The Second Day of Christmas

On the second day of Christmas I began plans for next year…

Peppers are a poppin’–to spread some holiday cheer.

DSCF2782

Although I have claimed this year was the year of the skunk because of Bell’s chance encounter with one early last fall, I could also claim that this year was the year of the pepper. After harvesting more than 1,000 peppers from the garden starting in July, and not picking the last until early November, I’d have to say my pepper crop was a success.

Last spring I planted approximately 35 szegedi, white cloud, and Romanian bell pepper plants, 6 yellow and green bells, and two jalapenos. At least 95% of the peppers I harvested came from the Romanian and szegedi, which was my hope. I canned nearly all of those. The other types were for eating and just a little freezing.

In 2014 I harvested more than 200 jalapeno’s just from two plants and never thought I need to plant them again. Now, however, I can’t wait to plant at least 10 jalapeno’s this spring so I can prepare and freeze the absolute best jalapeno poppers I’ve ever tasted.

For years we have enjoyed the occasional treat of store-bought frozen poppers. I didn’t buy them very often because we try to stay away from processed food as much as possible. The thought of making them myself, however, seemed unrealistic. All I imagined was dropping a cheese filled pepper half, dipped in bread crumbs into my deep fryer and ending up with a pile of goo burning at the bottom.

Experience is a wonderful thing. With all the cooking and experimenting I’ve been doing these past couple of years, I finally felt confident enough to give making my own poppers a try. With experience comes “tricks of the trade” and to make perfect poppers, there is definitely a trick!

I bought a small container of jalapeno peppers, made sure I had enough time to complete the project because doing this right was not going to be short and sweet, and then set to work. The results…perfectly fried poppers pulled from the deep fryer. For the recipe and step-by-step instructions, visit Simply Grateful Cooking Homemade Jalapeno Poppers.

After I was sure that the process and recipe were right, I gave some thought as to how I was going to utilize this recipe next summer. I decided to try freezing a few of the poppers two different ways to see how they would hold up.

First I froze one before I cooked it. The only glitch in doing this I could see was whether or not it would cook through before it browned too much. No problem. It took between 3 and 4 minutes to turn golden brown and the cheese was melted and hot.

The next test was to freeze a deep fried popper and then reheat it. Reheating could be done in two ways: microwave or oven. Both methods worked fine. The microwaved popper heated up faster, but was not as crispy as the oven heated popper, but either way worked great. I microwaved the frozen popper for 1 minute and then 25 second intervals until it was hot and baked the frozen poppers in a 350 oven for 10-12 minutes.

Success! So come this summer I have a new project and a plan. I’m going to plant at least 10 jalapeno pepper plants and hope to harvest 100’s of peppers. I’ll clean, fill, bread, fry, and freeze at least half of them, and then clean, fill, bread, and freeze uncooked the rest. This way I’ll have poppers the kids and Hubby can reheat whenever they want, and I’ll have fresh ones to deep fry next year for holiday entertaining.

What a great way to spend the second day of Christmas – in the kitchen, making something everyone loves, and getting a jump start on my garden plans for the coming spring, and for this I am – Simply Grateful.

Advertisements

Where Does The Time Go?

I cannot believe it has been more than a month since my last post. It has been so very busy this past month and blogging is not the only aspect of my life that has been neglected.

DSCF0540a

Between the garden, canning, remodeling Zeb’s room, cleaning out the clutter in the basement, and getting the kids back into some sort of routine with the onset of school again, it has been a challenge just to get dinner on the table and laundry on the line.

I have a journal with lists of posts for each of my blogs that need to be done and I can’t even look at it. It is far too overwhelming how many posts I am behind on. Simply Grateful Canning alone has at least 30 posts that I am behind on, not to mention all the gardening updates for Simply Grateful Gardener that I never got to and the new recipes (albeit few) that have piled up and are waiting to be shared on Simply Grateful Cooking.

