Category Archives: Stuffed Peppers

Preserving Pickles, Peppers and Potatoes

Hello and Welcome! Good News – We got rain ūüôā I’m guessing somewhere around 2 1/2 inches between Wednesday and Thursday. The gardens, the lawns, the trees – everything needed that rain. So while we get at least a few days off from watering let me tell you about some of the preserving we’ve been doing.

PICKLES

Dill Pickles

Dill pickles – It’s been many years since I’ve made dill pickles using the water bath (canning) method. In more recent years I have fermented pickles and made refrigerator pickles, but both take up space in the refrigerator, so I decided to try canning dill pickles again. One of the reasons I had not canned pickles recently is because they tended to get mushy. I did some reading about making crisp dill pickles and one of the suggestions was to use distilled water since the chemicals (chlorine) added to water can cause the pickles to become mushy. I canned three quarts of dill pickles so far using distilled water. I also used our home-grown dill and garlic. We will try them in a couple weeks to see how they turned out.

Bread and Butter pickles – Yesterday I made bread and butter pickles – a tried and true recipe from the Ball Blue Book. The yield was 5 pints and my husband, who loves these pickles, is thrilled.

Bread and Butter Pickles and Red Hot Sauce

PEPPERS

Cayenne – Another recipe that I found in the Ball Blue Book was for red hot sauce. Hot sauce is not something we use a lot of, but my husband likes to add a few drops to certain foods. The recipe that called for two quarts of tomatoes and about 24 cayenne peppers made two pints of sauce. That will likely be enough to last us through the year.

Cayenne Peppers

Cayenne plants tend to be heavy producers and somehow we ended up with a bunch of cayenne plants this year. Rather than use the dehydrator to dry then We decided to string them and hang them to dry. I think I have some daughters that will appreciate a string of hot peppers. Once they are dry they can be used by adding a whole pepper to a pot of chili or similar dish or they can be ground in a spice grinder or food processor to make red pepper flakes or crushed red pepper.

Notice they are turning red (continuing to ripen) as they hang.

Jalapeno and Banana peppers – Thus far I used banana and jalapeno peppers to make poppers. I have several packages of these in the freezer. They freeze well and can easily be cooked up in the oven or microwave. If we continue to harvest a lot of these, I might make up a batch of pickled peppers as well.

Bell peppers – Tuesday night I made stuffed bell peppers for dinner. I also made an additional five packages of stuffed peppers to freeze for future meals.

POTATOES

In past years storing potatoes has been a challenge for us as we don’t have a root cellar so we must try to eat them before they go bad. This year we decided to experiment with dehydrating them. My husband peeled and par boiled the potatoes than sliced them in the food processor to get and even thickness. The took about 4 hours on 140 degrees to dry to a crispy texture (much like the potatoes you would find in a box mix of au gratin potatoes). We then vacuum sealed them.

I have found directions for rehydrating them, but we have yet to try it. I will let you know when we do.

Of course not everything we harvest is being preserved. We are enjoying fresh vegetables daily. I do plan on writing about some of our garden meals but soon, but I don’t want to drag this post out too long so I’m just going to share a recipe I came across that we are REALLY ENJOYING.

I still have several jars of applesauce that I canned last year and wanted to use some up, so I decided to look for an applesauce cake recipe. I found this recipe for Land o Lakes Applesauce Spice Cake. I omitted the pecans in the recipe as I didn’t have any on hand. I also cheated and used a can of store bought frosting. Even with these changes this cake turned out sooo good.

Thanks for reading

Another Way to Make Tomato Sauce

Two weeks ago I used up our last jar of homemade spaghetti sauce,¬† so I ran to the store and… No just kidding. That would be funny to my children who know that homemade/ homegrown spaghetti sauce is my specialty, and¬†we eat lots of it. Even now that it is just my husband and¬†me at home we average using one to two quarts a week. Not only do we use this sauce for spaghetti (we use the term loosely to describe any¬†pasta, i.e. rigatoni, mostaccioli, rotini, topped with spaghetti sauce¬†) we also use it if we make lasagna, ravioli, stuffed cabbage or stuffed peppers.

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Stuffed Peppers

 

Each year we grow lots of paste tomatoes,¬†most of¬†which I make¬†into sauce, we also grow the oregano, basil, parsley and¬†of course garlic,¬†that I use in¬†the spaghetti sauce. Since making¬†tomato sauce is very time consuming, and when the tomatoes are ripe I find myself with more tomatoes than time (to make them into sauce), the last two years I have resorted to quicker methods of preserving tomatoes. I have frozen tomatoes and¬†canned tomato juice,¬†¬†because I can always make those in to sauce later.¬†¬†Once I even dehydrated tomatoes because I couldn’t let them go to waste and slicing them up for the dehydrator was the quickest thing I could think of.

My plan for making sauce last week was to cook down tomato juice. I figured I would probably have to cook down 5 quarts of tomato juice to make the enough sauce (about 2 quarts) and it would take most of the day. In the morning before I started I came across this post about dehydrated tomatoes on one of the blogs I follow  http://selfrelianceadventures.com/dehydrated-tomato-chips/ and was reminded that I had dried some tomatoes last summer and they were just sitting in my pantry waiting for me to think of something to use them for. I then had an idea.

