Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Season of Harvesting

The cool morning hours of today found me out in the garden harvesting produce and enjoying the glorious morning. It was bordering on being chilly out, and the thought crossed my mind that a sweater would have been nice. I never thought that I would consider that in July, but we have had some unusual weather here in Missouri the past week . . . highs in the 70's and lows in the 50's! Yesterday was even cooler than that with a high of 67 degrees which made it feel like spring again. Though, all I have to do is look around at the grass and the trees and see that we are in the midst of summer; the fresh, brilliantly green leaves that burst forth in the spring are now beginning to show signs of fading and yellowing. Time continues to go quickly by and with it, the changing of the seasons. And with each season, one can find beauty as well as things to enjoy and appreciate.

In the season that we are in right now, I have been enjoying the harvest of produce and seeing our freezer and shelves in the pantry filling up with food to be enjoyed throughout this next year. Beans, beets, pickles, peach butter, relish and much more! Food preservation is something that I enjoy doing, and I have definitely been able to experience it this past week. Here is a little glimpse into what has been happening in the kitchen recently . . .

Peaches

We picked up 3/4 of a bushel of peaches at a Mennonite store here in Missouri, and we had such a fun time together doing the blanching, peeling, chopping and then putting the peaches up in the freezer . . .

Some of the peaches washed and ready to be blanched

Leah peeling the peaches after they were blanched

Mom working on the chopping

My 'chopping station'

Chopping peaches

We put up enough peaches in the freezer for eleven peach pies (my Dad's favorite!), and with the peaches that were left, I was able to can four pints of peach butter. This was a first for me, and it was fun to do!

Blueberries

The blueberries were also from the Mennonite store, and they, too, were put up in the freezer to be enjoyed in cobblers, muffins, and other tasty dishes throughout the next year . . .


The washed blueberries

Pickles

Yet another 'first' for me . . . making Dill Pickles! Once they are canned, they are supposed to sit for four to six weeks before eating them, so I still do not know how they turned out. Hopefully we will like them!

The pickles are on the left with the peach butter on the right

Salsa

Making salsa was another new experience, and I enjoyed it, but it took a long time to chop everything! Especially the tomatoes . . . I guess it did not help that most of the ones that I had were Romas. When planting the vegetable garden, I planted a bunch of 'regular' tomatoes to be used for fresh eating, as well as in salsa and other such things, with the Romas being used for things like Ketchup. But then my tomato plants were hit hard by early blight and have just about reached their end. So as my tomato harvest was going to be very small this year, I chose the tomato recipe that was at the top of my list to make (which was the salsa) so the Romas were used for that instead. The fun part about the salsa was that everything was from our own garden (save for the garlic) . . . the tomatoes, peppers, jalapeno peppers, onions, and cilantro . . .

The garden produce (except for the Cilantro - I harvested that after this photo was taken. :)

Today when I made the salsa, Leah and I were watching four little ones (which was so fun!), and the littlest one who is a year and a half was fascinated by the process. She kept coming to me in the kitchen, wrapping her arms around me and requesting "See?" So I would pick her up, show her what I was doing, and explain it to her. I ended up peeling pretty much all of the tomatoes one-handed as she wanted to be held so she could see it all. Thankfully tomato skins peel off very easily after being blanched! Eventually, though, I needed two hands for chopping, so I had to put her down. After that, she would occasionally come back to me asking to "see" again, so I would pick her up for a bit each time. How much more enjoyable it was doing the canning with the children around!

During a large part of the chopping of the tomatoes, I had an interesting discussion with the nine year old boy about fighter planes, guns, different wars, model planes, and other such things. My! Does he ever know a lot about those types of things! He was describing to me different parts of the planes, rattling off names of planes from different wars, and sharing so much information with me that I had to finally ask where he learned it all. Fun times!
The finished salsa cooling on the counter

Much has now been canned and frozen, yet much more remains to be done . . . there are beans in the fridge ready to be washed and snapped, cucumbers that need to be made into pickles or relish, carrots to be harvested and canned, and zucchini that needs to be grated and frozen . . . . . I think I know what I'll be doing the rest of this week!

14 comments:

  1. Mmmm. Peach pies are one of my favorites too. We're in the midst of the blueberry harvest here in Michigan. If you were closer I would invite you over to pick. Have you ever tried fresh salsa? It's one of my favorites. You just chop up the vegetables, add a little vinegar and serve.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ohhhhhhhh Sarah it sounds like you are having a terrific time in the kitchen with not only your Mom and Leah, but the little folks that were there yesterday!!
    It sounds as though my Mom and I will be in the kitchen at some point today putting up or at least dealing with the produce that she brought in from her 'hunting and gathering' trip in our garden earlier this morning. These are definately fun and memorable times! :o)
    Have a great day!