At this point, trying to play catch-up seems pointless because my posts won’t be timely. Still, I did finally go take a look at how many hits I got while not posting, and the traffic was actually fairly consistent. People find my posts by Googling subjects that I write about click on the links. I guess how timely I am won’t really matter in the long run if it’s there when someone is looking for it at another time. Dealing with the no-blogging guilt however is another matter.

This morning I did finally make a post on Simply Grateful Gardener updating my pepper progress — Summer In The Pepper Mines. It gives a little insight as to what my time has been consumed with this past month and what continues to plague me.

DSCF1905

For now, I am going to try to get back into this by setting aside at least an hour a day to make a post of some sort and get back into the groove. I have missed this and have missed reading blogs as well.

My first post in more than month — for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Serbian Peppers & Onions In Tomato Sauce

Today I posted a recipe for Satarasch, a Serbian side dish/condiment consisting of peppers, onions, and tomato sauce on Simply Grateful Canning.

Satarasch – Peppers & Onions in Tomato Sauce

Saturash 8

This is a staple at nearly every Serbian picnic we go to every summer and now I’ve canned it for the pantry shelves, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Preparing For Battle – Slugs Beware!

Last year when I planted pepper plants on the side of our house, it took just a few days for the slugs to set their sights on the full, luscious foliage.  After some research and a little preparation, I was able to remedy the situation fairly quickly by setting slug traps before nightfall.  This thwarted the Attack Of The Killer Slugs.

This year I decided not to let the slugs get the jump on me and began preparing my slug traps early.  Even though my pepper plants are still small and not much of a temptation for the constantly present slugs, being that there are more than 40 plants this year, a far cry from the 4 I planted last year, a bit of preparation time is definitely called for.

Here are the first 18 slug traps ready and raring to go.

DSCF8642

 

All I need now is some beer to bait them with and we’re good to go.

DSCF8643

 

Last year with just four pepper plants I was able to can enough jalapeno and green chilis for the year.  This year I hope to harvest enough Romanian, Szegedi, and White Cloud peppers to pickle for the coming year, about two bushels.  Any more than that will be great roasted with a bit of garlic, any less and it’s off to the farmer’s market to make up the difference.

The slugs took me by surprise last year and nearly destroyed the few plants I had.  This time I’m ready for them, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Seedling Update #4 – The Waiting Game

For more than a week now I’ve been working on transplanting the seeds I sowed nearly a month ago.  I have far more plants than I anticipated, but cannot bring myself to pulling any of them yet. Who knows if all my transplants will make it or if the other seeds I’ve sown are even going to sprout.  At this point I want to cushion the garden so I have enough plants, even if they are all tomato and pepper, to fill every square inch.

DSCF8041 DSCF8042 DSCF8043

My broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and pumpkin plants have all sprouted, but for now they are going to hang out in their original pots.  I’ve found lots of information online on how to transplant tomato and pepper seedlings into larger pots before planting them in the garden, but have not been so lucky when it comes to these other plants.  I figure I’ll wait until they have another week or two of growth and then try transplanting a few of them to see if they survive the shock and continue to grow.

This afternoon I planted three new varieties of peppers that I ordered online.  These peppers will be for canning.  For the past four years I have bought a bushel of peppers from a local farmer and canned them.  This year my goal is to grow my own.  I bought Szegedi, Romainian, and White Cloud peppers.  All are sweet and either yellow or white with a very thick flesh — perfect for pickling.

I am so excited for the weather to warm up so I can get out and start preparing the gardens for incoming plants.  Being in Michigan however, there is no telling when that might be.  Just to give you a little taste of what it’s like here:  Two days ago it was 54 degrees and sunny outside, one day ago we woke to 3″ of snow on the ground, and today it was 52 degrees and sunny again.  Not the best track record for getting outside and making any progress.

