How to Store
4 March 2014, by gj
Did you ever stop to wonder just how self-sufficient your garden could make you? Sure you can grow great veggies, even a good protein source through dry beans.
But what about grains?
Although technically these are not all grains, we are listing them because they are used that way:
Most often thought of as a vegetable, corn is actually a grain. You can grow field or dry corn the same as you would sweet, but allow it to dry thoroughly on the cob before harvesting the kernels to grind.
Be sure to take preventative measures if you are also growing sweet corn nearby, as their pollen is carried on the wind and there can be cross pollination.
This summer we will be showing you ways to help prevent this; but for the meantime, keep them as far apart as possible preferably with a structure between them.
One of the best varieties for making your own corn meal, according to Baker Creek seed catalog, is Cherokee White Eagle. Just be sure to choose a variety that is meant to use for this purpose, they are less sugary and will dry more easily.
Grind, store and use the way you would store bought cornmeal.
Technically a vegetable, quinoa is a relative of spinach that is fast gaining popularity in restaurants as well as home kitchens. Part of the reason, other than the delightful taste, is that quinoa carries a protein not normally found in a vegetable. Especially for vegetarians, this is a wonderful thing.
What you harvest here are the seeds as well, dry, store and use like you would rice. You can also grind the seeds to use like flour.
Often grown for its use as a fiber, the seeds of flax are actually wonderfully nutritious. They are a good source of omega-3′s and high in fiber. The milled seeds can be added to many baked goods.
We are so excited to try our hand at growing flax this year.
Often listed under herbs, and even considered sometimes as a flower, Amaranth is a beautiful tall edible whose flower seeds can be used as a grain.
In some varieties you can also eat the leaves as a vegetable, bonus! The most common variety grown for the edible seeds is Love Lies Bleeding.
One definition of grains is that they are grasses that produce small edible seeds. Millet fits this description well. Its seeds can be ground for flours or gruel, but it is often also used as bird seed.
We are going to try one of the most common varieties used in the US, a Proso type; specifically Proso White.
Again, we will have more specifics on this as we actually grow and harvest it.
Dry or Field Corn
Generally speaking these crops grow quite tall, and the harvest you get for the space may not compare to vegetables you plant instead.
But if you have the room and want to be more independent, consider trying a grain crop.
We will let you know how we fare, what was worth it and maybe what was not over the course of the next year.
Hopefully it will all be rave reviews; but the idea of not being dependent on a store for our grains is already a win in our books!
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Categories: How to Store, other, preparedness
10 January 2014, by gj
Preparing cabbage for canning.
Home canning is easy enough to do.
If you are just starting out, here’s a little information to help.
1. Measure headspace from the very top of the jar down to the top of the food.
Having the right amount of headspace is very important. Too much headspace and the jars may not seal properly. Too little, and your food could expand to the point that it leaks out, preventing a seal.
Once you are canning for a while, you will get the hang of it visually. You can also use your finger, I know that from the tip of my forefinger to the bottom of the nail is 1/2″. No ruler needed.
2. Be sure everything is clean.
Perhaps this goes without saying. Wash everything before you start, from the food to the jars and lids.
Be sure the cat won’t be jumping up on the counter, and don’t let anyone lick the spoon until you are done.
sauce, soup, sauce, snack, snack
3. In the beginning at least, don’t change the recipe.
You can water bath process whole tomatoes, but if you go and start adding things like celery to make stewed tomatoes, you will need to pressure can.
High acid foods such as tomatoes and pickles have the acid in them to help preserve the food. The same is true for high sugar foods like jams and some juices. When you add other ingredients, you change that acid or sugar level.
While it doesn’t hurt to add a little spice, otherwise stick to the recipes.
Likewise, stick closely to the processing times.
4. After the jars seal, should you leave the rings on or take them off?
There is a lot of bizarre misinformation out there, like ‘if you leave the rings on, bacteria can grow under the ring and get into your food’.
Whether you leave them on or not is optional. We remove them for 2 simple reasons:
A. We are cheap and do not want to invest in a ton of rings.
B. You should take them off to wipe the jars anyway, especially if you pressure canned as there is likely some residue on the outside of the jars. May as well leave them off.
