This year, we were blessed with abundant produce that was free or nearly free to us. We had a small garden and very generous landlords.
I’ve admitted in the past that I am not a gardener. I like to blame it on my sensory issues – there is nothing about playing in the dirt that intrigues me. However, I REALLY like having fresh produce that WE grew. So fun! This year, we grew peas, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, corn, green beans, and there are cantaloupe on the vine as we speak.
As for our generous landlords – they are an older couple who plant WAY more than they could ever eat (as in 60 tomato plants!). They have sent tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, and green beans our way in bucket-fulls! And I am sure not going to waste it!
And then, to top it off, this has been a stellar year for the sandhill (or wild) plum! These little beauties grow roadside and are usually free for the picking by whomever makes it there first!
As promised last week in my Pregnancy Update, here are the recipes we’ve been using this canning season.
Sandhill Plum Jelly - Apparently, I’m one of the few sites out there with this recipe because this time of year, I get a lot of hits on this post.
I mention in my plum jelly post how I was running my pulp through mesh with a spoon. Well, thankfully, I found my sieve! This isn’t the cleanest job in the world, but that tart jelly is oh so worth it!
Freezer Green Beans – Early on, we froze our green beans. This is a nice, simple process that yields beautiful, bags full of bright green veggies!
1. Wash your beans.
2. Trim the stems off your beans and cut them in half.
3. Blanch the beans in boiling water for 1 minute.
4. Dunk in ice water for 1 minute.
5. Pat dry (we used paper towels).
6. Bag in “meal sized” freezer bags. For our family, this means full 1 gallon bags, but that may be too much for your family. Adjust accordingly.
Pickled Green Beans – As the season wore on, and the landlords had more and more and more green beans, my kids begged for pickled green beans instead of freezing them. Now for some of you, the idea of pickled green beans seems pretty “out there”, but you really ought to try it!
You can use any pickle recipe, but this one is very similar to what we use for our pickled okra (when we have it) and has been a favorite for a very long time. It includes dill, garlic and red pepper flakes, and ends up quite yummy. By the way, if you ever want to hear my “angry okra” story, fell free to read all about it HERE.
Cucumber Pickles – We didn’t end up with very many cucumbers, so what we did end up with became pickles that went straight into our refrigerator. When you do this, you really need to let them set in the refrigerator unopened for about a week (more would be ideal) to get the full flavor. It was all we could do to wait a week, and they were gobbled up all in one setting! The recipe we used came from Sheri Graham.
Salsa – When the tomatoes first started rolling in, we did up huge batches of our favorite salsa.
This is a very chunky salsa with some surprising ingredients like balsamic vinegar and soy sauce! The acid content in the salsa was plenty high enough to be able to water bath it (the only kind of canning I do), so we ended up doing about 3 gallons.
Later, we moved on to a less chunky salsa that we found HERE. However, I don’t think either salsa is really going to be hot enough. I need to put more heat in them next time.
Spaghetti Sauce – I had never canned spaghetti sauce, and frankly, we don’t use the stuff. For years, we have simply used tomato sauce with spices in it. That’s it. However, I thought it would be nice to have some real homemade sauce for our italian meals, so I dug around for a recipe and came up with THIS ONE.
It was VERY tasty, but by the time we had done up a dozen quarts (plus the salsa we had already done), my kids (and myself) were sick of tomatoes. I happened to mention on Facebook how we were all tired of peeling and seeding tomatoes, and my Facebook blew up with people chiming in saying they didn’t peel or de-seed their tomatoes and I shouldn’t either! I was astounded. I was under the impression this was a RULE. So, when the landlords called and asked if I wanted yet another round of tomatoes, I exasperated my children by saying Yes…because I really wanted to try this little experiment!
Well, the truth is, I will be trying this little experiment later today. HERE is the recipe I’m going to use. Now, I know the woman in the post freezes hers, but I will be adding some tomato paste (to thicken) and lemon juice (to up the acid content) and water bath them for 20 minutes. I will also probably run them through the Vita-Mix…just in case people are pulling my leg about having the skins and seeds in there being ok.
Once I’m through the last of the tomatoes and the sandhill plums, we will be finished until apple season…which also looks like a bumper crop. We buy seconds at a local orchard and turn them into all sorts of yummy treats! We’ll be freezing slices for pie, making applesauce to can, making apple butter (probably in the crock pot), and maybe even some apple pie filling!
Until then, the rest of the tomatoes on the vine will be picked green and fried.