This has been the weirdest year for our tomatoes. Early in the season it was so cool and rainy, which meant that our tomatoes would keep producing new growth but no ripe tomatoes. Once the summer got its act together and shot up to 90 degrees, we got an overflow of ripe tomatoes. Thank you jeebus! On the weekends I’ve been canning my brains out. I’ve done tomato jam, tomato puree, tomato sauce, but I wanted to do something different this year. Because I don’t really want to live off of lasagna this winter. I’m not Garfield. I thought about canning something outside the box… or.. jar. Something that would incorporate a lot of our garden’s bounty and also be very useful. So obviously, I made bloody mary mix. Here’s a big shocker: we have a lot of friends that come over to visit, camp, help out on the farm, visit the animals and surprise, surprise… drink. And drink a lot. In the morning, they’re often searching for a delicious hair of the dog antidote. Who doesn’t love a good bloody mary? And what’s better than a bloody mary than a healthy homemade bloody mary mix! You’re welcome, friends.
If you’re anything like us, you may have over-planted summer squash. And that means that, also like us, you have summer squash coming out the yang right now. It’s the summer squash-pocolypse. We may be sick of it now but come winter, we’ll be begging for a taste of summer. Squash and zucchini can be so easily preserved in a number of ways besides just zucchini bread. I mean, zucchini bread is delicious but c’mon… who needs 20 loaves of that in their freezer? Maybe your grandma. Like, if she was storing up for the winter church bazaar or something. Variety is the spice of life, grandma! Here’s three ways to preserve your summer squash and at the same time give you lots of different meal options throughout the rest of the year.
I can’t believe it but we had peppers still thriving well into October! We’ve been letting our jalapenos turn red most of the season so we had a myriad of red peppers left on the plants. Before we pulled the plants up for the season, we tried to harvest and make use of every single pepper possible. Since I don’t think our pigs would be a fan of hot jalapenos, I needed to think of something creative to do with these spicy guys. I immediately thought of hot sauce! Duh! But not just any hot sauce, the most amazing, most special hot sauce there is… Sriracha Hot Sauce. We love the heat, the flavor and the extra punch of sirracha. We put that ish on everything! Eggs, pizza, burgers, chilli… hell, I’d even have a sriracha birthday cake if I could. The only thing that’s better than sriracha itself is homemade sriracha, which turned out to be really easy to do.
Three years ago, when we moved out to the farm, one of my mom’s first questions was “are there any persimmons out there?” My mom LOVES persimmons. I mean, like, for real really loves them. Truth be told, I didn’t think that we had many persimmons out at the farm. However since we’ve been out in the woods a lot recently, working on our new rotational grazing pasture, we’ve been finding multiple groves of them! This past weekend my mom and Aunt Linda came out to the farm to help me forage for some persimmons after the first frost of the year and we were able to gather about 5 lbs of wild, native persimmons! But now that we found them, there’s one question to ask: What should I make with all these persimmons? Persimmons are nature’s gummy fruit, my friend and the possibilities are nearly endless for this forgeable fruit.
It’s that time of year again where we’re up to our eyeballs in produce. So much… so, so much… So at the end of each week I’ll spend a day or so canning. But after three weeks of canning dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, Such and Such pickles, pickle this, pickle that, it gets old. And I don’t want to be eating the same flavored pickled cucumbers all winter long. That would be a long, boring winter. It’s time to shake things up a bit. We have stacks on stacks on stacks of zucchini and green beans this year so it’s their time to shine! Instead of going to regular dilly bean, spicy beans or whatever route, I decided to spice it up and make curry zucchini pickles and curry bush bean pickles. Curry, apple cider vinegar and turmeric make for a zesty Eastern flair pickle that would be perfect on a winter’s terrine or charcuterie board.
Canning season is among us! Every time I go out to the garden I’m greeted with rows and rows of bush beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh herbs, okra, I could go on and on… For a second I stop to think, “Man, this is really beautiful! And amazing that we’re growing so much food!” But then I’m like, “Holy expletative! This is a lot of food! I need to can this ish.” So now after I spend my day in the gardens, my nights are filled with wedding planning and canning/preserving recipes. After taking a quick straw poll of everyone who is a frequent visitor and therefore will be eating pickles whether they like it or not in the winter months, I found that there was no general consensus as to whether I should make kosher, spicy, garlic or ‘whatever’ kind of pickle. So I took matter into my own hands and came up with our own blend of kosher, garlic dill and spicy pickles. And so was born the Such and Such pickle.
During the summer I really love to can and preserve all that I can from our harvests. I want to can gallons and gallons and gallons of things however I’m always stingy to use it and I try to ration it out so we have enough to get us through until next season. Anytime Dave reaches for a can of pasta sauce I’m always quick to say “No!! I’m saving that! Let’s make something else tonight!” He replies, “What are you saving it for?” “I don’t know.. I just am!” However, when company comes over I’m popping pickled peppers and dilly beans like it’s Cristal or something. I know, I don’t get it either. But there’s a big pile of snow outside and no sight of above freezing temperatures for a while. So that means I want some warm, hearty homemade soup. And I figured that this would be the perfect time to pop open some of the cans I put up to treat myself to a taste of summer in this hearty Tomato Pepper Chicken Stew.
One thing we learned from our garden this year is that we planted waaaaay too many cherry tomatoes. It got to a point that if we needed to punish them, we sent them out to pick cherry tomatoes. Forget water boarding… come to cherry tomato hell. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that bad but it was very tedious and we were left with plenty of spare cherry tomatoes after our restaurant deliveries. What do we do with all of these suckers? You can’t really sauce them, we don’t have freezer space to freeze them but there is one more solution… to shrink ray them! Or, you know, dehydrate them. I really love sun-dried tomatoes but I don’t have the time (or the daylight) to do that, so the next best thing is to fake and bake. No tanning goggles necessary!
I’m not gonna lie to you, friends. Sometimes I get in a canning rut. I look at a pile of peppers and think… this is boring. But I need to can. But I know I’m not going to want two gallons of pickled jalapenos. I mean, I love nachos and all but do I love them enough to make two gallons worth of jalapeno pepper toppings? Maybe for football Sunday. But we’re not sports people, per say. We don’t follow the sports balls. Maybe we could invite all of our friends over and have a nacho party. But 1) I don’t think we have enough friends to warrant a nacho party and 2) can adults even have a nacho party? Maybe if there’s an e-vite. That would be legit. But I digress. Basically, I don’t want a boring old pickled peppers canning recipe. If I’m going to slave over a hot stove for a few hours, it better be worth it. And lemme tell you friends, this here pickled peppers with shallots and thyme is worth it. And it sounds fancy.
I’ve already confessed to you my love of strawberries and canning season with my strawberry shrub recipe. With strawberries still in season, I’m trying to preserve as much as I can. I started out with your classic strawberry jam but as soon as word got out that I made homemade strawberry jam, it was gone. Seriously… how can a gallon of strawberry jam disappear in a week? I asked the boys where it went to and they convinced me that we must have some sort of strawberry jam starved honey badger in our neck of the woods that unlocks our kitchen door and goes through our pantry at night. I’m sure that’s what it was. Anyway, I decided to kick it up a notch with my next batch of jam. A twist on the classic, if you will. A sweet jam that will bite you back. Introducing, the strawberry chipotle jam! Or as I call it, “Sweet, Spicy and Everything Nice-y Strawberry Jam!”