Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tomato Bounty Salsa

And yet another from Taste of Home.  Like I said, I'm really glad I bought the magazine. While cooking, I thought that I would like this salsa better than the spicy chunky salsa, but I although they are both good, I like the spicy chunky salsa better.  I think the cumin kind of takes over all the other smells while cooking so it didn't smell as good to me, but the taste was great.  This salsa tastes very good as well...just not as good as the other.  I have no pictures other than the finished product, I just got busy and forgot, but hey, it pretty much looks like the last one anyway.  :)  And now...on to the recipe.

9 pounds yellow tomatoes (I used mostly Romas instead, with some yellow pears tossed in.  I also just used the measurement from the other salsa that 6 pounds =9 cups peeled and chopped, then adjusted for the changed poundage)
4 medium onions, finely chopped
2 cans (6 oz each) tomato paste
1 large sweet red pepper, finely chopped
3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped (I used more of the Hungarian peppers)
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tsp salt (I used about half this amount)
1/2 tsp pepper

Blanch tomatoes, then peel and finely chop.  Combine the remaining ingredients in a stockpot and stir in tomatoes.  Bring to a boil over med-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until desired thickness.  Carefully ladle hot mixture into hot 1 pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles, wipe rims and adjust lids.  Process for 20 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Tomato Bounty Salsa is the jar on the right

I actually made only half this recipe and my yield was 4 pints.

Spicy Chunky Salsa

So here's another recipe from the Taste of Home magazine.

6 pounds tomatoes (I am seriously considering a kitchen scale so I can get these recipes right!)
3 large green peppers, chopped
3 large onions, chopped
2 cups white vinegar
1 large sweet red pepper, chopped
1 can (12 oz) tomato paste
4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped (I used the Hungarian peppers instead)
2 Serrano peppers, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tsp ground cumin
3 tsp salt (I used maybe half the salt!)
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp hot pepper sauce

Cilantro ready to chop
Blanch the tomatoes, then peel and finely chop to measure 9 cups.  In a stockpot, combine the tomatoes and remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until slightly thickened.
green Serrano pepper, red and yellow Hungarian peppers

Carefully ladle hot mixture into hot 1 pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles, wipe rims and adjust lids.  Process 15 minutes in a boiling water canner.  This yeilded 4.5 pints for me.
Spicy Chunky Salsa is the middle jar

Tomato Lemon Marmalade

I bought the Taste of Home Canning and Preserving cookbook/magazine this summer and I am so glad I did!  There are lots of very yummy looking recipes!  I don't normally like marmalade...or maybe it's just orange marmalade I don't like, since that's the only kind I have had before...but this still sounded good to me, so I decided to try it.  And I am definitely glad I did!  This recipe yielded 3.5 pints.

Here's the recipe:
5 medium ripe tomatoes (this ended up being about 4 cups after I had peeled and chopped it)
4 cups chopped, peeled tart apples (about 4 large) (I used granny smith)
2 medium lemons, seeded and ground (I had no idea how to grind a lemon that isn't dried, so I just sliced it very thinly...almost could be considered shaved at times, and then chopped it into small pieces)
6 cups sugar
2.25 tspn ground ginger
8 whole cloves (I actually used 14, because mine are more than a year old, they are still very aromatic, though, so I have no idea if the flavor is diminished or not)

Peel (I blanched them to peel them), quarter and chop the tomatoes; place in a colander to drain.  Transfer to a dutch oven (I just used a large pot); add apples and lemons.  Cook and stir over medium heat for 15 minutes.  Add sugar and ginger.

Tie cloves in a cheesecloth spicebag; add to the pot.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, and cook until the sugar has dissolved.  Reduce heat, simmer 40 minutes, stirring frequently.  (I actually cooked it quite a bit longer, and used my potato masher to break up some of the apple chunks, too.)  I can't remember for sure, but I think this was the recipe that I added 1 Tbsp pectin to, in order to help it set a little more.  Then boil for a minute or so longer after adding the pectin.

Remove spice bag.  Ladle hot mixture into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles, wipe rims and adjust lids.  Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.
The jar on the left is the Tomato Lemon Marmalade

Tomato Preserves

I found this recipe in the Ball Blue Book of Preserving.  I found one called Yellow Pear Tomato Preserves on one of those forum threads I mentioned before.  I wrote them both down to try, but when I was looking at the recipes, I realized that they are essentially the same recipe, except that the one called Yellow Pear Tomato Preserves is a doubled batch, calls for using only the yellow pear tomatoes and has a tsp of ground cinnamon and a tsp of ground cloves added.   I decided to try the one from the Ball book first, then next time, I will probably try it with the added cinnamon and cloves.  My yield was 2.5 pints.

