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Canning Inferno

I’ve been paging through my canning cookbook in my spare time and selecting recipes that I want to try. I found two that I decided to attempt this weekend: Tomatillo Salsa and a concoction called Inferno Wine Jelly. I love hot pepper jelly and the latter was the closest thing that I found that didn’t call for food coloring.

I didn't have quite enough tomatillos for the double batch of salsa so I grabbed a couple of green tomatoes from my garden.

I didn’t have quite enough tomatillos for the double batch of salsa so I grabbed a couple of green tomatoes from my garden.

I ended up with more salsa than I thought and hadn't washed enough jars. I put the extra in a new jar (once I could wash it) and froze it instead.

I ended up with more salsa than I thought and hadn’t washed enough jars. I put the extra in a new jar (once I could wash it) and froze it instead.

In addition to the frozen jar, I ended up with eight processed jars. The salsa needs to sit for a few weeks so the flavors can meld.

In addition to the frozen jar, I ended up with eight processed jars. The salsa needs to sit for a few weeks so the flavors can meld.

I goofed on the recipe for the wine jelly, which contains flecks of pepper. I made a double batch of the jelly as well, but forgot to double the amount of pectin. Not wanting to waste the $45 worth of wine in the recipe, I decided to reboil it. Just as well as the peppers are better distributed in the redo batch.

I goofed on the recipe for the wine jelly, which contains flecks of pepper. I made a double batch of the jelly as well, but forgot to double the amount of pectin. Not wanting to waste the $45 worth of wine in the recipe, I decided to reboil it. Just as well, as the peppers are better distributed in the redo batch.

Ta-da! If it turns out the jelly still isn't as set as it should be, I'll call it glaze and that will be that.

Ta-da! If it turns out the jelly still isn’t as set as it should be, I’ll call it glaze and that will be that.

 

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Christmas-in-July Haul

Sweet summer.

Sweet summer.

It’s my favorite time of year again! Nothing beats that first blackberry of the season. Absolutely nothing. I demolished half a pint of these just in transporting them from the sink to the fridge. Here’s what else I bought at the market today:

  • 1 pint blueberries
  • 1 huge jar of local honey
  • 2 lbs ground bison
  • cute summer squash (since mine never happened this year)
  • lettuce
  • jalapenos
  • scallions
  • marinated feta
  • cantalope

Garden Update

Garlic and tomatoes.

Garlic and tomatoes.

I told my tale of squash-plant woe at the market and the conclusion is that it’s most likely squirrels noshing on my squash blossoms. The chicken wire around my largest container doesn’t seem to be keeping them at bay. I’ve never seen one in the vicinity, but I think I might make some cayenne spray to see if that deters them in the future. I want pumpkins, dammit.

Other than that, the garden is doing pretty darn well. I started hand-pollinating the pumpkin plants since that seemed to work well for the cucumbers. I have been noticing more bees frequenting the veggies in the morning, so maybe they’ll start doing more of the work for me.

My super-steak tomatoes are finally starting to ripen. I harvested one of them and the first garlic this morning, but I probably should have waited until the soil had dried out for the garlic — I’ll leave the rest in until then. We had massive amounts of rain yesterday.

The blackberry canes are really establishing themselves and there’s even some green berries on one of them. Can’t wait to see what they do next year.

Last weekend, I concocted a weed spray of vinegar and dish soap. I used it right before the sunniest time of the day. It worked really well and fried the crabgrass around my driveway. I didn’t pull it up in time though and they’ve come right back. Gotta work on my timing, but it’s nice to know you don’t need chemicals to kill weeds.

In other news, my compost tumbler is all but broken. The plastic warped where it connects to the spindle and it’s only a matter of time before it pops off. Then I have to decide whether to keep using the barrel in a spot where it won’t kill the grass or to set up a compost pile somewhere. I don’t have a large lot, so it would be close to my house, which isn’t that desirable. I could buy a different compost bin, but I’d rather save my pennies. I need to do some research on building my own.

