Canning tomato sauce and okra

 

We’ve been so busy this year that we haven’t done as much canning, but the tomatoes and okra were building up (despite the wretched drought) and I was starting to worry I wouldn’t get to eat pickled okra this year if I didn’t get on it.

 

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When I’m in a hurry, I forego the diced tomatoes, rotel-style tomatoes, and all other options besides tomato sauce, because I can chuck the whole tomatoes into a pot and just run it all through a food mill when it breaks down. This year, everything will become tomato sauce to be turned into soup, chili, pasta sauce, and whatever else we dream up in February.

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My trusty okra pickle recipe from Canning For a New Generation, and the inevitable bit of fruit float I always get. It will still be delicious.

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Attempt number 2 to pickle some cucumbers to my liking

IMG_4417The first batch of cucumber pickles I ever made were water bath canned dill pickles. They lacked any crispness whatsoever when I opened them, and I couldn’t bring myself to eat them. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t eat a cucumber pickle like that.

Since that first try I’ve just been too nervous about wasting another batch of cucumbers. We don’t really grow them, so I have to hunt down a decent quantity of similarly sized cucumbers if I want to make a batch of pickles.

Enter the Kerosene Pickle- one of the few sweet pickles I’ve ever liked. Continue reading

Rain, and squash, and rain.

Now is usually about the time I begin to feel like summer is slipping through my fingers and it feels urgent that I try to squeeze in a bit more swimming and tomato sandwiches and take a few more thunderstorm naps. This year I am sick to death of thunderstorm naps.

I have to remind myself not to be dramatic about it, because it really feels like it has rained every minute of every day since I first dared to dream about tomato sandwiches and that the summer has been mud and mosquitos and lightning. Proof that my bad attitude is unwarranted has come in the abundance of squash and greens from our garden, the blessing of beets, onions, carrots, and berries from others, and the sandal tan on my muddy feet.

And today in our haul was this four pound spaghetti squash. Obviously the rain is helping somebody.

I’m still holding out hope for some sunny days, though.

Hot Cumin-Pickled Summer Squash

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We procrastinated on opening the cumin-pickled squash last year for several months, because we had pickled okra (our favorite) and cucumber pickles to go through, and the squash just didn’t sound as exciting. It was the pickle for a lean month. Except we finally cracked a jar and it’s easily the best (fragrant, perfectly spiced, satisfying) pickle I’ve eaten in forever and I’m going to double the batch this summer and I still can’t believe that there are things like harvesting carrots and eating pickled squash that took me three decades to learn were necessary and good. Want the recipe? Here it is:

Originally from Lianna Krissoff in her book Canning For a New Generation
Makes approximately 6-7 pint jars

Ingredients
4 pounds yellow summer squash (another source suggested zucchini, which I may also try)
8 pounces sweet onion (about 1 medium)
¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon pure kosher salt
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
6 cups cider vinegar (5% acidity)
2 tablespoons mild honey
7 cloves garlic
7 small fresh serrano chiles

Scrub the squash and cut it into ¼ inch rounds. Cut the onion in half lengthwise and thinly slice it into half-circles. Put the squash and onion in a large bowl and sprinkle with the ¼ cup salt, tossing to combine. Cover with a layer of ice cubes and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Pick out any remaining ice, and rinse under cold water. Drain well. (The original recipe says at this point to toss the squash with the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, red pepper flakes, and ground cumin and set aside. I’ve found I lose some spice in the bowl this way because even when I drain it well it’s still wet. I’ve taken to mixing the spices in a separate bowl and dividing them among the sterilized jars before adding the squash and onions.)

Prepare water bath for canning. Ladle boiling water from the canning pot into the bowl with the lids. (Here again, I’ve since begun keeping the lids at a simmer on another eye in a little saucepan, a la Marissa McClellan from Food In Jars.) Using a jar lifter, remove the hot jars from the canning pot, carefully pouring the water from each one back into the pot, and place them upright on a folded towel. Drain the water off the jar lids.

