Having such an abundant tomato crop this year dictated that I switch gears and use other methods to preserve them. I just couldn’t see such a beautiful gift from God and the hard work that my husband went through go to waste. So with time being my major consideration I decided to turn the tomatoes into juice. The reason I normally don’t make tomato juice is because we never really drink tomato juice. Knowing that I can always turn the juice into sauce at a later date I decided this was the way to go.
Despite the hot summer temperatures last week we decided to turn off the A/C and turn the house into a sauna. On Wednesday I put up 25 quarts of tomato juice.
Followed by another 4 quarts and 17 pints on Friday. Upon tasting the juice on Wednesday my husband and I each discovered the wonderful flavor of fresh tomatoes. I expect we will be adding tomato juice to our diet and perhaps even an occasional Bloody Mary 🙂
On Saturday with several crates of tomatoes still begging for my attention I just didn’t feel like another full day of canning, so I pulled another trick out of my sleeve. I have never dehydrated tomatoes before nor have I bought them, but this seemed a good option.
I washed and cored the tomatoes and sliced them as evenly as I could.
I was surprised at how many my 9 tray dehydrator held. I set the temperature between 125 and 135 and the timer for 8 hours. When I checked them at the 8 hour mark they still had away to go so I left them on over night and when I checked them around 7:00 the next morning they were prefect.
I stored them in zip lock bags for future use.
Saturday was also our day for picking grapes. It seemed a now-or-never situation as the birds were quickly eating more than their share
We picked what was left of our concord grapes.
We then decided to pick some of the wild grapes my husband had recently discovered.
This wild grape vine was loaded with grapes, but picking them would be more challenging than the grapes in our grape arbor.
We took the tractor to the site and my husband climbed into the bucket. I operated the controls, lifting and tipping the bucket as he directed me. I’m no stranger to operating the tractor controls. I first learned to do this over 5 years ago when we bought the tractor and over the years I have gained much experience. We have a series of hand signals that he uses to direct me when to raise or lower the bucket or tip it up or down. With him in the bucket I paid close attention to his directions.
I thought about how much he trusts me, and I was careful to keep my foot on the brake and my hands away from the controls while he was picking. When he signaled me to raise or tip the bucket I did it slowly, cautiously.
Reaching the grapes was complicated further by the rose bush that climbs this tree along with the grapevine. After being stabbed by thorns a couple times he decided to leave the rest of these grapes for the birds.
After cleaning the grapes, I put them all together in a pan to cook them up for juice. After cooking and mashing them I filtered them using a mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth.
After I had done this I realized that I could have used my Nutribullet to juice them and then strain them. Hopefully I’ll remember that method next year. From past experience I knew that the grape juice was concentrated so I added a cup or so of water. I heated the juice to about 190 degrees, I’m not sure why because I was going to freeze it instead of can it. I decided to sweeten it with honey instead of sugar so I let it cool to about 90 degrees before adding the honey. I stirred in about 1/2 cup of our raw honey before pouring the juice into 5 wide mouth ,pint size, jars. I left extra space beyond what I would normally leave if I were canning the juice. I put 4 jars in the freezer and one in the fridge, to enjoy with our breakfast.
Lastly I thought I’d give a chicken update.
My husband posted this sign on the coop. We find it quite appropriate.
As usual they were out and about on Saturday. First looking for what (scraps or treats) we might have brought them (that’s the whaja bring me attitude) then happily wandering around, pecking and scratching as they love to do.
It seems as if all of the young hens (8 buff orpingtons and 6 barred rocks) have started laying as our daily egg production is now around 18 eggs.
The barred rocks are an interesting breed that my husband keeps joking are part guinea hen.
Some of them have started roosting in the tree or on top of the coop at night instead of going inside the coop with the rest of the flock. Yes, they have attitude.
One of our old Buffs has been broody for what seems like the whole summer. If you have ever known a broody hen then you know attitude. Since we didn’t want anymore chicks we kept taking the eggs from her. We finally decided to leave her one egg, thinking that if it hatches she will then be a happy momma and stop taking up nest space. We marked the egg with an x and leave that egg with her. I guess we will know before too long if this works.