Freedom Haul

Today’s haul was all about freedom (4th of July was on Thursday, after all). I had a very stressful week and I chose to leave all my cares at the sidewalk once I got to the farmer’s market today. I splurged. I loaded up. I saw lots of friends and Maggie and I made some new ones. It was a good (if hot!) morning.

photo(1) copyHere’s what I got:

  • Beautiful white onions, just because
  • Purple and green bell peppers
  • Lettuce
  • Cantalope
  • 2 pints blueberries
  • Breakfast sausage patties
  • 1 pound backfin crab meat (talk about a splurge!)
  • Portabella mushrooms
  • Sweet corn (I cooked this already)
  • Gluten-free sausage roll (I ate this already)
  • Gluten-free glazed almond mini bundt cake
  • Cordova White marinated feta
  • Vanilla sweetgrass oatmeal soap
  • Natural deodorant*

* I’ve gone chemical-free on so many things, but not this yet. We’ll see how I do with this. One of my aunts once wondered how deodorant/anti-perspirant can’t NOT be connected to the rise in breast cancer — you use it so close to that tissue.

Garden Update

Lots more lessons learned this season. I planted several seeds of many varieties of plants with so-so luck. For most of my squash varieties, only one seed for each type took. I’ve picked a couple of zucchini so far. My yellow summer squash plant is all but dead though. Something is eating right through the stems of many of the plants and I can’t identify the culprit. I’ve pulled slugs, a few stinkbugs and a cucumber beetle off the plants, but haven’t figured out what’s doing the most damage. I haven’t seen any of those pests in several days anyhow. The butternut and spaghetti squash plants are humungous. Fingers crossed they produce some good squash!

I do have several varieties of pumpkin doing really well. Some I deliberately planted and a few are transplants from my compost pile. I have mini pie pumpkin plants, French blue pumpkin plants and gooseneck pie pumpkin plants. All have had blossoms, but I haven’t noticed fruit yet. Not sure if the culprit mentioned above is responsible or not. There’s still a couple of huge pumpkin plants growing in the compost pile and encroaching on the alley. One neighbor is so excited to see what results from those plants.

My blackberry canes are busy establishing themselves, but I won’t see much fruit from them this season. Only one of my raspberry canes is still with us. Ah well.

I’ve been hand-pollinating my cucumber plants and finally have some growing on those vines now. I’m going to pick a couple of them tonight to try. My bush beans are getting crowded out by the squash plants, but have been producing. I haven’t picked those yet and will probably do so tonight. I have a ton of rainbow chard, but don’t really care for it. Not even bacon grease could make it palatable for me. Anyone reading this who is near me is welcome to help themselves.

My Thai cherry tomatoes are producing nicely ripening fruit. The supersteak tomatoes are looking good but haven’t started to turn red yet. I added more fertilizer to the soil in that container as the plants were looking a bit anemic. No blossom end rot this year — hooray!

I have one rogue broccoli plant that has a teeny little head of broccoli on it. I pulled up a few carrots this morning and had them with my breakfast. When you grow it yourself, you can’t wait to eat it. My kale has been doing pretty well — I noticed the youngest plants weren’t growing so I added compost to those last weekend and they’ve already perked up.

As to the lessons learned: I gave the squash more room this season, but I really need to spread them out more and plant more of each type to ensure a good harvest. Looks like more of my lawn is going to become vegetables next year!

I put down landscape fabric around my beds to try and keep the weeds down, but it wasn’t opaque enough. The weeds are still growing underneath of it and it’s a constant struggle to keep the fabric tied down. I need to put mulch down on top of it, but have been too cheap and lazy to do so yet. I may wait until the fall at this point.

Finally, I need to completely refresh the soil in my tallest container next season. The plants in there aren’t thriving as much as they should with the weather we’ve been having. I’ve been amending with compost in the meantime.

Meaty Butternut Chili

DSCN4240After my trip to the bison farm yesterday, I thawed a pound of the ground bison for tonight’s dinner. But I’m still not in the mood to grill burgers (too cold out) or make tacos (not eating tortillas at the moment). Then I had a brain wave. I haven’t made chili yet this season! It was already 2 p.m. when I had this thought, so I raced to get out my crockpot and start thawing some of the frozen ingredients.

I’m not eating grains right now, so no rice or cornbread for this chili. To make the chili hearty enough to eat on its own, I decided to add butternut squash to the pot. But the huge squash I had dwarfed the quart of tomatoes and pound of bison I started out with. I ended up adding another quart of tomatoes and a pound of ground pork as well. The crockpot is filled to the brim as I type this!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground bison
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1.5 onions, chopped
  • 2 quarts diced tomatoes and juice*
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 heaping tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 chopped unseeded jalapeno
  • several drops Tabasco
  • other seasoning, including salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp ketchup
  • 2 tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce
  • Lime wedges

*My tomatoes held enough juice to give this chili a nice broth, but you could add beer, stock or water if needed. You also could add any number of things to the ingredient list above, like beans, etc.

