The garden is exploding with goodies these days and it is getting very hard to keep up. Time to start preserving the harvest. I have already managed to can Strawberry Jam and freeze some zucchini, green beans, and peas. Next up is dealing with the raspberries, tomatoes, and cucumbers.
So I billed the night as a “family food preserving fun night.” It was ambitious. Norah was upset about something before we started and crying. Spencer was peppering us with questions unrelated to anything we were doing, and Alice is a bit of a fuss butt around this time of night. Em had just cleaned the house and was now realizing we were going to make a huge mess in the kitchen. The picturesque happy Norman Rockwell like family time was probably not going to happen. The new plan became motor through it as fast as possible.
We planted around 94 total cucumber plants. My best guess is around 80 are still alive and producing. That will still be a lot of cucumbers and we didn’t even make a dent in the harvest this night. I want to make around 10-12 quarts of refrigerator pickles to last us the next three months and also start actually canning some for the winter and spring in a few weeks.
The refrigerator pickle recipe I use is really easy and I was still eating them 4 months after I made them last year. I am not sure how long they would last because we ran out. I start by slicing washed cukes and filling the slices into 4 cleaned and sterilized quart jars. Then in a pot I boil 7 cups of water with 3.5 cups white vinegar, and 2 tablespoons of sea salt. I let that cool.
Next I add a teaspoon of dill seed into each quart jar and pour the cool liquid into each jar. Now they are ready for the tops and go in the refrigerator. I think I waited a week last year before opening the first one. I might not last that long this year.
While I was working on that I pulled together my team of maniacs to slice tomatoes and put them on the dehydrator trays. In another few weeks I will start canning tomatoes sauce but I like to get a bunch of dried tomatoes stored away first. I use them in pasta dishes all winter like Kielbasa Spaghetti and they really add a sharp tomato flavor to dishes in the winter. I had Norah slicing and Spence loading the trays. He was able to put one half tomato slice on a tray every 2-3 minutes between random questions and day dreaming. The process took awhile, but at least he is inquisitive.
We also dried some thick slices of red tomatoes. They work great to thicken our home canned tomato sauce.
It took about 10 hours to get everything dried to point no moisture was present. I like them to stay a little pliable and not be too crispy.
While they were doing that Em was busy shredding overgrown zucchini to freeze. I lied to her and told her it was the easiest job and she fell for it. Once the zucchini is shredded we press as much water out of it as possible and load it into freezer bags. We have well over 20 lbs in the freezer now which will allow us to make tons of zucchini treats all winter.
I had a little extra sweet peppers so I thought I would freeze a couple bags of those diced up. The peppers haven’t really taken off this year. No doubt it was because I wrote earlier “they are always my most reliable crop.” Payback, it seems for getting cocky. Even without the bumper crop I should have plenty. Peppers are really easy to freeze just like zucchini you do not have to blanch them. I just wash, pat dry, chop, and load into freezer bags.
I used my vacuum sealer as I still have bags leftover from last season.
We also blanched and froze a couple bags of kale. After washing and trimming any thick stems I blanched them in boiling water for a minute. Then drained and popped them into a ice bath to cool them down. Then I rung out as much moisture as I could and used the vacuum sealer to store them. These will get used in soups and things like our Chicken Scramble this winter.
Last up was dealing with our recently harvested raspberries. I had 1 3/4 pounds of raspberries that hadn’t been heisted by the maniacs to work with.
Unlike the Strawberry Jam I didn’t bother to puree the raspberries I just put them in a big pot and mashed them with a potato masher. I turned the heat to medium high and mixed in 1/4 cup lemon juice and 5 tablespoons Ball RealFruit Instant Pectin. I stirred that and let it come to a rolling boil and then added 4 cups of sugar. I continued stirring and let it thicken for about 5 minutes before removing from the heat.
Then I loaded 1/2 pint jars that had been sterilized and simmering in hot water with the raspberry jam.
The lids went on and I processed them in a water bath canner for 10 minutes. After that I let them sit 5 minutes and then removed them from the pot and allowed them to cool for 24 hours.
Amazingly it turned out perfect the first time (unlike the strawberry jam). I made five 1/2 pints of raspberry jam which brought my jam season total to 9. It is a little behind where I wanted to be but I still have more raspberries to pick.
Despite the rocky start it turned out to be a great night of getting food put up. I really enjoy having the kids help with these chores and I hope someday it will benefit them tremendously in their own lives.