I am amazed at the resurgence in popularity of life skills that were once completely taken for granted, deemed “archaic” and “dying arts” that now are considered chic and fresh. Recently I read an article that surmised more people under the age of thirty knit than do over the age of sixty. My friend Staci Brown, a statistics teacher, would say that was skewed because of population density or size of survey but that, notwithstanding, is an interesting supposition I think.
Anywhere you look you can see a mounting interest in homesteading, gardening, canning and preserves, and several of the needle arts from bygone eras. You can find it in the bookstores, on television, on the radio, podcasts a plenty, even our fashions are reflecting the trend.
One of the most popular dresses right now is a modern version of the “pillow case” dresses that were prevalent in the depression of the Thirties. It’s interesting to me that during the depression these were used because flour sacks and feed sacks were used to make pillowcases because that was the only “fabric” people could afford or was available, and now these dresses are made from expensive designer material very often.
So what does any of this have to do with the garden? Hold your horses, I’m getting there.
We’re at the precipice of the growing season, so close to jumping off. Now is when we need to decide to can or not to can. If you’re going to be putting up some of your produce, it’s a good idea to get your stuff together now so you’re not in a mad scramble come August or September when you have fifty pounds of tomatoes, two bushels of zucchini and mountains of green beans in your kitchen. If you’re not going to can, you should start deciding who you’ll be giving all of your leftovers to and arrange for delivery. ; )
If nothing else, start looking for bargains on canning jars, easily the most expensive component when canning after you have your basic equipment. Remember, you can reuse jars, but you’ll need new lids and collars. I get jars from estate sales and yard sales all the time, you’re going to sterilize them anyway, why not?
What will you put up?
There are five things you can “put up” that will make your life nicer during the long winter early spring months. I am not a canning or preserves expert. I muddle through just fine but I am quick to pass you along to other much more knowledgeable sources if you ask anything past the novice level. My niece asked what temperature salsa needs to to be cooked at before being put in jars. She got a stack of books and a sticky note with the web address of two blogs and three podcasts. Much more than she bargained for I’m sure.
Had she asked me when the best time to harvest your cucumbers or zucchini for pickles was, she may have just gotten the thirty word answer she was wanting. Who am I kidding? She probably would have still gotten a stack of books and a sticky note with web addresses. Fortunately for both of us, she knows what she’ll get when she asks Aunt K about something Aunt K likes. = ) After all, I’m at 505 words and I haven’t even started to tell you what to can. And, you didn’t even ask.
Okay in true David Letterman style. Top 5 things every gardener should at least consider putting up from the garden.
If you grow cucumbers, do some pickles or at the very least some relish which is even easier than pickles. You can do this start to finish in a few hours, not counting the soaking overnight stage.
Most people grow peppers of some sort if they are growing tomatoes. Hot peppers can be made into Hot Pepper sauce with either a vinegar or tomato base. Sweet peppers can be pickled, pepperoncini style and used for pizza or in salads or just eaten out of the jar like my family likes them. You can even make your own pimentos for homemade pimento cheese sandwiches. The red cheese peppers are great for pimentos. Peppers in olive oil are a great addition to pasta, pizza, and sauces for chicken or steak.
There are a few ways to use your fresh herbs. You can make pesto with your basil and garlic. Here is a nice recipe. You can dry your herbs and bottle them for future use. But there are other things you may not have considered such as mixing them with butter and then freezing them. The frozen butter stays for up to a year and makes delicious sauces, soup starters and can spice up a chicken meal nicely. You can even put this herb infused butter in a fancy container and give it as a gift at Christmas. The herbs I use for butter every year are cilantro, rosemary, dill, garlic not really an herb but you know, and basil. Basil is a great one for this as it can be tricky to dry without turning black. Basil likes to turn dark. Rosemary butter on fresh bread is divine.
2. Seasonal fruit!
You may not have the opportunity to have your own fruit orchard or trees. Chances are pretty good there are some in the area. This is where you can put your Farmer’s Market to work for you. Or get online and find a pick your own farm in your area. These usually have a basket, bushel price and you pick as much as will fit in your basket or bushel. You can freeze many fruits for healthy delicious smoothies or can them in pie filling form. There are few things as delicious as fresh from the field fruit. I am somewhat biased on this front I’m afraid. I lived in Guam when I was a little girl. My older brother and I would walk from our house to the Navy base where my step father worked. Along the way we passed pineapple fields, sugar cane and coconut farms. Workers would often give us treats from these fields. We thought that all kids chewed on sugar cane as a treat and ate pickled papaya every week. Well don’t they?
