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I wrote a book about preserving food. The same step-by-step instruction and full-color photos you find in my blog. Buy it at Yes, You Can 

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Posts Tagged ‘preserving’

White Tomatoes for Post Produce!

Black, red, orange, and white tomatoes (with a little diced onion) were the base for a salad I made earlier this month. I love the colors though white tomatoes have yet to win me over: it’s weird to eat a tomato that looks like that.

The main issue for August’s Post Produce at Your Small Kitchen Garden is tomatoes! Sure, there are gorgeous purple jalapenos, a few bell peppers finally turning red, more zucchini (frost probably won’t even shut down those plants), carrots, plenty of herbs, and even the last of the cucumbers. But tomatoes usually make my gardening season, and this has been a terrific year.

I bought seeds this year to grow tomatoes of many colors: black, red, orange, yellow, and white. The earliest tomatoes were black followed quickly by white and orange. Actually, we’ve had tomatoes of all the colors (except yellow) from early in August.

For entertainment, I grew a disproportionate number of white tomato plants. The plan was to cook down several pints of sauce using just white tomatoes. I would eventually use the sauce in traditional dishes such as spaghetti, pizza, or lasagna. At best, I figured, this would be a conversation starter. At worst? A conversation starter.

Things couldn’t have gone better (though I’ve yet to use any of the white tomato sauce I preserved). The photos tell the story.

Here’s the tomato that started me dreaming of white tomato sauce. Cream Sausage is a paste tomato that starts greenish white on the vine and ripens to a somewhat reddish white. The vines seem to be determinate which I didn’t know when I planted them. I’ll grow these again, but I’ll support them with tomato cages rather than with a hanging string trellis.

White Queen is a white slicing tomato. You can tell when it’s ready to eat because it looks “warmer” as it ripens. I used a bunch of these in my tomato sauce along with the cream sausage tomatoes.

I filled a 4 gallon pot with cut-up white tomatoes, simmered it for several hours, and put the cooked tomatoes through a food mill. I cooked the milled tomatoes a bit longer until I had just over a gallon of sauce, and then I canned the sauce. If you’d like to see how this all works using red tomatoes, have a look at my video titled Make and Can Tomato Sauce from Your Home Kitchen Garden.

The slightly off-white color of my white tomatoes didn’t hold through cooking and canning. Still, few would guess that these canning jars hold pure tomato sauce. My next batch will be red. Depending on how quickly I get to it, I might follow that up with orange tomato sauce as well. There’s no significant difference in flavor from one sauce to the other, but having different colors from which to choose adds a bit of whimsy whenever I cook with tomato sauce.

Now You Post Produce

What edibles are you consuming from your garden? Write about it on your blog, then use the Linky widget below and link back to your post. Visit other posters’ blogs to see what homegrown goodies they’re consuming.

 

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Barbeque Sauce from Your Small Kitchen Garden

My pear-and-tomato barbeque sauce begins with equal parts of tomato sauce and pear mash. I created it because I hated composting the mash left over from juicing pears when I made jelly. It will be very satisfying to use tomato sauce cooked down from tomatoes that grew in my own small kitchen garden (didn’t happen this year because I lost my tomato plants to late blight). The sauce has a curious balance of sugar, fruit, and sour so it works well with savory dishes and with sweet ones.

While Your Small Kitchen Garden blog may have seemed quiet for the last few weeks, I have posted! First, I created a new page on the site that lists all the articles I’ve posted—on my web sites or on friends’ sites—about preserving produce. Some of the posts are about things you can find in my book, Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too. Others are recipes or techniques that didn’t make the book or that I’ve only learned about (or created) since the book came out.

Click the Preserving option on this site’s menu to find the list of articles. Once there, scroll down and you’ll also find a few videos about preserving produce.

Where’s the BBQ Sauce?