Maybe I could use the dehydrated tomatoes to thicken the tomato juice. Now when I dehydrated the tomatoes they still had the skins on and the seeds in them and I really didn’t want chunks of tomato with skins and seed in my sauce so I would have to experiment. I took out a handful, about 10 or so, dried tomato slices and put them in my Nutri Bullet blender. I then added about half a quart of tomato juice. I plugged it in and let it run for a minute or so. When I poured this combination into my sauce pan it was a thick sauce – no chunks, no seeds, no skins. SUCCESS! I then added 2 1/2 more quarts of tomato juice and let it simmer for a¬†couple¬†hours before adding the rest of my ingredients.

This worked so well I’m sure I will repeat this process and use the rest of my dried tomatoes¬†in the next few weeks.¬†It wouldn’t really be necessary to add¬†tomato juice to the dried tomatoes – water would work just fine, and in the correct proportions, though I’m not sure what they are right now,¬†cooking the liquid off would not be necessary.

I am so thrilled that I have discovered this method of making sauce. I decided to share it with you in hopes that someone who reads this might find it helpful just as I did with the above post from Self Reliant Adventures.

Oh, and I¬†suspect I will be dehydrating lots more tomatoes this summer. ūüôā

 

Our First Apple Crop

This has truly been a wacky year for food production at the farm. Some things that normally grow in abundance have floundered and some things that have never produced before have done well. Apples were among the crops that did relatively well this year.

We have seven young apple trees of various varieties that we have planted in the past six years, three of which we planted in April of 2011 before we even closed on the property. Each year the apple trees have had had at least some blossoms in the spring but they never developed into more than a few apples. Last fall, as an experiment, I put a small amount of wood ash around the base of three of the trees. This spring nearly all of the trees blossomed heavily so I am not certain how much effect the wood ash had.

In May, when the apple trees were in full bloom, we had several mornings of heavy frost. Since the frost damaged asparagus, rhubarb and grape leaves, I am still stumped that our apple trees were unaffected.

Our honey bees were more that happy to do their part in our apple production, flying from blossom to blossom and tree to tree collecting pollen from one blossom and redistributing a portion of it on the next blossom while they collected their pollen from that one.

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Honey bee – too busy to pose for a picture

Being our first apple crop we didn’t know what to expect and it seems that our apples fell victim to bugs, worms and disease.¬† Then to add insult to injury the crows¬† decided to make our apples part of their diet.

A couple weeks ago when my husband was tired of watching our apples being destroyed he decided to pick what might still be good before the crows got anymore. He first brought home a bag of red apples and since I was busy that day, probably cleaning garlic, I put them in the refrigerator and half forgot about them. A couple days later he brought home these golden delicious.

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He had been talking about dehydrating apples or making apple chips for a few weeks so I decided to use the useable part of these apple to make chips.

When I peeled the apples I was pleasantly surprised to see that the blemishes, which I have not positively identified but might be apple scab, were only skin deep. Once I removed the peel there was no evidence of disease.

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I peeled, cored and sliced the apples. I placed the slices in a single layer on my dehydrator trays. Each tray held about four apples.

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I filled up all nine trays and realized I had peeled way too many apples. So I needed to come up with a semi-quick or easy way to use the other half of those apples. Since fruit pies are a favorite dessert here and pie filling freezes well I decided to make apple pie filling.

I know that golden delicious apples are not necessarily a cooking apple so I was happy to find a recipe for pie filling that just called for apples instead of “cooking apples” or a specific variety of apples. Not that it would have mattered because I¬†often change up recipes, substituting what I have on hand for what is called for in the recipe. Sometimes it turns out really well and sometimes not so good.¬†The apple pie filling is in the freezer for now but I am certain that we will enjoy the apple pie that it makes.

The apple chips on the other hand are disappearing quickly. They make a nice snack.

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When I took them out of the dehydrator, after about 18 hours, I packaged each tray of apple chips in a sealable plastic sandwich bag. This way I know that the package contains about four apples or four servings. Then I put the bags in jars for storage. It is important to know an approximate serving size because these apple chips are so good that it could be easy to get carried away and eat way too many. I warned my husband that eating a whole bag at one time was not a good idea, and that you need to make sure you drink enough water when eating dried fruit. He told me that this was a lesson he learned as a kid Рthe hard way.

A few days ago when I was looking for a side dish to go with the stuffed green peppers I made for dinner, I came across the “half forgotten” bag of apples in the refrigerator.

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Stuffed Peppers

I decided to cook up some apple sauce. I didn’t need a recipe for this because I have cooked and canned apple sauce many times in the past. Although many of these apples had bites taken out of them (crows) and a few had worms in them, I was able to cut away enough of the bad parts and cook up a wonderful dish of apple sauce. To make apple sauce, after I peeled, cored and cut away any bad parts, I put the apples in a pan with a small amount of water. I brought it to a boil then turned it to low and let it simmer until the apples were very soft. I then mashed the apples with a potato masher. I then continue to let is simmer and thicken up a little. There was no need to add sweetener. I put it in a bowl and chilled it before dinner and it made the perfect side dish.

Over the next few months we will be researching natural options for controlling disease and insects on the apple trees with hopes of growing even better crops in the future, and who knows we might even build a scarecrow or two. https://www.todayshomeowner.com/scarecrows-in-the-garden/