Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Canning Green Beans

That was my big idea. To can some beans. At this time of year we begin to be as up to our ears in beans as we are in zucchini. Last year I froze a bunch of our blanched green beans and we ended up not really using a bunch because they were kind of.... not great. I mean really, we live in the Salinas Valley aka The Salad Bowl of the World. Eating other than fresh is a foreign concept in many ways, but in my quest to be more SELF SUFFICIENT I keep trying for ways we can grow and store most of what we will eat. Freezing green beans isn't the way. And now I know niether is canning! I started with fresh-from-the-garden green beans in their prime. I decided to go with the raw pack, room temperature water method which is: Pack trimmed beans into jars, add desired seasonings (I used a bay leaf and minimal good sea salt and a sprinkle of ground black pepper), add water and really leave an inch of air at the top. Trust me. Process, following your pressure cooker's specifications, for 35 minutes. Results?

Pretty but YUCKY. I figure they will make great finger food for my baby once he is old enough to eat. Yup, they are THAT consistency.

I'll take mine fresh off the vine anytime. Have you ever had them tossed in olive oil and salt and pepper then bbq-ed? I want it just the way I want it or I don't want it at all. If you are the same, please don't attempt canning your beans. Or tell me how you do it. I'm flexible! My next adventure: Pickled Dilly Beans. I'll let you know how they turn out!

(as a funny aside, my husband says this picture looks very aquatic and I can't help but agree!)

Growing like zucchini!

Our boy is 4 months old now, and 16.5 pounds. He measures up with this giant zucchini from our garden.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Canning and Vulnerability

There is nothing like knowing new people are checking out my blog to make me feel like a total dork for some reason. Please tell me it's not just me? Not that there is anything wrong with dorks..... I remember, years ago, hearing the phrase "dorks rule the world." It was said with such fire and fondness (and in the moment, such marksmanship... oh youth) that it seared a permanent spot in/on my brain and is something I am forever grateful to have heard. Pass it on. Green, red, gold: Green Zebra, San Marzano, Taxi tomatoes

Anyway... I have a few photos and a really cool finding although it may not be a new finding for anyone else I'm feeling like a genius for it. But then I also think I must be a genius every time I misplace my keys since geniuses, in case you didn't know it, are known to be absentminded. Hence the term: Absentminded genius. You knew that was coming, right?

This is only my second year of canning tomatoes (thank you Marlyn for the inspiration last year!), so I have had to buy canned tomato sauce this year. I know, I know. We don't really use a ton of it, but when we have I have saved the jars to use for food storage and hopeful canning. Today I went to use them and while a regular mouth canning lid fit just fine, the typical screw band didn't fit at all as it has completely different threads (which my construction husband pointed out to me when I said WTF is wrong with this F-ing thing?? in frustration and you know we wonder where our 3 year old gets it... jeeeeesh). So this typical jar of sauce:

With this typical lid:

Is usable! I put the canning lid on the clean surface of a filled jar and then firmly screwed the original lid (above) down over it, then processed it and PRESTO! It worked! I had to really carefully unscrew the lid because it does catch the canning top a bit, but it worked perfectly. I should add this is for water-bath processing only, I haven't looked into how they might hold up in a pressure canner.
Ohhhh Summmmmmer. Oh summer. o-summer!
Damn I love summer.
I LOVE summer tomatoes.

These are a Thursday night harvest. The bottom basket is full of San Marzano which, as we speak, are sitting in jars popping away to let me know they have sealed well. (such a beautiful sound!)

We have been making lots and lots of Balsamic Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with our tomatoes as well. If you have never made it you really need to try it. It is a simple recipe so splurge on great ingredients.
Here is what I do:
Chop tomatoes into bite-sized pieces, if using cherry tomatoes I like to cut in half so they don't explode in the mouth. Plus, cut tomatoes pick up flavor better than whole. Chop up fresh (also called Buffalo for some reason) mozzarella. Mince a bunch of fresh basil. Toss all those into a big bowl and dose with a good amount of balsamic vinegar, a splash or two of olive oil, a sprinkle of good quality salt (please, no iodized) and a sprinkle of pepper. Toss around, let sit for a few minutes but not too long.... AND VOILA!
How cute is this?

This baby gourd will grow to be big and strong and holler out, loud and proud as my sister-in-law in Kentucky would say, the names we carved in them. We have some surprises in store for our family and friends :) Shhhhhh!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A dose of sweetness

Really there is nothing more sweet or tender than the time following the birth of a new life. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to really understand that. It seems the same with chickens. The mamas are so busy defending their new babies that they don't take time to relax. I sometimes wonder if the flurry of the few months of new human babies isn't so far off from chickens! This Buff Orpington mama hatched her first clutch just a few days ago and I was fortunate enough to be standing right next to the brooding box when I heard the first peeps. I ran in to get the camera and managed this one single shot of a puffed-out mama and a newborn chick. She ended up hatching all 6 of her clutch within a day's work.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Harvestus Interuptus

Ah children. Sweet, sweet children. I love my children I love my children I love my children snap! Oh hi. Oops got lost in my latest mantra to remind myself of things important to me.

This little nearly 4 month old is the easy charmer. I just can't bend over great because he's not a fan of it but really, I can get around that no problem and my butt thanks me for it. The 3 year old? Oh the 3 year old.... love him love him love him love him love him love him snap! Whoops, sorry about that. I'm so easily distracted these days! Just thought I'd post this for any other gardening mamas out there who don't find every day to be a bounty of gardening bliss with their brood. It's a challenge sometimes, ya know? One I obviously don't shrink away from. I'll take this life. I'll take it and I'll have a damn good time with it! Except for some days.... and on those days harvests and everything else will just have to be left undone.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Coming home

Persimmon, Taxi, and Green Zebra tomatoes

Nothing like returning to loads of ripe tomatoes and a thriving garden! My mom watered for me while we were gone and everything looks fabulous! (Thanks mom!) Do you ever wonder if your garden waits for you to turn your back so it can go through a wild growth spurt while you aren't looking? ha! Seems that way to me sometimes. I have some canning to do!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Packing up and heading out

Can it be Labor Day Weekend already??? This summer has been so.... odd. It feels as if the past few weeks were the REAL weeks of summer. I'm hoping for a nice Indian Summer to hit, and what good timing that would be for us! Having our second child at the end of May threw our garden for a loop. Literally. Planting and maintaing a garden was harder than I expected it to be with a newborn and a 3 year old to tend to. When our first son was born it was a mere hiccup in the garden. So, lesson here is babies aren't that hard (I know I know, some of them really are!) but the 3 year olds ARE! (I know, I know, some of them aren't).

We've had so many moments of beauty mixed in with the so many moments of helllllllllll.

Which brings me to this: Our first camping trip away as a family! OH I am thrilled! Nearly an entire week all together. We will have a hammock. It will be glorious.

Packing sucks. And makes me realize I will miss my garden so much. It just kicked in it seems. The tomatoes, the love, the basil, the... the.. the.. all of it. A WEEK? Seems so long. But I'll be with my human family so the garden family must wait. Also makes me realize what a value I put on breakfast! Pancake mix, creamy wheat, oatmeal, dozens of eggs, honey, vanilla, cream, sauteed leeks and sausage. I'm packing for breakfast! We're eating the rest of the meals at our venue: Strawberry Music Festival!

Happy end of summer to everyone and may months of incredible Indian Summer be in your future. For those of you ready for fall: Kiss my grits! Oh wait, the birds ate all our corn this year!