Monday, July 28, 2014

Gardening Goings-On by guest blogger John Miller (chief gardener)

Hello everyone.  I am John Miller, Janet's hubby and chief garden guy.  I will post some pics of the garden and crops as they come in and keep things posted on whats coming in the garden.  We have flat ground where we live, and heavy soils, so gardening can be a real challenge in our plots sometimes with the poor drainage.  This year early was very tough, lots of rain early and things struggled early on.  As things have dried out and I have gotten ahead of the weeds, the garden is actually looking much better than it did in June.  So far this year we have harvested beets, greens, berries, turnips, summer squash and other early produce.  

Sweet corn, lima beans, zucchini, tongue of fire beans, tomatillos.  
Right now the zucchini and beans are starting to really ripen fast.  Zucchinis are looking great this year, deep color and nice flesh.  


Pickling Cucumbers
Pickling cucumbers were planted late this year due to wet weather, but the small row I have is producing nicely. We'll have enough to start pickling this week. Aside from mosquitos, we haven't noticed many bugs this year, so plants are thriving.

The tomatoes are picking up steam.  We both stake and use cages for support. I have had to hand prune them this year due to some yellowing of leaf branches, but the fruits are looking good.  


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Refrigerator Pickles

One of my favorite summer sides are refrigerator pickles. Unlike their processed brothers they are not shelf stable but do offer a crisper texture. The brine recipe below can be used for peppers, onions, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower and cucumbers. Once made, store the pickles in the fridge for at least two days before eating to allow the brine and herbs to penetrate the vegetables. Feel free to change up (or combine) vegetables, herbs and seasonings to create a mix of pickles to suit your tastes.

For each quart jar:
2 1/4 cups water
3/4 cup vinegar
1 Tbsp pickling salt
Optional: garlic clove, fresh herbs, mustard seeds, peppercorns

Chop vegetables and place in quart jar along with garlic, herbs and spices if using. In a saucepan heat water, vinegar and salt just until salt dissolves. Pour brine over vegetables, top with lid and place in refrigerator. Pickles will last in fridge for a month.

Dill zucchini pickles and pickled peppers.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pickled Beets

Beets are one of my favorite vegetables. There. I said it. Yep, I really like 'em. Seems beets have their share of haters. If you find yourself in the hater category, I say: you just haven't had them prepared correctly.

The humble but versatile beet can be boiled, roasted or pickled, eaten hot or cold, plain, with butter or spiced. And in a root cellar or fridge, beets can last months.

When beets are ready to harvest, we look forward to storing a few, roasting a few and pickling the rest. Pickled beets make a quick side dish and a perfect foil for rich foods (like mac & cheese).

Harvested beets. They don't look edible. Just wait!

Beets get a rinse outside. Looking better!

To preserve: 

Beets get a hot bubble bath, then peeled.
Wash beets, and remove all but one inch of the greens just above the bulb. Place in a pot, cover with water bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 45 minutes. Drain beets, rinse with cool water and when cool enough to handle, remove skins (no knife required!). 

Carefully add the brine, leaving headspace.
Combine brine ingredients.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. In the mean time, slice or cube beets and distribute them between clean, hot jars. Remove spices and pour brine over beets leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Adjust lids and rings and process.  

Remove jars from canner and cool for 12 hours. When cool remove rings, wipe jars and store in a cool, dry place. Unsealed jars should be refrigerated and consumed within a few days. 

Beet Pickles

from The Ball Blue Book
3 quarts beets (abut 24 small)
2 cups sugar
2 sticks cinnamon
1 Tbsp whole allspice
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups vinegar
1 1/2 cups water

Wash & cook beets. Drain, cool slightly and peel. Combine all ingredients except beets in a large sauce pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove cinnamon and allspice. Pack beets into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Ladle hot liquid over beets leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two piece caps. Process pints and quarts for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. Yield: 6 pints or 3 quarts