As I add more articles to Your Small Kitchen Garden, I’ll choose some longer, photo-heavy pieces to place on pages rather than within the blog. I did that recently with an article about canning tomato chunks, and even more recently I added an article about making and canning pear-and-tomato barbeque sauce.

This is a classic tomato and molasses BBQ sauce but with a whole lot of pears included. It’s fruity and sweet, but with noticeable sour. It has no heat, though I once mixed some with cayenne pepper and decided the heat didn’t improve the flavor; it just changed it.

Check out the recipe and procedures on the Pear and Tomato Barbeque Sauce page. Once you make your own sauce, make pizza using the BBQ sauce in place of standard pizza sauce. Then leave a note with your reactions; I’d love to hear you gave it a try—even if you don’t care for it once it’s done.

 

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Canning Tomatoes at Your Small Kitchen Garden

On my way to canning, I peeled nearly a peck of tomatoes on Sunday. This is the first batch: about 23 tomatoes stacked in a one-gallon food-storage container

Late blight has wiped out the tomato plants in my small kitchen garden. I managed to serve up about six tomato salads and can eleven and a half pints of cut-up tomatoes before the blight shut things down. This wasn’t enough.

I have planted more than 50 plants, hoping to harvest enough fruits to put up three or four dozen pints of cut-up tomatoes along with a dozen or more pints of tomato sauce. Had the plants survived until frost, they’d have produced way more tomatoes than necessary to fill those jars.

Farmers’ Market to Assuage a Kitchen Gardener

I use a lot of cut-up tomatoes in my cooking. So, at the famers’ market last Wednesday, I shopped for tomatoes. I found three options:

  • Kobe Beefsteaks—Gorgeous and super-expensive, these tomatoes must have been hand-fed and massaged daily… absolutely perfect-looking and priced way beyond the budgets of mere mortals.
  • Romas—Several vendors offered pecks of Roma tomatoes that would be decent for saucing, but sauce is a secondary concern this year. I still have about 24 pint jars of sauce from last season, so this season I want to put up more pints of tomato chunks.
  • Canning tomatoes—What, I wondered, is a “canning tomato?” One vendor offered a peck of canning tomatoes for $20 while another offered a peck for $8. The tomatoes looked identical but it didn’t occur to me to ask what variety these were.

After paying $8 and dragging my canning tomatoes home, I decided that they were locally-grown “Vine Ripe” tomatoes. There are, apparently, many tomato varieties the industry calls “vine ripe,” but you’re probably most familiar with the ones you find year-round in grocery stores. They never get soft and they taste bland. My canning tomatoes were firm and they looked perfect—exactly what you’d want to display in a grocery store to impress your customers.

I spent half the day on Sunday canning tomato chunks. Please follow this link for the step-by-step of how to can tomato chunks.

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Sour Cherry Jam from a Kitchen Gardener

When you can reach a cluster of sour cherries like this in the tree, you can wrap your fingers around the whole bunch and pull them all off the branch at once. Even in the second (and final) day of pick-your-own cherries, there were thousands of such bunches you could reach from the higher rungs of a stepladder.

It’s sour cherry season! Perhaps you’ve heard of sour cherries, but you’ve never seen them? In early summer, dark purple sweet cherries show up in grocery stores everywhere and they’re available for months. Sour cherries, however, ripen about the end of spring and are done two or three weeks later. You never see them in grocery stores.

Sour cherries are bright red and very tart. They’re also very juicy and I suspect most of them end up at manufacturing facilities that bake them into pies, tarts, frozen dinners, and just about any other processed food that lists “cherries” as an ingredient. You may find sour cherries at rural farm stands and farmers’ markets, but arrive early and grab what you’ll use because there are rarely enough sour cherries to supply enthusiasts.

Sour Cherries at Your Small Kitchen Garden

I planted a sour cherry tree a few years ago, but it probably won’t produce for another year or two. So, when sour cherry season arrives, I either buy cherries at the farmers’ market, or my family travels to a u-pick orchard to get out annual fix. We picked on Saturday.

