Friday, October 11, 2013

Conscious Living Wk. 3: Gardening and Canning

In our house my husband has the green thumb. He enjoys keeping varieties of plants in every room and though I appreciate them, I also have nothing to do with keeping them alive. So when this year our goal was to start a garden (without using any fertilizers/pesticides) and to learn canning basics for said veggies, I was unsure about how well I'd succeed. 

Despite my initial reservations, we kicked off our garden in the early spring planting a huge variety of vegetables as well as a few fruits. 
This is a photo of half of our garden, the rest (pictured next) focused more on viney plants like squash and cucumbers, but also had lettuce and beets. I was surprised to find watering everything wasn't a chore. I liked taking the kids outside a few times each day to water the plants/run through the hose. 

Our results?
They really went nuts! 
The cucumbers did really well until about August when they seemed to turn yellow quickly. I'm no expert but from what I've read you don't eat them once they turn yellow. We are still picking large gorgeous butternut and acorn squash. In fact, I have around 5 butternuts sitting on my counter waiting to be eaten! The lettuce was a real treat early on since buying it at the grocery store can be expensive& using it quickly is an issue for us. This way we'd decide to have a fresh salad with dinner& walk out to pick lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. The plants are now seeding (we collect them to plant next year) but not producing the nice leaves you would eat. I also like the lettuce because they came up quickly giving us some quick gratification. 

Here is lily picking our first lettuce. At this point the plants were very tiny so we were being careful not to take too much. Eventually we couldn't eat enough lettuce& I was begging neighbors to come pick it!

The six tomato plants yielded an ungodly amount of tomatoes. I not only gave them away, but with the help of my mother I canned them whole, sliced, and in sauce form. I could have done more, but ended up with about two dozen jars of tomatoes. Half of them are quart size, while the other half are pint size. 

Towards the end of the season we had so many tomatoes that we decided to branch out and make salsa just to utilize everything. My mother was a big help as it was her idea. This ended up to be our favorite. We could choose the spice level by the amount of peppers added& afterwards we decided it would be delicious to add beans and corn.

Do you want some recipes? (I'm pretending you're yelling "yes, please!")

Did I mention that I canned pickles? This was a super yummy recipe I found & only changed a bit. 

Copycat Claussen Pickle Recipe

Since I found it on another blog I want to give her due credit, so please check it out for instructions.

- I did lower the salt a little and raise the vinegar a tad as well because I found them to be a bit too salty& needing some of the tart flavor to get a better balance.
-I also used fresh dill from my garden which was a noticeable difference.
Lastly I would suggest purchasing some Alum Spice used to keep the pickles from getting soggy. I found the ones I cut into slices didn't hold up as they were much thinner than the spears.  :(

 Overall though, she did a really good job nailing down the flavors. 

Salsa Recipe
The main portion of this comes right off of the Mrs. Wages Salsa mix bag.
Though it has been altered to fit our taste.

*Makes 5 pints*

6lbs Fresh Tomatoes (about 18 med tomatoes)

1/2 cup Distilled White Vinegar or Cider Vinegar (I used white)

1 pouch Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix (bought at Dahls& other major grocery stores)

I also added: 

1 cup Fresh Cilantro

3 Tbsps of Lime Juice

1 Small White Onion

3 Med Sized Peppers with Seeds

also consider adding:

Corn to taste

Black Beans to taste
(make sure beans are cooked prior to adding or that you are using canned black beans)

*If canning, place large water bath pot onto the stove with it's lid on**  Also place a smaller pot onto the stove and set to high (used for blanching). Wash the tomatoes and core them. In the small pot of  boiling water, blanch the tomatoes for 3 minutes. Dip them into cold water (optional) and remove the skins. Chop them into cubes. Chop cilantro and onion into fine pieces.

Combine the tomatoes, vinegar, salsa mix& other ingredients (cilantro, lime juice, onion, etc) into a large pot and bring them to a boil. Don't forget to stir occasionally. Reduce the heat to a simmer for 10 minutes& continue to stir.

**If Canning** pour the hot salsa into clean, sterilized pint canning jars leaving 1/2 an inch of space at the top. Cap each of the jars when they are filled making sure to wipe any excess salsa off the outside& where the lid sits before placing it on. When putting the lid on, turn it until you feel resistance. Place the jars in your boiling water bath pot for 40 minutes making sure the water covers the top of the jars. Once finished, allow the jars to cool for around 30-60 minutes. Check them for a proper seal, if any jars haven't sealed place the jar into the fridge and use immediately. Otherwise they will stay good for up to 1 yr. (if you can wait that long!)

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your successful growing season! Everything looks great! We also made tons of salsa and still gave away bags of tomatoes. We are only planting one tomato plant next year!


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