I have a few more plants that I will be able to transplant in a few days, but then it becomes the waiting game.  There won’t be a whole lot to do with the plants until they start growing and the leaves begin to multiply.  Already some of the tomato plants are getting a new set of leaves, giving me hope that perhaps some of these will actually make it to the garden.

I have big plans this spring/summer and truly hope my efforts will be rewarded.  For now, I am enjoying the smell the plants growing in the dining room and the dirt under my nails, for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Seedling Update #2 – Day 7 & 11

Marigolds and tomatoes are sprouting!

I’m a bit behind in my posts, but I’ve been sure to keep up on taking pictures.

By day 7 after I planted marigolds, tomatoes, and peppers, all of the marigolds had sprouted and some of the tomatoes had begun.

In the Jiffy pots, once again the sprouting was not as fast.  Only three plants had emerged.

DSCF7669

The cardboard planters were far quicker with over a dozen sprouts.

DSCF7672

Even though the amount of tomato plants sprouting in the two mediums were different, the marigolds caught up, so I was hopeful that the tomatoes would too.

As you can see, by day 11, the tomatoes and marigolds in the Jiffy pots and the cardboard planters were nearly even.

DSCF7790 DSCF7791

I’m getting anxious to transplant these into individual pots…but don’t want to get ahead of myself.  According to what I’ve read, I should wait until they have at least two sets of leaves.

A week and a half into my home-grown seedling experiment and so far, so good and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

A Day Peppered With Peppers

I am absolutely stunned at how many peppers my four little plants are producing.  This morning I harvested 46 jalapeno and 11 green chili peppers and the plants are still full of flowers and peppers.

DSCF3623

I will probably be able to harvest at least that many more jalapeno and double that amount of green chili in the next week.  From what I’ve been reading though, this is only the beginning.  Apparently peppers like a cooler temperature so they should be producing well into September and possibly up to the first frost.  That’s an awful lot of peppers.

I had thought about planting more plants next year, but I think two of each of these kind is more than enough.  I am, however, going to plant many bell varieties as well as some Szeghetis.

Before jumping into canning my peppers this morning, I had to make a run up to the market to pick up a few things for my father’s birthday celebration tomorrow.  Of course I couldn’t let a trip to the market go by without stopping at the clearance rack and lo and behold they had four bags of red bell peppers, two bags of green peppers, and one bag of yellow bell peppers.  It worked out to be about a quarter per pepper and they were beautiful.  I couldn’t pass them up.

DSCF3639

What to do with that many bell peppers?  Well I’m sure there are lots of things that can be done with them, but I needed some for the freezer as my stock was getting low.  I love having them in the freezer for sauces as well as many dinners that I make.  They fry up wonderfully in stir fry, cook up faster for a goulash style stuffed pepper, and the flavor is intense in my spaghetti sauce.

The first step is to cut the peppers, removing all the seeds, and wash them.

DSCF3642

Then I let them dry on the counter for about an hour so there is no water on them.

DSCF3643

Finally I pack them into freezer bags and toss them in the freezer.

DSCF3650

On reading how to freeze peppers, originally I was flash freezing the peppers on cookie sheets and then transferring them to the bags.  I found this an unnecessary step if I just made sure they were dry before putting in the bags — plus I never have enough space in the freezer to put a cookie sheet full of peppers.

As I was cleaning the peppers, I decided this would be a good time to start collecting seeds for next years garden.  I saved four centers from each type of pepper, removed all the seeds and set them out in the sun to dry a bit before bagging them up until spring.

DSCF3644

Once the peppers were clean and drying, I set to work on the jalapenos.  The first batch I picked from the garden I used for Jalapeno Pepper Jelly.  The next few I froze because there weren’t enough to can.  This batch was going to be pickled.  Pickled jalapenos are perfect for using in my salsa recipe.  I canned some earlier in the year when I found a couple quarts on the clearance rack.  They turned out great except that I canned them in pints which turned out to be too large a jar for one recipe of salsa.  This time I used 1/2 pints so there won’t be any leftovers.  They do keep in the fridge up to six months once opened, but I usually forget I have an open bottle and end up opening another.  Then I have two open bottles until I make salsa again.  By then, of course, I’ve forgotten about the two open jars, so I open a third.  Do you see how this can get completely out of hand?  So, 1/2 pint jars it is!

