2015 Canning To Do List

Now that the holidays have come to a close, I am anxious to get back to some canning.  Up until last winter I really didn’t know that there was canning beyond summer and fall.  Last winter however I canned many things and am ready to start my list of canning projects for the next couple of months.

The first thing on my to do list are sweet potatoes.  These were bought when I found them on sale for $.28 a pound at Thanksgiving.  I don’t have as many as I’d like, as we’ve been eating them, but I am excited to give these a try.  I want to use the canned sweet potato for pies as well as a side dish for pork or poultry.  Seeing as the pumpkin I canned last fall turned out so well, I am confident that these will turn out also.

Next, I have raspberries and blackberries in the freezer from last fall and definitely want to make some things with these.  Combining these with the cranberries I froze in November and December, I’m sure I can come up with some tasty syrups, sauces, and concentrates.

Mentioning cranberries, I made some plum-cranberry sauce last November to use on turkey burgers and it turned out perfect.  I am definitely going to make more of this.  I went to several grocery stores today to see if I could find a few more bags on clearance, but everything was gone.  I hope I bought enough to keep me happy until next November.

Sweet potatoes, raspberries, blackberries and cranberries should keep me busy for January.

Once I clear out some space in the overflowing freezers by using some of the berries that are frozen, I’d like to do something with white potatoes.  I found several recipes for canning potatoes that I want to try as well as methods for freezing and dehydrating.

White potatoes, as long as I can find a good deal on them, should keep me busy in February.

For March I plan on making more sauerkraut and canning cabbage in several other ways that I’ve wanted to try. Being that cabbage goes on sale for about $.14 a pound around St. Patrick’s Day, I will definitely be stocking up. Freezing, canning, and dehydrating are all on the agenda.

That’s it for the first quarter of 2015.  I have lots of jars itching to be filled in the garage and pantry shelves in the basement emptying, making space for new concoctions.

I should keep track of how many jars we go through a week.  Last week I counted only 6 jars on the counter that we’d emptied.  During the holidays though there were a few weeks that we went through more than a dozen or more.  At the end of the fall canning season October 2014 I had seven dozen jars of freshly canned food on the floor in the pantry because I didn’t have enough shelving.  Now the floor is clean and the shelves have gaps in them.

Already I’m having to ration the pickles I canned last summer.  With Grace going through a jar a week, we won’t make it till harvest time — thus why the pickle A-Frame is going to have a matching companion next year.  300+ pickles harvested for 2014 and going for 400 – 500 for 2015.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Holiday Season 2014 is over and a brand new 2015 is just beginning, full of potential and possibilities, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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In A Pickle

This morning I made two batches of pickles using tried-and-true recipes from last summer.  These recipes were the two out of four that I made in 2013 that we liked so I knew making these for the pantry would not be a waste of time or space.

The first was using the Ball Kosher Dill Pickle Mix that they sell in the stores.  I know this is sort of like cheating, but last year was my first time making pickles and I wanted to ease myself into it.

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The second batch I made came from a recipe I found on the internet from The Complete Book of Year-Round Small-Batch Preserving for Fast Favorite Garlic Dill Pickles.  The only change I made to them was to add the Ball Pickle Crisp granules.  Although the pickles were very tasty, they were a bit soggy.  I’m hoping that the crisping agent will firm them up a bit.

Fast Favorite Garlic Dill Pickles

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  • 12-16 Pickling Cucumbers
  • 2 Cups White Vinegar
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 2 Tbsp. Pickling Salt
  • 4 Heads Fresh Dill
  • 4 Small Cloves Garlic
  • Ball Pickle Crisp Granules

Trim ends of cucumbers. Cut into quarters.

Combine vinegar, water, and salt in saucepan and bring to boil.

Remove hot jars from canner.  Place 1 head fresh dill and 1 clove garlic into each jar.  Pack cucumbers tightly into jars.  Top cucumbers with heaping 1/4 tsp. Crisping Granules.  Pour boiling vinegar mixture over cucumbers to 1/2 inch of rim.  Process 10 minutes per pint.

This recipe makes 4 pint size jars.  I have several other pickle recipes I want to try, but if I don’t find one that I like better than these two, I will probably make another batch of each.

These two recipes used about 2/3 of the cucumbers I picked the other day.  The a-frame is still full of flowers and baby cucumbers so next week there will definitely be more for the picking and more for the pickling, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

27 Cucumbers Today!

The hot weather and long sunny days have been perfect for my cucumber plants.  Every day the pickles have been trickling in and last night the count was at 27 total cucumbers since harvesting began.

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Today there were a bunch of cukes ready to be picked so Grace headed out to the a-frame to see what she could find.

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After quite some time she returned with a basket half-full (not half-empty mind you).  She told me that she probably missed a few, so a little later after the sun went down, I headed out to see what I could find.

