Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Canning Peaches Without Sugar and.... Outdoor cooking!

Here is a view of my kitchen when I got up this morning.  Yesterday, I canned 38 quarts of peaches, with no sugar, like THIS.  It took me 6 hours, start to finish and they are beautiful!  In case you are new to this way of canning them, you will be pleasantly surprised.  They are healthier, of course, but also it's more economical, as you don't have to buy any sugar, and more peaches fit in the jars.  All that is in the jars is peeled peaches.  No Water.  No Syrup. Nothing to prevent darkening.  If you do it my way, they will be wonderful.  I promise!  They do have to be ripe enough, of course.  I even did it one year when I bought 60 pounds of peaches and when I went to can them, found out they were cling peaches.  :-0   HERE is how I did that.

I worked so hard yesterday that today I decided to "play."  I have never, before, baked a loaf of bread over a fire, but my son sent me a link to a YouTube video on how to do that, so I had to try it!  I also made a wonderful beef stew over the fire.  I really love cooking over a fire outdoors.  It is so versatile.  The bread got a little too done on the outside, but it was still delicious.  Next time, I'll hang the Dutch oven not quite so close to the fire.  By the way, HERE is the link to that video.  I used my own bread recipe, but followed his method for baking.

Here is the bread...

Here I am stirring the stew.  The bread is hanging over the fire at this point.

Here is the stew, right before I stirred in the pint of beef chunks.  You can see that it is simmering there next to the fire.

It was a wonderful meal and so much fun to cook!

Now, I think I'll do the dishes and then read a book.  We are having sweet corn from the garden for supper.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Dehydrated Celery!

I've posted previously about what I do when I can get a good price for celery.  I'm currently on the lookout for a good deal on it.  HERE is what I've done for a number of years. But this time I'm trying something different.  The frozen celery is always used in cooking, of course, as it would be mushy when thawed.  The picture above shows you two large stalks of celery that have been sliced and dehydrated in my nice new Nesco, shown in the following picture.  The teaspoon is there to show you how much this ended up being after drying.

Here is the handle so you can see which model I have:

 The two stalks did not quite fill a pint jar.

I carefully rinsed the celery, sliced it, and blanched it in boiling water for 3 minutes and then plunged it into cold water, then ran it through a salad spinner to get off the excess water.  Then I spread it on the trays and set it at 135 F, and let it go all night.

I used about 1/4 cup of it in a batch of soup on Saturday.  It worked very well.  Now I don't have to keep it in the freezer.  Our freezer tends to get a little full with the extra family we have in house right now.  :)

If you live in a hot dry climate, you could easily just do this outside.  Rinse, blanch, cool, spread on trays and cover with a thin cloth out in the sun. Our oldest daughter lives in Nevada, and hers might dry in about 3 seconds I think.  ;)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sweet cucumber and onion pickles

I was able to save up enough cucumbers to make 8 pints of my favorite pickles!  Here are some pictures and the recipe follows.  I have such nice memories of making these pickles.  The first year I did it was in 1976 in Nebraska.  We lived way out in the country.  I didn't have a car, so when we needed to go to town, I would wait for my husband to take us.  In those days we did grocery shopping once a month when he got paid.  He was working on a hog farm at the time.  I was a stay-at-home mother with 3 little children, one just a few weeks old.  He was such a "good" baby that canning (my first year of canning!) was not hard to do.  In those days, and until relatively recently, I cut the onions and cucumbers by hand with a knife.  It took quite a lot of time, but I enjoyed it.  Just a few years ago, I realized I could cut them in the food processor I have now, and so that phase of the process is SO easy and fast! 
I used 6 pounds of cucumbers and some onions.  I didn't weigh the onions (sorry), but you can sort of see how much there was.  These are all fresh out of our garden.

You have to cut the little ends off the cucumbers.  In the blossom end there is some sort of enzyme or something that you don't want in your pickles.  Don't ask me why.  I don't have any idea.