Here's the recipe:
1.5 quarts small yellow, green or red tomatoes (about 2 pounds)
(I used a mix of the chocolate cherry tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes)
1Tbsp mixed pickling spices
1 (1/2 inch) piece fresh ginger
4 cups sugar
1 cup thinly sliced and seeded lemon (about 2 medium)
3/4 cup water

Wash and peel tomatoes (I skipped the peeling based on my experience with the yellow pear tomato jam, I did however, chop them into quarters.  The cherry tomato peels didn't completely melt away like the yellow ones did, but they were not bad at all.)  Tie spices and fresh ginger in a spice bag.  Combine sugar, lemon, water and spicebag in a large saucepot.  Simmer 15 minutes. 

Add tomatoes; cook gently until the tomatoes become transparent, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.  Remove from heat.  Cover and let stand 12 to 18 hours in a cool place.  Remove spice bag.  Remove tomatoes and lemon from syrup (I didn't do this, there wasn't much to remove!)  Boil syrup 3 minutes or longer to thicken (It was probably closer to 10 for me, but remember, the tomatoes were still in it.) 

Return tomatoes and lemon from syrup (I think I also added 1 Tbsp pectin at this point) boil 1 minute.  Remove from heat.  Skim foam if necessary.  (I found that simply stirring gently made the foam disappear.)  Ladle hot preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Adjust 2 piece caps.  Process 20 minutes in a boiling water canner.
The jar on the right is the tomato preserves

Yellow Pear Tomato Jam

Since we have such an abundance of the yellow pear tomatoes, I went searching for things to make with them.  Apparently this tomato plant is very prolific for most people because I saw things come up in my search such as "What to do with a gazillion yellow pear tomatoes."  I followed the link to several of those, which took me to a few different forums, where people responded with what they like to do with them, and there were even a few recipes.  The one I found for Yellow Pear Tomato Jam is one of those.  I have to say that I am VERY glad that I wrote the recipe down, because right now, I have no idea where the forum or thread is where I originally saw the recipe...or the couple of others that I also wrote down.  The taste of this jam is very different...but I like it quite a bit.  The poster of the recipe had recommended eating it with goat cheese and crackers.  I think that would be great...or with cream cheese, possibly even on a biscuit, but it is definitely not something you would eat with peanut butter on a sandwich!

Anyway, here's the recipe:
4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
6 cups yellow pear tomatoes (the recipe didn't say to, but I went ahead and roughly chopped them)
3 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped (I used Hungarian hot peppers which are larger, but not as hot)
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp distilled white vinegar

1.)  In a 6 qt saucepan, combine sugar and water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer until the syrup reaches 234F on a cooking thermometer.  (If I remember correctly, this is the soft ball stage.)

2.)  Remove from heat and add tomatoes, mixing well.  The syrup may change consistency, but keep stirring and eventually the tomatoes will mix evenly.

3.)  Return to the heat and add the chilies, basil, lemon juice and vinegar.  Simmer, uncovered, on very low heat until the mixture thickens, about 1.5 to 2 hours.  Stir often, being careful not to burn.  The jam will darken.

4.)  Ladle into clean jars, leaving 1/4" headspace.  Cap and seal.

5.)  Process 15 min in a boiling water bath canner.
The middle jar is the yellow pear tomato jam.

A couple of notes:  This recipe yielded 2.5 pints.  It is not necessary to blanch and peel the tomatoes before starting.  The poster of the recipe said that the peels of these tomatoes would just melt away and she was right.  When I made this, the jam didn't seem to be setting up so I added pectin...a whole box.  I shouldn't jam is VERY stiff.  It still tastes great, but it is very stiff.  Next time I will only add, at most, half a box, or maybe just try the recipe the way it is written.  The part about the jam darkening...I did notice this some while I was cooking, but when it REALLY darkened up was while it was processing in the canner.  The jars came out MUCH darker than they went in.  I'm glad I was warned or I might have been afraid that it was ruined!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fig Jam

Last week, Brent's mom called and said that there were many figs on the tree and we were welcome to come get them.  I picked for about an hour and a half.  There were plenty more figs that would be ready in a couple of days and there were many completely green figs as well.  This is what we came home with.

Yes, I think it is safe to say this is a good year for figs!  Since figs don't last very long, I got busy making fig jam.  Brent's mom gave me Nanny's instructions a couple of years ago.  It includes soaking the figs in brine prior to making the preserves.  I think this is to soften the skins, but these figs are so small and tender that the skins break down easily, so I just skipped that step, and it worked out just fine. 

