Friday, August 27, 2010


Yesterday i managed to complete my first canning session.  All by myself.

I had 8# of tomatoes collected up. Which seemed to take forever since everything is ripening so slowly.
I found a good recipe for stewed tomatoes (hubby loves those). I washed, blanched, skinned and chopped them, cooked them in a pot for a few minutes to get things hot. I used my dishwasher to heat the jars and keep them hot.  I packed the jars and put them in the cooker.  I didn't have as much trouble adjusting the lid as i thought i might. By following the directions it was fairly fool proof.  The cooker heated and pressurized faster than i had expected- not in a bad way, but i had imagined waiting forever for the water to boil---  as if it were a full stock pot.  But it turned out to be pretty efficient.  I vented it for 10 minutes- used my digital timer and kept an eye on the gauge and the jiggly weight.  When the time was up i shut everything off and let it depressurize, which also happened faster than i had imagined it would.
The lid came off the cooker pretty easily and i used the can lifter thingie to remove the jars to a soft towel on the counter top.
The can contents bubbled for much longer than i expected, so that was interesting.
I did have a few cans that puked out some contents inside the pressure cooker, this made the inside of the aluminum discolor unfortunately- but its cosmetic i guess.
This morning it looks as if the cans are all tightly sealed. Maybe i lucked out.  I think i didn't do a good job removing any air pockets when i packed the jars. Also my tomatoes were pretty dry.  I have planted romas before, but this year was not ideal growing conditions being so dry in the last few weeks. I think there were a lot of internal air pockets within the flesh and pulp.
I do have a few jars whose contents are lower than the others.  I don't have enough experience to know whether or not if this is caused by the cans puking during processing or from the contents softening and losing volume.
So that is how my first try went.
I unscrewed a few rings to test the seals, they all seem very tight so far.

I think i need to reorganize the pantry. Its a flipping mess.

I asked over here at Fresh Preserving Forum  if i could try canning carrots with sugar to make an easier "Candied carrot" dish. Canning the carrots in a light syrup should allow me to simply add butter to the drained and heated carrots and serve them.  There's the matter of safety though, carrots are low acid, but i have a pressure canner so it should be possible, somehow.  But i'm making sure.  They are pretty helpful over there. If it might be risky, i will be told without any beating around the bush. Heh.

I might not get much of anything more out of my garden for canning, but i'm sure i'll get plenty of practice with apples. We go to a local orchard every year and always come back with too much. We have so much fun picking that we get carried away. We buy a good deal of apple sauce so making it at home won't be a waste. I'm also interested in making canned apple pie filling.

I have been enjoying the scent of orange blossom for the last few days. My venous orange has developed its flowers better and they have a scent now.  Only one at a time though, so i don't think any self pollinating is going on.  I'd like to see fruit, but i don't expect any. I love the smell, its not strong enough to float through the air from just one bloom, but getting in close and braving the little spikes is rewarding.

I'm having a watermelon dilemma. I have no idea how to tell if they are ripe.  I read that thunking them can work, smelling them, the patch on the bottom should be a certain color...   I can't decipher the thunk,  i can't get down far enough to sniff, and there is no patch on the bottom.  I'm sort of going by the one cantaloupe melon i have. Its netting is still green so i know it isn't ripe, i imagine if it is not, the others aren't either...?

The overnight weather has been too cool for much more growing to go on, the herb seeds have begun to germinate and we had some good rain last night and yesterday.  Its been needed. The rest of the week is supposed to be sunny and in the high 80's. So i'll be watering again soon.

I have gotten a few more ears of corn. Most are still small, but i have gotten one or two really good sized ears.I'm told the flavor is excellent.  So far the "Incredible"  has won for flavor.  There are a few small corn borers in them occasionally, they aren't too big so far but they will get bigger. I think its too late to do much about them since they are inside the ears no pesticides will reach them. I may just grab all the ears i can right now, clean out the bugs and serve the corn.

I was able to order my Excalibur dehydrator yesterday as well.  I can't wait for it to arrive. Between my Food Saver and the dehydrator i should be able to put together some instant meals without preservatives. 
I think this should conclude the kitchen collection.  I can't think of anything else i might want at this point.
Supplies are all i need.
I found a website called WebStaurant that sells vacuum bags that should work with my FoodSaver, they are a thicker mil number than what Tammy at Dehydrate2Store suggests. They might be even cheaper than the inferior generic bags at WalMart. I think i will try the oxygen packs that Tammy uses,  i'm not looking for doomsday level storage, but where i might not be confident that i have gotten my foods to the proper state of  dessication, the oxygen packs will add a level to my peace of mind. Honeyville seems to have the best price and the most fair shipping rates. Especially since it is the only thing i should need from them $5 shipping is great.  I found other places that carry the oxygen packs, but the prices are nothing special and the shipping is ridiculous.

I hope this method works for me. I'm tired of freezer-flavored veggies. The bags they come in from the store are no good for preventing flavor leaching and freezer burn. I use frozen veggies for soups the most, so drying them will be the best way to keep them for this use.

I found another planting guide chart. The type that help gardeners plant according to feeding a family of determined size. It looks good, but it shows me just how small my garden really is. Even with intensive methods i don't think i could get my plot to produce on this scale.  But it does great as a supplemental, hobby  or snacking garden.

The recently seeded grass enjoyed the recent rain, looks almost ready to mow

On Wednesday i found a caterpillar.  I was hoping to attract one of these by planting carrots-  its a swallowtail caterpillar, maybe a black swallowtail, but i'm not certain. They like things in the carrot family, dill, parsley, fennel etc.
It was getting ready to pupate when i found it, so it attached itself to the side of the jar i put it in almost immediately.

Its hard to get pictures of something inside a glass jar....
When i woke up this morning, it was the same as last night (above picture) by the time i had mad my first cup of coffee, fed all  the animals and looked at the caterpillar again, it had pupated:

I forget how long it takes these guys to metamorph...  so i have to do some research. If it looks like it will be too late in the year for this one, i should be able to refrigerate the chrysalis  and then let it warm up again in the spring to be released.

So, that is what has been going on around here! :o)