A quart of already-picked sour cherries may cost $4 or more. The you-pick price at Dries Orchard in Paxinos, Pennsylvania this year was $1.20 per pound (about a quart). For an extra 25 cents a pound, Dries put our cherries through a mechanical device that removed nearly all the seeds. And, a Dries employee checked the mechanical pitter’s work, picking out most of the seeds the machine missed.

We picked too many cherries. I’ve canned sour cherry jam and fruit punch jam that includes sour cherries. I’ve also made two sour cherry pies. This morning my wife canned two batches of sour cherry jelly. Thankfully, there are only about 17 quarts of sour cherries left in the fridge.

I tweeted a lot about sour cherry jam while I was making it. I also clicked a bunch of snapshots of the proceedings. If you’re so inclined, follow the instructions in the photo captions and you should be able to make your own sour cherry jam; it’s really easy to do.

Before you start, you’ll need a box of powdered fruit pectin or some bulk pectin such as Dutch Jell. You’ll also need the cherries, of course, a whole bunch of sugar, canning jars, canning lids, and canning bands. The photos reveal what kitchen gear you’ll need to complete a batch.

In my book, Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too from Cool Springs Press, I explain jam- and jelly-making in greater detail. I also explain a lot of other ways to preserve fruit and vegetables. I hope you’ll make some cherry jam and pick up a copy of my book to keep you busy through the rest of the produce season.

You’ll preserve your cherry jam by sealing it hermetically in jars. For this, use jars manufactured specifically for canning; don’t reuse jars that came filled with pickles or jelly from a grocery store. Also, you need canning lids and bands to fit the jars. I encourage you to wash the jars and put them in a deep pot of water to boil before you start cooking your jam. The water should be deep enough that you could stand a canning jar in it and the top of the jar will be at least an inch under water. Also, put the bands and lids in a pot of water and keep the temperature there just below boiling.

Chop the sour cherries, catching the juice along with the chopped pieces. Notice that while chopping, I found a pit. The mechanical pit-remover and the back-up human inspector had missed about one pit per quart of cherries. I use a honking big chef’s knife to chop cherries for jam.

We’re making traditional cooked jam… there are other methods for making low-sugar jams, no-cook jams, and freezer jams. We’re making traditional cooked jam. (Is there an echo in here?) For nearly every brand of powdered fruit pectin, you use four cups of chopped sour cherries per batch of jam. Doubling a batch can result in runny jam or jam that sets up like a rock, so it’s best to make one batch at a time. Measure four level cups of fruit and juice into a medium-sized cookpot (see next photo).

Measure five cups of sugar into a bowl (left) and set it near your stove so you can reach it while stirring a pot. If you’re using bulk pectin (Dutch Gel, for example), measure a heaping 1/3 cup (center), and add it to the fruit (right). If you have pectin in a box, empty the box of pectin onto the chopped cherries. Notice that in my 1.5 gallon sauce pot, the chopped cherries and fruit fill barely a quarter of the pot.

Put the heat on high and stir! Keep stirring! Are you still stirring? Don’t stop. Stir until the mixture boils. Yes: that may take 8 to ten minutes. Pause in your stirring, if you must, to add all the sugar at once to the hot cherries. Stir. Keep stirring. Feel for large lumps of sugar and smear them against the side of the pot to help break them apart so they’ll dissolve. Are you still stirring? At the moment the mixture boils, time one minute and immediately remove the pot from the heat. BEWARE! While cooking jam boils, it can rapidly foam up and overflow even a very deep pot. Stirring helps prevent this, but you may have to lift the pot off the burner and/or turn the heat down a bit to keep the jam from boiling over. When the jam stops boiling, use a spoon to coral foam to one side of the pot and then scrape the foam off. I always put it in a bowl to eat later.

