Summer Garden Bounty

We’ve been enjoying the fruits of our labors this surprisingly mild August. Our Chimney and Castle Gardens reflect their tenders’ somewhat disjointed comportment:

Corn dominates the Chimney Garden while Morning Glories and Black-Eyed Susans provide color amongst the Castle Garden’s chives, thyme, peas, and spinach.

Bumblebees have been enjoying the Sunflowers.

The red hair of the Shoepeg corn‘s ears peeking out.

And, of course, tomatoes! Both our Mortgage Lifter and Mr. Stripey tomato plants have been producing steadily for a couple of weeks now. Since the weather has been cool, we’ve been cooking them down into sauce that we then freeze.

For the first batch we started with about a half-pail (upper left) plus some loose ones (bottom). The pot was full before we used them all (leftovers upper right).

We used the pasta pot with strainer to scald the fruits to loosen the skin for removal.

The full dutch oven, ready for overnight simmering.

12 hours later, it has reduced down to a thick, intensely tomatoey ambrosia. It went another hour before I deemed it thick enough for pizza sauce.

For batches 2 and 3 we cooked in the pasta/stock pot and used more tomatoes. This pot is still simmering as I type this.

The finished product, in two convenient sizes: thin, quick-to-defrost pizza sauce (left) and a larger size for pasta sauce and stews (right).

More Home Canning, With a Story

So, after last Thursday’s peach canning, we followed up on Saturday with another 7 quarts from the second half-bushel.

Saturday afternoon gave us several good storms/showers, the best rain we’ve had here in weeks, and we were spending a quiet evening at home. Around 9 pm we heard voices out front, which is pretty rare. It was two young men who said they had been fishing and the driver had lost his keys in the river and would we be kind enough to let them use our phone to call for a ride (he lives only 15 minutes away). Well, we are nothing if not kind enough, so we lent him our phone. They were soaking wet from the rain, so we lit up the outside lights while they waited on addition ramp out of the rain for their ride. (Which drove our dogs, especially Roy, nuts!). We chatted a bit and gave them each a peach (we still had over a dozen left over after canning). They asked me where we bought the peaches, and we told them “these are John Boy‘s from Smith’s Orchard up on Cooper Mountain”. After about 45 minutes their ride came, and off they went.

Well, Monday afternoon one of them stopped by with a bag of gorgeous (and delicious!) tomatoes, various varieties of regular, and cherry/grape/pears:

It turns out he grows vegetables to sell at the more urban farmer’s markets to the east of here, and he had a bushel of tomatoes that had been left out in the rain and were no longer good enough to sell. But they were certainly still good enough to can and rather than just compost them as he would usually do could he give them to us? We said “Sure!”, though not really knowing if he would follow through. Well, he did, Tuesday at 8 am:

A half-bushel of regular-sized and 28 quarts of cherry/grape/pear tomatoes

It turned out that Tuesday was an unseasonably mild late July day, so we went to work canning the larger ones and simply freezing the smaller ones; apparently freezing does change the texture somewhat but they should still be good for cooking into a sauce.

We ended up with 7 gallon-sized freezer bags of littluns …

… and 10 quarts of bigguns plus 3 quarts juice:

In the lower right corner you can see our cat GiGi on the bench outside, waiting for all the hubbub to subside.

So all these tomatoes canned and frozen before August, and our own crop has not yet started to come in. Ain’t life grand?!

Added: And last night she made a peach galette (free-form pie) with some of the peaches left over from canning. Here it is before folding the “petals” over the peach filling:

And here is a close-up of it fresh out of the oven:

Yum, yum, yum!
Pie! (Oh My!)

Eating Local

Yesterday, the hottest day of the year (94.1°F) we canned peaches. We were out doing grocery shopping yesterday and stopped by Smith Orchard’s stand on the top of nearby Cooper Mountain and we picked up a bushel of canning peaches. We put a serious dent in this half-bushel:

We went sugarless this year, just 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar (to help retain color) plus 3-4 whole cloves (for a bit of pep — plus we have a large jar of them!) per quart. After 3 hours of dunking in hot water, peeling, quartering, and tight-packing to squeeze up a bit of juice), we had these seven quarts:

We pressured-canned them for the recommended 10 minutes at 6 pounds (much quicker than the 25 minutes at 11 pounds needed for tomatoes). They took all night to cool off; here they are in this morning’s early light:

We’ll do another 7 quarts in a couple of days; the second half-bushel is not quite ripe.


And today’s main meal this afternoon was steak salad: local greens (endive), a local tomato (marinated with home-grown garlic and commercial basalmic viegar) commercial blue cheese, and — the star — leftover local, pasture-raised, dry-aged steak (grilled rare earlier this week):

Yum!

And, I’ll close with an image from a favorite tee shirt:

`Maters

maters1

Our tomatoes did OK this year, even though we largely ignored them and they did get some sort of blight. Here are 20 lbs of mostly San Marzano Gigante 3 Tomatos ready to prep for canning.

maters2

7 quarts, ready for the pressure canner.