Monday, August 25, 2014

Canning Tomato Sauce

I feel like the summer should not be ending yet. I'm not ready for it to go. With all the rain we have been having here it feels like summer never started but here we are and it's time to harvest. My tomatoes are ripening by the boat load.
So today I made and canned some sauce.

How I make my sauce

After I pick my tomatoes I have to remove the skins.

To do this I boil a large pot of water on the stove and blanch the tomatoes.

Only do this long enough for the skins to loosen.

Then put them in a bowl of ice water to cool them. Take them out and peel off the skins. They should slide right off. 

Once your done with that your ready to make your sauce.

Now on to the sauce.

Put the tomatoes on a large pot and smash them with a potato masher.
You can remove the seeds before you put them in the pot or wait until after it cooks down. I did mine after and ran the sauce through a food mill.

Let tomatoes cook down for about an hour. No need to add any water, tomatoes have enough of their own.

Once the sauce is cooked down its time to can it. 

Sterilize your jars and lids, pour your sauce in the jars leaving 1/4 inch of head space ( I used pint jars because it's just my Hubs and I and I don't want any to go to waste) add 1/4 tsp of citric acid to each pint jar (1/2 tsp for quart jars) remove the bubbles with a non-metallic knife and put the lids on hand tight.
I pressure can mine in a pressure canner at 10 lbs of pressure for 15 minutes. Following my pressure canner directions. You should follow your pressure canners directions as they are all different. Or you can can them using a water bath canner by bringing to a rolling boil. 35 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts.

Remove to a towel on the counter until cool and the lids have "pinged", and your all done.
As you can see I only had enough for 2 pints and 1 half pint. I lost half of my sauce do to a mishap during the cooking down. 

I hate flies!! I really hate flies!!
While I was cooking down my tomatoes I discovered a fly in my kitchen. I panicked! So I put a lid half on the pot of tomatoes to prevent a possible fly invasion and went about chasing said fly. As you may know flies are hard to catch so it took a while and I forgot about the sauce. Well it boiled over and I lost about half of it all over my stove( no pictures, I was too embarrassed to take them)! I did however get the fly so I feel vindicated! 

Happy canning!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A morning walk

Good morning

Taking a walk through the garden this morning while drinking my coffee and thought I would share some pictures.

Happy Gardening!

Monday, August 11, 2014

My FoodSaver

I felt the need to talk about this today. I have been using my handy dandy Food saver quit a lot lately. It's that time of year when I put away a ton of veggies from the garden. One of my most valuable tools in this process besides my canner is my Food saver. If you don't have one you might want to look into getting one. There are a few different brands that have different features like the Vacmaster, Caso, and Cuisinart. Do some research and find one that will work for you. What they do is suck out all the air and seal your food in freezer safe bags, making your food last longer and help prevent freezer burn. 

I've had mine for many years now. I love it! It's getting old and needs a little assistance sealing (I have to push down on it to get it to seal) but I like its features and we have been together a long time so I'm keeping it a little while longer. 

There a few accessories that this model came with and a few that I purchased that make it invaluable.

 The wide mouth jar sealer(also comes in regular mouth). Great for sealing jars of bulk dry goods. I purchased this on line but you can get one from anywhere that sells the Food saver. I use mine for sealing anything from rice and beans to flour and powdered drink mixes. Also good for homemade soup mixes.                                                  
The instructions say it's not good for things like flour because flour is to fine and will get pulled into the tube and not seal.                                  I have only had this happen a few times and I fixed it by wiping down the gasket inside the sealer and letting it dry. That seems to work. 

Then there are the containers that come with the sealer. These work by attaching the tubing to the button on the top and sealing them.
Came with unit
Found at a flee market
These are great for things that you are going to open more often and things with a shorter shelf life like nuts. 
I use mine for walnuts and chocolate chips.

And of course there is the handy dandy wine cork.

I have yet to use this. I for some reason never have left over wine. 
That's thought provoking. Maybe I'll open a bottle of wine and think about that.

And finally 
The Vacu Top Universal lid. 

Another accessory I have yet to use but I found it at a flee market with the extra containers for $2 so I couldn't pass them up.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Farmers Markets

Farmers markets

Growing up my sister and I would go to the Windmill Farmers Market on Saturdays. It was one of my favorite things to do. You could find us standing in front of the homemade fudge vender or buying homemade biscuits and bread from the Amish bakers. 