One-by-one, fill jars with jam. Fish a hot jar out of the boiling water, empty the jar, and set it on a plate. I use a canning funnel to help control the jam which you should add until it’s about ¼ of an inch from the top of the jar. Make sure the rim and threads of the jar are clean (wipe them with a damp cloth if they’re not), then set a lid on the jar and add a band.

Tighten the band. I hold the jar in a potholder or a kitchen towel and I twist the band on firmly (it’s hot, but not too hot). It should be at least “finger tight” but don’t work so hard that you tear a muscle. Return the jar to the boiling water and set it up upright in the pot. Keep filling jars until you’ve used up all the jam. When the last jar goes into the boiling water, wait ten minutes, then remove the jars (upright) and place them on a cooling rack or a towel on the counter.

Contrary to what most canning guides tell you, I say do this: After the jars seal (you should hear a “ping” and be able to see that the center of the lid bows down into the jar), invert them and let them cool in this position about 45 minutes until they are very warm, then once again set them upright. If you don’t partially cool them upside down, the cherry bits will float to the top and half the jar will contain jam while the other half contains jelly. You can store sealed jars at room temperature for a year or longer, but I think you should open them and eat the jam instead.

 

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Preserve Produce from Your Small Kitchen Garden

When should you start preserving produce? As soon as you know how! I canned pineapple in January and February because I could buy them for a dollar apiece. If you want to preserve oranges and grapefruits, it’s best to do so when they’re in season in the US, and so, cheaper and fresher than when they ship from South America.

My small kitchen garden is still under water, but I know most kitchen gardeners already have things under way. So, while I impatiently wait for an opportunity to plant my cool-weather crops, I try to think up useful things to do to be ready. Not much there.

Instead, I’m rousing some rabble: Start thinking now about preserving your produce. Alarmingly, garden publishers and retail operators think that canning, freezing, dehydrating, pickling, fermenting, and what I call “sugaring” are autumnal activities. The reason, I suspect, is that people harvest the last of their produce in autumn, so that must be when you preserve it, right? Here’s why that’s totally idiotic:

You can’t preserve your own produce if it isn’t in season!

Preserving is a Year-Round Activity

The first produce I’ll be able to harvest from my small kitchen garden will be rhubarb. Shortly after that, strawberries will be ready. Then, black raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and a host of other mid-summer fruits will ripen. Heck, where sour cherries are available, you’re lucky to have a two-week window in which you can harvest and preserve them!

Retailers, booksellers, publishers—even garden book publishers who ought to know better—seem to think you preserve food in the fall. By fall, I can’t find fresh strawberries or appetizing rhubarb anywhere in central Pennsylvania. I NEED TO PRESERVE THESE in June and July! I like to make pies and freeze them raw and I explain how in my book.

On the vegetable side, greens prefer cool weather, and many types simply won’t be available after mid-June. Peas also suffer in summer heat, and you need to harvest and preserve them in June if you hope to have any to eat in November, December, January, and February.

Apparently, garden book publishers and garden supply retailers don’t understand the seasonality of produce. If it’s not autumn, it’s hard to get anyone excited about promoting and selling a book about preserving. So sad.

Have a Look at Yes, You Can!

Here’s my feeble promotional effort: If you’re new to preserving your garden produce, START NOW! Get your hands on a book that encourages you to think about preserving year-round. Don’t miss out on spring produce: frozen strawberries in the dog days of summer are astonishingly refreshing. Fruit pies taste amazing whenever you bake them… as long as you assemble and freeze them WHILE THE FRUIT IS IN SEASON! You can’t make strawberry jam or cherry jelly from fresh fruit IN SEPTEMBER!

I get one planting of peas per season in my small kitchen garden. With a bigger planting bed, I might harvest in the spring and fall, but to make room for winter squash, I clear out the cool weather crops near the beginning of summer. The peas I freeze in May and June taste nearly like fresh peas when I cook them in winter 7 months later.