5. Label and date your food.
Is that salsa or stewed tomatoes? Hmmm….
Don’t leave it to your memory. Just use a Sharpie marker to write on the lids, you’ll be throwing them out anyway.
Be sure to add the month and year, to make rotating your supply easier.
Get your hands on a good canning book.
Preserving food really isn’t difficult.
Here’s a short video to show you more.
Categories: How to Store, pressure canning, water bath/steam canning
12 October 2013, by gj
At some point anyone who gardens where there will be frost must decide what they will do with the end of season green tomatoes.
There are basically 3 things you can choose:
1. Freeze them
You can simply slice, place on a cookie sheet and freeze. Once they are frozen, place in a container or plastic bag. By freezing them individually, they won’t all be stuck together.
This way you can thaw and have fried green tomatoes throughout the winter.
A Facebook friend of mine says you can actually prep them first, then individually freeze, making them ready to fry with no defrosting needed.
The wall of volunteer plants. There are many green tomatoes in there, trust me.
2. Can them.
Green tomato relish is a wonderful alternative to many other, commercially processed, condiments. You can also pickle green tomatoes, make mincemeat from them, or add to your sauerkraut.
All of these are a great way to free up a little freezer space and instead fill up the larder shelves.
Preparing to trim the plants before ripening fruit on the vine.
3. Let them ripen.
The most common way to ripen tomatoes indoors is to wrap them individually in newspaper or brown lunch bags, place in a dark spot, and keep an eye on them.
If you have a lot of tomatoes, this can be rather tedious. You really have to watch so that you get to them when they are ready.
A little easier is to place them loosely in an airy basket and put that in a dark spot. This makes it easier to see which ones are ready first.
We also tried George Washington Carver’s method of hanging them upside down to ripen on the vine. We learned the hard way to trim off the excess leaves first, or you will be soon sweeping them up. Again you want the tomatoes out of direct light, and preferably in a warm area.
We like this method the best. We just hung them in a spare room and ‘picked’ them as they ripened.
This year we have so many volunteer plants they set fruit late, that we will likely be doing some of each method… and counting our blessings along the way.
Categories: freezing, How to Store, other
4 October 2013, by gj
Whether you are allergic to wheat, have a problem with gluten, are trying to reduce carbs in your diet, or are just looking for a healthier alternative to the typical store-bought bread crumbs, your garden is the place to go.
It was a few years back we looked at making flour from pumpkin flesh. The same can be done with a slew of other veggies, in fact I’m sure you could combine different vegetables to make a very healthy flour.
Note here that if you are going to bake with it, you can only substitute 1/3 of your vegetable flour in the recipe.
But then the same line of thinking led to… what about bread crumbs?
How to fit a head of cauliflower into a canning jar.
So the theory was tested by dehydrating an entire head of cauliflower. The result was about 1 3/4 cups of dried vegetable. Pretty potent stuff.
Some of that was then ground up in a good coffee grinder. Tofu was chosen for the experiment since it has pretty much no flavor of its own, a good test to see how strong the cauliflower taste would be.
Tofu slices were dipped first in organic corn meal, then in some beaten egg, then into the cauliflower. Some pieces were baked, some were fried. Just for comparison sake, some were also made with rice flour instead of the cauliflower.
Mandolin was the unknowing taste-tester. Good thing he trusts me!
“Is that cauliflower?” he asked, “It’s good, I like cauliflower.”
The taste was much milder than we expected, and we agreed if it were anything other than tofu you would probably not taste the cauliflower at all.
We both liked it better than the rice flour, as it was crunchier. We also preferred the fried to the baked.
We then served it with a nice orange-ginger sauce, and it was wonderful.
This weekend we’re looking forward to trying it again, when SaveTheWorld is home on fall break; but this time with fried green tomatoes.
Maybe we’ll even try a variety of veggies for the breading, just to see how it tastes.
I’m betting she doesn’t notice the difference at all, though she will be happy to know it is a healthier alternative.