I tossed the frozen tomatoes into the crockpot unthawed and turned it up to high. While I had it working on the tomatoes, I browned the bison with half of the onion and then added that to the crockpot. Then I did the same with the remaining onion and ground pork. I added the squash to the pot and then the remaining ingredients (except the lime). I added a bit of Penzey’s 33rd & Galena spice mix to the pot as well as each meat mixture as it was browning.

After a few hours on high, the chili was ready to eat! I squeezed a bit of lime juice over my first bowlful and it was quite tasty. It would be really good with some sharp cheddar grated on top.

DSCN4242

I’m letting the chili simmer for another hour on low before I cool it down for the night. Looking forward to taking leftovers to work for lunch this week!

The Haul: Impulse-Buy Edition

This weekend’s haul is less about what I bought at the farmer’s market and more about what I ordered online. But, as always, here’s what I bought at the farmer’s market:

  • Cucumbers
  • Bay leaves
  • Red bell pepper
  • Broccoli
  • Dandelion greens
  • Pears
  • Kale
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Apple sage sausage
  • Cheddar jalapeno brats

All of the above was more or less planned (well, maybe not those brats). Onto my impulse buys:

Garlic Grow Bags

I ordered these from Gardener’s Supply Company. Fell for one of their emails hook, line and sinker. But how can growing my own garlic be bad? It can’t. And I like these bright blue bags. I didn’t order enough container soil from them, but I had extra of my own on hand. I did have to buy fertilizer to supplement the container soil that I did buy from them. They sent me two types of garlic — California Early and Chesnok Red. The latter will be ready for harvest (hopefully) by early summer and I had two full heads of that type. It’s a hardneck garlic with purple cloves. The other is a softneck variety and I only got one head of that type. It’s apparently the kind you often see braided. I can’t wait to try that myself.

Food Dehydrator

My other impulse buy was a food dehydrator. I’d been thinking of getting one of these for a while now. I realize the title of this blog is Freezer Full and I’m still committed to filling my freezer as full as possible with my own home-cooked goodies. However, as every severe storm reminds me, there is one huge flaw to relying on my freezer to store food — power loss would be catastrophic. Hours and hours of work gone and hundreds of dollars wasted. Meanwhile, I’d probably be hungry. Dehydrating food is a better solution because the resulting stored foods are less likely to spoil. Never fear, however, as you’re supposed to refrigerate or freeze most dehydrated foods to extend their shelf life. Therefore, my freezer will continue to be full, even if I rely more and more on the dehydrator.

For my first dehydration experiment, I dried the fresh bay leaves I bought at the farmer’s market. I’m almost out of the bottled kind. My house smells so good right now. I never realized how good bay leaves smell! Shows what I’ve been missing by buying the store-bought kind. I may buy more fresh bay leaves next weekend just to put in a jar or something.

Garden Update

In addition to setting up the garlic grow bags, I put the winter coat back on the VegTrug — I put the greenhouse cover on and then put the other cover I have for it on top of that. This is in the hopes of staving off the inevitable first frost. My spinach plants aren’t dead, but they’re not thriving either. I’ll be lucky to get a side salad out of those. The kale seems to have slowed down. I might get a meal out of those plants. There are carrots left in the soil, the chives are still kicking and the rosemary doesn’t seem to care what’s going on — it just rolls with it.

I had to dig out one of my hostas in the side yard to make room for the garlic grow bags, but I stopped short of removing the ones in the front yard yet. I did clear out some weeds out front and trimmed back the hydrangeas. I mowed the lawn yesterday, but some spots were too long for the rotary mower.

The Haul: Frosty Fall Edition

Soon-to-be-soup pumpkin.

Coldest morning of the fall so far here in Maryland. I stayed tucked in bed as long as I could. Then, I made bacon. Fortified by that, I headed out to the library and the market. I used to worry about getting to the market early so I didn’t miss out on the good stuff, but I like going later. The music today was really good again — Swampcandy. I’d seen him before at the Night Cat. His first song (at around 10 a.m.) was about drinking whiskey. Cheers to him.