Yes, this is a plug: I wrote Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry it, Too to introduce gardeners and foodies to the craft of preserving garden produce. Compared to other books about preserving food, Yes, You Can! is light; it’s kind of fun. I tried to make it feel as though we’re together in the kitchen learning about freezing, cold storage, dehydrating, making jam and jelly, candying fruit, fermenting produce, and even learning ways you might use your preserves later in the year.

I shot most of the photos in the book, and the designer did a spectacular job of making the layout lively and interesting… it’s not the typical, dry canning handbook. Over on Amazon, you can page through a good deal of it, though it looks far better on paper. Please have a look, buy a copy, and let me know how your preservation projects go. I started a page over on Facebook where I’d love to hear from other food-preservers. Please “like” the page, share your stories, and leave questions if you have any.

For about two weeks each year, there are sour cherries available in central Pennsylvania. I process at least eight quarts, but sometimes 16. These go into pies that I freeze, and into cherry jam that I preserve in a boiling water bath canner. My wife also makes cherry jelly. We enjoy the jam and jelly until the next year’s sour cherry harvest. YOU NEED TO LEARN how to make jam and jelly while the fruit’s in season!

 

Do you wait until October to harvest and preserve herbs from your small kitchen garden? I hope not! I start restocking my herb jars as soon as the plants mature. Preserving cilantro, especially, is a season-long project. But whenever your perennial herbs require a trim, you ought to be ready to dehydrate the extra for long-term storage.

 

One of my favorite photos for the book didn’t get into the book: This is a commercial “root cellar.” The operator stores several tons of potatoes here from harvest until late spring or early summer… and the facility stays cool using only insulation and cold air pumped in from outside! If you’re cold-storing potatoes you actually do wait until autumn to do that… but it would be useful to know how so you can prepare your root cellar before you harvest.

 

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Canning, Drying, Freezing at Your Small Kitchen Garden

I’ve written a book about preserving produce. Order your copy today and it will ship as soon as it’s available later this fall. Yes, You Can is a step-by-step guide to freezing, canning, drying, and otherwise preserving fruits and vegetables from your garden. Click the image above to reserve your copy.

Your Small Kitchen Garden blog has had a hard growing season. While I’ve kept the garden itself growing quite nicely, I’ve neglected the blog. Why? I wrote a book.

The book, Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too provides step-by-step instructions for nearly every home-preservation method:

  • It explains cold storage for root vegetables, onions, garlic, and cabbage
  • It walks you through freezing fruits and vegetables
  • It teaches the basics of preserving high-acid foods in a boiling water bath
  • It gives step-by-step instructions for making and preserving jams, jellies, and fruit syrups.
  • It reveals the procedures for canning low-acid foods in a pressure canner
  • It covers the fundamentals of fermenting vegetables to make such things as sauerkraut, kimchee, and pickles
  • It gets you started with quick-pickling to create pickles and relishes

While the book provides enough information to get you started with all of these preservation methods, it also provides insights into how to use the produce when you take it out of storage.

Kitchen Gardening up a Notch

Learning to preserve homegrown fruits and vegetables is a natural pursuit for a kitchen gardener. It’s so easy to tuck in a few extra plants and harvest more food than you can reasonably eat before it spoils. When you discover you have too many beans, carrots, tomatoes, or apples, it’s empowering to know how to put them up so you can use them later when there simply isn’t fresh produce growing locally.

Yes, You Can! came out half again as big as it intended to… enough to get you started preserving all kinds of fresh produce using all kinds of techniques.

So, the blog suffered this summer. Still, I wrote plenty to encourage kitchen gardeners. Perhaps Yes, You Can! will provide the impetus for them to grow their small kitchen gardens into larger ones. Yes, You Can! may not yet be in print, but you can order a copy today and it will ship to you as soon as it’s available.

In the meantime, Your Small Kitchen Garden blog and its sister, Your Home Kitchen Garden, will catch up on some of this season’s activities and look ahead to next year’s gardening projects.

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