This past weekend my hubs and I drove 3 hours so I could return to my childhood and spend the day perusing those very same venders at that very same farmers market. It had the same smells and sounds as it always had. It takes me back to those wonderful days of my youth. 
Amish bakers stand

Now a days, farmers markets have become a place for me to supplement my veggie garden. I have never been able to grow beans. I don’t know why. I just can’t (if anyone has any tips that would be great). So I buy them by the bag full from the farmers market. If I have a bad year I will buy whatever did not do well (like last year my peppers did not grow) to put away for winter.

I find it’s also a great place to try new veggies, when patty pans came on the market years ago I got my first taste of them from a vender at our local farmers market. Farmers markets are a great place to buy local, get fresh produce and meet your local farmers.

Our trip was amazing! We did not find any beans but we did score some peaches, nectarines, corn and some delicious baked goods.

Doesn't it all look just so yummy?

All the yummy goodness of locally grown food and some amazing Amish baked goods. Oh and that jar in the back of the picture is a 5lb jar of buckwheat honey. 

I love honey, my most favorite is buckwheat honey. But that will be another post.

If you want some good reasons to shop your local farmers market have a look at this site:

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Another Rainy Day on the Homestead: Freezing Zucchini

Freezing shredded Zucchini 

It has been a very rainy season for us here. Today is another one of those day. I'm torn about how I feel about this. I love that Mother Nature is watering my gardens for me but sad that I have yet to build my rain barrel, I like that days like today I don't have to feel bad about being inside when I know that there are only so many summer days and winter will be here soon enought but I am sick about all the projects that still need to be done before said winter.

 So here I am working on my list of indoor to do's. One of my " to do's" is to shred and freeze some zucchini. 

I have 2 large zucchini like this one. I don't normally let them grow this big but these ones went forgotten for a little while and got to big. I like to fry zucchini but when they get to big for that I will shred them and make zucchini bread or freeze it for later. Since I happen to be out of eggs I'm going to freeze them today.

I get out my handy dandy shredder. I know what your thinking " that's way to small for this job".
 Yes it is!
But since I have put my large one in a safe place that I can't find, this one will have to do.

Cut off the ends of the zucchini..

It wasn't until after this step that I realized if I had left one end on I could use the end to hold the zucchini while I was shredding it and not end up shredding my fingers when it got down to the tiny little nugget. You know the one that you can't shred but don't want to waste so you mangle your finger to get every last bit.

Anyway, shred the zucchini.

This is what it looks like when I'm done. Yes I'm a messy shredder. I managed to get shredded zucchini everywhere.

I then put them in food saver bags, 2 cups each and put them in the freezer. After about an hour I take them out and seal them. If you try to seal them before freezing them they will not seal properly. 

Don't forget to label them and put a date on them.


Monday, August 4, 2014

Honeybees what they do and why we care

Growing your own food is very rewarding for someone who wants to be self-sufficient. You get to decide how your food is grown, save money and not have to depend on others to feed your family.
Knowing how vegetables grow is something that will help you when you are trying to get that bumper crop to feed your family through the winter months. 


Plants like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash and even corn need to be pollenated to grow fruit. These plants have male and female flowers that somehow need to meet in order for the plant to produce food. 

This is where pollinators come in; pollinators such as honeybees and others flutter from flower to flower collecting and mixing pollen enabling the plants produce. Without them we would have to do this by hand, something that a home gardener with a very small garden can do (a very time consuming task at best) but something that would be impossible for a large grower or someone with a larger garden. This makes the honeybee a very important asset to this process.

Honeybees are unique in that while they are going about their day pollinating our gardens they are also collecting this pollen to make honey. One of nature’s sweetest most magical gifts! Can you tell I love honey?

Honeybees have been having a very hard time in the last 30 years. Managed colonies in the US have plummeted by about a third in that time and wild colonies have become very rare in recent years. Something has been killing them off at an alarming rate.

There are many theories for why this is happening, pesticides, mites, GMO crops to mention just a few. I am not a scientist so I will keep my opinions to myself (for now). I think the important thing is until it is figures out we should do everything we can to safeguard against further loses.

The biggest most important thing we can do as home gardeners is to not use pesticides. 

 Pesticides are not only killing honeybees, it’s bad for your health as well.

Without honeybees there would be no honey.