Here you can see my food processor with the appropriate blade inserted.  I use the one that makes the largest slices.  Even at that, they are small.

 The onions all nicely sliced up,

...and then I sliced the cucumbers.

Here everything is in the kettle with vinegar, sugar and spices.  

Hot pickles in the jars

 All finished!

Sweet Cucumber and Onion Pickles - makes 8 pints.

6 pounds cucumbers, washed, trimmed and sliced
Sliced onions - maybe 1 - 2 pounds
2 fresh garlic cloves

1/3 cup salt
3 trays of ice cubes or crushed ice
3 cups white distilled vinegar
4.5 cups sugar
1.5 teaspoons turmeric
1.5 teaspoons celery seed
2 Tablespoons mustard seed
Combine all of the vegetables in a large bowl (glass, stainless or ceramic)

Add the salt and mix well.
Place the ice all over the top and cover with a clean cloth.
Allow to sit for 3 hours.
Drain all in a colander and remove the garlic.
Mix together, in a heavy-bottomed pot, the vinegar, sugar and spices. 
Bring to a boil.
Add the drained vegetables and heat on high heat, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
Fill pint jars with the pickles, leaving 1 inch head space, and pour the hot liquid over them to within 1/2 inch of the top.
Carefully wipe off the rims of the jars.  Apply hot caps and the rings, finger tight.
Process in boiling water for 5 minutes.
Allow to cool thoroughly, and then if you wish you can take off the rings.
These are very good pickles.  I would let them sit for a few weeks before tasting.  Such a nice bright flavor with a heavy meal in the wintertime.  I don't go in for sweet much anymore, but pickles and a little jam I still enjoy.   

Please consult a Reliable Canning Guide if you do not already know how to can food.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Garden - at last!

I finally am using a different computer and can upload pictures to it from my camera.  So, that means I'm back in business!  This morning I went out and took lots of pictures of our vegetable garden.  Our daughter and her family are living with us and SHE is a quintessential gardener.  So, we collaborate and things are going Very Well.

Okra - I've never grown it before.

 Tomatoes in wire fence cages with zucchini squash in the foreground

Do you see the sort of a trellis there?  That encloses the little neighbor girl's patch in our garden.  She is growing pumpkins (tied up on the right) onion, pole beans, cucumbers, cabbages and sweet potatoes!

Lacinto kale


Onions - red and yellow globe

Potatoes - with cardboard between the rows to help control the weeds

Down the middle is the sweet potato row.  The vines at the far end are bigger because they were planted several days earlier than the ones on this end.
"Three Sisters" garden.  This is an ancient Native American technique.  You plant corn, winter squash and pumpkins, and pole beans together.  The corn supports the pole beans.  The beans fix nitrogen for the corn, and the squash shades the ground.  We have 6 plots of it in there.
 Bi-color sweet corn

Closer look at beans growing up the corn.  By the way, this is flour corn for making masa.


Rhubarb.  I got 3 pickings off of it this year!

A cluster of tomatoes

Comfrey.  I transplanted it into the main garden.  It had been in the yard, but the apple trees were shading it too much.  It is thriving in its new location.

See the ferny stuff?  We dug up a large wild asparagus plant along the road, divided it in three and have it planted in the garden.  Maybe next year we'll have asparagus to eat!  I used to have it in the yard, but, again, there was too much competition.  Pay no attention to the weeds.  They will be mulched as soon as I can get more newspapers.

See?  A very kind and generous local farmer let us come get spoiled straw to use as mulch for free!  This is our second batch and we won't need anymore this year.

Staked tomatoes

Gourds growing up poles

 Green beans this side of the onion rows.  I picked a 5 gallon bucket full of green beans this morning, and will can them today.

The persimmon trees are loaded!

So far, this has been a marvelous gardening season.  After 2 or 3 years of grinding drought, this is so wonderful!  I hope you enjoyed the tour.

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