ground too much so they don't get trampled on during the replacement.

I loved the tipsy pots but I think I'll try just three this year since the smallest pot was really hard to keep moist. Im not quite sure on the flowers this time but I think I want to change them up a bit. The little cone basket with the butterfly impatience in it did well so I will definately be doing that again. As for the fence table with the flower box I will do that differently since I was not pleased with the outcome last year. I haven't decided if I should use the fence again or mount the flowerbox under the window, I'm thinking of mounting it though to match the other two.

This side of the shed is really progressing & filling in nicely. I'll have to get my picket fence pieces painted before the flowers start coming up this year and I really shouldn't need to add any flowers in here.

I loved the geraniums in the window box, I can't remember if I had two or three but I think this year I will definately go with three. The million bells didn't do so great I think because I didn't keep it moist enough so I don't know if I'll do those again or not. It seems like there are some varieties that do great and some that don't. I also had a vine in the box that went to the ground, since the lilies grew up to the window I don't need a vine to fill in but some sort of foliage would be nice or maybe fill in with some white allysum. I love the pink and I think I'll be going with that again this year.

Another view of the side of the shed. It gets a little bare up closer to the front but Im hoping things fill in some more and spread that way instead of planting some more. I did plant 2 foxglove in the bare spots late in the year so we'll see if they come up again.
Here's the shade side of the shed. I loved the little purple butterly impatients and will definately do those again this year. Maybe there will be more colors available. The coleus also did very well I think this one was called mosaic, I'd have to double check, I love all the colors in it. I think instead of the begonia in the middle I'd rather do another impatient or something that trails a little more. Otherwise this basket looks good but Im hoping to do some pink rather than yellow & purple this year, we'll see what's available.

For some reason I don't have a pic of the flower bed on this side of the shed. It's complete though with some transplanted hostas, bleeding hearts and some astilibe I bought last year.

Thats it for this area. Going through these is really giving me the itch to get out and work in the yard and get everything ready for the planting season.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring is here!

I think :) One never knows with the WI weather. It's still kind of cool out 40's & 50's but Im sure those beautiful 60's & 70's are just around the corner and hopefully without one last snowfall.

I haven't had a chance to even venture out into the yard to see what's poking through the ground because I have been sick with bronchitis and I was lucky enough to have the flu 2 weekends ago too. Hopefully I'll get a chance to venture out this coming weekend to start some spring yard clean up.

I think it's time to start making notes for flower purchasing too so I can start budgeting that on the tight budget Im giving myself this year. I slacked off on my notes last summer so hopefully I'll be able to go back through my pics this spring to see what changes I want to make & what flowers I want to repeat this year.

Hopefully this week I'll get a chance to make those notes on here, it'd be nice to be ahead of the game :) I think the greenhouses will be open in under 3 weeks so I better get organized.