Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Harvest Time..which means canning time

July and August has been a battle of wills between me and the Sun.  After so much hard work went into building the raised beds and planting the garden, I was not going to let the weeks of 90 degree hot steamy summer days kill everything.  So I babied and tended to the garden each and everyday.  The effort has been paying off in cabbage, zucchini and yellow squash, peppers, along with pounds of cucumbers. 

So what does one do with pounds of cucumbers?  One makes relish - or at least I did this past weekend.  The funny thing is that I don't even like the stuff.  I am not big on vinegar based food items (which I have been told quite often that I am missing out).  This was my first attempt at dill relish and I hope those vinegar lovin' people in my life enjoy it cause you're going to be getting some as gifts this fall. I may even go ahead and try some sweet relish as I think I still have enough cucumbers left to give that a try.  That I may actually use in potato salad, macaroni salad, egg salad, deviled eggs, etc..  6 little plants make for TONS of cucumbers!

Someone asked me the other day if I like canning.  My immediate response was no - I don't like the process of canning.  I do like being able to go to my pantry in the winter and grab a jar of my own tomatoes for chili, marinara sauce and more.  Canning is an arduous process. Granted, the first day is the worst.  There is all the equipment to bring out of storage.  Then there's the cleaning and the prepping.  It's like working out...have to get your mind and your muscles ready for the challenge - back into the groove.  You've had a year to forget the pain and misery.  Sunday's relish endeavor took over 4 hours from start to finish.  It went something like this:
  • Equipment out of storage and into the kitchen
  • Wash and dry canning jars, lids and rings
  • Wash and peel 8 lbs. of cucumbers
  • Shred cucumbers in the food processor
  • Place cucumbers in large bowl with salt and turmeric and let stand for 2 hours (note to self - turmeric stains everything it touches)
  • Wash the food processor bowl
  • While you wait, peel and shred a ton of zucchini and then freeze in 2 cup bags (14 cups total)
  • Wash the food processor bowl (again)
  • Drain cucumber mixture in a colander in the sink
  • Peel and rough chop 1 lb. of onions and place in food processor
  • Put lids in sauce pan to heat up on stove, jars in canner to heat to 180 degrees
  • Wash cucumbers in cold water, drain again
  • Place cucumbers in stock pot with vinegar, dill and sugar
  • Heat up mixture and simmer for at least 10 minutes
  • Ladle mixture into the canning jars, place lids on and finger tighten the rings
  • Gently drop jars back into the canner and heat to boiling
  • Process jars for 15 minutes, then let stand in canner for 5 minutes with heat turned off
  • Remove jars and place on towel on the counter to cool
  • Clean up the giant mess of dishes, food processor bowl (again), pots and various other equipment that now crowds the entire kitchen
A couple years ago I bought a spare butane burner from my brother (he buys and sells restaurant equipment).  There is not enough room on one stove to do all of this at the same time. The other issue I have is height.  I am only 5' 1.5".  The counter is a bit too tall for me as it relates to stirring pots and pulling things in and out of canners.  I know, not a problem for much of the world but it proves tiring for a shorter person.  My arms are still sore.

As I mentioned, I also froze enough zucchini to keep my family and everyone else I know in zucchini bread until next year.  I also dehydrated another 4 large zucchini's and now my entire house smells like dehydrated zucchini.

Tomatoes are ripening as well and there is no comparison to a home grown, sweet ripe tomato! I can't wait each year for BLTs and other sandwiches which are made all that more yummy with a nice slice of tomatoes.  Mmm, mmmm good.  I have had some instances of blight on some tomatoes but nothing to the extent of the last couple years. It's been mostly on the golden ones vs. the Roma and early tomatoes.  I should be able to harvest enough for canning both sauce and salsa. 

Oh yay...more canning.  Next up - peppers, onions, and potatoes.