Come on, this is a no brainer really. 92% of people that garden anything, grow tomatoes. Don’t you want to eat your fresh tomatoes all winter and spring too? So you don’t want to put up diced or whole tomatoes? Put up some Salsa or Spaghetti sauce or paste. I love to make my own ketchup. You can make this with different colors of tomatoes to make it extra cool. This also makes a great gift. You can get bottles from kitchen supply places, fill them with yellow or orange tomato ketchup and gift it to that special little girl that loves fries and ketchup. She’ll love it and it’s so much more thoughtful than the television themed run of the mill gift she’ll be getting. If you just grow a few plants, get more tomatoes from the Farmer’s Market and put some up. You can find local organic growers that have more than enough I’m sure. There’s a reason the tomato is the “Queen of the Garden”
Here are a few recipes to get you started on your canning adventures.
Sweet Pickle Relish
- 6 lbs cucumbers [Do not peel]
4 cups onions
2 green peppers
1 red pepper
- In food processor, process all of the above until the consistency you want.
- In large pot, add ½ cup canning salt, 2 quarts water, bring to boil. Add your cucumber mix to salt and water bring back to boil. Turn off and remove pot from heat, let cool and stand 1 hour.
- Drain completely (I usually put a colander in the sink, dump everything in it then let it drain for fifteen minutes or so.
- After drained well put everything back in your big pot and add to it the following
- 1 tsp. mustard seed
1 tsp. tumeric
- 1 tsp. dill seed
- 3 cloves fresh pressed garlic
1 pint vinegar
5 cups sugar
1 Tbsp. corn starch
- Mix well and boil for ½ hour. While you get your relish boiling prepare your jars (they need to be sterile and hot before adding your relish)
- Seal with water bath
- Makes around six pints (I usually put this in ½ pint or smaller jars so I have some to give as gifts in a pinch)
Paisley Pickle Relish? I grow three types of white skinned cucumbers. When made in to relish this is a delightful paisley pickle relish, such an interesting addition at a potluck or family reunion. However after you do this a couple of times, you’ll start hearing “I wonder what weird thing Aunt K will bring this time”? I’m okay with that.
I have had a strange situation this year. While I have lots and lots of space to grow things, my husbands job is tenuous so I have not wanted to put anything in that will stay here if we should need to move. In other words, I have a very large garden, but I haven’t put in any bushes or trees because if we move, I would lose the investment.
However, I want to be able to have fruit for pies and jams. I am going to use the many organic farms and markets around the Tyler area to fill in some of my fruit needs. But also, I’m growing several things that I’ll use for pies, jellies and jams.
I have grown ground cherries before in limited amounts, this year I’m growing an entire bed of them for jams and pies. Also, I’m growing Sunberry (or Wonderberry depending on who you ask) These are also grown just as you would a tomato. They have the same size and habits of tomato.
Don’t forget to make a pepper jelly also. This is delicious heated and spooned over cream cheese with Wheat Thins.
Here’s your stack of books:
- Canning and Preserves for Dummies by Karen Ward
- You Can Can!: A Visual Step-by-Step Guide to Canning, Preserving, and Pickling, with 100 Recipes by Better Homes and Gardens
- Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry by Lianna Krissoff
- Put ‘em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton
- Homemade Living: Canning and Preserving with Ashley English
Any of these are excellent references and sometimes available at the library if you don’t want to buy them. I would consider getting them all for your kitchen cookbook collection. You can get them for around $50 for all four of them, which really isn’t bad considering as much as you’re apt to use them. Note: All of these can be pruchased at Amazon.com
Here’s your sticky note with web addresses.
Trains and Tutus is a great blog written by my friend Laura Odom and her friend Amanda. It has many excellent recipes along with some good wholesome living ideas.
Food in Jars is perhaps my “go to” site for canning and preserves. It has just oodles of ideas for things you’ve wanted to do, but it also has ideas for things most of us have never heard. Salt cured limes? Peach Oolong Jelly? How Paisley!
I hope I’ve inspired you to at least contemplate putting up some of your hard work to enjoy next winter and spring.
Have a properly preserved Paisley day!~KeriAnne
What’s your favorite thing to put up? What recipe do you wish you had gotten from a relative or friend that you didn’t? Have you ever searched for a recipe that you remember from childhood? Have you been able to find or re create it? Comments always encouraged!