Pickled Jalapeno Peppers

DSCF3649

  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 1 1/2 Cups Vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1 Clove of Garlic for each jar
  • Jalapeno Peppers (the 46 + 8 I had in the freezer made 11 1/2 pints – I tripled the above ingredients)

Combine water, vinegar, and salt in stainless steel pan.  Bring to boil.  Heat jars and lids.

Slice the jalapeno peppers, being sure to use gloves otherwise your hands will burn like the dickens.

DSCF3646

Add one clove of garlic to each jar.  Pack jars tightly with pepper rings, leaving 1/2″ head space.  Ladle hot brine over peppers leaving 1/4″ head space.  Remove air bubbles.  Clean rims and screw on lids.  Process in hot water bath 15 minutes.

This is one of the quickest recipes for canning that I make.  Of course the FIRE! incident did interrupt me a bit while I was filling the jars, but it all worked out in the end.

After the jalapeno were pickled, I set to work on the green chilis.  This is a lot more labor intense and had I not found two bags of cubanellas on the clearance rack, I probably would have just frozen the ones I harvested from the garden.  Instead I fired up the grill and set to work.

DSCF3653

If you’re interested in making canned green  chili peppers, I did a post on these here:

Canning Green Chili Peppers

The 11 green chilis I harvested along with the two bags I bought only yielded four 1/2 pint jars.  A lot of work for so little reward, but they will be wonderful in salsa, chicken enchiladas, and many other meals throughout the winter (or at least four meals).

It was a busy day.  Now I just need to figure out what else to do with the jalapeno peppers that will be harvested for the next month or so.  I’m out of ideas but I’m sure the internet will prevail, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

 

Sunday Harvest

A bountiful harvest 7/20/14

A bountiful harvest 7/20/14

What a great day in my garden.  Tonight I worked on thinning the beets a bit and decided to harvest those that were the size I wanted for canning.  I ended up with 19 beets.  The four I harvested the other day were served tonight with dinner and everyone agreed they were far superior to any we’ve eaten from the store.

Beets

Beets

Trimmed Beets

Trimmed Beets

Cucumbers have been a staple for breakfast and dinner for a couple of days, but after todays harvest of 11 pickles, I’m considering trying a small batch of dill pickle relish.  I’ll have to see how my schedule looks tomorrow.

Pickles

Pickles

The pepper plants are really thriving, so I decided to clean them up a bit and pick what peppers there were.  I was hoping to have enough to can, but 23 jalapeno peppers is enough for maybe one jar.  I’ll have to see if I can freeze them before canning.  The chili peppers can be roasted and frozen so there isn’t a problem with those.

Jalepeno Peppers

jalapeno Peppers

Chili Peppers

Chili Peppers

One lonely tomato today, but that’s okay.  I just popped it in the freezer with the bag I’ve been collecting throughout the week and when I have enough to can puree or paste, I’ll take them out and can.

Roma Tomato

Roma Tomato

The next few days are supposed to be near 90 and humid.  This is absolutely perfect for the garden and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Grow Garden Grow!

Finally getting the garden back up to date. It amazes me how fast it can get behind. A week of neglect and the weeds were starting to take over. Today I put the last of the pots with the bottoms cut out around the brussel spouts, broccoli, kale, and squash plants. Then I fed the tomatoes and other vegetables. It is supposed to rain all this coming week so I am glad everything is neat, fed, and ready for the heat and rain.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tomato Plants!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Tomato suckers:

Tomato sucker that was rooted in a jar of water

Tomato sucker that was rooted in a jar of water

Suckers from jars of water,

Suckers from jars of water,

Sucker planted directly in pot.