With younger kids, you may want to keep this a secret for a while.
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Categories: drying-roasting, gardening people, places & things, How to Store, organic, preparedness, you can grow that
20 September 2013, by gj
Earlier in the summer a friend of mine was telling me how she makes her own vanilla extract every year. It came up when I mentioned I was making Raspberry Infused Vodka.
“It started when I was given a kit. It was just a glass bottle with vanilla beans in it. It said to fill the bottle with vodka, and let it sit for three weeks. Then strain.”
So I looked in our baking cabinet to see what extracts I had. Okay, so Rum won’t work.
But mint will, and raspberry definitely will. In fact, I still have some raspberries in the freezer.
I also picked some lemon balm to make a nice lemon extract.
Mint, raspberry and lemon.
Simply chop the herbs to get the oils out, add to a jar and add vodka.
For berries you can just wash and put them in the jar.
Let them sit in a dark place. After about 3 weeks, check to see how strong the flavor is; extracts should be pretty intense.
We found the berries flavored the fastest. The lemon is taking its time, so I’m going to add some lemon grass to the jar.
When you like the flavor, strain and store either in an amber jar or in a dark place.
Now I can’t wait until the almond tree starts producing.
Mmmm…. That should make some outstanding Irish Cream Liquor.
Categories: other, saving money & time
17 September 2013, by gj
Can you believe at our age we have never tasted Salsa Verde? We live such a sheltered life.
Fortunately our daughter in law and son gifted us a bag of homegrown tomatillos. Now was our chance.
I looked in one of the Ball canning books we have and under Tomatillo there was only one entry.
Yeah, you got that right.
So here is their recipe, reprinted with permission of course. And then I’ll tell you where we wavered.
Just asking for it.
5.5 cups chopped, cored, husked tomatillos (about 2 pounds)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green chili peppers
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. minced cilantro
2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red pepper
1/2 cup vinegar
1/4 cup lime juice
Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water batch.
Yield: about 2 pints
Note: When cutting or seeding hot peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned.
Here’s how we varied:
I have mentioned before that we were previously licensed food processors, and we are aware of what you can mess with in a recipe, and what you cannot. When you are first starting out canning, please adhere closely to recipes for safety’s sake.
That being said, we knew we needed to keep the fruit to acid ratio the same to be safe, so although we changed some of the spices, we went with a total fruit amount that matched the amount of vinegar and lime juice the recipe called for.
That’s the fruit to acid ratio.
First off, we didn’t have cilantro.
Ack, what? Salsa Verde without cilantro?
Relax, we had the next best thing. Plenty of fresh parsley and coriander. In case you did not know, coriander is the seed that cilantro produces.
And, well, we didn’t have any fresh green chilis. Or so we thought.
Instead we chopped up some red and green dried chili peppers, then realized we actually did have some fresh hot peppers in the garden.
Just not all chili peppers.
A refreshing kind of hot.
Okay, so yeah… our first ever Salsa Verde includes a variety of peppers not mentioned in this recipe.
Are you surprised?
Oh and BTW, it’s awesome… with a hint of lime.
This recipe reprinted with permission. Recipes provided by BALL BLUE BOOK(r) OF PRESERVING. Copyright (c) 2009,
Jarden Home Brands, marketer of Ball(r) and Kerr(r) fresh preserving products.
Jarden Home Brands is a division of Jarden Corporation (NYSE: JAH).
Categories: Recipes, water bath/steam canning
13 September 2013, by gj
Although these instructions could apply to many different flavors of jelly, we are going to look at grape specifically.
The garden entrance, before jelly making time.
As we mentioned recently, the difference between jelly and other ways to preserve fruit is you only use the juice.
Technically, you could buy fruit juice and make jelly from that, but then you would also be getting all the corn syrup and other junk they add.
Kind of defeats the purpose.
So for a batch of jelly you will need about a gallon of fruit, we harvested a little more than that and ended up with extra juice. That’s about 3-4 pounds before they are cleaned.
Bringing in some of the grapes.
After you have cleaned the berries and removed the stems, put them on the stove with about 1/3 cup water for each 4 cups of berries. Crush them a little as you go with a potato masher.
