Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Freezing Green Beans

What a rainy Labor Day weekend we've had here in New England! It's been a nice warm rain, but has definately posed challenges to the outdoor 'Fall Cleanup' activities we planned. So, we decided to focus on an array of indoor activities - canning and freezing were at the top of my list.

So, we went to a local farm stand. As we were pulling in, the farmer was unloading fresh green beans from his cache. So we grabbed a few lbs of green beans, a few white peaches, and other miscellaneous fresh produce, paid and were on our way.

I had investigated various methods of freezing green beans before our excursion, and was considering the blanching method, when I came upon this website for freezing beans without blanching: http://www.anoregoncottage.com/the-easy-way-to-freeze-green-beans-no-blanching/. There were a number of comments on the site praising this method, so I decided to give it a try using the beans we purchased.

The process was easy and fairly quick. The site indicated that I didn't have to wash the beens first, but I was more comfortable washing them. I let them dry thoroughly overnight, cut them into edible sizes the next morning, and put 2 handfuls into each vacuum-sealable bag. My husband took the air out of each bag, and we dated them and popped them in the freezer. We'll build up a quantity that we can use throughout the winter, bringing a harvest freshness to our meals when winter sets in.

Savings?? Of course we could have saved more money had we grown the beans ourselves, but the status of our garden this year didn't include green beans. Hoping to get there next year.

Try this out for yourselves this year - or next year, and checkout the 'anoregoncottage.com' website. Lots of good tips and techniques you might enjoy:-)

Happy Fall!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Plum Tomato Plant that could;-)

It's been a while since I provided an update to my canning adventures, but all is well. We weren't able to layout the veggie garden of my dreams this year, but we were able to (at least) grow those little scraggly tomato plants that - despite limited nurturing - produced a tasty batch of tomatoes that made a great tomato sauce!

I happened to be watching The Food Network during a very hot afternoon in July when the dogs, cats, birds and humans (including me) were crammed into any space that offered a little air conditioning. Chef Giada De Laurentis happened to be demonstrating a Simple Tomato Sauce recipe that day. The show caught my eye, as I had wanted to learn how to do this, too - a non-canning method for making a great sauce.

After the show, I located the recipe online - http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/simple-tomato-sauce-recipe3/index.html - and bookmarked it for use at a later time. During the last two weeks, I began harvesting these little, red tomato gems from those sad-looking plants in my front garden. Regardless of how sad the plants looked, they produced a sweet and tasty harvest of tomatoes! I decided to go back to that bookmark, assemble the ingredients, and give the recipe and tomatoes a spin on my stovetop. I did take some license with the recipe, adding extra cloves of garlic, a nice shot of red wine, a sprinkle of red pepper and a bit of oregano. Also added 6 Italian sausages braised in a touch of olive oil, and cut into 1" sections, then dropped into the sauce for a good 30 minutes.

With fingers crossed, I made pasta and served up dinner with pasta and sauce. My husband walked in the door saying, "Something smells real good! When he took a bite, he had a big smile on his face and said, "Are the our tomatoes?!" The recipe and tomatoes were a hit!

I'm planning to make another few batches once the tomatoes complete their cycle, and will freeze the  sauce so we can enjoy during the fall. Thanks to Giada De Laurentis, I can now make a sauce that I can be proud to serve!


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Garden Begins Again:-)

The cold has finally paused for (hopefully) a long break! I'm now able to plant the ROMA tomato plants and herbs in the garden in preparation for a fall harvest and canning marathon.

Although I was hoping to start all my plantings from seedlings this year, we had too much on our plates (no pun intended) to setup a winter garden in our basement. We're hoping to get a little more time to do this next year.

So, this year we're starting with a limited number of tomato plants, and we'll backfill with the abundance of tomatoes grown by local farmers to reach capacity for our winter canning needs. These plants look good (they're actually a little dry this AM, but just gave them a decent soak till I can get them into the ground later today), and the herbs we're growing should add enough flavor and spice to the mix.

We're hoping to get more sunny, warm days than cloudy and cool ones this year. It will expand our growing season and give us some happy plants!

I hope all of you are getting your hands in the soil...


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Beginning a New Year of Lettuce

My German Grandfather - my OPA - had a wonderful garden, complete with a Spring bed of lettuce, planted from seed and nurtured through the Spring and Summer seasons beneath a simple cold frame he used from year-to-year. The garden produced - what seemed like - a never-ending supply of lettuce that was crisp, sweet and delicious.