 

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Grace had only missed seven, bringing the total for todays harvest to 27!

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Yep, we doubled our grand total in one day.  It will probably be several days before we get anymore, but that’s okay.  Tomorrow dill relish and garlic pickles are on the agenda and this will definitely keep me busy, 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.

Peter Piper’s Peck of Pickles

Well, it’s not exactly a peck, but I did pick our first pickle from the garden today! Yea!

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It never ceases to amaze me how different a home-grown pickle tastes than a store-bought one. Grace and I fought over who was going to eat it. In the end we split it. Thankfully we are the only two in the house that like them.

As you can see though, there are going to be many, many more pickles in the coming days. What is even better is that only one side of the a-frame is actually filling up. I’m hoping that the delay in the other side will yield us pickles late into the summer.

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The trouble now is going to be restraining myself from eating all the pickles raw. I purposely planted pickles so that I could can them, but they are so GOOD, it is hard to consider tainting that wholesome goodness with vinegar.

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Bell checking out the pickles.

It’s good to know that I can always order a bushel from a local farmer just a few miles up the road, so I think we’ll eat our fill while we can, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Homemade Clausen Pickles

I have always grown from my problems and challenges, from the things that don’t work out, that’s when I’ve really learned. – Carol Burnett

When I first started canning, jams and jellies were my only endeavors. I knew there were other options, but I never explored beyond the sugary-sweet concoctions that summer fruits would yield.

Over the past five years, I expanded my canning to include such things as Hungarian peppers, hot banana peppers, tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa, refried beans, and cauliflower. The one thing I really wanted to can however were pickles.

To be honest, making pickles intimidated me. The homemade pickles I tasted were usually too salty, soft, and had very little flavor. What was more discouraging was my belief that to make pickles I had to have a pickling crock.

After doing more research last summer, I learned not all recipes for pickles had to be made in a crock. Several recipes I found allowed the pickles to ferment in the jars, foregoing the months in the crock. With this new option, I selected several recipes to try and thus my search for a flavorful, crunchy pickle began.

I chose four different recipes and made four pints of each. After three months I began testing them. Two of the four turned out pretty good. Good enough that I would make them again but still not what I would consider “to die for.”

Rethinking what I was really looking for, I realized my favorite pickles were the refrigerated Clausen dill pickles. These were the ones I bought when we had company and most requested by my husband and kids. Just thinking about them made my mouth water. Knowing what I was looking for, it was back to the Internet. I was pleasantly surprised when I found three recipes for “Copycat” Clausen pickles that could be made in the jar.

Yesterday, deciding I couldn’t wait until summer for a fresh pickle crop, I bought 14 medium salad cucumbers to try one of the recipes. This decision was made on the fly and not until I got home did I wonder if I had all the other ingredients. Of course when I looked at the recipes I’d printed off, I was missing at least one ingredient from each of them. Not to be deterred, I decided to make what I could with what I had. Forty minutes later I had two quarts and one pint of fermenting pickles that smelled better than any pickle I’d ever made.

All of the recipes I printed off predicted that the pickles would take 2 to 4 days to ferment. This morning, I couldn’t wait. I had to try them. WOW! They were already tasting better than all the pickles I canned last summer. I can’t wait until day 4 when the garlic and spices have had time to truly infuse. Of course that’s not going to stop me from testing them again later today and tomorrow…

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If you’d like to try my recipe, which is a combination of several I found, here it is:

Homemade Claussen Pickles

Ingredients:

  • 14 medium salad cucumbers quartered
  • 2 quarts cold water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard seed
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp. dill seed
  • 1 head fresh garlic peeled

Instructions:

  1. Combine the water and vinegar in large measuring cup.  Add salt, mustard seed, red pepper flakes, peppercorns, and dill seed, stirring until salt dissolves.  Set aside.
  2. Wash cucumbers, trim 1/8 inch from each end. Slice each cucumber into quarters.
  3. Divide the garlic evenly between two clean quart and one pint jar.  Pack jars tightly with quartered cucumbers.
  4. Stir brine.  Strain spices from brine and distribute evenly between jars.  Add enough strained brine solution to cover cucumbers, leaving a 1/4 – 1/2″ headspace.
  5. Place a metal lid on top of jars but do not put a band.  You do not want to seal them.  Leave on counter, out of direct sunlight, for 2-4 days.
  6. Once they taste like pickles throughout, screw on a band and refrigerate for up to six months.

 

If I’d never gotten over being intimidated by making pickles or being afraid of failing, I never would have discovered this new recipe. Further, I am so glad I decided to “wing it” when I didn’t have all the right ingredients — what’s the old saying “Necessity is the mother of invention.” And for this, I am — Simply Grateful.