Then you cook 9 cups of chopped figs with 3 cups of sugar and a little less than 1/2 cup (half of 3/4 to be exact) of water.

And cook it, and cook it, and cook it.  I use a potato masher when everything is getting really soft to break the skins down a little more.  I like the chunks in my jam to be fairly small.   (Nanny's instructions did not inclde the next part, but I read that you need it to make the jam acidic enough to store safely.) Then when everything has thickened up nicely, you add 1/8 cup lemon juice, cook for an additional minute., then ladle into hot jars and process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.  I made two made 4.5 pints and one made 5.5 pints...and we still had figs left for fresh eating and for a drying attempt. 
Finished jam

I know you aren't supposed to double jam batches because of problems with inconsistent jelling, but the recipe in my canning book calls for 6 cups of sugar with the figs, so I think that it would have been fine to make both of these batches at the same time.

Canning, canning, canning

So along with a large harvest comes..."What do I do with all this food?!"  We have been giving quite a bit away, eating a lot of it, yet the refrigerator, basket, colander and windowsill were still overflowing.  It was time to get the canner out.  So for 8 days, I cooked, preserved, jammed, pickled and canned.  I made fig jam, 2 different salsas, yellow pear tomato jam, tomato preserves, tomato lemon marmalade, canned 1.5 pints of tomatoes and made pickled okra.  And here is the result. 

One jar of each of the six tomato recipes
All of the tomato jars minus 1.5 pints of salsa.

One jar each of every recipe.

All canned jars minus the 3 pints that had already been given away or eaten.

When I was done, on Wednesday, (after going through about 12 pounds of sugar!) this is what we had left

...well, not counting the squash and eggplant in the refrigerator.  And now the basket is full of tomatoes again.  I guess I will get back to making salsa again tomorrow :)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Garden Gone Wild

I've been talking for years about having a vegetable garden, and since we finally have PLENTY of space and sun, I put one in this year. Brent scraped the space that I marked out (which looked a little small, but was 9X13 when I measured it and a little smaller, but not much once we finished the frame.)Brent built the frame for me, so that we could level the ground since we live on a slope, and I asked him to build it even higher so that I had plenty of room to amend the thick clay soil that composes our yard. My parents helped me loosen the soil and get the roots out.

April 3
My wonderful friend, Josie, picked up 3 yards of compost in her heavy duty truck and she helped me unload all of it into the garden. Then I spent the next week or so turning all that lovely compost into the soil to prepare for planting.
April 14
And the planting...7 tomatoes, one tomatillo, 5 eggplants, okra, zucchini, yellow squash, yellow and white pattypan squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, red, yellow, green and purple bell peppers, sugar baby watermelon, cantaloupe, leeks, shallots, sweet potato, red potato and yellow potato, black beans, wax beans and rattlesnake green beans, Malabar spinach, basil, fennel, bronze fennel, purple sage, dill, marigolds and nasturtiums. I also planted an herb bed with chocolate mint, orange mint, grapefruit mint, mojito mint, greek oregano, common oregano, rosemary, lemon basil, lime basil, lemon thyme, silver thyme, yellow sage, silver sage, lemon balm, garlic chives and mexican mint marigold and several flowers mixed in. Everything started growing...and growing and growing!

May 15
Those squash vines are all over the yard and the tomatoes have grown bigger than I have ever seen a tomato plant grow! They were at least 8 feet tall before they fell over.  Somehow I didn't get a picture before the plants knocked over the tomato cages.  I used tent stakes and twine to tie them back up, but they still can't  hold the crazy plants up!  I'm going to have to figure something else out for supporting them next year. 
July 9

The shallots died off...I'm not sure if they got to shaded when the squash plants grew over them or what. The potatoes started out growing beautifully, but then died back and did not make any new potatoes where I mounded the soil, so I'm not holding my breath as to whether or not I will find any under the ground. And I'm not looking right now because the tomatoes and tomatillos have now grown over that spot. The sweet potato vine is still growing, so we might actually wind up with some sweet potatoes.

The butternut squash is perfect and we still have several growing on the vine. I think we may continue to get more, too, since the vine is still growing. We have had a couple of spaghetti squash, but one rotted, and the other is waiting to be cooked. There are also 3 more on the vine right now. The bell peppers produced peppers, but the purple and green ones were very bitter so they went straight onto the compost pile. The red ones were perfect, and I am still waiting for the yellow one to turn yellow so we can try it.
July 12  - herb bed with a zucchini growing in it
The black beans and the wax beans did great...until the grasshoppers started attacking the garden with a vengeance a few weeks ago. Those bugs are my nemesis right now...when you walk up to the garden, there are so many of them that you would think that we are growing grasshoppers rather than food! In one day, they ate all the green bean and black bean vines down to nothing. Grrrr!