Although I always wished I could produce such a fine garden with the same quality of lettuce and other produce, I've never been able to duplicate his 'green thumb'; but, I did learn a valuable tip from my friend, Mary that has given me the tools and inspiration to get my lettuce growing in my own little garden:

  1. Buy lettuce when it's new to the farm stand, and on sale during the early part of the season. 
  2. Plant them 6-12" apart in the garden where space is available, or in wide shallow (6-10") potting containers with enriched plant soil from the store or the garden. 
  3. Water and watch daily as they grow.
  4. Once the lettuce plants have established themselves and start getting more leaves, you can start harvesting their leaves. Choose those leaves on the outside of the plants, pull them off the plant gentl,  and create a small salad. Add your own tomatoes, green onion and celery, as appropriate.

Enjoy your harvest!


Monday, April 8, 2013

Storing Homemade Soups

This weekend we made a wonderful lentil soup!

We knew this pot of soup would be more than we could eat in one meal, and we didn't want to be eating soup for the next 7 days, so the challenge was to identify the best method to use for storing soup for longer periods of time.

  • Canning was not an option: the amount of time and glass containers required were a little more than we had available. 
  • Freezing in freezer bags was also an option, but we didn't have enough on hand. 
So, I went online and found a great .com site that had pictures of each step in the soup storage preparation and freezing process, and it captured all the 'tip' information I was looking for. Just click on this: Soup Storage Site.

This site answered all the questions I had and gave a great picture representation of each step, and the pros, cons, and workarounds for freezing issues (such as freezer burn, leaking, etc.)

So, now our soup is neatly stored in the freezer with dates and soup type. Of course I saved a bowl for me to eat for lunch today! Yum...

Good luck storing your soups:-)


Friday, April 5, 2013

Storing Root Veggies

I went to Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, MA many years ago, and took the extended tour through the farm buildings. This was about the same time that I was beginning my venture into starting my own vegetable garden.

One area that fascinated me was the root cellar - a specific area of the farm buildings reserved for storing root veggies throughout the year. I learned the importance of having a cool dry and dark area, and the value of having a consistent cool temperature and insulation - e.g, sawdust, or sand.

I decided to try this out in my garage using a plastic storage container, and clean sand (bought at a local home supply store - usually used for a child's sand box). I took my root veggies (potatoes and onions) which were clean and dry and unwashed, and layered them loosely in the sand.

We've been using the onions, potatoes, carrots and other root veggies stored in this container on a regular basis. It has saved space in our refrigerator, and do not spoil as they did when stored in the refrigerator or on a shelf in the garage.

Great easy, inexpensive way to keep root veggies!


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Followup to my Canning Adventure in 2012...

So, I met the Canning challenge at the end of last summer, and we've been enjoying the canned tomato sauce throughout the cold winter months, using them as a spaghetti sauce, as a complimentary red sauce for chicken and chili dinners, and as a complimentary sauce to add to store-bought sauces and adjust flavors, as needed. It was a successful trial, and we're looking forward to doing it again this year!

I also had intentions of expanding my Canning trial to canned jellies, pears and beans, but ran out of steam last year. I'm hoping to to re-ignite my energy to accomplish these new challenges this Spring and Summer.

A couple of things I did learn from this experience was that Canning is not intended to be finished in a day; so, it's important to pace your Canning commitments and be gentle on yourself. Ask for help when you need a helping hand, and use your completed 'canned' work as a gift to other friends and neighbors who may welcome and enjoy the fruits of your labour. In the end, the dollars you save may not roll out into hundred-dollar-bills, but the quality and flavor of what you've created does put a smile on your face, and it does stretch the dollars you need to feed your family.

Enjoy this upcoming growing season! Stay tuned for more news about stretching your dollars, and enjoying 'home-made' treats.


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Happy Spring 2013 - let's get our hands dirty!

Welcome back friends!

It's hard to believe that Winter has passed - at least it's passed according to the calendar and the Vernal Equinox. We're still looking at snow in New England, and the ongoing weather warnings of more snow to come. My frozen garden needs some warmth!

But, the feeling of Spring is in the air, and it's making me focus on cleaning house - in a broad sense. So, I've restarted this blog, and made some minor changes. Rather than a pure focus on canning, I'll be adding other ideas, techniques and processes that I've investigated and tried out over the past months. I'll also be adding friendly tips and advice from friends and family, so stay tuned. Every little drop of wisdom is welcome...

Until then, keep your hands in the dirt, your eyes on the sky, and beautiful things will happen:-)