Here’s what I got:

  • Mushrooms
  • Smoked salmon salad
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Slicers
  • Eggplant
  • Green pepper
  • Kale
  • Bison filet
  • Maple pork sausage links
  • Kielbasa
  • Broccoli
  • Figs
  • Pumpkin!

I quizzed Crystal at C&D Produce about what pumpkin would be best for soup. I had selected one that I thought would be fun to display on my porch before I cooked it — it had little orange “knuckles” all over it. She said that particular type would be hard to cut and wouldn’t have a lot of flesh. She suggested that I buy a neck pumpkin instead, explaining that they are the type that are used for canning pumpkin. She showed me how to cut it and bake it to get to the flesh. The bulb at the end is like a cantaloupe and the seeds are there. The neck can be chopped into sections and then halved and baked. I can’t wait to try it! It’s sitting on my porch in the meantime.

Not sure how I’m going to prepare the bison filet yet, but that will be dinner and will most likely involve the mushrooms and some bacon.

Garden Update

Cosmos (I think)

It got down to 34 degrees last night according to my phone. Not quite freezing, but close enough to start killing off my basil, even inside the little greenhouse covering on the VegTrug. I snipped off the dead part and took a couple of clippings to try and root them in water.

My kale is almost ready to harvest — about another week. These are the old plants, which regrew when I cut them back to the ground. The new ones haven’t really gotten past the seedling stage. The spinach I bought is growing slowly but surely. I still don’t have enough for a side salad though.

I did a few fall clean-up items around the yard — disconnected the hose and spooled it, trimmed dead stalks off some of my hostas. I figure my flowers outside (the summer ones) aren’t long for this world if the cold night temperatures continue. I cut a pitcher full of black-eyed susans, cosmos buds and some purple wildflower that I can’t identify. Might as well enjoy them while they last!

I’m considering planting some garlic now for next summer. Haven’t gotten any further than considering it though.

The Haul: Shopping-While-Hungry Edition

I broke one of the cardinal rules of food shopping today and left for the markets before breakfast. The result: I bought a ton of food!

I started at the open-air market. I had already resolved to buy a bunch of tomatoes for freezing. I also bought:

  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 2 pints blackberries!!!
  • 1 1/2 pint raspberries* (part of breakfast)
  • a bunch of sweet potatoes
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 2 cucumbers
  • figs!
  • bison skirt steak

And I wasn’t done yet. I needed to go to the Amish market for sausage meat. Last week, I made this pork sausage recipe and it was really, really good, but I passed by the pork this week because the line was really long and got mixed ground turkey again. But, this weekend there’s a pig roast out in the parking lot! So, I also got suckered into buying:

  • 1 pint peach ice cream
  • homemade Amish potato chips (many of which became part of breakfast)

I also had resolved to buy fish to cook this week so I crossed the street and bought at Captain’s Ketch:

  • 1 bag of onions
  • 1 pound of wild-caught Coho salmon
  • 1 1/2 pint of their amazing shrimp salad (also part of breakfast)

What’s more, I haven’t even touched the watermelon and butternut squash that I bought last week. Also, the plums I bought last week were far from ripe and so those have been hanging out until they soften up a bit. I still have some of the peaches that I grilled to eat too.

Oh, and after purchasing everything that I did today, I forgot to buy greens like I’d planned.

*It didn’t occur to me, until there were only a few left, that maybe instead of eating the entire half-pint of raspberries in one sitting, I could have frozen them for baking or something later. This is the second time this week I’ve downed that many at one time. The farmer’s market at UMD had them this week too. In my defense, the ones I bought at work were so ripe, they wouldn’t have survived until I got home and I did share some with my coworkers.

Amish hand-made potato chips (a.k.a., breakfast).

Allergy Update

It appears that wheat, and also probably gluten, are among my allergies. I’m still trying to figure out the gluten thing though. I can drink beer, but not wheat beer. I was able to eat non-wheat flour bread last weekend, but presumably it still had gluten in it? I did, happily, find flourless, eggless cookies at the UMD farmer’s market this past week. Definitely going to stock up on those!

Garden Non-Update

Not much to report from the garden. I still haven’t planted what I said I would. I had hoped to do some planting today, but now it’s raining. Hopefully, tomorrow.