Bring them just to a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes.
This makes getting the juice out easier.
Of course if you have a juicer you can let the berries cool, and remove the juice using that device.
Our concord grapes have tiny seeds that clog our juicer, so it’s off to the jelly bag we go.
Gravity will pull the juice through the jelly bag.
This is a simple device with 3 screw in legs and a ring that holds a rewashable jelly bag made for this purpose. They are not expensive at all.
You can also use 2 layers of cheesecloth. I have even heard of people using coffee filters, though I think that would take a long time.
Anyway, add the fruit pulp to the bag and let it do its thing.
After it slows down, we do squeeze it a few times to get as much juice as possible. Why waste, right?
Now the Ball canning book directs you to ‘set aside in a cool place for 12-24 hours, then strain again to remove any crystals that might have formed.’
We did, but did not have any crystals, so we’re good to go.
From here there are two ways you can make jelly: with and without added pectin.
Pectin is a natural substance made by boiling down apples, and it helps you to get a more reliable set to your jelly. You can find it in powdered and liquid form, and with types that are either ‘no sugar added’ or regular.
We have used both, and made jelly with pectin and without.
Honestly, we get the best results with pectin and added sugar.
But that’s just us, it is fun to experiment and find your own way.
To make jelly without pectin:
NOTE: Do not double the jelly recipe.
Trust me on this.
Measure 4 cups juice (just 4 cups, not all the juice you have) and add 3 cups sugar. Place is a deep pan and heat until sugar is dissolved.
Then bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. You will see the jelly begin to get thicker.
What you want is a mixture that, when put on a teaspoon and tilted, will slide off the spoon in one ‘sheet’ not in dribs or drops. This is the hardest part to get right, and I admit I have a tendency to cook it a little too long.
To make jelly with liquid pectin:
Again measure only 4 cups of juice and add 7 cups of sugar. Place in a deep pan, and stir over heat until sugar dissolves. Have 1 liquid pectin pouch open and ready.
Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil, and add the pectin.
Bring back to a full rolling boil, and boil hard for a full minute.
In both cases:
Remove pan from heat. Skim off foam if you want to. Ladle hot jelly into hot, sterile jelly jars until the jelly is 1/4″ from the top of the jar.
Wipe off any spills on the rim with a clean wet cloth.
Add a new jar lid that has been held in hot water.
Screw on a rim, just enough to close it. Do not tighten the rim.
Place in a water bath canning pot and be sure the water covers the jars, boil (process) 10 minutes for half-pint jelly jars. If you are making pints, process another 5 minutes.
Remove from heat using a jar lifter, and let cool on a hand towel. You will hear the jars seal ::Pop:: ::Pop:: ::Pop::
What a wonderful sound!
Don’t worry if the jelly does not look thick for a while, it can take as much as a week.
After a day, be sure all lids have sealed, by pressing down on the lid. If it gives back and forth, place that jar in the fridge to be used up.
Otherwise, you can remove the rims and store your beautiful new jelly!
Jewel-like colors await.
If you are new to canning, here is a look at some of the items mentioned in this post.
Portions of this post and recipes reprinted with permission.Recipes provided by BALL BLUE BOOK(r) OF PRESERVING. Copyright (c) 2009,
Jarden Home Brands, marketer of Ball(r) and Kerr(r) fresh preserving
Jarden Home Brands is a division of Jarden Corporation (NYSE: JAH).
Categories: How to Store, water bath/steam canning
10 September 2013, by gj
And preserves, conserves, butters and sauces.
In the world of ‘putting up fruit’ there are a lot of options available to you.
As a prelude to our next post on How to Make Jelly, it might be good to look at what the difference between these are.
Oh, but if you’re looking for a fancy-schmansy definition, you won’t find it here.
We’re keeping it simple.
Sauce and butter.
On a scale of easy to difficult, I would list:
2. Sauces and Butters
Preserves are the easiest as there is little prep involved. You are basically holding the fruit, either whole or in large pieces, in a syrup of some sort.