Working quickly, pack the squash, onion, garlic, and chiles into the jars (not too tightly). Ladle the hot vinegar mixture into the jars, leaving ½ inch head space at the top. Use a chopstick to remove the air bubbles around the inside of each jar. Use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims of the jars, then put a lid and ring on each jar, adjusting the ring so that it’s just finger-tight. Return the jars to the water in the canning pot, making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch. Bring to a boil, and boil for 15 minutes to process. Remove the jars to a folded towel and do not disturb for 12 hours. After 1 hour, check that the lids have sealed by pressing down on the center of each; if it can be pushed down, it hasn’t sealed, and the jar should be refrigerated immediately. Label the sealed jars and store.

 They improve a good deal with a few weeks’ shelf time.

carrot pickles

From the Saturday farmers market shopping spree we ended up with almost two pounds of beautiful tiny carrots, so I took advantage of the canning pot that was still bubbling after I finished dandelion jelly and blackberry jam to make carrot pickles.
As I have never been to San Francisco, I may be the only person who hasn’t eaten and waxed about Tartine Bakery’s spicy carrot pickles.  I’ll be okay, though. Two of my favorite canning books and many bloggers have jumped to the rescue to offer many variations on the recipe. This blog has reproduced the Liana Krissoff version I used.
I reduced the amount of cinnamon to one stick because the carrots and cider vinegar already impart a certain amount of natural sweetness, and I’m not fond of overly sweet foods. In one jar I also omitted the dried peppers and all but the tiniest pinch of red pepper flakes for H since she’s not a fan of heat. The rest of us will eat the other jars, which are fully loaded.
We sampled the few carrots that didn’t fit into the jars when I packed them, and even without the spices they were already delicious. The brine lends itself to their sweetness, and they became tender-crisp and bright after their quick simmer. The tiniest carrots were left whole, so they retained more carrot flavor. J pronounced them the best pickle recipe we’ve ever had, usurping the okra and cumin squash. I’m excited to crack them open in the fall to see how they are when the brine has mellowed and the carrots have picked up some spiciness.

berry picking

I’ve never had my fill of berries before. They come in those tiny packages with high tags and train you to treat them like a delicacy. I daydream about having enough raspberries for jam and blackberries for pie filling and being able to just eat them until I have a belly ache.

This week at the farmers market I discovered a berry man that offers a U-pick option at his orchard, so the three of us put on our sun hats and long pants Monday and set out for blackberries and blueberries (raspberries are soon). The orchard was a blue-green expanse of orderly rows set against a backdrop of mountains. With the breezy weather and our newbie enthusiasm, we ended up staying until well past noon.

Now we’ve got tons and tons of berries. Gallons. I’ve never had so many at one time in my life.  I’m plotting ways to use them all to make this a year where I get to eat berries all the time so that I might finally feel like I’ve eaten enough. They’re going in the freezer for our oatmeal, yogurt, and baking. I’m also going to try putting some in the dehydrator and make every enticing canned good I can dig up.

I’ve spent hours compiling a list of canning recipes. I want some jars of berries for pies and cobblers, some extra jam to share, and some experimental solutions for the rest.

Even with the kitchen overflowing with berries taking up all the usable surfaces and with all that work ahead of me I don’t think I’m cured. If someone gave me more berries right now I’d still take them in a heartbeat.

The Ups and Downs of Concord Grapes

They are beautiful viewed from a distance in the evening, but up close, the billion perfect clusters of unripe Concord grapes we had going are doing mysterious and terrible things. Also, an army of Japanese beetles has arrived to drive me crazy for the rest of the summer because I have no experience with them. I don’t know if the above damage is because of them or because of another issue.
I found this Identification Guide to the Major Diseases of Grapes pdf, but I don’t feel confident about any of their pictures compared with mine. A neighbor said the previous owner used to add lime to the soil when they were growing and it would straighten the grapes out, so I’m researching pH issues as well.