Sucker planted directly in pot.

Pots with bottoms cut out placed in ground around plants in garden.

DSCF2203 DSCF2205 DSCF2206

Pepper plants with pots and slug catchers.

DSCF2207

These are all pots that I found in people’s garbage and saved from a landfill.  They are now being used to grow beans, tomatoes, scallions, peas and dill.

Everything in the garden is up-to-date for the moment and I am relieved.  With a week full of rain and hot temperatures ahead I am hopeful that there will be some substantial growth.  Already there has been some progress in all the plants, especially the plum tree and tomato plants and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Garden Fever – Dreaming Big!

I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow. ~ David Hobson

For the past several days I have been working on expanding the garden. I know, I have proclaimed from the beginning that I am not a good gardener and as far as a green thumb, mine is black, but the gardening bug has taken hold and taken hold good.

Since deciding to revamp the entire garden, allowing the soil to recoup from three consecutive years of planting potatoes, my plans have mushroomed every time I visit a garden center. First I decided to try growing peppers; then having planted the peppers where I used to grow tomatoes, I thought I’d give planting tomato plants in pots a try; then I built an a-frame to grow my own pickles; next I planted kale and broccoli under the a-frame and Brussel sprouts, acorn squash and zucchini in the other half of the main garden. When will enough be enough?

NEVER! So thinking bigger yet, I decided to expand the garden by a little more than a 1/3 so I could plant beets, carrots and if there’s room, beans — all things I will be able to can, pickle, or freeze. I get all tingly just thinking about it.

Anyway, three days ago I started my project. The first step was to remove the sod that has covered that area for the past 20 years. A sod cutter is a girl’s best friend!

Day 1 – I started the back-breaking chore of removing the grass. After a little more than an hour I came close to clearing half the area I set out to do. The work was harder than I remembered removing sod to be. Either I’m getting old, or grass is getting stronger — I’ll go with the grass is getting stronger.

This is the area I needed to clear of sod.

This is the area I needed to clear of sod.

Day 2 I finished clearing the sod, bagged it for garbage day, and admired my work. There is something to be said for completing a strenuous task. Even my hubby was impressed with my quick progress, so much so, that he actually volunteered to help me with the next step – framing the garden.

This is the area when it was nearly half cleared.  Note I used the brick to help remove some of the dirt from the sod.

This is the area when it was nearly half cleared. Note I used the brick to help remove some of the dirt from the sod.

Day 3 – Off to Home Depot we went to pick up two landscape timbers and four 12“ spikes to secure it to the ground. What would have taken me probably three times as long, hubby managed to finish in 15 minutes.

The completed clearing and framing job.  Now I just need to get some dirt to fill it.

The completed clearing and framing job. Now I just need to get some dirt to fill it.

Doesn’t it look awesome? It might not be too impressive, especially since I don’t have any dirt for it yet, but that’s coming. Hubby went on Craig’s List and found some top soil for a good price including delivery. I’m trying to get that delivery scheduled for Thursday. A yard of dirt will be more than enough to fill the area and I’ll have lots leftover to fill more pots to attempt yet another gardening project I learned about today — planting tomato suckers (more on that in another post).

With the new garden well on its way to completion I decided to do some research on how to make sure my pepper plants remain healthy and fruitful. I learned today that “topping” pepper plants helps them to yield more peppers. In between the rain this afternoon I cut all the branches below the main “V” of the plants. They don’t look as pretty, but hopefully they will be healthier.

One reason that I am so excited about gardening this year is that it isn’t even June and already the plum tree has tiny plums, the Roma tomato plants I planted have tiny tomatoes, and the pepper plants have tiny peppers.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This early promise of a bountiful harvest is so heartening. For the moment I almost feel like I might be able to do this, and do it right/well, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.