These crazy bugs are EVERYWHERE!  They are my nemesis!
In one night we went from lush vines with plenty of leaves and flowers to this sad sight.

They even eat up the eggplant leaves, just not as badly as the beans.

  I planted 2 eggplant varieties, Fairytale (I think it is an heirloom variety) and Black Beauty. Fairytale started producing way before Black Beauty even started blooming. It makes small, cylindrical fruits that are purple and white mottled/striped. They are very pretty, but the skin is rather tough...especially if you grill it. Then Black Beauty started blooming and we have had about 3 or 4 eggplants per plant...with a few of those number still growing.

"Fairytale" with blossoms
"Fairytale" fruit

"Black Beauty" eggplant

The okra, "Clemson spineless" just in case you were wondering, is tall and producing like spite of the grasshoppers devouring the leaves. The white scallop squash took off with a bang and hasn't stopped at all. I usually harvest more than enough for us to eat for a week in 2 or 3 days and we've been giving a lot away. It is by far the highest yielding of the squash we planted.

  The tomatillo grew and grew and grew. And flowered and flowered and flowered. But it wasn't setting any fruit. Brent thought maybe we didn't have the right pollinator so I looked it up and everything I read said that you need 2 tomatillo plants for pollination. So I was thinking about ripping the plant up to give the space over to something else, but the next day, I noticed that there were a few swollen up husks, and since then there have been quite a few more show up. Nowhere close to all the flowers, but definitely enough that I am not ripping the plant up.

And the tomatoes. Most of the tomatoes I planted are heirlooms. Chocolate Cherry was the first to set fruit. They are so sweet and yummy! It has been producing faithfully, just not huge quantities. I would say that it is just right for keeping a family in small tomatoes.
green "Chocolate Cherry" tomatoes

green "Yellow Pear" tomatoes
Yellow Pear started growing all over the place, it stretches to all four sides of the tomato tangle (the tomatoes grew so much that they knocked over the tomato cages, and even staking and tying hasn't done much for it!) and it is the most prolific of all the tomato plants. In fact it is the only tomato plant that is still flowering and setting fruit as we speak. Having all those yummy yellow tomatoes inspired me to find recipes for what to do with them, because I harvest more than we can eat every day. I found and made a recipe for Yellow Pear Jam that I will share with you another day, and I have several more that I will try. After all, I still have tomatoes left from the batch of jam and the plant is still making more every day.
green Roma
The 2 Roma plants are next, producing faithfully and in fairly large quantities. I made salsa with them, canned a couple of jars and we have eaten them fresh, sliced with olive oil, basil and pepper. I also have another pile waiting to be turned into another creation, and there are more ripening on the vine. Brandywine has produced only a few tomatoes, but they have been large and yummy. Pineapple had quite a few flowers but never set any fruit. And finally I had one plant that was labeled "Heirloom Rainbow Mix" It could be one of 6 or so different varieties. It is similar in shape to the Brandywine tomato, but is a little smaller, and has made a higher number of tomatoes than the Brandywine. It is great for slicing and eating on a sandwich.

The watermelons are small, just right for 4 people to eat in one sitting, and delicious.  We did get one teeny tiny watermelon.  I knew that it was fertilized, because it took so long to have any female flowers that I hand pollinated the first two on the same day.  One grew to a normal size, the other was smaller than a tomato.  It was literally about 4 very small bites...but it was still sweet and yummy! :) 

teeny tiny watermelon
full size "Sugar Baby" watermelon

I've been harvesting everyday, and get a decent harvest every time, sometimes even a large harvest 3 or 4 days in a row!  The plants must really like all the compost we worked so hard to add in. :)

May 15 harvest

June 27 harvest, part 1

June 27 harvest, part 2
July 2 harvest
July 7 harvest

July 8 harvest

The cantaloupe is growing and has had a couple of flowers, but no fruit has set yet. The Malabar spinach took a long time to sprout, only two seedlings ever emerged and they have not grown very big yet...only about 4 to 6 true leaves on each plant so far. We'll see what happens with them. The nasturtiums didn't do well at all. Out of the whole package, there were about 6 or 7 seedlings and they never grew more than just a few leaves...although a couple of those seedlings are still hanging in there. I still have several more things to plant for a fall crop. I already have seeds for carrots, spinach, bush beans and lettuce. Samantha really wants to grow broccoli, so as long as we can find it, we will try that and we'll see what else we can find to plant when it gets closer to that time.
I definitely deem this year's garden a whopping success!