    ~Ashley

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sarah...I need to remind myself not to look at your blog with a hungry tummy! :) So many blessings from your garden and elsewhere....and they look wonderful! I just love fresh produce!

    ReplyDelete
  4. That looks so good!:) Peaches and blueberries are two of my favorite fruits.

    ReplyDelete
  5. AnonymousJuly 23, 2009

    Sarah,

    What is your recipe for dill pickles? I have been scanning old books diligently looking for a good recipe. Also, I am considering canning beets for the first time, as well. Any hints?

    Renee

    ReplyDelete
  6. They are one of mine, too, Amy!

    I hope that your blueberry harvest is going well for you all! Aww . . . that is sweet of you :) . . . if only we lived closer! I have never gone blueberry picking before, but I am hoping that in a few years we’ll be able to harvest them from our own plants (we planted blueberries this year.) It is always much more enjoyable to put up produce that you have grown yourself!

    No, I have never tried fresh salsa, but it sounds delicious! We’ll have to try it. :) Thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am having some terrific times, Ashley! I have really been enjoying the time spent in the kitchen with my Mom and Leah (as well as the times in the living room snapping beans!), and yesterday with the children here was extra special. They add such joy to the day no matter what we are doing!

    How fun that you and your Mom are going to be able to put up produce soon! I am sure she enjoyed her ‘hunting and gathering’ expedition this morning. :) What all are you planning to put up? I look forward to hearing about your ‘produce ventures’; and I hope that you all have fun making memories! :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Your comment brought a smile to my face, Ellen! Hmm . . . maybe I should stop posting about food . . . ;) :)

    I, too, love fresh produce and am so thankful that we are able to have a vegetable garden!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you, Desiree! :) I, too, really like peaches and blueberries . . . and they are both quite versatile so there are many things that one can make with them!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Welcome to my blog, Renee! :) The recipe for the dill pickles that I made I got from the Ball Blue book (a wonderful canning book by the way) . . .

    Dill Pickles (these are fresh pack)

    --8 pounds 4- to 6- inch cucumbers, cut lengthwise into halves (for whatever reason, it took fewer cucumbers when I made this recipe)
    --3/4 cup sugar
    --1/2 cup canning salt
    --1 quart vinegar
    --1 quart water
    --3 Tbsp. mixed pickling spices
    --Green or dry dill (1 head per jar)

    Wash and drain cucumbers. Combine sugar, salt, vinegar and water in a large saucepot. Tie spices in a spice bag; add spice bag to vinegar mixture; simmer 15 minutes. Pack cucumbers into hot jars, leaving ¼-inch headspace; put one head of dill in each jar. Ladle hot liquid over cucumbers, leaving ¼-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process pints and quarts 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner. Yield: about 7 pints or 3 quarts

    Also, I found out that fresh pack dills are processed a bit differently than other fresh pack pickles:

    When processing fermented cucumbers and fresh pack dills, start counting the processing time as soon as the jars are lowered in boiling water. Start counting processing time after water returns to a rolling boil for all other fresh pack pickles.

    Never having tasted these pickles yet (they are supposed to sit for 4 to 6 weeks before trying them) I do not know how they turned out, so cannot say whether the recipe is a good one or not; but I hope that it is helpful to you!

    This year was only my second time canning beets and it was fun to do, though a bit challenging for me. The process is quite involved with the blanching of the beets, peeling them, chopping them up, packing them in jars, etc., but it is definitely worth it! As far as hints . . . I am still learning how to can myself (and still have not been able to can beets without losing liquid from the jars) so I am afraid that I will not be much of a help to you as far as advice! One thing that I can offer, though, is to make sure that you have plenty of time set aside to do the canning from start to finish. It is less overwhelming if you are not trying to finish it before a deadline! (I learned this from firsthand experience. :) I hope that your canning ventures are successful for you! Have fun! :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Those peaches look so juicy!! Blueberries are the best~is that your little sister drawing? She is so cute. The salsa looks great~I am getting so hungry just looking at all your photo's. God bless, Rose

    ReplyDelete
  12. AnonymousJuly 24, 2009

    Sarah...all the food looks wonderful. You are making great use of all that you harvest!

    Did you receive the lime pickle recipe I emailed you? If not, I can try to send it again.

    ~ Betsy

    ReplyDelete
  13. They were juicy, Rose! They'll make wonderful pies. :)

    The little girl in the photo is the daughter of a dear friend of ours . . . she and her brother and sisters have grown to be like little siblings to us. They are such dears!

    Thank you for your kind words! :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you, Betsy! :)

    And yes, I did receive the recipe . . . thank you so much for sending it! I was just getting ready to finish up the e-mail that I had started to you when I saw your comment. :) It will be heading your way shortly!

    ReplyDelete

Thanks so much for your comment! Each one is read and enjoyed. :)