Sunday, September 14, 2008

Apple Butter

Lately it seems like this blog has become more focused on canning than on the garden - I assure you that the garden is doing very well. I guess they sort of go hand-in-hand, anyways, right? I just finished canning a batch of apple butter - giving fall a friendly little nudge. The house still smells homey and cozy: sweet apples, spicy cinnamon and cloves...

...WAIT - jar #7 just clicked. That's 7 down and 5 more to go. I've been keeping track of the click each jar makes as it seals. There goes #8!

The extra-fun part is that my husband and I went to a local fruit farm yesterday to hand-pick the apples. Iron's Fruit Farm in Lebanon, OH is a blast from the past, as both of us at some point went there on a field trip in elementary school. It's pretty much as I remember it: roving roosters and hens, a friendly farm cat, a plump potbelly pig, a floppy-eared bunny, a pair of iridescent peacocks, and of course, a rambly and gorgeous orchard. We picked Johnathan and Golden Delicious apples for the apple butter. It's going to taste that much better knowing that it was made with local apples.

As I speak we're in the midst of the most powerful wind storm I've ever seen. The aftermath of Hurricane Ike is wreaking havoc on the garden. I can seem some cherry tomatoes and peppers rolling around on the balcony already, I hope my eggplants don't go flying through the air next...

...there goes jar #9!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Solo Canning

The canning bug bit me again last weekend. How could I resist the two flats of sun-kissed tomatoes that needed a good home? I borrowed my mom's canning gear and made out like a bandit, this time doing everything on my own. I ended up canning 16 pints of fresh tomatoes.

The tomatoes just blanched for about 30 seconds in hot water.

I couldn't fit them whole into the jars so I chunked them.

There was nothing more to it. These guys will be great to use for chili and sauces in the middle of winter when my only alternative is something far less superior from the grocery store shelves.

Canning is one of those things that sound intimidating but once you understand the basic principles, it's much easier. Beyond the technique, the only variables are ingredients and cooking time. The possibilities are endless!

I have to say, after the pickled beets, marinara sauce, and the fresh tomatoes, I'm having more and more of a hankering to experiment and put more things away. I'm also interested in purchasing some canning gear of my own - a starter-kit of sorts. I've been researching local orchards with pick-ur-own options and I think that my next project is going to be a batch of apple butter. What a great way to welcome fall!

The garden seems to have recovered from the mid-summer lull and is now looking pretty perky. I have 3 eggplants developing, tons of peppers, some errant cherry tomatoes, and an abundance of herbs. The fall seedlings are well on their way as well - radish, beets, and onions are all growing quite happily.

One thing that has been amazing to me is the onions. I planted onion in two separate containers - one used to house the dill and one used to house the peas. It's my understanding that peas help pull nitrogen back into the soil. Well, the onions in the old pea-soil are about twice as tall and healthy as the onions in the old dill-soil. My lesson here is that I need to find a way to get more nitrogen in my containers next year. Some research is merited, methinks...