Sauces and butters are grouped together because there is little difference in how they are made. Whether you make applesauce or apple butter is really just an ingredient thing, and a matter of how thick you want the end result.
Two jams and a sauce.
Jam is one of our favorites, as you need only chop the fruit, or squish it as in the case of berries. You then continue on with the sugar and pectin, if desired.
Conserves are a little more involved, bringing in additional ingredients and spices.
Marmalades are the most difficult, but they are also the best to give as gifts in our opinion. We used to make an Orange-Lemon Marmalade that, although relatively time consuming, was worth the effort.
Jelly is the one we will be looking at in detail. What makes it a little harder than most is that you need to extract the juice first, then continue with the process.
For those that have a juicer at home, this is made easier. It depends on the fruit though. For example, our Jack LaLane juicer can not handle the tiny pits found in the concord grapes we grow.
So our next post will be an in depth look at making jelly.
And just perhaps, if you are interested, we’ll make a batch of that marmalade too.
If only for old time’s sake.
Categories: water bath/steam canning
25 August 2013, by gj
The tip of the summer squash iceberg.
Three hills of summer squash may seem like two hills too many, unless you have fun ways to serve what you pick fresh.
We had heard of making curly fries from potatoes and sweet potatoes, then learned you can do the same thing with eggplant, summer squash, and butternut squash.
After checking out a few YouTube videos demonstrating slicers, we chose one by Paderno. It seemed to be the easiest and most reasonably priced for what we needed.
According to the directions included, you can also use it to slice and make curly cues from turnips, radishes, cabbage, apples and carrots. Hmm… pretty neat.
Quick and easy.
Once we got the hang of it, it did the job quick and is very easy to use.
Mandolin grabbed some of the first batch of crookneck squash shown and added it to some sauteed garlic and roasted onion tops. He threw in baby spinach, fresh basil, a little salt and pepper and a dash of lemon juice.
Topped with some Parmesan cheese, it was lunch in a snap.
The rest of the squash curls went into the dehydrator, something we learned in the Facebook group Dehydrating Tips and Recipes.
Ready to store for up to 10 years.
No longer is Mandolin saying “Two zucchini plants are at least one too many.”
Instead we are anxiously awaiting that overabundance of summer squash, something we never thought we would be doing.
Categories: drying-roasting, How to Store, Recipes
13 August 2013, by gj
This is something that we have attempted in the past, with limited results.
Herbs, yeah, they are easy. Simply hang upside down in a brown lunch bag to dry.
Celery leaves, not to difficult. Dry in the dehydrator, crush, and use as a spice.
The simplest form of dehydrating.
But really dehydrating food seemed to be more than inexperienced me and my old, used, American Harvester dehydrator were capable of.
It took forever, the results were debatable, and Mandolin hated the noise it made.
To be honest, I gave up. I’m not really DIY enough to build a solar dehydrator, so simply went back to the other methods of preserving food that have worked well all these years.
Then the unexpected happened.
Let me just say first that Mandolin and I have been married for 36 years, today actually, and have known each other for 10 years prior. Still, when he commented that we needed a good dehydrator, I was shocked.
Not so shocked that I missed the opportunity to get my hands on an Excalibur.
Even though I did get a good price, and some free perks and shipping, the somewhat hefty price tag was still daunting.
I come from a simple background, and cannot help but feel that this needs to pay for itself.
Ready for some soups, trail mix and baking.
So I started out with what I already knew, then happened upon a good deal on organic bananas.
Then the strawberries came in, and organic peaches were on sale.
The potato harvest. Boxed scalloped potatoes? Yeah, I can make that.
Veggie soup mixes? Pshaw!
Make your own ‘convenience’ foods.
The real kicker though was watermelon, go figure.
We had some store bought fruit, the kind that far too often does not all get used up in time.
So I sliced the cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon and put it into the dehydrator.
Like candy. I’m telling you, that watermelon was better than any candy I’ve had and certainly better than any watermelon.
Now I can’t wait until our homegrown fruit is ready so I can discover how much better that is.
Investment, yeah. But I can see it will pay for itself real soon.
Categories: drying-roasting, How to Store